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Written Answers

Tuesday 24th January 1995

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: POLICY

Lord Dormer asked Her Majesty's Government: What steps they plan to take to encourage the development of electrically-propelled vehicles, especially for shorter journeys; and what contribution they consider such vehicles could make to the control of pollution.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Government are considering what role electric vehicles and other possible alternatives might play in minimising transport emissions. As part of this effort, the Department of Transport is leading a collaborative trial of alternative fuels involving, among others, electric vans and buses. This will help quantify the environmental benefits and the viability of their use.

If viable electric vehicles were available and used in sufficient numbers, particularly for short journeys, such vehicles would make a significant contribution to the control of urban transport emissions at the expense of increased emissions from electricity generation. Using statistics compiled by the London Area Transport Survey in 1991, the department estimates that, if electric cars were used for all journeys less than 10km (6 miles), urban car emissions could fall by around 20 per cent. To put this in context, progressive tightening of emission limits for new vehicles is expected to reduce urban transport emissions by around 65 per cent., using much more cost effective technology. The Government believe that this approach, which allows manufacturers to decide on how best to meet tighter limits, will continue to be the primary means of bringing new technology to the market and further reducing transport pollution.

BUYING AGENCY: 1995 TARGETS

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government: What performance targets they have set the Buying Agency for 1995.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): To support the objectives set out in the agency's Corporate Plan 1995–1997 and Business Plan 1995 we have set financial, productivity, customer satisfaction, environmental, and internal quality targets.

The financial targets are: — to increase sales by 10 per cent. or to £157 million, whichever is the higher, — to achieve an overall surplus after interest of 1.5 per cent. on total sales.

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The productivity targets are: — to increase sales/staff ratio from £1.27 million per employee projected for 1994 to £1.42 million in 1995, — to reduce the cost per £ of sales from 2.9p projected in 1994 to 2.6p in 1995.

The customer satisfaction targets are: — to ensure that 90 per cent. of direct orders are delivered by the due date, — to resolve 90 per cent. of complaints within one month, the balance within three months.

The environmental target is: — to ensure that all new or revised catalogue entries contain information relating to the environmental impact of the product and, where appropriate, its production and disposal.

These targets require the agency to build on improvements in sales, efficiency and customer service made in 1994.

In addition, the Agency is proposing new pay and grading arrangements and management delayering, and other measures in line with the White Paper on the Civil Service—Continuity and Change.

GREEN BELT POLICY

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government: When they will publish revised planning policy guidance on green belts in England.

Viscount Ullswater: We have today published a revision of Planning Policy Guidance note 2 (PPG2) on Green Belts. This reaffirms our commitment to green belt policy, and makes limited changes to strengthen it to meet the challenges of the next century.

Following research which we published in 1993, we issued a draft revision of PPG2 for public consultation last year. We are grateful to the almost 700 organisations and individuals who responded. We have carefully considered their views in finalising the document, and made adjustments to take account of views expressed. The thrust of the revised PPG2 is similar to the consultation draft, which was broadly welcomed.

Compared with the present published PPG2, the revision incorporates six main amendments, within a framework of continuity. (1) It reaffirms the Government's commitment to green belt policy, stresses the fundamental aim of preventing urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open, and points out that green belts can assist in moving towards more sustainable patterns of urban development. (2) It sets out positive objectives for the use of land in green belts, so as to secure greater benefits for the environment without compromising the overall restrictive approach.

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(3) It further encourages proper consideration of the long-term direction of development, through the development plan system, to ensure long-term protection of green belts. (4) It removes the former concession for new building in the green belt by institutions, so that they are subject to the same controls as other developers. (5) It enables local planning authorities to make realistic provision in their development plans for the future of existing major developed sites in the green belt, such as pre-war factories and power stations, in such a way as to secure environmental benefits. (6) It introduces a new policy on the re-use of buildings, which includes specific safeguards for the green belt.

These modifications will reinforce the position of green belts as a cornerstone of the town and country planning system in England as we enter the twenty-first century.

A summary of responses to the consultation exercise has been deposited in the Libraries of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Department of the Environment. Copies of all the responses have been placed in the DoE Library.

SUPERVISION REGISTERS

Lord Thurlow asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether the guidance HSG(94)5 on supervision registers is fully implemented in all health authorities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The latest reports indicate that supervision registers are in place in the vast majority of health districts. The National Health Service Executive is taking action to ensure that the guidance on supervision registers is fully implemented in all health districts as soon as possible.

RAF REGIMENT

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether they have any plans to reduce the size of the Royal Air Force Regiment.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): There are five RAF Regiment field squadrons (including the Queen's Colour Squadron), five RAF Regiment Rapier-equipped squadrons and five Royal Auxiliary Air Force Regiment squadrons providing ground and air defence of RAF stations. Current plans retain all of these squadrons.

Following US decisions on USAF restructuring, they no longer require the RAF Regiment to man three squadrons of US Rapier units in the UK. These squadrons are consequently disbanding by the end of March. The decision has no effect on UK defence requirements.

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SEVERE DISABILITY PREMIUM: AMENDMENT TO REGULATIONS

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government: Why they considered the Income-Related Benefits Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 6) Regulations (SI 1994, No. 3061), tabled on 1 December, to be so urgent that it was inexpedient to refer them to the Social Security Advisory Committee.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): A Court of Appeal judgment delivered on 30 November 1994 reversed a long-standing policy intention on entitlement to the severe disability premium in income support. The judgment entailed a benefit cost estimated at £90 million a year, and resulted in anomalous entitlement conditions. It was therefore deemed necessary to restore the original policy intention immediately by laying the amendment regulations before Parliament on 1 December 1994.

The Social Security Advisory Committee, under Section 173(1)(b) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, has now decided that it does not wish to have the regulations referred to it.

HUMAN RIGHTS: FOURTH PERIODIC REPORT

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government: Further to their Answer of 9 January 1995, (HL Deb., col. WA 14), how many copies of their Fourth Periodic Report to the Human Rights Committee they have distributed to non-governmental organisations, newspaper editors, legal deposit libraries, and the public at large.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): By 23 January, 23 copies of the report had been distributed to non-governmental organisations, three to newspaper editors, six to the legal deposit libraries and 19 to the public at large.

LIFE PRISONERS: TARIFF DISCLOSURE

Lord McIntosh of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government: When they expect to complete the present process of notification to prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment of the actual minimum period they may expect to spend in custody.

Baroness Blatch: The exercise to disclose tariff information to some 2,300 mandatory life sentence prisoners in the prison system will be completed within the next few weeks.

A separate exercise to give disclosure to the some 120 mandatory life sentence prisoners who have been transferred to hospital under the Mental Health Act 1983 will begin in February.

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LIFE PRISONERS: WHOLE LIFE TARIFF

Lord McIntosh of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government: How many prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment have been notified that they may expect to remain in custody for "whole life".

Baroness Blatch: To date, 15 mandatory life sentence prisoners have been informed, in accordance with the judgement in the case of Doody et al, that previous Ministers set a whole life tariff in their case. These prisoners now have the right to make representations in the light of the disclosure given them. If they do so, their case will be considered afresh. No

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decision has been made in any of these cases, nor has a whole life tariff been set in any other case.

POLICE AUTHORITY MEMBERSHIP: CONSULTATIONS

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government: Pursuant to the Written Answer of Baroness Blatch on 16th December (col. WA 150), whether the Home Office Whip was consulted before the Home Secretary made his nominations for independent members of the new police authorities.

Baroness Blatch: Yes.

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