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Repossessed Homes

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many homes were repossessed in England and Wales each year since 1990-91. [142870]

Mr. Mullin: These data are not collected by the Department, but data compiled by the Council of Mortgage Lenders show that the numbers of properties in

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the United Kingdom repossessed by mortgage lenders for each year since 1990 were as follows. Separate figures for England and Wales are not available.

YearProperties repossessed

Bathing Water Directive

Mr. Cotter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps the Government have taken to (a) inform and (b) seek the views of local authorities on the revision of the 1976 EC Bathing Water Directive. [142937]

Mr. Mullin: A number of local authorities took part in practical trials in the summers of 1999 and 2000 aimed at developing a new approach to managing bathing waters as a basis for a revision of the EC Bathing Water Directive. The EC Commission plans to publish shortly a Communication relating to the proposed revision and we shall be seeking views on it from local authorities and others.

Objective 1 Programme (Merseyside)

Mrs. Ellman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress he is making on reaching agreement with the European Commission on the inclusion of private sector property projects in the Objective 1 Programme for Merseyside. [142860]

Ms Beverley Hughes: Following earlier rulings on state aid by the European Commission, all projects that involve private sector developers and the use of grant to help fund developments that would otherwise not be commercially viable have come under particularly close scrutiny. To clarify the position and to help speed up consideration of individual projects, such as those coming forward for Objective One funding on Merseyside, we have asked the Commission to approve a number of national schemes which will provide models for projects of this type.

Two of these schemes are for projects which will involve state aid and would operate in the Assisted Areas. These schemes were put to the Commission in December last year. A positive response from the Commission is expected shortly.

Town and Parish Councils (Abolition)

Mr. Ennis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the procedures that need to be followed in respect of the abolition of town and parish councils. [142817]

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Ms Beverley Hughes: Under the Local Government and Rating Act 1997, a district council may carry out a review of the parish arrangements in either a part or the whole of its area, with a view to making to the Secretary of State recommendations for change, including for the abolition of parish or town councils. It is open to the Secretary of State to accept, reject, or to accept with modifications any such recommendation.

Details of the procedures involved are set out in Environment Circular 11/97, copies of which are kept in the Library of the House.

Bus Employees' Pensions

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how much he has paid out in respect of the Bus Employees' Superannuation Trust and the National Bus Pension Fund, pursuant to the investigation carried out by the Pensions Ombudsman; when these moneys were paid; who he has charged with responsibility for distributing these moneys to members of these funds; how he will hold them accountable; and when he expects the moneys to be fully distributed. [142749]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 14 December 2000]: As announced by the Deputy Prime Minister in a written answer on 15 June 1999, Official Report, columns 85-86W, the negotiated settlement of this long-running dispute involved a total payment of £355.77 million. This litigation followed an investigation by the Pensions Ombudsman into an agreement in 1986 between the National Bus Company and the then Government which had resulted in the payment to the Government in 1990 of the surpluses of the two NBC pension funds.

The settlement was approved by the High Court on 30 July last year and the entire settlement sum was paid over to the trustees of the funds immediately following

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the Court's decision. The trustees have sole responsibility for decisions on, and the timing of, distribution to pensioners.

I understand that so far some 20,000 NBC pensioners whose pension entitlement was secured with Standard Life have received interim payments from the settlement and that the trustees are now preparing proposals for the final distribution with the intention of obtaining Court approval for them as soon as possible.

Inevitably the trustees face a complex and substantial task in completing the distribution, but we have made clear to them that we wish to see the task completed without any unnecessary delay.

The trustees are accountable under law for the proper conduct of the trust's business.

Tall Trees and Boundary Hedges

Mr. Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will introduce legislation to deal with tall trees and boundary hedges in domestic gardens; and if he will make a statement. [142876]

Mr. Mullin: Although it was not possible to make provision for a high hedges Bill in the Queen's Speech, we are ready to bring one forward as soon as there is space in the parliamentary timetable.

House Construction

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will estimate the number of new houses built in each year since 1991 in (a) the South West, (b) the former Avon area, (c) South Gloucestershire unitary authority, (d) Bristol unitary authority, (e) North Somerset unitary authority and (f) Bath and North East Somerset unitary authority. [143096]

Mr. Mullin [holding answer 18 December 2000]: The available estimates of the number of housebuilding completions are as follows:

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YearSouth westFormer county of AvonBath and North East Somerset UABristol UANorth Somerset UASouth Gloucestershire UA

(3) Indicates that returns are not available from the local authority for all months of the year.

(4) January to June

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Estimates for non-response are included in the regional total but are not available for the county.

Transport Disruption

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of (a) the September oil refinery blockades and (b) measures taken by Railtrack

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following the Hatfield rail crash on (i) local air quality, (ii) urban congestion and (iii) the number of road accidents. [142852]

Mr. Hill: Information from the Department's 160 Automatic Traffic Counters showed that traffic was reduced by about 20 per cent. in the week immediately following the blockade of oil refineries but quickly returned to their previous levels. Examination of the same counters around the period of the Hatfield rail crash have

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shown that there was no overall significant change in traffic levels but that there might have been some local effects.

Examination of the Air Quality Monitoring system showed that there was negligible effect on local air quality at the time of the oil refinery blockade. No examination has been made of the possible effects from the Hatfield rail crash.

Information on road accidents will not be available to the Department until the early summer of 2001.

Public Toilets

Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what advice is given by his Department to English local authorities concerning the provision of public toilets; and if he will publish the Standard Spending Assessment element for each local authority for the current and forthcoming year for the provision of toilets for public use; [143415]

Ms Beverley Hughes: It is a matter for local authorities and their communities to decide the level of public toilet provision appropriate for their area. The Government do not believe that they should seek to intervene directly in this decision.

There is no specific element in Standard Spending Assessments for public toilets.

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