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Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress made by his Department since 1999 in reducing sickness absence; what targets he has agreed with the Cabinet Office; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 30 October 2000]: Following publication of the Cabinet Office report "Working Well Together--Managing Attendance in the Public Sector" the Department has been implementing a programme of action with the aim of reducing the level of sickness absence in the Department. Initiatives include
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new guidance for line managers and staff and improved sick absence monitoring so that a more accurate picture of trends can be identified and clearer understanding of the factors involved appreciated. Health promotion activities have complemented this approach with lifestyle screening, displays, in-house magazine articles and proactive events.
Details of the Department's targets for reduced sickness absence for the years 2001 and 2003 against a baseline year of 1998 will be included in its Service Delivery Agreement. This is to be published shortly.
Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what support he plans to give to encourage the development of techniques for the recycling of organic materials in household waste. 
Waste Strategy 2000 also announced the establishment of the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), to tackle the barriers to increased re-use and recycling and to create stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products.
WRAP will co-ordinate and commission research into new or improved processing techniques for recycled materials, including organic household waste, and provide advice, guidance and technical support to people involved in recycling and composting.
Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure small pockets of deprivation outside cities receive Government support for regeneration. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: The Government are committed to tackling deprivation and main spending programmes, which are seen as the key for achieving the greatest impact, have been set new targets through the Spending Review 2000, so that the outcomes they achieve in deprived areas improve. They have also received substantial increases from the Spending Review for the next three years. The Action Plan for implementing the Neighbourhood Renewal strategy, which will be published shortly, will set out further proposals for tackling deprivation wherever it occurs, in line with our objective of narrowing the gap between deprived areas and the rest of the country. The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit will take this forward cross-departmentally.
Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions which non-UK and non-US carriers have received further fifth freedom rights from the UK in the last year; and which applications are still outstanding. 
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Mr. Mullin: Fifth freedom rights are often the subject of discussion during air service negotiations. In the last year the UK has granted, as part of a balanced exchange of rights, new or additional fifth freedom traffic rights to the designated airline or airlines of the following countries:
Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the impact of the proposed Thameslink 2000, indicating how many passengers the link is expected to carry. 
Mr. Hill: Railtrack's Thameslink 2000 proposals are currently being considered at a public inquiry under the Transport and Works Act. Following the inquiry, the Inspector will make a report to the Secretary of State. It would be inappropriate for me to comment at this stage on the merits or otherwise of the proposals as this would prejudice the inquiry proceedings and the Secretary of State's eventual decision on whether or not to approve the proposals.
Ms Beverley Hughes: A report on the performance of the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) is currently being finalised for consideration by Ministers. My Department has also commissioned research into the RDAs' Regional Strategies, partnership working, and their monitoring and evaluation frameworks. The results will be disseminated in due course.
Ms Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that Scottish airports' consultative committees are involved in the Scottish airports and air services review. 
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Mr. Mullin: The New Scottish Centre project is proceeding smoothly. Award of the detail building design contract was made to Gibb Developments on 2 November. The main construction contract will be awarded early next year. Planning applications for site preparation works will be submitted to the local authority soon and initial site preparations are expected to begin early next year. In addition, local surveys on transport, land drainage, topography and soil characteristics have been completed. NATS have already signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin for provision of much of the centre software. NATS have now informed us that the revised forecast date on which the centre will come into operation may now be in the winter of 2007-08 rather than 2006-07. This is because NATS is considering the incorporation of additional software into the centre's systems. It is only because NATS are confident that the existing centre will be able to cope until this later date that they have the option of putting back the forecast operational date to allow the incorporation of these new functions.
Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many miles of red route roads there are in England; what steps are taken to enforce the regulations which apply to them; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many people have (a) passed their driving test and (b) progressed to Pass Plus since the introduction of Pass Plus in 1995. 
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 26 October 2000, Official Report, column 173W, on rail investment, if he will set out the advantages and disadvantages of taking an equity stake in Railtrack. 
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Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what sift criteria will be used to determine which trunk roads are priorities for resurfacing to reduce noise levels. 
Mr. Hill: The criteria for prioritising the trunk roads for resurfacing with quieter materials are being developed by the Highways Agency. The Agency will be seeking the views of local authorities on these criteria early in the new year with a view to finalising them in the spring.
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