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Rail Passengers

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps his Department has taken to improve the accountability of (a) customer views and (b) customer satisfaction on the railways; and if he will make a statement. [23195]

Mr. Jamieson: All train operating companies are required to carry out regular Customer Satisfaction Surveys to monitor passengers' perception of the quality of service they offer. If satisfaction falls below benchmarks (based on the results of surveys carried out at the time of franchising) the companies can be required to produce an action plan to remedy the problem. The Strategic Rail Authority have initiated a new National Passenger Survey (NPS) which asks passengers nationwide the same questions about service quality. This enables the Authority to compare companies against one another. As with the existing Customer Satisfaction Surveys, benchmarks for the NPS will be set in new franchise agreements.

Out-of-town Shopping Centres

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many out-of-town shopping centres have received planning consent since 1997. [22902]

Ms Keeble: Since 1997 only eight out-of-town centres have been given planning permission. Out-of-town centres have been defined by the definition used for the sustainable development indicator for the location of new retail floorspace. "Out-of-town" means outside town centres and includes sites in urban areas. Centre includes all purpose-built shopping developments and factory outlet centres over 50,000 sq ft gross lettable area.

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New Homes (Greater London)

Martin Linton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many new homes were built in Greater London between 2000 and 2001; and how many are (a) planned and (b) proposed between 2001 and 2003. [22948]

Ms Keeble: The number of new dwellings built in London in the financial year 2000–01 was 14,200. The number built in the following six months, to September 2001, was 6,300. Information on how many dwellings will be built by March 2003 is not available.

Worcestershire SSA

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the adequacy of Worcestershire's standard spending assessment for fire services; and if he will make a statement. [23219]

Dr. Whitehead: Worcestershire county council is a constituent local authority of the Hereford and Worcester fire authority. For 2002–03 the fire standard spending assessment for the constituent authorities will in total be, provisionally, £16.004 million. This represents an increase of 4.9 per cent. on the current year (for Worcestershire county council this represents an increase of 4.8 per cent). It compares with an average increase of 4 per cent. for fire authorities in England.

Boundary Changes (Deprivation Funding)

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of boundary changes on eligibility for deprivation related funds; and what was the outcome of that assessment. [23088]

Ms Keeble: We are aware that there is a high level of change in ward boundaries in England. We are intending to commission a project shortly that will explore, along with other issues, the extent of such change since the Indices of Deprivation 2000 were developed.

Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he has had with other departments on the impact of boundary changes on eligibility for deprivation related funds. [23091]

Ms Keeble: The impact of the high level of changes in ward boundaries in England has been recognised. There is work under way, led by the Office for National Statistics, to minimise the amount of change. In the longer term the intention is to develop a new system of geography to support deprivation related data which will not be subject to such change. This will be based on Census Output Areas.

Mobile Phones

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to deter motor vehicle drivers from using mobile phones while driving. [23081]

Mr. Jamieson: The Highway Code makes it clear that drivers should never use hand-held mobile phones while driving and that it is best not to use hands-free phones.

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The Government will continue to educate drivers about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. The Department produces a leaflet, "mobile phones and driving", which is used by road safety officers and the police in local campaigns. We are currently preparing a new publicity campaign for early next year.

The police will continue to use existing powers to prosecute irresponsible drivers. This includes the offence of not having proper control of a vehicle, which is contrary to regulation 104 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. If an accident should occur, drivers may be prosecuted for careless or even dangerous driving.

Satellite Television Dishes

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the planning restrictions on the siting of satellite television dishes on residential properties, including the date upon which it came in to force; and what plans he has to change the planning restrictions to take into account the change in design of satellite television dishes. [22851]

Ms Keeble [holding answer 13 December 2001]: Class H of Part 1 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended) allows for the installation of one satellite dish on a dwelling house without a requirement for planning permission subject to limitations on the size of the dish and the position of the dish on the building. In environmentally sensitive areas, such as Conservation Areas and National Parks, there are additional requirements relating to the position of the dish on the building and the height of the building. The permitted development right derives from the Town and Country Planning General Development (Amendment) (No 2) Order 1985 which came into force on 1 March 1986.

As indicated in our Broadband Strategy, published on 3 December 2001, we shall review planning regulations relating to satellite terminals to determine how current rules could be relaxed to facilitate broadband deployment, while continuing to minimise the environmental and visual impact of residential satellite terminals.

Neighbourhood Renewal Unit

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what reports the neighbourhood renewal unit is planning to publish on (a) social exclusion and older people and (b) the involvement of older people in neighbourhood renewal initiatives. [23292]

Ms Keeble: The neighbourhood renewal unit is not planning to publish any reports on social exclusion and older people in the near future. Engaging members of the local community to take decisions on solving local problems is a central aspect of neighbourhood renewal. This involves ensuring that groups which are often hard to reach are involved in and benefit from neighbourhood renewal activity. The neighbourhood renewal unit has developed a race strategy to ensure that this is the case in relation to black and minority ethnic communities. This strategy will be used as a pathfinder for other groups, including older people. Work on this will take into

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consideration the work of the Better Government for Older People programme which was launched in 1998 to improve public services for older people.

South West Regional Assembly

Mr. Butterfill: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions whether the South West regional assembly has provided support to the South West regional convention; and if he will make a statement. [23626]

Dr. Whitehead: The South West regional assembly has been established voluntarily by bodies representing the interests of the region. Its running costs are a matter for the assembly and its members. However, I understand that it has not provided any support for the South West constitutional convention.

Planning

Dr. Jack Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he proposes to consult on procedures for involving Parliament in speeding up the processing of major infrastructure projects in the planning system. [23909]

Mr. Byers: In July I announced a package of measures to streamline the handling in the planning system of major infrastructure projects, such as new airports, runways, rail links and roads. The objective was to speed up the decision-making process so as to cut the delay, cost and uncertainty of the present process, while making sure that people continue to be properly involved and have the opportunity to make their views known.

The package comprised:


We are today publishing a consultation paper setting out our detailed proposals for new parliamentary procedures. Copies are being laid before both Houses. The deadline for comment is 22 March 2002.

It is right that Parliament should have the opportunity to consider infrastructure projects of major importance to the country and to the economy. Parliament's involvement will add weight and accountability to the process without reducing the opportunities for people to have their say. Parliament's endorsement of the principle of, need for and location of a project will speed up the decision-making process by removing the necessity for the subsequent planning inquiry to look at these issues. We propose to underpin this with new powers for Planning Inspectors to focus discussion at the inquiry, which will just look at the details of implementing the project on the ground. The final decision on a project will rest with the Secretary of State.

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Our proposals give people a clear opportunity to make their views known before Parliament debates the issues. They provide a mechanism for people to make objections or other representations about a proposed project. Parliament would have copies of all of them and a summary. In addition, the parliamentary stage would be preceded by development of a statement of Government policy, on the content of which there would normally be prior public consultation, and people can express their views at a subsequent inquiry on the detailed aspects of the scheme.

These opportunities for people to be involved at three key stages of the process would be over and above the consultations between developers and local people on proposed projects before an application for planning consent is submitted. We want local people to be involved as early as possible in shaping proposals affecting them and the areas in which they live.

Introducing the new procedures would require primary legislation. This will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if the planning Green Paper will propose that spatial development strategies no longer be decided at county council level. [22391]

Ms Keeble: I refer the hon. Member to chapter 4 of our consultation paper entitled "Planning: delivering a fundamental change".


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