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Privatised Ports Police

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what responsibilities private police forces in (a) ports and (b) airports have under airports and aviation security laws. [102435]

Mr. Mullin: In the main, airport authorities employ either their own staff or, more usually, contract security companies to carry out security duties at airports required by the Department under the Aviation Security Act 1982, as amended by the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 (AMSA). However, Belfast International Airport employs its own police force, numbering about 50. Police officers' duties include perimeter security, patrolling the airport restricted zone and controlling access at one staff checkpoint to the restricted zone. In addition, they will respond to any incidents.

The ports of Belfast, Larne, Liverpool, Bristol, Dover and Tilbury, covered by the AMSA legislation, have private police forces. Each port makes its own arrangements for the use of Ports police, and these vary between the ports.

In addition, Felixstowe, which is not covered by the AMSA legislation, employs private ports police to carry out its own security functions.

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London Underground

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the letter of engagement was signed and when the completed work was delivered for the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, "London Underground: Bond Financing vs The PPP". [102644]

Mr. Hill: PricewaterhouseCoopers was formally appointed by London Transport to provide financial advice to LT and Government with respect to the London Underground Public Private Partnership on 18 August 1998. Its report, "London Underground: Bond Financing vs The PPP", was completed in December 1999.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what fee is payable to PricewaterhouseCoopers for its report, "London Underground: Bond Financing vs The PPP", which was deposited in the Library on 8 December; [102673]

Mr. Hill: PricewaterhouseCoopers generated this report as a small part of its standard advisory work on the Public Private Partnership. It is not possible to identify separately the costs involved, but they can accordingly be expected to be small.

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will provide the detailed assumptions and calculations used by PricewaterhouseCoopers in the preparation of its report, "London Underground: Bond Financing vs The PPP", which was deposited in the Library on 8 December. [102671]

Mr. Hill: The PricewaterhouseCoopers report already includes notes explaining the basis for its assumptions and calculations.

Bus Employees' Pension

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) how much has been spent on legal fees relating to the Bus Employees Superannuation Trust and National Bus Pension Fund by (a) his Department and (b) the Government as a whole; [102645]

Mr. Hill: The previous Government decided to fund litigation by the National Bus Company pension trustees following a decision by the Pensions Ombudsman. This litigation was concluded with the approval by the High Court on 30 July of the terms of a negotiated settlement. Expenditure by my Department on legal and other costs related to the litigation has been £1,965,000. Of this,

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costs incurred by the trustees were £1,723,000 and the Department's costs were £242,000. These figures cover the costs of the litigation. I do not have information on any costs incurred by other Government Departments in connection with the NBC issue.

The Government paid the settlement sum-- £355.7 million--over to the trustees on the day of the High Court's decision.

Responsibility for deciding on, and implementing, the distribution of the settlement amongst those eligible to receive a share of it must remain entirely with the NBC pension trustees. This is a substantial and complex task. However I am sure the trustees will be seeking to complete it as quickly as possible.

Organophosphates (Aircrew)

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans his Department has to identify potential health hazards to civilian aircraft flight officers, cabin crews and passengers from exposure to organophosphate lubricants, in relation to the incident involving a BAe 146 aircraft in Sweden on 12 November; what steps have been taken by the Health and Safety Executive to improve precautions against such exposure since August; and if he will make a statement. [102802]

Mr. Mullin: The incident referred to involved an American manufactured engine on a Swedish registered aircraft. The UK authorities are not therefore involved in the investigation of the incident. A fault was identified with the engine which has now been returned to the United States for examination by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in conjunction with the manufacturer and British Aerospace. It is far too early to say whether this incident involved an oil leak or any exposure to organophosphate contamination.

I have nothing further to add to the statement on Organophosphates in aircraft engine lubricants made by my hon. Friend the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) on 6 May 1999, Official Report, column 434W.

Rates Revaluation

Mr. Snape: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to announce the decapitalisation rates to be used in non-domestic rates for the 2000 revaluation. [102849]

Ms Armstrong: In August we published in a consultation paper our proposals on the decapitalisation rates to be used in non-domestic rates for the 2000 revaluation. The proposal to prescribe the rates was widely supported and, after considering the points made to us, we have decided to retain the current rates of 5.5 per cent. for most properties and 3.67 per cent. for educational, health care and Ministry of Defence properties.

However, many respondents felt that the proposal to prescribe rates for only certain types of properties could lead to increased uncertainty. As a result, the benefits of the prescribed rates could be lost. Therefore, after reconsidering this, we have decided that the prescribed

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rates should apply to all properties assessed on the contractors basis of valuation. This continues the arrangements currently in force for the 1995 rating list.

Regulations implementing this decision will be made shortly.

Local Government Act 1999

Mr. Barron: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to publish guidance to best value authorities on how they might meet the requirements of Part I of the Local Government Act 1999; and if he will make a statement. [102850]

Ms Armstrong: I am publishing today statutory guidance under the provisions of sections 5 and 6 of the Local Government Act 1999 and other guidance on how authorities should carry out their responsibilities under part I of the Act.

Best Value has a key role to play in modernising local government. It will drive up standards, encourage innovation and promote competition. It will make a vital difference to the quality and effectiveness of local services and put local people first. The guidance will help local authorities implement Best Value, beginning with the publication of their Best Value Performance Plans on 31 March 2000. It follows widespread consultation with local government, the Trades Union Congress, the Confederation of British Industry and other key partners.

Copies of this guidance, DETR Circular 10-99, are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses, together with a list of the respondents.

Housing Standards

Angela Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to replace the housing fitness standard with a health and safety based rating system. [102881]

Mr. Raynsford: The Government remain committed to developing a rating system as a replacement for the current housing fitness standard. The basic principles of the system are now well established and have received widespread support. Additional piloting with local authorities is being carried out and the consultants' report is now expected in February or March. If we are satisfied that the system will be both robust and practical we will aim to roll it out from next Spring. This would allow time for a training programme for environmental health officers to be set up and enable local authorities to adopt the principles of the new system in parallel with the existing fitness regime. Enforcement action based on the new system would require primary legislation. I hope to bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity.


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