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Basel Convention: Decision IV/9 Amendment

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: Command Paper 4061 which sets out details of the Decision IV/9 amendment has been laid before the House.

This amendment helps to clarify which wastes will be subject to the ban on the exports of hazardous wastes to developing countries. Rules to implement the amendment within the EC have been agreed by member states.

The amendment will enter into force for all parties to the Basel Convention on 6 November 1998, except for those who notify the Depositary, in writing by 6 November 1998, that they are unable to accept it.

The Basel amendment represents yet another milestone in securing an environmentally sound regime for the movement of hazardous wastes. We are pleased to announce therefore that the Decision IV/9 Basel Amendment will enter into force for the UK on 6 November 1998.

Regional Development Agencies: Guidance

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The Government intend to give to regional development agencies guidance on the formulation of their regional strategies under the powers being taken in Clause 7 of the Regional Development Agencies Bill. Consultation on draft guidance begins today. A copy of the draft guidance is in the Library.

Bellwin Scheme: Financial Assistance for Flooding

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Whitty: Warwickshire, Worcester, Northampton and Stratford upon Avon councils are all to be given cash under the Bellwin scheme after successful applications.

We are satisfied financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme is justified in these cases given the exceptional nature of the floods and the damage they caused. Schemes will, therefore, be established under Section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Grant will be paid to each authority to cover 85 per cent. of eligible costs above a threshold and which have been incurred by the authority in dealing with the flooding.

National Air Quality Strategy

Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the current review of the National Air Quality Strategy will be completed.[HL3500]

Lord Whitty: My honourable friend Angela Eagle the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, announced on 23 June, Official Report (HC Deb. WA 431-432) that the review of the National Air Quality Strategy, originally planned for 1999, would now be completed by the end of this year, to look at the prospects of delivering cleaner air more quickly. We can confirm that we are on course to meet this and we aim to publish our proposals to amend the strategy for consultation in the New Year.

National Forest: East Midlands

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the National Forest Company's progress in creating the National Forest in the East Midlands.[HL3494]

Lord Whitty: We have arranged for copies of the National Forest Company's Annual Report and Accounts for 1997-98 to be placed in the House Libraries.

Illegally Operated Heavy Goods Vehicles

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the recent consultation on a scheme for the impounding of illegally operated heavy goods vehicles.[HL3502]

Lord Whitty: The consultation period ended on 29 May. There were 36 responses. These showed overwhelming support for our proposals. We are now working up a comprehensive detention scheme with the

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aim of bringing it into effect at the earliest available opportunity. This will require primary legislation.

National Air Traffic Services Ltd.

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to announce proposals for a public/private partnership for National Air Traffic Services Ltd.[HL3503]

Lord Whitty: We have today published a consultation paper on the Government's preferred option for a public/private partnership (PPP) for National Air Traffic Services Ltd.

The safe and efficient provision of air traffic control services is rightly a matter of great public interest and, since the PPP was announced, a debate has begun on key issues such as safety, the national interest and public accountability. The Government now want to launch a structured, full and open consultation on these issues. The consultation document therefore sets out a wide range of matters on which we are looking for views. Safety remains our top priority and we believe that the proposed PPP offers the opportunity to establish a structure which will strengthen safety, satisfy the public interest and the needs of aviation users while providing for the sound future of National Air Traffic Services Ltd. and its employees.

We hope that all those with an interest in this subject, whatever their views on the Government's preferred option, will take the opportunity to respond to the consultation document.

Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to implement the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997.[HL3496]

Lord Whitty: It is clear that the setting of road traffic reduction targets will be an integral part of the process of drawing up local transport strategies. Local transport plans are a centrepiece of the Government's transport proposals and it is vital that we get implementation right. We have listened to the Local Government Association and local authority concerns about the difficulty of producing robust local transport plans by July 1999. We will therefore invite local highway authorities to produce "provisional" five year plans by July 1999, covering the period 2000/01-2004/05. These would be the basis for allocating resources for 2000/01 only. Authorities would then roll their plans on by one year and submit "full" plans for 2001/02-2005/06 in July 2000, when resources would be allocated across the plan period.

Statutory reports produced under the provisions of the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 will therefore be submitted in July 2000, as part of the first round of full local transport plans. We will expect authorities to

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submit non-statutory "interim" road traffic reduction reports in July 1999, as part of the provisional plans.

The London boroughs are not covered by the White Paper requirement to produce local transport plans, but will be separately required to produce local implementation plans which are in keeping with the Mayor's integrated transport strategy for London. We are taking this forward separately.

The Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act 1998 requires the Government to consider the setting of national targets. We will therefore require a greater degree of standardisation from local authorities in the measurement of existing traffic levels and forecasts--in order that we can assess the national implications. We believe this can be done by building on the data already collected for national surveys. It will take some time to get an assessment framework in place. This is something we would like to take forward jointly with local authorities under the auspices of the Transport Statistics Liaison Group. The existing draft guidance on the Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 will be revised in the light of this work. The Government have also undertaken that they will produce a first report to Parliament on the issue of national traffic targets by the end of 1999 (which will also need to reflect the views of the Commission for Integrated Transport, when appointed). To achieve this, they will need to draw on existing sources of information together with any useful inputs from local authorities from their 1999 plans, accepting that at this stage the material will not be in a standardised format.

UFOs: MoD Answering Machine

Lord Hill-Norton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that the answering machine which the Ministry of Defence uses both to explain its policy on unidentified flying objects and to provide a facility for the public to report sightings is turned on at all times and not switched off outside working hours.[HL3407]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Yes.

Medical Negligence Claims

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What activity the Department of Health is currently engaged in to review its exposure to medical negligence claims and its processes and procedures for dealing with them.[HL3460]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): On 29 April 1998 my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health wrote to a number of organisations representing professional, legal, National Health Service and patient interests seeking their views on what can be done to reduce the number of incidents which give rise

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to claims, how to manage patient expectation and how to improve the handling of claims which do arise. Officials are in the process of studying replies in order to identify suggestions which might be taken forward in the future.

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