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Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many bus journeys were taken in Shrewsbury and Atcham in (a) 1997 and (b) for the latest available 12-month period; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hill: The information collected by my Department on the number of journeys made on local bus services cannot be disaggregated to a level of detail sufficient to provide accurate figures in the form requested.
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Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress made with the Flaxmill project in Ditherington, Shrewsbury. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: The Flaxmill project is for the restoration and refurbishment of a unique grade I listed and historically significant structure in the county town, i.e. the first iron-framed building in the world. The project is to create development space for retail, educational, arts and leisure and residential uses. Advantage West Midlands is to make a significant contribution to the project of some £2.8 million over a three-year period.
A certificate of title as proof of ownership, a condition of the funding agreement with Advantage West Midlands, was still outstanding at 9 April 2001. Contracts were due to be exchanged in February 2001. But the outstanding matter, together with a delay in the completion of legal documentation between Mowlem Midlands, the joint developer and works contractor, and the owner of the site, meant that this was not possible.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many broken rails there were on the London Underground in (a) each of the last 10 years and (b) each of the last 12 months. 
Mr. Hill [holding answer 9 April 2001]: This is an operational matter for London Underground, which has provided me with the following information on broken rails on the running line discovered during the operation of passenger services for recent years and for year 2000-01 until 3 March 2001.
LUL operate a 13 period year. The end of period 12 represents 3 March 2001. Information for period 13 has not been provided yet. LUL confirm that four of these broken rails for 2000-01 were located on sections of track owned by Railtrack.
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Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many escalators were out of service for more than a day on each of the London Underground lines in each of (a) the last five years and (b) the past 12 months. 
Mr. Hill [holding answer 9 April 2001]: This is an operational matter for London Underground, which informs me that although it keeps a range of records relating to escalators out of service on the Underground, to provide a breakdown of all incidents for time-periods of one day and over for each of the last five years would incur disproportionate costs.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he has secured the agreement of Midland Expressway Ltd. to provide a crossing for the Hatherton Canal in the construction of the Birmingham Northern Relief Road. 
Mr. Hill: The obligations of Midland Expressway Ltd. (MEL) to the future restoration of the Hatherton Canal are set out in the Secretary of State's decision letter published on 28 July 1997. MEL is required to facilitate the full restoration works waiving any consequential loss of tolls that these works may occasion. It is not required to provide a crossing for the canal and it has not agreed to do so.
I understand MEL has met the Lichfield and Hatherton Canal Restoration Trust to discuss the trust's proposals for the canal crossings. The trust would like the canal crossings to be included in the BNRR construction contract and is seeking to raise funds to pay for these. I understand that MEL is continuing to work co-operatively with the trust.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what criteria were used in drawing up the list of rural local authorities to which the emergency business rate relief scheme will be applicable as a result of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 9 April 2001]: This list identifies the most rural and least densely populated LA areas in England. The decision to target additional Government support on these areas reflects the fact that in broad terms it is the most rural areas that are suffering most of all from the effects of FMD. It equates broadly with the worst effects of FMD, including its broader economic effects. It does not attempt to match every FMD case. Other authorities are likely to suffer less because they are closer to large urban centres and have a wider spread of economic activity. That is why we have targeted relief in this way, using a standard definition of rurality, developed by the Rural Development Commission and the Countryside Agency.
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Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many Environment Agency staff have been diverted from their normal duties to work on the foot and mouth crisis. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 10 April 2001]: Approximately 400 Environment Agency staff are working on foot and mouth related issues. As the information is not held centrally it has not been possible to identify the number of staff diverted from their normal regulatory work. Many staff are working in their normal regulatory function but are dealing with the consequences of the foot and mouth outbreak on a daily basis.
In addition, some 30 agency staff have been diverted from their normal duties to assist the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with additional administrative and technical work arising from the outbreak of foot and mouth disease.
Mr. Opik: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with other departments regarding the creation of a recovery package for those businesses which have been affected by the foot and mouth outbreak; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: I am in close contact with other Departments about measures both to help rural businesses to survive the impact of the foot and mouth outbreak and to regenerate the rural economy once the outbreak has been eradicated.
Mr. Opik: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer regarding the payment of compensation for consequential losses to firms suffering significantly reduced turnover as a result of the foot and mouth outbreak; and if he will make a statement; 
Mr. Meacher: My right hon. Friend and I have kept in close touch with Ministers from a range of other Government Departments on the economic effects of the foot and mouth outbreak and the Government have announced a number of measures to help those adversely affected. These include additional financial support for local authority discretionary hardship rate relief schemes in rural areas. Implementation is for local authorities and many have announced their intention to introduce schemes. The measures also include extension of the Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme, additional funding for the Regional Development Agencies and a
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sympathetic approach to deferring or extending the time to pay tax, VAT and National Insurance contributions where businesses apply for this.
Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Sir M. Spicer) of 6 April 2001, Official Report, column 301W, on foot and mouth, if he will instruct local authorities not to recover unpaid rates from businesses which have appealed for a temporary reduction in rating assessments on the grounds of the impact of foot and mouth and where the appeals have not yet been determined. 
Mr. Meacher: I have no powers to do so. However, local authorities have discretion to defer or reschedule payment of rates of businesses that are severely affected by the foot and mouth outbreak, or by other adverse circumstances.
Local authorities also have discretion to grant rate relief to businesses suffering from hardship. On 22 March, I announced measures designed to alleviate the immediate financial hardship of small businesses in rural areas that have been badly hit by the effects of foot and mouth disease. As part of this package of measures, I announced an increase in the central government contribution to rate relief from 75 per cent. to 95 per cent. for small businesses which are suffering hardship as a result of foot and mouth disease in 151 rural authorities in England.
In addition, the Government have extended the deadline for making an appeal against the rateable values of properties in these 151 rural authority areas so that appeals received by 30 June 2001 may be backdated into the 2000-01 financial year, if appropriate.
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