Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many schools there were at 31 December in (a) each year since 1997 and (b) at the most recent date for which figures are available. 
|Pupil referral units
(52) Includes middle schools as deemed.
(53) Includes two Direct Grant Nursery schools.
(54) Includes Maintained and Non-Maintained Special Schools.
(55) Includes City Technology Colleges.
Annual Schools' Census returns completed on the third Thursday of January each year.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment she has made of the extent of the use of the provision in the Education Bill concerning the establishment of new schools. 
Mr. Timms: The Education Bill provides that a local education authority in England may, with the approval of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, publish a notice inviting proposals for the establishment of an additional secondary school. The need for new schools varies from year to year, but we estimate that in an average year the demand for additional secondary schools would not exceed single figures.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps have been taken by medical schools over the past five years to improve accessibility of courses to people with disabilities. 
Margaret Hodge: Under the Medical Act 1983, university medical schools are required to ensure that students are fit to practise as doctors when they graduate. To this end, in February 1999 the Council of Heads of Medical Schools issued guidance on admissions making it clear that a disability should not be a bar to becoming a doctor provided it did not impair fitness to practise. More generally, medical schools willwith the rest of universitiesbe subject from September 2002 to the provisions of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001.
Mr. Meacher [holding answer 3 July 2001]: In order to achieve more recycling the Government set statutory targets in March under Best Value for local authorities to double the amount of household waste recycled by 200304 and treble it by 200506. This has been reinforced in the guidelines on Private Finance Initiative (PFI) projects, which stress that recycling and composting must be at the heart of new applications for waste facilities. Incineration should only be considered where recycling is not feasible or not the best practicable environmental option.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures the Government have taken to improve the state of drains and sewers to cope with long-term flooding. 
Mr. Meacher: Sewerage undertakers have a duty under section 94 of the Water Industry Act 1991 to drain their area effectually and this duty is enforceable by the Secretary of State or the Director General of Water Services. However, there can be practical or financial constraints. The duty in the 1991 Act is not, therefore, considered to be an absolute requirement on undertakers to prevent sewer flooding in all circumstances. Each undertaker is expected to set priorities for work which may be necessary. Ofwat and my officials are currently examining the causes of sewer flooding and possible remedies. Ofwat will publish a paper on the issue early in 2002.
Mr. Morley: The emergency response to flooding, from whatever source, is led by local authorities in partnership with the emergency services and bodies that are responsible for the source of the flooding.
The Environment Agency has permissive powers to undertake flood defence measures in relation to main rivers and the sea. The Agency is also responsible for issuing flood warnings and has a general supervisory duty over all matters relating to flood defence. Local authorities or, where they exist, internal drainage boards, have flood defence powers on ordinary watercourses.
Sewerage undertakers are generally responsible for dealing with flooding from sewerage systems while the relevant highways authority is responsible for road drainage systems. Flooding from groundwater can arise for disparate reasons and there is no single body responsible for such flooding. However, the Environment Agency may be able to provide hydrological information and advice in relation to serious problems with the water table and the existence of local springs.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent discussions she has had with the Association of British Insurers in relation to the agreement between the Government and the ABI to ensure flood cover is provided in respect of previously flooded properties. 
Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what was the cost to the Environment Agency and its predecessor bodies of inland flood defence in England and Wales in (a) 1971, (b) 1979, (c) 1989, (d) 1995 and (e) 2000. 
Mr. Morley: Information is not readily available for 1971 or 1979. For the other years, the available information relates to all flood defences and it is not possible to provide separate figures for inland flood defences.
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Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what percentage of properties affected by inland flooding in 2000 were not given prior flood warning by the Environment Agency. 
Mr. Morley: I understand that between September and mid-November 2000, the Environment Agency's Automatic Voice Messaging (AVM) system delivered messages to 85,715 locations with a success rate of between 75 and 80 per cent. This was a five-fold increase from the 15 per cent. success rate at the time when the agency became responsible for flood warnings in 1996.
Following the autumn 2000 floods, as part of its usual practice of monitoring its flood warning performance, the agency undertook 'post event' surveys in 13 areas where in excess of 100 properties had experienced flooding. A total of 1,493 interviews were conducted. Of those who had experienced flooding 60 per cent. received a warning prior to the event (91 per cent. of whom received more than two hours notice).
The agency offers the full Flood Warning Service which encompasses both direct methods (AVM, flood wardens, loud hailers, sirens) and indirect methods (broadcast media, Floodline service). Out of a total of 1.9 million properties situated in the natural floodplain of England and Wales, currently some 1.2 million properties receive the full Flood Warning Service. This represents an increase of 325,000 properties covered by the full Flood Warning Service since 2000.
Mr. Morley: The Government continue to maintain close links with the insurance industry to help ensure continued availability of affordable flood cover. There is an agreement among Association of British Insurers (ABI) member companies that they will continue to provide flood cover, except in exceptional circumstances, for domestic properties and small businesses which they currently insure, during 2001 and 2002. Cases where there is an alleged breach of this agreement have been referred by DEFRA to the ABI for investigation. However, it must be recognised that insurance companies need to take a commercial decision as to what risk they will cover and on what terms. Also, the insurance industry is a competitive one and customers may need to shop around to obtain the best deal. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and I had previously met the ABI on 5 September to discuss our mutual aim of ensuring that affordable flood insurance cover continues to be generally available after
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December 2002. Ministers have not had a further meeting with ABI since the floods of October but discussions continue at official level.
Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria a watercourse must meet for it to become the responsibility of the Environment Agency; and if she will make a statement. 
Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency has permissive powers to undertake flood defence works on main rivers. On ordinary watercourses these powers reside with local authorities or, where they exist, with internal drainage boards.
There are no objective criteria for deciding whether a particular watercourse should be designated as main river or ordinary watercourse, although the rivers presenting the most significant flood risk will tend to be 'enmained'. The initiative for 'enmaining' rivers rests with the Environment Agency and their Regional and Local Flood Defence Committees.
Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many properties in Essex suffered loss or damage from the floods on the rivers Blackwater, Colne and tributaries in October. 
Mr. Morley: The Environment Agency reports that some 612 residential and commercial properties were flooded from the main rivers of Colne and Blackwater/Pant during October 2001. Details are not readily available for flooding from ordinary watercourses or overland flow.