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Transport Safety Review

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will complete his review of transport safety and report to the House; and if he will make a statement. [155069]

Mr. Hill: In my answer of 9 June 2000, Official Report, columns 424-25W, to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell), I explained our conclusion that it would be wrong to take a view on potentially fundamental changes to the organisation of transport safety until the outcome of Lord Cullen's inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove rail crash was known. I understand that the relevant part of the inquiry is expected to report later this year. A report of the consultation and analysis undertaken by the transport safety review group was placed in the Libraries of the House last year.

Ten-year Transport Plan

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the provision contained in the Ten-year Transport Plan for (a) a London east-west rail link, (b) the London Cross Rail scheme, (c) the Chelsea-Hackney Line, (d) the East London Line and (e) the West London Line; and if he will indicate the priority he gives to each of these projects. [155068]

Mr. Hill: The Ten-year Plan provides for a significant increase in transport infrastructure investment, including in enhanced rail capacity in London. Specific London rail schemes, priorities, and the resources to be allocated to them, will be decided after discussion between Government, the Strategic Rail Authority and the Mayor of London. To this end, we have set up a high-level group to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the development and taking forward of rail schemes in London.

West Midlands Regional Development Agency

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the performance of the West Midlands Regional Development Agency. [153631]

Ms Beverley Hughes: All the RDA's, including Advantage West Midlands, have made good progress. Advantage West Midlands (AWM) has engaged with all sectors of the local economy to produce a strategy for the region and has agreed with key partners the 60 main actions required to take it forward.

AWM has achieved significant successes. So far this financial year (to February), some 28 companies from abroad have invested in the west midlands, creating 2,100 jobs and safeguarding a further 745. Marconi is moving to a site at Ansty near Coventry and jobs are beginning to emerge at BMW at Hams Hall near Birmingham. AWM has introduced a Regional Venture Capital Fund, the first RDA to do so. It is progressing innovation issues with a very good team of regional partners. It has very clearly defined the region's priority business sectors and is increasingly dovetailing all its activities to support them: the food and drink sector is an excellent example.

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In addition, AWM has led the creation of six Regeneration Zones which will focus resources on the areas of greatest need and opportunity--including for the first time, a Rural Regeneration Zone encompassing the Marches.

It has successfully led two emergency Task Forces set up at the behest of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to address crises which have arisen in the region's automotive and ceramics industries. Key recommendations involve the creation of three high- technology corridors along the region's main feeder routes.

Central Railway

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what consultations have taken place since 1 January between his Department and (a) regional development agencies and (b) regional assemblies about the Central Railway project; [154847]

Mr. Hill: None.

Lettings

Mr. Paul Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to announce the pilot projects to test choice-based lettings approaches; and if he will make a statement. [155394]

Mr. Raynsford: I am pleased to announce that 27 local authority-led pilot projects have today been selected to test different lettings approaches.

The pilots are designed to give new and existing social tenants in England greater choice over their housing and to give local authorities and Registered Social Landlords the opportunity to test new ways of doing that, while continuing to meet housing need.

This is the best way to meet the long-term housing requirements of those who need social housing. The challenge for pilot authorities is to find better ways of responding to need while offering choice, in different housing markets, and across different authorities. We will draw on the pilots to develop a body of good practice for all social landlords.

I am delighted that we received over 90 bids for pilot status. I was particularly encouraged by the readiness of local authorities and RSLs to work together to deliver a choice-based approach. Many bids involved a partnership approach, bringing together some or all of the RSLs operating in the area, and in some cases private landlords as well, to offer as wide a choice as possible to new and existing tenants.

I have been very impressed by the quality of the bids submitted. I have therefore decided to make available a further £2 million, in addition to the £11 million announced at the time of the Spending Review to fund the pilot scheme, in order to support as many good quality projects as possible.

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The list of successful lead authorities is set out in the list.

I am also delighted to announce that £3.5 million over two years has been allocated under Round 3 of the Capital Modernisation Fund. This additional money will be used to fund Information Technology development to support choice-based lettings approaches and to promote mobility across the social housing sector.





























Regional Planning Guidance

Mr. Pond: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he intends to make an announcement about regional planning guidance for the south-east. [155395]

Mr. Raynsford: On 18 December last year we published draft revised Regional Planning Guidance for the south-east. This put the urban renaissance and protection of the countryside at the heart of the revised regional strategy. It put forward a housing strategy that took no more land than assumed by the regional planning body. We re-consulted on the proposed housing distribution and after careful consideration of all the representations we are today issuing Regional Planning Guidance for the South East (RPG9).

In the light of the divergent views expressed on the individual county figures and in the absence of any consistent regional rationale to justify a new distribution, the proposed distribution has not been changed. We acknowledge the concerns expressed during the public consultation but would emphasise that in line with our

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new 'plan, monitor and manage' approach, the scale and distribution of housing will be subject to review within the next five years in response to monitoring and other information. We do not believe in fixed 20-year housing targets.

The RPG9 document is being distributed to local authorities, Regional Planning Bodies, Regional Development Agencies and others who participated at the Public Examination held in 1999. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of the House and made available to MPs from the Region. Further copies can be obtained from the Stationery Office at a cost of £18.

Standards Board

Mr. Tony Lloyd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made in establishing the Standards Board for England under the Local Government Act 2000; and if he will make a statement. [155447]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Last month, I appointed Tony Holland as the first chair of the Standards Board for England. I have today appointed Patricia Hughes as Deputy Chair, and John Bowers, Alan Doig, Margaret Pratt, Paul Sabapathy and Roger Taylor as members of the Board. I am in the process of making two further appointments from representatives of local authority elected members and hope to be able to announce these in the near future.

The appointments will provide the Standards Board with a range of expertise and skills from around the country, which will be crucial to the success of its future work. The members will bring wide experience of local government and the public and private sectors to the work of the Board. They will equip the Standards Board with the lay, legal, academic and audit expertise it will need as it faces up to the challenge of the new ethical framework and ensuring the highest standards of conduct in local government.


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