Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations his Department has received concerning the European Union COWAM project on the decision- making process for radioactive waste repository siting. 
Mr. Meacher: The National Radiological Protection Board has contacted my officials to discuss the timetable for the COWAM research project in relation to my Department's forthcoming consultation exercise on radioactive waste management.
COWAM is an EU project on public participation in nuclear siting decisions, which will suggest methods of improvement to the decision-making process for siting radioactive waste management facilities. While the
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Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will introduce legislation to ban the use of hand-held mobile phones by drivers while their vehicles are moving. 
Mr. Hill: At present the Government share the view of the Association of Chief Police Officers that current road traffic legislation provides sufficient powers to enable the police to prosecute irresponsible drivers. However, as promised in its Road Safety Strategy "Tomorrow's roads--safer for everyone", the Government will keep the need for specific legislation under review.
Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what monitoring his Department carries out of the level of public inquiries received by local authorities about the indicators and targets in local best value plans. 
Ms Armstrong: This information is not collected centrally. It is for local authorities themselves to promote and monitor the level of public interest in their performance. The Department has commissioned general research to assess the effectiveness of the new best value regime, which will include the way in which local authorities engage with their communities.
Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the application by BNFL to open a MOX plutonium fuel production plant at Sellafield. 
Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has for further consultation on the economic viability of the Sellafield MOX plant; and if he will make a statement. 
The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Secretary of State for Health will reach a decision as soon as possible after all relevant information has been considered.
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of public ownership and (b) the subsidy paid each year since privatisation (i) in total and (ii) to Virgin Trains Ltd. 
Mr. Hill: In 1993-94, the last full year before the British Railways Board was restructured in preparation for privatisation, the Board's total external finance requirement was £1,461 million. The railway industry was progressively privatised over the following three years, during which period total Government support was:
|Central Government grants
|Other elements of Government support
|Total Government support excluding PTE grants
Virgin Trains Ltd. commenced operation of its CrossCountry franchise on 5 January 1997 and its West Coast Trains franchise on 9 March 1997. Since 1997-98 (the first full year of franchised operations), Support for Passenger Rail Services (SPRS) paid by the Franchising Director has been:
|SPRS paid to all train operating companies
|Including: SPRS paid to Virgin Trains Ltd.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions in the forthcoming review of the EU Groundwater Directive, if he will apply for derogations for (a) the burying of fallen stock in the event of the present foot and mouth crisis and (b) general disposal of fallen stock; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Meacher: The review of the Groundwater Directive under the Water Framework Directive is not yet under way, and therefore is unlikely to be negotiated on a timescale relevant to the foot and mouth outbreak. However, the existing Groundwater Directive is intended to protect groundwater sources. The current foot and mouth outbreak does not reduce this need but does require speedy investigation and authorisation of burial sites. The Environment Agency is operating such a procedure and is cooperating closely with MAFF.
Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many homes have benefited from the home energy efficiency scheme in Shrewsbury and Atcham; and if he will make a statement. 
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Mr. Meacher: The number of households in Shrewsbury and Atcham benefiting from the Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES) since its introduction in 1991 is 5,219. Of this figure, 168 households have received measures since the introduction of new HEES.
The new HEES for England was launched on 1 June 2000. It replaced the more basic scheme, which had operated since 1991, providing low income and disabled households with a single insulation improvement such as window and door draught-proofing.
New HEES provides packages of insulation and heating measures, linked to the condition of the property and the type of householder. To provide these packages the grant maximum has been raised from the previous £315 to up to £2,000 in the case of low-income households aged 60 years or more. The latter may also receive a package of basic security measures, funded through the Home Office 'Locks For Pensioners' initiative, if they live in an area experiencing above the national average burglary rate for England.
Two regional scheme managers manage the scheme. They are responsible for marketing the scheme and surveying homes to identify the improvements required. Once these are agreed with the householder, a works order is placed with local contractors.
Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the ways in which the Strategic Rail Authority proposes to improve the (a) frequency and (b) quality of train services between Shrewsbury and London. 
Mr. Hill: The Strategic Rail Authority is in active discussion with local stakeholders about through services from Shrewsbury to London. A number of options which are emerging from franchise replacement are being considered. These will be assessed on a value for money basis.
Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many people lived in fuel poverty in Shrewsbury and Atcham (a) in May 1997 and (b) on the most recent date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
Data on the number of households living in fuel poverty are derived from the English House Condition Survey, which is carried out every five years. The Survey allows estimates to be made of the number of fuel poor households at a regional level, but not at local authority level.
Using data from the latest English House Condition Survey (1996), the table shows the effect of different options for calculating household income on the number of households defined as fuel poor in the West Midlands Government Office region in 1996 1 .
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|West Midlands Government Office region
|(a) Income including Housing Benefit and Income Support for mortgage interest
|(b) Income excluding Housing Benefit and Income Support for mortgage interest
(1) Assumes fuel costs include those for non-heating purposes.
Since the last English House Condition Survey, the Government have implemented a range of measures that have reduced the number of fuel poor households in England by an estimated 1 million between 1996 and 1999.
Mr. Meacher: On 23 February 2001, the Government published its Fuel Poverty Strategy for consultation. The Strategy sets out our commitment to end the blight of fuel poverty for vulnerable households--which includes pensioners on low incomes--by 2010.
The Winter Fuel Payment, which has been increased to £200 for this winter, will help many older households in, or at risk from, fuel poverty. For the poorest pensioners we have introduced the Minimum Income Guarantee, which is already helping 1.6 million pensioner households.
We have also reduced the level of VAT on fuel and on the installation of energy saving materials, so that people can more easily afford to keep warm. Further reductions in energy bills have resulted from the reform of the energy market.
But the permanent solution is to provide better insulation and heating. We have made available substantial additional capital funds for housing investment by local authorities. We have also launched our radical new Home Energy Efficiency Scheme (HEES). The scheme now provides grants for packages of heating and insulation improvement measures, including high efficiency central heating systems for low-income households aged 60 years or more. With a budget of over £600 million, HEES is expected to have reached some 800,000 vulnerable households by 2004, 480,000 being over-60s.
In addition, the Energy Efficiency Standards of Performance schemes (EESOPs) run by the energy suppliers have been doubled to some £50 million a year. Around two-thirds of this help is going to pensioner and
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low-income families. From 2002, the Government are proposing to increase the scale of the scheme to around £150 million a year, continuing its focus on disadvantaged consumers.