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Mr. Robin Cook: I have no immediate plans to make such a proposal, but it is worthy of consideration. Any switch to a new system would need to take account of its wider impact and ensure that any security implications are properly addressed.
Mrs. Roe: After the 2001 general election, House departments provided a fuller and more co-ordinated induction process for newly elected Members than at any previous election. It is known that virtually all newly elected Members attended the Reception Area and associated activities. There is a good deal of anecdotal evidence that these activities were well received, but in addition the Board of Management has agreed that there should be a small survey of newly elected Members in order to seek their opinions in a more systematic way. The group of House officials who oversaw the process has made its own assessment, including points for consideration when preparations are being made for the induction process after the next general election.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will ensure that existing investment and maintenance programmes planned by Railtrack will take place. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Administrator has been funded so as to permit him to continue work on Railtrack's projects. Contractors have been asked to continue normal working; and Railtrack in administration will continue to place orders and let contracts.
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Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he has held with financial institutions about the future investment needs of the rail industry since the decision to put Railtrack into administration. 
Mr. Jamieson: Future funding of the proposed company limited by guarantee has been discussed between my officials, my Department's advisers and the financial markets and we intend to continue to consult widely before detailed proposals are put to the Administrator.
Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will create a right of appeal against the grant of planning consent in respect of large-scale schemes of local concern; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Keeble: Local people already have the opportunity to comment on proposals for large-scale and other schemes before the local planning authority decides whether or not to grant planning permission. Our forthcoming Planning Green Paper will look at ways of improving community engagement in the planning process.
Mr. Jamieson: The Government are keen to ensure that the Thameslink 2000 project should not be put at risk by Railtrack being taken into administration. We are discussing with the administrators and the Strategic Rail Authority the best way of ensuring that the project can be carried forward if the enabling powers are granted under the Transport and Works Act 1992. A public inquiry into Railtrack's application for an order under the 1992 Act
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Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what was (a) the number of homeless priority acceptances, (b) the number of those living in temporary accommodation, (c) the number of those living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation and (d) the number of children living in homeless households, by region, in each year since 1997. 
Mr. Byers: Summary information on activity under statutory homelessness provisions is reported to the Department by local authorities in England. This includes the number of households accepted under the homelessness provisions of the 1985 and 1996 Housing Acts as being eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need, and the number of those households resident in various types of temporary accommodation at the end of each quarter.
National and some regional information on local authorities' activity is provided in a quarterly Statistical Release published by the Department. Copies are available in the Library, and also via the Department's website. The latest edition, published on 12 September, presents statistics up to the end of June 2001.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will publish figures for the level of empty council housing, by local authority in England, in (a) 1997 and (b) 2001 to date; and if he will make a statement on the Government's plans to reduce the level of empty council housing. 
Mr. Byers: I have placed the information requested in the Library. It presents data showing the level of empty council housing by local authority as at 1 April 1997 and 1 April 2000 (the latest available) respectively.
We expect those housing authorities with high levels of vacant properties to set challenging targets for reductions through improved management performance or action to improve or dispose of unpopular stock in the Business Plans they are now required to produce.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans his Department has to reduce the (a) number and (b) scope of executive agencies affiliated to his Department. 
Mr. Byers: We have no current plans to reduce the number or scope of this Department's executive agencies. All agencies are subject to review, including five yearly reviews in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines, which examine their status and work. The outcome of such reviews are announced to Parliament.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans his Department has to decentralise non-departmental public bodies and devolve their responsibilities to local authorities. 
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Mr. Byers: We have no current plans to reduce the number or scope of the non-departmental public bodies sponsored by this Department. All such bodies are subject to review, including to five yearly reviews in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines, which examine their status and work. The outcome of such reviews are announced to Parliament.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps his Department is taking to increase safety on riverboats travelling on the River Thames; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Byers: Inquiries chaired by Lord Justice Clarke have produced 74 wide-ranging recommendations for improving safety on the tidal Thames. The recommendations are being pursued through a mixture of primary and secondary legislation, administrative action and voluntary agreement. I shall shortly be placing in the Libraries of both Houses an updated summary of the action taken on each recommendation.
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