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Tibet

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: BP Amoco is indirectly involved in a project on Tibet, having invested $580 million in PetroChina, a subsidiary of China National Petroleum Corporation. PetroChina is building the 950km Sebei-Lanzhou pipeline from the Tibetan plateau to north west China. The project is one of 10 under the Beijing Government's Develop the West policy. BP is also investing in Sinopec, which hold the rights to Tibet's Lunpola field, the world's highest oil field. I am aware of no other projects.

Slug Pellets: Song Thrush Population

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

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): Pesticide products such as slug pellets are assessed by the Pesticides Safety Directorate for their environmental effects. This includes the evaluation of their toxicity to birds and possible effects on reproduction. Products which are likely to cause a direct and unacceptable impact on the environment do not receive approval for sale or use.

Data are regularly collated and reported on the use of molluscicides for agriculture and horticulture in the pesticide usage survey reports. Surveys are conducted on a rolling programme and not all crops are surveyed each year. These reports are available in the House Libraries.

The song thrush population has declined steeply within the past 25 years, occurring in both woodland and farmland, but that on farmland is substantially greater. The recent breeding bird survey and common bird census trends suggest that the decline has levelled off since the mid-1990s.

Evidence suggests that the decline may have been driven by lower survival rates of birds in their first year and/or by a decline in the number of breeding attempts that pairs are (on average) able to make in each season. This may be related to food availability both in the winter and in the breeding season. Decreasing song thrush abundance has been linked to agricultural intensification, but woodland-specific factors such as drainage and the depletion of the shrub layer may also be implicated.

However, research shows that increasing pesticide use may reduce food availability and indirectly contribute to the decline in 20 species of song birds, including the song thrush. In areas of mixed farmland landscapes, woodland and grassland provide important foraging habitats. In arable landscapes where these habitats are scarce the birds used gardens and arable fields in the breeding season. Thus in landscapes dominated by arable farmland, reductions in invertebrate availability due to pesticide application (as well as other factors of intensification) may affect song thrushes.

Coal-fired Generation Plant

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they intend to take to encourage a reversal of the decline in load factors at coal-fired generation plant fitted with flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) equipment and the increase in coal burnt at plant without FGD; and[HL1786]

    What plans they have to impose stricter sulphur dioxide emission limits on coal-fired generators that do not have abatement plant fitted.[HL1788]

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Lord Whitty: No reliable estimate can yet be made and other factors will also influence this market. The implementation option under the revised Large Combustion Plants Directive (2001/80/EC) for plants licensed before 1987 has not yet been decided. From 2008, those plants must either comply with emission limit values or operate within a national emission plan as established by the directive. Under both, operators can opt to adopt less stringent emission limits subject to committing to closure once they have operated for a maximum of 20,000 hours between 2009 and 2015. Once the implementation decision is taken, all operators, including those with coal-fired generating capacity, must choose whether to close or comply with the measures required by the directive. Those choices have yet to be taken.

Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much coal-fired generation capacity they expect to be taken out of the market as a result of the implementation of the Larger Combustion Plant Directive.[HL1787]

Lord Whitty: No reliable estimate can yet be made and other factors will also influence this market. The implementation option under the revised Large Combustion Plants Directive (2001/80/EC) for plants licensed before 1987 has not yet been decided. From 2008, these plants must either comply with emission limit values or operate within a national emission plan as established by the directive. Under both, operators can opt to adopt less stringent emission limits subject to committing to closure once they have operated for a maximum of 20,000 hours between 2008 and 2015. Once the implementation decision is taken, all operators, including those with coal-fired generating capacity, must choose whether to close or comply with the measures required by the directive. Those choices have yet to be taken.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken to reduce the amount of sulphur dioxide and other polluting substances being released into the atmosphere from the generation of electricity in coal-fired power stations.[HL1795]

Lord Whitty: Coal-fired power stations are currently regulated by the integrated pollution control (IPC) regime. IPC was established by the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and regulates industrial pollution through a system of authorisation. IPC is being superseded by the integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) regime, established by an EC directive of the same name. Installations that came into operation before 31 October 1999 will be regulated by IPPC from 2006. New installations or those undergoing substantial change will be required to apply for an IPPC permit with immediate effect.

IPC requires operators to demonstrate that they will use the best available techniques not entailing excessive cost (BATNEEC) for their activities.

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BATNEEC has to be applied to prevent or minimise the release of prescribed substances and to render harmless any such substances which are released to air, water and land. If releases are made to more than one environmental medium, the best practicable environmental option is applied. The regulator assesses BATNEEC on a site-by-site basis and keeps authorisations under review. Depending on the characteristics of the plant, BATNEEC may include the use of flue gas desulphurisation.

In an IPPC permit application, operators are required to demonstrate that they will use the best available techniques (BAT) to control pollution from their activities. BAT aims to prevent, and where that is not practicable, to reduce to acceptable levels, emissions from the activities. BAT also aims to balance the cost to the operator against the benefits to the environment, and is assessed by the regulator on a site-by-site basis, taking into account European guidance on what constitutes BAT for that sector.

The Government's policies for reducing air pollution were published in January 2000 in Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The strategy contains standards for eight main pollutants of concern, including sulphur dioxide, below which significant risks to public health are likely to occur. The air quality strategy sets target dates for the standards to be achieved. The latest data suggests the 2004 and 2005 targets will be met across most of the UK. The 2005 target for sulphur dioxide is the most stringent.

The UK is a party to the Second Sulphur Protocol under the UN/ECE's Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, whereby SO2 emissions must be reduced by 50 per cent by 2000, 70 per cent by 2005 and 80 per cent by 2010 (all from a 1980 baseline). The UK is well on track to meet these targets, and by the end of 2000 had achieved a 76 per cent reduction from 1980 baseline levels.

Within the EU, the National Emission Ceilings Directive sets emission ceilings for certain pollutants to be achieved by 2010, and the UK reduced its SO2 ceiling to 585ktonnes. The directive is part of the EU's Acidification Strategy, where one of the overall aims is to reduce by 50 per cent the areas of European ecosystems receiving excessive levels of acid pollution (exceeding their critical loads).

Emission limit values for pollutants likely to be emitted in significant quantities must be set in an IPC authorisation or IPPC permit and would reflect the requirements of these instruments.

Capita: DfES Contracts

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contracts have been awarded to the Capita Group by the Department for Education and Skills.[HL1807]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My department has awarded a number of contracts with Capita for a range of different services. These are as follows:


    Teachers' pensions: Administration of the teachers' pensions scheme.


    Connexions card: Development of the Connexions card.


    Consultancy framework contracts: Framework contract to provide general management consultancy support and consultancy support for LEA interventions.


    Executive recruitment and search: Framework contract to provide executive recruitment services. (The above are all existing contracts within my department).


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