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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): We indicated some time ago that our original proposal to improve the quality and management of the married quarters estate by establishing a housing trust had encountered difficulties. We have therefore been considering alternative options for achieving our underlying objectives of improving housing and management and transferring the married quarters estate to the private sector. NatWest Markets, the merchant bank, have been engaged to help us develop proposals. We believe that there is considerable latent value in the estate which could be realised with the introduction of private sector capital and expertise, for the benefit of Service families, the taxpayer and investors alike. Meanwhile, we intend to improve the way in which our married quarters are managed. We intend to set up a new integrated, tri-Service housing organisation to manage the married quarters estate as an entity rather than on the single-Service lines on which it is managed at present. This organisation will be known as the Defence Housing Executive; and Mr. Michael Robinson, whom we had appointed as Chief Executive designate of the housing trust, has taken charge of planning its formation.
The Defence Housing Executive will assume responsibility for managing the estate and its maintenance on 1st April 1995, bringing together the various separate staffs. It will be able to maximise efficiencies and provide a better service to Service families occupying the houses. The organisation will be established in the first instance as a budgetary unit within the Ministry of Defence, but with a remit to move towards autonomous operation as a likely candidate for the privatisation in due course. Much of the work we had already done in planning for the housing trust will be relevant to the new organisation, and we are confident that its establishment will work to the advantage of Service families.
Those affected by the recommendations should have the opportunity to comment on them and on the reports. We have written to all those concerned to invite them to do so. My right honourable friend is mindful of the need to take appropriate action in the interests of sound governance of the colleges. She will also wish to consider, in consultation with the Further Education Funding Council and others involved, what action should be taken to apply any lessons arising from these reports more generally across the further education sector.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): The monitoring carried out during the 1994 season shows that 82 per cent. of the 457 identified bathing waters in the United Kingdom met the mandatory coliform bacteria standards of the EC Bathing Water Directive. This compares with 80 per cent. in 1993, and 79 per cent. in 1992. During the season over 97 per centum. of the 18,000 coliform samples were within, and in most cases well within, the required standards. It is encouraging to see that the continuing improvement in the overall standard of our bathing waters is being maintained. We look forward to further increases in compliance in the near future as more and more schemes in the bathing water improvement programme begin to have an effect. Although we still have some way to go it is especially encouraging that some waters which have repeatedly failed year on year have this season for the first time achieved the EC standards. The main results for the United Kingdom are summarised below with details for English and Welsh bathing waters. This information will be placed in the Libraries of the House today and will be supplemented by a report with more detailed results in due course.
|England and Wales NRA Regions|
(Results for 1993 are in brackets)|
(1) Northumbrian and Yorkshire, and South West and Wessex NRA Regions have amalgamated, but results are recorded separately here for the purposes of comparison.