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Ann Keen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to provide for the subsidisation of public transport use for ME sufferers. 
Ms Keeble: The Transport Act 2000 guarantees that disabled people are entitled to at least half fares or better on local bus services, with a free bus pass. In addition the Transport Act 1985 (outside London) and the Greater London Authority Act 1999 (London) give local authorities the discretion to provide concessionary travel for their resident disabled people on public transport services.
The provisions in all three Acts extend the concessions to a wide range of disabled people. It is for local authorities to decide whether a person is eligible for concessionary travel given the definitions of the Acts.
Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many home zones are (a) in force and (b) under preparation or development, broken down by local authority. 
Ms Keeble: We are currently monitoring nine pilot home zone projects in England and Wales. The pilot schemes are in Ealing, Lambeth, Leeds, Manchester, Monmouthshire, Nottingham, Peterborough, Plymouth and Sittingbourne. A number of local authorities have implemented home zones outside of the pilot project.
A £30 million challenge fund for home zones in England was announced by the Prime Minister in April. 237 bids were received from 110 local traffic authorities. We hope to announce details of the successful schemes before Christmas.
David Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of the home search and survey process in the house sale market; and what plans he has to improve the system. 
Ms Keeble: Surveys and searches are intended to tell prospective home buyers about the condition of the property they are buying and about registered title,
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charges, planning highways and other matters directly affecting the property. Nearly all prospective home buyers have searches carried out, but only a minority commission a professional survey. Most of the remainder rely on a valuation inspection carried out on behalf of a lender. This is often a false economy since a valuation inspection is not a condition survey.
Searches and survey information are of key importance to home buying decisions and yet, under the present home buying and selling process, they become available only after terms have been agreed between buyer and seller. This is a major cause of uncertainty, delay and transaction failure. Our research showed that 28 per cent. of transactions failed after terms had been agreed, and that in 43 per cent. of those cases the reason was problems revealed by either an independent survey or a lender's valuation inspection. This failure rate costs consumers in the region of £350 million each year in wasted expenditure.
Our package of measures to improve the home buying and selling process will address this problem. Home sellers will be required to make key information available in the form of a "seller's pack" before terms are agreed, rather than the buyer having to uncover the facts later under the current system.
Modernising the process of carrying out searches is also a crucial part of the reform package. The National Land Information Service (NLIS) will provide a fast, one-stop, on-line national searches service.
As soon as parliamentary time allows, we will introduce legislation to make it easier for people buying and selling homes through a seller's pack.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many planning applications were subject to an appeal against refusal; what percentages of appeals were (a) wholly allowed, (b) partially allowed and (c) dismissed; and in how many cases costs were awarded against the relevant council in respect of planning applications submitted to (i) Lewes district council and (ii) Wealden district council for each year from 1990 to date. 
Ms Keeble [holding answer 29 November 2001]: The provision of information on planning appeals is the responsibility of the Planning Inspectorate. I have asked the Inspectorate's Chief Executive, Mr. Chris Shepley, to write to the hon. Member.
Letter from C. J. Shepley to Norman Baker, dated 30 November 2001:
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|Year||Lewes D. C.||Wealden D. C.|
|2001 to date||48||61|
|Year||Decided||Percentage allowed||Percentage dismissed|
|2001 to date||44||27||73|
|Year||Decided||Percentage decided||Percentage dismissed|
|2001 to date||57||30||70|
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the time scale for introducing high speed trains on the west coast main line. 
Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 29 November 2001]: High-speed trains currently operate on the route at 110 mph. 125 mph running is expected from 2003.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the upgrade of the west coast main line. 
Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 29 November 2001]: The Government remain committed to providing a revitalised rail network, and the west coast main line upgrade is an integral part of that commitment. It is clear
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from our discussions with the Strategic Rail Authority, the Railway Administrator and Virgin that parts of the project are subject to uncertainties over cost increases and timetables. We are in discussion with the parties on the issues involved and the options. At this stage we cannot predict the outcome of those discussions, but we are working hard to reach agreement on a project which is value for money and can be delivered to a clear timetable, subject to the need to obtain any planning consents.
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 26 November 2001, Official Report, column 693W, on social housing, if he will list the proportion of social housing stock in rural areas that has transferred from local authority ownership under (a) the right-to-buy scheme and (b) registered social landlords in (i) 1996, (ii) 1997, (iii) 1998, (iv) 1999, (v) 2000 and (vi) 2001. 
Ms Keeble: The number of local authority dwellings in rural areas transferred from local authority ownership under the right-to-buy scheme and to registered social landlords (as reported by local authorities) in each of the years 199596 to 200001 as a proportion of the total authority stock at 1 April each year is as follows:
|Year||Right to buy scheme||To RSLs|
Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to the answer of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, of 26 November 2001, Official Report, column 319W, on the Rural White Paper, if he will list the proportion of social housing stock occupied in rural areas by local authority in (a) 1996, (b) 1997, (c) 1998, (d) 1999, (e) 2000 and (f) 2001. 
Ms Keeble: I have placed the information requested in the Library. The table presents data showing the derived levels of occupied social stock as at 1 April in each year from 1996 to 2001, distinguishing between stock owned by local authorities and by Registered Social Landlords, in authorities categorised as either 'mixed rural' or 'deep rural' at local authority level. For comparison purposes information is shown based on post local govern reorganisation boundaries. Estimates of residential housing stock and vacancy levels are reported by local authorities annually on housing investment programme returns.
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