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Overseas Visitors: Financial Bonds

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave to Baroness Howells of St Davids on May 23, (Official Report, WA 76-77).

Royal Ordnance: "Desertised" Ammunition

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): A contract has been placed by the Ministry of Defence with Royal Ordnance in respect of "desertised" ammunition. It is a matter for the supplier as to how its contractual obligations are met and services delivered. RO Defence has assured the department that the contract will be met and that the programme is on schedule.

24 May 2000 : Column WA93

RAF Little Rissington: Glider Flights

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What special measures can be taken to avoid significant increases in noise pollution over Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty which will be caused by planned increased flights by gliders at RAF Little Rissington.[HL2402]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The RAF is considering a proposal to move both the Joint Services Adventurous Training (Gliding) centre and the RAF Gliding and Soaring Association, both currently based at Bicester, to RAF Little Rissington. Designation of an area as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty does not preclude aircraft activity within the airspace above it. The RAF is, however, very conscious of the impact of its activities on its neighbours. In considering the proposal relating to RAF Little Rissington, account will be taken of the full Environmental Impact Study that has been undertaken by an independent contractor.

Starling and House Sparrow Populations

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether research is under way into the decline in the population of starlings and house sparrows; and, in view of this decline, whether they will provide protection for these species and cease to classify them as pests.[HL2550]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Government are planning to let a research contract to investigate the causes of the population declines of the starling and house sparrow in Great Britain. This contract will be put out to tender in the near future. Control of these species is not thought to be the reason for this decline, so it would be inappropriate to change their status prior to the completion of this research.

GM Crops: Protection of Bees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether bee-keepers will be compensated for costs incurred in moving hives away from sites of genetically modified crop trials.[HL2521]

Lord Whitty: The Government will not be compensating bee-keepers for costs incurred in moving hives away from GM crop trial sites. All of the GM crops released into the environment have been confirmed as safe to human health, animal health, and the environment. Any decision by individual companies not to purchase honey from hives close to GM crops is therefore a commercial decision and has no basis in safety.

24 May 2000 : Column WA94

Lead Shot Controls

Lord Blaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the timetable of the Lead Shot Working Group will make it possible for any recommendations the group may make for changes in the regulations to be brought into effect by 1 September 2000.[HL2503]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The Lead Shot Legislation (England) Review Group is aiming to make its recommendations in time for any legislative changes to be brought into force by 1 September 2000.

However, there is a substantial programme of work and it is not yet clear if all elements will be completed in time to meet this deadline. In particular, if changes are proposed to the list of sites included in Schedule 1 to Statutory Instrument 1999 No. 2170, then relevant landowners and occupiers would need to be consulted, thereby increasing the time needed to bring changes into effect.

Aircraft Charters by Government

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions they have chartered United States registered aircraft in each of the last three years; and to what total contract value.[HL2203]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Information on the country of registration of charter aircraft used by government is not held centrally. I apologise to the noble Lord for the delay in issuing this reply.

Northern Ireland: Expressway Project

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 11 April (WA 36-40) concerning the Expressway-style rapid transit system from the northern part of County Down to Belfast, why the decision not to proceed due to the lack of funding was made before an application was submitted to the European Union for support and before the concept of private funding had been explored.[HL2296]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: No decision has been made on whether to proceed with this scheme. Government is not in a position to indicate what funding will be available under the EU Structural Funds Programme 2000-2006 for transport projects. If it is decided that such a scheme should proceed, availability of both European and private funding would clearly be helpful.

24 May 2000 : Column WA95

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the postponement of the Expressway-style rapid transit system from North Down to Belfast, what arrangements they are making to compensate those property owners who have been affected by planning blight.[HL2352]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: This project, known as EWAY, is intended to utilise part of the former route of the old Comber railway line. No decision has been made on whether to proceed with the EWAY project. Consequently, compensation to property owners is not an issue at this time. However, within the Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001, which is the statutory plan for Greater Belfast, it is proposed that the old Comber railway line will be utilised for road schemes. Land to build these schemes has therefore been afforded protection. The owners of properties affected by planning blight because of these schemes may seek compensation by means of the Planning Blight (Compensation) (Northern Ireland) Order 1961.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 8 March (WA 154) whether the announcement of the deferring of an Expressway-style rapid transit system from the northern part of County Down to Belfast was the correct way to inform all the many interested groups and the general public; and whether they will wish to update the Answer. [HL2354]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: No decision has been made on whether to proceed with this scheme. Consequently no announcement has been made about deferring it.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 2 May (WA 170) concerning a proposal for an Expressway-style rapid transit system from the northern part of County Down to Belfast and the Written Answer on 2 May (WA 70) which stated that "the EWAY study has been completed", whether they will enlarge on the wording that the "project is not at a sufficiently advanced state to warrant an application being made to the European Union for funding", and what stage the proposal is at. [HL2451]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Preliminary feasibility work on the proposal has now been completed and a project board has just been established to consider whether and how the proposal can usefully be taken forward.

A detailed costed scheme would need to be available before consideration could be given to seeking funding from the European Union.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they carried out a public consultation exercise concerning an Expressway-style rapid transit system from the northern part of County

24 May 2000 : Column WA96

    Down to the centre of Belfast if they had no intention of proceeding with the project. [HL2454]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Government have not carried out a public consultation exercise concerning an Expressway-style rapid transit system from the northern part of County Down to the centre of Belfast, Government have not come to any decision on whether this scheme should proceed.

Northern Ireland: Rail Safety

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they expect the same standards of safety for public transport in Northern Ireland as the rest of the United Kingdom; and why Northern Ireland Railways is not subject to the same rail safety arrangements as the rest of the United Kingdom through the Railway Inspectorate.[HL2275]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Government recognise the need for similar standards of rail safety to apply in Northern Ireland as those in the rest of the United Kingdom. They are taking steps to bring Northern Ireland into line, where appropriate, with Great Britain in relation to rail safety legislation and the Department for Regional Development is currently in discussion with the GB Health and Safety Executive with a view to developing a closer working relationship with Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate.


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