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Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the annual budget for communications activities, including press, public relations, marketing and internal communications, was for his Department for each financial year from 199798 to 200102. 
|Director of Communication administration expenditure(4)||Departmental external publicity and marketing expenditure||Total|
(4) Excluding external publicity
(5) Latest forecast
Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the Government's proposal to consult on piloting a comparative, colour-coded label for passenger cars. 
Mr. Jamieson: I have today published a consultation paper on piloting a comparative label for passenger cars. The consultation sets out the Government's proposals on a possible new form of label, which would be based on the environmental performance categories used in the Graduated Vehicle Excise Duty system. We believe this would make an effective label, consistent with and reinforced by the environmental message given through the new taxation regimes. The proposal at this stage is to begin piloting a comparative label later this year, with a view to making any further decision following that pilot. Any proposal to make the label mandatory, would be subject to further consultation. I have placed copies of the consultation document in the Library.
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Charlotte Atkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to amend the rules regulating the provision of access to information by local authorities. 
Mr. Raynsford: I have today laid before the House two statutory instruments: the Local Authorities (Executive Arrangements) (Access to Information) (England) Amendment Regulations 2002 and the Local Authorities (Access to Meetings and Documents) (Period of Notice) (England) Order 2002.
Our aim in modernising local government is to make local decision-making more accountable. We have listened very carefully to the responses we received to the consultation on access to information in local government which we launched in April 2001. We believe it is right that local people should have earlier warning of the important decisions that local authorities take and of the meetings where these decisions take place. In line with this the statutory instruments will have the effect of increasing the notice period authorities have to give of such decisions or such meetings from three to five days.
This reform will encourage greater participation by local people in the democratic process. Decisions that local authorities take will benefit from the transparency that public debate brings. Decision-making will be brought closer to those affected by those decisions.
Our consultation also asked views on two other issuesproposals to revise the definition of "exempt" information given by Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 and the framing of guidance on financial thresholds for key executive decisions.
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We announced in the local government White Paper, "Strong Local Leadership Quality Public Services", published in December 2001, that local authorities were best placed to define what constitutes a key decision.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he has taken to ensure full access of people with disabilities to transport facilities during industrial action by staff of train operators. 
Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 11 March 2002]: On 6 February the Strategic Rail Authority published its revised Code of Practice, "Train and Station Services for Disabled Passengers". All licensed operators on the national rail network are required to review their Disabled Peoples Protection Policies to reflect the revised code. The code requires that any buses or other substitute transport arranged on a pre-planned basis must be accessible to disabled people and the SRA will expect that to be reflected in the revised policies which the operators put forward for approval.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what the public sector administration cost associated with the rail sector was in each of the last five years. 
On 1 February 2001 the SRA legally assumed all the functions of OPRAF, most of the residual functions of the BRB and some functions of the DTLR railways directorate and of the ORR. The SRA administration figure includes staff costs for the British Transport Police that were previously paid by the BRB and for the Rail Passenger Councils that were previously paid by the ORR.
|Gross administration costs|
|DTLR (railways directorate)||2.1||2.5||2.6||2.7||2.7|
|Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF)(6)||8||7||8||11||14|
|Strategic Rail Authority (SRA)(7)||||||||||15|
|Office of the Rail Regulator (ORR)||8||8||8||12||13|
|Total staff costs|
|British Railways Board(6)||762||102||85||77||69|
1. The 200001 figures for OPRAF and BRB cover the 10 months to 31 January 2001.
2. Staff costs for the two months to 31 March 2001. Taken from table 4, page 92 of the SRA annual report 200001.
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what discussions he or his Department have had with the Rail Regulator on the structure and funding of the successor company to Railtrack in administration. 
Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what powers Railtrack plc has while in administration, to be involved in any bid for another company, or part of another company; 
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Mr. Byers: Copies of the loan agreement were placed in the House Library on 17 October 2001. The loan provides sufficient funding to continue on a 'business as usual' basis during the administration period, before the loan is replaced through commercial debt. Under the terms of the loan agreement, Railtrack plc cannot enter into any contract or obligation requiring expenditure or the undertaking of a liability in excess of £10 million without my prior written consent.
Section 211 of the Transport Act 2000 provides powers for the Strategic Rail Authority to provide financial assistance to secure the provision of railways services or assets. This function must only be exercised in the manner outlined in section 207 of the Act.
Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that private companies have an equal opportunity to bid for Railtrack. 
Mr. Jamieson: The bidding process is a matter for the administrator. For its part, the Government have taken steps to ensure both that all potential bidders are aware of the principal issues my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would consider in exercising his powers in respect of any transfer scheme proposed by the administrator and that the bid based on the concept of a company limited by guarantee is not unfairly advantaged in terms of access to information from Government.
Details were given in my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gedlin (Mr. Coaker) on 31 October 2001, Official Report, columns 66971W and in my reply to the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Grayling) on 25 February 2002, Official Report, columns 79091W.
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Mr. Jamieson: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport to the hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Mr. Grayling) on 12 February 2002, Official Report, column 214W.
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