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Sub-regions (South-West Region)

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the sub-regions of the south-west region and the criteria used to determine them; and what consultations were carried out before they were established. [149224]

Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 6 February 2001]: The Secretary of State's proposed changes to draft Regional Planning Guidance for the South West propose a spatial planning strategy based upon four broadly defined sub-regions, Northern, South Eastern, Central and Western. The proposed sub-regions reflect the different underlying economic realities, not political boundaries. The South West Regional Development Agency supports the sub-regional analysis in the Regional Planning Guidance as reflecting the RDA's own analysis on sub-regional economic zones. The concept of sub-regions was first identified in the draft prepared by the South West Regional Planning Conference in 1999, on which consultation was carried out in the autumn of 1999. The concept was discussed at the public examination held in March 2000 and developed in more detail in the panel's report. The Secretary of State's proposed changes to draft Regional Planning Guidance were published for public consultation on 20 December 2000. The consultation period ends on 14 March and all responses will be considered before the final guidance is published.

Mineral Planning Guidance Note 11

Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will re-open the consultative period on the proposed extended Mineral Planning Guidance Note 11, to allow environmental groups and other relevant interests who were not contacted as potential consultees to have their submissions considered; and if he will make a statement on the progress of his review. [149117]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The consultation document was published on 8 May 2000, with comments requested by 31 July 2000. It was circulated to a wide range of interests and notified to the relevant planning and minerals press and the consultation document was accessible on the internet. There were also a number of articles in the national press that referred to the consultation on MPG 11. However, although the consultation period has formally ended, the Government will consider any submissions made to it in respect of this consultation document until such time as it goes to press for publication of the revised MPG 11. The consultation draft of MPG 11 received markedly different reactions from a number of parties. In the light of these my officials will be arranging to discuss the way forward with the major interests from the minerals industry, minerals planning authorities and the environmental sector in the next few weeks. We will then proceed towards finalising the MPG for publication.

Meanwhile, we remain open to representations from any interested parties in respect of MPG 11. It can be found on the internet at www.planning.detr.gov.uk/consult.

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Correspondence

Mr. Collins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale of 6 October 2000 to the Minister for Local Government and the Regions, regarding a constituent, Mr. J. Hooson. [148626]

Mr. Raynsford: I replied on 19 January 2001.

Press Releases

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many press releases were issued by his Department in the financial years (a) 1996-97, (b) 1997-98, (c) 1998-99 and (d) 1999-2000; how many have been issued in the current financial year; and what his estimate is of the total number for the current financial year. [149250]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The total number of press releases issued by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (central) and the former Departments of the Environment and Transport (excluding agencies) in the financial years (a) 1996-97, (b) 1997-98, (c) 1998-99, and (d) 1999-2000, together with the total issued in 2000-01, is as follows:

Financial yearNumber of press releases
DoT/DoE1996-97994
DoT/DoE/DETR(c)1997-98855
DETR(c)1998-991,217
DETR(c)1999-20001,153
DETR(c)(4)2000-01569

(4) Ten months to 31 January


The estimate for the total number of press releases for the current financial year, based on an extrapolation of releases already issued, is 680.

Planning

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will issue guidance on the rights of objectors to attend planning committee site visits in residential planning applications; [149055]

Ms Beverley Hughes: We have no current plans to do so. The Government endorse the Local Government Association's good practice guide "Public Involvement in Development Control Process". This includes advice to local authorities on setting clear guidelines for public speaking and attendance at committee meetings.

GLA Grant

Mr. Pound: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what level of general GLA grant he intends to set for 2001-02. [149747]

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Mr. Hill: General GLA grant is determined annually after consultation with the Mayor of London under section 100 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. The Secretary of State has today determined the level of grant for 2001-02 at £23.4 million.

HEALTH

Best Value

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to publish his proposals for implementing a system of best value in the NHS. [145730]

Mr. Denham [holding answer 17 January 2001]: The NHS Plan commits us to introducing a best value regime which will require each NHS organisation to review at least one major service, including clinical services, each year. Further announcements will be made in due course.

Adoption

Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the formal procedures are for adopting children from abroad; and if he will publish them; [147386]

Mr. Hutton: Inter-country adoption is underpinned by a number of international agreements to which the United Kingdom is party. In particular, the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption aims to:




The Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999 will be implemented in full later this year and, together with relevant Northern Ireland legislation, will enable the United Kingdom to ratify the 1993 Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption.

Other relevant agreements are:




Where people habitually resident in England and Wales wish to adopt a child from overseas they should go through the same assessment and approval process as a prospective adopter of a child in the UK. Once completed, their papers are usually submitted to the Department, and if in order, the Department will issue a certificate of eligibility. The procedures that follow vary from country to country. They are contained within information sheets on various

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countries issued free of charge by the Department. The most popular ones can be found on the Department of Health website at www.doh.gov.uk/ adoption.

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children are in national care waiting to be adopted; and how many are awaiting adoption in (a) Tyne and Wear and (b) South Tyneside. [148416]

Mr. Hutton: Information on the number of children in national care for whom adoption is the plan is not held centrally. However, the Department does hold figures on the number of children who have been placed with families who intend to adopt them.

The estimated number of children who were being looked after by local authorities in England and who were reported as being placed for adoption at 31 March 2000 are as follows:

Number
England3,140
Tyne and Wear Metropolitan County130
South Tyneside Metropolitan District20

Note:

Figures have been rounded to the nearest 10.


The table excludes children looked after under a series of short term placements.

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many couples are on the (a) national, (b) Tyne and Wear and (c) South Tyneside child adoption register. [148417]

Mr. Hutton: There is no central register of people approved to adopt but yet to be matched with a child. However, a 1999 survey by the Department's social services inspectorate revealed that at that time nationally 1,297 adopters had been recruited but had no children placed with them. We are currently collecting information on the approved adopters yet to be matched with a child in each local authority. In the future we expect this information to be held on the adoption register for England and Wales.

Mr. Hepburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures are being taken to improve the efficiency of the child adoption service. [148414]

Mr. Hutton: On 21 December 2000 we published the White Paper "Adoption: a new approach", together with draft national standards on adoption. Together they set out plans for a faster, fairer adoption service and the most radical overhaul of adoption legislation for 25 years. To make sure that these changes happen we have set a new target to increase the number of adoptions by 2004-05 by 40 per cent. (and if possible 50 per cent.), provided investment of £66.5 million over three years, set up the adoption and permanence task force, and are setting up an adoption register to match children with adoptive parents across the country.


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