Select Committee on Environmental Audit First Report


APPENDIX 2

Supplementary memorandum from Rt Hon. Stephen Byers MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions

Departmental Responsibilities for Sustainable Development

When Alan Whitehead and I gave evidence to the Committee on 22 November, we undertook to send you some additional information on a number of topics.

The DEFRA/DTLR "concordat"

With Margaret Beckett's agreement, I enclose a copy of the exchange of letters between the respective DEFRA and DTLR Permanent Secretaries on liaison arrangements, which together comprise the "concordat".

Vehicle emissions

I enclose two papers[36] which provide the latest air quality emissions data on road transport and the latest position on CO2 emissions. You should also note that the latest UK's National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) 2001 report was published on Monday 10 December. This included the latest data on emissions available, which is for 1999 and showed that despite a stable level of transport use, pollutant levels from road transport have fallen substantially in recent years. For example, levels of the key road transport-related emissions, NOx and PM10, fell by 19% and 16% respectively between 1997 and 1999 despite a 1% increase in passenger kilometres travelled in that period. Road transport therefore showed a faster rate of reduction in emissions of these key pollutants than the economy as a whole. Copies of the NAEI report are available at: http://www.aeat.co.uk/netcen/airqual/index.html

London Underground investment

Under the Government's modernisation plans, provided that it represents value for money, London Underground will enter contracts with private sector consortia to maintain and upgrade the Tube's infrastructure over the next 30 years. These plans are designed to allow an unprecedented, guaranteed sustained investment in the core Underground network. It is difficult to undertake a direct comparison of the level of investment in the London Underground over the past 15 years, with that which will take place over the first 15 years of the Tube modernisation plans.

London Underground Limited adopted the mandatory Financial Reporting Standard (FRS) 15 in 1999, which has seen some expenditure that previously scored as investment now being treated as part of the Company's operating costs. In particular, the standard requires that expenditure previously treated as capital renewals must now either be charged to cost of operations, or capitalised as an addition to fixed assets. It should also be remembered that a large proportion of investment in the 1990's went into extending the Jubilee Line.

London Transport's Annual Report documents show that, overall, some £5.5 billion of investment, in cash prices, was made in the core Underground over the period 1986-87 to 2000-01. The actual level of investment that will take place over the first 15 years of the Tube modernisation plans will not be known until the final bids have been received. Based upon calculations previously undertaken by London Underground's financial advisers, PriceWaterhouse Coopers, at least £13 billion of investment and maintenance is envisaged.

A more realistic comparison is possible by looking at levels of average annual investment in the core Underground network. The estimated average annual investment in the core Underground during the first 7½ years of the Tube Modernisation contracts (ie. up to the first review of the contracts) is expected to be around £800 million. On the same 2001 price basis, the average annual investment in the core Underground since 1986/87 has been around £510 million.

Railtrack investment

You asked for figures on actual Railtrack investment over the past few years. In the five financial years since it was privatised in 1996, Railtrack has invested the following amounts in renewals and enhancement:

Year
£m (cash) £m (2000/01 prices)
1996/97
961 1,062
1997/98
1,254 1,345
1998/99
1,446 1,508
1999/2000
1,683 1,714
2000/01
2,246 2,246

You also asked about the split of future rail investment between the public sector and the private sector. I mentioned that, for the ten years 2001/02-2010/11, the Ten Year Plan for Transport provides for total rail expenditure of £64 billion, comprising £30 billion of public expenditure and £34 billion of private sector investment. For reasons I explained to the Committee, it would be wrong for me to speculate about the level of debt which might be taken on by the successor to Railtrack. However, given the amounts allocated in the Ten Year Plan, the increase in Railtrack's investment over the last five years seems likely to continue in future years.

Sustainable Development and SR2002

The Committee asked if Departmental Sustainable Development Reports for SR2002 were to be made publicly available, and I note that you also raised this point with Margaret Beckett and Paul Boateng. We have clarified this with Treasury and, as Paul told the Committee on 5 December, the position is that Sustainable Development Reports will not be published, as it would not be appropriate to publicly reveal specific parts of a department's bid.

Alan Whitehead undertook to consider what we could make available to you in terms of the internal guidance we are following in the production of our SR2002 bids. I am now pleased to enclose a copy of the guidance on sustainable development that has been issued to DTLR line divisions preparing components of our SR2002 bids.[37] You will wish to note that the guidance is intended to complement the high-level Treasury guidance to bidding departments on sustainable development and SR2002 which the Committee has already seen.

Mobile phone masts

I said I would confirm how local planning authorities could consider public health concerns when considering the siting of a mobile phone mast. Our revised Planning Policy Guidance on telecommunications development (PPG8), which was published on 22 August this year, makes clear that health considerations and public concern can in principle be material considerations in determining applications for planning permission and prior approval. Whether such matters are material in a particular case is ultimately a matter for the courts. It is for the decision-maker (usually the local planning authority) to determine what weight to attach to such considerations in any particular case.

However, it is the Government's firm view that the planning system is not the place for determining health safeguards. It remains central Government's responsibility to decide what measures are necessary to protect public health. In the Government's view, if a proposed mobile phone base station meets the international guidelines for public exposure it should not be necessary for a local planning authority, in processing an application for planning permission or prior approval, to consider further the health aspects and concerns about them.

Greening operations policy statement

Finally, the Department's Memorandum to the Committee mentioned that we were shortly to issue a greening operations policy statement. This has now been published on the DTLR website at http://www.dtlr.gov.uk/about.htm

11 December 2001


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