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Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many projects in Coventry, funded by his Department, are designed to improve levels of recycling. 
Mr. Meacher: The provision of recycling facilities is the responsibility of local authorities and in this case Coventry city council. Major extra funding for local authorities was announced in the Spending Review 2000. By 2003-04 revenue support will have risen by £1.1 billion over 2000-01 provision, in the Environmental Protection and Cultural Services allocation, which includes waste. There will also be a £140 million ring fenced fund for waste and recycling, and £220 million for PFI waste schemes over the next three years.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress is being made to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in accordance with the Kyoto Protocol. 
Mr. Meacher: Under the Kyoto Protocol, the UK has agreed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5 per cent. relative to the 1990 level over the period 2008-12. The Government have recently published figures which show that in 1999 the UK's greenhouse gas emissions were 14.5 per cent. below 1990 levels. This represents a 6.5 per cent. reduction between 1998 and 1999.
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The Government have also published provisional estimates of carbon dioxide emissions in 2000. These show that emissions were 7.5 per cent. below 1990 levels in 2000, consistent with the general downward trend in emissions shown in the UK Climate Change Programme. However, emissions increased by about 2 per cent. between 1999 and 2000, mainly as a result of increased use of coal in power stations because of maintenance and repair at nuclear and Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power stations and higher gas prices towards the end of the year.
The UK Climate Change Programme, published in November 2000, sets out a range of policies and measures that could reduce the UK's greenhouse gas emissions to 23 per cent. below 1990 levels in 2010, significantly beyond the UK's target under the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many organisations indicated their views on the exclusion of elements of housing costs from the calculation of household income used to define fuel poverty (a) by making submissions to the consultation on the new HEES scheme and (b) by appending their names to other submissions; and how many organisations supported (i) the exclusion of housing costs, (ii) the inclusion of housing costs, (iii) other suggestions and (iv) making no comment. 
Mr. Meacher: The consultation document on the New Home Energy Efficiency Scheme invited comment on whether the calculation of household income should exclude any element of housing costs such as rent or mortgage payments.
A total of 252 responses to the consultation document were received. Some organisations submitted both an individual response as well as appending their names to a response from an umbrella organisation in the area.
The consultation draft of the UK Fuel Poverty Strategy shows the number of fuel poor both on the basis of making no allowance for housing costs in the calculation of household income, and by excluding any Housing Benefit or Income Support for Mortgage Interest (ISMI) payments. Comments are invited on the draft strategy by 31 May 2001.
Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many businesses in rural areas have applied for rate relief under the terms of the Rural Taskforce package announced on 20 March. 
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Mr. Meacher: It is for local authorities to operate the discretionary hardship rate relief scheme for businesses affected by foot and mouth disease in rural areas and take up will depend on what type of scheme is introduced by the authority. It is too early to estimate how many businesses will apply for these schemes.
Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many of the measures announced by the Minister for the Environment in his statement on foot and mouth of 20 March 2001, Official Report, columns 191-93, have been implemented in full; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: Of the measures announced on 20th March, we have taken the statutory measures necessary to introduce additional financial support for local authority discretionary hardship rate relief schemes to help businesses affected by foot and mouth disease in rural areas and issued guidance to authorities. Implementation is for authorities and many have announced their intention to introduce a scheme. The deferral of tax, VAT and NIC payments is being considered on a case by case basis in response to applications by business. The Small Business Service is providing advice and business support and extension of the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme was announced on 6th April. The details of operation of the matched funding scheme for charities were announced by the Countryside Agency on 28th March.
Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received from the Local Government Association about (a) the cost of district councils' contribution to the rate relief package announced on 20 March and (b) the list of councils whose business ratepayers are eligible for relief. 
Mr. Meacher: I and Ministerial colleagues have met with representatives of the Local Government Association to discuss operation of the discretionary hardship rate relief scheme for businesses affected by foot and mouth disease in rural areas. Members of the Association have put forward concerns on the application of the scheme to larger businesses, the 5 per cent. contribution made by local authorities, and additions to the list of 151 authorities to whom the scheme applies.
Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received from district councils about the cost of their contribution to the rate relief package announced on 20 March. 
Mr. Meacher: I have received representations from district councils with mixed urban and rural areas who have sought to be included with the 151 rural authorities who will benefit from the higher rate of contribution to the costs of hardship rate relief which I have made available.
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Mr. Meacher: The Rural Taskforce has now met four times under my chairmanship, and the fifth meeting will be on Wednesday 11 April. The costs involved in providing support for the Taskforce are being met from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' running costs budget.
Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what measures he is taking to ensure rail passengers affected by the recent disruptions are compensated; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hill: Late last year, train operators announced two compensation packages totalling £70 million for passengers with monthly or longer season tickets whose journeys were severely disrupted by speed restrictions, Railtrack's track renewal programme and widespread flooding. Weekly and daily ticket holders can claim compensation for delays under their train operator's Passenger Charter. Bidders for replacement franchises will be expected to improve on current Passenger Charter obligations.
Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish the grounds on which the Strategic Rail Authority agreed to Virgin Trains' proposals for a 10 per cent. increase in rail fares. 
Mr. Hill: The increases announced by Virgin relate in the main to unregulated fares. Under the terms of its franchise, any increase in unregulated fares is a commercial matter for Virgin. However, in the light of recent disruption on the rail network, and the wish to attract more passengers to rail, the Government find Virgin's announcement regrettable. The Strategic Rail Authority will be meeting representatives from Virgin shortly to discuss the matter.
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