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Lord Whitty: My right honourable friend's policy is not to interfere unnecessarily with the jurisdiction of local planning authorities. He is therefore very selective about calling in planning applications and will generally take this step only if planning issues of more than local importance are involved. In deciding whether to call in an application, my right honourable friend will take into account all the relevant circumstances in each individual case, including the volume and nature of any objections.
What percentage of planning applications in England take more than the statutory period to determine.[HL467]
Lord Whitty: In the 12 months to September 1998, 38 per cent. of all planning decisions made by district planning authorities in England took longer than the statutory eight-week period and 17 per cent. took longer than 13 weeks. Information is not available on the average length of time taken to determine a planning application.
Lord Whitty: It is proposed that the BRB will transfer to the Strategic Rail Authority at the earliest opportunity, subject to legislation. Section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act does not require the Secretary of State to instruct BRB to publish an update of its plan. Nonetheless, government will be commissioning a thorough and independent study of options for regional services and will review the study recently completed by Inter-Capital and Regional Rail Limited and the alternative proposals put forward by the Virgin Group.
Lord Whitty: The BRB published a plan in December 1989 which included measures which the BRB considered at that time ought to be taken by any person in respect of Channel Tunnel services. This was kept under review by the BRB and European Passenger Services Ltd. while responsibility for services remained with the board.
Lord Whitty: Support from European Structural Funds is available for activities defined in an area's Single Programming Document. Projects are assessed on the extent to which they contribute to the objectives outlined in the Single Programming Document; whether they offer good value for money; and whether they accord with government policy. In Objective 1 areas any grant offered is up to a maximum of 75 per cent. of eligible costs.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Under our proposals for freedom of information, we will review all statutory bars on the disclosure of information, including Section 24 of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. However, no decision has yet been taken on whether to amend or repeal Section 24.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and the Human Genetics Advisory Commission (HGAC) gave careful consideration as to how best the responses to the consultation might be made accessible to the wider public. As a result, the report, Cloning issues in Reproduction, Science and Medicine, advises that the responses, unless confidential, can be viewed by prior arrangement at the offices of the HGAC.
The members of the joint working group were nominated by the HFEA and HGAC. The group was chaired by the Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne (HGAC), one of this country's most respected and experienced ethicists. It also comprised Dr. George Poste (HGAC), Professor Christine Gosden (HFEA) and Dr. Anne McLaren (HFEA), a member of the European Commission's Group of Expert Advisers on Ethics. There was, in addition, a wide range of views available to the authority and commission, including those from religious groups and ethicists, as the result of a public consultation exercise undertaken in the course of the review. All members of the HFEA and HGAC, whose membership includes a wide range of experience and backgrounds, made full contributions to the report and approved the report in its final form for publication.
The report recognises that the safeguards in place are wholly adequate to prevent human reproductive cloning. It also proposes legislation explicitly to ban reproductive cloning and a further review of these issues in five years. These are points that we will be considering as part of our response to the report, which should be available shortly. The Government have, however, made their position clear; reproductive cloning cannot take place in the United Kingdom.
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