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School Budgets

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 21 May 1999, Official Report, column 471, on school budgets, if it is his objective in carrying out the present review of the formula for distributing central Government grant to local authorities to remove factors that cannot be justified by reference to actual cost and other objectively verifiable criteria. [85703]

Ms Armstrong: The objectives of the current review of revenue grant distribution are to investigate thoroughly whether there is a better way of determining the distribution of revenue support grant which is simpler, more stable, more robust and fairer than the present arrangements for SSAs. These objectives were set out in last year's White Paper, "Modern Local Government-- In Touch with the People".

Environment Task Force

Judy Mallaber: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the Green Ministers' Committee (a) has discussed and (b) plans to discuss, the New Deal Environment Task Force. [86040]

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Mr. Meacher: The Green Ministers Committee does consider policy areas of cross-cutting interest at its meetings, in addition to its main task of developing systems to integrate sustainable development and environmental concerns into Government policies and operations. We have not so far discussed the Task Force nor is it on the agenda for our next meeting in July. But we may wish to turn to it at a later date.

Judy Mallaber: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will introduce an Environment Task Force Charter Mark to be awarded to projects achieving environmental benefit to the community. [86072]

Mr. Caborn: Charter Mark is the Government's award scheme for encouraging and recognising excellence in public service. All public service organisations which serve the public direct, including public service organisations which deliver Environment Task Force placements, can apply for a Charter Mark. However, the environmental benefit of the projects is not a criteria for the award of Charter Marks.

Providers of Environment Task Force placements have also been able to apply for New Deal Awards which will soon be presented to employers and other organisations in recognition of the significant contribution they have made to the success of the New Deal.

Ex-service Personnel

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research his Department has assessed of the number of (a) homeless people and (b) prisoners who are former members of the armed forces. [85665]

Mr. Raynsford: The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions does not routinely collect information on the number of homeless people who are former members of the armed forces. However, research on single homeless people and rough sleepers commissioned by the Department provides some information on the proportion of these groups which have a service background. Single Homeless People (HMSO, 1993) found that a fifth of a sample of single homeless people living in hostels or bed and breakfast hotels had been in the armed forces or merchant navy (not counting national service or the territorials). From Street to Home: An Evaluation of Phase 2 of the Rough Sleepers Initiative (TSO, 1996) found that a quarter of rough sleepers had been in the armed forces or merchant navy.

As part of the Social Exclusion Unit review of Rough Sleeping (Cm 4008) the Department reviewed key research on rough sleeping. The review covered a number of studies dealing with rough sleepers with service backgrounds, including the two DETR studies described above, plus research commissioned by voluntary sector organisations including Falling Out: a research study of

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homeless ex-service people, Randall & Brown (Crisis, 1994), and Homeless on Civvy Street, Gunner and Knott (Ex-Service Action Group, 1997). All these studies show that between a quarter and a fifth of rough sleepers have been in the armed forces at some stage.

As for data on prisoners, the information requested is not available. No information regarding an individual's professional status, prior to reception into a Prison Service establishment, is recorded centrally.

Parish and Town Councils

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what powers he has to monitor the composition of parish and town councils; and if he will make a statement. [85547]

Ms Armstrong: The Secretary of State has no powers to monitor the composition of parish and town councils.

Concessionary Fares (Children)

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to exempt children who are in full time education from paying full fares on bus and train services; and if he will make a statement. [85548]

Ms Glenda Jackson: Transport operators may offer discounted travel for young people commercially if they wish to do so. Local authorities may also provide discounted travel for young people up to the age of 18 who are in full-time education. It is for individual local authorities to decide whether to do so, what the size of any discount should be, and whether it should apply to train as well as bus travel. In addition, it is for Local Education Authorities to decide whether a child qualifies for free or assisted travel to school.

Provision of reduced fares varies, and my Department is currently undertaking a survey of local authorities and operators. The results will be available to the School Travel Advisory Group, which comprises representatives of the relevant Government Departments and of parents, teachers, local authorities and other interested parties, so that the Group can identify and promulgate best practice.

National Minimum Wage

Mr. Rowlands: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many people in his Department and its associated bodies and agencies have benefited from the introduction of a national minimum wage. [86086]

Ms Glenda Jackson: All staff in DETR(C), its associated bodies and agencies were already paid above the national minimum wage on its introduction on 1 April 1999.

Heathrow Airport (Terminal 5)

Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what has been the cost to his Department of the inquiry into the Heathrow Fifth Terminal; and what is the estimated cost to his Department of the Inspector's preparation of his report. [86041]

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Mr. Caborn: The cost of the Heathrow Terminal 5 Inquiry to the Department was approximately £6 million. In addition, the Department's agencies (Planning Inspectorate, Highways Agency and Royal Parks Agency) spent a further £5 million collectively on inquiry costs. It is estimated that the preparation of the Inspector's report could cost the Department and Planning Inspectorate combined up to £1 million.

Fishing Vessels (Safety Equipment)

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will commission an assessment of the (i) cost and (ii) risk effectiveness of the safety equipment currently required to be carried by fishing vessels. [85855]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Fishing Vessel (Safety Provisions) Rules 1975 specified the carriage requirements for safety equipment on all UK registered fishing vessels. Since then, changes to those requirements have been developed within the context of the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG), in which representatives of the fishing industry have themselves influenced the standards being required. For smaller vessels (under 12 metres in length) we hope soon to introduce a new Code of Practice. This Code will specify safety equipment which should be carried. The list of safety equipment to be carried results from consultation with the industry and the benefits of each item have already been fully considered. A special assessment of cost and risk effectiveness of safety equipment is not necessary as requirements are kept under continuous review by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the industry through the mechanism of the FISG.

Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received regarding the location of telecommunication masts and the issuing of interim planning guidance pending publication of the findings of the National Radiological Protection Board into the non-thermal effects of microwave radiation; and if he will make a statement. [85931]

Mr. Raynsford: Draft guidance on land use planning and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) was issued for consultation by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Health on 8 December 1998. Copies were placed in the Library. We have received 147 responses to the consultation draft. Since issuing the draft circular, my Department has received four Parliamentary Questions and some 70 letters related to the possible health effects of telecommunications apparatus.

The draft guidance reflects the advice to Government of the National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) that there is no convincing evidence of a causal link between exposure to EMFs and cancer. The Board's advice is based upon a review and assessment of published scientific studies covering the fields of epidemiology, biology and dosimetry. In continuing to review the science, the NRPB takes into account the range of reported biological effects, including those of a non-thermal nature. We shall continue to take NRPB advice into consideration in developing policy on land use planning and electromagnetic fields.

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