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Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to revise Minerals Planning Guidance Note 6, Guidelines for Aggregates Provision in England; and if he will make a statement. [95453]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Review of the Guidelines for Aggregates Provision in England has commenced and it is expected that a paper on the main issues will be published for public consultation early in the New Year. Following consideration of the responses, a revised draft of the guidance will be published for consultation later in 2000.

Housing (Voluntary Transfers)

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many housing units are currently the subject of proposals for large-scale voluntary transfers. [95914]

Mr. Mullin: Seventeen local authorities on the 1999-2000 Housing Transfer Programme are proposing, subject to the approval of tenants, to transfer 112,432 housing units in this financial year. Details are set out in the table.

Local authorityNumber of units
Boston BC5,015
Burnley BC5,354
Coventry CC20,479
Elmbridge DC5,022
Huntingdonshire DC7,134
Manchester CC3,336
Newcastle-under-Lyme DC10,042
North Devon DC3,399
Restormel BC3,781
LB Richmond8,780
Tameside MBC16,959
Test Valley DC 5,789
Tynedale DC3,731
Weymouth and Portland DC3,526
Wyre Forest DC6,440
LB Hackney2,394
LB Tower Hamlets1,251

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Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many housing units were the subject of large-scale voluntary transfers in each of the last three years. [95912]

Mr. Mullin: The Housing Transfer Programme currently runs from 1 April each year until 31 March the following year. In 1996-97, 22,248 housing units were transferred. In 1997-98, 32,982 units were transferred, and 73,900 units transferred in 1998-99. Details are set out in the table:

Local authorityNumber of units
Stratford District Council6,003
West Wilts DC1,769
Cotswold DC4,282
South Staffs DC5,273
Lichfield DC4,921
South Oxfordshire DC5,018
Eden DC1,510
LB Lambeth(1)515
LB Bexley8,215
Congleton DC4,061
Oldham DC(1)642
Liverpool CC(1)493
LB Merton(1)1,018
LB Tower Hamlets(1)1,852
Kerrier DC3,732
LB Hackney(1)951
LB Brent(1)1,481
Basildon DC(1)708
West Somerset DC1,869
Tewkesbury DC3,066
Rother DC3,058
LB Lambeth(1)681
LB Tower Hamlets(1)2,431
Wirral DC(1)1,082
Tameside MBC(1)901
West Devon BC1,446
South Somerset DC8,883
East Lindsey DC5,102
Liverpool CC(1)646
Manchester CC1,030
LB Hackney(1)1,084
South Hams DC3,096
LB Hammersmith and Fulham(1)668
LB Hackney(1)1,000
Telford and Wrekin DC13,081
LB Enfield1,194
Worthing DC2,525
Bath and North East Somerset9,887
Manchester CC(1)6,667
LB Greenwich(1)1,280
LB Hackney(1)661
Allerdale DC3,704
Allerdale DC(1)727

(1) Denotes a transfer facilitated with grant from the Estates Renewal Challenge Fund.

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Thames Transport

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what action he is taking to ensure that London River Services and the Port of London Authority honour the contracts which they entered into with Thames riverboat operators under the Partners in Progress scheme; [95481]

Mr. Hill: As part of the Government's Thames 2000 initiative to revitalise passenger transport on the Thames, London River Services (LRS) took over key central London piers from the Port of London Authority (PLA) on 1 April this year. LRS has been in discussion with Thames riverboat operators about the arrangements to transfer the licence agreements reached with the PLA to LRS.

LRS hope to be able to reach agreements with all the Thames riverboat operators on the transfer of licences. Indeed, the majority of operators have now signed new LRS licences. However, I am aware that some operators are still in negotiation with LRS about contractual arrangements, and I understand that the possibility of legal proceedings has been raised. In view of this it would be inappropriate for me to comment further.


Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is the current status of the proposal to give Railtrack plc infrastructural control of the sub-surface lines of London Underground; and when he expects an agreement to be made. [95992]

Mr. Hill: Railtrack and London Underground are continuing to work together to explore the options for linking the sub-surface Underground lines with the national rail network in a Public Private Partnership.

Subject to the outcome of the discussions currently underway, Railtrack would submit a priced bid for the sub-surface railway PPP contract and the integration schemes next year. As with the two deep tube PPPs, no bid will be entertained that does not contribute significantly to Tube safety.

London Underground

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what powers the Mayor for London will have to alter the terms of the proposed public-private partnership for London Underground Ltd. [95998]

Mr. Hill: The Mayor and Transport for London will take over PPP contracts designed to secure the efficient maintenance and improvement of the Tube network. These will be contractually binding, but they will have built into them flexibility for the Mayor to make adjustments over time, to deliver changing performance requirements. The Mayor, through Transport for London, will have the necessary controls to ensure that the Tube plays its full part in a properly integrated strategy for

27 Oct 1999 : Column: 875

transport in London. Fares, ticketing, service levels and the operation of stations and trains will be the responsibility of the Mayor.

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what studies he has undertaken into the operation of public/private partnerships in other countries similar to that proposed for London Underground Ltd. [95997]

Mr. Hill: Public private partnership is an area in which the UK is leading the way. The London Underground PPP is a bespoke arrangement to cater expressly for the needs of our Underground.

Mr. Woodward: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many extra District Line trains were run each day during the closure of the Circle Line service. [95994]

Mr. Hill: This is an operational matter for London Underground. However, I understand that two extra District Line trains ran each peak period during the closure of the Circle Line service. Demand in out-of-peak hours did not require the additional services.


Child Maintenance

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate the number of absent parents who are liable to pay child maintenance following an assessment by the Child Support Agency but who do not do so; and if he will estimate the number of these who are currently in receipt of (a) income support/jobseekers allowance or (b) a disability benefit. [94697]

Angela Eagle: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mrs. Faith Boardman. She will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Mike Isaac to Mr. Steve Webb, dated 26 October 1999:

    The most recent figures available show that at the end of May 1999 there were 863,960 NRPs with a full maintenance assessment and that 98,620 (11.4%) were known to be paying nothing at all. Included in this latter figure are 1,520 individuals on an Incapacity/Disability Benefit. As recipients of IS/JSAIB have nil maintenance liability, they will not therefore be included in the category of payers or non-payers. A contribution to maintenance may however be payable and may be deducted at source by the Benefits Agency.

    When an NRP refuses to cooperate with the Agency in calculating a maintenance assessment we may impose a punitive Interim Maintenance Assessment (IMA). This may be for a much higher amount than would otherwise be due and is intended to encourage the NRP to provide the information needed. At the end of May there were 78,340 IMAs in force with 45,560 NRPs not making any payment. The very lack of information that led to the IMA prevents us knowing the precise number in receipt of Incapacity/Disability Benefit though we are aware of 240 such cases.

27 Oct 1999 : Column: 876

    The Department's Analytical Services Division produces a CSA Quarterly Summary of Statistics that is available in the House of Commons Library and you may find the information it contains of further interest.

    I am very keen to improve compliance levels and to this end CSA has entered into partnership with Deloitte Touche. Working together, we will develop a strategy to increase the number of maintenance payments made on time and reduce the build up of arrears. The Agency will introduce effective compliance and enforcement procedures that will get rid of the 'soft touch' image it has acquired with some people. Furthermore, appropriate earlier contact with NRPs, by telephone, letter or face to face will encourage natural compliance. These measures will generate improvements in the short term and contribute to a sound base for achieving maximum benefit from the Child Support Reforms.

    I hope this is helpful.

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