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Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consultations local education authorities are required to conduct before withdrawing a school bus service; how those consultations are conducted; and with whom they are conducted. 
Gillian Merron: The Education Act 1996 places a duty on local education authorities (LEAs) to make arrangements for transport where it is necessary to ensure a childs attendance at school. LEAs have wide discretion in deciding whether transport is necessary, but case law requires them to provide free home to school transport for pupils of compulsory school age who are attending their nearest suitable school, provided that the school is beyond statutory walking distance. In addition, many LEAs use their discretionary powers to provide transport to school in circumstances where they are under no legal obligation to do so. The law requires LEAs to publish their transport policies covering support provided under their statutory duties and discretionary powers.
Where LEAs make arrangements using their discretionary powers, they are free to consult on and change those policies. While there is no legislation governing the conduct of such consultations, good practice suggests that consultations should involve all interested parties, with consultations taking place during term time. Guidance issued by the Department for Education and Skills states that good practice suggests that any changes should be brought in at the end of the school year, and that they should be phased in as pupils change or leave schools.
The position is however different if a school bus service is a local service receiving a subsidy from the local transport authority. The Transport Act 1985 requires local transport authorities, when considering policies on subsidised bus services, to consult other authorities who may be affected by those policies and bus operators in their area. There are no specific requirements as to how they should do this.
In developing their bus strategies and accessibility strategies, local authorities also need to consider the passenger transport needs in their areas, and consultation with various stakeholders can play a part in this.
Dr. Ladyman: No special advisers are provided with an allocated Government car and driver. As with all civil servants, special advisers may use an official car or taxi in certain circumstances. Information on such use is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Tom Harris: The Franchise Agreement (contract) for the First Capital Connect franchise (incorporating the former Thameslink route) is available on application to the Public Register Manager at Zone 3/28 Department for Transport, Great Minister House, 76 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DR. The department does not publish details of bids relating to any franchise.
Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether any existing or planned projects or workstreams will be terminated in order to reallocate funds to the Transport Innovation Fund. 
Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 23 October 2006, Official Report, column 1538W, on the Transport Innovation Fund, whether Transport Innovation Fund awards are dependent on proposals for road-user charging. 
The aim of productivity TIF is to support the funding of regional, inter-regional and local schemes that are beneficial to national productivity. We are in the process of considering business cases for first round allocations of productivity TIF. Road-user charging is not one of the current criteria.
With the congestion TIF, we are seeking bids for effective demand management proposals as part of wider packages of interventions to tackle congestion at a local level. Guidance published in January 2006 (http://www.dft.gov.uk/stellent/groups/dft_about/documents/page/dft_about_611056.hcsp) makes it clear that authorities are not required to include road pricing as the demand management element of their proposals, but we are more likely to fund those packages that do.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) on what basis he allocated funding to cover the cost of free off-peak travel for the elderly and disabled to each local authority in each year since the start of the scheme; 
(3) what the expenditure was by local authorities on free off-peak travel for the elderly and disabled in each year since its introduction; and what estimate he has made of the costs of extending the scheme in 2007. 
Gillian Merron: From April this year, older and disabled people have been guaranteed free off-peak local bus travel within their local authority area. Work on assessing uptake is in progress. Funding is provided via Formula Grant and is unhypothecated; therefore it is not separately identified for each local authority. Expenditure by local authorities on the statutory element of their local concessionary fare schemes entitlement is not held centrally.
From April 2008 people aged 60 or older and disabled people will be entitled to free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in the country. Up to an additional £250 million per year has been earmarked for the national entitlement.
Dr. Ladyman: The Department holds information only for the 27 appointments made by the Secretary of State. Of these, four appointees have served two terms of office and 13 have served more than two terms.
Mr. Crabb: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the status is of the document Modernising Trust Ports; what mechanisms are in place (a) to encourage and (b) to require compliance; and what assessment he has made of the trust ports' implementation of the recommendations in the document to date. 
Modernising Trust PortsA Guide to Good Governance is intended to advise trust ports
on the general standards of conduct and accountability that the Government expects of them. Subsequent to publication we continue to advise on the steps ports can take to comply with them. There is no statutory obligation upon the ports in question to comply but the majority have either taken or are taking legislative means to do so by way of Harbour Revision Orders and other administrative changes.
Dr. Ladyman: The Department sought comments on issues surrounding the governance of trust ports as part of a general consultation on ports policy published in May. A range of responses including from trust ports themselves, other ports, local authorities and individuals were received and are now being assessed. A summary of the responses will be published on our website shortly.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department spent on agency staff in each of the last five years; and what the budget is for agency staff in 2007-08. 
Barry Gardiner: The Department came into being in July 2001. Information held centrally on how much the core-Department spent on agency staff in each of the last five years will be placed in the House of Commons Library by 10 November 2006. The budget for agency staff in 2007-08 is not yet determined.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department spent on agency staff at the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) in each year since 2001; and what the budget is for agency staff at the RPA in 2007-08. 
The forecast agency costs for 2006-07 are £25.5 million. Budget values for the 2007-08 period are currently being calculated. Confirmation from Ministers of the 2007-08 budget is not expected to be received until the new year.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the average hourly rate his Department paid to employment agencies for agency staff was in each year since 2001, broken down by agency. 
Barry Gardiner: The Department came into being in July 2001. Information is not held centrally on the average hourly rate the Department paid to employment agencies for agency staff in each year since 2001, broken down by agency. The information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Barry Gardiner: There is no direct link between the agricultural minimum wage and qualification for an agricultural occupancy dwelling. Further information on the agricultural minimum wage can be found on the DEFRA website at:
An assured agricultural occupancy arises under the Housing Act 1988 and applies where the occupant of a dwelling meets the agricultural worker condition. This includes serving farm workers who have been employed in agriculture full time (that is, 35 or more hours of work per week) for 91 out of the past 104 weeks. It also includes retired or former agricultural workers provided they have completed the 91 week qualifying period and the widow or widower of a qualifying agricultural worker. More information is available in the booklet Agricultural Lettings published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, which can be found on the DCLG website at:
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent representations he has received on the functioning of auction marts; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) whom he has consulted about the changes to British Waterways budget since January 2006; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what changes he has made to the 2006-07 budget for British Waterways since January 2006; why the budget was changed; when the decision to change British Waterways budget was made; what discussions he has had with British Waterways on changes to their 2006-07 budget; and if he will make a statement; 
(3) what discussions he has had with (a) British Waterways on their budget for the next five years and (b) the Chancellor of the Exchequer on British Waterways budget for (i) 2006-07 and (ii) the next five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Barry Gardiner: The Government have consulted closely with the Chairman and chief executive of British Waterways (BW) on the financial pressures facing the Department and what these mean for its sponsored bodies. The Secretary of State and I met recently with the chief executive of BW to listen to his concerns. A further meeting between the Chairman, chief executive and myself is planned for later this month. This will look further at the implications for the adjustments in subsidy and how BW can continue to contribute towards Government and DEFRA priorities.
In order to accommodate budgetary pressures, all areas of the Departments spend have been subject to rigorous scrutiny as part of a budget review. The review was comprehensive in nature and has ensured that DEFRAs funding for the current year is placed where it can have the greatest impact. As a matter of good financial management, DEFRA keeps its budgets and spending under regular review and challenge and adjusts them as new pressures and demands arise. The overall budget for the Department remains unchanged and will be subject to the normal Parliamentary approval and scrutiny.
Grant allocation for 2006-07 for BW was originally confirmed as £59.429 million and they were notified of this in April 2006. However, the July in-year review of budgets brought a further cut of approximately 7 per cent. Final grant allocation for 2006/07 will therefore be £55.497 million. Allocations for 2007-08 will be issued shortly, following further engagement between the Secretary of State and the Chairs of our key delivery partners, including BW.
The taxpayer would not expect DEFRA to consult Her Majestys Treasury (HMT) every time there were financial pressures. We seek to manage the pressures that inevitably arise from time to time from within the annual budget voted by Parliament.
Allocations beyond 2008 to 2011 are dependent on the outcome of the current comprehensive spending review (CSR) which is scheduled to conclude by summer of 2007. Consultation will take place with HMT as dictated by the CSR timetable. However, officials are in discussion with BW about the potential for a long-term contract within the context of the CSR period.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the likely effect of the reduction in British Waterways budget on (a) British Waterways operations and effectiveness, (b) British canals, (c) the environment and (d) regeneration; and what discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues about the likely effect of the budget reduction on the economy. 
The Government are working with British Waterways (BW) to minimise the impact of the current restructuring. They have been involved with
over £10 billion of waterside regeneration and have already created public private partnerships that will deliver in excess of £200 million over time. BW has also facilitated the restoration and re-opening of 200 miles of derelict canals.
As a matter of good financial management, DEFRA keeps its budgets and spending under regular review and challenge, and adjusts them as new pressures and demands arise. Further funding pressures can be foreseen for the next financial year and DEFRA will be reviewing the 2007-08 budgetary position with its agencies and non-departmental public bodies over the autumn as part of a DEFRA-wide review of spending plans.
There have been no specific discussions on the issue the hon. Member raises. However, I have regular meetings and discussions with ministerial colleagues on a wide range of issues including funding pressures facing DEFRA.
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