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Highways (Works)

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will take powers to require utility telecoms companies and local authorities to co-ordinate their work programmes so that disruptive excavations of the highway are minimised; and if he will make a statement. [114996]

Mr. Hill: Street works undertakers are required under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 to co-operate with highway authorities and one another, and the authorities for their part are required to co-ordinate works in their streets. Section 66 of the 1991 Act provides that undertakers must carry on and complete works with all reasonable dispatch, and a street authority can require an undertaker obstructing the street more extensively or for longer than is reasonable necessary to comply with a restraining notice. Where there is a risk of serious traffic disruption from street works, section 56 enables the street authority to direct the undertaker to carry out work only at certain times, if the disruption can be avoided or reduced by this means.

In a further development, the 1998 Integrated Transport White Paper made a commitment to consult on options for an incentive system, with penalties, to minimise disruption to road users, and to encourage improved co-ordination of street works. A consultation was launched last October and my Department is considering the responses to the consultation in order to decide on the best way forward.

Finally, Regulations have been made under powers in the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, and came into effect last year, to facilitate and encourage the electronic transfer of information about street works and other works in the highway between utilities such as telecoms companies and highway authorities. This will ensure greater consistency and speed in transferring and registering the information, which in turn will help authorities in their co-ordination role.

Accident Reduction Targets

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he is taking to ensure that local authorities meet the Government's accident reduction targets; and if he will make a statement. [114890]

Mr. Hill: The Government's Road Safety Strategy, "Tomorrow's Roads--Safer for Everyone", included new national casualty reduction targets to be met by 2010. To achieve these targets we must work in partnership with

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others, including local authorities. The strategy outlines what we expect of local authorities. Within their local transport plan (LTP) authorities must devise a local road safety strategy including local casualty reduction targets in support of the national targets. We are providing authorities with additional resources for implementation.

The integrated transport element of capital allocations, which includes road safety schemes, will be £250 million in 2000-01, 20 per cent. higher than in the current year. Authorities will be required to produce annual progress reports setting out performance against the indicators and targets contained within the LTP. Authorities will be asked to look again at LTPs which fail to deliver against their targets and we reserve the right to reduce allocations to poorly performing authorities or introduce the selective ring-fencing of resources.

Office of the Rail Regulator

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many full-time staff worked in the Office of the Rail Regulator at the time that the present Regulator was appointed; how many new appointments have been made since then; how many staff have left since then; how many vacancies exist; how many staff are due to leave within the next six months; and how many staff the Regulator employs. [114917]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 16 March 2000]: At the time the present Regulator was appointed--on 5 July 1999--there were 140 full-time staff in the Office of the Rail Regulator, including the staff of the Central and regional Rail Users' Consultative Committees. Since his appointment, there have been 53 appointments--16 of which were new posts. Thirty-three staff have left since the current Regulator was appointed. There are 27 existing vacancies and there are five staff due to leave within the next six months. The Regulator currently employs 160 staff.

Cycle Lanes

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many kilometres of cycle lanes have been built in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available; and how many are projected to be built in the next five years. [114814]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 6 March 2000]: Information about the lengths of cycle lanes provided and projected by local highway authorities is not held centrally. The responsibility for the provision of all cycle facilities, including cycle lanes, rests with individual highway authorities.

We are encouraging local highway authorities to respond to the National Cycling Strategy by including local strategies to increase cycling in their local transport plans.

Telecommunications Masts

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what investigations the Health and Safety Executive is making into the potential health hazards of telecommunications masts. [115066]

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Mr. Meacher [holding answer 17 March 2000]: The Health and Safety Executive, in common with other Government Departments, is advised on health hazards from radiation emitted from telecommunication masts by the National Radiological Protection Board. The Government's view, based on advice from the NRPB, is that the validated scientific evidence does not suggest that radiofrequency emissions from telecommunication masts present a health hazard if they comply with NRPB guidelines, but that there is a need for more research.

HSE is supporting national and international research programmes into the suggested harmful effects of radiofrequency emissions, and will contribute to the review of the UK research programme in the light of the recommendations of the Independent Expert Group on Mobile Phones due in May.

Multiple Property Owning

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with the Treasury regarding taxation to discourage multiple property owning. [115125]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 16 March 2000]: My Department has regular discussions with the Treasury on a range of issues of mutual interest. Final decisions on taxation are a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Seat Belts

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he is taking to ensure that seat belts are worn by rear-seat passengers. [115537]

Mr. Hill: I refer the hon. Member to my reply of 16 March 2000, Official Report, columns 329-30W.

Home Energy Efficiency Programme

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much money was allocated to the Home Energy Efficiency Programme for each financial year since 1990-91 to the present for (a) the United Kingdom as a whole, (b) England, (c) Scotland and (d) Wales; and if he will make a statement. [115139]

Mr. Meacher: The Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) covers Great Britain only. Northern Ireland has always had its own separate scheme. Until 1999, the scheme had shared administration and delivery costs and no separate allocation for England, Scotland and Wales. During 1999-2000, the scheme was devolved to Scotland with a set budget. The total allocation for each year from 1990-91 is as follows, together with the approximate proportion spent in Scotland and Wales:

FinancialyearTotal allocation (£ million)Of which approximately allocated to Scotland (percentage)Of which approximately allocated to Wales (percentage)

(1) Expenditure in 1990-91 was for three months only.

(2) From 1 July 1999, Scotland set up its own separate scheme "Warm Deal". The total amount transferred to Scotland for the whole year (including expenditure during 1 April to 30 June) was £5.9 million. This figure does not include any additional monies allocated by the Scottish Executive to the programme.

(3) Not available.

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Housing (Newcastle Great Park)

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will estimate the housing densities of the housing areas of the proposed Newcastle Great Park planning application now referred to him, using the net site density method set out in Annexe C of the revised Planning Policy Guidance 3. [115285]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The application for Newcastle Great Park, which is currently before the Secretary of State, is for outline planning permission, so the information provided does not enable the net housing density to be calculated in accordance with Annexe C of the revised PPG3 on Housing. To do so, we should require many more details, such as the housing layout and area of open space, that the applicants are legitimately seeking to reserve for later approval if outline permission is granted.

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If the application is approved, the planning authority concerned (either the local authority or the Secretary of State) could impose conditions on the outline permission relating to housing density. The Secretary of State would expect any decision on this application to take into account the policies in the revised PPG3, as well as any other relevant policy guidance.

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