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Environmental Targets

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what environmental targets have been set by the EU with regard to transport provision in the UK over the course of the 10-year plan. [50522]

Mr. Byers: The European Commission recently set out its proposals for the future direction of transport policy in its White Paper, 'European Transport Policy for 2010: Time to Decide' (

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2001/com2001–0370en.html). No environmental targets regarding transport provision have been set by the EU at member state level.

Motoring Charges

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will publish the list of local authorities that (a) are planning to introduce congestion or work place parking taxes and (b) have expressed interest in introducing such taxes. [49460]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 15 April 2002]: The Mayor has announced his congestion charging plans for London. I am considering a draft scheme order from Durham county council for a road user charging scheme in the historic core of the city of Durham.

No other local authority has yet undertaken formal public consultation on proposals for a road user charging or work place parking levy scheme.

Renovation Grants

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what account is taken of (a) other family support and (b) the financial means of any manager of the property when means testing (i) landlords and (ii) tenants of a property who are applying for a renovation grant; [50657]

Mr. Byers: The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 requires that where an applicant for a renovation grant is a tenant or owner occupier then he is subject to a prescribed means test. This test requires that if any such applicant is receiving voluntary help from a third party towards meeting general living expenses, such as food, clothing, fuel for heating and local taxes, then this support, other than the first £20 of any such regular payment, is treated as part of an applicant's income for the purpose of the means test.

The Act also specifies that a tenant can only qualify for a renovation grant if he is required by the terms of his lease to carry out the relevant works. In these circumstances no regard is paid to the financial means of the property manager. Local authorities have discretion to decide the level of grant they should make available to a landlord but are required to have regard to the extent to which the landlord is able to charge a higher rent for the premises following the completion of works.

Local authorities presently have powers under the Housing Act 1985 to give loans at commercial interest rates for private sector housing renewal.

Landlords have a right of access to property they have let to carry out repairs where the works are necessary to maintain the property in the condition under which it was agreed to be let. Where the works are such that they would improve the condition of the property beyond that under

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which it was agreed to be let, then the tenant may refuse access to carry out such works unless a right of entry for that purpose is specifically reserved in the tenancy agreement.

Under the 1996 Act, local authorities currently have discretion as to whether they should make grants available in their area, but they may make such grants to landlords, owner-occupiers and tenants with a repairing obligation in their lease. The principal purposes for which grants may be paid are for making a dwelling fit, putting a dwelling into reasonable repair, providing home insulation or heating facilities, providing satisfactory internal arrangements or conversions. Grants may also be made for the cost of radon remedial works.


Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) how many rails are listed as defective and in need of replacement; [50662]

Mr. Byers: These are matters for Railtrack, the Office of the Rail Regulator and the Health and Safety Executive. My Department does not hold such information.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what investment has been made as part of the 10-year plan for improved detection techniques of broken rails. [50659]

Mr. Byers: As part of the Periodic Review, the Rail Regulator has provided for £150 million of expenditure over the current control period to fund Railtrack's target of reducing the number of broken rails.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what factors can lead to rails breaking. [50660]

Mr. Byers: Many factors can cause rails to break. These are not only matters of the metallurgy, manufacture and maintenance of the rails themselves, but are also strongly influenced by the volumes of traffic, the design of the vehicles running over the track and the quality of maintenance of those vehicles. The industry's Wheel Rail Interface System Authority (WRISA) is investigating all aspects of this complex technical interaction.

Smart Card Technology

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the use of smart card technology in his Department and in the areas for which it is responsible; and what discussions he has had with private companies about the use of smart card technology within his Department. [50482]

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Dr. Whitehead [holding answer 16 April 2002]: My Department does not use smart cards at present although a contactless magnetic card is used for buildings entry in London and elsewhere. We are considering the use of a single smart card with encryption for identification of individuals for access to and authorisation of a range of e-services and buildings access. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will be issuing smart cards as part of the EU-wide "Smart Tachograph" project. DVLA is reviewing other uses for a personal smart card such as a driver licence possibly with other identification-based applications such as travel rights within the EU.

We are sponsoring pilot card projects in local authorities as part of the local government on-line programme and a number of LAs and passenger transport executives are using local transport plan funds for smart card schemes in transport particularly for ticketing. We have sponsored the development of card standards for transport so that as far as possible applications can be interoperable between different LAs and PTEs to ensure seamless travel and through ticketing. We may launch other initiatives once the Office of the e-Envoy has issued its smart card policy paper.

It is not the normal practice of the Government to release details of discussions with private individuals or companies. However Departmental officials have been involved in a number of discussions with companies, either individually or at meetings of organisations such as the Transport Card Forum or the Integrated Transport Smart Card Organisation, as part of the planning for the projects noted above.

Tropical Hardwoods

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what guidance he gives transport undertakings concerning the use of tropical hardwoods in renewing and repairing infrastructure. [50683]

Dr. Whitehead: The Department's policy, contained in the Greening Operations Policy Statement is to provide advice to those transport undertakings for which the Department sponsors on Government policy aims and best practice in relation to timber and other environmental issues. This is done by forwarding all the latest guidance to these bodies.

Comfort Letters

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 11 April 2002, Official Report, column 512W, on comfort letters, when the notification period will now end; for what reason the customary notification period was not initially provided; and if he will make a statement. [51452]

Mr. Jamieson: I refer the hon. Member to the Minute from the DTLR concerning London Underground PPP letters of comfort that was laid before Parliament on 20 March. A copy is available in the Libraries of the House. The notification period will now end 14 parliamentary sitting days from 20 March.

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