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Aircraft Seats

Mr. John Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to introduce legislation requiring companies advertising airline flights to provide information about the size of the pitch of the aircraft's seats in their advertisements. [31567]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government have no plans at present to introduce such legislation.

The voluntary European Airline Passenger Service Commitment, to which all UK airlines operating long haul scheduled or charter services are signatories, includes a commitment to make information on seat pitch available to passengers on request. The European Airline Passenger Service Commitment will take effect from 14 February 2002.

To improve the information available to passengers my Department is working with the Civil Aviation Authority and the airlines to ensure a common public understanding of the phrase "seat pitch".

31 Jan 2002 : Column 451W

Non-departmental Public Bodies

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list the instances in which his Department, agencies and non-departmental public bodies failed to pay valid invoices within 30 days or after the agreed credit period in the financial year 2000–01. [32025]

Dr. Whitehead: The total number of invoices paid by my department and its agencies in 2000–01, and the numbers paid late, based on the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions structure in place at 31 March 2001, are shown in the table. Listings of individual invoices paid late, and information in respect of non-departmental public bodies, are not held centrally.

Invoices paid 2000–01Number of invoices paidNumber of invoices paid late Percentage paid late
Driving Standards Agency31,3572490.79
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency22,4564451.98
Vehicle Certification Agency2,604431.65
Vehicle Inspectorate36,8963841.04
Highways Agency100,2884,3834.37
Maritime and Coastguard Agency30,8631320.43
Planning Inspectorate9,3493503.74
QEII Conference Centre3,20870.22
The Rent Service22,7018353.68

Theft and Fraud

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what additional security measures are planned by his Department to deter and detect theft and fraud. [31794]

Dr. Whitehead: The Department takes its responsibility to minimise losses due to theft or fraud very seriously. It has a fraud response plan, based on the Treasury model, which it keeps under regular review. It issues periodic reminders to staff about the plan and related matters.

All incidents are reviewed for lessons about improved control and investigations are initiated whenever appropriate.

No additional security measures are judged necessary at the present time.

St. Kevin's Playing Fields, Kirkby

Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 28 January 2002, Official Report, column 62W, if new proposals for St. Kevin's Playing Fields in Kirkby which are (a) at variance with the local urban development plan, (b) at variance with the planning inspector's recommendations and (c) materially different in other substantial ways, will be treated as a wholly new application; and if he will make a statement. [32079]

Ms Keeble: It is for Knowsley metropolitan borough council as the responsible local planning authority for the area and in this case as applicant to decide whether their proposals for the site have changed to such an extent that a fresh planning application should be made.

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Asylum Centre (Throckmorton)

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what planning permissions will need to be granted by which authorities to permit the development of an asylum accommodation centre on Ministry of Defence land at Throckmorton, Worcestershire. [31725]

Ms Keeble: Development by the Crown, including Government Departments, does not require planning permission. Development is undertaken under the non- statutory arrangements set out in Part IV of the Memorandum attached to DOE Circular 18/84. The developing Department must serve a Notice of Proposed Development on the local planning authority. If the local planning authority objects to the proposal and the objections cannot be resolved by negotiation, the developing Department must refer the proposals to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions for his determination. To enable him to reach a decision the Secretary of State will either ask for written representations or institute a non-statutory public inquiry.

If a Government Department is proposing to dispose of land in anticipation of development of that land by another, non-Crown body, it may apply for planning permission under section 299 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. Development undertaken on Crown land by a private body requires planning permission in the normal way.

Local Authority Rents

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the level of council house rent rises was in each year since 1991 to 2001 in (a) real and (b) percentage terms, in each local authority in descending order. [30563]

Ms Keeble [holding answer 30 January 2002]: A table showing the annual change (actual and percentage) in the level of local authority weekly rents for each year from 1991–92 to 2001–02 has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The local authorities are ranked in descending order, with the local authority with the biggest cumulative increase in council rent over the period 1990–91 to 2001–02—Barking and Dagenham—at the top.

It should be noted that between April 1990 and April 2001 the retail prices index rose by 38.4 per cent. Since only the last two local authorities in this table (Redbridge and Bournemouth) saw an overall rise in rents of less than 38.4 per cent, in all other authorities the "real" rise in council rents over the period 1990–91 to 2001–02 has been positive.

Note that the only local authorities shown in this table are those that existed both in 1990–91 and in 2001–02 and did not undergo any significant boundary changes during the intervening years.

Local authorities that existed in 1990–91 but have since transferred their stock to housing associations (registered social landlords) have been omitted.

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Parliamentary Questions (PFI)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many written parliamentary questions regarding private finance initiatives have been tabled since 1 January 2000; and in how many of these information was not provided on the grounds of commercial confidentiality. [31966]

Dr. Whitehead: The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions was formed on 8 June 2001. In the period 8 June 2001 to 30 January 2002, my Department responded to 191 parliamentary questions tabled about private finance initiatives and similar public private partnerships. Of these, five responses did not provide information on grounds of commercial confidentiality.


Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the hon. Member for West Chelmsford can expect a reply to the letter he sent on 4 September 2001 from Mr. R. Black of the Chelmsford Area Access Group. [31688]

Ms Keeble: I wrote to the hon. Member on 29 January.

Speeding Signs (Bredhurst)

Hugh Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when his Department will grant authorisation for the installation of interactive speeding signs in Bredhurst village, near Sittingbourne, Kent. [31693]

Ms Keeble: Kent county council as the Highway Authority has responsibility for the main roads, Forge Lane and The Street, that flow through Bredhurst village. KCC took part in a pilot scheme with the Transport Research Laboratory for testing interactive speeding signs and a programme for installation of an extended pilot scheme covering a further 15 signs has been agreed on. Bredhurst is not included in that extension.

Public Services

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that district authorities have the flexibility to fund and deliver high quality public services to local people which the Government have called for. [31302]

Mr. Raynsford: I can confirm that, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley) on 18 December 2001, Official Report, column 137, we have improved the terms of the minimum grant increase for 2002–03 guaranteed to shire district councils.

We have done this by introducing an alternative baseline for 2001–02, which, in effect, adjusts only for the transfers of service for which shire districts are responsible. In order to guarantee a minimum 2.3 per cent. increase for shire districts, we will give each district whichever increase is greater: 2.3 per cent. on the original fully adjusted baseline, or 2.3 per cent. on the alternative.

31 Jan 2002 : Column 454W

Districts will also benefit from the package of measures announced in the Local Government White Paper and designed to enable all councils to deliver improvements in public services. In particular, there are proposals to assist district councils to build their corporate capacity, encouragement for greater county and district collaboration, including in local PSAs, and additional freedoms which will be available to high performing districts in due course. Districts will also benefit from the deregulation proposals, the streamlining of best value and the move to a more proportionate approach to inspection.

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