§ Mr. Pawsey
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list his Department's principal achievements since 1979.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
I have today placed in the Library copies of a detailed report which brings together accounts of the various measures taken by my Department between April 1984 and March 1985. This report supplements the earlier documents covering the periods May 1979 to April 1983 and April 1983 to April 1984 which were provided pursuant to the replies to my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) on 3 May 1983 and 9 May 1984 respectively; all three documents should be read together for the full list of measures since 1979. The principal achievements since April 1984 have been:
- — the passing of the Rates Act 1984 and the subsequent protection of ratepayers in 18 local authorities from high rate increases;
- — the continuation of downward pressure on high spending authorities in the rate support grant settlement for 1985–86. Rate increases in 1984–85 were the lowest for 10 years and are likely to average single figures again in 1985–86;
- —the passing of the Local Government (Interim Provisions) Act, paving the way for the abolition of the GLC and metropolitan county councils in 1986. The Local Government Bill, containing the main abolition provisions, completed its Commons stages on 28 March;
- —the setting up of an inquiry into the conduct of local authority business and the undertaking of new studies into the system of local government finance.
- —a continuing rise in owner-occupation—an increase of more than 1.5 million between May 1979 and March 1985;
- — further encouragement of council house sales and the introduction of a new system of building control in the Housing and Building Control Act 1984. 814,000 council, new town and housing association dwellings have now been sold under the Government's right-to-buy and voluntary sales schemes;
- —more than 71,000 low-cost home ownership sales by public authorities;
- — £740 million is expected to be spent on home improvement grants in 1984–85, a total of 200,000 grants; 85,000 local authority and new town dwellings renovated in 1984–85.
- — continued support for inner area renewal and the encouragement of enterprise, with £338 million devoted to the urban programme in 1984–85;
- —the approval of projects worth nearly £365 million in capital investment for urban development grant: grant offers of £67.89 million have attracted £295 million of private sector investment, since 1983–84;
- — rapid progress by the London Docklands and Merseyside Development Corporation in the regeneration of their areas. By end 1985–86 some £360 million of public money will have been spent. LDDC has so far attracted £860 million of private investment. In Liverpool the successful International Garden Festival was held during 1984, attracting 3.3 million visitors;
- —further increases in the resources for the reclamation of derelict land which have tripled from £23.5 million in 1979–80 to £76.4 million in 1985–86. Schemds have been approved for the reclamation of about 1,500 hectares in 1984–85.
- —following a United Kingdom initiative, agreement was reached in the EC Environment Council in March 1985 on a directive requiring the introduction of unleaded petrol by 1 October 1989. The Department reached an agreement with the Paintmakers' Association to eliminate lead additives from their decorative paints;
- — agreement to two EC directives on combating air pollution from industrial plants and on air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide; the publication of a White Paper on acid rain;
- —enactment with other members of the European Community of a directive to control transfrontier movements of hazardous wastes;
- —decision taken on major capital investment to achieve large reduction in radioactive discharges from Sellafield.
PLANNING AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
- —further steps proposed to simplify and improve the operating efficiency of the town and country planning system;
- —record level of grant commitment secured in 1984 from the quota section of the European regional development fund (£181 million) for English local and public authorities which provide infrastructure services.
THE RURAL AND BUILT HERITAGE
- —major increases announced in the level of grant aid to be made available in 1985–86 to the Nature Conservancy council and the Countryside Commission — a measure of the high priority attached by the Government to nature and countryside conservation;
- —a further £25 million given to the National Heritage-Memorial Fund to secure the future of Kedleston hall, Weston park and Nostell priory, and their contents, for the nation.
- —increased investment by regional water authorities projected to increase from £799 million in 1984–85 to £964 million in 1987–88, a rising proportion to be directed towards the repair and restoration of underground assets;
- —extension of water pollution controls to protect all inland, esturial, coastal and underground waters.
- —an increase in the extent to which the Property Services Agency has its work undertaken by the private sector. All new construction, 85 per cent. by value of maintenance and 60 per cent. of new design work are now placed with private contractors and consultants.