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DVLA

Mr. Francois: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how long on average it took the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to renew driving licences for those drivers who (a) require and (b) do not require associated eyesight tests in the last 12 months. [34544]

Mr. Spellar: The information requested is as follows:

The charter mark standard for dealing with applications with a medical involvement is five weeks for ordinary driving licences. If a decision cannot be made within this timescale, the applicant is advised of the reason. In this financial year, over 60 per cent. of medical applications have been completed within five weeks. Cases where eyesight tests are required will generally take longer than five weeks to complete because of the dependency on third parties to carry out the tests.

The charter mark standard for applications for the issue of ordinary driving licences with no medical involvement is 15 working days. During the last 12 months, some 99.3 per cent. of applicants received their ordinary driving licence within 11 days.

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Planning Policy Guidance Note 17

Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he expects to announce his response to the consultation on the draft PPG17. [34514]

Ms Keeble: An analysis and summary of responses to the consultation draft will be made available when the final version of PPG 17 is published.

Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to consult national governing bodies of sport on the revised draft of PPG 17. [34507]

Ms Keeble: The views of national governing bodies of sport were received during the consultation period. While we do not intend to conduct further consultation with them specifically, my officials will be consulting further with Sport England in drafting the final version of PPG 17.

Neighbourhood Renewal Fund

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how eligibility for funding from the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund is determined; and if he will make a statement. [34600]

Ms Keeble: The list of authorities eligible for the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund has been determined by taking those authorities that are among the 50 most deprived on any of the six measures in the Indices of Deprivation 2000 (ID2000). On this basis 81 authorities are eligible. The Government also decided that there should be transitional arrangements for those authorities that were within the 50 most deprived areas on any of the four measures under the old Index of Local Deprivation, but are not in the list of 81 authorities that qualify using the ID2000. Due to this, a further seven local authority areas are eligible for the fund, making a total of 88 eligible authorities.

The sum to be allocated to each authority is based on a standard amount per head of population in those wards in the authority that are in the most deprived 10 per cent. of all wards nationally, with a minimum allocation of £200,000 for any eligible authority in 2001–02. This relates an authority's grant funding to the severity of deprivation within its area, measured by the number of their residents living in particularly deprived areas.

High Hedges

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he will publish the simplified version of the guidelines on hedge height and light loss. [34612]

Ms Keeble: We expect to launch the simplified version of these guidelines in the spring. We are working with interested parties such as local authority, professional, consumer and advice groups to make sure the guidelines are user-friendly.

Local Authority Debt (Demolished Buildings)

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he

11 Feb 2002 : Column 29W

has made of the level of the outstanding debt of local authorities that relates to buildings that have now been demolished. [34819]

Mr. Byers: Although local authorities borrow to fund specific projects, the outstanding debt is held and managed centrally within an authority. Directors of Finance will, as a matter of good treasury management, reschedule and refinance their debt portfolio. It is therefore not possible over time to assign individual loans to specific projects, such as the construction, repair or maintenance of dwellings that have since been demolished.

Electoral Modernisation Pilot Schemes

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 22 January 2002, Official Report, column 720W, on electoral modernisation pilot schemes, for what reason an announcement on the successful bidders was not made at the end of January; and if he will make a statement. [34820]

Mr. Byers: The announcement was made to the House on Tuesday 5 February when we had concluded, in partnership with the Electoral Commission, the Local Government Association and the office of the e-Envoy, our consideration of the bids.

Railway Lines (Reopening)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list those dismantled railway lines which have been re-opened since 1972; who the promoter was in each case; and what was the cost to public funds. [34115]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 7 February 2002]: My Department does not hold such information.

Underspending (Roads)

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the underspend was for the capital budget on roads in the past 12 months. [34017]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 7 February 2002]: In 2000–01, capital spending by the Highways Agency on the strategic road network was underspent by £14 million against a budget of £882 million which represented an underspend of 1.6 per cent. For 2001–02, the Highways Agency are forecasting to be on budget for their current capital allocation of £1069 million.

Capital funding for local roads is allocated to local authorities via the local transport plan capital settlement. Monitoring procedures do not separate out the road elements of this spend. In 2000–01 total LTP capital spending was underspent by £9 million against a final budget of £816 million, which represented an underspend of around 1.1 per cent.

For 2001–02, over £1.36 billion of transport capital spending was allocated to local authorities. We do not expect a substantial budget underspend.

Tram Lines

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what action he is taking to encourage new tram lines; and if he will make a statement. [34503]

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Ms Keeble: Transport 2010: The 10-year plan includes as one of the Department's Public Service Agreement targets doubling light rail patronage over the decade to 2010. Our assessment is that the funding included in the plan will enable provision of up to 25 new light rail lines in major cities around the country, providing each scheme satisfies the Department's appraisal and obtains the necessary powers. The availability of such funds and the Government's positive stance towards light rail have encouraged local authorities to come forward with proposals.

My Department has already approved 11 new lines and is considering three more proposals. Several other plans for new systems or extensions to existing ones are being prepared. Light rail is also an option for at least one of the four Intermediate Mode Transit schemes which Transport for London are currently appraising.

Aircraft Noise

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what regulations there are to ensure that noise levels from aircraft flying over residential areas are kept to a minimum; and if he will make a statement. [34632]

Mr. Spellar: Aircraft noise "at source" is regulated according to the certification requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Operational noise is subject to rules and procedures set by each airport. Controls available to airports include noise preferential routes for departures, departure noise limits, approach procedures, night restrictions and noise- differentiated charges.

The Secretary of State has powers to designate an airport under s.80 for the purposes of s.78 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, under which noise controls can be set. At present, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports are so designated. He may also specify an aerodrome under s.5 of the 1982 Act, requiring the CAA to have regard to environmental factors in its licensing functions; hitherto no aerodrome has been so specified.

The air transport White Paper, which we intend to publish later this year, will deal with the future direction of policy on aircraft noise regulation.


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