Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the cost is of exempting sporting rights in 1998-99 from the valuation role in (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland. 
Sporting rights have not been rateable in Northern Ireland since 1 April 2000. Before then, certain recreational sporting rights would have been eligible for 65 per cent. rate relief, while commercial sporting rights would not have had such relief. Costs for 1998-99 are not readily available.
Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions have taken place with the Better Regulation Task Force about the proposals for rate relief for voluntary sports clubs in the Green Paper for Local Government Finance. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: The Better Regulation Task Force responded to the Green Paper and raised a number of issues, although it did not comment on the proposed rate relief for small businesses and non-profit making bodies including sports clubs. These proposals would provide additional rate relief for qualifying sports clubs. We do not expect them to increase the administrative requirements that clubs meet at present in applying for discretionary rate relief under the current system.
Mr. Greenway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions have taken place between his Department and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport regarding the Green Paper on Local Government Finance and the Government's Sports Strategy. 
Ms Beverley Hughes: The Green Paper "Modernising Local Government Finance" is a Government publication and as such reflects the collective views of Ministers. There were detailed discussions and agreement of its content before publication and there will be further discussions at both official and ministerial level to discuss the responses we have received to the Green Paper and the way forward. We will publish our conclusions in a White Paper later this year.
31 Jan 2001 : Column: 198W
Mr. Hill: The Strategic Rail Authority was formally established as an executive non-departmental public body of my Department on 15 January 2001. Members of its Board were appointed on this day. The Authority will commence operation on 1 February when the main provisions of Part IV of the Transport Act 2000 come into force.
My Department has prepared a financial framework, in accordance with paragraph 16 of schedule 14 to the Transport Act, and a management statement for the Authority. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the House Library. These are working documents, which are likely to be amended as my Department's relationship with the Authority develops. If either document is revised significantly, a new version will be placed in the House Library. Copies of the latest version of both documents are available from my Department's Railways Sponsorship Division.
Mr. Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to announce his conclusions from the review of the Air Quality Strategy objective for particles. 
Mr. Meacher: The Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland was published on 19 January 2000 following an extensive review of the original Strategy. This sets air quality objectives for eight air pollutants that have the potential for significant health effects. These objectives are to be achieved between 2003 and 2008.
The new Strategy replaces the original objective for particles with new objectives derived from the EU Stage 1 limit values for 2005. This was considered to be the only realistic option in view of the latest information that showed that the original objective would not be achievable in the short term, even with the most ambitious emission reduction measures. The Strategy explains that the new objectives for particles are seen as a staging post and not a final outcome. It goes on to say that the Government are concerned to set their sights beyond the immediate need to comply with the EU limit values, and that work has been set in hand which will enable the prospects for strengthening these objectives to be assessed before the next general review of the Strategy.
This work is nearing completion. The most significant area of work is likely to be advice from the Department of Health's Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) on the chronic effects of air pollution. To date, the health implications of particle air pollution have tended to focus on the acute, short-term effects. COMEAP's 1998 report suggested that the deaths of over 8,000 vulnerable people may be brought forward and over 10,000 hospital admissions and re-admissions may be associated with short-term air pollution each year. Evidence is now beginning to emerge which suggests that the long-term chronic effects of particle air pollution may
31 Jan 2001 : Column: 199W
be considerably more significant. COMEAP has been asked by the Department of Health to consider the evidence and the Committee is expected to report shortly.
Advice from COMEAP may, if relevant, be used to support a quantification of the benefits to health from reducing concentrations of particles. These health benefits, along with the information that we already have on the acute health effects of particle pollution, can be considered alongside the latest information on the measures to reduce particle concentrations. A comprehensive study of the costs of emission reduction measures is in hand, as is further modelling work, that will show the impact that recently announced policy measures are likely to have on concentrations of particles over the next few years.
I now intend the review of the objectives for particles to commence in March, to allow time for these various pieces of work to be completed. I expect to be in a position to consult on proposals for a new objective for particles by the end of June.
It is not intended to propose a change to the existing objective for particles. It is important that local authorities have a period of stability as they take forward the local air quality management process. Any new objective will be for the longer term.
In the meantime, the trend in urban air quality is continuing to improve. I announced earlier this month that in 2000 in urban areas there were 17 days of moderate or higher air pollution on average per site, the lowest figure recorded since the series began in 1993. Days of moderate or higher air pollution caused by particles have fallen steeply since 1993.
Mr. Coleman: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to respond to the Audit Commission's report into the cost of supporting asylum seekers in London boroughs; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Charles Clarke: We did not make estimates of the number of local child curfews that would be applied for under the powers introduced in 1998. They are a discretionary matter for local authorities, to be considered in the light of wider strategies to deal with disorder in their areas. The need will depend on local circumstances.
31 Jan 2001 : Column: 200W
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he plans to introduce legislation further to extend the exemptions in section 34A(2) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 to include additional categories of offender; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Boateng: Section 62 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 added offenders subject to the notification requirements of Part I of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 to the list of those excluded from Home Detention Curfew. I have no plans at present to add any further categories of offender to the 10 categories already excluded.
Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when, and by whom, he was first informed of the citizenship applications submitted by (a) Mr. G. P. Hinduja on 5 March 1997 and (b) Mr. S. P. Hinduja on 20 October 1998; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) when he was first informed of the contact between the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) and the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. O'Brien) regarding the application for citizenship from Mr. S. P. Hinduja; and if he will make a statement; 
(4) if he received any representations from ministerial colleagues or other hon. Members regarding the application for citizenship by Mr. G. P. Hinduja; and if he will make a statement; 
(5) if (a) Mr. G. P. Hinduja and (b) Mr. S. P. Hinduja satisfied all the requirements for naturalisation when the decision was taken to grant them citizenship; if exceptions to the requirements were made in either case; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Straw: I refer the right hon. Member to the answer I gave her, the hon. Members for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) and for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Ruffley) on 30 January 2001, Official Report, column 166W.