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Discretionary Services

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) if he will work with the Local Government Association in identifying discretionary services for which the Government would be prepared to give local authorities the freedom to charge; what services are under consideration; when a decision on the services affected will be made; and what reference to these proposals will be made in a White Paper; [8450]

Dr. Whitehead: In the Green Paper "Modernising Local Government Finance" (September 2000) we stated our intention to legislate to enable authorities to charge for discretionary services, including those provided under the Local Government Act 2000 to promote the well being of their areas. We are working with the Local Government Association in determining the scope of this new freedom to charge. The forthcoming Local Government White Paper will set out how this will be taken forward.

Bus Drivers

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to introduce legislation to bring the working conditions of bus drivers into line with conditions for HGV and coach drivers. [8390]

Ms Keeble: We plan to implement EU Directive 2000–34, adopted last year, by 1 August 2003. As a result, all drivers in the road transport sector will be entitled to a 48 hour average working week, four weeks paid annual leave and annual health checks for night and shift workers. Drivers who wish to work longer average hours may do so, by signing an individual opt out.

We announced in the White Paper on integrated transport that we would consult on repeal of the UK drivers' hours rules—under which most bus drivers operate—in favour of the European Union rules. This consultation has subsequently been delayed by discussions, still continuing, on another draft EU Directive on working time in road transport.

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will extend the proposed European Working Time Directive to local bus drivers; and if he will make a statement. [8284]

Ms Keeble: This proposal would of course require an amendment to the current exemptions from the Working Time Directive. This would be a matter for all member states subject to qualified majority voting. The UK

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Government have no current plans to propose such an amendment. However, we announced in the White Paper on integrated transport that we would consult on repeal of the UK drivers' hours rules—under which most bus drivers operate—in favour of the European Union rules. This consultation has subsequently been delayed by discussions, still continuing, on another draft EU Directive on working time in road transport.

Working Time Directive

Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will amend the exemption clauses of the Working Time Directive relating to urban bus drivers. [8670]

Ms Keeble: Any amendments to the exemptions from the Working Time Directive would be a matter for all member states under qualified majority voting. The UK Government have no current plans to propose such an amendment. However, we announced in the White Paper on integrated transport that we would consult on repeal of the UK drivers' hours rules—under which most bus drivers operate—in favour of the European Union rules. This consultation has subsequently been delayed by discussions, still continuing, on another draft EU Directive on working time in road transport.

Low Cost Housing

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what percentage of the proceeds of the disposal of former Commission for New Towns land is earmarked for rented and low cost housing. [8389]

Ms Keeble: The Commission for the New Towns (CNT) is now part of English Partnerships (EP). Although no specific percentage of its resources is set aside for affordable housing, EP has provided, and will continue to provide, land at nil or low cost for rented and low cost housing. Over the last three years, EP has provided nearly 20 hectares of land resulting in the construction of 597 affordable housing units. Further major schemes are in the pipeline which could give rise to another 1,000 over the next few years.

Electoral Reform

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what mechanisms he has put in place (a) to review recommendations under the Jenkins report and (b) to assess whether changes might be made to the electoral system for the House. [8283]

Dr. Whitehead: In our manifesto, which sets out our intentions for this Parliament, we said we would review our experience of the new voting systems for the devolved Administrations, the European Parliament, and the London Assembly along with the recommendations of the Jenkins report to assess whether changes might be made to the electoral system for the House of Commons. That remains our intention. The timing and structure of any review has yet to be decided.

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East Coast Main Line

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what is the basis of the appointment by the Strategic Rail Authority of consultants to examine the future of the East Coast Line; what is the remit of the consultants; what is the deadline for their conclusions; what are the implications for the future of the franchise on the route; and if he will make a statement. [8276]

Mr. Jamieson: There has been no new appointment to examine the future of the East Coast Line. The Strategic Rail Authority announced on 24 August that W. S. Atkins Consultants Ltd. had been awarded the contract to ascertain the need for, and viability of, a new high speed line between London and Scotland. The feasibility study will also establish possible route options and is expected to take a year to complete. The need remains to press ahead with the planned upgrade of the East Coast Main Line as the high speed line, if approved, would be a project for 2010 onwards.

West Coast Main Line

Mr. Russell Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what action he has taken to ensure that Phase II of the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line will go ahead. [8503]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 19 October 2001]: Work on the West Coast Main Line upgrade will continue, and we are discussing with the administrators and the Strategic Rail Authority the best way of carrying it forward, without prejudice to the outcome of the public inquiries into specific elements of the project. The Government remain committed to providing a revitalised rail network in the UK, and the upgrade of the West Coast Main Line is an integral part of that commitment. It will not be put at risk by Railtrack going into administration.

Homelessness

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what estimate he has made of the number of homeless people in each of the last three years. [8321]

Ms Keeble: The number of households accepted by local authorities in England under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 and 1996 Housing Acts as being eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need, was as follows:

Number
1998–99104,150
1999–2000106,130
2000–01114,350

Source:

DTLR P1(E) housing return (quarterly)


National and regional information on local authorities' activity under statutory homelessness provisions is summarised in a quarterly Statistical Release published by the Department. Copies are available in the Library, and also via the Department's website. The latest edition, published on 12 September, presents statistics up to the end of June 2001.

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Urban Summit

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what progress has been made in organising an Urban Summit in 2002; and what budget has been allocated by his Department for this event. [8162]

Ms Keeble: Planning for the Urban Summit has already begun. My officials are currently considering options for venues, speakers and partners. The Summit is to take place in the autumn of 2002, in the next financial year, for which budgets have not yet been allocated.

Urban Task Force

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will estimate the expenditure made by his Department in implementing the recommendations of the Urban Task Force. [8161]

Ms Keeble: Recommendations of the Urban Task Force are being implemented by DTLR and other Government Departments in numerous ways. This involves both new and existing programmes and initiatives as well as fiscal measures. Many recommendations are implemented through guidance to other bodies or through reorientation of existing policy. Therefore it is not possible to identify the proportion of DTLR spending specifically relevant to implementation of these recommendations.

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list the recommendations of the Urban Task Force which have been implemented to date. [8160]

Ms Keeble: The Annex to the Urban White Paper lists the 105 recommendations of the Urban Task Force and the Government's response to them, including how we have taken them forward.

Many of the task force recommendations were incorporated into the Urban White Paper. DTLR's website includes an "Urban White Paper Implementation Plan" which provides an account of progress to date and the key things we aim to achieve over the next two years.


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