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17 Dec 1997 : Column WA87

Written Answers

Wednesday, 17th December 1997.

Committee on Standards in Public Life

Lord Strabolgi asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What appointments have been made to the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister was pleased to announced four new appointments to the Committee on Standards in Public Life: Sir Anthony Cleaver, Lord Goodhart, Mrs. Frances Heaton and the right honourable John MacGregor. The Prime Minister consulted the Leader of the Opposition and the right honourable Member for Yeovil before making those appointments.

The following existing members of the committee have been reappointed for a second term: Sir Clifford Boulton Professor Anthony King The right honourable the Lord Shore of Stepney Sir William Utting Ms Diana Warwick

The Prime Minister has taken this opportunity to thank Lord Nolan and those members of the committee who are leaving the committee after serving their three-year term: Sir Martin Jacomb; the right honourable Tom King; the right honourable The Lord Thomson of Monifieth and Dame Anne Warburton. The Prime Minister is grateful for the valuable work which they and other members of the Committee have undertaken over the last three years. The Government intends to build on the excellent work which they started, with the help of Lord Neill and the new committee.

Gas-fired Power Station Applications

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many proposals for gas-fired power stations they have awaiting determination for a licence; and what would be the annual equivalent in tonnes of coal burned that would be displaced if those licences were approved and the stations run at baseload.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Currently there are 29 applications involving gas-firing before the department (a mixture of Combined Cycle Gas Turbine, Combined Heat and Power, Open Cycle Gas Turbine and dual firing). The impact of these proposals will depend on their mode of operation, the competitive position of other stations and the level of demand that is required to be met. It is unlikely that all would run at baseload.

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The impact of new stations is hard to assess in today's market place; such plant now displaces other plant than coal and it is unlikely that all would run at baseload.

British Coal Corporation

Lord Northbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to wind up the British Coal Corporation; and to whom the liabilities of the corporation will be transferred.

Lord Simon of Highbury: British Coal's remaining employees are due to be made redundant on 31 December 1997. However, the corporation will continue as a residuary body managed by DTI for a few more years and correspondence should be addressed to The Secretary, British Coal Corporation, c/o Coal Directorate, Department of Trade and Industry, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H OET. The department has already taken on responsibility for a number of British Coal liabilities. Where remaining liabilities have not otherwise been dealt with, they will similarly transfer to the department or another appropriate responsible public body in due course.

Multilateral Agreement on Investment

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Multilateral Agreement on Investment as at present drafted is consistent with policies aimed at worldwide social justice enunciated by the Prime Minister at Stockholm and at the Commonwealth meeting in Edinburgh.

Lord Simon of Highbury: The Government believe that the MAI will make a useful contribution to stimulating investment and economic growth world-wide, without prejudicing the interests of social justice. It recognises that the MAI is not designed specifically to address the economic and institutional constraints of poorer developing countries and the Government are therefore exploring how their needs can be taken into account. The Secretary of State for International Development is commissioning a study to look at any implications the MAI may have for these countries.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the Multilateral Agreement on Investment would "ensure that the poorest people in the world benefit as we move towards a new global society" (White Paper on International Development, Cm 3789).

Lord Simon of Highbury: The Government recognise in the White Paper that the MAI is not designed specifically to address the economic and institutional constraints of poorer developing countries.

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It is exploring how their needs can be taken into account. The Government do not believe that the MAI will prevent the poorest people in the world benefiting from globalisation.

Prevention of Pollution from Merchant Shipping

Lord Gallacher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made in implementing the recommendations of Lord Donaldson of Lymington's inquiry into the prevention of pollution from merchant shipping.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have today placed copies of a progress note in the Library. This shows that the bulk of the inquiry's recommendations have now been implemented, that the implementation of the majority of the remainder is ongoing, that some have been overtaken, and that only five are still under consideration.

Opencast Coal Mining: Planning Policy

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conclusions they have reached from the recent consultation on the future of planning policy for opencast coal mining.

Baroness Hayman: We have not yet reached any conclusion because we are still considering the large number of responses to the consultation exercise.

Railtrack (Thameslink 2000) Order

Lord Shepherd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the application by Railtrack for an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 in respect of the Thameslink 2000 project is to be referred to Parliament as a scheme involving proposals of national significance.

Baroness Hayman: Whilst my right honourable friend the Secretary of State agrees that the proposals in the draft Railtrack (Thameslink 2000) Order are important for London, he does not consider them to be of sufficient significance in national terms to fall within Section 9 of the 1992 Act. The application will not therefore be referred to Parliament under the provisions of that section of the Act.

Blight: Report

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Blight.

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Baroness Hayman: We have today placed copies of the final report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Blight in the Library. The report is accompanied by a draft code of practice on the dissemination of information during the various stages of major infrastructure developments. We have also deposited copies of the report of the research conducted by the City University Business School into the operation of compulsory purchases orders, which is published today by The Stationery Office.

The Interdepartmental Working Group on Blight was set up to review the scope, cause and effects of blight arising during the various stages of major infrastructure projects and to consider whether any practical changes can be made to the existing arrangements for property purchase and compensation throughout Great Britain.

The group has identified a number of options. One relates to the desirability of improving information flows at all stages of major infrastructure developments, and this provided the impetus for the code of practice. A further tranche of recommendations relates to relatively small-scale amendments to existing legislation. However, one recommendation (that a new property purchase guarantee and compensation scheme should be devised) would, if it were accepted, involve major changes to legislation. We should emphasise that this recommendation, which is born of a desire to reduce or eliminate generalised blight, does not undermine the fundamentals of the existing blight and compensation arrangements.

The group points out that although the focus of the review was generalised blight consequent upon proposals for major infrastructure projects, responses to the discussion paper issued in June last year suggested that the most effective remedy might lie in changes to the arrangements for addressing statutory blight. However, the group, in seeking to ameliorate the worst effects of generalised blight in this way, has not sought to reassess compulsory purchase and compensation law in its entirety, nor has it considered it consistent with its terms of reference to recommend changes to the law which are not germane to the issue of generalised blight.

The group has delivered a detailed report on a subject of some complexity. None of the issues is clear-cut, nor is any of the options it has identified free from wider consequences. For this reason we are anxious that the report should be made widely available for discussion and comment before Her Majesty's Government give further consideration to its findings. We are therefore publishing the report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Blight, the draft code of practice and the draft Property Purchase Guarantee and Compensation Scheme. Comments from all those with an interest are invited by 31 March.


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