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Chemicals in the Environment

Lord Dormand of Easington asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We will be launching the first stage of the review process, a consultation paper on Sustainable Production and Use of Chemicals, on Monday 27 July 1998. Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and also in the Vote Office. This consultation paper is part of the Government's family of consultation papers on sustainable development.

The consultation paper seeks views on how the mechanisms for identifying and acting on potentially damaging chemicals in the environment can be improved.

The views received during the consultation period will feed into the development of a White Paper on the sustainable production and use of chemicals to be published early next year.

Building Regulations Amendments

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: We are today issuing a consultation paper on the transitional arrangements for the building regulations amendments which we announced in March this year. These amendments will extend access requirements to new houses from October 1999.

We are proposing that the transitional provisions should ensure that new buildings where construction work starts on or after the coming into force date of the regulations will in general be subject to the new Part M requirements. However, new buildings begun after the coming into force date in accordance with full plans deposited with a local authority at least two months before that date, or in accordance with plans covered by an approved inspector's plans certificate accepted by a local authority before the coming into force date, will not have to comply with the new requirements.

In this way the transitional provisions will distinguish between cases where detailed design work has been completed and submitted to the relevant building control body before the coming into effect of the regulations, and other cases. This will prevent developers from giving premature building control notices simply in order to gain exemption from the new requirements for houses that have not been designed and could not be built until long after the coming into force date.

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The consultation letter sets Wednesday 9 September as the deadline for receipt of responses. After assessing the responses, and subject to the outcome of the separate process of notifying the technical changes to the European Commission, we intend to make and publish the new regulations, and a revised Approved Document, in October.

Copies of the consultation letter are being placed in the Library.

Provisional Motor Cycle Licences

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to amend current arrangements for granting provisional motor cycle licences within a two-year validity period.[HL3089]

Baroness Hayman: We have today issued a consultation paper about a range of possible options for amending the current two-year rule. A copy of the paper has been placed in the House Library.

Homosexual Rough Sleepers

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to paragraph 2.8 of the Social Exclusion Unit's Report on Rough Sleeping, whether homosexual rough sleepers are sometimes reluctant to use hostels because of fear of homophobic assault.[HL2894]

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the Government do not collect information on the sexual orientation of rough sleepers. An independent evaluation into the second phase of the Rough Sleepers Initiative, From Street to Home published in 1996, found that the most commonly cited reasons for refusing to accept a place in a hostel were; the behaviour of other residents, not feeling safe, the extent of drink or drug use in hostels and a lack of privacy or space.

Merseyside Development Corporation

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have plans to release an evaluation of the Merseyside Development Corporation in the near future; and if not, why not.[HL2875]

Baroness Hayman: No separate evaluation of the Merseyside Development Corporation (MDC) has been undertaken by or for the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR). However, a review of the activities and performance of the MDC is contained in a report recently published by the DETR, Urban Development corporations: Performance and Good Practice. This report covers

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eight UDCs: Birmingham, Heartlands, Black Country, Merseyside, Sheffield, Teesside, Trafford Park and Tyne and Wear. Two other separate reports, Regenerating London Docklands and The Impact of Urban Development Corporations in Leeds, Bristol and Central Manchester, deal with the evaluation of the other four English UDCs. Copies of all these reports have been lodged in the House of Lords Library.

Motorway Fencing

Lord Mancroft asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why motorways and other main roads are fenced with wooden post and rail fencing which wild and domestic animals can easily get through; how long this type of fencing lasts; and what does it cost.[HL2913]

Baroness Hayman: A post and rail fence is the most common type of fencing used on motorways. It is preferred over other fence types because of its general appearance, long life span and relative ease of repair following damage. Where there are special circumstances which warrant some form of better protection, such as where a motorway runs through land where deer may be present, higher, close boarded or other types of fencing are specified. The timber used in the construction of a post and rail fence is specified to be capable of achieving a desired life of 40 years. The average national cost per linear metre is £9.50 at 1997 prices.

For motorways, the Secretary of State undertakes in a fencing covenant to provide and maintain a sufficient fence to prevent cattle or sheep and--at the request of the landowner--horses and pigs, from straying on to the motorway. Other small stock are, however, regarded as the liability of the owner/occupier, although there is no objection to a landowner tacking wire netting along the bottom of the fence to contain them.

In the case of the all purpose trunk road, fencing is provided by the Highways Agency, but to a specification agreed with the landowner as part of the accommodation works when a road is constructed or improved. The maintenance of the fencing is the responsibility of the landowner.

Eurostar Trains

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who now owns the Eurostar trains formerly owned by British Rail and European Passenger Services: to whom are they leased and for what time period.[HL2867]

Baroness Hayman: Eurostar (UK) Ltd. has the beneficial ownership rights to all of these trains. Seven of the Class 373 intercapital trains are subject to finance leases which were put in place when the company was in the public sector. These leases are between the company and the National Westminster Bank and the Abbey National and are for a period of 25 years. Four Class 373 intercapital trains and 7 Class 373/2

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beyond-London trains, being the remaining Eurostar trainsets, are subject to a leasing arrangement with Dresdner Kleinwort Benson. This facility was put in place in January of this year and is for a period of 25 years. However, unlike the original leases with the NatWest and the Abbey National, which are tax based, it is quite simple to terminate these leases at short notice.

Eurostar Services North of London

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the franchise agreements with Virgin Rail and Great North Eastern Railways in respect of the west and east coast main lines respectively would be affected by the introduction of Eurostar services north of London if they were permitted to carry domestic passengers.[HL2868]

Baroness Hayman: If Eurostar (UK) Ltd. were to carry domestic passengers on any of their services they would need a licence from the Regulator to enable them to do so. Before issuing such a licence, the Regulator would need to consult with a number of interested parties including the holders of the west and east coast main line franchises.

Customs & Excise and Immigration Service: Charges

Lord Cadman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what statute Her Majesty's Customs & Excise and Immigration are able to make charges for the provision of their services at ports and airports; on what basis such charges are made; and whether they are negotiable by the parties concerned.[HL2813]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Customs & Excise levy charges for the provision of their services at ports and airports under the Implementing Provisions of the Community Customs Code, which is European Community legislation, and the Customs & Excise Management Act 1979. Charges are levied when traders request official attendance at places where officers are not normally on duty or at times outside normal authorised hours. They reflect the economic costs of the staff attending and are not negotiable.

Additional, or particular services are provided by the Immigration Service at the request of the port operator or carrier under Section 9(4) of the Immigration Act 1988. The charges are based on the principle of full cost of recovery and are not negotiable.

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