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Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what previous rail service, or experience, is required by recruits as trainee drivers (a) in respect of any rail employment and (b) as drivers of yard, suburban and freight train movement in respect of the high speed train services operated by the Great Western and Great North Eastern Railway. 
Mr. Hill: Previous rail service or experience is not a requirement for trainee drivers. First Great Western and Great North Eastern Railway are required to comply with Railtrack Group Standard GP/RT3251. This standard requires train operating companies to ensure that any person authorised to drive a train is assessed and certified as medically fit.
Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will state, in respect of the high-speed train sets currently operated by the Great North Eastern Railway, which organisations are responsible for their design, construction, commissioning and testing; who owns the sets; who leases them; who maintains them; who crews them; and who is responsible for other functions formerly carried out by the British Railways Board in relation to those sets. 
Mr. Hill: Great Northern Eastern Railway's (GNER) fleet of vehicles are owned by, and leased from, two different rolling stock leasing companies (ROSCOs), Angel Train Contracts Ltd. and Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. These vehicles were designed, manufactured, commissioned and tested by British Rail before privatisation. Heavy maintenance of the fleet is the responsibility of the ROSCO while light maintenance and crewing is the responsibility of GNER.
Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much was spent per head of population by each local authority in England on public transport subsidy for each of the last five years for which figures are available. 
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what response he has made to the first report of his Advisory Committee on Consumer Products and the Environment. 
Mr. Meacher: The Government welcome the first report of the Advisory Committee on Consumer Products and the Environment. It contains a number of positive recommendations on how we can reduce the impacts products make on the environment.
I met the Committee Chair, Dr. Alan Knight, last month and indicated to him that we will be considering carefully all the Committee's recommendations for action. We are already looking at how those relating to graded labels for
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cars and homes, standards for government procurement, and the development of a consumer website to help environmental choice, could be put into practice. I will be writing to Dr. Knight to keep him informed of progress on the recommendations.
Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what provisions have been made and guidance issued allowing referendums on elected mayors to take place on the same day as local elections. 
Ms Armstrong [holding answer 30 October 2000]: As I told the House on 26 October 2000, Official Report, column 173-74W, we have now published guidance on new council constitutions for English local authorities, in which is stated our intention to make regulations under the Local Government Act 2000 which would allow referendums on elected mayors to take place on the same day as any ordinary local election, and to require such polls to be combined.
Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance he has given to local authorities on determining the validity of petitions requiring a referendum on introducing an elected mayor. 
Ms Armstrong [holding answer 30 October 2000]: As I told the House on 26 October 2000, Official Report, columns 173-74W, we have now published guidance on new council constitutions for English local authorities, which includes guidance on determining the validity of petitions in accordance with the provisions of the Local Authorities (Referendums) (Petitions and Directions) (England) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/2852). To make this determination a local authority must, in particular, satisfy itself that the petition includes the names, addresses and signatures of at least 5 per cent. of the local government electors for its area.
Mr. Fraser: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the effect on the clothing and textiles sector of the withdrawal of compulsory competitive tendering in the public sector. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: None. There is no obvious connection between the local authority activities that were subject to competitive tendering and the health of the clothing and textile sector. The new duty of best value, which applies from 1 April 2000, will encourage the development of new markets in the provision of local authority services.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many vehicles were impounded because their owners failed to buy a road fund licence; and how many were crushed in each year since 1995. 
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(1) To date
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to extend the arrangements for conversion of vehicles from petrol or diesel to liquified petroleum gas to older vehicles. 
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 31 October 2000]: The Powershift programme sponsored by my Department provides grants only towards the cost of converting vehicles that are under one year old to run on liquefied petroleum gas. Through Powershift we are trying to encourage vehicle manufacturers to produce production- line gas vehicles rather than the after-market conversions that currently dominate the market. Not only will production-line vehicles be much cheaper than after-market conversions, their emissions performance should also be better. Therefore, Powershift grants are targeted at new vehicles to ensure manufacturers develop the high performance systems and technologies needed to manufacture gas vehicles on the production line.
However my Department also sponsors a Cleaner Vehicles Programme that aims to reduce emissions from existing vehicles operating in urban areas. The programme includes targeted projects to fit emission reduction technologies and to convert older vehicles to run on alternative fuels, including LPG, where it proves cost effective and environmentally beneficial to do so.
Mr. Meacher: Acts of vandalism or violence against those involved in evaluations of legally grown GM plants are totally unacceptable. The police have powers under public order legislation to deal with those who commit such acts and this has not changed. In a democratic society there is no reason for people to resort to violence against others or their property and it is right that the police use their powers to prevent this happening.
We are continuing to explore our options for protecting the property and families of farmers participating in the farm scale evaluations, with them, the industry and the police. We are looking at how we can best secure sites, which by their very nature are difficult to protect. We have, however, consistently promised to have a science-led, open and transparent regulatory environment and this means letting people know about the sites notified to us.
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Mr. David Heath: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what measures his Department will take to co-ordinate Government policy for rural areas following publication of the Rural White Paper. 
Mr. Meacher: The Cabinet Committee on Rural Affairs already has the remit of co-ordinating the Government's policies affecting rural areas. Its tasks include looking at the policies of all Departments so as to ensure that they take account of their impact on rural areas and that they work as effectively as they can together to support rural life. The Rural White Paper will include our assessment of what more needs to be done to ensure that the rural dimension of each Department's policies is clearly identified and integrated across all Departments.
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