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Labour Relations (Transport Industry)

16. Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the state of labour relations in the transport industry. [667]

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Mr. Spellar: We believe that problems at work should be resolved by constructive negotiation; accordingly we are pleased that the RMT and almost all of the relevant train operators were able to avoid a dispute planned for Monday 25 June and tomorrow, 4 July, and that the recent dispute which led to industrial action on the London Underground has been resolved with the RMT and ASLEF. I will also be meeting representatives of employers and unions in other parts of the transport industry.

Railtrack

17. Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement regarding the future of Railtrack. [668]

Mr. Spellar: The Statement of Principles agreed on 2 April between the Government and Railtrack set out a new agenda for the company and a new working relationship with the Government and the Strategic Rail Authority. Railtrack is now implementing the reforms and restructuring of its organisation agreed as part of the new deal.

M6 Multimodal Study

18. Mr. Jack: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the M6 Multimodal Study will be published. [669]

Mr. Spellar: This study of the M6 between Birmingham and Manchester started in December 1999. The study is due to report to both the West Midlands and North-West Regional Planning Bodies in the autumn.

Planning Laws

19. Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent representations his Department has received concerning reform of planning laws; and if he will make a statement. [670]

Ms Keeble: The Department receives regular representations making proposals for changes to planning laws.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what representations his Department has received in the last 12 months concerning reform of planning laws; and if he will make a statement on the Planning Green Paper. [1431]

Ms Keeble: The Department receives regular representations making proposals for changes to planning laws. It is proposed to publish a Green Paper in the autumn on the steps that might be taken to improve the operation of the planning system.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he will make a statement on reorganising the planning system. [1654]

Ms Keeble: It is proposed to publish a Green Paper in the autumn on the steps that might be taken to improve the operation of the planning system.

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Regional Government

20. Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has for elected regional assemblies. [671]

27. Phil Sawford: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to introduce legislation for regional government in England; and if he will make a statement. [678]

Dr. Whitehead: As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced on 2 July 2001, Official Report, column 80W, the Government intend to publish a White Paper on regional government in England.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he plans to publish (a) Green and (b) a White Paper on regional government in England. [1324]

Mr. Raynsford: As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced on 2 July 2001, Official Report, column 80W, the Government intend to publish a White Paper on regional government in England.

No date has been set for publication.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if the proposed regional assemblies in England outside London will levy a precept on council tax. [1280]

Mr. Raynsford: As my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced on 2 July 2001, Official Report, column 80W, the Government intend to publish a White Paper on regional government in England. This will include proposals on the funding of regional assemblies, including whether they should have preaccepting powers.

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what representations his Department has received in the last 12 months concerning the creation of regional assemblies. [1297]

Mr. Raynsford: The Department has received a number of representations from organisations and members of the public on the creation of regional assemblies.

Council Tax (Park Homes)

21. Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what proposals he has to reform the council tax system in respect of park homes. [672]

Dr. Whitehead: We are aware of concerns of park home owners and other occupiers of low value properties about the council tax bands. We intend to publish a White Paper on local government finance later this year, and decisions on any reforms of the council tax system will be made in the context of the White Paper.

Cullen Inquiry

22. Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what action he has taken to follow up the recommendations of the Cullen inquiry. [673]

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Mr. Jamieson: The Health and Safety Commission published Part 1 of Lord Cullen's Report into the Ladbroke Grove train crash on 19 June. I have asked them to ensure that the 89 recommendations are acted upon, and to report back to me within six months. The Chair of the HSC has asked the industry to tell him within a month how they intend to take forward the recommendations.

Fire Brigade (Shropshire)

23. Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on Fire Brigade cover in north Shropshire. [674]

Dr. Whitehead: Responsibility for providing fire services in north Shropshire rests with Shropshire and Wrekin fire authority. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is considering an application from the authority under section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947 which includes the replacement of two pumping appliances by one with a larger crewing capacity at both Whitchurch and Market Drayton. He will not grant approval unless satisfied that national fire cover standards will be maintained.

Rural Rail Services

24. Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has for the improvement of rural rail services. [675]

Mr. Jamieson: Our aim is to bring new life and more passengers to rural rail services. The Strategic Rail Authority's Rail Passenger Partnership scheme is providing funding for new or improved local services. The SRA is also encouraging Community Rail Partnerships to promote rural lines locally and in the wider tourist market.

Local Government Funding

25. Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what progress he is making in reviewing local government funding formulae. [676]

Dr. Whitehead: September's local government finance Green Paper set out our plans for reform of the revenue grant distribution system to local authorities. An analysis of the 16,000 plus responses we received on this and other issues was published on our website in March. A White Paper setting out our decisions on the way forward will be published later this year.

26. Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to reform the system of standard spending assessments. [677]

Dr. Whitehead: September's local government finance Green Paper set out our plans for reform of the revenue grant distribution system to local authorities. An analysis of the responses we received on this and other issues was published on our website in March. A White Paper setting out our decisions on the way forward will be published later this year.

New Transport Infrastructure

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans

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he has to reform the planning regulations and the Transport and Works Act 1992 to speed up the decision- making process on new transport infrastructure. [1029]

Mr. Spellar: We intend to announce shortly measures to streamline planning procedures for major infrastructure projects, which include safeguarding opportunities for public involvement in the process.

We shall also shortly be embarking on a fundamental review of Part 1 of the Transport and Works Act 1992 with the aim of identifying any scope for improving and speeding up the process for authorising guided transport projects.


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