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Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, pursuant to his answer of 26 October 2000, Official Report, column 156W, on Robert Maxwell, what arrangements are in place to ensure that the inspectors appointed on 8 June 1992 under the Companies Acts to investigate the affairs and membership of Mirror Group Newspapers plc are providing value for money. 
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Mrs. Liddell [holding answer 6 November 2000]: The development of wind energy, both onshore and offshore, will make a significant contribution towards meeting our targets for renewable energy. Energy generated from both onshore and offshore wind installations will benefit from the proposed Renewables Obligation to be placed on electricity suppliers.
In addition, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced last month a total of £89 million from the Government and the New Opportunities Fund for capital grants for electricity generation from offshore wind and energy crops.
Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent discussion he has had with other EU countries regarding the shooting and trapping of birds during the migration season. 
Mr. Mullin: On 18 September 2000, officials from my Department met with their counterparts from the European Commission and other member states as part of a regular forum to discuss issues concerning the EC Birds Directive, including the hunting of migratory birds.
The Government fully support the Commission in its aim to ensure that member states fulfil their obligations under with the provisions of the Wild Birds Directive and that hunting is carried out only on a sustainable basis.
Ms Beverley Hughes: Following the announcement on 21 July by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister that the Regional Development Agencies' funding will be brought together in a single budget from April 2002, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions is considering what arrangements should apply during the transitional year 2001-02. A detailed announcement will be made in due course.
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During 2001-02, RDAs will continue to deliver regeneration activity, particularly in the most deprived communities, through the programmes they manage including existing commitments under SRB, the land and property budget, the rural development programme and the skills development fund.
Mr. Willis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on his proposals to finance half-fare travel for senior citizens; and how much he expects each local authority to contribute. 
Mr. Hill: We have said that local government will be reimbursed for the overall additional cost of the statutory minimum concessionary fare scheme, for which provision is made in the Transport Bill at present before Parliament. The Local Government Finance settlement will include an appropriate sum within the Environmental Protection and Cultural Services block, which will be distributed according to the relevant Standard Spending Assessment formula. The implications for individual authorities will depend on whether any concessionary fare scheme which they already provide meets the new statutory requirements, or if it does not what expenditure will be involved in bringing it up to the necessary standard.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what provision he has made to ensure that funding arrangements for the new concessionary fares (a) are affordable and (b) are sufficiently flexible to operate in rural areas. 
Mr. Hill: Our estimate of the overall annual extra cost in England of the statutory minimum scheme provided for in the Transport Bill is in the order of £47 million. That amount is therefore being added to the lower tier of the Environmental, Protective and Cultural Services (EPCS) Standard Spending Assessment (SSA), which is taken into account in the calculation of revenue support grant allocations. An authority's SSA will increase by a share of the £47 million that is broadly in proportion to its current share of the EPCS lower tier. The financial implications of the minimum standard will clearly vary from one local authority to another, according to whether an existing scheme is operated and if so what it provides.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will investigate different models of operation of concessionary fares in order to ensure that the available network is created between urban and rural areas. 
Mr. Hill: The Transport Bill provides for a statutory minimum local authority concessionary fares scheme which will ensure travel for pensioners and disabled people on local buses at half fare or better, with a free bus pass. It is open to local authorities to act jointly to provide a concessionary fare scheme which applies across their combined area, and to provide concessionary travel on modes of transport other than bus.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will launch national and local campaigns to ensure that there is maximum take-up of new concessionary fares. 
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Mr. Hill: I certainly hope that there will be a high take-up of the new statutory minimum concessionary fare scheme. The effect will vary from place to place, according to what scheme each local authority does (or does not) provide already; I am sure that local authorities will draw the attention of their residents to local improvements.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with the Local Government Association regarding the introduction of new concessionary fares arrangements, with particular reference to rural areas. 
Mr. Hill: My officials have had several discussions with representatives of the Local Government Association (LGA) regarding the introduction of the statutory minimum local authority concessionary fares scheme.
Mr. Hill: The Transport Bill provides for a statutory minimum local authority concessionary fares scheme for travel on local bus services. However, it is open to local authorities to offer schemes which provide for travel by taxi as an addition or an alternative to the statutory minimum scheme. In particular, schemes based on tokens, which can be used on taxis, can continue to be offered by local authorities, as an alternative to the statutory minimum. The necessary provision is contained in clause 145(6) of the Transport Bill, at present before Parliament.
Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions which of his Department's (a) paid employees and (b) press officers attended the Labour party conference in Brighton. 
Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 30 October 2000]: Consistent with the terms of their contracts, all Special Advisers attended the Labour party conference. No other officials attended in an official capacity.
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