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Mr. Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what performance targets have been set to ensure that small businesses automatically receive interest from local authorities on late payments made after 30 days of being invoiced in line with the Late Payments of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998; 
Ms Beverley Hughes: Under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1999, local authorities are required to report annually their performance against specified best value performance indicators. One such indicator is the percentage of undisputed invoices which were paid in 30 days. The Government have specified, in statutory guidance, the following targets for local authorities in respect of that best value indicator:
|Financial year||Percentage of invoices paid within 30 days|
I also refer my hon. Friend to the replies given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Small Business and E-Commerce on 23 October 2000, Official Report, columns 9-10W, and my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 24 October 2000, Official Report, column 109W.
Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will set out the costs of repairs and maintenance to the elevated section of the M6 through Birmingham in each year from 1990 to 1999. 
30 Oct 2000 : Column: 296W
|Financial year||£ million|
Mr. Meacher: The Health and Safety Executive maintains a register of deaths in Great Britain for which asbestosis is mentioned on the death certificate. The number of asbestosis deaths (excluding death certificates also mentioning mesothelioma) in each of the last three years is as shown.
|Number of death certificates mentioning asbestosis|
Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many companies have been prosecuted for breaches of health and safety legislation in each of the last three years. 
30 Oct 2000 : Column: 297W
Mr. Meacher: The number of companies (excluding individuals and others with health and safety duties) prosecuted for breaches of health and safety legislation following investigation by HSE in each of the last three years is as set out.
|Number of companies prosecuted|
(14) Data from 1 April to 31 March
Local authorities enforce health and safety legislation in relation to several kinds of premises. Local authorities provide information on prosecutions, but do not classify this by type of organisation. The number of separate breaches, by all kinds of employers and others, prosecuted following local authority investigation in each of the last three years is as set out.
|Number of breaches|
(16) Not yet available
(17) Data from 1 April to 31 March
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of increasing competition on transatlantic air routes on British consumers and business. 
Mr. Mullin: Increased competition on transatlantic air routes will bring benefits to British consumers, to business and to the wider economy. But competition must be fair. We shall continue to press the US to rescind those protectionist measures which, by denying to UK carriers effective access to their domestic market, serve to inhibit fair competition on transatlantic routes.
Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the total amount is (a) of early redemption penalties and (b) overhanging debt paid from central Government funds to enable the transfer of council housing to registered social landlords; and if he will list the advantages of early redemption of debt. 
Mr. Mullin: Under the arrangements for dealing with overhanging debt announced to the House by my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning on 16 December 1999, Official Report, column 250W, local authorities are responsible for meeting the cost of early redemption penalties either from the capital receipt arising from the transfer of housing stock or from within their existing resources. Since the arrangements came into force we have made one-off payments to Burnley Borough Council and Coventry City Council to assist
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them to repay outstanding principal of their Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) loans. The sum total of both payments was £132.696 million.
The advantages of early debt redemption are twofold. First, a mechanism to deal with overhanging debt makes housing transfer a realistic option for a wider range of authorities where investment is most needed. I understand that the total capital investment over the next 30 years in the housing stock transferred by Coventry City Council and Burnley Borough Council is estimated to be over £1 billion. Second, a one-off payment to assist an authority to repay outstanding PWLB loans is simpler--for both local and central government--than the alternative of leaving an authority's Housing Revenue Account open, despite the transfer of stock, and for the Exchequer to subsidise the overhanging debt for many years.
Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it his policy to bring about a public sector involvement in the railway industry for safety reasons. 
Mr. Hill: The Government have always made safety the top priority in the railways. All sections of the industry are under obligations to carry out their operations in a safe manner. We look to the Health and Safety Executive, as the sole regulator for rail safety, to ensure that the railways are operating safely.
Mr. Meacher: Recent research at the Hadley Centre, one of the world's leading climate research centres and funded by my Department, has shown that both natural and man made factors have contributed to the global rise in temperature of 0.6 deg C since 1860. The strong warming since the mid 1970s can only be explained by taking into account the effects of human activities on the atmosphere.
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