Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Armed Forces: Redresses of Complaint

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The number of redresses of complaint submitted since 1 May 1997 which took more than 12 months to be concluded was 57 for the Army and seven for the RAF. In addition, the Army has 102 cases and the RAF 12 cases which remain unresolved after 12 months. These figures cover complaints processed within the chain of command and by the Service Board. The Navy only collects information centrally on cases which fall to be determined by the board. On this basis, four cases took more than 12 months to resolve and seven cases are still outstanding.

The most common reasons for delay are the need to carry out special investigations, which may involve service police inquiries and the taking of witness statements; the need to take legal or other expert advice; and the extensive consultation required on complaints which challenge existing policy. Delays are also caused by complainants, or their legal representative, seeking information from the department to help them formulate their complaint, adding new complaints as the redress processes or delaying their response to the disclosure to them of all relevant papers before their case is submitted to the Service Board.

Although the services seeks to deal with all complaints expeditiously, the overriding importance of the thorough investigation and careful consideration of complex complaints often militates against this.

US National Security Agency: Menwith Hill

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Her Majesty's Government retain legal possession and control over sites made available for use by the United States visiting forces. Operational control of deployed forces rests with the United States. The facilities currently under construction at RAF Menwith Hill, which relate to the US Space-Based Infra-Red System, will be operated in accordance with these principles.

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA6

The systems will provide warning of ballistic missile launches, directly contributing to the security of the UK. This does not affect the commercial interests of either the UK or other EU members. Interpretation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is a matter for the parties to that treaty.

WTO Negotiations: ACP Supplying States

Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the context of the forthcoming World Trade Organisation negotiations, they will support a balanced agenda accommodating the concerns and interests of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) supplying states.[HL4213]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Her Majesty's Government have made clear their commitment to ensuring that the agenda for new comprehensive negotiations in the WTO should take full account of the needs and priorities of all developing countries.

Sovereignty above National Airspace

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider national sovereign rights pertain to vehicles, whether civil or military, that operate above national airspace.[HL4195]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: National sovereignty applies to airspace; no sovereignty applies in outer space. There is no established definition of the height at which airspace ends and outer space begins.

Regarding vehicles, a state on whose registry a space object appears retains jurisdiction and control over such object while in outer space (Article VIII, 1967, Outer Space Treaty).

Hospital Doctors: Suspension

Baroness Knight of Collingtree asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When Baroness Knight of Collingtree can expect an answer concerning the introduction of new rules governing the suspension of hospital doctors, requested by a committee of medical experts and submitted by her to the Government Minister in July.[HL4171]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): An internal management review of the procedures for the suspension of hospital doctors has been completed taking into account information received from a number of sources. The findings of this review will now be taken forward as part of work on the wider issues concerning the recognition and handling of poor clinical performance.

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA7

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Health has written to the noble Baroness with a more detailed response to the submission of July.

Passenger Rail Franchising

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the criteria which will be used by the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority in assessing bids for new or extended passenger rail franchising, and what is the process and timetable for inviting bids, evaluating them and awarding new or extended franchises.[HL4248]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Deputy Prime Minister issued new instructions and guidance to the Franchising Director at the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority on 29 September. These included at paragraphs 21 to 24 instructions relating specifically to the criteria to be used for consideration of bids for franchise extension or re-letting. There is a copy of the instructions and guidance in the Library. The process and timetable for inviting and evaluating bids are matters for the Franchising Director. The award of new franchises or franchise extensions of more than two years would be subject to ministerial approval.

Train Paths: Allocation Policy

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the policy of the Shadow Strategic Rail Authority for allocating train paths between different passenger franchise operators, as well as allowing for the reasonable requirements of freight operators.[HL4249]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The allocation of train paths is the responsibility of Railtrack, subject to the approval of the Rail Regulator. The instructions and guidance to the Franchising Director at the SSRA require him, in pursuing his objectives for passengers, to take into account other relevant government policies, specifically including rail freight.

Road Network: Expenditure Evaluation

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they use valuation based on human life calculations in prioritising expenditure upon the road network.(HL4242)

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Safety is a key element of the Government's new approach to appraisal that is used to prioritise expenditure on road schemes and other road investment projects. Impacts of the scheme or project on fatalities, serious injuries and slight injuries

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA8

are expressed using monetary values. These are shown in the table below.

These values encompass all aspects of the valuation of casualties, including the human costs and the direct economic costs, i.e. an amount to reflect the pain, grief and suffering and the lost output and medical costs associated with road accident injuries. The human costs are derived from a statistical analysis of peoples' willingness to pay for small changes in the risk of a fatality or injury occurring.

These values are given in the October 1999 edition of Highways Economics Note No. 1, which is about to be published. A copy will be placed in the House Libraries as soon as it is available.

Average value of prevention per casualty by severity and element of cost £ (June 1998)

Accident severity Lost outputMedical and ambulance costHuman costsTotal
Fatal360,000620686,6201,047,240
Serious13,8608,40095,410117,670
Slight1,4706206,9809,070
Average, all casualties6,7901,60025,24033,630

Radioactive Waste

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the (a) response to the Report of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology on The Management of Nuclear Waste (HL Paper 41) published on 24 March, (b) High Level Waste and Spent Fuel Disposal Research Strategy project, (c) 1998 UK Radioactive Waste Inventory and (d) report on the UK's intentions for implementing the OSPAR strategy with regard to radioactive substances.[HL4383]

Lord Whitty: We have today written to Lord Tombs, Chairman of the Committee, enclosing the government response to the Select Committee report, The Management of Nuclear Waste. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Government's paramount concern is to protect the safety of both current and future generations. The Government agree with the Select Committee that widespread public consultation must come before a final decision is reached on the most appropriate option for managing radioactive waste. The Government note the Select Committee's conclusion that deep disposal is the only solution which is ultimately sustainable. We shall, however, want to study very carefully the results of the consensus building process initiated by the consultation which we intend to launch early next year before coming to a final view. There are in any case questions to consider about when any underground repository might be

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA9

needed and the period over which it should be possible to monitor and retrieve wastes placed in it. There is no need for an immediate decision at this stage.

The government response is the first stage of the process to identify, develop and implement the best possible management option for radioactive wastes--one which commands widespread public support. It sets out the Government's commitment to a comprehensive policy for long-lived radioactive wastes, developed in an open and transparent way on the basis of widespread consultation to ensure the maximum possible public acceptance. The next stage will be full consultation on the management options for radioactive waste. Subsequent steps will need to be considered in the light of the results from this consultation. There is no question at this stage of looking at the potential suitability of any particular sites. This would only be necessary if, in the light of consultation, underground disposal were the chosen option. In any case, this would be some years away.

The Government have also accepted that it is possible that at least some plutonium may be declared a waste in the future. The response therefore also sets out our intention to consult with BNFL, British Energy and UKAEA on the likely future uses for the UK plutonium stockpile.

We have today published a report which my department commissioned from consultants Quantisci setting out a research and development strategy for disposing of certain radioactive materials. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

The High Level Waste and Spent Fuel Disposal Research Strategy project has identified the scale and nature of the research and development that would be required if deep geological disposal of high-level waste and spent fuel were to be pursued. The report will inform the forthcoming consultation paper on radioactive waste management.

We have also today published the 1998 UK Radioactive Waste Inventory. Copies of the summary report have been placed in the Library of the House.

The inventory was jointly commissioned by Nirex and my department. It describes all stocks of waste held in the UK at 1 April 1998, together with predictions of wastes arising into the future. There has been an increase of around 12 per cent. in the total volume of wastes in stock since the last inventory in 1994 due to the continued accumulation of intermediate and high level wastes in the absence of disposal facilities. However, the predictions of future arisings have been revised downwards since the last report (17 per cent for high level waste; 26 per cent for intermediate and 2 per cent for low level waste) due to developments in waste conditioning, better estimates of volume and some changes in the scale and nature of future operations.

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA10

The UK is one of the few countries where such information is made publicly available. Organisations involved with the nuclear industry, and relevant non-governmental organisations, will receive a free copy on compact disk. The summary report will also be available on the internet at www.nirex.co.uk.

A report on the UK's intentions for implementing the OSPAR strategy with regard to radioactive substances has been sent to the OSPAR secretariat today. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. Copies have also been sent to nuclear operators and relevant non-governmental organisations.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page