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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have held discussions with Bechtel, representing the shareholders of London & Continental Railways, and Railtrack for whom the shareholders envisage a future role. These discussions have resulted in a framework proposal, but one which still needs to be further developed. London & Continental Railways have consequently asked for more time. In light of the complex nature of the framework proposals and the amount of further work that needs to be done, we have decided that time should be allowed to establish whether there is an acceptable way forward; an extension to 31 March 1998 has therefore been authorised.
Baroness Hayman: During the course of Parliament's consideration of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill, nearly 600 assurances were given in response to concerns about the construction or operation of the new railway. Compliance with those assurances is a minimum requirement of the Development Agreement for the Rail Link which was awarded to London & Continental Railways. The Secretary of State hopes that London & Continental Railways will soon bring forward acceptable financing proposals to enable it to proceed with the scheme, but compliance with Bill assurances will continue to be a minimum requirement in any event.
Baroness Hayman: We are today launching a consultation on radioactively contaminated land, jointly with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales.
We are seeking views on the structure and principles that should underlie a regulatory regime for radioactively contaminated land. Copies of the consultation paper have been sent to the Chief Executives and Chief Environmental Health Officers of all local authorities, and to other interested parties, and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House. Responses to the consultation are requested by 1 June 1998.
Baroness Hayman: We have today published a circular entitled Planning for Future Prison Development. This circular provides advice to local planning authorities on the need to make adequate provision through the planning system for new prison developments. It considers the issues which need to be
This circular recognises that there will be a continuing need for new prison development in the foreseeable future and encourages local planning authorities to recognise that the provision of land for the secure accommodation of prisoners is an obligation the Prison Service shares with society at large. However, the circular does not impose any new duties on local planning authorities or others: it simply sets out how the Prison Service and individual authorities may best work together for the common good.
The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): Since the general election on 1 May 1997, there have been 36 divisions in the House. 1,204 Conservative hereditary peers' votes have been cast against the Government; and, as the noble Lord's Chief Whip will doubtless be relieved to know, only 18 Conservative hereditary peers' votes (1.5 per cent.) have been cast against their own front bench, by 10 individuals.
The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): The Teaching and Higher Education Bill, currently before Parliament, provides for the council to be self-financing, through the levying of registration fees on all serving teachers. The Government may, however, fund the initial costs of the council when first established, before the arrangements for registration fees come into force. It is not possible to offer a clear indication of the expected costs to the Exchequer at this stage.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Responsibility for the subject of this Question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My honourable Friend the Member for Gateshead East and Washington West (Joyce Quin) announced in a speech to a conference in York organised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation on 25 February 1998 that the pilots will take place under the management of Merseyside, South-East London and Gloucestershire Probation Services.
Thirty-six probation areas expressed an interest in managing the pilot of the drug treatment and testing order. All the proposals were well thought-out and enthusiastic and the choice was therefore far from clear cut.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: As at 31 January 1998, there were 51,445 applications for asylum in the United Kingdom, excluding dependants, awaiting an initial decision. The available breakdown of these cases, by year of application, is given in the table. I regret that it is not possible to determine, within the statistics, those who are awaiting an initial interview.
It is estimated that around 10,000 of those applications awaiting an initial decision were lodged prior to the introduction of the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act 1993. I regret, however, that a detailed breakdown of these cases, by year of application, is not available.
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(1) Estimates rounded to the nearest 5 per cent.