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London Underground

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what assessment his Department has made of EC Treaty Articles 81, 82, 87 and 88 with regard to the PPP of London Underground; [53114]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government are aware of their obligations under European Community law. All appropriate regulatory clearances will be obtained before any PPP contracts take effect.

Construction Industry

Brian Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what representations have been made to his Department, and by whom, following the introduction of Building (Amendment) Regulations 2002. [53006]

Dr. Whitehead: Since the introduction of the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2002, my Department has had representations from the Federation of Master Builders and the Federation of Small Businesses. These representations have led to a number of letters and questions from MPs and Peers.

Up until 26 April we had also received around 30 items of correspondence, either directly or through Members of Parliament, from local authorities, industry bodies, individual installers of flues and glazing, window fabricators or potential scheme providers commenting on the schemes, asking for clarification on aspects of them, or wishing to be involved in self-certification. We have also held a number of meetings with further potential self-certification scheme providers in the fields of heating appliances, flue installation, energy ratings and assessments as well as with a trade body regarding the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme.

Council Housing

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how much council tenant rent was written off in each of the last five years in each local authority. [53101]

Ms Keeble: Local authorities reported the total rent arrears written off their Housing Revenue Account during each of the years 1996–97 to 2000–01. This information has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

2 May 2002 : Column 901W

Road Pricing

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what technology pilots into road pricing schemes his Department is involved with. [53221]

Mr. Jamieson: We are supporting research projects into technology suitable for urban congestion charging or lorry distance-based charging: a demonstration of interoperable charging and telematics systems (jointly with Leeds city council and the Highways Agency); and a project on dynamic freight analysis.

Tyneside Multi-modal Study

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the conclusions of the Tyneside multi-modal study will be published. [53480]

Mr. Jamieson: The Tyneside area multi-modal study report, including consultants' recommendations will be forwarded to the Regional Assembly in July 2002. The Assembly will consider the findings, together with all comments received, before forwarding their recommendations to Government. A ministerial decision on an investment strategy will be made after full consideration of the issues.

Rail Freight

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what protection is given to rail freight operators against increases in track access charges by the Rail Regulator. [53507]

Mr. Jamieson: The Rail Regulator published the final conclusions of his review of freight charging policy on 18 October 2001. This allowed a 50 per cent. reduction in the access charges that the freight operators pay Railtrack for the use of the network.

Chiltern Line

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on section 44.4 of the Chiltern franchise agreement, with particular reference to subsection (aa) and the reason that this clause was included in the agreement. [53503]

Mr. Jamieson: Clause 44.4(aa) was included in the Chiltern franchise agreement as a result of negotiations between the Strategic Rail Authority and M40 Trains.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) if it is his policy to continue the provision for train operating companies to be reimbursed by the Government for additional costs resulting from an interim review and adjustment of track access charges by the Rail Regulator when all the remaining franchises are renewed; [53505]

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Mr. Jamieson: Yes. If such a provision was not included bidders for rail franchises would merely price the perceived risk of increased charges into their bids.

Seaports

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the security of seaports since 11 September. [53647R]

Mr. Jamieson: Under paragraph 1 of Part II of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, it is not the practice to disclose details of security matters.

Correspondence

Mr. Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he will reply to the letter to him dated 13 March 2002 from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton with regard to Mr. Pat McGuinness. [53954]

Mr. Byers: I understand that Chris Shepley, Chief Inspector of the Planning Inspectorate, wrote to my right hon. Friend on 30 April.

Rural Housing

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 27 November 2002, Official Report, column 861W, on rural housing, how many households were identified as being in priority need for housing in (a) 1996, (b) 1997, (c) 1998, (d) 1999, (e) 2000, (f) 2001 and (g) 2002 in local authorities defined as rural. [53779]

Ms Keeble: Summary information on activity under the statutory homeless provisions of the 1996 Housing Act is reported to the Department by local authorities in England. This includes the number of households accepted as being eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need. The numbers of these households in authorities categorised as either "mixed rural" or "deep rural" are as follows:

Households accepted as unintentionally homeless and in priority need: rural authorities in England—financial year totals

Number of households
1996–9715,190
1997–9814,460
1998–9914,440
1999–200015,050
2000–200117,160

Source:

DTLR P1(E) housing activity return


Emergency Calls Service

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what plans he has to review back-up mechanisms in the event of a 999 telephone failure; and if he will make a statement; [54028]

2 May 2002 : Column 903W

Dr. Whitehead: In addition to implementing contingency plans to restore the service, telephone companies liaise with the emergency services. The emergency services cover such circumstances with extra patrols, stationing vehicles at strategic points and advice through the media. Where possible calls will be transferred to another emergency service which should be in radio communication with the affected service.

Particular attention is paid to the resilience and robustness of the 999 service. DTLR manages a 999 liaison committee which brings together representatives of the emergency services and the telephone operating companies to consider issues affecting the service. This matter will be raised at the next meeting of the committee.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the level of service of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight 999 services on Thursday 25 April with particular reference to (a) emergency service 999 calls, (b) the telephone landlines in Southampton and parts of the Isle of Wight and (c) back-up arrangements. [53893]

Dr. Whitehead: At 18.30 on Thursday a fault occurred in the equipment at the Southampton Bargate BT telephone exchange. Customers in Southampton and some in surrounding areas in Hampshire and Wiltshire were affected and experienced loss of service. 80 per cent. of customers had been restored to service by midnight and almost all others by 3.55 am.

During the incident the BT call centres that answer 999 calls quickly liaised with the emergency services and implemented contingency plans. BT's 999 call centres are outside of the Southampton area. BT connected those who could make calls beyond their local area to neighbouring emergency services in Dorset or Hampshire who contacted the local emergency services using radio links or other means. For those who could only make local calls and therefore not access BT's 999 call centre, the emergency services covered these areas with extra patrols, stationing vehicles at strategic points and keeping the public informed through the media.

Isle of Wight Fire and Ambulance Control Rooms were not affected and callers on the Isle of Wight would have been able to make 999 calls as they are routed via equipment at a building in Portsmouth, not the affected Southampton unit. In the case of a request for police assistance, calls were routed via the temporary links to Dorset police on behalf of Hampshire police.

BT have informed me that a detailed investigation has established that a number of crucial components failed at the same time.


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