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Driving Licences

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much the medical section of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency pays to private opticians to conduct sight tests and field tests. [104080]

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Mr. Hill: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has only just started to use private opticians. DVLA currently pays optometrists £35 to undertake each visual field test, which, on current volumes of tests, will amount to an annual total of £280,000.

Employment Statistics

Mrs. Ann Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will encourage local authorities to publish the composition of their workforces in terms of standard age groups, ethnic origin and gender in their annual reports. [104015]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1999, authorities will be required to report annually their performance against specified national performance indicators. Details were published on 23 December in "Best Value and Audit Commission Performance Indicators for 2000-2001". They include indicators on the representation of minority ethnic staff in the workforce and the proportion of women in senior management posts. There is no indicator in respect of the age breakdown of the workforce, but the indicators will be reviewed annually and updated in the light of consultation with the range of authority and customer interests.

Early Retirement

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many employees of his Department took early retirement packages, and at what total cost, in the financial year 1996-97. [104098]

Ms Beverley Hughes: In the financial year 1996-97, 462 employees of the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport took early retirement. In addition, some 228 employees took early severance. It would not be possible to separate retirement and severance costs without disproportionate cost and effort, but the total costs of early retirements and severance in the year concerned was £23,322,610. This includes ongoing costs of departures from previous years.

Objective 1 Funding

Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what assessment he has made of the requirements for match public funds from his Department for the EU Objective 1 regions of (a) Cornwall and Scilly, (b) Merseyside and (c) South Yorkshire for each of the seven years of the programme. [104301]

Ms Beverley Hughes: My Department will provide significant financial support for all three Objective 1 programmes through a number of funding mechanisms. These include the Single Regeneration Budget and New Deal for Communities, as well as mainstream funding made available to local authorities. Local partnerships can prioritise the use of these resources to fund projects jointly with the Structural Funds, thereby boosting their impact.

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It is too early to estimate how much my Department's contribution is likely to be over the 2000-06 programme period. This will depend on the types of projects which local partnerships select for support over the programming period.

Strategic Rail Authority

Dr. Godman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to appoint a representative to the Strategic Rail Authority from (a) the National Assembly for Wales, (b) the Northern Ireland Assembly, (c) the Scottish Parliament and (d) the United Kingdom Parliament; and if he will make a statement. [104144]

Mr. Hill: There are no plans to appoint such representatives to the Strategic Rail Authority. The Secretary of State has, however, consulted the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Executive about Welsh and Scottish representation on the SRA. It is not intended that the responsibilities of the SRA will extend to Northern Ireland.


Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent representations he has received over the Government's plans to tackle homelessness. [102936]

Mr. Mullin: My Department has received a large number of representations in recent months from both interested organisations and members of the public, on a wide range of homelessness issues, and in particular on our recently published plans to tackle rough sleeping.

From its establishment in April 1999, the Rough Sleepers Unit consulted extensively with key partners as part of the development of its strategy, "Coming in from the Cold", which was published on 15 December 1999. Organisations that made representations during this process included other Government departments, local government, other statutory bodies including the Police and the National Health Service, key national and local voluntary organisations, the business community, faith leaders and rough sleepers themselves, as well as members of the general public.

Also, my Department has set up an official-level sounding board, which includes representatives from the Local Government Association, the Association of London Government, Shelter, the Chartered Institute of Housing, the National Housing Federation and other organisations with an interest in social housing, to discuss proposals for changes to policy on homelessness and the allocation of social housing. Our proposals are still at an early stage, but we intend to consult on them widely in due course.

Dog Identification Working Group

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he plans to initiate public consultations when the Dog Identification Working Group publishes its report. [104307]

Mr. Hill: The report of the Dog Identification Group is expected by the summer of this year. We will consider what the appropriate arrangements for consultation are to be nearer that time.

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Dr. Desmond Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how the figure of £350 million for the partial sale of NATS was calculated; and what plans he has to write off the outstanding debts owed by NATS. [104097]

Mr. Mullin: The estimate of £350 million in proceeds from the strategic partner in NATS is net of any debt restructuring and was calculated by our advisers in order to give Parliament a broad estimate of the possible proceeds from the proposed sale. The precise amount of the proceeds will be the subject of commercial negotiations with the strategic partner.

NATS loans from the NLF must be extinguished when the PPP is put in place so as to avoid any hidden subsidy to the PPP. This may be achieved by repayment, or by writing them off and replacing them with new commercial debt. Final decisions will be taken in consultation with the selected strategic partner when establishing an optimum capital structure for the company.

Ward Boundary Reviews

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what procedures exist for objections to be made, and appeals to be heard, in respect of proposals by the Local Government Boundary Commission concerning ward boundary reviews. [104228]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Representations, both for and against proposals, can be made at any time to the Local Government Commission (LGC) during the review process and to the Secretary of State after the publication of the Final Report and until an Order is made. It is vital for the integrity of democratic local government that the process of making local authority electoral arrangements should be, and be seen to be, fully independent. Therefore, it is the Government's policy that, unless there is compelling evidence available to it that the recommendations of the LGC may be flawed, it will accept them. However all representations received are fully considered before arriving at a final decision.

Waste Recycling

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what percentage of waste collected for recycling was exported in the last year for which figures are available, broken down into (a) glass, (b) paper, (c) plastics and (d) metals. [100941]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 6 December 1999]: The table shows the percentage of waste collected for recycling in the United Kingdom that was exported in 1998.

MaterialPercentage exportedAmount exported (thousand tonnes)
Paper and board8402
Ferrous metals363,193


British Glass Federation; Paper Federation of Great Britain; British Plastics Federation; Iron and Steel Statistics Bureau; HM Customs and Excise.

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