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Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire will receive a reply to his letter of 1 June on behalf of his constituent Mr. Ogles. [3563]

Mr. Spellar: I have now replied to the right hon. Member.

Multi-modal Studies

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement about the multi-modal study programme. [4026]

Mr. Byers: The Multi-Modal Studies are looking at some of the most severe transport problems around the country. They are considering the contribution all modes of transport can make to solving these problems. They are also looking at the contribution existing, previously considered and new transport infrastructure can make.

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The key objective is to give decision makers the information needed to identify tailored, integrated and sustainable transport solutions. The studies will drive major investment decisions over the period covered by our 10-Year Plan for Transport.

The studies are founded on our New Approach To Appraisal, launched in 1998 in our Integrated Transport White Paper. They weigh strategies and their component projects according to their economic, environmental, safety, accessibility and integration impacts. This ensures that costs and benefits are fully explored and understood before decisions are taken. This new approach to decision making is an important step forward. We will consider the contribution all types of transport can make to solving problems, not just roads.

Each study is addressing very different problems so the strategies and the decisions that emerge will be unique. The impact on the environment must be a key consideration and in each case we will have to weigh up the benefits of a particular road or rail link and balance it against the environmental impact. The conclusion will vary in each case. No individual decision will set a precedent for others to follow.

Decisions will be taken through the new arrangements for the development of Regional Transport Strategies within Regional Planning Guidance. Ministers need not accept all recommendations from Regional Planning Bodies. There may be instances where strategies or individual projects raise issues of national importance. Where this is the case my priority will be to ensure that final decisions reflect, and are properly co-ordinated with, our wider national policy objectives.

South Coast Corridor Multi-modal Study

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if the Isle of Wight is covered by the terms of reference of the South Coast Corridor Multi-modal Study; and for what reason no representative of the Isle of Wight is a member of the steering group of the study. [3701]

Mr. Jamieson: The overall aim of the study is to investigate congestion, safety and environmental problems of transport on the south coast between Southampton and Thanet. The Isle of Wight is not included in the core study area but is included in the study's "Area of Influence" to enable assessment of the effects that any proposed schemes might have on the wider area. Although no representatives from the Isle of Wight are present on the study's Steering Group there is a wide-ranging consultation exercise currently being undertaken which enables input from all interested parties. A number of representatives from the Isle of Wight were invited to a consultative working group in Fareham on 29 June and there is an opportunity to feed into the process via newsletters, and a website. In addition a briefing meeting for local MPs has been arranged for 17 July: the Member has been invited.

Ms Bridget Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he has considered the recommendations of the South East England Regional Assembly following completion of the Access to Hastings multi-modal study; and if he will make a statement. [4025]

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Mr. Spellar: The Secretary of State has today replied to the Chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly, and I am placing a copy of his letter in the House of Commons Library.

Multi-modal studies represent a wholly new approach to the consideration of transport provision. The Access to Hastings Study is the first of these multi-modal studies to have been completed, and I am grateful to all who have contributed to it.

The study contains a large number of recommendations designed to relieve congestion and safety problems in Kent and East Sussex and to contribute to the regeneration of the economy in the area around Hastings and Bexhill. I have considered the study's recommendations in light of the guidance for handling multi-modal studies outlined in the Secretary of State's parliamentary answer of today. I am able to accept most of these recommendations, although in some areas further work is required to develop proposals before any finding commitments can be given.

The study has shown a wide measure of agreement that, in place of the proposed six lane off-line scheme on the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury, the Highways Agency should consider the feasibility of a four lane on-line scheme. I have asked the Agency to progress that work. There is also broad consensus that the proposed A259 Pevensey to Bexhill scheme may now be dropped, given the safety improvements which have now been put in place. I have asked the Highways Agency to continue to monitor safety on this stretch of road.

I have also asked the Agency to prepare a draft programme of work to identify possible further measures on the A21 South of Pembury. I have stressed, however, that this work will need to bear in mind the environmental sensitivity of the area.

The study has demonstrated the potential merits of public transport investment in bus and rail. GoVia has agreed to the electrification of the Ashford to Hastings rail route and to looking at the scope for further improvements. As a result of this study, the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) have also agreed to look at improvements to the service between Wadhurst and Tonbridge and investigate what further measures are required on the route to provide faster, better quality of service. I have asked the SRA to work with the local councils to consider proposals for a new station at Glyne Gap and proposals for Ore-Bexhill metro rail service.

I am also inviting East Sussex county council to come forward with well thought out proposals for improving bus services in Hastings to tackle regeneration. They are now reviewing their Local Transport Plan and I look forward to considering their proposals.

Although I recognise the strong views held by the Regional Assembly and others in favour of the proposed A259 Western and Eastern bypasses, I have decided not to proceed with these schemes. The study did not build a convincing regeneration case for the by-passes—it concluded that although the by-passes could possibly help to generate employment in the area this would not necessarily help those in most need. There would be reduced congestion in some areas of the town but the position would get worse in other areas. Against these rather weak arguments we had to place the evidently severe implications for the environment—two Sites of

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Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and an internationally recognised wetland surround Hastings.

I believe, therefore, we must look for alternative means to prevent the further decline of the area and to optimise its economic potential. Regeneration is an important priority for the Government—some wards in Hastings suffer from some of the most severe deprivation in England—but we do not believe the by-passes are the solution. A regeneration strategy for Hastings needs to be developed which shows clearly how transport and other measures may be implemented to ensure a sustainable economic future of the area. I have asked my officials to work closely with the South East England Development Agency and local partners on that.

Representation of the People Regulations

Linda Perham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he intends to lay the draft Representation of the People (England and Wales) (Amendment No. 2) Regulations. [4024]

Mr. Raynsford: The consultation on the draft regulations, which ended last month, has shown that there remain widespread and often conflicting concerns about the proposals. The Government, therefore, do not consider it right to proceed now with the proposed draft, and as discussed with the Electoral Commission intend to consult further with interested parties with a view, subject to parliamentary approval, of making regulations in the autumn which will provide for a full and edited electoral register with effect from the 2002 canvass. The Government believe that this will allow an orderly and well-planned introduction of the new arrangements.

To allow this year's electoral registration canvass to take place on the existing basis, we intend to make as soon as possible, subject to parliamentary approval of a draft, regulations prescribing for this canvass a registration form in the traditional format.

Affordable Housing

Ms Bridget Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if local authorities can use Major Repairs Allowance to fund new affordable housing. [4104]

Ms Keeble: I refer to the answer that I gave in the Housing (London) debate on 3 July 2001, Official Report, column 21WH, which is unfortunately incorrect—the reference to:

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