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Convention on International Trade in

Endangered Species

Mr. Lepper: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement about the issues discussed during the recent visit to Cuba by UK and EU officials and scientists in connection with the forthcoming meeting of the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. [105810]

Mr. Mullin: In September 1999, at Cuba's request, a delegation from the EU Scientific Review Group of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conducted a fact finding mission to Cuba regarding the exploitation of Eretmochelys imbricata (hawksbill turtles). The mission met representatives of the Agencia de Medio Ambiente (AMA) of the Ministerio de Ciencia, Technologia y Medio Ambiente, the Cuban CITES Management Authority, and the Cuban Fisheries Research Center. It visited a traditional fishing site, an experimental ranching centre and turtle shell stockpiles. Issues discussed related to a draft proposal by Cuba on hawksbill turtles for the next CITES Conference of Parties (April 2000). The delegation looked at the implications of the proposal for both the Cuban and the wider Caribbean populations of hawksbill turtles, the quality of Cuba's captive rearing facilities, techniques for marketing shells, and conservation benefits arising from the proposal.

The delegation was impressed with the stringency of Cuban controls, but was unable to see key data on population or monitoring of nesting beaches, and so could not reach any firm conclusions.

House Building (Shropshire)

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many new homes have been built in (a) Shropshire and (b) Shrewsbury and Atcham from 1979 to date; and if he will make a statement. [105531]

Mr. Raynsford: From January 1979 to November 1999 inclusive, there were 32,400 and 6,250 dwellings completed in Shropshire and Shrewsbury and Atcham respectively.


Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the findings were of the 1996 English House Condition Survey on

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the relationship between rat infestations and unfitness due to ineffective draining of foul, waste and surface water. [105482]

Mr. Mullin: The recent MAFF report "Rodent Infestations in domestic properties in England" covers this issue. MAFF's report tentatively suggests that there is a relationship between the incidence of blocked drains and outdoor rat infestation but this has not been supported with statistically significant analysis of the data so the conclusion needs to be treated with caution. Moreover, faults that might be expected to reflect a direct link with sewers, such as cracked or defective drains covers, were not found to be related to rat infestation. A copy of the MAFF report is in the House of Commons Library.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will announce his proposals concerning areas of outstanding natural beauty. [105471]

Mr. Mullin: Funding increases for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) have already been announced. The Countryside Agency has an additional £2.5 million in the current financial year for their management and conservation, rising by a further £1 million in 2000-01, which will bring the Agency's budget for AONBs to £5.7 million.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment expects to make an announcement soon on further proposals to strengthen the protection and management of AONBs.

Post Offices

Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals are being considered by his Department to help sustain and develop the viability of rural and urban sub post offices. [105863]

Ms Armstrong: I refer the right hon. Member to the reply given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Competitiveness on 20 January 2000, Official Report, columns 519-20W.

Some support to sub post offices is currently provided through the non-domestic rating system. The sole post office or shop in a designated rural area is entitled to 50 per cent. mandatory relief from non-domestic rates, provided its rateable value is less than £5,000. Local authorities have discretionary powers to provide further relief up to 100 per cent. of the full rates bill for these and other properties in designated rural areas, with rateable values less than £10,000.

We are also considering the suggestion in the Report of the Urban Task Force, "Towards an Urban Renaissance", that there should be rate reductions for small retailers in designated urban priority areas.

In the 1998 White Paper "Modernising Local Government: In Touch With The People" we announced a general rate relief scheme for all small non-domestic properties, which will include small post offices in urban and rural areas. We aim to consult shortly on the details of this scheme.

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Housing Associations

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many housing association units have been available for rent in each of the past 10 years. [105228]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 18 January 2000]: The available figures for Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) in England are given in the tables below.

Units owned by registered social landlords and available for rent, 1989-99
England only Thousands

As at 31 MarchOccupied homesHomes vacant and available for lettingTotal number of units available for rent

Figures for the availability of hostel and shared housing bedspaces also exist for 1994-99.

Number of hostel and shared housing bedspaces owned by RSLs, 1994-99
England only Thousands

As at 31 MarchOccupied bedspacesBedspaces vacant and available for lettingTotal availability of bedspaces


(a) 1989-98 data: Registered Social Landlords in 1998: Profile of the RSL sector.

(b) 1999 data: as yet unpublished.

Airline Accidents

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what studies his Department has undertaken of the numbers of cases at international airports over the last 10 years when civil airline accidents on take-off or departure have resulted in ground fatalities. [105981]

Mr. Hill: In 1995 the then Department of Transport commissioned NATS Ltd. to advise on the scope for detailed modelling of the size and shape of risk contours around airports, in connection with its review of Public Safety Zone policy. In preparing its advice NATS used the CASE (Client Aviation System Enquiry) database of aircraft accidents maintained by Airclaims Ltd. to identify

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information on crashes between 1979 and 1995 involving western-built airliner jets and turboprops. It used this information, in conjunction with data about aircraft movements, to calculate crash rates which would be relevant to the UK. From this information NATS used its own location model to determine the statistical distribution of crash locations in the vicinity of an airport. NATS also developed a consequence model to determine the size of the areas on the ground destroyed by aircraft accidents.

The crashes used for the purpose of this work were not limited to those which resulted in ground fatalities. The most useful approach was considered to be to draw upon the most reliable data available to calculate crash rates and model crash location and consequences, and then to apply those results in defining new boundaries for Public Safety Zones at airports.

London Underground

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what arrangements have been put in place to ensure that operation of the London Underground under a public-private partnership is subject to the provisions of the Customer Charter respecting compensation for delays experienced by passengers. [106071]

Mr. Hill: London Underground Ltd., which administers refunds under its customer charter, will remain as a public-sector company in the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Therefore the refund policy will not be affected by the PPP.

Jubilee Line Extension

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions to what extent a full service has been provided on the Jubilee line extension since its opening. [106072]

Mr. Hill: When the Jubilee line extension began to open, in phases, from May 1999, services were only offered from Monday to Friday, and limited hours were operated. This was to allow contractors access to the line for completion works.

Now that the whole extension is open, and has joined the existing Jubilee line, full through services from Stanmore to Stratford, seven day a week services, and normal Tube opening hours are provided.

There have been some problems with reliability due to technical difficulties with new equipment and systems. I understand that London Underground is addressing these issues. In the four weeks to 8 January, the percentage of scheduled trains operated has increased to 94.2 per cent. LU has work in hand to improve reliability further.

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