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Local Government Finance

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement about the local finance settlement for the London borough of Havering. [21431]

Dr. Whitehead: We announced the provisional local government finance settlement for 2002–03 to the House on Tuesday 4 December 2001. Havering will receive £202.869 million in their provisional Standard Spending Assessment for 2002–03, an increase of £10.357 million (or 5.4 per cent). This translates into £143.003 million in provisional grant for 2002–03, an increase of £7.605 million (or 5.6 per cent). These increases are on a like for like basis, adjusted for changes in functions. The final settlement will be announced early in the new year.

Council Tax Benefit

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 29 November 2001, Official Report, column 1067W, on council tax benefit, for what reasons the announcement on the council tax benefit subsidy limitation scheme has not been made; and if he will hold consultations for this year's settlement for Poole unitary authority. [22338]

Dr. Whitehead: We have announced the abolition of the council tax benefit subsidy limitation scheme with effect from 2002–03 in the White Paper "Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services."

My officials sent a consultation paper on the local government finance settlement for 2002–03 to local authorities on Tuesday 4 December. Under the proposals, Poole unitary authority receives an increase in general grant of £2.9 million, or 4.4 per cent. The covering letter to the consultation paper invited local authorities to make written representations on the proposals in time for them to be received by Thursday 10 January.

Private Landlords

Vernon Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to allow local authorities to register private landlords; and if he will make a statement. [21781]

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Ms Keeble: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Wansbeck (Mr. Murphy) on 4 December 2001, Official Report, column 284W.

Regional Government

Mr. David: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what consultations he has had with the National Assembly for Wales when preparing the forthcoming White Paper on regional government in England. [22074]

Dr. Whitehead: The White Paper will be about regional governance in England. However, meeting in Cardiff on 30 October 2001, the annual plenary meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee (which brings together Ministers of the UK Government and of the devolved Administrations) noted the progress on the Government's White Paper on English regional governance. The devolved Administrations expressed their support for extending the benefits of devolution where there was a regional demand for this, and offered to assist the process based on their experience of devolution to date.

The National Assembly for Wales will be consulted in the usual way on any issues arising in or from the White Paper which will affect its responsibilities or operations.

Mr. David: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if the role of regional development agencies has been considered in the preparation of the White Paper on English regional government. [22061]

Dr. Whitehead: The role of the regional development agencies is being considered in the preparation of the White Paper.

Mr. David: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment has been made of devolution in other EU member states when preparing the forthcoming White Paper on regional government in England. [22060]

Dr. Whitehead: We are looking at a wide range of information sources during the preparation of the forthcoming White Paper. The Department's own review of research on international experience, published in October 2000, shows that EU member states have a wide variety of approaches to devolution.

Overseas Vehicle Registration

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many haulage (a) firms and (b) vehicles have moved from UK registration to overseas registration in the past three years. [21943]

Mr. Jamieson: The information on the number of firms that have registered abroad is not available. It is estimated that around 200 vehicles were registered in other member states while still specified on British operators' licences. Following a Transport Tribunal ruling in January 2001 the UK licensing authorities deemed it no longer acceptable for foreign registered vehicles to be used under the authority of a British operator's licence.

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Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many different point-to-point rail routes were operated in (a) 1993, (b) 1997 and (c) 2001. [21944]

Mr. Jamieson: This would depend on the definition of a point-to-point rail route. The relevant National Rail timetables contain all the planned services for particular years. Copies are in the Library of the House.


Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many buses have been registered to operate in England and Wales in each of the past seven years. [21947]

Ms Keeble: The information is available for the years 1997–98 to 2000–01:

Total number of buses(9) registered to operate in England and Wales


(9) Having nine or more seats


DTLR survey of PSV operators

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many different bus routes there were in England and Wales in (a) 1997 and (b) 2001. [21946]

Ms Keeble: This information is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. However, the figures for total vehicle kilometres operated by local bus services in England and Wales during the period are as follows.

Million kilometres

Ms Atherton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many bus routes in Cornwall have benefited from Government funding in the last 12 months. [21757]

Ms Keeble: Monitoring information supplied by Cornwall county council shows that a total of 99 routes were supported by them using rural bus subsidy grant in 2000–01. In addition, the council receives revenue support grant to assist in meeting its expenditure needs, including the provision of other subsidised bus services.

Rural Bus Challenge funding was provided in 2000–01 for the Helston-Redruth Branchline Bus Service and the Gorran and District Ring-and-Ride projects. Another project to improve a number of services in the Bodmin Moor area was also approved in the 2000 challenge competition.

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Transport Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the outcome was of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 6 and 7 December; what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including their voting record; and if he will make a statement. [22183]

Mr. Spellar: The Transport Council met in Brussels on 7 December. I represented the United Kingdom.

The main focus of the Council was on the Galileo satellite navigation project and on aviation security. I am pleased to say that on both issues the outcome was satisfactory from our point of view.

On Galileo, Ministers were asked to agree to the release of funding from the Trans-European Networks (TENs) budget to enable the project to proceed to its next phase, and to agree on the management structure that the project would have. I was among Ministers to press for deferral of decisions on the project. I drew attention to the concerns which the recently issued PricewaterhouseCoopers report had raised, on public sector funding, overall cost and lack of commercial benefits. The report made clear that any decision on the joint undertaking would have funding implications, so I argued that a decision on this should not be taken while funding issues were not sufficiently clear. There was also some discussion of the details of the draft Regulation to establish the joint undertaking, but a majority of member states declined the Commission's request for a vote to agree the text. Decisions on the next phase of Galileo were deferred and no formal conclusions were agreed. The Presidency indicated that the Galileo project might be discussed further at the European Council at Laeken later this month.

The Council reached political agreement on a regulation establishing a Community framework for airport security standards and monitoring. The Commission had initially insisted on arrangements to oversee member states who were operating more stringent security measures. But in response to concerns which I and others expressed about the need for freedom to respond to perceived security threats it accepted that member states should be free to apply additional measures, provided they were in accordance with Community law. This important measure should ensure that high standards are in place throughout the EU and create a safer environment for air passengers using EU airports.

There was discussion of a draft directive on occurrence reporting in civil aviation, on the transposition of JAR-OPS standards into EC law, and on a draft directive on the training of aviation cabin crew. No decisions were reached on the first two issues, and the Presidency concluded that no progress was possible on the third. The UK view is that provision for cabin crew training should be included in the JAR-OPS legislation.

The Council noted the difficult economic situation faced by the air transport sector. On war-risk insurance, member states wished to return to a market approach, but the industry was not ready for that yet. In the interim the Commission was prepared to continue to approve state aid measures up to end March 2002, subject to monthly reviews. Ministers also noted the need to consider

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urgently ways to address possible unfair competition from third country carriers; the Commission will present a proposal in the near future.

The Council noted the importance of making early progress on the recent proposal for a Directive to replace the hushkits regulation.

The Council reached political agreement on the regulation to establish a European Maritime Safety Agency, which was proposed as part of the ERIKA II package of maritime safety proposals. We are content with the text as agreed.

The Council agreed the text of a Directive to simplify reporting formalities for ships leaving and entering Community ports. It was able to accept the European Parliament's position on the proposal, and therefore reached agreement at the First Reading.

I and the French Minister, with support from the Commissioner, stressed the need for member states to make quick progress on ratifying the Hazardous and Noxious Substances convention and other maritime pollution compensation Conventions, as the December 2000 Council Conclusions had urged.

The Council noted a Presidency progress report on the proposal to update Regulation 3820/85 on commercial drivers' hours and rest periods. Further consideration of this will pass to the Spanish Presidency.

I maintained the UK's opposition to the proposal to extend the fitting of speed limiting devices to goods vehicles above 3.5 tonnes and to coaches/buses with over eight passenger seats regardless of weight. I argued that we were not in favour of a threshold below 7.5 tonnes, but that an extension of European regulation to 7.5 tonnes would be in line with UK law. I expressed my doubt that the safety and environmental consequences of fitting limiters to lighter vehicles would be beneficial. The Presidency concluded that Council adopted the proposal by qualified majority. The proposal will now be considered by the European Parliament early in the new year.

The Council reached political agreement on a draft directive setting out initial and ongoing training requirements for professional drivers.

Following the recent fires in Alpine road tunnels, the Commission reported to the Council that it would propose legislation early in 2002 to improve safety. The proposals will address issues relating to technical equipment, driver information, traffic controls and training of operational staff. We await further details of the proposals, and will need to examine them carefully.

The Presidency presented its conclusions on the Commission's White Paper on transport policy, published earlier this year. The Presidency largely agreed with the White Paper's assessment of the negative impact of uneven development of different transport modes, and believed that modal shift and enhancement of quality should be promoted. It hoped the Council would further examine the White Paper and looked forward to Commission proposals to implement the priorities emerging from further discussion.

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Under Other Business, I raised the issue of the new digital tachograph and the deficiencies in the Regulation on which the specification is based. I had previously written to the Commissioner asking her to propose amendments to address these shortcomings, which would create serious enforcement difficulties. Other Ministers at the Council supported me in asking the Commission to re-examine the issue and bring forward a new proposal to amend the Regulation. I expressed my disappointment at the Commission's response, which did not address the concerns we had put forward.

Finally, the German Minister spoke of the safety benefits of ensuring that rigid bull bars were not fixed to road vehicles above 2.5 tonnes, through voluntary agreements with industry. The Commission agreed that this was a useful suggestion, but stressed that it was the responsibility of the Internal Market Commissioner.

No votes were taken at this Council.

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