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Mr. Raynsford: PINS has a key role to play in taking forward our modernising planning agenda. I am therefore very pleased to say that the Inspectorate has met all but one of the targets set for its work in England. Its annual report for 1999-2000, which is published today, shows that its performance delivered an improvement upon the timeliness targets for handling planning appeals. It has maintained the high standard for development plan
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inquiries, thereby helping to create a greater certainty for all involved in the planning process as more areas are covered by up to date development plans.
The agency continues to meet its 3 per cent. efficiency target. On-going investment in staff development and IT systems have improved performance and service to customers. The Inspectorate's website was re-launched in March and now covers a wide range of information to assist users of the planning system. Surveys show that the Inspectorate's handling of appeals and its decisions are widely respected. Its quality target was not just met but exceeded.
Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will make further information available on the structure and resourcing of the Supporting People programme. 
Mr. Raynsford: I will on Monday publish a further consultation paper on the Supporting People programme. This paper, "Decision Making and Working Arrangements", is published jointly by my Department, the Department of Health, and the Home Office, and sets out our proposals on how the scheme should work, following discussions with the consultative groups who are helping develop the detail of the scheme.
The need to involve the expert authorities and practitioners in the development of this guidance;
That the Supporting People strategy will have to be agreed by a partnership group including Health, Probation, and in a county, all the districts, and that the county will be responsible for managing this process in two-tier authorities. Elected Members will approve the strategy;
That administrative arrangements are very important. We propose a common system of information be held, and are exploring what IT support may be appropriate;
A schematic project plan which authorities should use to drive the programme forward.
I am also pleased to say that we will be providing £140 million of revenue funding over three years to enable authorities to implement the Supporting People programme. We are talking to the LGA and their partners about the detail of how these funds will be distributed, but intend to invite authorities to set out their first year preparation plans as a trigger for the first payments. The table sets out the funding for each of the next three years.
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Mr. Hill: The table shows a comparison of London Underground Limited's performance in 1999-2000 with that in 1998-99. It also shows the performance targets that London Underground have been set to achieve by the end of 2000-01.
|Capacity (train kms run)||61.2||63.1||(1)67.3|
|Reliability (unweighted excess journey time in minutes)||3.15||3.21||(1)3.02|
|Customer satisfaction measures (average scores out of 100)|
|Customer safety and security||81||81||83|
|Staff helpfulness and availability||68||70||70|
(1) 2000-01 target.
(1) Ten per cent. increase on 1998-99 performance.
(1) Four per cent. improvement on 1998-99 level.
Ms Rosie Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 21 July 2000, Official Report, column 357W, if he will make a statement on the outcome of the court hearing on further interim payments to National Bus Company pensioners. 
Mr. Hill: I am pleased to be able to say that I have been informed by the National Bus Company pension trustees that the hearing cleared the way for them to make tax-free interim lump sum payments to some 8,500 pensioners who were members of the BEST pension scheme and who began receiving a Standard Life pension after April 1986. This is of course in addition to the other interim payments referred to in my earlier answer.
Mr. Fabian Hamilton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research the Social Exclusion Unit has undertaken on the views of people living in deprived areas towards public services. 
Ms Armstrong: Earlier this year, as part of its work on developing the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, the Social Exclusion Unit commissioned MORI to re-analyse the first wave of People's Panel data in order to assess attitudes to various services held by people living in deprived and non-deprived areas. This report will be published through the next People's Panel newsletter, which is due to be issued at the end of August/beginning of September. At the same time, copies of the summary of the report will also be put on to the People's Panel website and full copies of the report will be placed in the Libraries in both Houses.
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Mr. Terry Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to strengthen local government's capacity to develop modern procurement practices. 
Ms Armstrong: I have today announced the establishment of a joint DETR/Local Government Association taskforce to review commissioning and procurement in local government in the light of the requirements of Best Value.
The review will cover the procurement of goods, works and services. It will address directly the role of modern procurement practice in delivering best value. It is expected to recommend practical measures which local authorities can take to secure real benefits to local people from efficient and effective procurement.
The review will consider ways of giving effect to the Government's objectives on electronic and green procurement. It will also take into account the findings of the Gershon review of civil procurement in central government, the second Bates review of PPP/PFI, the Construction Industry Taskforce report "Rethinking Construction" and the work of the Public Sector Productivity Panel.
The taskforce is expected to start work in September and will publish a report and recommendations next spring. In October, the chairman will set out the taskforce's full membership, its working methods and the procedure for making written submissions.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research has been commissioned by the Environment Agency, in the context of its current review of authorisations of Sellafield discharges, into (a) the use of Magnox fuel in Magnox reactors, (b) the construction of a new head-end plant at Thorp and (c) dry storage technologies. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 11 April 2000]: I understand that the Environment Agency has not commissioned research into the use of Magnox fuel in Magnox reactors or into dry storage techniques. However as part of the current Sellafield review, the agency is requiring BNFL to asses whether it would be practicable to modify the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plan (THORP) to enable it to reprocess spent Magnox fuel.
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