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Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many people have been fined for dropping litter in the last 12 months for which figures are available. 
Mr. Hill: In the 12 month period, 1 April 1998-31 March 1999, local authorities in England and Wales issued 4,576 fixed penalty litter notices. Of these 2,520 were paid and 13 cases were taken to court.
Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list those people that have been entertained at public expense at Dorneywood, since May 1997. 
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps the Environment Agency is taking to monitor the waste disposal process from the former Britannic House site in the City of London. 
Mr. Meacher: Section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requires that waste from construction sites is treated and disposed of in accordance with the conditions of a waste management licence, or within the terms of a licensing exemption, and in a way which does not cause pollution of the environment or harm to human
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health. Section 34 of the 1990 Act imposes a duty of care on those who produce, carry, keep, treat or dispose of construction waste. Contravention of these controls is a criminal offence.
It is the responsibility of those who produce and dispose of construction waste to comply with the requirements of sections 33 and 34 of the 1990 Act. However, in view of my hon. Friend's concern, the Environment Agency has undertaken to visit the site.
Mr. Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps the Health and Safety Executive is taking to check safety standards at the former Britannic House site in the City of London. 
Mr. Meacher: The Health and Safety Executive received an initial notification of construction work at the former Britannic House site in January 1998. Since then there have been five visits to the site by HSE Inspectors to check health and safety standards, the last one being in March this year. At least one further visit is planned before the project is completed.
Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what measures he is taking to meet the aim published in the UK Biodiversity Habitat Action Plan for Lowland Raised Bogs, of achieving 90 per cent. replacement of the total market requirement for peat with alternatives by 2010. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: The preliminary target in the Lowland Raised Bogs Action Plan is for 40 per cent. of the total market requirement for soil conditioners and growing media to be met by peat alternatives by 2005. The plan also indicates the promotion of research and development of sustainable alternatives to peat to speed up reduction of peat used in both amateur and professional markets, with the longer-term aim of 90 per cent. peat-free by 2010. We are closely monitoring the UK markets for peat and alternatives. In 1998, peat alternatives accounted for 32 per cent. of the total market. The provisional results for 1999, which will be published later this year, indicate continued progress towards the published target.
We wish to maintain a competitive UK horticultural industry, and the quality of products available to the amateur gardener, and recognise that unless the sustainable alternatives are acceptable to the consumer they will not be taken up. The report of the Peat Working Group, published in November 1999, identified possible courses of action to increase further the use of alternatives in the longer term, including the dilution of peat based products, and the development of quality standards for growing media. We are now looking at means of taking these ideas forward.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the extent to which the level of local authority spending on the management and maintenance of their dwellings differs from the amount provided through the housing subsidy system; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Mullin: Provisional outturn figures for 1999-2000 indicate that local authorities have spent £4.0 billion on the management and maintenance of their dwellings. This compares with total allowances of £3.1 billion included within the calculation of the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy. These allowances are just one component of the subsidy calculation, which also takes into account expenditure on debt charges and assumed income from rents. It is for local authorities to decide how best to balance their various sources of income and expenditure so as to meet the needs of their tenants.
Mr. Meacher: The UK is committed to ratifying the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (the "Aarhus Convention") as soon as possible. The Explanatory Memorandum for the Convention (Cm 4736) outlines the steps that need to be taken before this can be done. We anticipate that we will be in a position to ratify the Convention by summer 2001. However, the exact timing will depend on the legislative programmes of the devolved administrations.
Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will set out the timetable for awarding the rail franchise for the services operated by Connex South Central; 
Mr. Hill: Although Connex have no such contractual requirements, they currently hold more than one franchise and are pre-qualified bidders or potential bidders for other replacement franchises. The Franchising Director is entitled to take into account the past performances of operators when considering the award of franchises. The Franchising Director has set no specific dates for the award of any replacement franchise, as to do so may prejudice his negotiating position.
Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress he has made in his review of legislation on the buying and selling of houses; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Mullin: On 11 October last year we announced our intention to take forward a package of complementary measures, which were based on a detailed survey and consultation exercise and studies of experience in other countries.
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Introducing a compulsory seller's information pack requires legislation and we are awaiting a suitable legislative opportunity. In the meantime, we have set up a pilot scheme in Bristol to test out the components of the seller's information pack and to provide information on its practical operation.
Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the bid by Gedling Borough Council for SRB6 funding for Netherfield; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: The bid by Gedling Borough Council for Single Regeneration Budget round 6 funding, along with other bids from the region, is currently being assessed by the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA). EMDA will make recommendations to the Secretary of State, who will decide which bids to support early next month.
Ms Beverley Hughes: Final bids under round 6 of the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) have been assessed by Regional Development Agencies, who are now making recommendations to myself and to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Regions. After we have consulted other ministerial colleagues, the Government and the RDAs plan to announce the successful bids in early August.
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