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Private Sector Houses (Surplus)

30. Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what action his Department proposes to take to assist local authorities with large numbers of unwanted and surplus private sector houses. [13583]

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Ms Keeble: We recognise the problems created by abandoned housing in low-demand areas. There are no easy answers. The causes of market decline vary between authorities and so will the solutions. Local authorities already have a range of tools that they can use to deal with surplus housing. Other measures, such as licensing of private landlords and our private sector renewal reforms, are in the pipeline.

Bicycle Transportation

31. Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what guidance he gives light rail operators on the circumstances under which passengers may transport cycles. [13584]

Ms Keeble: We offer no specific guidance to operators on the carriage of cycles on LRT systems. However, the National Cycling Strategy, which we support, suggests that all new LRT projects should include cycle carriage. Advice in "Cycle-friendly Infrastructure, Guidelines for Planning and Design" also advocates the carriage of bicycles on LRT. However, this is ultimately a matter for the discretion of the operator.

Regional Assemblies

32. Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what changes to local government structures he plans as part of the introduction of regional assemblies. [13585]

Dr. Whitehead: As previously announced by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister, we intend to publish a Regional Governance White Paper, and this will set out how we plan to take forward our Manifesto commitment that:


North Kent Rail Services

33. Clive Efford: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to increase passenger capacity on North Kent rail services; and what recent representations he has received on this issue. [13586]

Mr. Jamieson: The Strategic Rail Authority has no immediate plans to increase passenger capacity on North Kent rail services. However, this could be achieved by introducing 12-car operation as part of the Thameslink 2000 project and as a result of possible negotiations to extend the current Connex South Eastern franchise. I am not aware of any recent representations on this issue other than those made by my hon. Friend.

Local Communities (Partnerships)

34. Stephen Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps his Department is taking to encourage partnerships in local communities. [13587]

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Dr. Whitehead: The Government expect county, district and parish councils to work in partnership with each other, with local communities, and other public, private and voluntary sector organisations to provide the best quality services for local people.

We are taking a number of steps to foster this working, including the promotion of 'local strategic partnerships' to bring these groups together.

Under the duty of Best Value, we also expect local councils to explore new ways of delivering public services, and that is why we have just launched a new task force on strategic service delivery further to encourage partnership working with the private sector.

I understand that there is effective joint working between the public, private and community and voluntary sectors in Dorset and I commend my hon. Friend the member for South Dorset (Jim Knight).

Mobile Phones (Accidents)

35. Tony Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what evidence he has collated on the number of accidents caused by motorists using mobile phones while driving. [13588]

Mr. Jamieson: There is clear evidence of an increased risk of an accident when using any type of mobile phone while driving. Detailed investigation is needed to establish the cause of any accident. Two research projects currently under way will help to establish the likely numbers of road traffic accidents involving mobile phones.

Women in Government

36. Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to encourage women to put themselves forward for election to each level of Government. [13589]

Mr. Raynsford: We have introduced the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Bill to enable political parties to use positive measures to reduce inequality in the numbers of men and women elected.

We are also reforming Government to make it a more attractive option to all people of all backgrounds, including women, through improving the hours and working environments at all levels of government.

However, political parties have a vital role to play in encouraging women to come forward, and I hope that the work that the Government are doing in this area acts as a spur to parties wishing to achieve a greater gender balance in their representatives.

Ten-year Transport Plan

37. Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions which projects in the 10-year transport plan he estimates (a) will and (b) will not be open by 2010. [13590]

Mr. Jamieson: The 10-year plan is an investment strategy aimed at providing improvements to transport across the board. There is no definitive list of projects. These will emerge as decisions are taken in the light of

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reports from the multi-modal studies, by local authorities and the Mayor of London, and by the SRA and the rail industry.

Concessionary Fares

29. Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to extend the scope of the current legislation covering concessionary fares in England and Wales. [13582]

Ms Keeble: The Travel Concessions (Eligibility) Bill will extend local authority concessionary travel schemes to men aged 60–64 in England and Wales.

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to the answer of 14 November 2001 by the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight, Official Report, column 850, on concessionary coach fares, if he will set out when public financial support for concessionary fares for pensioners on (a) buses and (b) coaches (i) became permissible, (ii) became mandatory and (iii) began to be implemented or will begin to be implemented, (A) for within-county travel and (B) for out-of-county travel. [16464]

Ms Keeble: Concessionary travel on buses and coaches at county level has been permitted since 1968. It was possible for authorities to arrange for the concession to apply outside the county by arrangement with adjoining local authorities. The statutory minimum standard that commenced in June 2001 ensures at least half-fare travel for pensioners on local buses. It does not apply at county level outside the metropolitan areas, although there is no reason why local authorities should not join together to run a county scheme, or a scheme beyond the county boundary, if they wish.

Road Traffic Accidents

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what proportion of road traffic accidents occurred on or near to the calibration lines of speed cameras in the last 12 months for which figures are available. [11657]

Mr. Jamieson: That information does not form part of the accident record. Monitoring of the areas taking part in the trial of a new funding system for speed and traffic signal enforcement cameras has shown a significant decrease in the number of collisions and casualties at the camera sites. A site is considered to be the stretch of road within a half a kilometre of the camera.

David Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what percentage of (a) deaths and (b) serious injuries in road traffic accidents occur to passengers where they and the car driver are under 21 years. [15015]

Mr. Jamieson: In Great Britain in 2000 there were a total of 3,409 deaths in road accidents. Four per cent. of these fatalities were aged under 21 and a passenger in a car with a driver who was also under 21. There were 38,155 seriously injured casualties, of whom 3 per cent. were passengers where they and the car driver were under 21 years of age.

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M25 Motorway

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will change the variable speed limit system in operation on the M25 motorway to permit the raising of speed limits above 70 mph in non-rush hour periods and lighter traffic. [12327]

Mr. Jamieson: The M25 Controlled Motorway scheme is experimental and still subject to evaluation: there are no plans to modify the scheme at this time.


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