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Health and Safety Laboratory

Mr. Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will decide the future location of the Health and Safety Laboratory. [108789]

Mr. Meacher: The Health and Safety Laboratory is currently in negotiations with a preferred bidder under PFI to rationalise its estate. This involves locating the Laboratory on a single site at Buxton. If Ministers are satisfied that the final proposals represent value for money, approval will be given. A decision on the project is due in Summer 2000.

Reprocessing (Road Surfaces)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions for the latest 12 months for which figures are available how many miles of resurfaced highway contained reprocessed waste tyres; and if he will make a statement. [108983]

Mr. Hill: Road surfacing products containing waste tyres are currently undergoing trials as part of their development process. No central records are kept concerning the use of these materials. A trial just under one mile long was laid on the A244 Hersham bypass in June 1999 for Surrey County Council, and is being monitored jointly with the Highways Agency.

Rent Acts Judgment

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the need for primary legislation following the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R vs Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions ex parte Spath Holme Limited that the Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999 (SI 1999 No. 6) was ultra vires. [108787]

Mr. Mullin: We will consider whether any further action is appropriate once the outcome of the petition to another place is known.

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Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact on the stock of affordable homes of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions ex parte Spath Holme Limited that the Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999 (SI 1999 No. 6) was ultra vires. [108783]

Mr. Mullin: The Court of Appeal's judgment does not affect the supply of affordable homes. However, it is likely to affect the ability of some tenants to afford rent increases which would have been capped under the Order.

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he plans to take following the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions ex parte Spath Holme Limited that the Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999 (SI 1999 No. 6) was ultra vires. [108785]

Mr. Mullin: We intend to petition another place seeking permission to appeal the Court's decision.

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact on rents of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions ex parte Spath Holme Limited that the Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999 (SI 1999 No. 6) was ultra vires. [108784]

Mr. Mullin: The judgment is likely to lead to significant increases in fair rents that would have been capped under the Order. The impact will vary between regions. However, provisional analysis of rents registered by rent officers in England and Wales shows an average difference between the amount capped under the Order and the uncapped amount of £5.61 per week.

Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions by what means he will prevent disproportionate increases in rent following the judgment of the Court of Appeal in R vs Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions ex parte Spath Holme Limited that the Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999 (SI 1999 No. 6) was ultra vires. [108786]

Mr. Mullin: The Secretary of State has no powers to intervene to prevent disproportionate increases in rent. It is for rent officers and rent assessment committees to decide whether and by how much to increase the rent for tenancies registered under Part IV and Part VI of the Rent Act 1977. They must follow the rules set out in Section 70 of the Act and have regard to leading court judgments on the assessment of a fair rent.

Minicabs

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to introduce legislation to control the use of minicabs in the Greater London area. [108731]

Mr. Hill: I refer my hon. Friend to my reply to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge) on 21 December 1999, Official Report, column 537W.

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Deregulation

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the potential impact on business associated with each of the following planned deregulation proposals (a) the disposal of houses by local authorities in England, (b) amending section 7 of the Building Act 1984 and (c) eligibility to drive a private hire vehicle outside London. [108776]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 7 February 2000]: A consultation exercise was carried out last year on the proposal concerning the disposal of houses by local authorities in England. Following this, an assessment of the potential impact on business has been produced, and is currently under consideration.

The proposals to amend Section 7 of the Building Act 1984 arose from proposals made by the Better Regulation Task Force. A forthcoming consultation will seek to identify the impact of amending Section 7, and this will be fully assessed by means of a Regulatory Impact Assessment prior to making a deregulation order.

The issues surrounding the eligibility to drive a private hire vehicle outside London are being considered in the light of consultation responses from business and other interested parties. If these result in a deregulation order, Cabinet Office guidance on making such an order will be followed. This guidance requires that a Regulatory Impact Assessment be produced.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the economic impact associated with each of the following deregulation orders and contracting out orders on business (a) the Deregulation (Parking Equipment) Order 1996, (b) the Deregulation (Motor Vehicles Tests) Order 1996, (c) the Deregulation (Building) (Initial Notices and Final Certificates) Order 1996, (d) the Deregulation (Exchangeable Driving Licences) Order 1998 and (e) the Deregulation (Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles) Order 1998. [108775]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 7 February 2000]: The five listed orders were laid prior to the requirement, introduced in August 1998, to produce Regulatory Impact Assessments looking at all economic impacts of proposals. At that time, Compliance Cost Assessments were required, but only for proposals expected to impose costs. Since, under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994, deregulation orders are not allowed to impose burdens, no such assessments were prepared in these cases.

Raptor Working Group

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will publish the main report of the Raptor Working Group. [109089]

Mr. Mullin: The report of the UK Raptor Working Group was launched at the Raptor Forum meeting hosted by my Department on 3 February. The full report is published as a priced publication entitled "Report of the

9 Feb 2000 : Column: 157W

UK Raptor Working Group" available from Scottish Natural Heritage at the address below. Copies are also available in the House Libraries.



    Scottish Natural Heritage


    Barrington Bond


    1,2 Anderson Place


    Edinburgh EH6 5NP


    Tel: 0131 4462453


    E-mail: [email protected]

Thameslink

Mr. Pollard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what options for additional capacity on the Thameslink rail route have been proposed since June 1999; and what is the timetable for such options. [109108]

Mr. Hill: The loan of four class 317 units from WAGN and two class 319 units from Connex has resulted in longer trains on Thameslink services, providing 3,900 extra seats per week, and an extra train path from 26 September 1999. The SSRA are currently evaluating proposals for new rolling stock and further additional train paths on the Bedford to London section of the route. They are also investigating other options for additional capacity on this section. The earliest any further additional capacity could be provided by the acquisition of new rolling stock is September 2001.

Public Transport (Accessibility)

Mrs. Brinton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to increase accessibility to bus and rail services for the (a) elderly and (b) disabled elderly. [109248]

Mr. Hill: The regulations we are introducing under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 will ensure that in future all land-based public transport vehicles are fully accessible.

Rail Vehicle Accessibility Regulations have been introduced which apply to all new types of passenger rail rolling stock first introduced into service from 1 January 1999. Similar regulations dealing with new buses and coaches used on local and scheduled services will be introduced this year. The regulations cover a wide range of features which will improve access for older people as well as for disabled people: for example, improved handrails which will benefit those with poor dexterity and the use of colour and tonal contrasts to assist those with low vision.


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