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Subsidence: Role of Tree Roots

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions intends to commission later this year a project to prepare a practical handbook that draws together existing knowledge on tree roots and their interaction with soil, man-made structures and objects. In addition, a proposal is being formulated for a project to assess the effect of pruning on the water uptake of trees and the consequential abstraction of water from the soil.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they possess any data on the effects of tree roots on buildings and their relationship with subsidence and, if so, whether they will publish it.

Baroness Hayman: Information about the incidence of tree species implicated in subsidence damage was included in Tree Roots and Buildings published in 1981 by Dr. Cutler and Dr. Richardson. Their work was based on the Kew Tree Root Survey (1971-79). Much of the survey data on the tree root systems was obtained from investigations carried out during the assessment of alleged subsidence damage. The text was republished in 1989 to take account of additional information or data about the structure of root systems.

The National House Building Council and the then Department of Environment commissioned research between 1979-1985 and 1989-1994 to quantify the seasonal and long-term changes of soil drying and moisture deficit in the vicinity of trees on clay soils. The results of this work have been published in technical journals, and are to be published in the proceedings of the conference Arboricultural Practice: Present and Future, held in 1995.

The Building Research Establishment, through research commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, has over recent years investigated the effect of trees on ground movements and building foundations. Current work, funded up to 1998, is primarily concerned with the determination of ground movement prior to and following the removal of trees (a possible solution to subsidence damage known to be caused by trees) at locations close to and remote from trees. The results of this work, to date, have been published in conference papers, and in the journal of the Institution of Structural Engineers. BRE also established a database, under contract from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to log subsidence damage and factors relevant to each case. The data have not been analysed for publication.

All this work has informed the development of various British Standards, and codes of practice--most notably NHBC Standards Chapter 4.2, which deals with the construction of foundations close to trees.

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London Government Referendum

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that "Following a referendum to confirm popular demand, there will be a new deal for London", whether the people of London will not be given the opportunity to vote for "no change".

Baroness Hayman: Our proposals for a separately elected mayor and assembly for London will be set out in a Green Paper to be published in late July. Subject to the views of Parliament, we propose to hold a referendum on 7 May 1998. If the people of London vote against our proposals they will have voted for "no change".

London Government Proposals

Lord Bowness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the Labour Party manifesto statement that the proposed mayor and strategic authority for London will not duplicate the work of the London Boroughs, which economic regeneration, transport- planning, and environmental protection functions they will remove from the London Boroughs.

Baroness Hayman: Our proposals for a Greater London Authority will be set out in a Green Paper to be published in late July.

Sierra Leone: Asylum Status

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to declare Sierra Leone a country in which there has been a fundamental change of circumstance within the meaning of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): As my right honourable friend announced in another place yesterday, in view of the current situation in Sierra Leone, it has been decided to declare that that country has undergone such a fundamental change in circumstances that the return of a person to that country would not normally be ordered for the time being. The effect is that a Sierra Leonean national who entered the United Kingdom previously and applies for asylum within three months of this declaration being made becomes eligible to claim social security benefits while his or her application is considered by the department. No decisions will be made on asylum applications made by Sierra Leonean nationals until the situation stabilises.

NATO: Theatre Missile Defence

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an operational requirement for a theatre missile defence capability in NATO has been

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    identified; whether NATO's Air Command and Control System (ACCS) intends to develop such a capability under the "ACCS level one phase"; and whether the costs of these proposals have been explicity presented to and agreed by the parliaments of NATO's European members.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): NATO has identified a military operational requirement for a theatre ballistic missile defence capability for deployed forces. Work is in hand to consider the options for addressing this requirement together with their associated costs, including the extent to which NATO's Air Command and Control System (ACCS) can contribute to an Alliance capability in this area.

Prison Population Forecast

The Earl of Longford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What increase they estimate in the prison population between 1997 and 2005.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Long-term projections of the prison population in England and Wales are produced annually and were last published in the Home Office Statistical Bulletin 7/97 on 3 April 1997, a copy of which is in the Library. The figures requested are set out in the attached table A.

Table A

YearEngland and Wales Average populationPercentage increase on previous year per cent.
199760,5005.5
199863,8005.5
199965,5002.7
200066,8002.0
200168,200 2.1
200269,7002.2
200371,2002.2
200472,8002.2
200574,5002.3

Prison Staff Numbers Forecast

The Earl of Longford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What increase they estimate in the number of people working in the Prison Service between 1997 and 2005.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Future trends in staffing levels are difficult to predict accurately, because a rapid increase in posts is required for new accommodation as it opens, while elsewhere staffing levels may need to reduce to achieve efficiency targets. Our best estimate is that there will be a net increase in staff numbers during 1997-98 of just over 1,000. Governors have

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recently been asked to draw up detailed staffing profiles for the next four years based on the indicative local budgets, and this should generate more reliable four-year staffing projections by November 1997.

Prisons and Detention Centres: Visits by Members of Parliament

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy regarding the circumstances in which Members of Parliament may visit Her Majesty's prisons and detention centres.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Members of Parliament wishing to visit a Prison Service establishment in England and Wales in an official capacity may do so on request to the governor or controller. A request to visit an immigration detention centre is normally referred to Immigration Service Headquarters in order that Ministers may be routinely advised. The request will normally be granted, subject to any operational or security considerations.

Games of Skill: Odds

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Williams of Mostyn on 17 June (WA 107), whether they agree that relatively facile "games of skill" or lotteries, particularly those promoted through radio and television programmes, should also be accompanied

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    by information as to the average return or the chance of winning, or both; and if so whether they have any plans to encourage the provision of such information or to legislate for it.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The law on lotteries controls games of chance, not skill.

Skill competitions on premium rate telephone lines are regulated by the Independent Committee for the Standards of Telephone Information Services (ICSTIS).

My reply of 17 June (Official Report, col. 107) sets out my view on presentation of information about lotteries. We have no current plans to amend the legislation.

Any misrepresentation of lotteries as games of skill is a matter for the police.

Age Discrimination

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that in work, people "should not be discriminated against because of their age", when they intend to introduce legislation to outlaw such discrimination.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Government are strongly opposed to age discrimination in employment. The Government have already announced that they intend to consult widely on how best to move forward in this very complex area. This will include an examination of the possible role of legislation.



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