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Valuation Tribunal

Charlotte Atkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what response he has received to the consultation paper on valuation tribunal membership issues. [103636]

Ms Armstrong: We have received 66 responses, the majority of which support our proposals. A list of responses that may be made public has been placed in the Library of the House. Copies of individual responses may be obtained through my Department's library.

Regulations will be introduced early in the New Year to give effect to the following measures:

    to provide for the appointment of valuation tribunal members by the Secretary of State where no appointment is made within 28 days of a vacancy occurring, replacing existing arrangements that apply three months from a vacancy occurring; and

    to provide for the transfer of appeals to other valuation tribunals where it appears there may be a conflict of interest.

Individual valuation tribunals will be consulted further about the timing of planned reductions in their number of members.

Accessible Transport

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to promote the provision of accessible transport for disabled people. [103619]

Mr. Hill: The Government believe that accessible public transport, within the framework of an integrated transport policy, is fundamentally important to delivering our commitment to comprehensive civil rights for disabled people. We have already implemented regulations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to ensure that all new trains are accessible to disabled people, including those who travel in wheelchairs. We

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will be introducing similar requirements for new buses and coaches from next year and for licensed taxis from 2002.

We are also working with local authorities to produce guidance on best practice in removing barriers to public transport infrastructure and in the pedestrian environment.

The Disability Rights Task Force has just published its recommendations to Government on possible extensions to the Disability Discrimination Act. We are considering their recommendations for further requirements on accessibility in the transport field.

Rural White Paper

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) which organisations he has consulted in the preparation of the Rural White Paper; [103218]

Mr. Mullin: A discussion document: "Rural England" was launched in February this year. It invited views on a series of questions on a wide range of rural issues. About 1,800 copies were sent out to organisations with an invitation to comment and a further 8,200 copies were distributed for seminars and issued on request. The document was also available on the DETR internet site. Just under 800 responses were received from a variety of national bodies, local authorities, parish councils, farming, environmental and other organisations, public, private and voluntary bodies, and individuals. A summary of the issues arising from the consultation process, including a list of respondents, is available in the House of Commons Library and on the DETR website.

The Cabinet Office's Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) have recently published their report on "Rural Economies", which is an important contribution to the debate about rural policies. The report highlights a series of issues for discussion and invites comments by 11 February 2000. Responses received will be considered in the preparation of the Rural White Paper.


Sir Brian Mawhinney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire will receive a reply to his letter of 29 September to the Minister for the Environment on behalf of his constituent Mr. Logan. [103086]

Mr. Meacher: I replied to the right hon. Member's letter on 13 December.

Highway Inquiries

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) when the current rules and procedures for highway inquiries were published; [103114]

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Mr. Hill: The current rules that regulate highway inquiries in England and Wales were made by Statutory Instrument in 1994. They came into force on 10 January 1995. There are no plans to update them.

However, the Government's initiative for Modernising Planning referred to in "A New Deal for Transport" includes proposals for improving planning appeal procedures. Following consultation in August 1998 these proposals are being worked up and will be implemented early next year.

Telecommunications Masts

Kali Mountford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to improve the rating of telecommunications masts; and if he will make a statement. [103635]

Ms Armstrong: I have today published a consultation paper on the rating of telecommunications masts which are shared by multiple operators. We are encouraging the sharing of masts and mast sites to keep environmental intrusion to a minimum. However, the growth of shared sites has caused uncertainty in their rates assessment. Our proposals would remove that uncertainty by providing that shared sites receive only one rates bill.

The Government would welcome views on the consultation paper by 28 January 2000.

Aircraft (Seat Safety)

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with the Civil Aviation Authority about safety (a) in general, (b) relating to the spaces between seats on aircraft and (c) relating to reclining seats; and if he will make a statement. [103598]

Mr. Mullin: Both the Minister for Transport and I meet representatives of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) from time to time to discuss a wide range of aviation safety issues.

The UK is unique in having an airworthiness requirement for minimum seat space. The CAA, which is responsible for the safety regulation of UK registered passenger aircraft, has set minimum requirements for seating space because it is one of a number of factors which can have an effect on the evacuation of an aircraft in an emergency. The specified minimum space between seats applies for the seat backs in the upright position, as required for take-off and landing. Providing that the minimum standards are adhered to, the seat spacing and the amount of recline available and their effect on passenger comfort is a matter for the operators.

Local Authority Reorganisation

Mr. Ernie Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what resources he will make available to authorities that were reorganised on 1 April 1998 for reorganisation costs incurred by them in 2000-01; and if he will make a statement. [103722]

Ms Armstrong: On 8 October I invited authorities which were eligible to participate in the Local Government Reorganisation Cost Scheme for 2000-01 which reorganised on 1 April 1998, to submit estimates

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of the amount of expenditure they expect to incur on transition costs of reorganisation in 2000-01. On the basis, inter alia, of the information provided by the authorities, I have decided the maximum amounts that it would be appropriate to allocate towards such costs.

The amounts are as follows:


AuthorityMaximum amounts 2000-01
West Berkshire Council543
Reading Borough Council1,978
Slough Borough Council701
Wokingham District Council3,287
County of Herefordshire District Council1,540
Worcestershire County Council2,978
Plymouth City Council2,376
Torbay Borough Council2,215
Thurrock Borough Council3,318
Nottingham City Council1,900
Halton Borough Council3,770
Telford and Wrekin District Council726
Medway Borough Council1,650
Peterborough City Council475
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council804
Blackpool Borough Council760

Leasehold Reform

Mr. Woolas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what was the outcome of the consultation on residential leasehold reform; and how he proposes to take the matters forward. [103750]

Mr. Raynsford: We have published today a report on the responses to the consultation paper "Residential Leasehold Reform in England and Wales" which was issued in November 1998. 956 responses were received. There was widespread support for the objectives put forward in the consultation paper although there were differences as to the way in which these should be achieved.

As Her Majesty announced in the gracious speech on 17 November 1999, Official Report, column 7, the Government will publish a draft Bill in the current session on proposals for commonhold and leasehold reform. This will provide a further opportunity for consultation on detailed proposals. We have also published today a summary of the proposals that are likely to be included in the draft Bill. Copies of the report and the summary have been placed in the House Libraries.

These proposals, if approved by Parliament, would represent a major improvement to the rights of existing leaseholders. With the proposals for Commonhold, which are being taken forward by my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor, they will go a long way towards ensuring that all home owners enjoy the same degree of security and control over their homes.

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