HC Deb 23 February 1995 vol 255 cc268-9W
Mr. Anthony Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, if he will make a statement on the past work of the Black Country limestone advisory panel; and what is its future role.

Mr. Curry

The Black Country limestone advisory panel was appointed by the then Secretary of State in November 1983 to advise him on proposals for monitoring site investigations and remedial works in relation to old limestone mines in the black country which were to be funded by derelict land grant and, particularly, on the development of a practical programme of work and priorities within it.

The chairman, Sir Edward Parkes, and the five individual members, Professor David Blockley, Professor John Burland, Mr. Owen Gregory, Mr. Donald Reeve and Mr. John Trustram Eve, have served continuously since the panel's establishment until Mr. Reeve's death last year.

With the assumption by English Partnerships of responsibility for derelict land grant, which is now subsumed within the agency's land reclamation programme, the Secretary of State's need for external advice is less than it was in the past. With the publication of its reports and the advice given over the last 11 years, the advisory panel has effectively completed its remit. The panel will therefore cease operations at the end of this financial year.

The Government recognise that, although much has been achieved in reducing the impact of old limestone mines in the black country, much remains to be done. The panel's contributions point the way forward to English Partnerships in carrying forward the programme of reclamation, which was identified as a priority in the guidance issued by the Secretary of State in April 1993.

It is now for the agency to continue the programme, subject to the availability of resources, to enable the limestone problems to be solved.

I would like to thank the chairman and all members of the Black Country limestone advisory panel for the work which they have undertaken since 1983, without which the programme of remedial works to the old limestone mines in the west midlands would not have proceeded as smoothly as it has.