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Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many owners of vehicles found in Slough were prosecuted in 2000 for (a) not registering and (b) not paying tax on their vehicles in 2000. 
Mr. Hill: The Slough area is covered by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's Reading local office, which prosecuted 2,103 motorists for evasion in 2000. A further 2,462 motorists paid out of court settlements in connection with VED evasion.
The Reading Office has only recently started enforcement action relating to the statutory off-road notification registration requirements. In 2000, 44 motorists in the Reading area paid out of court settlements in connection with SORN offences.
Mr. Martin Bell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to equalise, between men and women, the age at which the concessionary bus pass is available. 
Mr. Hill: The law currently provides for equalisation in respect of travel concessions on the same basis, and to the same timetable, as for national pensions--that is, over a transitional period of 10 years starting in 2010.
Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what representations he has received since 1 January from Central Railway; and if he will place in the Library a copy of the recent letter to him from that company; 
Mr. Hill [holding answer 1 February 2001]: Central Railway has written to Ministers twice this year. The second letter sought Government support for a hybrid bill. A reply will be sent as soon as possible. It is for the company to decide whether to make its letter public.
Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what steps the Government will take to ensure that low-cost homes built as a result of the additional council tax income received from second homes will be occupied by low-income earners; 
Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 1 February 2001]: In our Rural White Paper, we said that we would consult on our proposals to give local authorities discretion to end the 50 per cent. discount and to allow
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them to retain the additional proceeds, and that we would seek views on whether these should be spent on affordable housing. We intend to issue a consultation paper shortly.
Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 1 February 2001]: Some 523,000 dwellings in England, some 2.6 per cent. of the total chargeable dwellings, are subject to the 50 per cent. council tax discount. We do not know how many of these are second and holiday homes. However, from the survey of English Housing we estimate that in 1998-99 there were about 248,000 second and holiday homes, which would be about 1.2 per cent. of the total number of dwellings that year. On that basis, if all local authorities ended the 50 per cent. discount the extra council tax raised would be around £100 million.
Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received concerning the estimated financial benefits to local councils of second home ownership in England. 
Ms Beverley Hughes [holding answer 1 February 2001]: Since we published the Rural White Paper on 28 November, we have received four representations which raise the subject of the financial benefits which second home ownership can bring to local communities.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will set a deadline for an exchange of contracts with Legacy plc over the sale of the Millennium Dome. 
Ms Armstrong: When I announced the preferred bidder status on 20 November 2000, I said that if all went well we expected to exchange contracts during February 2001. The Government continue to monitor progress towards that goal.
Mr. Burnett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to collate information and inform the public about levels of radon contamination in drinking water in the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Last year the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) collated the available information from water undertakers in England and Wales on their monitoring of public water supplies for radioactive substances, including radon. There is no information to suggest that any public water supplies contain significant concentrations of radon. Where the information is incomplete, water companies have been asked to arrange a sampling and analysis programme and to report the results to DWI.
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Some 1 per cent. of the population obtains its drinking water from private supplies, where responsibility for monitoring its quality lies with local authorities. Following a recent study which found elevated levels of radon gas in some private water supplies in West Devon, my Department has written to district, borough and unitary authorities in England, alerting them to the results of the study, reminding them of their responsibilities in this respect, and identifying for them sources of relevant advice.
Mr. Burnett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what powers he has to regulate the presence of radon and similar contaminates in drinking water in the United Kingdom. 
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Regulations governing the quality of public water supplies require water undertakers to ensure that the water supplied contains no element, organism or substance in the water at a concentration or value which would be detrimental to human health. These regulations are enforced in England and Wales by the drinking water inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales. Local authorities have powers to enforce similar provisions in respect of private water supplies.
Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions for what reason there is no published maximum number of passengers that can be carried in a carriage on the London Underground. 
Mr. Hill: I understand from London Underground that the maximum number of passengers that can be carried in a carriage on the London Underground varies with the type of rolling stock in question. There are currently 12 different types of rolling stock in service. The maximum passenger capacity for each type of stock is published in a series of "fact sheets" available from London Underground Ltd. which give full technical specifications. The following table sets out the capacity (per carriage) for each type of London Underground rolling stock.
|Stock type||Maximum capacity||Operational lines|
|C69 Stock||212||Circle, Hammersmith & City|
|C77 Stock||212||Circle, Hammersmith & City|
|C60 Stock||185||Metropolitan, East London|
|A62 Stock||185||Metropolitan, East London|
|1967 Tube Stock||192||Victoria|
|1972 Mk 1 Tube Stock||194||Bakerloo|
|1972 Mk II Tube Stock||194||Bakerloo|
|1973 Tube Stock||227||Piccadilly|
|1992 Tube Stock||210||Central, Waterloo & City|
|1995 Tube Stock||159||Northern|
|1996 Tube Stock||180||Jubilee|
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment has been made by the Safety Regulation Group of the CAA of the proposed price regulation regime for the
2 Feb 2001 : Column: 316W
NATS PPP; and if this takes full account of the RPI-X method, as affected by the proposed delay term factor. 
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: The advice the Government received from the Civil Aviation Authority on the price regulation regime included advice on a delay term factor. My Department had a meeting with the Group Director of Safety Regulation at which he confirmed that he was satisfied that there would be no adverse implications for safety if the CAA's advice was adopted in full.
In the event, so as to ensure a smooth transition for NATS from the public sector to the PPP, the Government set a somewhat lower price cap and a somewhat lower maximum delay term for the NATS PPP in its early years than those recommended by the CAA.
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