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David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that the new grant formula that will replace SSA will be fairer and simpler and address the needs of all classes of authority. 
Mr. Raynsford: The Government are working closely with local government to develop simpler and fairer grant formulae. We will consider the cases of all classes of authority in taking decisions on the new system.
Gillian Merron: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the Highways Agency's Annual Report and Accounts for 200001 will be published; and what results it will report. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Highways Agency 200001 annual report will be published today under the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1921. In the year, the agency met all but one of its eight ministerial targets, missing the final target by only a very narrow margin. The agency also managed its expenditure within its budget, resulting in a very small underspend of 0.6 per cent. A copy of the report will be placed in the House Library.
Mr. Spellar: The Merseyrail franchise operates on a network of lines which are almost entirely separate, physically and operationally, from the rest of the national rail network. The current franchise expires in February 2003. Merseytravel (the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive and Passenger Transport Authority) has brought forward proposals to take Merseyrail services outside the franchising process operated by the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA), leaving the way open for Merseytravel to offer a local concession (in effect, similar to a franchise) for these services. Having discussed the proposals in detail with both the SRA and Merseytravel I have it in mind to support this approach which will provide local control over this unique local network and will help bring much needed improvements for passengers.
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I accordingly intend, after consultation, to seek the House's approval to an Order under the Railways Act 1993, which will enable the new arrangements to be given effect. In the meantime the SRA will continue to work with Merseytravel on the future of these services.
Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what powers (a) local authorities, (b) English Heritage and (c) other agencies have to require owners of listed buildings to maintain their exterior appearance. 
Local authorities and the Secretary of State have powers under section 48 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 to require owners of listed buildings to carry out works which are considered to be reasonably necessary for the proper preservation of a listed building. Under section 54 of the Act, local authorities have powers to execute works which appear to be urgently necessary for the preservation of unoccupied listed buildings. The Secretary of State also has powers under section 54 of the Act to authorise English Heritage to carry out such repairs on her behalf. No other agencies have statutory powers concerning listed buildings.
Alun Michael: Ensuring that people in rural areas have access to essential services such as village shops, pubs and post offices is a key theme of the Government's Rural White Paper strategy. Since we published the White Paper a year ago we have implemented a range of measures and provided extra funding to boost these basic services to rural communities. The details are provided in "England's Rural Future", which I published in December and placed in the Library of the House.
12. Helen Jackson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what support is given by the European Commission to rural communities in disadvantaged areas of the UK. 
Alun Michael: There are many ways in which this Government help support disadvantaged rural communities. Not all of them are European funded, but the European Commission finance the following programmes, with additional match funding from the Government:
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Leader+ assists local action groups (which could include farmers, rural villages, rural businesses, local authorities, parish councils and voluntary organisations) in improving the quality of life and economic prosperity in their area through innovative approaches to sustainable rural development.
13. Mr. Pope: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many live sheep were exported from the UK in the last year for which figures are available before the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. 
Mr. Morley: According to our computer system used to issue export health certificates, 2,282 breeding sheep, 627,566 fattening sheep and 2,590 slaughter sheep were certified for export from the UK during 2000. The computer system also shows that during the period 1 January to 20 February 2001, seven breeding sheep, 86,900 fattening sheep and 703 slaughter sheep were certified for export from the UK. The figures for sheep exported from Northern Ireland to Ireland are not available.
33. Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the losses incurred by farmers through the OTMS due to restrictions on movements during the foot and mouth epidemic. 
Mr. Morley: The over-30-months scheme (OTMS) delivers some £240 million per annum in payments to beef and dairy farmers. Farmers will have incurred losses arising from additional costs of keeping cattle, delays in sales receipts and, any differences between prices actually received and those which would otherwise have been obtained. However, there are no statistics available to identify the number of cattle that entered the OTMS scheme as a result of movement restrictions and therefore it is not possible to quantify any losses.
Mr. Meacher: There are number of options for dealing with waste fridges that are already in place, including re-use, export within Europe, high temperature incineration and storage. Investors are in the process of providing a network of new recycling facilities in the United Kingdom. I understand that the first new facilities are likely to be operational in the spring.
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23. Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the development of new recycling plants for refrigerators and freezers. 
Mr. Meacher: Investors are in the process of providing a network of new recycling facilities in the United Kingdom. I understand that the first new facilities are likely to be operational in the spring.
15. Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the implications of climate change upon the risk of flooding of the River Severn. 
Mr. Morley: In 1995 MAFF sponsored research at the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, which considered the impact of climate and land use change on the Severn and Thames river basins. This was used as the basis for subsequent national guidance published in 2000. The Environment Agency is currently carrying out further studies to develop a strategy for the Severn and a Catchment Flood Management Plan, both of which will give further consideration to the potential impacts of climate change.
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