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20 Mar 2001 : Column: 115W
Ms Armstrong: DETR and the Home Office have jointly allocated £18.5 million until 2003-04 towards the Neighbourhood Warden programme. 86 Neighbourhood Warden schemes are receiving funding across England and Wales. Neighbourhood Wardens have a number of different roles depending on local need. Their overall purpose is to tackle anti-social behaviour, racial harassment, litter and graffiti. They will help to reduce crime and the fear of crime and will contribute to environmental and quality of life improvements.
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: The study of regional airports and air services in Wales announced in the 1998 Transport White Paper was completed last year. Its findings are currently being reviewed as part of a UK wide Regional Co-ordination Study. This will provide a basis for a series of Regional Air Services Consultation Documents to be published later on this year. One of these documents will cover Wales and will provide a framework for discussion of the future of civil aviation within Wales. Responses will be considered alongside those on "The Future of Aviation" national document, on which we are currently consulting, providing a key input to the Air Transport White Paper.
21. Mr. Crausby: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on measures to improve access for disabled people to transport services. 
Accessibility regulations for new trains, and more recently, for new buses and coaches used on local and scheduled services have been introduced under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, which set technical standards for accessibility, including wheelchair access. Similar regulations for taxis will follow.
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Ms Beverley Hughes: Since 1997-98, Government grant to local government has gone up by 13.6 per cent. in real terms. Local authority spending on the Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services Block which covers spending on parks, will increase each year by an average 1.8 per cent. in real terms up to 2003-04. We are also encouraging more effective use of resources and promoting better practice, by developing more specific Best Value performance indicators and a new Beacon Council theme for 'Improving Urban Green Spaces'
Last November, we published our Urban White Paper--"Our towns and cities: the future", which sets out our comprehensive proposals for improving urban parks, play areas and green spaces. In January we set up the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce, which has begun its work to drive forward the implementation of our commitments. We will set up a Working Group of the Taskforce to examine resource issues and how to make best use of the funding streams that are available.
Ms Armstrong: An assessment of the council tax system was included in our Green Paper on modernising local government finance which we published in September 2000. We have recently published a summary of responses to the Green Paper on the DETR website and will announce our policy intentions for the local government finance system, including council tax, in a White Paper later this year.
25. Mr. Lilley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in projecting housing needs, what assumption he has made of the number of asylum seekers who will remain in the UK in each year up to 2016. 
Mr. Raynsford: Household projections, and population projections on which they are based, are one piece of the evidence used to assess housing requirements. In forming projections of population growth the Government Actuary's Department includes projections of asylum seekers allowed to remain per annum based on information from the Home Office.
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The UK national 1996-based population projections included a long-term assumption of 5,000 asylum seekers allowed to remain per annum. Figures for England are not available. The latest 1996-based household projections for England were based on these population projections.
More recent information from the Home Office has enabled the Government Actuary's Department to incorporate a higher long-term projection of 20,000 asylum seekers allowed to remain per annum in the latest 1998-based population projections for the UK.
27. Mr. Wilkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will announce the initiation of the public-private partnership for the London underground within two months. 
37. Mr. Blunt: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on progress made towards a public-private partnership for the London underground. 
Mr. Hill: My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced last month that he had agreed to work together with the Commissioner of Transport for London, Bob Kiley, and with London Underground, on developing mutually acceptable modifications to the public-private partnership. Mr. Kiley has said in discussions with the Government that he seeks the unified management control of key Underground operations, mainly through keeping the maintenance of track and signalling within London Underground. The 55-point plan that he is now discussing with us provides for that control within the overall structure of the PPP.
There are inevitably some technical issues still to be worked out but I believe that there is now a real basis for an agreement to allow the PPP competitions to proceed to a satisfactory conclusion. Discussions are being taken forward as quickly as possible so that we can get on with the PPP competitions and the massive investment which the Underground so urgently needs.
29. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the requirement for impartiality laid on his Department for considering planning applications which have been called in by his Department. 
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Mr. Raynsford: General guidance is given to all Ministers in the "Ministerial Code--A Code of Conduct on Procedures for Ministers". The activities of officials in handling planning casework and providing advice to Ministers are governed by the "Civil Service Code" and the "Staff Handbook". There is also specific "Guidance on Propriety Issues in the Handling of Planning Casework in DETR". A copy of the "Guidance" may be found on the Department's website. The guidance which applies to Ministers also applies to Parliamentary Private Secretaries in DETR.
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