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Mr. Robert Ainsworth: The latest available information, based on data supplied by local authorities in their annual Housing Investment Programme returns, indicates that 763,900 residential properties were vacant in England on 1 April 2000. A level of vacancy is a usual feature of the housing market, reflecting turnover and movement within the stock.
Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what provision he is making for the testing of roadside emissions equipment and for the training of its operators. 
Mr. Hill: Roadside exhaust emissions testing is already carried out by personnel from the Department's Vehicle Inspectorate. They are fully trained to carry out this work and use the same specification equipment for testing as that which is used in MOT testing stations.
We plan to extend the power to carry out roadside exhaust emissions checks to local authorities which have declared Air Quality Management Areas designated under section 83 of the Environment Act 1995. We hope that this will be possible from April 2002, and we plan to consult further with interested parties on detailed issues such as training of personnel over the next few months.
Mr. Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the Lead Shot Legislation (England) Review Group will report; and what plans the Government have to take forward the group's recommendations. 
Mr. Meacher: I have just received the report from the Lead Shot Legislation (England) Review Group. The report is the unanimous view of the organisations represented on the Group. The recommendations include proposals for some changes to the Schedules to the Lead Shot Legislation and my Department will shortly be carrying out a consultation exercise on the recommendations.
Shona McIsaac: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will issue directions to the Civil Aviation Authority under section 66 of the Transport Act 2000; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Prescott: Following consultation with the Secretary of State for Defence, I have today given directions to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in respect of their conduct of their air navigation functions under Chapter III of Part I of the Transport Act 2000. The directions set out how the CAA is to:
The Secretary of State for Defence and I regard airspace policy as a crucial component of the joint and integrated provision of air traffic services, to which the Government attach considerable importance. We intend, therefore, to agree together on:
Ms Blears: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he has reached a decision following his consultation paper on smoking in taxis issued in October 1999. 
Mr. Hill: I have given careful thought to all the responses received and, while recognising the merits of the arguments put forward for all the options proposed, I have decided that on balance the case is not sufficiently strong to make a commitment for legislation to prohibit smoking in taxis in some way when parliamentary time permits. I am satisfied that the present voluntary approach whereby taxi drivers have the choice of asking passengers not to smoke for the most part works satisfactorily and accordingly should continue.
Mr. Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the joint inquiry report into train protection systems chaired by Lord Cullen and Professor Uff is expected to report. 
Mr. Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to publish proposals for the use of the powers contained in section 16 of the Local Government Act 1999; and if he will make a statement. 
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Ms Armstrong: I have today published "Working with Others to Achieve Best Value: A Consultation Paper on Changes to the Legal Framework to Facilitate Partnership Working". This sets out proposals to provide new partnership powers to local councils under section 16 of the Local Government Act 1999. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
The proposals are designed to encourage innovative partnerships with the private, voluntary and public sectors under Best Value and ultimately the delivery of better local services for all. They will give councils a toolkit of partnership powers to use in the pursuit of Best Value service delivery.
To encourage joint working, the new powers will allow councils to provide grants, loans and guarantees, and to second or loan staff to and from anyone in the public, private and voluntary sectors in the pursuit of Best Value public services. The proposed new powers will allow councils to pool budgets and take the lead role in commissioning goods and service.
The proposals will also provide council with a general power to form and participate in corporate bodies and to allow delegation of their functions to council-controlled companies. The proposals published today will extend the circumstances in which councils can supply the full range of goods and services to partners, whether in the public or private sectors.
In the case of waste management, these new powers will remove the current requirements which force councils to either divest to the private sector or transfer to "arms' length" the agency that provides this service. Councils will be allowed to determine whatever method of service delivery provides Best Value, including keeping those services in-house.
Mr. Lansley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the television, newspaper and radio advertising and other promotional campaigns conducted by (a) his Department, (b) its agencies and (c) its departmental public bodies, in each of the past five years, showing for each the expenditure incurred by his Department; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Wilson [holding answer 12 March 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) on 8 March 2001, Official Report, columns 278-79W. This sets out expenditure incurred by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
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The FCO has responsibility for a total of six Executive non-departmental public bodies: the British Council, British Association for Central and Eastern Europe, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Britain-Russia Centre, Great Britain-China Centre and the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission. Aside from routine advertising in the domestic press for recruitment purposes, none of these organisations has undertaken promotional campaigns in the United Kingdom in the past five years.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what financial assistance he has provided to Chairman Arafat in seeking to control the violence in the Palestinian Authority. 
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to Chairman Arafat regarding action by the Palestinian Authority against Force 17. 
Mr. Wilson: The British Government continue to urge both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take immediate parallel steps to address the current crisis. We expect both parties to insist on restraint and disciplined behaviour by their military and security personnel and to restrain activities by extremists.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the percentage of Palestinians in the (a) West bank and (b) Gaza strip living under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority. 
Mr. Wilson: Areas of the Occupied Territories for which the Palestinian Authority has civil powers and responsibilities (c. 40 per cent. of the West bank and c. 70 per cent. of the Gaza strip) encompass approximately 95 per cent. of Palestinians in the West bank and all Palestinians in the Gaza strip. These figures do not take account of the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem which also remains under Israeli military occupation (c.210,000--according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 1997 census).
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