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Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what funding his Department has made available for research into improving airport security in the last year; what criteria are used to assess bids for such funding; how much has been allocated for the 200102 financial year; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: In the current financial year, £1.67 million has been allocated for research into methods for improving transport security. A similar sum will be made available for the next financial year. In view of the recent events, research priorities have been reassessed and we are also considering whether additional expenditure this year and next could produce significant benefits.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to talk to the National Association of Local Councils about an enhanced role for parish and town councils in the planning process. 
Ms Keeble [holding answer 18 October 2001]: The Rural White Paper (paragraph 12.3.2) noted that town and village councils could set out plans for their areas which could be endorsed in supplementary planning guidance. We will shortly be consulting on fundamental changes to the planning system.
Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many motor vehicle registration numbers remained unissued at 1 September in the series: (a) two letters, up to four digits, (b) three letters, up to three digits, (c) up to four digits, two letters, (d) up to three digits, three letters, (e) three letters, up to three digits, year suffix and (f) year prefix, up to three digits, three letters for (i) England, (ii) Scotland and (iii) Wales. 
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Exact figures cannot be provided as some marks from unissued series have been allocated periodically over the years, for instance to imported vehicles or made available through the DVLA sale of marks scheme. Information on the number of suffix or prefix combinations left unissued or details of the marks currently unassigned in England, Wales and Scotland is not available. It is estimated that there are hundreds of millions of such marks.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what assessment he has made of the role of scheme managers or wardens of sheltered housing schemes following the introduction of "supporting people"; 
The Government are committed to supporting the independence of older people, both in their own homes, and in sheltered accommodation, if this is their choice. Local authorities are responsible for assessing housing and support needs in their local areas. Best value reviews of services to older people, and service level reviews of sheltered housing which receive "supporting people" grant, will together help local authorities ensure that sheltered housing provides high quality accommodation and support where it is needed most.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent discussions he has had with (a) the Local Government Association, and (b) representatives of smaller, district housing authorities, on housing stock transfer. 
Ms Keeble: Ministers in the Department have not met those parties recently to discuss housing stock transfer. However, the Department's officials are willing to meet any authority which is considering stock transfer as a housing strategy option, and they keep in constant touch with those authorities already on the housing transfer programme.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list the bids he has received from bodies other than local authorities under the key worker housing grant scheme involving NHS staff; and for what amounts. 
Ms Keeble: There was an excellent response to the invitation to submit bids for the £250 million Starter Home Initiative funding to help key workers in areas where high house prices are undermining recruitment and retention. More than 200 bids were received with a total
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value of £830 million. 175 of these bids, with a value of £580 million, were invited to proceed to the second stage of the bid process.
My right hon. Friend announced on 6 September the allocation of £230 million of the funding for 95 schemes. The schemes will provide assistance to 8,000 key workers, including 4,000 NHS staff, to purchase their first homes.
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to grant public service obligation orders for the Inverness-London air routes; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The DTLR recently received a proposal from the Scottish Executive outlining the case for the imposition of a public service obligation on the Inverness to London route. This proposal is currently being analysed by the DTLR, while taking the criteria set out in European Regulation 2408/92 into account.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what measures he is taking to secure the safety of passenger luggage on flights; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: All hold baggage on international flights from UK airports is searched or screened before being loaded for flight. All hand baggage is searched or screened before it is taken into the restricted zone of an airport, and may be subjected to secondary search at the departure gate.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what measures are in place to prevent the abuse of the use of blue badges meant for disabled drivers; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Keeble: There is a wide variety of powers available to local authorities who administer the scheme for tackling the abuse of blue badges. I have placed in the Library a copy of our information sheet, which sets out the options. At present:
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In the meantime, it is, of course, open to anybody to bring instances of abuse to the attention of the police, traffic wardens or the appropriate local authority and we will continue to work with these bodies and stakeholder groups to minimise the potential for abuse and misuse.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if it will be his Department's policy to allow people living in sheltered accommodation to opt out of the care element in the service charge. 
Ms Keeble: The "supporting people" programme, which starts in April 2003, will provide a new framework for planning and financing support services, including those provided in sheltered housing. Local authorities will administer the new programme, working in partnership with other agencies, service providers and those using or needing services. As part of this work, authorities will be expected to review existing services regularly and consider whether any changes should be made. Whether or not a particular sheltered housing scheme is provided on the basis that all the residents living there receive the same services will be entirely a matter for local decision.
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