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Low Carbon Technology

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much he has spent on the development of low carbon technology in each year since 1995. [137214]

Mr. Meacher: The Department has spent under its Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme in each year since 1995 the following amounts directly supporting Research and Development (R&D) into low-carbon technologies. On average an additional 30 per cent. has been spent each year on R&D related promotion. The amounts vary from year-to-year according to opportunities and programme priorities. For example, the number of quality R&D proposals put forward changes, the needs of energy users move between R&D and requirements for other types of support. In the last few years needs have focused on more impartial advice.

£ million

(4) estimated outturn

The Energy Efficiency Best Practice programme is the UK Government's principal energy efficiency information, advice and research and development programme for the public and private sectors. The programme covers industrial processes, buildings and the managed housing stock.The Department's Partners in Innovation scheme has also supported collaborative projects on low carbon technologies broadly at the level of £50,000 per year. The Partners in Innovation scheme is a central part of the Department's Construction, Innovation and Research programme.

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It is the Department's intention to provide a significant stimulus to R&D in future years through the funding recently announced for the Carbon Trust in answer to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Smith), by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 31 October 2000, Official Report, column 357W.

Bus Fuel Rebate

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) how much was paid to bus companies under the bus fuel rebate scheme between the financial year 1998-99 and the latest available date; [137761]

Mr. Hill: My Department's expenditure on payments of bus fuel duty rebate to bus operators in England was £222 million in 1998-99 and £277 million in 1999-2000. Payments this year are expected to total about £300 million.

As promised in 'Transport 2010', the 10-year plan for transport, we are now working up proposals for extending the rebate to a wider range of community transport schemes. We shall be consulting on these proposals shortly with the intention of having new rules in place for the 2001-02 financial year.

It is not possible at this stage to give an estimate of what the cost of this change will be in future years, or would have been in past years, since this depends on

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decisions still to be taken on the precise definition of the services which will benefit and on the eligible mileage which they run.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

Mr. Fearn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of EU directives on wildlife on SSSIs in England. [138032]

Mr. Mullin: No assessment has been made of the general impact of EU directives on wildlife. However, two EU directives specifically address the protection of wildlife: Council Directive 92/43/EC on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora ("the Habitats Directive") and Council Directive 79/409/EC on the conservation of wild birds ("the Birds Directive"). These generally serve to reinforce the protection of wildlife in England. Under the directives, we have classified 83 special protection areas for birds and have submitted 148 sites to date for possible designation as special areas of conservation for inclusion in a network of sites of European importance. These sites are all already or will be notified as SSSIs, and benefit from special protection under the provisions of the directives.

Aircraft Fuel

Mr. Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research has been conducted (a) into the quantity of aircraft fuel that is used while aircraft are (i) stacked and (ii) delayed due to air traffic control processes and (b) into the impact on the use of aircraft fuel of introducing a single European air traffic control system; and if he will make a statement. [138262]

Mr. Mullin: Air traffic control delays are, of course, imposed for safety reasons when there is a lack of en-route air traffic control or airport capacity. Stacking and en-route delays do exacerbate fuel burn, but the Government are unaware of any research undertaken to specifically calculate additional fuel burn due to these delays.

Much work has, however, been done across Europe to accommodate high rates of traffic growth safely while minimising air traffic delays. These efforts have resulted in delays in summer 2000 being comparable to summer 1998, but it is recognised that this record needs to be improved.

The reduction of air transport delays is one of the principal objectives of the European Commission's single European sky initiative. The recommendations arising from this initiative are to be presented to the December Transport Council. These are likely to include the need to improve civil/military co-operation and to strengthen the regulatory regime to compel European States to implement commonly agreed capacity enhancements in order to optimise airspace use, and hence reduce delays and fuel burn.

Noise Act 1996

Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the local authorities which have implemented in full the provisions of the Noise Act 1996. [138510]

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Mr. Hill: There is no requirement for local authorities to inform the Department once they have decided to adopt the Act. The local authorities in England which have, so far as we are aware, adopted the Act, are:

Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what actions he has taken to encourage local authorities to implement the provisions of the Noise Act 1996. [138511]

Mr. Hill: The Noise Act was introduced following consideration of the effectiveness of neighbour noise controls by the Neighbour Noise Working Party and consultations with local authorities. When the Act was introduced the Government at the time left open the option of adopting it to local authorities in the light of their local requirements and available resources.

Following a commitment made to Parliament, we commissioned a review of the Act last year and expect to announce the outcome of this to the House shortly.

Noise Strategy

Mr. Green: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to introduce a noise strategy; and if he will make a statement. [138512]

Mr. Meacher: The Government have given a commitment to consider the case for a national ambient noise strategy. A first step will be to issue a consultation paper on the options.

National Forest

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will report on the National Forest Company's progress in creating the national forest in the East Midlands. [139110]

Mr. Mullin: I have arranged for copies of the National Forest Company's Annual Report and its Accounts for 1999-2000 to be placed in the House Libraries.

Trunk Roads

Shona McIsaac: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will announce further additions to the targeted programme of trunk road improvements. [139225]

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Mr. Hill: At the time of the Roads Review in July 1998, we decided to take forward consideration of the A63 Melton Grade Separated Junction in Yorkshire. I can now confirm that following further work, including a full appraisal, and consultation with the regional planning body, the scheme has been added to the targeted programme of improvements. By removing three existing junctions the scheme will improve safety and reduce delays. It will also facilitate access to enable regeneration of a large area of brownfield land to the south of the A63 on the banks of the Humber. Draft orders for the scheme were published on 17 October.

Further additions to the programme will in general depend on the outcome of studies commissioned as a result of the Roads Review and priorities identified in the course of development of Regional Transport Strategies within the context of Regional Planning Guidance.

However, if the objectives of investment in trunk roads under the 10-Year Plan are to be delivered it is important that we make some immediate progress. Therefore, we have initiated consultations with regional planning bodies to consider possible targeted improvements to tackle problems on those parts of the core trunk road network not being considered within a study. As part of this exercise we will also consider whether decisions can be taken on taking forward some targeted improvements within the areas covered by studies without prejudicing the strategic context of the study in question or the emerging Regional Transport Strategy. Specific proposals for improvements will be evaluated using the New Approach to Appraisal to ensure they are consistent with our transport criteria of safety, economy, environmental impact accessibility and integration. We will make an announcement about the outcome of this exercise in the spring.

I can also confirm that work on the programme of 100 early action schemes to tackle localised safety and congestion problems on the trunk road announced at the time of the 10-Year Plan has begun. Copies of a leaflet showing the locations of these schemes have been placed in the Library.

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