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Local Authority Boundary Fees

(Shipment of Dead Bodies)

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the charging of boundary fees by local authorities for the shipment of dead bodies. [40291]

Dr. Whitehead: Local authorities do not charge boundary fees for the transport of dead bodies between local authority areas. However some authorities charge

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higher fees for the burial of those from outside their area. This is in accordance with the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977.

Martin Sixsmith

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions whether he was informed on 15 February of the conditions mentioned in Sir Richard Mottram's statement of 25 February upon which Mr. Martin Sixsmith had agreed to resign. [40404]

Dr. Whitehead [holding answer 5 March 2002]: I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by Sir Richard Mottram, the Permanent Secretary of my Department, on Monday 25 February 2002. A copy of this is available in the Libraries of the House.

European Road Link

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions for what reason the road link to North Wales envisaged in the Essen agreement did not follow existing routes via the M6 and the dual carriageway along the North Wales Coast. [41736]

Mr. Jamieson: The M6 and the North Wales coast road (A55) are part of the Ireland/United Kingdom/Benelux road link. The decision to include the A5 and A483 in that link was taken by the previous administration and approved by the European Council on 23 July 1996. I will write to the hon. Member on that aspect.

Local Government Finance

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what proportion of local authorities received grant increases of retail prices index for 2002–03. [41676]

Dr. Whitehead: All English local authorities received grant increases at least as large as the annual increase in the RPI.

Planning Appeals

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to bring in a third party right of appeal against planning decisions. [41902]

Ms Keeble: As indicated in our Planning Green Paper, published on 12 December, a third party right of appeal against the grant of planning permission could add to the costs and uncertainties of planning. We cannot accept that prospect. We believe that the right way forward is to make the planning system more accessible and transparent and to strengthen the opportunities for community involvement throughout this process. Proposals to achieve this were set out in the Green Paper.

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what estimate he has made of the costs of introducing new planning obligations set out in the Planning Green Paper. [41905]

Ms Keeble: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) on 11 February 2002, Official Report, column 31W.

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Housing (West Midlands)

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assumptions have been made about building cost inflations in his Department's assessment of business plans for stock transfers in Coventry, Walsall and Birmingham. [41952]

Ms Keeble: The business plans for housing transfers are commercially sensitive documents that are considered by the Housing Corporation as part of the transfer process. Each housing transfer will make its own assumptions for building cost inflation over future years.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he has had with Birmingham City Council about the impact of the proposed demolitions over the next five years on homelessness in the city; and if he will make a statement. [41951]

Ms Keeble: The Government's priority is that all social housing should be made decent by 2010. Birmingham has a plan to achieve this through a housing transfer. Where the appropriate course of action involves demolition of properties this should be based on an assessment of likely future demand, the rate at which properties will be relet and where necessary proposals for new build.

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what contribution the Government are making for stock transfer purposes towards the payment of (a) Walsall's housing attributable debt and (b) Walsall's debt breakage costs; and what is the contribution to each from (i) Walsall MBC and (ii) Walsall Housing Group. [41949]

Ms Keeble: The contributions from the Department, Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council and Walsall Housing Group towards the repayment of Walsall's housing attributable debt will not be known until a final valuation is agreed for Walsall's housing stock.

The Department does not contribute to a local authority's debt breakage costs. The local authority redeeming the debt usually meets this cost.

Railtrack

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions on what basis he expects the successor body to Railtrack to raise funds on commercial markets. [41950]

Mr. Jamieson: Railtrack's successor needs to be financially sound with a strong investment grade credit rating sufficient to finance the required expenditure efficiently. It is for bidders for Railtrack to propose to the Administrator how they will raise funds in commercial markets.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if the successor company to Railtrack in administration will be in the private sector. [42816]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 12 March 2002]: It is for the Administrator to consider all proposals for the transfer of Railtrack plc's property rights and liabilities put to him,

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and for me to approve any transfer scheme put to me by the Administrator under Schedule 7 of the Railways Act 1993.

English Partnerships

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what consultation with hon. Members is planned over the future of English Partnerships. [41793]

Ms Keeble: The review of English Partnerships was announced to both Houses on 16 October 2001. During stage one of the review, a number of hon. Members have taken the opportunity to write to Ministers and to the review team on issues of concern. These letters have been taken into account in coming to a conclusion on stage one of the review.

Stage two of the review, the remit for which will be published as part of the stage one outcome, will offer hon. Members further opportunities to make their views known.

Coalfield Programme

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what criteria are being used to determine whether the coalfield programme be maintained by English Partnerships or the regional development agencies. [41791]

Ms Keeble: In determining whether the coalfield programme should continue to be maintained by English Partnerships or the regional development agencies, a judgment will be made as to which approach offers the most efficient and effective method of delivering the national coalfield programme.

John Mann: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) within what time scale an agreement will be reached between English Partnerships and the East Midlands Regional Development Agency over the infrastructure works and marketing of the former Manton pit site; [41790]

Ms Keeble: To date £4.35 million has been committed by English Partnerships to allow the reclamation and marketing of the Manton pit site by the East Midlands Regional Development Agency. Reclamation and agreed infrastructure work has been completed and the site is currently on the market.

Local Government

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what his estimate is of the cost to the taxpayer so far of running mayoral referendums in local authorities in England; [42233]

Mr. Byers: Information to estimate the costs and savings of introducing new executive arrangements, including the holding of mayoral referendums, is not currently available centrally.

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Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the administrative costs were of local government reorganisation in each local authority that has been restructured since 1990 in (a) cash and (b) real terms, expressed in 2002 prices. [42231]

Mr. Byers: This information is not available.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to introduce annual elections for local government in England. [42230]

Mr. Byers: We have no plans to introduce annual local government elections in England. As stated in our White Paper 'Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services' we will be inviting the Electoral Commission to propose options to simplify the current cycle of local elections.


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