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Noise Nuisance

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what recent guidance he has issued to local authorities concerning the implementation and policing of the legislation on noise nuisance. [145006]

Mr. Hill: We have not issued guidance to local authorities on this matter, recently. However, we have issued a consultation paper, following a review of the Noise Act 1996, setting out further options for local authorities to use in tackling noise nuisance. The closing date for comments is 31 March.

Copies of the report and consultation paper are available in the House Library.

London Underground

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the Central Line on the London Underground is fully Automatic Train Operation operational; and if he has received Her Majesty's Rail Inspectorate approval. [145354]

Mr. Hill: This is an operational matter for London Underground which informs me that the Central Line is under full Automatic Train Operation (ATO) between Shepherds Bush and Gants Hill. LUL are still in discussion with the Railways Inspectorate prior to extending ATO throughout the remainder of the line.

Urban and Rural Area Designation

Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what areas are designated as urban and rural for determining financial allocations and other departmental purposes; and what changes have taken place in the areas so designated over the last 20 years. [145837]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Indices of Deprivation 2000 (ID 2000), which were published last August, provide tools to identify the most deprived areas in England which may be used in determining the allocation of funding of regeneration policies. The ID 2000 provide scores and ranks in terms of how deprived they are for all areas in England regardless of whether they are urban or rural. Previous indices were published in 1981, 1994 and 1998.

Changes have occurred to the way the indices have been constructed over the years. This has included more direct ways of measuring deprivation rather than using proxy indicators and the move away from using census data that become quickly out of date. Also methodologies have been reviewed and changed so that they more fairly identify areas regardless of size which suffer from deprivation. Methodologies have also changed to ensure that no, or lack of, deprivation on some indicators is not completely cancelled out by high levels of deprivation on other indicators.

The ID 2000 have identified several deprived areas which previous indices have failed to pick up on. Many districts in the former coalfield areas, old industrial areas and rural areas are now identified as suffering widespread deprivation. They reveal patterns of deprivation for every ward and local authority district in the country. There is no one method of distinguishing which areas should be eligible for funding against those that should not. In order

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to target resources on the most deprived areas, it is proposed that the ID 2000 are used. These have identified 88 areas which should be eligible for the new Neighbourhood Renewal Fund recently announced by the Government. Table 1 shows the areas and this has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

As part of the former Urban Programme, which was the core of the former Department of the Environment's programme to tackle urban deprivation and ran in the 1980s through to the mid 1990s, 57 Urban Priority Areas were designated. Table 2 shows the areas and again the list has been placed in the Libraries of the House. These areas were targeted for their particular problems mainly in terms of economic and environmental issues but also in terms of social and housing deprivation.

Rural Development Areas, now known as Rural Priority Areas, were first designated in 1984. A comprehensive review was carried out by the Rural Development Commission before these areas were designated in 1994 but details of the previous areas are not held centrally. With minor exceptions, all Regional Development Agency rural development programme funding is spent in these areas. Those local authority districts containing wards which fall within Rural Priority Areas are at table 3 and has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Certain areas have also been designated as being rural for the purposes of the village shop rate relief scheme. The number of designated areas runs into several thousands. These areas can be found in the following Statutory Instruments:

In addition, Standard Spending Assessments (SSAs), which are the Government's method for allocating Revenue Support Grant, currently use three measures of population density and two of population sparsity based on the 1991 Census. These measures calculate density and levels of sparsity for all local authorities. No dividing line is set to indicate which authorities are rural and which urban, all authorities have a degree of both sparsity and density. The use of these indicators within the SSA formulae is complex and has changed several times since

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the inception of SSAs for financial year 1990-91. Details of their use can be found in the Local Government Finance Report for each year.

A50 (Road Surfaces)

Mr. McLoughlin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if resurfacing of the concrete sections of the A50 at Doveridge in Derbyshire will take place in the financial year beginning in 2002. [145446]

Mr. Hill: I am not in a position to give any dates for the start of works for resurfacing of stretches of concrete trunk roads beyond the end of next financial year. The Highways Agency is currently seeking the views of English local authorities on the prioritisation criteria for resurfacing of all concrete trunk roads within the next 10 years. An announcement on the criteria that the Agency will be adopting will be made in due course when the comments have been carefully considered. A copy of the consultation letter has also been placed in the Library of the House.

Energy Efficiency

Mr. Alan Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to encourage integration and co-ordination between the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme, energy efficiency commitment schemes and other sources of funding for domestic energy efficiency programmes. [145767]

Mr. Meacher: The Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) is managed on behalf of the Department by Eastern HEES Ltd. for the East of England and by the Eaga Partnership in the remainder of the country. Both scheme managers are contractually required to seek opportunities to integrate and co-ordinate efforts with other fuel poverty and energy efficiency programmes such as those operated by public energy suppliers under the Energy Efficiency Standards of Performance.

To date the largest such link-up has been with British Gas Trading which is supporting the installation of condensing gas boilers through HEES and the installation of cavity wall insulation. The total value of the link up is some £8 million.

The HEES scheme managers have also formed links with some local authorities, integrating the scheme with the authorities' House Renovation and Home Repair Assistance programmes.

We continue to seek further opportunities for co-ordinating HEES with other local programmes.

As HEES is a devolved function, it is the responsibility for the respective Parliament and Assemblies to comment on the position with regard to the schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Bus Operators (South-East)

Mr. Pollard: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the impact of recruitment difficulties on bus operators in the south east of England. [146097]

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Mr. Hill: My Department is aware of the difficulties being experienced by bus operators in recruiting and retaining bus drivers in some areas, including the south-east of England. We have been in regular contact with the bus industry to consider the extent of this problem. We are also undertaking research on the extent and impact of staff shortages in the industry and the industry's response.

The responsibility for ensuring that they have sufficient drivers is primarily a matter for individual bus companies, and I am aware that operators have been taking steps to address the problem. In addition my Department and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and Driving Standards Agency (DSA) have been pursuing with the industry what steps can be taken to assist with the current problems. For example, a pilot procedure has recently been introduced by DVLA with one nominated operator on a trial basis, with the aim of providing a high speed response to bus driver licence applications.

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