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21 Mar 2001 : Column WA159

Written Answers

Wednesday, 21st March 2001.

Road Traffic Noise

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What, in their view, are the best ways of reducing noise caused by vehicles upon motorways and dual-carriageway trunk roads.[HL1213]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): A wide variety of different measures are available to reduce the effect of road traffic noise and the most appropriate combination of measures will depend on the circumstances in each case. Options include quieter road surfaces, noise barriers, and in the case of new or improved roads, route alignment, landscaping and noise insulation. The Highways Agency considers all options as appropriate to the circumstances.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What surveys they have conducted since 1997 on ways of reducing noise from motorways and dual-carriageway trunk roads.[HL1214]

Lord Whitty: The Highways Agency is responsible for managing motorways and dual-carriageway trunk roads in England. The agency has undertaken surveys of traffic noise before and after the provision of noise mitigation measures at various locations since 1997. Surveys have included studies of a wide range of lower noise surfaces, and the effectiveness of noise absorptive, compared with reflective, barriers. A survey of the effectiveness of measures being provided under the ring-fenced budget is currently in progress.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What guidance is given by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on the best ways of reducing noise from motorways and dual-carriageway trunk roads.[HL1215]

Lord Whitty: The Highways Agency is responsible for managing motorways and dual-carriageway trunk roads in England. The agency has provided guidance on the use of lower noise surfaces and of noise barriers as methods of reducing traffic. This is published in the Highways Agency Design Manual for Roads and Bridges.

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In which public inquiries held since 1990 have noise from motorways or dual-carriageway trunk roads been admitted in evidence.[HL1249]

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Lord Whitty: Noise is an issue raised at most public inquiries for motorways and dual-carriageway trunk roads. For all major trunk roads schemes an Environmental Statement is prepared as evidence by the Highways Agency. This includes an assessment of noise impacts. The inquiry provides the opportunity for others to submit evidence on noise if they wish.

Global Sustainable Development

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they will take in preparation for the Earth Summit in 2002 to persuade developed countries to reduce their adverse social and environmental impact on developing countries. [HL1224]

Lord Whitty: In our contribution to international preparations for the World Summit for Sustainable Development (Rio+10) in 2002, we are firmly committed to improving the nature of developed countries' impacts on developing countries to promote sustainable development in the whole. Examples of this approach include pursuing trade policy beneficial to developing countries as set out in last December's White Paper on Globalisation, Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work, and pursuing more sustainable patterns of consumption and production through pressing for the early entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol and promotion of resource efficient technologies.

Urban Rat and Fox Populations: Plastic Rubbish Bags

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the urban population of rats has increased since the introduction of plastic rubbish bags; and, if so, by what estimated percentages; and [HL957]

    Whether the urban population of foxes has increased since the introduction of plastic rubbish bags; and, if so, by what estimated percentage. [HL958]

Lord Whitty: The DETR does not have any specific data on the increase in the urban rat population since the introduction of plastic rubbish bags. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) report on Rodent infestations in domestic properties in England reports on the extent of rodent infestations using data collected in the DETR's 1996 English House Condition Survey (EHCS). A key finding is that 0.4 per cent of dwellings were infested by indoor rats and 1.7 per cent of dwellings affected by outdoor rats. The infestation rates were higher in urban areas and dwellings in areas with substantial problems such as dereliction, litter, vacant properties and scruffy gardens had a higher rate of infestation. There are no similar data available from the EHCS on foxes.

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Depleted Uranium

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the event of stocks of depleted uranium, or a differently named substance with the same properties, being held at a non-military base, there is a requirement on the company holding the stocks to notify the relevant local authority so that such information can be included in their emergency planning information. [HL1173]

Lord Whitty: The Health and Safety Commission and Executive are responsible for regulating the health and safety of people at work. Employers working with large quantities of radioactive substances where off-site emergency plans and arrangements to inform the public may be necessary must comply with the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 (IRR99), the Public Information for Radiation Emergencies Regulations 1992 (PIRER), and the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (NIA65, as amended, for nuclear licensed sites). This would include employers working with depleted uranium if the stock was sufficiently large.

PIRER places a duty on employers that, where a radiation emergency is reasonably foreseeable and the public are likely to be in an area where they are liable to be affected by such an emergency, prior information is provided by the employer to members of the public. The approach is to consider, first, whether the quantities of radioactive substances are sufficient to require either an assessment under IRR99 or a review under licence conditions under NIA65, and second, to consider whether a radiation emergency could be considered to be reasonably foreseeable. Currently, the only sites requiring off-site emergency plans are nuclear sites and these plans are prepared by local authorities, who are also involved in the provision of information to the public.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the guidance from the Department of Health to those employers who have staff who work with depleted uranium products?[HL1174]

Lord Whitty: The Health and Safety Commission and Executive are responsible for regulating the health and safety of people at work. The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 apply to any employer who works with ionising radiations, including depleted uranium.

The aim of the regulations and the supporting approved code of practice and guidance is to help employers to establish a risk management framework so that exposure to ionising radiation is kept, not merely below the specified dose limits for individuals, but as low as is reasonably practicable. The guidance covers general precautions for staff who work with radioactive materials but it is not specific to work with depleted uranium products. Depleted uranium

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also has a recognised chemical toxicity and will be subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 1999, and the associated approved code of practice and guidance.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are any stores of depleted uranium, either known by that name or by another name but having the same properties as depleted uranium, being held in non-military bases in the United Kingdom.[HL1172]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): Quantities of depleted uranium are held at licensed sites operated by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd and Urenco (mainly at Springfields and Capenhurst but also some stored as waste at UKAEA Harwell). Following processing and separation, depleted uranium is generally stored in the form of compounds of uranium (e.g. uranium oxide and uranium hexafluoride) rather than as depleted uranium metal.

Nuclear Power: Replacement Technologies

Lord Brett asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the run-down of a major part of the nuclear industry by 2006, consequential upon the closing of Magnox and AGR power stations, what will be the resultant loss of capacity for producing electric power; and how will the shortfall be made up.[HL1178]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Her Majesty's Government's most recent set of energy projections--reported in Energy Paper 68, available in the Library of the House--embodies the assumption that nuclear capacity falls by around 1 gigawatt by 2005 and 3 gigawatts by 2010, compared with the current level of around 13 gigawatts. Figures for other years are not available. New generating capacity is expected to be added in the shape of combined cycle gas turbines and renewables. The nature of the replacement capacity will of course ultimately be a matter for the market, taking account of future expected trends in costs for different technologies.


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