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Depleted Uranium

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what monitoring his Department undertakes of the levels of depleted uranium in the Irish Sea; [144992]

Mr. Meacher: Depleted uranium (DU) munitions are test fired from the MOD range at Kirkcudbright into the Solway Firth. The Defence Evaluation and Research

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Agency (DERA) undertakes marine environmental sampling in the Solway Firth. The results of this monitoring are made available to the public via the local authority. Between 1981 and 1995, DU munitions were test fired at the Eskmeals range in Cumbria. These firings were conducted solely on land and no munitions were fired into the Irish Sea. There is an ongoing environmental monitoring programme in the Eskmeals area also.

In December 1993, the MOD commissioned an independent assessment of the impact of firing DU munitions at MOD ranges. The "Environmental Assessment of the Firing of Depleted Uranium Projectiles at Eskmeals and Kirkcudbright Ranges", produced by environmental consultants WS Atkins, was published in July 1995. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House. The report concluded that there was no significant risk to members of the public or the environment from the DU firing programme.

Road Deaths (Sussex)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many (a) road traffic accidents involving fatalities and (b) fatalities as a result of road traffic accidents occurred in Sussex in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. [145369]

Mr. Hill: The information requested is shown in the following table:

Number

YearAccidents(21)Fatalities
1990142164
199197102
19929093
1993101113
19948791
19957686
199697106
19978187
199894102
19998393
Total9481,037

(21) Accidents involving at least one fatality


Railtrack

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what measures are being taken to ensure that Railtrack produces a recovery plan better tailored to the needs of train companies. [145229]

Mr. Hill: The Rail Recovery Action Group, chaired by my noble Friend the Minister for Transport, brings together Railtrack, the train operators and other rail industry partners in order to achieve the earliest possible restoration of normal services. Railtrack is working with the passenger and freight train operators to produce individual rail recovery plans by 18 January, a date set by the Rail Regulator. Railtrack has assured the Group that it expects to meet this deadline.

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Car Running Costs

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what estimate he has made of the average cost of car use in (a) rural and (b) inner-city areas. [145778]

Mr. Hill: The average expenditure on motoring per car per week for people living in (a) low population density areas was £47.60 averaged over the period 1997-98 to 1999-2000, compared to (b) £51.40 per car for London residents.

Track Maintenance (Scotland)

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many maintenance staff were employed on track maintenance duty in Scotland (a) by British Rail in the year before privatisation and (b) by Railtrack in September 2000. [145891]

Mr. Hill: The British Railways Board's Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96 shows that 15,745 staff were employed by British Rail Infrastructure Services on infrastructure maintenance, track renewal and design duties. No separate figures are available for Scotland.

No track maintenance staff were directly employed by Railtrack in September 2000. Upon privatisation, the former British Rail Infrastructure Service units transferred to the private sector.

Australian Rail System

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what research he has carried out into the running of the Australian rail system; and if he will make a statement. [145419]

Mr. Hill: We have not carried out any such research and have no plans to do so.

Rail Franchises

Mr. Gordon Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what consultations the shadow Strategic Rail Authority is required to undertake with regional stakeholders before awarding franchises. [143981]

Mr. Hill: The Instructions and Guidance given to the Franchising Director (who is Chief Executive of the shadow Strategic Rail Authority) by the Deputy Prime Minister require him to consult, among others, local authorities, regional government, Passenger Transport Executives, the Rail Regulator, regional planning bodies, Regional Development Agencies and Rail Passenger Committees.

Housing Design

Mr. Healey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to promote better housing design to meet the needs of elderly and disabled people. [143982]

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Ms Beverley Hughes: The Housing Corporation's Scheme Development Standards already set specific design requirements for grant-aided schemes meeting the needs of elderly and disabled people. We believe the new Housing Quality Indicators will promote further improvement, by encouraging higher standards of space, layout and accessibility in both public and private sector housing.

British Transport Police

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent discussions he has had with the Chief Constable of the British Transport police about the swearing in of constables. [145785]

Mr. Hill: No discussions have been held between the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable of the British Transport police regarding the swearing in of constables.

Rural Bus Subsidy Grant

Mr. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to make changes to the rules of rural bus subsidy grant. [146028]

Mr. Hill: We have decided in principle that the rules of Rural Bus Subsidy Grant should be changed to give local authorities more flexibility in its use. We propose to allow authorities the freedom to use up to 20 per cent. of the grant on support of existing rural bus services. Authorities will also be able to use the grant to provide ongoing support for services initially supported under the Rural Bus Challenge scheme. These changes will involve amendments to the current rule which prevents use of the grant for services which were already being run as at 1 May 1999.

We will be consulting the Local Government Association on the details of this change and the monitoring arrangements which will be involved with the intention of new rules being in place for the coming financial year.

Local Authority Publicity

Kali Mountford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to review the Code of Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity; and if he will make a statement. [146032]

Ms Beverley Hughes: As indicated in our response to the Report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Local Government (Organisation and Standards) Bill (Cm4529) we intend to review the Code to reflect the changes in councils' constitutions and the referendums and petitions resulting from the Local Government Act 2000.

We have today, therefore, issued a consultation paper setting out proposed alterations to the Code. These proposals reflect in particular the importance of councils consulting with their local communities, that individual councillors can take decisions, and that referendums, petitions and mayoral elections can take place under the Local Government Act 2000. A copy of this paper has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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SOCIAL SECURITY

Pensioners (Tooting)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners in the Tooting parliamentary constituency (a) qualified for the Winter Fuel Payment in 2000 and (b) qualified for the Minimum Income Guarantee; and if he will make a statement. [144578]

Mr. Rooker: Around 11 million Winter Fuel Payments have already been made this winter and the latest information shows that around 11,300 payments were made in Tooting to those entitled.

There are around 2 million pensioners, as singles and couples, who benefit from the minimum income guarantee, of whom around 2,700 live in the Tooting parliamentary constituency.










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