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12 Jun 2000 : Column WA181

Written Answers

Monday, 12th June 2000.

Agricultural Buildings and Council Tax

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Whitty on 16 May (WA 9), what is the policy for applying council tax to disused farm buildings when planning permission is being sought to convert buildings for human habitation; and[HL2668]

    What liability has the owner of a disused farm building for council tax when (a) planning permission is being sought to change use of that building to human habitation; and (b) when building works are under way to convert that building for human habitation.[HL2669]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Non-domestic buildings are subject to non-domestic rates. However, non-domestic agricultural buildings, whether or not planning permission is being sought for a change of use to domestic, are exempt from non-domestic rates. While the conversion of a non-domestic building into domestic use is under way, there will be no council tax liability until the dwelling has been completed.

Where a disused farm building is domestic but is derelict it will not constitute a dwelling for the purpose of the council tax and will not attract a council tax liability until works have been undertaken to improve it.

Where a disused farm building is domestic and constitutes a dwelling for council tax purposes, it will be exempt for up to one year while it is in need of or undergoing major repair works, or is undergoing structural alteration. Thereafter, it will be subject to 50 per cent council tax while it remains unoccupied.

Council of the European Union: Rules of Procedure

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Lord Whitty on 17 May (WA 26) about the European Union Waste Incineration Directive, whether they will give details of:


    (a) the Council of Ministers' rules of procedure;


    (b) their legal basis;


    (c) when they were established; and


    (d) any measures proposed, and by whom, to improve the transparency of Council proceedings, and with what effect.[HL2599]

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Lord Whitty: Rules of Procedure for the Council were first laid down in 1970s. They are regularly updated, with revisions published in the Official Journal. The latest version can be found in OJ L147 from 12 June 1999. The legal basis for all revisions of the Rules of Procedure is Article 207.3 TEC.

In addition to the Rules of Procedure, access to Council documents is governed by a separate Council decision (93/731/EC). This is currently being revised as part of a Commission proposal aimed at establishing rules on access to documents across all the Community's Institutions. The Government attach a high priority to increasing transparency and openness in EU decision making. They therefore welcome this proposal.

Goods Vehicles: Penalties

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the maximum financial penalty that can be imposed for causing or permitting a goods vehicle to be overloaded; and how would this compare with the standard civil penalty for inadvertently carrying four clandestine immigrants.[HL2691]

Lord Whitty: On summary conviction, the maximum financial penalty for a person or goods vehicle operator who fails to comply with the prescribed maximum permitted axle or gross weight of the vehicle is £5,000. In addition, if the lorry is so overloaded that its condition is likely to involve a danger of injury, a further offence may be committed with an additional penalty of up to £5,000. Lorry drivers or haulage operators who are found to be transporting clandestine entrants are liable to a charge of £2,000 per entrant.

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the maximum financial penalty available to the courts for a goods vehicle operator who has caused or permitted a vehicle to be operated with defective brakes; and how this would compare with the standard civil penalty for inadvertently carrying four clandestine immigrants; and[HL2692]

    What is the maximum financial penalty available to the courts for a driver who has driven a goods vehicle when he knew or should have known that the vehicle had defective brakes; and how this would compare with the standard civil penalty for inadvertently carrying four clandestine immigrants.[HL2693]

Lord Whitty: On summary conviction, the maximum financial penalty for a person or goods vehicle operator who fails to comply with the prescribed construction and use requirement for brakes is £5,000 if committed in respect of a goods vehicle or a vehicle adapted to carry more than eight passengers. Lorry drivers or haulage companies who are found to be transporting clandestine entrants are liable to a charge of £2,000 per entrant.

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Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the maximum financial penalty that the Health and Safety Executive has secured, on conviction, against a goods vehicle operator during the last convenient 24 month period; and how this would compare with the standard civil penalty for inadvertently carrying four clandestine immigrants.[HL2695]

Lord Whitty: The maximum financial penalty that the Health and Safety Executive has secured, on conviction, against a freight transport operator during the last 24 months for which full records are available is £12,000. Two prosecutions have resulted in a fine of this size. Both prosecutions were taken under Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The first prosecution took place in September 1998 following a fatal fork lift truck accident. The second prosecution took place in October 1998 following the overturning of a gantry crane that seriously injured an employee.

Lorry drivers or haulage operators who are found to be transporting clandestine entrants are liable to a charge of £2,000 per entrant.

Goods Vehicles: Notifications to Health and Safety Executive

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many notifications, which have involved the operation of goods vehicles, the Health and Safety Executive have received under the Reporting of Injuries, Deaths and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations during the last convenient 24 month period.[HL2694]

Lord Whitty: The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 require the notification to the enforcing authority of deaths, major injuries and injuries leading to over three days' absence from work and of specified Dangerous Occurrences. 1997–98 and 1998–99 are the latest years for which figures are available.

During 1997–98 HSE was notified of 220 injuries (including four fatalities) involving goods vehicles and 89 Dangerous Occurrences involving the conveyance of dangerous substances by road.

During 1998–99 HSE was notified of 224 injuries (including eleven fatalities) involving goods vehicles and 52 Dangerous Occurrences involving the conveyance of dangerous substances by road.

Midwives: Use of Green Warning Beacon

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it would be legal or desirable for midwives when involved with medical emergencies to use a green flashing light on their vehicles. [HL2696]

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Lord Whitty: It is currently not legal for midwives to use green flashing lights. The use of a warning beacon emitting green light is restricted to medical practitioners registered by the General Medical Council, and for the purposes of an emergency.

However, the Government will be reviewing whether the regulations should be amended to extend this facility to midwives. Any proposal to do this would be subject to public consultation.

European Structural Funds: Private Sector Involvement

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the next funding round of the European Structural Funds (Objective 2 and 3), what effort they are making to ensure greater participation in projects from the private sector. [HL2583]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The private sector has a major part to play in the new Structural Funding round. All government departments are renewing their efforts to ensure that there is greater private sector involvement. Publicity in the regions will be aimed at encouraging private sector involvement in the new programmes. The Government have encouraged programme partners to include private sector funding as a substantial part of programmes.

Wind Power: Research

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What studies have been carried out or are proceeding in regard to the social and economic consequences of the development of wind power; and what advice they have given to planning authorities in respect of such developments.[HL2642]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: The Department of Trade and Industry's R&D programme for new and renewable energy includes studies on a range of non-technical issues on renewable energy generally and wind energy in particular. Details of wind energy and planning studies are contained in DTI's report DTI New & Renewable Energy Programme Annual Plans 1999/2000 and the associated annual report for 1998/99. Copies of these publications are available in the Library of the House.

In order to promote a strategic approach to planning for renewable energy from the regional level downwards, the Government Offices for the Regions are commissioning work to prepare regional assessments and targets for renewable energy, including wind power where appropriate, and updating as necessary existing DTI funded planning resource studies. In England, Planning Policy Guidance Note 22: Renewable Energy has been the main source of advice provided to planning authorities

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and a final version of the revised Planning Policy Guidance Note 11: Regional Planning, is to be published shortly. This will include a section on renewable energy.

DTI's New & Renewable Energy R&D Programme provides information of use to planning authorities when considering local development plans. Moreover, a range of information specifically on wind power such as studies on noise from wind farms, the cumulative effects of wind turbines in one area and a number of other studies on the environmental impact of wind farms—visual, ecological, electro-magnetic and colour—are available to local authorities to help inform their planning decisions.

On the economic aspects of renewable energy generally, this industry currently comprises 700 organisations and is estimated to employ 3,500 people directly.


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