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Private Sewers

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what action is being taken in respect of private sewers. [40937]

Mr. Meacher: I announced this morning that agreement has been reached with the House Builders Federation and the water industry that all new sewers will be built to one agreed standard. We now have in place a protocol which sets out the key elements of design and construction for new development to enable wider adoption of sewers. As a result, owners of new property will not have the kind of problems experienced by those

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with existing private sewers. Copies of the protocol and the report on the outcome of the consultation undertaken by the Department into new sewers and drains have been placed in the Library. They are also on the Department's website.

I am equally keen that we should assist owners of existing private sewers. We have therefore appointed outside consultants to undertake research to establish the extent of the private sewer network, identify and examine the problems associated with private sewers and produce workable solutions. The research began in December and is due to last 18 months.

Waste Water Treatment

Mr. Bailey: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress has been made to review and identify further areas under the Urban Waste Water Treatment (England and Wales) Regulations 1994; and if she will make a statement. [41242]

Mr. Meacher: Based on recommendations from the Environment Agency I (by authority of the Secretary of State) announced this morning that I have reviewed the identification of Sensitive Areas in England in accordance with the criteria in Part I of Schedule I of the Urban Waste Water Treatment (England and Wales) Regulations 1994 (which transposes the European Council Directive (91/271/EEC) concerning urban waste water treatment).

This review has resulted in the identification of four freshwater stretches of the rivers Stour, Wissey, Chelmer and Leam, which are intended for the abstraction of drinking water, to be identified as Sensitive Areas (nitrate) on the basis of elevated levels of nitrate under the terms of the regulations.

These new requirements on water companies to remove nitrate from sewage treatment discharges will complement the action required by farmers under the Nitrates Directive.

Work to provide more stringent treatment (nitrogen removal) at six qualifying treatment works is expected to be completed by end 2004. 180 bathing waters (already identified under the Bathing Waters Regulations 1991) in England are also to be identified as Sensitive Areas as discharges from qualifying sewage treatment works receive, or are to receive by 2005 more stringent treatment (ultraviolet disinfection) to fulfil standards of those regulations.

Funding for these improvements have already been provided for in the Office of Water Services (Ofwat) Periodic Review of water company price limits for the five-year period from 2000.

We are committed to a steady improvement to Britain's freshwater and bathing quality. Already we have the best ever recorded bathing water quality. Today's moves mean that we can continue our efforts to ensure clean and healthy water both for this country's inhabitants and its aquatic life.

Lists of the new sensitive areas have today been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. Maps showing the location of all current sensitive areas (nitrate) and (bathing waters) will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and at offices of the Environment Agency in due course.

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Hazardous Waste

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what regulatory impact assessment she has made of the (a) Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and (b) Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive; [37529]

Margaret Beckett: The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances Directive were discussed at the Environment Council on 18–19 December 2000, 8 March 2001 and 7–8 June 2001, where my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment represented the UK. He stated our support for the environmental objectives of the Directives, which are very much in line with our national Waste Strategies. The UK negotiating line on the Directives was clearly explained to the House in European Standing Committee C on 28 March 2001 by the former Minister of State for Industry and Energy, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

My hon. Friend the Minister for Industry and Energy has the lead responsibility for negotiating these Directives. He placed initial Regulatory Impact Assessments (RIA) for each in the Libraries of both Houses on 7 December 2000 and I am informed that he will be submitting revised RIAs later this month. Based on the principle of Producer Responsibility, these Directives provide that producers will be responsible for financing the costs which arise.


Ministerial Meetings

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on what date she and her Ministers last met the Education Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales. [35458]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills and her Ministers last formally met the Education Secretary of the National Assembly for Wales on 24 September 2001.

Departmental Website

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what the total cost of her Department's website was in real terms in each of the last four years; and how many hits it received in each of those years. [36147]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: Core programme cost for the Department for Education and Skills central website (real terms figures are all compared with 2000–01 cost) were as follows.

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There is now wide acceptance among professionals in the web industry that hits are not a measure of site performance. So the Department, in line with the Government, as a whole gives more importance to unique visitors and page impressions than hits.

For example, the Department made a big effort in 2000 to speed up download times by reducing numbers of files on the site, hence hits went down from 173 million in 2000, to 89 million in 2001, while use was increasing.

Reliable site traffic figures are only available since January 2000.

Estimated site traffic for year 1999 is as follows:

Site traffic for year 2000 is as follows:

Individual Learning Account

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if she will make a statement in respect of the progress of her investigations into alleged fraud and abuse concerned with the individual learning account scheme; and whether her Department has the information necessary about individual learning account holders from the Capita database. [36946]

John Healey: The Department's Special Investigations Unit is investigating 97 registered learning providers. Of these, police are investigating 16 and the Department's Special Investigation Unit is discussing a further 52 with the police. 44 arrests have been made in relation to allegations of fraud with the operation of the individual learning account programme and 13 people have been charged, one of whom has been convicted.

As at 31 December, the Department had received some 5,900 complaints from individuals claiming that money had been drawn from their individual learning account (ILA) without their knowledge or consent. Complaints received will be followed up with providers, and where we have evidence of fraud we will make referrals to the police.

The Department's Special Investigation Unit has had access to information from the ILA Centre system about ILA holders necessary to carry out its investigations.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills on what date the new registration scheme for ILAs was (a) commissioned of and (b) delivered by Capita; when the new scheme was announced and by what means. [37535]

John Healey: The Department signed a letter of intent in April 2000 with Capita Business Services Ltd., but Capita began working on an action plan in March 2000. The Department signed the contract with Capita to act as the customer service provider for individual learning

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accounts on 2 June 2000. Registration for ILA holders and ILA learning providers was open from 12 June 2000 before the ILA national framework was launched on 4 September 2000.

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