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TRANSPORT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND

THE REGIONS

East Coast Main Line

14. Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what progress has been made regarding the extension of the east coast main line franchise. [13565]

Mr. Jamieson: Negotiations between the Strategic Rail Authority and GNER are continuing. Discussions for extending franchises will focus on better rolling stock, refurbished stations and new services.

Rent Restructuring

15. Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he expects to announce his proposals for rent restructuring; and if he will make a statement. [13566]

Ms Keeble: My right hon. Friend the then Minister of State responsible for local government and the regions announced our proposals for rent restructuring in the December 2000 policy statement, "The Way Forward

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for Housing". We expect to announce shortly how the housing revenue account subsidy system is to change to reflect those proposals.

Inner-city Regeneration

16. Mr. Mudie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to encourage regeneration in the inner cities. [13567]

Ms Keeble: We are working closely with 24 partner towns and cities around the country to take forward the urban regeneration agenda. My Department also has a number of programmes including the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, New Deal for Communities and Neighbourhood and Street Warden schemes through which we are spending over £1.9 billion in deprived areas over the next three years.

Aircraft Noise

17. Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to control the nuisance of aircraft noise. [13568]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government's policy is to address the nuisance of aircraft noise by promoting improved standards for noise at source, through ICAO and other bodies; by encouraging good practice in noise control at airports through local consultation; and where appropriate by directly regulating operational noise controls.

Local Government Settlement

18. Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will use financial floors and ceilings in determining the local government settlement for 2002–03. [13569]

Dr. Whitehead: As I announced to the House on 20 July, we will be applying floors and ceilings to grant increases for authorities with education and social services responsibilities, and to police and fire authorities in the 2002–03 local government finance settlement. We are also considering how best to improve predictability and stability for shire districts in the 2002–03 settlement. We will announce the details of our proposals to the House at the start of the consultation on the provisional settlement.

Railtrack

19. Mr. Martlew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what rail infrastructure improvement targets Railtrack has met since privatisation. [13571]

26. James Purnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what rail infrastructure improvement targets Railtrack has met since privatisation. [13579]

Mr. Jamieson: No infrastructure improvement targets were set at the time of privatisation. Since 1998 the Rail Regulator has set a range of targets for Railtrack covering track quality, broken rails and overall performance. Of these, the company has met that relating to broken rails for 2000–01 and a small proportion of those covering track quality and operational performance.

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Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) on which dates, up to one month prior to 5 October, he received advice from the Treasury indicating funds were not likely to be approved to maintain the (a) viability and (b) liquidity of Railtrack plc; [16227]

Mr. Byers: As I made clear in my Statement to the House on 13 November 2001, Official Report, column 725, it was my decision, on behalf of the Government, on 5 October to refuse further funding for Railtrack plc, over and above the Regulated settlement and the 2 April Agreement. Treasury was kept fully informed of Railtrack's requests for unlimited funding.

Rail Network (Funding)

20. Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on future funding of the rail network. [13573]

24. Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on future funding of the rail network. [13577]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government, through their 10 Year Plan, remain committed to delivering a better, safer and more reliable railway network for the 21st century, and are prepared to spend over £30 billion over the next 10 years to achieve substantial improvements.

Telecommunications Masts

21. Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the planning procedures for erecting telecommunications masts in residential areas and near schools. [13574]

Ms Keeble: Mobile phone mast development in residential areas and near schools is subject to the normal telecommunications planning arrangements in place throughout England.

Our recently published Planning Policy Guidance Note 8 "Telecommunications" advises that before an operator submits an application for planning permission or prior approval for a mast near a school or college they should discuss the proposed development with the relevant body of the school or college.

Standard Spending Assessment (Wirral)

22. Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on his plans for the standard spending assessment for the Wirral. [13575]

Dr. Whitehead: We are currently determining the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for 2002–03. We will announce the resulting figures for all English local authorities at the time of the consultation on the provisional settlement, which will commence in late November or early December, as is normal.

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Elected Mayors

23. Mr. Kevin Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the adoption of local government constitutions involving elected mayors. [13576]

Dr. Whitehead: To date, referendums in six local authorities, including Doncaster, have supported the introduction of an elected mayor, and mayoral elections in those local authorities will be held in May 2002.

We have also received proposals from five other councils that include the holding of referendums on a range of dates between now and the beginning of February 2002.

Glas Cymru

25. Kevin Brennan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of Glas Cymru as a model for the new Railtrack. [13578]

Mr. Jamieson: We have indicated that we will be making a proposal to the administrator for a company limited by guarantee to take over Railtrack's role, but the Secretary of State will of course consider any proposal put to him by the Administrator to transfer the railway assets out of administration.

We are of course aware that Glas Cymru is based on the company limited by guarantee model, as are a large number of housing associations throughout the country. But our proposal will not be based on any one company model.

E-Government

27. Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps his Department is taking to assist local authorities to deliver e-Government. [13580]

Dr. Whitehead: Local authorities are making good progress towards meeting e-Government targets with the help of £350 million from the Local Government Online Programme. £24 million of this has been allocated this year to fund 24 of the 25 pathfinder projects; I expect to release a further amount shortly.

Local Government Finance

28. Kali Mountford: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he will make an announcement on the reform of local government finance. [13581]

Dr. Whitehead: The Local Government White Paper due to be published later this year will set our financial reforms in context of the wider modernisation agenda and will include a Daughter Document detailing our financial proposals.


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