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Driving Tests

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to introduce the possibility of requiring people to re-take driving tests as a way of improving driving standards. [98599]

Mr. Hill: The Government do not consider that the regular retesting of all drivers would deliver significant road safety benefits. In the case of drivers who are found guilty of driving offences, courts already have powers to require those drivers who offend to undergo a retest, which for serious offences involves an extended length test. The Road Safety Strategy will address the adequacy of these powers.

EU Environmental Directives

Dr. Whitehead: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of EU environmental directives in (a) Southampton, (b) Newcastle, (c) Hull, (d) Sheffield, (e) Manchester, (f) Rotherham, (g) Dover, (h) Bristol, (i) Bath, (j) Sunderland, (k) Birmingham and (l) Leicester. [98576]

Mr. Mullin: The majority of Environmental Directives are implemented on a national basis and have objectives which go beyond local authority, regional and even national boundaries. Information is not collated in such a manner as to yield a measure of impact of EU environmental Directives on specific towns and cities. The environmental benefits will however be felt in these localities in terms of improved air and water quality and other environmental improvements.

Regulatory impact assessments are carried out from the earliest stages of development of a proposal within the European Commission, through to the adoption of all Directives. This includes a review of the costs and benefits of various options for giving effect to EC legislation including those which do not involve UK legislation. This involves full public consultation where appropriate. The review continues, when necessary, during the process of transposition.

Seaham Regeneration Scheme

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made in respect of the funding application for the Seaham Regeneration Scheme; and if he will make a statement. [99207]

Ms Beverley Hughes: My officials met with English Partnerships and One North East on 3 and 22 November to discuss their proposal for the regeneration of Seaham Town Centre. Discussions on the funding application are continuing.


Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will announce his Department's decision on the funding of noise mitigation measures along the A404(M). [99233]

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Mr. Hill: The A404(M) meets the initial sift criteria for noise mitigation measures announced by the former Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), on 22 March 1999, Official Report, columns 50-51W. Along with a number of other qualifying sites, it is being examined in further detail to establish whether additional mitigation measures can be justified.

Although our investigations into the A404(M) are almost complete, noise mitigation will need to await the outcome of the detailed studies into the other sites that met the sift criteria to ensure that priority is given to the most deserving cases.

Ruddy Duck

Mr. Menzies Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the population of ruddy duck in the United Kingdom. [99599]

Mr. Meacher: The latest Wetland Bird Survey 1997-98, estimates the United Kingdom ruddy duck population at 3,585.

Waste Management

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to publish the Government's strategy for waste management. [99611]

Mr. Mullin: The Government published for consultation their draft waste strategy for England and Wales, "A Way With Waste", on 30 June 1999. Similar draft strategies have been produced in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The Government intend to publish the waste strategy for England early next year as a Command Paper. Responsibility for taking this matter forward in Wales is a matter for the National Assembly. It has yet to be decided whether a separate strategy will be produced for Wales, or whether a joint strategy is preferred.

Housing Investment

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will publish the outcome, by region, of the review of the General Needs Index for Housing Investment, indicating what percentage increase each region will receive in 2000-01; and if he will make a statement on the impact on (a) the constituency of Heywood and Middleton and (b) Rochdale Metropolitan Borough. [99861]

Mr. Mullin: The Generalised Needs Index (GNI) used in the allocation of housing capital resources to local authorities reflects the relative need for housing capital expenditure in each local authority. The index was the subject of a review this year; details of the outcome of the review, which was conducted in conjunction with the Local Authority Associations, the National Housing Federation and the Housing Corporation, are available in

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the Library of the House. The regional shares of the revised index to be used in the allocation of 2000-01 resources are set out in the table, alongside the 1999-2000 index shares.

North East6.46.4--
Yorkshire and the Humber9.910.1-0.2
East Midlands6.86.1+0.7
South East8.88.4+0.3
South West5.65.8-0.1
West Midlands11.210.7+0.6
North West14.115.5-1.4

The index shares for the two years are not directly comparable because there were separate Capital Receipts Initiative and private sector renovation grant allocations for 1999-2000 which were allocated using different indices. These allocations are being combined with the main housing allocation from 2000-01 (the "single housing capital pot") to provide local authorities with more freedom in planning the composition of their capital programme.

The resources available for allocation for 2000-01 (just over £2 billion) are around 50 per cent. up on 1999-2000. The introduction of the single housing capital pot and the changes to the GNI mean that the regional increases vary between around 40 per cent. and 65 per cent. Allocations for individual local authorities, which are based 50 per cent. on the GNI and 50 per cent. on authorities' performance on housing, will be announced in the first half of December.

Rochdale's 2000-01 GNI share (0.46 per cent. of England) has fallen by slightly more (13 per cent.) than the region as a whole (down 9 per cent.); corresponding figures for parliamentary constituencies are not available. The main reasons for the fall in Rochdale's index share, like those for the region as a whole, are the updating of the private sector stock condition indicator from 1991 to 1996 English House Conditions Survey data (which shows a significant improvement in the general condition of occupied private sector stock and a reduction in the number of households eligible for a renovation grant); the extension of this indicator to cover dwellings that are in substantial disrepair as well as those which are unfit; the continuing reduction in the numbers of overcrowded and sharing households in the region; and the inclusion in the index of a measure based on homeless households in temporary accommodation.

Railway Maintenance Staff

Mr. Nigel Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what technology (a) exists and (b) is under development to warn maintenance staff on the railway network of the approach of trains; and if he will make a statement on the train approach warning system. [100059]

Mr. Hill: Existing technology to warn staff working on or about the railway includes the "PEE WEE" system (a portable system which gives a special warning tone on

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the approach of a train), the Train Operated Warning System (TOWS), a permanent warning device in some locations where visibility is poor and "Minimel 90" (a portable automatic track warning system). A number of similar systems are undergoing UK approval.

Proven automatic warning systems should reduce the risk of an accident to train workers considerably below the risk from systems which rely on human observation of approaching trains.

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