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Hedgerows

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: The Government will issue for consultation on 21st October draft regulations for the protection of important hedgerows in England and Wales, under Section 97 of the Environment Act 1995. The regulations are to be introduced jointly by the Secretary of State for the Environment, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales.

The Government are keen, during this consultation, to hear from a wide range of people and organisations

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who may be affected by, or have an interest in, these proposals, before the detailed arrangements are finalised.

The criteria for determining whether a hedgerow is important are based on a study undertaken by ADAS to develop a hedgerow evaluation system. The report will be published at the same time as the draft regulations.

Copies of the draft regulations and the ADAS report will be placed in the House Library.

Community Alarm Schemes

Lord Renton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have to resolve uncertainties about the statutory powers available to local authorities to provide community alarm schemes for their residents.

Lord Lucas: Community alarm schemes have become an increasingly common way to help vulnerable people to feel more secure in their own homes. Such schemes enable people in distress to summon assistance quickly and can be used to help the elderly to remain in their own homes, or support disabled people living in sheltered housing. They can also be useful in tackling crimes such as repeat burglary, domestic violence or racial harassment.

In the light of concerns that have been expressed, in particular by the Audit Commission and the Association of District Councils, about the statutory basis on which local authorities may operate such schemes, we have today published a consultation paper entitled Local Authorities and Community Alarm Schemes and this paper examines the present statutory framework and outlines the Government's preliminary view that local authorities' role in the provision of community alarms should be extended to allow them to provide, and charge for, this service to anyone resident in their area. If the Government were to conclude in the light of comments that this wider role should be given to local authorities, their intention would be to legislate to this effect at the next convenient opportunity.

We have arranged for copies of the consultation paper to be placed in the Library of the House. Copies are being sent to the Local Authority Associations, individual local authorities and other interested parties, all of whom are being invited to respond by 16th January 1997.

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