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John Austin: To ask the Prime Minister when he will reply to the letter of 10 October from the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead regarding Palestine; if he will make a statement; and if he will place copies of the correspondence in the Library. 
19 Oct 2001 : Column: 1363W
The Prime Minister: The Social Exclusion Unit is a cross-departmental Unit of civil servants and staff from outside Government that delivers policy projects on specific social exclusion issues. It is currently working on four policy projects: on reducing re-offending among ex-prisoners; young runaways; raising the educational attainment of children in care; and, transport and social exclusion. The Unit reports to me through the Deputy Prime Minister.
For details about the Delivery Unit and the Downing Street Policy Directorate, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) today at column 1361W.
Mr. Collins: To ask the Prime Minister if he will institute a review of civil defence preparations in the light of the events of 11 September; and if he will publish a summary of its conclusions. 
As the Prime Minister told the House on 8 October 2001, Official Report, column 811, since the events of 11 September our civil defence arrangements have been under active scrutiny and review. Plans are in place to protect our key facilities and utilities. As Chair of the Civil Contingencies Committee, I have drawn together key Departments, the devolved Administrations, the police and the security service to drive this work forward. For reasons of security, the Government's contingency plans are not publicised but we will keep the House informed of any major development which concerns public safety and a number of Departments have already issued guidance to key individuals and organisations.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what measures will be put in place to manage national tracks and signals; when he expects to establish a new company to take over from Railtrack; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Jamieson: I refer the hon. Member to the Statement made to the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions on Monday 15 October 2001, Official Report, column 954.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what provision he has made in the Railway Administration Order in respect of Railtrack plc for the planned upgrades of the west coast main line. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Government remain committed to providing a revitalised rail network in the UK, and the west coast main line upgrade is an integral part of that commitment. Work on the west coast main line project will continue and we will be discussing with the Railway Administrator the best way of ensuring that the project is taken forward.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list the number, value and location of properties newly leased in each of the last five years by his Department, including and distinguishing between the Department itself, its next step agencies and its non-departmental public bodies, differentiating between purchases made as a result of the creation of new bodies and those purchases made by established bodies. 
Mr. Byers: Since 1 April 1996, the Department and its Agencies have entered into leases on 225 properties. One hundred and eighty-nine of these added new properties to the DTLR portfolio and 36 were lease renewals. The total annual rental value of these leases is £12,151,310new property accounts for £11,974,186 and renewed leases account for £177,124.
All of these leases were taken by existing organisations, with the exception of the Rent Service. This became an Executive Agency on 1 October 1999 and all 59 of its existing properties transferred to DTLR in 1999, with newly assigned leases.
19 Oct 2001 : Column: 1365W
the Government have to review planning policy guidance issued to councils regarding the siting of proposed new incinerators. 
Ms Keeble: None. Comprehensive planning policy guidance is provided in Planning Policy Guidance note 10, 'Planning and Waste Management', which was issued in September 1999. It already provides advice about how the land use planning system should contribute to achieving sustainable waste management, through the careful siting of new waste management facilities including, where appropriate, incinerators.
Mr. Jamieson: Stage 2 of the Government's study into air travel and health was completed in June and a copy of the consultants' report has been placed on the Department's website. We are actively considering how to implement its main recommendations. In particular, urgent consideration is being given to possible collaboration with the World Health Organisation's recently announced global study of deep vein thrombosis.
Ms Keeble: The rough sleepers unit is charged with delivering the Prime Minister's target to reduce the numbers of rough sleepers across England to as near zero as possible but by at least two thirds by 2002.
The unit published its second progress report in the summer which shows the significant impact the "Coming in from the Cold" strategy has made. The number of people sleeping rough in England has fallen by 62 per cent. over the last three years. It is estimated that there are 703 people sleeping rough in England in 2001 compared with 1,850 in 1998.
The unit is currently carrying out research and consulting organisations and individuals that impact on the strategy, with a view to developing a future strategy that will keep the number of rough sleepers as near to zero as possible.
Ms Keeble: My Department's Public Service Agreement target on rough sleeping is to reduce the number of people sleeping rough by two thirds by April 2002, compared with June 1998, and to keep the number
19 Oct 2001 : Column: 1366W
at or below this level thereafter. The rough sleepers unit is responsible for meeting this target and had achieved a 62 per cent. reduction by June 2001.
The recently established bed-and-breakfast unit's main objective is to reduce the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for homeless families with children. Once the unit has reviewed the current situation and is clear on base-lines, it will set clear and measurable targets.
My Department has given a commitment to prepare a national homelessness strategy, which will set out action to tackle homelessness by central and local government as well as other key stakeholders in the housing and voluntary sectors. As part of consultation on this strategy, which ended on 19 October 2001, views were invited on possible homelessness targets in addition to those on rough sleeping and bed-and-breakfast accommodation. My Department is now evaluating the responses.
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