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Owner-occupied Housing

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish the current (a) number and (b) estimated value of owner-occupied properties and the total value of mortgages outstanding on those properties. [53909]

Mr. Raynsford: The latest available figures on a consistent timing basis for the UK relate to the end of March 1998, and are as follows:

Schools (Discretionary Rate Relief)

Mr. Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement about discretionary rate relief granted by local authorities to their own schools. [54625]

Ms Armstrong: As my Department has advised local authorities, rate relief cannot be granted to Local Education Authority (County) schools under section 47 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988. In this respect local authority schools are treated the same as other types of local authority property. The fact that the full rates are payable on local authority property has always been taken into account in the Government's funding of local authority expenditure.

The rates paid by local authorities, like all other rate income, are pooled and redistributed among all local authorities. Therefore if, some authorities do not pay their full rate bills, they do so to the detriment of all authorities. My Department intends to ensure that the outstanding rates are paid into the national rate pool for redistribution to all authorities.

Motorway Service Areas

Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is his policy on the spacing of motorway service areas; and if he will make a statement. [54626]

Ms Glenda Jackson: Motorway service areas (MSAs) exist to meet a road safety need by giving drivers somewhere to stop and rest. It is nevertheless important to strike a balance between the needs of motorists and the protection of the countryside from unnecessary development.

Policy on MSAs was last set out by the previous administration in Annexe A to PPG13 and Roads Circular 1/94. In summary, MSAs were to be not more than around thirty miles apart and, to increase competition and choice, could be provided as frequently as about every fifteen miles.

31 Jul 1998 : Column: 612

Some six years after its introduction, there is little evidence of new operators entering the MSA sector. I am, however, concerned that additional MSA provision has been at the expense of other considerations, particularly in areas of planning restraint. We therefore intend to return to a policy based on the provision of MSAs approximately every thirty miles in order to provide drivers with adequate opportunities to stop and rest. Services at closer intervals will not be ruled out completely but we will in future expect to approve them only where there are exceptional need and safety grounds for doing so.

I am today issuing detailed guidance on this and a number of related MSA matters. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. This new advice will take effect immediately and we will expect developers, planners and others to take account of it when considering proposals for new MSAs. Where it differs from previous statements of policy, the new guidance should be regarded as taking precedence. It will be incorporated in a consolidated circular on MSA policy in due course.

Soap and Detergent Industry

Dr. Marek: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is his Department's policy on the soap and detergent industry's code of good environmental practice; to what extent this code complies with the proposed standards and initiatives his Department is considering for greater eco-efficiency in the home; and if he will make a statement. [54817]

Mr. Meale: The code is a welcome initiative by the soap and detergent industry. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to the Government's Sustainable Development Strategy and is in line with the Government's market transformation approach for consumer products. In particular, the industry's proposal to provide guidance to consumers on the responsible use of laundry detergents and their packaging, and to set quantifiable targets against which progress can be audited independently, provides a positive example for other industry sectors to follow.

In order to meet the Government's wider aims for reducing energy consumption and other environmental impacts, the industry will need to demonstrate that the targets it has set for itself are being achieved. My Department is currently in discussion with the Soap and Detergent Industry Association on this point, and on how we can work together to integrate this initiative within our wider environment strategies.

Housing (Expenditure)

Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what was the gross public expenditure in 1997 prices on capital investment in housing in England and Wales for each financial year from 1968 to 1997; and what were the levels of expenditure in 1997 prices for (a) local authority new build and acquisitions, (b) renovation of local authority housing stock, (c) private sector renovation, (d) housing association new build, (e) housing association rehabilitation, (f) low cost home ownership and (g) other in each of these years; and what are the projections for expenditure under each of these headings for each year between 1997-98 and 2001-02. [54541]

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Mr. Raynsford: I will write to my hon. Friend with the available data shortly.

Non-Departmental Public Bodies

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the non-departmental public bodies in existence on 1 May 1997 that (a) have been disbanded, (b) will be disbanded in the next 12 months, (c) have had their functions transferred to (i) another non-departmental public body and (ii) a democratically elected body, (d) have been renamed but continue to perform a similar role and (e) have been unchanged; if he will indicate in (c) (ii) the relevant successor body; what new non-departmental public bodies have been established since 1 May 1997; and how many non-departmental public bodies his Department currently is responsible for. [53864]

Mr. Meale: The information is as follows:

Four advisory NDPBs have been established since 1 May 1997; the Committee on Chemicals and Materials on Construction for use in Public Water Supplies and Swimming Pools, the Expert Group on Airborne Particles, the Expert Group on Cryptosporidium in Water Supplies, and the Expert Panel on Sustainable Development Education. Docklands Light Railway was reclassified as an executive NDPB, to enable it to receive grant-in-aid from the Department, on 1 April 1998 following the wind-up of London Docklands Development Corporation.

This Department currently sponsors 50 NDPBs-- 28 executive and 22 advisory bodies.

The Government are committed to keeping the number of NDPBs to a minimum and to ensuring that those which remain are open, accountable and effective. Many of the new NDPBs established since 1 May 1997 will be essential in helping the Government to deliver their Manifesto commitments.

Birmingham Northern Relief Road

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 13 July 1998, Official Report, column 15, what is the current projection of traffic flows on the M42 and M6 if the Birmingham Northern Relief Road is built. [53730]

Ms Glenda Jackson [holding answer 30 July 1998]: I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, Mr. Lawrie Haynes, to write to my hon. Friend.

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Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Mr. Brian Jenkins, dated 31 July 1998:

    The current traffic forecasts are those prepared during the BNRR Public Inquiries and a table showing these is attached. The forecasts are for the design year 2011, and they assumed that the Western Orbital Route would not be built. Traffic forecasts are currently being updated and I shall let you know details when they are available.

Birmingham Northern Relief Road
Year 2011 indicative annual average daily traffic two-way modelledflows: with the BNRR scheme, but excluding the western orbital route

J 7A-8148,000
J 8-9179,200
J 4-4A100,900
J 4A-5151,200
J 5-6141,600
J 6-7147,300
J 8E-8W83,900
J 8W-9165,300
J 9-10155,300
J 10-10A143,800
J 10A-1197,900
J 11-11A91,400
J 11A-12142,400
J 12-13162,900

Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the contract between MEL and the contractor for BNRR is in the possession of his Department; and if the Government would (a) be liable in respect of categories of damages and (b) be liable for penalties to the contractor if the Government had not decided to proceed with BNRR. [53075]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Department has a copy of the construction contact let by MEL in 1992, although I understand MEL will be reviewing it in the light of decisions over the last six years. The Government have no direct liabilities to MEL's contractors.

Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make public (a) part or (b) all of the concession agreement for the Birmingham Northern Relief Road under the Environmental Information Regulations 1992 in the event of the High Court ruling that he has a discretion. [53077]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I am considering the Judgment given on 29 July by the High Court.

Dr. Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions for what categories of damage the Government would have been liable if they had decided not to proceed with the Birmingham Northern Relief Road; and what estimate was made of the size of the possible damages in such categories. [53078]

31 Jul 1998 : Column: 615

Ms Glenda Jackson: As Section 1(4) of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 requires, the Birmingham Northern Relief Road Concession Agreement makes provision in certain circumstances for compensation payments to the Concessionaire in respect of costs incurred by him. The details are, however, confidential.

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