Previous Section Index Home Page

Rail Passenger Partnership (Merseyside)

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the applications he has received in connection with the Rail Passenger Partnership from Merseyside. [105890]

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 133W

Mr. Hill: The first two successful bids under the Rail Passenger Partnership scheme, together worth more than £3.5 million, were announced on 8 December 1999. The Franchising Director will make further announcements on bids already received and those he is expecting to receive in due course. These include at least one from Merseyside.

Greenbelt Land

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list those local authorities where the amount of greenbelt land exceeds (a) 90 per cent. and (b) 75 per cent. of the total land area of the local authorities. [105907]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Information on the area of greenbelt land in each local authority is not currently available centrally. Estimates under preparation, based on designated greenbelt areas shown in adopted and deposited local plans, should be finalised within two months. I shall write to the hon. Member when they are available.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Watts: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions which overseas distribution systems his Department is reviewing as part of its review of local government grant distribution systems; and when changes in the grant system will be introduced. [105917]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The DETR commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to conduct a research project examining grant distribution systems used overseas. The initial phase of the project entailed PwC producing outline descriptions of 19 grant distribution systems used in other OECD countries. The 19 countries examined were:





    United States.

The preliminary analysis of the 19 countries by PwC can be found on the Local Government Association (LGA) website at index.htm. Discussion of the 19 outline descriptions was carried out at the joint DETR and LGA review group. The next stage of the project required eight countries to be

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 134W

selected by the review group for further analysis. PwC produced detailed reports on these eight countries. The eight countries were:

The preliminary in-depth reports produced by PwC can also be found on the LGA website. The next stage of the project required the joint DETR and LGA review group to agree which, if any, of the eight countries warranted further study. Four countries were selected for further analysis and a visit by representatives of DETR and local government. The four countries were:



Papers recording the information gained from the four visits can also be found on the LGA website. PwC will shortly be producing their final report. This will bring together all the material from the research project.

The implementation of any change to the current grant distribution system will depend on the outcome of the consultation exercise taking place this summer and its timing will depend on whether legislation is required.

Welsh Assembly

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what training staff in his Department have received on the implications of the establishment of the National Assembly for Wales on their work in giving advice in response to inquiries. [106069]

Ms Armstrong: General information and guidance on the implications of devolution for the work of the Department, including the handling of correspondence and inquiries, has been promulgated to staff throughout the Department. All senior managers have been briefed on the need for good communications and relations with the devolved administrations, following the arrangements set out in the "Memorandum of Understanding and supplementary agreements" (Cm 4444).

We hope shortly to conclude and publish a bilateral concordat with the Cabinet of the National Assembly for Wales.

Rail Franchising

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will discuss with the Franchising Director a requirement that in the next round of railway franchises for services between (a) Holyhead and Crewe and (b) Cardiff and Crewe, companies are required to tender on the basis of at least two through-train services between Holyhead and Cardiff each day. [105888R]

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 135W

Mr. Hill: The Franchising Director has invited proposals for improved services in Wales and the North West. In any renegotiations the Franchising Director will seek the best deal he can for passengers, in line with the Instructions and Guidance the Deputy Prime Minister gave him last year. The Franchising Director has met with Welsh Assembly officials to discuss their aspirations, and he will consult them as plans for future services provision are formulated.

Storm Damage

Mr. David Atkinson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what special financial assistance will be made available for coastal authorities in response to the damage caused by recent storms; and if he will make a statement. [106310]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Local authorities have statutory powers to deal with emergencies and are expected to budget accordingly. They may apply for additional financial assistance where there is a case for doing so under existing rules. All local authorities were sent copies of the current guidance notes and thresholds on 26 February 1999. To date we have received no applications in respect of the recent storms.

Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he is making to the European Commission in respect of the arrangements enabling European Commission trade negotiators to take full account of environmental considerations and the requirements of multilateral environmental agreements. [105581]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 20 January 2000]: The United Kingdom played a leading role in the development of the European Union's position on how the relationship between trade and the environment should be addressed in the proposed new Round of multilateral trade negotiations. This position was set out in the conclusions of the General Affairs Council prior to the third World Trade Organisation Ministerial in Seattle in December 1999. The conclusions of the General Affairs Council are consistent with the Government's priorities for action in this area. They include commitments to clarifying the legal relationship between the rules of the WTO and trade measures taken pursuant to Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and to taking environmental considerations into account throughout the negotiations. I attended the Seattle Ministerial, where I was able to discuss trade and environment issues directly with representatives of the European Commission.

The Government also strongly support the Sustainability Impact Assessment which the European Commission is undertaking to inform the European Union's negotiating position in future trade liberalisation negotiations. Officials from my Department and the Department for Trade and Industry will continue to participate in meetings with the European Commission and other member states of the European Union to discuss trade and environment issues.

Severn Trent Water

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what

24 Jan 2000 : Column: 136W

representations he has received concerning the impact of Ofwat's price review on employment at Severn Trent Water. [106043]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 20 January 2000]: The Department has received a number of representations on this issue, including correspondence from the Managing Director and employees of Severn Trent Water, local union representatives and hon. Members whose constituencies fall within the Severn Trent area. The representations expressed concern that Severn Trent Water might make some staff redundant following the decisions of the Director General of Water Services on price limits for water companies, to apply from April 2000.

Setting price limits, at the price review, is a matter for the Director General of Water Services. He has a statutory duty to secure that water companies properly carry out their functions and are able to finance them. These functions must be carried out in full compliance with all legal requirements, including drinking water quality (regulated by the Drinking Water Inspectorate), health and safety (regulated by the Health and Safety Executive), environmental standards (regulated by the Environment Agency) and customer service and continuity of supply (regulated by the Director General himself). The Director General expects companies to improve on efficiency savings that they have already achieved. It will be for water and sewerage undertakers to ensure that they maintain the necessary staff and other resources to meet these obligations in full.

In deciding how to meet price limits set by the Director General, companies will need to consider the range of measures open to them, including factors such as dividend policy, as well as the option of making staff redundant.

The Government believe that it is possible to deliver substantial quality improvements and reductions in customers' bills, for the benefit of consumers. The environmental and water quality improvement programmes will create significant new employment opportunities, although my Department has not undertaken or commissioned research on employment in the water industry.

Next Section Index Home Page