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Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will estimate how many people in the United Kingdom use pedal cycles more than once a week; 
(3) if he will estimate how many people used a pedal cycle at least once a week in each of the last five years. 
Mr. Hill: In Great Britain during the period 1998-99, 14 per cent. of respondents reported using a pedal cycle at least once a week, compared to 12 per cent. in 1989-91. Data on the frequency of use of pedal cycles were not collected on the National Travel Survey between 1992 and 1997.
Data on individual ownership of pedal cycles are not held centrally. However, in the three year period 1997-99, 40 per cent. of households in Great Britain owned one or more pedal cycles (National Travel Survey).
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what plans he has under Local Transport Note 1/97 to codify the ways in which cyclists may use bus lanes; 
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Mr. Hill: The allocation of road space is a matter for the local Highway Authority. The Department issues advice to the Highway Authorities to encourage provision of cycle facilities and bus priority measures such as bus lanes.
The Local Transport Note 1/97, "Keeping Buses Moving 1997", provides advice about the introduction of bus priority measures, including bus lanes. For safety reasons it recommends that pedal cyclists be allowed to use bus lanes (this is the norm provided for in the Traffic Signs Regulation and General Directions 1994), unless there is a valid reason for their exclusion. The Department has no plans to codify ways in which cyclists may use bus lanes or for the introduction of cycle ways specifically to increase flows in bus lanes.
Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what conclusions have been drawn from his Department's quarterly monitoring of the Mersey Partnerships' performance. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: The Mersey Partnership is currently on course to meet all its targets by 31 December 2000. This includes the key outputs and impact indicators of improving Merseyside's image both nationally and regionally, and securing investment with partners from inward investors initially handled by the Mersey Partnership.
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to request the NRPB to publish detailed advice to nuclear regulators and operators on the provisions of the Radioactive Substances (Basic Safety Standards) Directive in respect of the calculation of population doses from practices giving rise to radiation exposure. 
Mr. Meacher: As a consequence of the Radioactive Substances (Basic Safety Standards) (England and Wales) Direction 2000 and the equivalent Direction made in Scotland, the regulators--the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Environment and Heritage Service within the Northern Ireland Department of the Environment--in collaboration with the NRPB, are already developing guidance on the assessment of public doses for the purpose of authorising discharges of radioactive waste to the environment. This document will not only provide guidance to inspectors on the assessment of public doses and provide to operators guidance on the preparation of radiological assessments in support of authorisation applications, it will also provide information to the public on the regulators' methods of conducting public dose assessments. A public consultation exercise on the guidance commenced on 3 October. The guidance is expected to be published in Spring 2001.
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Mr. Meacher: We are reviewing the energy provisions of the Building Regulations. We are considering responses to a recently completed consultation exercise on proposals to raise building energy performance standards, including in the non-domestic sector.
The Government's Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme offers a range of information and advice to encourage the commercial sector to improve its energy efficiency. This includes site specific and design advice services, publications, seminars, workshops, board-level briefings and a help-line for small and medium businesses.
Under the programme, we are also seeking voluntary agreements with organisations that can enter into a commitment to energy savings for a specific sector or sub-sector. Agreements, such as that in place with the hospitality sector, will encourage greater energy awareness and accountability through targeted dissemination and better sharing of best practice.
In addition to the Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme, as part of the climate change levy package, £27 million has been allocated to the promotion of energy efficiency, the provision of impartial advice, and support for research, development and demonstration. Improving energy efficiency in commercial buildings offers much scope for carbon savings and therefore will be an important component of the expanded energy efficiency and carbon abatement programmes.
Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to establish if ship tracking systems are reliable; what assessment he has made of the effect of such systems on the incidence of piracy; and what action he is taking with the International Maritime Organisation against piracy and armed robbery in international waters. 
Mr. Hill: It is a fact that ship-tracking systems do work and serve their primary purpose of establishing the location of ships at sea using satellite technology. I understand that their widespread use can be taken as a good indicator of their reliability. Although my Department is not directly involved in assessing the effectiveness of such systems we have consulted the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) who have actively promoted use of the tracking system called 'Shiploc' as an effective counter piracy measure, particularly in cases where the objective is to steal the ship. This allows shipping companies to monitor their vessels' progress, to know quickly if the ship has a particular difficulty and to track it after an incident. IMB have advised my Department that, in their opinion, the system has deterrent value, although it is difficult to separate the direct benefits of this from those of the other measures which are being implemented to counter the piracy problem. Other ship tracking systems are also available on the market (e.g. Fleet Remote Monitoring System (FROM)). It is not
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for the Department to promote any individual system, but we ensure that ship owners and operators are made aware of the options in our various contacts with them.
Over the past three years my Department has been active in supporting the International Maritime Organisation's (IMO) initiatives in countering the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships at sea. These initiatives and actions include:
Dr. Gibson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the working of the Audit Commission Act 1998 as regards (a) access by the public to accounts of public bodies, (b) the grounds on which access to information can be withheld during the prescribed period of access and (c) the circumstances in which agreements between a public body and a private contractor can be withheld from inspection on grounds of confidentiality. 
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Ms Beverley Hughes: My right hon. Friend has made no assessment of the workings of the Audit Commission Act 1998 as regards access to information. We consider that the right of the public to inspect the accounts and supporting papers of local authorities is an important part of the overall accountability framework. It is the responsibility of each local authority to decide whether information on personal or contractual matters in any particular case is owed a degree of confidentiality and to act accordingly.
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