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5 Nov 1998 : Column WA57

Written Answers

Thursday, 5th November 1998.

High Speed Ferries

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the high speed sea service catamaran ferries consume more than four times as much fuel per passenger mile than traditional ferries; whether all the environmental implications and costs of these ferries have been evaluated; if so, by whom; and whether the evaluation was taken into account when the use of such ferries was approved.[HL3550]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We are not able to provide any general information on the fuel consumption of high speed ferries. How this compares with that for traditional ferries will depend upon the type of ferry, the route on which it operates, and how the consumption is measured. However, since fast ferries use refined fuels with a low sulphur content, they should cause less air pollution and present a lower risk of marine pollution than traditional ferries. My noble friend the Baroness Hayman's reply to an earlier question for the noble Lord dealt with the issue of environmental monitoring (22 June, Vol. 591, WA 8).

House Building: Funding

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Whitty on 19 October (WA 127-8), what funds were available for house building prior to the additional £5 billion which will have been made available over the life of this Parliament.[HL3524]

Lord Whitty: The 1997 Annual Report of the then Department of the Environment shows that, under the last government's expenditure plans, capital expenditure through the Housing Corporation net Approved Development Programme and Local Authority Housing (the main sources of public funding available for house building) was set to fall to £1,196.8 million in 1999-2000. Under the expenditure plans announced in the Deputy Prime Minister's 22 July statement on Housing and Regeneration Policy, copies of which are in the Library, support for these programmes (including resources made available through the Capital Receipts Initiative) will rise to £1,889.6 million in 1999-2000 and to £3,056.9 million by 2001-02.

Bovine TB Survey Forms

Lord Grantchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans he has to improve the collection of information about tuberculosis risk factors from cattle breakdown forms.[HL3626]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): During November the Ministry will be carrying out a pilot study using new survey forms designed to collect information on cattle movements, husbandry practices, wildlife on farms, and the local environment from farms which have suffered TB incidents, and from others which will act as controls. Comments on the forms are being invited from the farming and scientific communities and the public.

In December we will review the forms, and from January we intend to use them to gain information following all TB breakdowns. The information collected will be analysed alongside other data on local weather conditions and patterns of badger activity to determine which factors seem to be associated with a higher TB risk. These factors can then be investigated more closely.

Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether crop varieties genetically engineered to be resistant to insects or other crop pests will be required to have an approval under current or future pesticide legislation.[HL3581]

Lord Donoughue: Plant varieties genetically modified to be resistant to insects or other crop pests must comply with the requirements of the UK National List system (which considers, amongst other things, the agronomic performance of varieties) before they can be marketed.

The crop varieties themselves do not require an approval under pesticides legislation. However, the use of a pesticide on a crop genetically modified to be resistant to that pesticide will require such approval, which will be considered on the basis of appropriate safety and efficacy data. Prior consent under the Genetically Modified Organisms (Deliberate Release) Regulations is required for the release of the crop into the environment.

Public Analyst

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the review of Public Analyst arrangements in England and Wales to be completed.[HL3624]

Lord Donoughue: The Chairman of the review group has now submitted its report to my honourable friend the Minister of State. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House and will be sent to those who made submissions to the group. It will also be made available on the Ministry's web site. He was grateful to the chairman and members of the group for the timely completion of their review. The Government will need to give careful consideration to the large number of detailed recommendations and decide how to carry them forward in consultation with the other relevant bodies.

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Defence Diversification

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they propose to publish a White Paper on Defence Diversification.[HL3682]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): We have today published our White Paper Defence Diversification: Getting the most out of defence technology, as Cm 4088. It describes how we intend to create a defence diversification agency, in fulfilment of our election manifesto. It follows the process of consultation set in motion earlier this year by our Green Paper, Cm 3861. We are most grateful to all those organisations and individuals who contributed to this process.

Territorial Army

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Territorial Army will be deployed to ensure that there is a military presence throughout the United Kingdom linking the armed forces to the civil community and, if so, how.[HL3575]

Lord Gilbert: Our work on the restructuring of the TA is based on assumptions which recognise the role of the TA in providing a link between the armed forces and the civil community and the need for appropriate TA representation throughout the United Kingdom.

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the regular army will provide accommodation and support to the cadet forces if the Territorial Army is reduced to around 40,000.[HL3578]

Lord Gilbert: Suitable alternative accommodation and support will be provided for any cadet unit affected by the restructuring of the Territorial Army.

Senior Police Officers: Disciplinary Procedures

Lord Islwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will investigate the feasibility of speeding up the procedures for dealing with disciplinary charges involving senior police officers.[HL3616]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Government have been very concerned about the protracted nature of disciplinary proceedings against police officers of all ranks. Delays are clearly undesirable for accused officers, forces and ultimately for the public they serve. New police disciplinary procedures are being introduced on 1 April 1999 and it is expected that streamlined systems will result in fewer delays consistent with the principles of fairness being applied. In the case of senior officers, the present procedures have been used only rarely. However, it is fair to say that lessons have been learned from problems experienced recently in a few force areas and these are contributing to the revision of the senior officer procedures.

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Independent Commission on the Voting System

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will invite the Independent Commission on the Voting System to make available to Parliament and the general public the minutes and notes taken at the public consultation meetings.[HL3476]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I understand that the Independent Commission on the Voting System intends to place the notes of its public meetings in the Library and in the Public Record Office.

Foreign Drivers: Moving Traffic Offence Penalties

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many fixed penalty tickets for moving traffic offences have been issued to foreign drivers in each of the past five years.[HL3467]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The information requested is not available centrally.

It is not, however, normal police practice to issue fixed penalty notices to foreign drivers who commit moving traffic offences. The fixed penalty system does not specifically provide for such action because there is no facility to endorse foreign driving licences with penalty points. In addition, as foreign drivers are often only in this country for short periods, and the United Kingdom's jurisdiction no longer applies once they have returned home, there are obvious difficulties in taking enforcement action if the fixed penalty is not paid.

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