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11. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to receive full reports from (a) the Environment Agency and (b) the Health and Safety Executive, into the explosion at Cleansing Services Group at Sandhurst, Gloucestershire; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: I have now received an interim report of the joint investigation being carried out by the Environment Agency and the Health and Safety Executive; and reports on both the Agency's and HSE's regulatory actions in relation to the site. Copies of all three reports have been sent to the hon. Member and placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Raynsford: The hon. Member is aware of the judgment made in another place which unanimously allowed the Secretary of State's appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal to quash the Maximum Fair Rent Order.
13. Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals his Department has for long-term solutions to the problems of people sleeping rough. 
17. Kali Mountford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals his Department has for long-term solutions to the problems of people sleeping rough. 
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Ms Armstrong: I am confident that we will meet the Prime Minister's target of reducing the number of people sleeping rough in England by at least two thirds by 2002. However this is not simply a numbers game and we are determined to ensure that we help rough sleepers rebuild their lives permanently away from the streets. As part of the Spending Review it has been agreed that funding will be available to help us to do this after the life of the Rough Sleepers Unit. I am determined to ensure that vulnerable people sleeping rough receive the help they need.
Mr. Mullin: The proposed public private partnership for NATS is currently progressing to timetable. Stage 3 bidders were announced on 3 November and we expect to put the partnership in place in spring this year.
Ms Armstrong: In September we published our Green Paper "Modernising Local Government Finance". It detailed a number of proposals relating to business rates, including rate relief for small business. The consultation period ended on 8 December. We are now considering the many responses we have received. We will publish our conclusions in a White Paper later this year.
Mr. Raynsford: Reviews of Regional Planning Guidance are at different stages in each region, but representations on housing policies are currently being received in the context of reviews of RPG in the north-west, south-west and south-east regions. Proposed changes to draft RPG will shortly be the subject of consultation in the north-east, east Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside. It would be impractical to try to summarise the range of views expressed in response to current consultations.
18. Mr. Jim Murphy: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement about the Government's policy on the expansion in the number of mobile phone masts. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: Government policy is to facilitate the growth of new and existing telecommunications systems while meeting environmental objectives. Our policy guidelines underline the importance of keeping the numbers of telecommunications masts to the minimum consistent with the efficient operation of the network. Sharing of masts and use of existing buildings and other structures is strongly encouraged.
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Ms Beverley Hughes: Planning controls on telecommunications development are aimed at facilitating the roll-out of a modern telecommunications network while protecting the environment. A consultation exercise seeking views on possible changes to these controls ended on 31 October 2000. We are currently analysing responses and shall announce any changes as soon as practicable.
Mr. Meacher: The Government's policy is that radioactive wastes should be managed in ways that protect the safety of the public, the work force and the environment, now and in the future. This is a complex issue and the UK Government and the devolved administrations will publish a consultation paper setting out detailed proposals as soon as we are ready. This paper will begin the process that will lead to the implementation of a radioactive waste management policy capable of commanding widespread support across the UK.
20. Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many representations have been received in support of the proposed boundaries for the New Forest national park. 
Mr. Meacher: The Countryside Agency is responsible for designating National Parks, subject to confirmation of a designation order by the Secretary of State. The Agency issued a draft boundary for a New Forest National Park for public consultation last October. The consultation period ends on 19 January and responses have not yet been analysed. I therefore cannot say how many support the proposals.
21. Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to ensure that passengers are consulted more widely on the development of plans for bus services. 
Mr. Hill: We already urge local authorities to consult widely on their local transport plans, each of which must include a clear strategy for bus services. New powers in the Transport Act 2000 will require bus users to be similarly consulted on local schemes.
22. Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the provision of Government aid to Rochford district council. 
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Ms Beverley Hughes: In the current financial year a total of £3.273 million has been provided to Rochford in general grant. In addition, Rochford received a basic credit approval of £945,000 and a disabled facilities grant of £81,000. The Government will also be contributing £14.5 million to Southend-on-Sea borough council's scheme to improve passenger transport and reduce congestion on the A13 and A127, which will have benefits for Rochford district.
Ms Armstrong: We remain committed to move to directly-elected regional government, where there is support as demonstrated in referendums. While no timetable has yet been drawn up, governance in the regions is already evolving through the work of the chambers, regional development agencies, Government Offices and others.
25. Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received on the operation of the Bellwin formula for flood-related costs. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: Between 13 October 2000 and 8 January 2001 a total of 100 local authorities had notified my Department that they had incurred expenditure for which they would consider making a claim under the Bellwin scheme. Four authorities and seven hon. Members wrote asking for consideration to be given to reducing or abolishing the threshold below which authorities must fund expenditure. Three inquiries asked for special consideration to be given to Combined Fire Authorities. In response to this exceptional level of notifications we established a general scheme applying to incidents in the months of October and November. On 4 November my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced a number of changes in the scheme, including an increase in the Government's contribution from 85 per cent. of spending above local authority thresholds to 100 per cent. and the instigation of a review of the operation of the scheme when the present floods have ended.
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