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22 May 2000 : Column WA43

Written Answers

Monday, 22nd May 2000.

London Elections: Turnout

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the percentage turnout of the electorate who voted in the recent elections for the London Mayor and the Greater London Assembly; and what were the comparable turnout figures for each election for the old Greater London Council.[HL2491]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Turnout at the election for the Mayor and Assembly for London on 4 May was 34.4 per cent. Turnout for each Greater London Council election was as follows:


    9 April 1964: 44.2%


    13 April 1967: 41.1%


    9 April 1970: 35.2%


    12 April 1973: 37.0%


    5 May 1977: 43.4%


    7 May 1981: 44.4%

DVLA Advice

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether advice given by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is given on behalf of the Secretary of State, and if not, on whose behalf is it given.[HL2428]

Lord Whitty: The advice given by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is given on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Special Vehicle Excise Duty: Mobile Cranes

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the purpose for which a vehicle used for pumping concrete was originally designed is relevant in considering for what it is currently "designed and constructed".[HL2429]

Lord Whitty: Under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, mobiles cranes are classified as special vehicles and pay a rate of Vehicle Excise Duty of £165. Schedule 1, Paragraph 4(5) of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 states that a "mobile crane" means a vehicle which is designed and constructed as a mobile crane, and is only used on the public road in certain circumstances. Interpretation of the law is a matter for the courts, and the department's

22 May 2000 : Column WA44

advice to vehicle keepers will reflect the courts' interpretation of the criteria in the legislation.

Access to Open Countryside: Impact

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What methodologies they intend to put in place to measure the effect of open access on the environment and on those who earn their living from the land.[HL2391]

Lord Whitty: The proposed new right of public access to open countryside forms a key part of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, which is currently being considered in another place. Although the new right will not come into effect for some time, the Government, together with key relevant statutory bodies, including the Countryside Agency and English Nature, are already considering what work might usefully be done to evaluate its environmental and economic impact.

Telecommunications Masts

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will bring forward tighter planning controls on the siting of mobile telephone masts in respect of health and environmental considerations.[HL2455]

Lord Whitty: In its response to the report of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones, issued on 11 May 2000, the Government said that they were minded to introduce a requirement for full planning permission for all new telecommunications masts, but would need to consult widely before doing so, including on the purpose and precise scope of any new arrangements. We shall issue a consultation paper on this and related guidance as soon as practicable.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, to achieve a notional consistency of approach to health risk, they propose to place an immediate ban, similar to the beef bone ban, on the construction of mobile telephone masts of whatever height, whether in receipt of planning permission or not. [HL2456]

Lord Whitty: The Independent Expert Group on Mobile phones, set up at the instigation of the Government and chaired by Sir William Stewart FRS FRSE, has considered the possible health effects of the use of mobile phones, base stations and transmitters. The group published its report on 11 May.

The group concluded that "the balance of evidence indicates that there is no general risk to the health of people living near to base stations on the basis that exposures are expected to be small fractions of guidelines. However, there can be indirect adverse effects on their well-being in some cases."

22 May 2000 : Column WA45

The group's report does not recommend a ban on the construction of mobile phone masts and the Government have no plans to introduce such a ban. What the report does do is make some specific recommendations for precautionary action for the use of mobile technology. In its response to the group's report, the Government indicated that they accept the precautionary approach advised by the group and will hold further discussions and consultation on specific elements.

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will require companies to co-operate in making fuller use of existing mobile telephone masts to restrict the multiplication of such masts. [HL2457]

Lord Whitty: The Government's policy is firmly to encourage mast and site sharing where that is appropriate. Conditions attached to the use of powers granted to individual mobile operators by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, and incorporated in their operating licences, include a requirement to investigate mast sharing before seeking to put up any new mast.

Water Directive: Effect on Whisky Industry

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What impact the European Water Framework Directive, if imposed in its current form, will have on whisky distilling. [HL2370]

Lord Whitty: The proposed EC Water Framework Directive is in the final stages of negotiation. Possible effects of the proposed directive on industry, including the Scotch whisky industry, could include tighter controls on some waste water discharges. The draft directive would also require a system of controls on the abstraction and impoundment of water.

Implementation of the directive in Scotland will be a matter for the Scottish Executive.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to the European Commission on behalf of the Scotch whisky distillers on the current terms of the European Water Framework Directive.[HL2371]

Lord Whitty: The Scotch whisky industry has made representations to both the Scottish Executive and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on the proposed Water Framework Directive. The industry has concerns in particular about the European Parliament's second reading amendment that would delete a provision allowing abstractions that have no significant impact on water status to be exempt from control. The Government agree that this provision, which is contained in the Common Position text, is important and should be retained.

22 May 2000 : Column WA46

Incineration of Waste Directive: Animal Carcasses

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the cost to them of the Entec report on the environment and regulatory impacts of the draft Incineration of Waste Directive; and whether they are satisfied with the quality of that report.[HL2417]

Lord Whitty: The cost of the main Entec UK Ltd report of February 1999 was £32,970 + VAT. Entec UK Ltd also undertook further cost-benefit analyses at later stages of the proposal's progress, at a total cost of £20,935 + VAT. We were broadly content with the accuracy of the reports, but invited 36 trade associations (listed in response to Question 235/99/00) to comment by way of a check. We have recently become aware from the National Farmers Union that the number of small-scale animal carcass incinerators was significantly underestimated.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider the compliance costs associated with the draft Incineration of Waste Directive to be reasonable and, if so, whether this is in accord with the advice of Entec given in June 1999.[HL2420]

Lord Whitty: The main February 1999 report of Entec UK Ltd on the proposed waste incineration directive included an assessment of the "reasonableness" of the proposal in respect of different incineration sectors.

Entec produced two further reports on the waste incineration proposal in June 1999, copies of which are in the House Library. One reported on the emissions standards employed in certain other EU member states, and the other considered the impact of the amendments proposed by the European Parliament to the Commission's proposal in response to its First Reading. The latter report also included separate assessments of the "reasonableness" of the proposed directive with the Parliament's First Reading amendments, and of the proposed directive with standards tightened to the same levels as those in the other member states investigated.

We have broadly accepted Entec's assessment at each stage, and have taken full account of it prior to reaching Common Position, including our exploration of an exclusion from the scope of the proposal for small-scale animal carcass incinerators.


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