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Written Answers

Volume 167: debated on Wednesday 21 February 1990

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday 21 February 1990

Environment

Derelict Land

4.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many acres of derelict land in public ownership are currently on the register; and how many have been removed as a result of privatisation of statutory undertakings and nationalised industries.

A total of 82,400 acres of unused and underused land were on the register at 30 September 1989, including 1,900 acres owned by the water authorities; 5,000 acres had been removed from the register earlier as a result of privatisation of other bodies.

72.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to conclude his review of derelict land policy; and if he will make a statement.

The Department is currently considering responses to the derelict land policy review which was published for consultation in September 1989 and any policy changes will be announced later in the year. It is also planned to issue further consultation papers on proposed measures to prevent land from becoming derelict and on alternative financing arrangements for the payment of derelict land grant.

Private Rented Accommodation

16.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has any plans to abolish controls on the letting of private property in the residential sector.

We made important changes to the controls on rent and security of tenure in the private sector in the Housing Act 1988, and we have no plans for further legislation in this area.

Local Government Finance

15.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received concerning the introduction of the poll tax in England and Wales in the current year.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) earlier today.

19.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the number of representations that he has received from Devon and Cornwall concerning the application of the community charge; and if he will make a statement.

On 6 November my right hon. Friend announced to Parliament his proposals for the amount of revenue support grant to be paid to receiving authorities and specified bodies. As well as a letter from my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) I received representations from Cornwall and Devon county councils and from four district councils in those counties. In addition I met a deputation from Torbay on 5 December.

22.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has on the level of the community charge to be set in Basildon.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will update to 1990–91 the answer given to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), Official Report, 2 February 1989, columns 359–60, showing the distributional effect of the community y charge in comparison with domestic rates.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will update to 1990–91 the answer given to the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), Official Report, 2 February 1989, columns 359–60, showing the numbers of gainers and losers by family type and income band from the introduction of the community charge.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how, with reference to paragraph 3.36 of his revenue support grant distribution report (England), the figure of (a) £18·55, (b) £4·77 and (c) £5·21 are arrived at; how poll tax payers and council officials can check its validity; and what effect the choice of this figure has on the standard spending assessment arrived at for Grimsby.

The figures referred to in the revenue support grant distribution report (England) were determined by my right hon. Friend after full consultation with local authority representatives. Together they account for £27 per adult of Great Grimsby's SSA.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what changes were made to the indicator data for calculating revenue support grant for local authorities between 16 November 1989 and 12 January 1990; why they were made; and what was the effect of the changes on the standard spending assessment for local authorities.

The two main changes to the indicator data were that credit approvals reflected more up-to-date information on each authority's actual credit approvals for 1990–91; and that the adult population for the area was based on information from authorities' community charge registers. In addition, a number of minor changes were made as a result of further checking and correspondence with local authorities, particularly with respect to the information on traffic flows. SSAs were calculated according to the formulae set out in the revenue support grant distribution report (England) approved by the House on 18 January using the indicator data as specified in annex A to that report.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to cap Wolverhampton council's community charge in response to that council's proposal to set a community charge in excess of the Government's guideline.

We have made it clear that if authorities budget excessively for 1990–91 we shall not hesitate to cap them, but it would not be right for me to speculate on the detailed operation of any capping scheme we might need to introduce or on which authorities would be capped were we to introduce such a scheme.

108.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much he estimates the level of poll tax in Lambeth to be on the assumption that the current levels of expenditure including expenditure on education remain unchanged in 1990–91.

The exemplifications that the Department issued on 11 January show that if Lambeth borough council and the London fire and civil defence authority budget in line with our assumptions consistent with authorities broadly maintaining current policies, the community charge in Lambeth next year will be £308. The level of the actual charge set in Lambeth in 1990–91 is a matter for the council.

102.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from the Association of District Councils on the introduction of the poll tax; and if he will make a statement.

Over the last four years the Association of District Councils has been invited to comment on all aspects of the implementation of the community charge and has made many representations and suggestions.

95.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will review the criteria for assessing rate support grant.

My right hon. Friend has said that he is prepared to consider new evidence relating to the standard spending assessments on which the distribution of revenue support grant is based. Any new evidence that comes to light will be taken into account before he issues his proposals for the 1991–92 RSG settlement.

93.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to reduce the rate capping ceiling for local authorities spending less than £15 million.

My right hon. Friend has no power to reduce the £15 million budget threshold in section 101 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, below which local authorities are exempt from charge capping.

91.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to monitor the implementation of the community charge by local authorities.

The Department issued a questionnaire to all charging authorities in May 1989 which gave us a clear picture of how authorities were progressing with implementing the charge. A copy of the results of the survey were placed in the Library of the House on 6 December. The Department keeps in constant touch with local authorities and their software suppliers and has just completed a further series of visits to a number of authorities to monitor preparations for billing and collection of the charge later this year.

89.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received in favour of replacing the community charge with a tax on home improvement.

I am not aware of any such representations. Financing local expenditure through a charge linked to the capital value of people's homes would, however, amount to a tax on home improvement. The Government have no intention of introducing such a system.

67.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the effect of the proposed community charge on the outer London boroughs.

If local authorities in outer London spend in line with our spending assumption, the average charge will be £320.

64.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received on the community charge.

105.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received about the standard community charge.

We continue to receive a good many representations on all aspects of the community charge, including detailed aspects of how the standard charge may affect the owners of domestic property which is not used as a sole or main residence.

47.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what meetings he has had with private landlords on the implementation of the community charge in England and Wales.

So far as England is concerned, no such meetings have been sought by landlords or their representatives. The implementation of the community charge in Wales is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

43.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received urging him to replace the community charge with a system of local income tax.

46.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received seeking the introduction of a tax on home ownership in place of the community charge.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received seeking replacement of the community charge with a system of local government finance based on property values.

While we continue to receive a good many representations on all aspects of the community charge, very few correspondents suggest that this should be replaced by a system of local income tax and none that I am aware of are in favour of any form of roof tax. My hon. Friends' questions might be more appropriately directed to the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) who is reported to be wrestling with a policy that combines both types of tax in ways that have yet to be explained.

31.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his latest estimate of the number of local authorities setting a poll tax figure of £278 in 1990–91; and if he will make a statement.

36.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is yet in a position to assess the amount of increased spending by county councils in the forthcoming year.

97.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are his best estimates of the average level of poll tax in England in 1990–91; and if he will make a statement.

104.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment which local authorities have indicated an intention to levy a community charge at or below the Government's projected poll tax figure for their area.

Charging authorities are not required to set their amounts for the personal community charge until 1 April, and little firm information about charges set is yet available to the Department. Local authorities have recently been asked to report to the Department basic information about their spending plans and where appropriate the average charge set.

32.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria he intends to use in deciding which local authorities will be poll tax capped in 1990–91; and if he will make a statement.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 16 February to my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor).

Home Ownership

24.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any fresh proposals to assist first-time house buyers.

40.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has to extend the opportunities for home ownership.

We will continue the policies which have enabled around 6 million people to buy a home for the first time since April 1979.

North Sea (Pollution)

25.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proportion of pollution entering the North sea comes from rivers; and what proportion comes from British rivers.

Rivers are the most important source of North sea pollution, but not all other inputs can be reliably quantified. The combined effect of all United Kingdom rivers flowing into the North sea is to contribute about 20 per cent. of riverborne pollutants.

Methane Gas

26.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate he has made of the number of sites in England and Wales that may be emitting methane gas in quantities likely to present hazards to personal health and the local environment.

Reliable and complete information on these sites is not held centrally. This is the responsibility of waste disposal authorities which have co-operated in studies made by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution. I expect to receive a report on this shortly.

Bellwin Formula

27.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to revise the operation of the Bellwin formula; and if he will make a statement.

The Government will be making revisions to the Bellwin scheme from 1 April 1990 following consultation with the local authority associations. These will reflect the changes to the local government finance system generally.

Capital Controls

28.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will finalise the new system of capital controls to be brought in under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

Part IV of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, which provides for the new local authority capital finance system, came into force on 16 January 1990. Consultation on a draft of the main capital finance regulations ends on 23 February. We expect to lay the regulations before Parliament shortly thereafter.

Housing Improvement Grants

29.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has to help elderly people obtain housing improvement grants.

Under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 we are introducing a new system of house renovation grants which will allow local authorities to help the poorest households, including the elderly, with grants of up to 100 per cent. to repair and improve their homes. Minor works assistance of up to £1,000 will be available to help elderly people stay in their own homes or move in with relatives.

United Nations Environment Programme

30.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what level of funds the Government provide for the United Nations environment programme; and what are the comparable levels from other countries.

In 1989 the Government contributed £3 million ($4,705,500) to the United Nations environment programme. This was the third largest contribution, with only the United States and Japan donating more. Contributions from other countries in 1989 were as follows (where over $100,000):—

($000)

Australia273
Canada940
China129
Denmark487
Finland1,292
France1,077
FRG2,565
GDR211
Italy664
Japan5,000
Kuwait200
Netherlands791
Norway1,338
South Arabia250
Spain505
Sweden2,591
Switzerland900
USSR4,224
United States of America9,500

Toxic Waste

33.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received in recent months concerning the import and incineration of toxic wastes.

The Department has received a variety of representations revealing public concern about the import of toxic waste for incineration and other methods of disposal under the operations of the Transfrontier Shipment of Hazardous Waste Regulations. The Department intends to review the operation of these regulations with disposal authorities and industry.We are already seeking to persuade developed countries that they should be self-sufficient in dealing with wastes. Meanwhile, those transfrontier movements that continue are well controlled under international transport regulations and disposal in the United Kingdom takes place at properly regulated facilities. We also have proposals in the Environmental Protection Bill for powers for the Secretary of State to control imports where this is necessary to prevent risk of pollution or harm to human health.

99.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to discuss the management of toxic waste tips with the leadership of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has arranged to meet the AMA, ACC and ADC on 26 February to discuss all aspects of environmental protection policy.

71.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what methods he regards as acceptable for disposal of toxic wastes.

Landfill, chemical treatment and incineration are all suitable methods in appropriate circumstances.

37.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will launch a comprehensive assessment on the state of toxic tips in the United Kingdom and their effect on ground water supplies.

A specific review of waste disposal sites is not required. A 1988 assessment by independent consultants concluded that the quality of groundwater used for public supply in England and Wales was generally good, although a number of detailed recommendations concerning monitoring and research are being followed up by the Department. Waste disposal authorities are required to consult the National Rivers Authority over all applications for waste disposal licences. The National Rivers Authority already has extensive programmes for monitoring ground and surface waters which it is reviewing; these will cover, inter alia, the possible effects of disposal sites that predate licensing controls.

Chlorofluorocarbons

34.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress Britain has made towards meeting the terms of the Montreal protocol on chlorofluorocarbons use.

79.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in Britain towards meeting the international commitment under the Montreal protocol to reduce chlorofluorocarbon emissions.

Action taken already, especially by the aerosol industry to remove CFCs from 90 per cent. of its products, means the United Kingdom met the 1999 requirement of the protocol by the end of 1989. The Government believe that the protocol should be strengthened to require a full phase-out of CFCs within 10 years.

Homelessness

35.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the estimated cost to London local authorities of placing homeless families with private landlords.

The Department collects information on the cost to local authorities of using bed and breakfast hotels as temporary housing for homeless families. In 1987–88, the last year for which estimates are available, the gross cost to London boroughs of using this type of temporary accommodation was £127 million. Housing subsidy claim forms provide some further information on the cost to local authorities in London of leasing (which includes accommodating homeless families). The provisional figure for 1988–89 was £20·25 million. The Department also takes full note of data available from time to time through other sources.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will carry out a survey of the level of homelessness caused by the number of mortgage repossessions by companies other than building societies.

Local authorities already make quarterly returns of the numbers of households for which they had accepted responsibility for securing accommodation under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 Housing Act. These provide a breakdown of the total number of households accepted by main immediate reason for homelessness including mortgage arrears; although it does not distinguish households which were actually subject to repossession or between those which were building society or other types of borrower.

Latest estimates appear in table 2 of "Local authorities' action under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 Housing Act: England. Results for the third quarter 1989. Supplementary Tables", a copy of which is in the Library.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to cut homelessness in Leicester; and if he will make a statement.

The review of the homelessness legislation, published in November 1989 sets out the Government's proposals for tackling homelessness. Copies are in the Library.

103.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate he has of the number of homeless people in England.

94.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimate he has of the number of homeless people in London.

Latest estimates of households accepted as homeless in England appear in table 1(a) of "Local authorities' action under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 Housing Act: England. Results for the third quarter 1989. Supplementary Tables", which is in the Library.

100.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has as to the most rapidly growing cause of homelessness for families seeking emergency accommodation under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act.

In percentage terms there has been no significant change over recent years in the reasons why those for whom local authorities accept responsibility to secure accommodation are homeless.

101.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with companies and societies providing mortgages about the effects of their policies on repossession on the problem of homelessness.

Ministers and officials at the Department of the Environment frequently meet representatives from institutions which provide mortgages and discuss a range of issues, including possessions.

90.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the latest figures for homeless households in bed and breakfast accommodation in England and Wales.

Latest estimates of households temporarily resident in bed and breakfast accommodation in England appear in table 4(a) of "Local authorities' action under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 Housing Act: England. Results for the third quarter 1989. Supplementary Tables", which is in the Library.For information about Wales I refer the right hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

57.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what new proposals he has to combat homelessness.

87.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any new proposals for combating homelessness.

I refer the hon. Members to the reply given to the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) on 17 January at column 249.

54.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will carry out a survey of homelessness in rural areas in England.

The Department publishes quarterly statistics, based on returns from local authorities, which show the numbers of households accepted as homeless in each district and the numbers in bed and breakfast and other temporary accommodation. Copies are in the Library.

49.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the latest estimate of the cost to local authorities of placing homeless families in bed and breakfast accommodation.

The latest estimate of the cost to local authorities of keeping homeless families temporarily in bed and breakfast accommodation is £143 million (£104 million net of offsetting income such as DSS allowances) for 1987–88.

51.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the latest figures for homeless households in temporary accommodation in England and Wales.

Latest estimates of households resident in temporary accommodation in England appear in tables 4(a), 4(b) and 4(c) of "Local authorities' action under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 Housing Act: England. Results for the third quarter 1989. Supplementary tables", which is in the Library.For information about Wales I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

45.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his Department's most recent estimate of the number of households accepted as homeless for Greater London; and if he will make a statement.

Latest estimates of households accepted as homeless in Greater London appear in table 1(a) of "Local authorities' action under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 Housing Act: England. Results for the third quarter 1989. Supplementary tables", which is in the Library.

Farm Buildings

38.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will issue further guidelines to planning authorities regarding the change of use of redundant agricultural buildings.

The re-use of rural buildings is one of the subjects covered in the draft planning policy guidance note "The Countryside and the Rural Economy" issued by the Department on 13 December. The closing date for comments on this document was 19 February, and all comments received are now being considered.

Association Of County Councils

39.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met the Association of County Councils; and what matters were discussed.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment met representatives of the Association of County Councils informally at a dinner on 10 January. Matters of mutual interest were discussed.

Rural Deprivation

41.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he has taken in response to the McLaughlin report on rural deprivation; and if he will make a statement.

50.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what studies have been undertaken by his Department of rural deprivation since 1979; and if he will make a statement.

55.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further action he proposes to take on the McLaughlin report on rural deprivation; and if he will make a statement.

70.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what studies have been made by his Department of rural deprivation and of the variation in housing standards in the rural communities; and if he will make a statement.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he has taken on the problems identified in the McLaughlin study commissioned by his Department on rural deprivation; and if he will make a statement.

A research report "Deprivation in rural areas" was completed in 1985. An analysis of the need for and supply of affordable rural housing has recently been completed by Action with Communities in Rural England for the Rural Development Commission. The commission, which is the Government's principal agency for carrying forward the Government's policy on the rural economy, is developing and implementing a wide range of initiatives which deal with economic and social problems in the countryside, including those identified in the report.

Anti-Competitive Practices

42.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has received about anti-competitive practices by councils; and what action he is taking to eliminate the problem.

The Department has to date received just over 200 representations alleging anticompetitive practices by local authorities in respect of services put out to tender under the terms of the Local Government Act 1988 and about 35 relating to services put out to tender under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. Each case is investigated and appraised on its merits. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has powers of sanction under the legislation and is prepared to use them where necessary.

Council House Sales

44.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy on the practice of council house tenants being offered discounts on the price of their home if they wish to purchase it.

Council tenants exercising the right to buy are normally entitled to a discount. Local authorities may also sell housing by agreement at a discount to sitting tenants and to purchasers in priority categories such as homeless people and first-time buyers, but are under no duty to do so.

Housing Associations

48.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many extra homes he plans for housing associations to build over the next three years.

76.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what will be the increase in the provision of the Housing Corporation to provide new homes through housing associations over the next three years.

In his Autumn Statement my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that provision for the Housing Corporation's gross capital expenditure programme would increase from £815 million in the current year to £1,185 million in 1990–91 and to £1,736 million in 1992–93, doubling over a period of three years. On 30 January my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced at column 175 that £120 million would be brought forward from next year's provision to this year's. On the basis of these plans, we expect housing associations, with funds from the Housing Corporation, to be able to provide about 93,000 homes by new build, rehabilitation and acquisition over the next three years.

Environment White Paper

52.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what groups he consults before publishing an environment White Paper.

We welcome the constructive input to our White Paper preparation from many interested groups and individuals, in response to our general invitations to contribute.

Litter

53.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received in response to the Government's proposals for tackling litter contained in the Environmental Protection Bill.

We received over 800 representations from local authorities and other interested parties in response to the consultation on the Government's proposals for litter legislation. These were considered in drawing up the provisions contained in the Environmental Protection Bill. In general, we receive a great deal of correspondence about litter demonstrating the high level of national concern about the problem.

62.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what current steps he is taking to ensure that local authorities keep the streets free from litter.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer my hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside gave on 4 December to my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Porter), Official Report, column 44. As my hon. Friend will be aware, those proposals are now contained in the Environmental Protection Bill currently under consideration by Standing Committee H. Additionally, a draft code of practice will be published shortly for consultation with local authorities and other interested parties.

Housing

56.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further plans he has to increase the supply of affordable accommodation for rent and sale.

74.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he intends to take to increase the supply of low-cost housing (a) for sale and (b) for rent; and if he will make a statement.

The Government have taken a variety of measures to encourage the supply of low-cost housing, including the deregulation of the private rented sector and the encouragement of private investment in housing associations. In addition, planned public funding for the Housing Corporation is being more than doubled, from £818 million originally planned for this year to £1,736 million by 1992–93, for the development of new housing for rent by housing associations and the promotion of low-cost home ownership, including shared ownership.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimates his Department has made of total local authority capital expenditure on housing in the years 1989–90 and 1990–91 by (a) all local authorities in England and Wales and (b) London boroughs.

The latest estimated outturn for gross capital expenditure by English local authorities in 1989–90, based on payments made in the first half of the year, is £3,990 million, some £680 million in excess of planned provision of £3,303 million. Under the new capital finance system the Government do not plan the amount of expenditure by authorities which is financed from the receipts remaining after debt redemption or from revenue. The figure of £3,131 million for 1990–91 in the latest expenditure plans (Cm. 1008) is therefore only illustrative and reflects the changing role of local housing authorities, away from being direct providers of subsidised rented housing, while the capital resources available to housing associations are substantially increased.Equivalent estimates for London boroughs are not readily available. For information about Wales I refer the hon. Member to the Secretary of State for Wales.

84.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement concerning the allocation of funds to Leicester city council for the building of new houses.

Leicester city council was informed on 21 December 1989 that its housing investment programme allocation for 1990–91 was £18·320 million. This compares favourably with allocations to other authorities of a similar size. In addition, up to a further £2·5 million is available for new Estate Action schemes. It is for the council to decide how much of its HIP allocation should be spent on a new build programme.

60.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is taking to increase the supply of low-cost housing for sale or rent in rural areas.

The Government have more than doubled public funding through the Housing Corporation for new investment by housing associations, so enabling the corporation to increase the target for development of new subsidised rented housing under its special rural programme to 1,500 a year by 1992–93 and to identify a rural element within its low-cost home ownership programme. We have also made changes to the planning rules, to permit development of low-cost housing for local needs on small sites not otherwise designated for housing, and introduced a repurchase scheme to ensure that shared ownership housing in rural areas remains available for local people.

South Africa (Sporting Links)

58.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, during his meeting in Auckland with other Commonwealth Ministers of Sport, sporting links with South Africa were discussed.

Sporting links with South Africa were briefly raised at the informal meeting of Commonwealth Sports Ministers. Ministers confirmed their continued support for the Commonwealth statement on apartheid in sport (the Gleneagles agreement) and the Commonwealth games code of conduct (the Brisbane code).

River Pollution

59.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he has implemented to tighten controls of river pollution.

The Water Act 1989 extended the range of controls over water pollution in several significant respects, and established the National Rivers Authority in England and Wales. The National Rivers Authority has extensive powers to control pollution, and wide discretion over the use of those powers.

Unleaded Petrol

61.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the latest figures for sales of unleaded petrol.

Unleaded petrol now accounts for over 29 per cent. of the United Kingdom market.

Housing Action Trusts

63.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the Government have any plans to introduce legislation on housing action trust areas.

The legislation that provides for the designation, establishment and operation of housing action trusts is contained in part III of the Housing Act 1988.

Local Authorities (Politically Restricted Posts)

65.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many posts are on the lists of politically restricted posts lodged by English and Welsh local authorities with the independent adjudicator appointed under the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

The Secretary of State has no power to require the independent adjudicator to provide him with information. I have therefore drawn the hon. Member's question to the independent adjudicator's attention: he will no doubt write to the hon. Member.

85.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will publish the regulations to be made under section 1(5) of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

66.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what evidence his Department has submitted to the intergovernmental panel on climate change about projections of United Kingdom carbon dioxide emissions for 2000 and 2005; and if he will indicate broadly what those projections are.

Estimates of carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom under a wide range of scenarios has been submitted to the IPCC by the Department of Energy. The study was placed in the Library of the House on 30 November 1989.

Debt Charges (Liverpool)

68.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the outstanding debt charges on properties owned by Liverpool city council which have been demolished or are to be demolished.

My Department does not have this information. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should ask Liverpool city council.

Bathing Waters

69.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the change in the number of beaches conforming with the EC bathing waters directive over the last year.

In the 1988 bathing season, 267 of the 403 of the bathing waters then identified in the United Kingdom under the EEC bathing water directive met the directive's mandatory coliform standards. In the 1989 bathing season 336 out of 440 identified waters in the United Kingdom met the mandatory coliform standards. This is an increase in compliance from 66 to 76 per cent.

Environmental Protection Commission

73.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for an environmental protection commission.

Institutional aspects of environmental protection policy will be reviewed in the preparation of the Government's White Paper on the environment this autumn.

Air Pollution

75.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what processes he is proposing to be subject to local authority controls over air pollution.

My hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment and Countryside tabled at the first Committee sitting on the Environmental Protection Bill on 23 January a draft list of processes proposed for local authority air pollution control. I have arranged for copies of the list to be place in the House Libraries.Further revisions will be needed if any of the processes are instead scheduled for integrated pollution control because they generate significant quantities of special waste.

83.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total sum currently paid to local authorities in clean air grants.

Clean air grant reimburses four sevenths of grants made by local authorities to private householders for the necessary conversion of heating and cooking appliances to smokeless fuel, and two fifths of the costs of this work in respect of public sector housing. In 1988–89 the total amount of clean air grant paid to local authorities was £1·3 million.

Commonwealth Sports Ministers

77.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what subjects were discussed at the meeting of Commonwealth Sports Ministers at the Commonwealth games in Auckland.

The informal meeting of Commonwealth Sports Ministers in Auckland on 4 February discussed a broad range of issues affecting Commonwealth sport and the Commonwealth games. These included the International Olympic Committee charter on anti-doping in sport and the Commonwealth working party being set up to look at ways of strengthening the Commonwealth games.

European Community Environment Ministers

78.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met Environment Ministers and their equivalents from other member states of the European Community; and what was discussed.

My right hon. Friend last met his European Community counterparts at the Environment Council on 28 November. I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Mr. Bright) on 30 November at column 370.

Refuse Contracts

80

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities have had section 13 notices served against them for uncompetitive tendering of refuse contracts.

Four. Notices have been served on Bristol city council, Wolverhampton metropolitan borough council, Knowsley metropolitan borough council and Charnwood borough council seeking their response to inquiries about the decisions they have taken to assign their refuse collection work to their own DSOs.

Fly-Tipping

81.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he is proposing to tackle the problem of fly-tipping.

The Environmental Protection Bill contains a number of measures to tackle the problem of fly-tipping. The Bill carries forward from the Control of Pollution Act 1974 the offence of depositing waste without a licence. The Bill extends the provision through the duty of care on all producers, carriers and other holders of waste who must take all reasonable steps to ensure that their waste is not illegally disposed of by any other person. To this end, they would be responsible for ensuring that waste is handed over to an authorised person and is packaged and described in a way which allows that other person to take care of it safely.There is also provision in the Bill for a person controlling the use of a vehicle that has been used for fly-tipping to be prosecuted unless he can show that he used due diligence to prevent an offence being committed. This is aimed at organised fly-tipping where it is particularly difficult to prosecute the owner of a vehicle who may benefit from the crime but not actually drive the vehicle.

North Sea

82.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he intends to attend the next North sea conference.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will he attending the third North sea conference which takes place in The Hague on 7 and 8 March and looks forward to joining with colleagues from other North sea states in achieving a successful conference.

Planning Applications (Compensation)

86.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received in the past six months concerning compensation for people and communities adversely affected by major planning applications for infrastructure projects.

We have received 60 responses to our consultation paper on land compensation and compulsory purchase legislation which was issued on 7 March 1989. In addition, my Department regularly receives letters and inquiries about the land compensation provisions.

Integrated Pollution Control

88.

To ask the Secretary of State For the Environment what proposals he has to cover industrial sites by integrated pollution control.

Part I of the Environmental Protection Bill sets out proposals for a system of integrated pollution control (IPC) for the major industrial sites in Great Britain. We are the first country in Europe to legislate for such a sophisticated system of pollution control. We shall be consulting interested bodies on the categories of industrial processes which will be prescribed for integrated pollution control.

Canned Spray Paint

92.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had recently with the manufacturers of canned spray paint regarding its effects on the environment and its misuse for graffitti.

Sellafield

96.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the level of radioactive liquid discharges entering the Irish sea from the British Nuclear Fuels plc reprocessing plant at Sellafield; and what was the level in 1979.

Information on radioactive discharges from British Nuclear Fuels plc Sellafield works can be found in the company's annual reports "Radioactive Discharges and Monitoring of the Environment", copies of which are in the Library of the House.

Landfill Sites

98.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what funds the Government intend to make available to local authorities to help offset the costs of locating and making safe former waste landfill sites.

Local authority costs in monitoring their areas—including landfill sites—for public health purposes. and in taking remedial action where necessary, are reflected in standard spending assessments and annual capital guidelines provided by my Department. For 1990–91 we have also earmarked a £33 million allocation for capital expenditure on landfill gas remedial work and the revenue costs of monitoring activity will be supported through the revenue support grant system.

Competitive Tendering

106.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the potential total savings across local government as a whole through competitive tendering and other cost-efficient practices.

The Audit Commission's annual report for the financial year ended 31 March 1989 identified total achievable financial savings or added value (arising from service improvements) of £920 million for projects undertaken by local authorities between 1983 and 1989 but concluded that at 31 March 1989 savings of only £372 million had been fulfilled. The report notes, however, that the rate of improvement by authorities in implementing achievable savings has increased steadily.

Estate Action

107.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total allocation of funds for the Estate Action programme being made available in 1989–90.

Disabled People (Public Toilets)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list in the Official Report the names of organisations dealing with the needs of the disabled he intends to consult on the question of access to public toilets.

My Department intends shortly to commission a programme of research on access to public toilets for people with special needs, the primary purpose being to provide information on the needs of disabled people. To ensure that this research addresses all relevant practical issues, my Department will be consulting representatives of the Access Committee for England, the Centre on Environment for the Handicapped, the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation, the Spastics Society, Arthritis Care, the Association for Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Muscular Dystrophy Group of Great Britain, the Spinal Injuries Association, the Royal National Institute for the Blind and the British Council of Organisations of Disabled People.

New Parliamentary Building

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when the new parliamentary building will be finished and ready for occupation.

I advised the House on 25 January 1990 that, subject to there being no further slippage in the contractor's programme, the building should be fitted out and ready for occupation around Easter 1991. I regret to say that the contractor has now reported further slippage which suggests that it would be unrealistic to expect the building to be available for occupation before mid-1991.The New Building Sub-Committee is currently investigating this project and I understand that it expects to report to the House before the Easter recess.

Helicopters

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what advice his Department makes available to local planning authorities in respect of helicopter stations on (a) the storage of fuel, (b) the prevention of nuisance from noise and (c) general safety; and if he will make a statement;(2) what matters are included in general planning guidance to local authorities on helicopter operation areas; and if he will make a statement.

(3) what representations he has received from the Civil Aviation Authority on the planning and layout of helicopter ports; and if he will make a statement.

Planning applications for development associated with helicopter operations must be determined having regard to the local development plan and to any other material considerations. My Department has issued no specific guidance to local planning authorities on such development, although DOE circular 10/73 "Planning and Noise" contains advice on the development control implications of aircraft noise.The safety aspects of fuel storage and of helicopter operations are the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive and the Civil Aviation Authority respectively. My right hon. Friend has received no representations from the CAA on the planning and layout of helicopter ports.

Chemicals

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will list those chemicals or chemical compounds that are classed as toxic in the United States of America, but which are classed as non-toxic in England and Wales;(2) if he will list those chemicals or chemical compounds that are shipped from the United States of America to England and Wales that are classed as non-toxic waste in the United States of America, but which are classed as toxic waste in England and Wales.

My Department does not hold sufficient information to allow a list of toxic and non-toxic chemicals or chemical compounds, as defined under United States legislation, to be prepared. It is, therefore, not possible to list those chemicals, or chemical compounds, classed as toxic in the United States of America which are classed as non-toxic in England and Wales, or vice versa.

Opencast Mining

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many opencast planning inquiries his inspectors have attended in the last 10 years; and how many appeals against planning refusal have been allowed.

This information is available only in respect of planning appeals decided since 1 April 1987 and is as follows:

YearAppeals DecidedAppeals allowed after InquiryAppeals allowed by Written procedureInquiries Held
1987–88156112
1988–8916814
11989–909427
1 To 31 December 1989.

Coal-Fired Power Stations

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what information he has on the levels of alpha activity in becquerels per kilogram of fly ash from Blyth coal-fired power station; and whether this exceeds the lower limit for low-level waste from a nuclear installation;

(2) what information he has on the levels of alpha activity, in becquerels per kilogram in fly ash from all major coal-fired generating plants in the United Kingdom with a capacity exceeding 500 MW.

The levels of alpha activity in fly ash from the major coal-fired generating plants in the United Kingdom would be typically in the range 1,000 to 2,000 bec/kg. The ash from Blyth power station is likely to contain similar concentrations of alpha activity. These levels are lower than the thresholds set out in schedule 3 to the Radioactive Substances Act 1960, below which certain naturally occurring substances are not considered to be radioactive material for the purposes of control under this Act.

High-Level Radioactive Wastes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions have been held between his Department and (i) Nirex and (ii) the radioactive waste producing agencies on future inclusion of high-level radioactive wastes into the deep repository being investigated by Nirex.

No discussions have been held with Nirex or the nuclear industry on this subject.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals there are to allow the inclusion of high-level radioactive wastes in the deep repository, currently being investigated by Nirex.

UK Nirex Ltd. has responsibility for providing disposal services for low and intermediate-level radioactive waste. There are no proposals for Nirex to assume responsibility for the disposal of heat-generating or high-level radioactive waste.

Norwich And Norfolk Councils

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will set out for each year since 1985–86 in a table the expenditure of Norwich city council (a) in cash terms and (b) in constant price terms;(2) if he will set out for each year since 1985–86 in a table the expenditure of Norfolk county council

(a) in cash terms and (b) in constant price terms.

The information is as follows:

Net Current Expenditure
Cash Terms (£ million)Real Terms—1989–90 Prices(£ million)1
Norfolk County Council
1985–86234·656293·132
1986–87254·034307·000
1987–88281·686323·263
1988–89312·355334·220
1989–90335·435335·435
Norwich City Council
1985–867,5999·493
1986–876,3437·666
1987–888·5679·831
1988–899·67010·347
1989–9010·85810·858
1 Using the GDP deflator to convert from cash values to constant prices.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the total number of people employed by (a) Norfolk county council and (b) Norwich city council for each year since 1985.

The information is as follows:

Staffing Levels at June
Norfolk County CouncilNorwich City Council
198523,9852,189
198624,3782,250
198725,1762,221
198825,4472,259
198926,2932,180

Water And Sewerage Charges

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the new infrastructure charges on water and sewerage being introduced by each water plc in England and Wales as from 1 April 1990.

The infrastructure charges limits which the Secretaries of State for England and Wales have determined for the 10 water service companies and 27 of the statutory water companies, together with the proposed limits for Mid Kent and Mid Sussex Water Companies, are listed in the tables:

Water Services Companies: Water and Sewerage infrastructure charges (at 1990–91 prices)
WaterSewerage
££
Anglian Water Services Limited479597
Southern Water Services Limited365485
Thames Water Utilities Limited43337
Yorkshire Water Services Limited529626
Northumbrian Water Limited111240
North West Water Limited198338
Severn Trent Water Limited498356
South West Water Services Limited654557
Dwr Cymru Cyfyngedig259332
Wessex Water Services Limited551983
Statutory water companies: water infrastructure charges (at 1990–91 prices)
£
Bournemouth1,000
Bristol439
Cambridge1,000
Cholderton201
Colne Valley435
East Anglian1,000
Eastbourne1,000
East Surrey251
East Worcestershire576
Essex404
Folkestone998
Hartlepool252
Lee Valley808
Mid Kent11,000
Mid Sussex1392
Mid Southern700
Newcastle216
North Surrey392
Portsmouth358
Rickmansworth395
South Staffs606
Sunderland485
Sutton254
Tendring Hundred1,000

£

West Hampshire868
West Kent834
York222
Chester758
Wrexham390
Average593

1 Proposed.

Infrastructure Charges

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will seek to amend the Water Act 1989 to remove multi-occupancy, self-contained, charitable developments from the requirements of section 79 of that Act.

No. It is for each water and sewerage undertaker to decide what infrastructure charge, if any, to make in specific cases, provided the charge does not exceed the limit specified in its instrument of appointment and is in accordance with its charges scheme.

Housing Completions

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the housing completion figure in (a) 1960 to 1970, (b) 1970 to 1980 and (c) 1979–89.

Total new housebuilding completions in England for these periods were 3·303 million, 2·779 million and 1·963 million dwellings, respectively.

Airborne Lead

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment by how much the level of airborne lead has changed since 1985.

The report by the Warren Spring laboratory on airborne lead concentrations in the United Kingdom 1984–88 shows a decrease from 408 nanogrammes of lead per cubic metre of air (ng/m) in 1985 to 190 ng/m in 1988—a decrease of 53 per cent.

Land Register

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any proposals to increase the rate at which land in public ownership currently on the land register is being disposed of.

UDC and designation dateEstimated total number of permanent jobs in areaEstimated total1 number of construction jobs 1988–89
At designationAt March 1989
London Docklands—July 1981225,20048,00025,000
Merseyside: original area—March 19811,5002,9001,110
Black Country—May 198770,50075,100n.a.
Teesside—May 19879,50010,900366
Trafford Park—February 198724,50026,0003736
Tyne and Wear—May 198740,20041,5003249
1 Pre designation figures are only available for LDDC.
2 LDDC figures:
—the permanent job figures are not directly comparable. 1981 data was derived from the Census of Employment which included only jobs with a pay point in the UDA. The 1989 data includes all jobs in the UDA.
—the construction job figures are similarly not comparable. The 1981 Census gave a total of 1,964 construction jobs with a pay point in the UDA.
3Information is only available in terms of man-years, not actual numbers of jobs.

The new codes of practice requiring owners to publish their own registers of unused and underused land place the responsibility clearly on them to ensure that such land is brought into use. Members of the public can use our PROD (Public Request to Order Disposal') scheme to bring to my right hon. Friend's attention cases where the use of his powers to require disposal might be appropriate; these powers have been used in relation to 81 sites since 1984. Overall half the land entered on the register since 1981 has subsequently been removed.

Internal Delivery Service

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to move the internal delivery service from its current Ponton road site.

[holding answer 14 February 1990]: New premises for the IDS are being sought, but no commitment will be made prior to sale as it is possible that the purchaser may be able to provide premises.

Urban Development Corporations

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what is his most up-to-date estimate of the number of jobs (a) in construction and (b) in all other categories in the area administered by the London Docklands development corporation; and what were the equivalent numbers of jobs in the same area or the nearest area for which statistics are available in the last full year before London Docklands development corporation was set up;(2) what is his most up-to-date estimate of the number of jobs currently in the area of the Merseyside development corporation in

(a) construction and (b) all other categories; and what were the equivalent number of jobs in the same area or the nearest area for which statistics are available in the last full year for which statistics are available;

(3) what is the most up-to-date estimate available to him of the total number of jobs in (a) construction and (b) all other categories for areas administered by urban development corporations; and what were the nearest equivalent figures for the same areas in the last full year before those urban development corporations were set up.

[holding answer 19 February 1990]: The information available is as follows:

The UDCs in Bristol, central Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, and Merseyside's extended area, were established during 1988–89. They had therefore not been in existence long enough, by March 1989, for the total number of jobs in their areas to have altered significantly.

Denham Court

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to reach a decision on the application by Buckinghamshire county council for consent under the London and Home Counties (Green Belt) Act 1938, to grant a lease of the land at Denham court, Denham.

[holding answer 19 February 1990]: A decision is being announced today.

Audible Bird Scarers

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the organisations from which he has received written representations concerning the use of audible bird scarers.

[holding answer 20 February 1990]: The following organisations submitted comments on the draft code of practice on audible bird scarers issued for public consultation by the Department in December 1988:

  • Association of District Councils
  • Association of Noise Consultants
  • Birdscarers Anti-Nuisance Group
  • The British Horse Society
  • Country Landowners Association
  • The Environment Council
  • The Law Society
  • National Society for Clean Air
  • National Farmers Union
  • Nature Conservancy Council
  • Noise Abatement Society
  • The Noise Council
  • National Physical Laboratory
  • The Ramblers Association
  • South Cambridgeshire District Council
The working party that drafted the code included the Institution of Environmental Health Officers and the National Farmers Union.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the organisatons with which he has met to discuss the future use of audible bird scarers.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to meet with representatives of the birdscarers' anti-nuisance group.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to publish a further draft code of practice relating to the use of audible bird scarers.

Chipboard Factories

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will make it his policy to require chipboard factories to be fitted with electrified filter bed equipment;(2) what analysis has been made of the emissions from chipboard factories in England; and if he will make a statement;(3) what controls exist on emissions to the air from chipboard factories; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 20 February 1990]: Emissions to the air from chipboard factories are subject to control by local authorities under the statutory nuisance provisions of part III of the Public Health Act 1936. I understand that analyses of emissions from three major chipboard factories have been undertaken by, or on behalf of, local authorities.Under part I of the Environmental Protection Bill it is proposed to give local authorities powers of prior authorisation over air pollution from certain categories of timber processes including chipboard factories. These processes will not be scheduled under the Bill until national guidance on appropriate air pollution controls has been issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. Different pollution abatement technologies including electrified filter bed equipment are currently being considered in drawing up this guidance.

Toxic Waste

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action under the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards Regulations, which came into effect in 1986, his Department has considered with respect to the waste recycling plant at Wath-on-Dearne, where toxic and dangerous chemicals are stored.

I have been asked to reply.None. The waste recycling installation at Wath-on-Dearne is a site licensed under section 5 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, and as such is excluded from the Control of Industrial Major Accident Hazards Regulations 1984 by virtue of regulation 3(1)(e).

Northern Ireland

Ambulance Union

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions have been held with officials of the ambulance union in Northern Ireland about proposed salary increases and a pay review formula.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he last met officials of the trade union representing ambulance drivers and associated paramedic staff in Northern Ireland; and what matters were discussed.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has not met these officials.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what representations he has received about the ambulance service dispute in Northern Ireland and (a) salary increases and (b) a pay review formula.

Representations have been received from six district councils supporting the request of staff side of the ambulance Whitley council to have the dispute referred to arbitration. One council also recommended that the ambulance service should be treated no differently from the emergency services for the purpose of determining pay.

Bomb Explosions