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Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many penalty points have been accumulated for each PFI road scheme in his Department; for which reason each of these points was awarded; what penalties were invoked; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The overall performance of our PFI contracts is good. There have however been instances when it has been necessary to award penalty points for failure to achieve the required level of performance. The use of the penalty point system has been successful in improving poor performance as contractors have been anxious to avoid contractual warning letters and to face the risk of termination. The contracts are subject to confidentiality agreements and so the information cannot
18 Jul 2001 : Column: 204W
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what research his Department has undertaken into the potential for using powers under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to establish a Planning Inquiry Commission; and if he will publish the results. 
Ms Keeble: The Department has considered the potential for establishing a Planning Inquiry Commission in the context of handling decisions on major infrastructure projects, but has undertaken no research.
Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) if he will set out the terms of reference for the role of the Green Minister in his Department; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions on what date the public inquiry into the appeal by the Secretary of State for Health in respect of the site at St. Leonard's hospital, Dorset is to be heard. 
Ms Keeble: Although this appeal was received in the Planning Inspectorate on 1 June 2000, work on it has been suspended following a direction to the appellant by the then Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). This has now been received and the Inspectorate will shortly make arrangements for the inquiry, once the appellant has carried out the necessary publicity for the EIA.
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Ms Keeble: Outside London, the setting of bus fares is a matter for individual bus operators and they have a commercial incentive to keep fares at an affordable level, in order to attract passengers. In general, bus fares have tended to rise in line with the growth in average earnings. Local authorities have powers to arrange travel concessions for specified groups. But as part of our commitment to ensuring that elderly and disabled people have access to affordable transport, we have guaranteed them half fares on local bus services under the Transport Act 2000. The Travel Concessions (Eligibility) Bill, which is currently being debated in the other place, will go further and equalise at 60 the age at which both men and women become entitled to concessionary travel.
Buses have a vital role to play in our transport system. We have brought forward a range of policies to make bus travel more reliable and attractive for the passenger, and are supporting this with substantially increased capital funding. We are confident that this will lead to increased patronage, which in turn should help to keep fares down.
David Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list for each week from Monday 23 July to Monday 8 October which departmental Ministers will be on duty (a) in the United Kingdom and (b) in London. 
Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will examine the practice of purchasing leases in order to demand from householders that they insure the houses as directed by the new leaseholders or buy the right to choose their own insurer. 
Ms Keeble: We are aware of and deplore this practice. Leaseholders do already have rights which allow them to address such abuses. They are able to purchase their landlord's interests under the Leasehold Reform Act 1967, thereby removing his control over the insurance of the property. They can also apply to a leasehold valuation tribunal to challenge the landlord's choice of nominated insurer under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. Measures to improve the operation of these rights form part of our work on leasehold reform and improving the tribunals. We are also looking separately at further ways in which this practice might be addressed.
John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he has had with the European Commission about an exemption from the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 to allow the import of American vehicles with small number plates; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Rammell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will provide financial assistance to Epping Forest district council under the Bellwin scheme in respect of costs incurred for the unexploded bomb incident on 7 and 8 November 2000. 
Mr. Raynsford: I am satisfied that financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme is justified in the case of Epping Forest district council given the exceptional nature of the incident. A scheme will therefore be established under section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Grant will be paid to cover 85 per cent. of the eligible costs above a threshold, which the authority has incurred in dealing with the unexploded bomb.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Prime Minister on what dates the Government have published their annual report; what the total cost of producing and publishing each report has been; when the next report will be published; and if he will make a statement. 
|Publication date||Total costs (£)|
|Government annual report|
|199798||30 July 1998||250,000|
|199899||26 July 1999||180,000|
|19992000||13 July 2000||125,000|
The Prime Minister: During the first six months of 2001 I received 253,230 letters and cards from members of the public. The number of letters and cards I receive varies significantly from week to week.
18 Jul 2001 : Column: 207W
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