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Hereford: Designation of Unitary Authority

Baroness Hamwee asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Consultation on the draft structure order for Hereford and Worcester produced a number of issues in relation to electoral arrangements which we are still considering. Once these issues have been resolved we will consider when we should bring the order to the House.

Hazardous Chemicals: Local Authority Powers

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

Earl Ferrers: Where local authorities are the enforcing authority under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, they have powers under that Act to take samples of the hazardous chemicals; and, where they are the enforcing authority under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985, they have powers to take samples from containers of pesticides.

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The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a local authority has the power to enforce the proper disposal of a known hazardous chemical for which approval has been revoked when it is stored on private premises.

Earl Ferrers: Only certain particularly hazardous chemicals, such as pesticides, are subject to statutory approval procedures. Chemicals for which approval has been revoked, and which are required to be discarded as waste, are subject to regulation as controlled waste under Part II of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

It is an offence under Section 33(1) of the 1990 Act to keep or dispose of controlled waste without a waste management licence or contrary to the conditions of an exemption from licensing. It is also an offence under Section 33(1) of the 1990 Act to keep or dispose of controlled waste in a manner likely to cause pollution of the environment or harm to human health. Any person who keeps or disposes of controlled waste is subject to a duty of care under Section 34 of the 1990 Act.

Under Section 59 of the 1990 Act, a local authority has powers to require the removal of controlled waste which has been deposited unlawfully. An inspector appointed by an authority also has powers under Section 70 of the 1990 Act to deal with substances he has reason to believe are a cause of imminent danger of serious environmental pollution or harm to human health.

Lindane and Phenylmercury Acetate: Effects of Spillage

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the known hazards to humans, domestic and wild animals and the environment of a major spillage of lindane and phenylmercury acetate into a watercourse and on to surrounding land in the short and long terms.

Earl Ferrers: The effects on human health, animals and the environment following a major spillage of lindane and phenylmercury acetate depend upon the extent of exposure. The risk of exposure is affected by factors such as the amount of the substances spilt, how and where the spill took place and whether remedial action to limit the extent and duration of the spill was applied quickly.

Human exposure to lindane or phenylmercury acetate may cause minor symptoms in the short term, but these would be transient. However, both substances are potentially toxic to animal life, including fish, aquatic macroinvertebrates and soil dwelling insects and worms.

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As the substances are degraded and dispersed, their concentrations decline and the environment can recover through deliberate or natural repopulation.

Toxic Chemical Spillage: Public Health Surveillance

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Upon whom the responsibility lies for the surveillance of humans, domestic and wild animals and the environment following a major spillage of toxic chemicals, and for how long that surveillance is maintained.

Earl Ferrers: District health authorities are responsible for the monitoring and surveillance of public health in their areas following a major spillage of toxic chemicals. Where necessary, they would seek assistance and advice from specialists on how the surveillance should be conducted and for how long.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have procedures in place to ensure that swift action can be taken to protect the food chain, which is based on a detailed assessment of the risk of exposure and consequences for human and domestic animal health. Where the incident resulted in pollution of the water environment, the National Rivers Authority would monitor the water quality and the effects on aquatic life. In all cases, monitoring would continue until the concentrations of toxic substances had declined to levels not considered to pose an unacceptable risk.

Road Tax Rates for Tractors and Lorries

Lord Torphichen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much Motor Vehicle Duty (Road Tax) is payable in respect of:

    (a) a farmer's tractor capable of towing a semi-trailer to carry 28 tonnes;

    (b) an articulated lorry carrying up to 28 tonnes.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The information requested is as follows:


    (a) (i) £35 per annum, if it is an agricultural tractor and used solely for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry, or any tractor whether or not it is so used provided it is designed primarily for off road use and it has a maximum speed not greater than 25 mph.


    (ii) £330 per annum in other cases.

(b)

Rates for tractive unit with 2 axles Rates for tractive unit with 3 or more axles
(1) (2) (3) (1) (2) (3)
Any no. of semi-trailer axles 2 or more semi-trailer axles 3 or more semi-trailer axles Any no. of semi-trailer axles 2 or more semi-trailer axles 3 or more semi-trailer axles
£1,150 £1,090 £440 £1,090 £440 £440



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