HC Deb 21 July 1999 vol 335 cc521-2W
Mr. Chaytor

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will list the changes to procedures adopted by his Department and its agencies following the Government's signing of the Aarhus Convention on Access to Environmental Information; [91817]

(2) what plans he has to ratify the Aarhus Convention on Access to Environmental Information; and if he will make a statement. [91816]

Mr. Meale

We intend to ratify the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the 'Aarhus Convention') as soon as we have all the necessary measures in place to implement its provisions.

Like most of the other European Union member states, the UK expects to be in a position to ratify by the end of 2000. To date, only the Republic of Moldova has ratified.

Implementation of the Convention is through a mixture of administrative actions and legislative measures. In a great many respects, the UK already fulfils the provisions of the Convention. However, new legislation will be required to implement some of the provisions on environmental information and the consultation paper on the draft Freedom of Information Bill stated that current environmental information regime would be revoked and replaced with provisions in the Bill.

In the past year, we have continued to promote activities relevant to the Convention. For example, the Environment Agency issued a consultation paper on its proposals for extended public consultation on selected licence applications on 16 July, draft Planning Policy Guidance Note 12 on Development Plans promotes active public participation in the preparation of a development plan and the Environment Agency has published a new Pollution Inventory on the internet.