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Rail Franchising Policy

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on rail franchising policy. [24405]

Mr. Byers: I have today laid before the House a policy statement, "Passenger Rail Franchising". The statement sets out the benefits that I wish the Strategic Rail Authority to seek to achieve through rail franchising and requires it to explore the full range of options for securing

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them. It also incorporates the statement of policy referred to in section 26(10) of the Railways Act 1993, as amended by the Transport Act 2000.

Ports (Appraisal Framework)

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on an appraisal framework for ports in the United Kingdom. [23387]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department is issuing today a consultation document concerned with the development of an appraisal framework for port projects in the UK.

The development of an appraisal framework for ports was identified in "Modern Ports: A UK Policy" as an important plank in the application of a sustainable transport policy to ports. The intention of the appraisal framework is to put ports on a similar footing to other modes, to make the appraisals more consistent with each other and to take full account of the role of ports in promoting sustainable transport. We believe that the use of a common framework assists promoters, objectors, local authorities, other public bodies and all those involved in planning inquiries to consider whether all relevant factors have been covered. The framework is also a contribution to the package of measures designed to speed up planning decisions on major infrastructure projects announced by the Department in July 2001.

The consultation will assist the Department in drawing up a guidance note for all those involved with port developments requiring some form of official approval. It is intended that the guidance note will be issued later in 2002.

We are inviting comments from all those with an interest in port related matters, including ports, port users, environmental interests, other Government Departments, local authorities, and other public and private bodies.

The document outlines an appraisal framework derived from the guidance for multi-modal studies, but taking account of the particular effect of port developments. The document invites comments and suggestions on a number of topics, such as the content and format of strategic appraisal, scheme description, coverage and measurement of detailed effects and the appropriate level of detail required.

The consultation is being conducted in accordance with the criteria contained in the Cabinet Office's Code of Practice on Written Consultation. Responses are requested to be sent to my Department by 5 April 2002. Copies of the consultation document are in the Library, and it is also available from my Department (EAMI Division, Zone 1/34, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR) and on the Department's website.

Ordnance Survey

Mr. Pound: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress of the Quinquennial Review of Ordnance Survey. [24994]

Ms Keeble: I am pleased to announce today the outcome of the first Stage of the Quinquennial Review of Ordnance Survey. I have placed copies of the Stage 1 Report in the Libraries.

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Stage 1 of the Review of Ordnance Survey, announced on 15 February 2001 was managed by a Steering Group chaired by my Department. It also included representatives from Ordnance Survey, HM Treasury, Cabinet Office and two external members from the Association of Geographic Information (AGI) and the London borough of Lewisham. Consultation took place with a wide range of stakeholders and customers in the geographic information business in Great Britain.

Ordnance Survey is a Government Department and Executive Agency operating within a Trading Fund regime. The main recommendation of the review is that it should further strengthen its business focus by becoming a Government-owned plc on 1 April 2003, with Government owning 100 per cent. of the shares. This would provide Ordnance Survey with additional commercial freedoms that are considered to be essential if it is to use its full potential to develop the geographic information and e-business marketplace.

The Stage 1 Review rejected the options of abolition, merger, contracting out and market testing. It considered privatisation carefully, but stated that this was not a real option at present because there is much for Ordnance Survey to do to increase its value as a business through increasing market presence and decreasing cost through operational efficiencies. Additionally, the reviewers concluded that privatisation could endanger Ordnance Survey's existing partnerships, both within the Government and the private sector. Government-owned plc status would balance the requirement of the national interest in maintaining consistent, up-to-date, and fit-for- purpose geographic information, with the commercial imperatives of an efficient organisation.

I have carefully considered the Stage 1 Report and its argument that there is a need for a further step change from the current Trading Fund status to enable Ordnance Survey to respond effectively to the requirements of the marketplace. I have accepted that the change in status will enable the further development and expansion of their business of providing geographic data for others to add value and generate commercial products, but I wish to have this confirmed by means of a clear business case.

The report's recommendation is in line with the wider Government policy of increasing accountability for Government organisations and increases the potential for high quality managers to raise the return to Government from the efficient and effective use of Ordnance Survey assets and investment.

I am minded to accept the Review's recommendation and have authorised the Steering Group to proceed to a Stage 2 Review which will be asked to undertake a detailed analysis of the best structure for a company, confirm the benefits and costs compared to the current Trading Fund status, consider the right operating framework, and propose means of removing any obstacles which will influence the establishment of Ordnance Survey as a Government-owned company by 1 April 2003. Stage 2 will also investigate how further public- private partnerships might benefit Ordnance Survey.

I will make a further statement when the Stage 2 Review is complete and I have assessed its findings.

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Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 4 December 2001, Official Report, column 279W, on the Ordnance Survey, what further stages in the Quinquennial Review of the Ordnance Survey will follow stage one; what the timetable will be for completion of such stages; and whether a staged timetable was envisaged when the Government announced the Quinquennial Review on 15 February. [22757]

Ms Keeble: I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave today to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) regarding Stage 1 of the Quinquennial Review of Ordnance Survey, at columns 518–19W.

Cabinet Office guidelines stipulate a two-stage approach to Quinquennial Reviews. The content of the second stage of Quinquennial Reviews is dependent on decisions made following the first stage. The first stage of the review has considered and made recommendations regarding the most appropriate organisation for delivering the functions currently carried out by Ordnance Survey.

Work will begin on the second stage of the review early in the new year, which will consider further the issues raised within Stage 1, and on how Ordnance Survey can improve its performance. Cabinet Office guidelines recommend that the second stage of a review should be completed within three months.

I can confirm that a staged timetable was envisaged when Stage 1 of the Ordnance Survey Quinquennial Review was announced.

Night Flights

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Hatton case on night flights issued on 2 October. [25095]

Mr. Jamieson: The Hatton judgment raises serious questions about the interpretation and application of the European Convention on Human Rights. We are therefore submitting a request for the case to be referred for consideration by the Grand Chamber of the Court. The grounds for this request are set out in a letter to the Court, copies of which will be placed in the Library.


Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what research his Department has (a) commissioned in the last five years and (b) plans to commission into the causes of older homelessness. [24188]

Ms Keeble: There has been a proliferation of research into the causes of homelessness over the past decade, including recent studies on older people. The Government have announced that they are establishing a new homelessness directorate to bring together existing work to help homeless people as well as to develop new work to prevent homelessness and investigate its causes, as part of this consideration will be given to further research in this area.

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Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what estimate his Department has made of the number of specialist hostel places available for single homeless women, broken down by region. [24187]

Ms Keeble: Information about hostel provision is not collected centrally and no estimates of specialist provision for women have been made. However, the hon. Member might be interested to know that information gathered on 3,387 people contacted by the contact and assessment teams in London during 2000–01 show that around 10 per cent. of rough sleepers are women, with around a fifth of this group being aged under 25.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what estimates his Department has made of the number of people made homeless as a result of administrative errors and failures by housing benefit units. [24192]

Ms Keeble: Information reported to the Department relates to the number of households accepted under the homelessness provisions of Housing Acts as being eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need. Cases that are the result of rent arrears are identified, although the number of these attributable to delays or errors in housing benefit administration are not separately distinguished.

The Department's housing policy statement "Quality and Choice: A decent home for all—The way forward for housing" (December 2000) recognised that the fundamental challenge facing housing benefit is its administration. Problems with administering housing benefit can result in unacceptable levels of fraud and error, as well as backlogs of delayed claims. Our immediate priority has therefore been to work in partnership with local authorities to improve standards of administration. We have also set up a help fund to enable local authorities to formulate and implement improvement plans. In addition, we will introduce national performance standards to support the better administration of housing benefit from spring 2002.

The best value regime is also helping to drive up standards of delivery across all local authority services. Best value performance indicators in place since April 2000 include a measure of the average speed of processing housing benefit claims. Provisional and unaudited best value performance information published by the Department suggests that about a quarter of English local authorities took on average 60 days or longer to process new housing benefit claims in 2000–01. Final performance figures for 2000–01 will be published early in 2002.

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what baseline figures his Department has for the number of (a) officially recorded and (b) unofficial estimates of older homeless people (i) sleeping rough, (ii) in hostel accommodation, (iii) in move-on accommodation, (iv) in bed and breakfast accommodation and (v) in special needs accommodation. [24186]

Ms Keeble: The most recent street count showed that there were 532 people sleeping rough across England on any one night. We estimate that between 15 and 20 per cent. of those will be aged over 50. Information

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gathered by Housing Services Agency (HSA) shows that in London during 2000–01 the contact and assessment teams (CATs) contacted some 609 (17 per cent.) rough sleepers or former rough sleepers who are over 50-years-old.

Information gathered by Housing Services Agency shows that in London during 2000–01 there were 26 moves into permanent accommodation and 319 moves into temporary accommodation, including 180 moves into hostel accommodation by rough sleepers aged over 50 years. Due to the nature of rough sleeping some people will be recorded more than once in these figures as they may have been moved into a hostel, or other temporary accommodation, more than once during the year.

Due to the way the information is collected and the fluctuating pattern of rough sleeping by some people, it is not possible to provide exact figures on the number of older rough sleepers and former rough sleepers currently sleeping rough, in hostel accommodation, in move-on accommodation, in bed and breakfast or in special needs accommodation.

On 30 September 2001, the total number of households being accommodated by local housing authorities in bed-and-breakfast hotels under existing homelessness legislation was 12,290 and a further 9,480 households were being accommodated in hostels. Information is not held centrally on the proportion of these that are older homeless people.

Information is not held centrally on the number of older homeless people in special needs accommodation.

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