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Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority

Ms Dari Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what Government funding has been received by the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority since 1997; and what it is to be used for. [151125]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The Department has not provided funding to the Tees and Hartlepool Port Authority since 1997.

Teachers' Pay

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will ensure that local authorities have sufficient resources to cover the above-inflation element of the teachers' pay award without having (a) to levy additional council tax and (b) reduce other services. [151170]

Ms Beverley Hughes: We took account of all pressures on local education authorities, including teachers' pay, when setting the level of provision in the spending review. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment announced on 29 January extra funding of £52 million to help certain local education authorities manage funding changes in 2001-02. Local authorities are responsible for their own decisions on budget priorities and council taxes for 2001-02.

Secure Environment

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what strategy he has for ensuring that all council and housing association tenants have a secure environment; and what funds are being allocated to it. [151533]

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Mr. Robert Ainsworth [holding answer 27 February 2001]: An important part of the Government's regeneration and neighbourhood renewal strategy is to tackle anti-social behaviour and promote community safety at grass roots level. Neighbourhood Wardens form a key part of the Government's partnership approach to tackling crime and disorder, working with the community, police, local authorities, housing associations and other agencies to reduce crime and the fear of crime and to promote safer and more secure communities.

My Department and the Home Office have jointly allocated £18.5 million until 2003-04 for the Neighbourhood Warden programme. Some of the wardens will perform a "supercaretaker" role on estates; others will have a patrolling function. Both roles will provide a sense of security and personal contact with residents.

More widely, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires local authorities and the police to establish district based crime and disorder reduction partnerships, to develop and implement local strategies for reducing crime and disorder. Each strategy is informed by evidence drawn from an audit of crime and disorder in the locality in consultation with the local community. The recently appointed crime reduction directors in each of the English regions and Wales will be managing the Partnership Development Fund announced as part of the Spending Review 2000 which provides for £3 million in this financial year with a further £20 million in each of the next three financial years. The purpose of the fund is to support the partnership process and to develop improved and more effective ways of working.

Wind-farm Developments

Mr. Simon Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many wind-farm developments have been granted permission, but are yet to be built by developers in (a) Wales, (b) England and (c) the UK as a whole. [151364]

Ms Beverley Hughes: I understand from information collected by ETSU that, as at December 2000, the following number of wind-farm developments had been granted planning permission but had not commenced construction:

Agenda 21 Strategies

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what targets have been set for the implementation of Agenda 21 strategies by local authorities; and how the progress of such strategies is being monitored. [151574]

Mr. Meacher: The Prime Minister set a challenge for local authorities to produce a Local Agenda 21 strategy by the end of 2000; over 90 per cent. of English local authorities have met this. Whether a local authority has produced a strategy in line with the Government's guidance will be tested formally via the Best Value performance indicators.

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Local authorities should now implement their Local Agenda 21 strategies in order to meet the objectives and targets they have set. With the introduction of Community Strategies, local authorities that have produced Local Agenda 21 strategies in line with the Government's guidance should have gone a long way towards developing effective partnership working, a long term vision for the area and the necessary implementation mechanisms, that they will require in preparing their Community Strategies.

Housing Rents

Mr. Hopkins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to require local authorities to limit increases in housing rents during the period they are seeking convergence with registered social landlord rent levels. [151575]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: Local authorities are responsible for deciding the level of their rents. We expect all social landlords to ensure that no tenant will be subject to a change in their rent as a result of the combined influence of restructuring and convergence of more than £2 a week in any year above the normal increase for inflation. We intend to use the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy system to encourage restructuring and convergence and discourage excessive rent increases.

Shared Ownership Schemes

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many do-it-yourself shared ownership schemes have been approved since May 1997. [151183]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: The total number of do-it- yourself shared ownership (DIYSO) schemes approved since May 1997 is 4,117.

Hinduja Brothers

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the (a) representations his Department has received and (b) meetings he and his Department have had with any of the Hinduja brothers since May 1997. [151184]

Ms Beverley Hughes: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 15 February 2001, Official Report, column 222W. My right hon. Friend has had no other meetings with the Hinduja family.

It is not the normal practice of the Government to release details of meetings or discussions between officials and private individuals or companies.

Regional Development Agencies

Mr. Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what public funds have been spent in each year since 1997 on consultancy fees in relation to the development, production and evaluation of strategies and action plans for regional development agencies. [151185]

Ms Beverley Hughes: The fees paid to consultants' by the nine Regional Development Agencies are detailed in the table. There were no costs incurred for the period 1997 to 1998 as the Regional Development Agencies were established on 1 April 1999.

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Oceans Statute

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with organisations about the World Wide Fund for Nature's proposals for an oceans statute. [150983]

Mr. Meacher: I understand that the WWF, in discussions in the Working Group of the Review of Marine Nature Conservation, have put forward proposals on the need for further legislation to protect the marine environment. This Working Group was established by the Government to review the options for improving the protection available for the marine environment. An interim report is due to be presented to Ministers soon. This will set out a range of options on possible ways forward and highlight where strategic decisions may be necessary.

Quality Mark Scheme

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress is being made with the Quality Mark scheme; and if he will make a statement. [151886]

Mr. Raynsford: In January a number of measures were put in place to encourage builders to join the Quality Mark (QM) pilot scheme in Birmingham and Somerset. Among these were a time limited discount on the joining fee, joint working with several leading trade associations and commercial organisations, to develop ways of helping their members and sub-contractors achieve the QM standard and easier ways of obtaining the mandatory warranty cover. I am pleased to say these efforts are now beginning to pay off and the number of companies in the two pilot areas now wishing to join the QM has increased from around 40 to over 275. I expect more companies to apply to join the QM in the weeks and months ahead.

Most of these companies should complete the assessment process and attain the QM in the next two-three months. As a result of this, I am able to announce today that subject to satisfactory progress with the assessment process, we shall move to the second stage of the pilot programme by opening the QM to consumers on 22 May. The launch will involve the unveiling of the QM logo and involve a major public information campaign in the pilot areas, co-ordinated with our partners, to alert the public to the QM and the benefits of using QM builders. They will be able to find the names of QM builders and tradesmen through a national call centre of via the Internet.

Householders in the two pilot areas of Birmingham and Somerset will then be able, through this Government- backed scheme, be able to find a reputable builder to do a good job for a fair price. By using a QM builder they will have the comfort of knowing that the company has been subject to a rigorous and independent inspection, including an on-site inspection of their work, will work to a QM code of good practice and give a free six-year

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warranty on their work. The opening of the QM scheme to the public in this way is a major step forward in the fight against disreputable builders and fulfils a major commitment by this Government to introduce measures to empower consumers and promote reputable companies.

After six months there will be a review of how well the scheme has worked to see what lessons can be learned. This will involve all aspects of the scheme, including how easy it is for the public to locate a QM builder. Following further consultation with QM builders, our partners, the industry and consumers a decision will then be made about whether any modifications need to be made to the scheme and how to extend it to the rest of the country.

Consumers in this country have for too long been at the mercy of disreputable builders and tradesmen. But there are many reputable builders willing and able to do a good job for a fair price. The QM pilot scheme is a first step towards a national scheme to link consumers and reputable builders. I hope that more builders will recognise the benefits of the QM and apply to join now.

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