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Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the outcome was of the meeting of Coreper on 16 November on the Physical Agents Directive in respect of vibrations. 
Dr. Whitehead: At the Coreper meeting on 16 November member states confirmed their support for the Council's common position on the Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive and noted that there would be problems in accepting all the amendments proposed by the European Parliament.
Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps his Department is taking to encourage staff to work from home; and how many staff do so on a regular basis. 
Dr. Whitehead: Following a study of flexible working, a number of pilot implementations, presentations to staff and positive feedback from a staff survey, the DTLR Board gave approval to a project to implement flexible working in DTLR(C) on 22 November 2001. Working at or from home is one option for working flexibly which the Department will support with appropriate furniture and equipment and due regard to compliance with health and safety requirements.
At present 766 members of staff regularly use the Remote Access Service to dial in DTLR's office automation system when working away from their normal workstation. About 37 per cent. of staff work at home on an informal basis at some point during the course of a year.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will publish the figures for rough sleeping for each local authority area in England that are available, with the relevant HiP estimates, for each year since 1996 for which figures are available. 
Ms Keeble [holding answer 10 December 2001]: The first national estimate of rough sleeping in England, combining information from local authority Housing Investment Programme (HIP) estimates and the results of head counts of people sleeping rough was reported in a written answer to a parliamentary question from my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, South (Margaret Moran) on 19 May 1999, Official Report, column 357W. It provided a national estimate of the number of people sleeping rough on a single night as at June 1998.
Tables showing the local authority HIP estimates and results of street counts for 1998, 1999, 2000 and the latest figures for 2001 have been placed in the Library. Local authorities not listed in the tables for those years submitted either an estimate of 010 or no estimate in their HIP returns.
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Tables showing HIP figures submitted by all local authorities in 1996 and 1997 have also been placed in the Library.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact central Government action has had on reducing the number of (a) priority homeless and (b) homeless in bed and breakfast accommodation in England since 1997; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Keeble [holding answer 10 December 2001]: The figures for households accepted by local authorities as unintentionally homeless and in priority need of accommodation and for those housed in bed and breakfast are as follows:
|Quarter ending||Priority need acceptances||Households in bed and breakfast|
|30 June 1997||24,290||4,500|
|30 June 2001||29,110||11,340|
The increase in these figures is not acceptable. These problems are partly the result of inadequate investment in affordable housing before this Government took office. We are taking steps to tackle this, but problems of this scale cannot be turned around overnight.
We have reversed the last Government's cuts, with this year's capital investment in housing more than double the 1997 level. And, as an on-going part of our commitment to public investment, we are nearly doubling the Housing Corporation's programme for new affordable housing between now and 200304.
These are very substantial measures, and reflect our commitment to tackling homelessness and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to live in a decent home. But these measures take time to come to fruition. We have to recognise that they will not solve the current problems at a stroke.
In response to the growing number of homeless households in bed and breakfast accommodation the Government established a new Bed and Breakfast Unit. Working with local authorities and other stakeholders, the unit is reviewing both central and local policy and practice in order to reduce the use of B&B accommodation. The unit has already held a national conference to discuss targets. The targets will be announced in the new year. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has also announced that new Action Advice Teams will be available to support LAs in tackling B&B.
We are also taking through Parliament new homelessness legislation, which will strengthen the safety net for homeless households and place a new duty on local authorities to take a strategic approach to tackling and preventing all forms of homelessness.
The Government's strategy on rough sleeping has been shown to be successful and, from January, we are establishing a new Homelessness Directorate to bring together and invigorate this existing work to help homeless people as well as develop new work to prevent homelessness and investigate its underlying causes. Any
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strategy will also continue to help vulnerable people sleeping on the nation's streets, and help people to rebuild their lives.
The new Directorate will be responsible for taking forward the Government's strategic framework for homelessness in the new year.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the average annual increase was in (a) parish and (b) town council precepts in (i) each of the five years before and (ii) each year since the introduction of the uniform business rate. 
Dr. Whitehead [holding answer 10 December 2001]: The available information is given in the following table. Separate figures for parish and town councils are not available.
|Parish and town council precepts, England||Increase over previous year|
|Financial year||(£ million)||(£ million)||(Percentage)|
|Before the introduction of the national non-domestic rate|
|After the introduction of the national non-domestic rate|
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the prospects for a greater regionalisation of the railways. 
Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 10 December 2001]: This is an issue we keep under review.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what recent discussions he has had with European Transport Ministers on greater co-operation between the different national railways; and what form such co-operation will take. 
Mr. Spellar [holding answer 10 December 2001]: The form of co-operation between different companies in the European railway industry is essentially a matter for those companies, subject to the provisions of domestic and European law. The only recent specific discussions my Department has had on this issue have been in the context
11 Dec 2001 : Column: 800W
of an official-level Commission Committee established under Directive 2001/14/EC on the allocation of railway infrastructure capacity. These discussions have concerned the implementation of the particular requirements in that Directive for co-operation between infrastructure managers to achieve the efficient operation of train services across more than one network.
Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when he will bring forward legislation to give the people of Gibraltar the right to vote in the 2004 European parliamentary elections. 
Dr. Whitehead [holding answer 10 December 2001]: Our aim is to bring forward this legislation at an appropriate opportunity to secure giving the people of Gibraltar the right to vote in the 2004 European Parliamentary elections.
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