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The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers): The US National Aerospace and Space Administration (NASA) has issued a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Cassini mission. In this document, NASA has estimated that the risks arising from any potential accidents during the Cassini mission are small and are less than many risks faced by the public from the construction and/or operation of large industrial projects.
Earl Ferrers: There are no powers to appoint inspectors under the Companies Act 1989. Outside inspectorsi.e. non-departmental inspectorshave been appointed under Section 177 of the Financial Services Act 1986 in two cases since 1 January 1992; one in 1993 which is ongoing and one in 1994 which was completed in five monthsno prosecution was commenced following receipt of the inspectors' report.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe): At 1 April 1994, the number of officials employed in non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs), formerly known as quangos, was 110,200. The figure includes a number of officials working in NDPBs who are civil servants on secondment from parent departments. It also includes 5,200 staff employed by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive, who, although directly employed by these bodies, are civil servants.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): We are today laying before the House the Local Government Finance Report (England) 1995/96, the Limitation of Council Tax and Precepts (Relevant Notional Amounts) Report (England) 1995/96 and the Special Grant Report (No.12). These reports establish the amounts of revenue support grant (RSG) and non-domestic rates (NDR) to be paid to local authorities in 1995/96, and the basis of their distribution; specify the amounts which are to be used as the basis of comparison for measuring increases in certain local authorities' budgets in 1995/96 for the purposes of capping; and provide for a special grant to be paid to certain authorities for 1995/96. Two hundred authorities made written representations and Ministers met 90 delegations from local councils.
We shall be sending copies of these reports to all authorities as soon as possible, together with a table showing each authority's Standard Spending Assessment and its entitlement to RSG, NDR and special grant. We have also placed copies of the reports and the table in the Libraries and the Vote Office.
Viscount Ullswater: Last summer we issued a consultation paper, Planning Application Fees, which proposed giving local planning authorities the power to set their own fees for determining planning applications. Our intention was to enable authorities to recover the costs they incur in processing planning applications. We envisaged that fee increases would be subject to authorities meeting qualifying criteriain relation to development plans and development control performanceand establishing, by 1996, an accounting system for identifying costs.
We received over 300 responses, all of which have been carefully considered. We have concluded that the particular package of proposals we put forward did not attract sufficient support to justify legislating now for the devolution of fee-setting responsibilities within the proposed timescale.
For the present, therefore, planning application fees will continue to be set centrally. However, we shall be giving further thought to refining the fees regime to see whether a better match can be achieved between the costs and price of the service provided by local planning authorities.
However well managed, waste always has the potential to cause harm to the environment. We must give priority to reducing the amount we produce, and to adopting better waste management practices. Much can be done harnessing the power of the market to encourage more environmentally friendly waste management. The Chancellor's announcement in his Budget statement of the introduction of a landfill tax is one, very important, development in this direction.
Industry can do a great deal, and has a good incentive to do so because, as a number of demonstration projects have shown, better waste management frequently results in reducing operating costs. Good waste management practice is a competitiveness opportunity. Householders also have a major role to play by choosing not to buy over-packaged goods, by reusing goods and materials within the household, and by using the recycling facilities provided by their local councils.
We hope that this draft strategy will start a wide debate about future aims and direction of waste management policy, and the role of industry, the public sector, consumers and householders; in achieving those objectives. We are allowing an extended consultation period until 28 April 1995 to enable proper consideration of the many significant issues which the strategy raises.
Viscount Ullswater: We have today issued for consultation a national parks circular which contains guidance on matters which have arisen in the context of the Government's proposals for the future of the national parks. Copies of the draft circular have been placed in the Library.
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