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Railways: Scotland

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent progress has been made on plans for a high-speed rail link between Scotland and England. [199754]

Mr. Tom Harris: Improvements to the West Coast Main Line are already delivering faster journeys between England and Scotland—and completing the West Coast upgrade will lead to further improvements in both capacity and journey times.

But we are also planning for the longer term. That is why we have asked Network Rail to lead work on options for the future, including the possibility of new lines.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the primary route network in England was last fully reviewed; when she next intends to review it to reflect the effects of changes in places of economic and social importance on traffic importance; and what criteria are set for the network to ensure that it is appropriate and that its operation is effective. [199461]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Primary Route Network (PRN) is a national network which exists to aid navigation for long-distance traffic. It connects Primary Route Destinations in England and comprises all non-motorway trunk roads and the most important local roads.

A review of the Primary Route Network took place in the mid-1980s. The Regional Offices of the Department for Transport (as it then was) conducted the review in consultation with county highway authorities.

The approval of minor alterations to the PRN is delegated to the Government Offices for the Regions (changes where there are no implications for signage beyond the immediate section of the road which is subject to the change). Where a Government Office wants a major change to the network or change to the primary destinations this must be approved by the Department for Transport centrally. The criteria used to set the network are that the Primary Routes must be the most satisfactory routes for through traffic between places of traffic importance in the opinion of the Secretary of State (although for non-trunk roads this opinion will be formed after consultation with the traffic authority for the road).

We currently have no plans to undertake a fundamental review of the current Primary Route Network but in taking forward our proposals for improving our longer-term strategic transport planning processes, as set out in Towards a Sustainable Transport System, we will of course ensure coherence between the long-term planning for our strategic national transport networks, and the Primary Route Network.


Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 25 March 2008, Official Report, column 97W, on trains, in what specific ways her Department plans to be involved in the specification process for the intercity express programme
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train; and what specific advantages she expects this involvement to bring. [199344]

Mr. Tom Harris: We have developed the business case, led engagement with the industry, prepared rolling stock and service specifications, developed tender documents and are leading the procurement process.

This involvement ensures the Intercity Express Programme (IEP) provides best whole-life value for money; optimising across train, maintenance and infrastructure; deals with long-term capacity requirements including best use of existing rolling stock; and secures the all-industry collaboration needed to deliver the right result for passengers.

There is a good business case for the Intercity Express Programme, delivering better value for money and more benefits than would be the case if the Department for Transport left this to the industry alone to pursue.

Transport: Exhaust Emissions

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate she has made of the likely volume of carbon dioxide emissions from (a) road traffic and (b) domestic aviation in (i) 2010, (ii) 2015 and (iii) 2025. [192958]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The requested estimates of carbon dioxide emissions are set out in the following table:

In million tonnes of CO 2
2010 2015 2025

Road transport




Domestic aviation




For road traffic, we have applied the forecast percentage change in CO2 emissions between 2003 and 2010, 2015 and 2025 from the Department’s National Transport Model to DEFRA’s official CO2 inventory data for 2003. For domestic aviation we have supplied estimates under central assumptions of demand growth and fuel efficiency.

These forecasts are in the absence of further policy measures and are consistent with what was announced in the Energy White Paper (2007). Further detail of the assumptions and policies underlying the road forecasts is available from:

Further details of the approach used for the aviation forecasts can be found in “UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 forecasts” published by the DfT in November 2007:

West Coast Railway Line

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will review her policy on the provision of additional carriages for services on the West Coast Main Line. [199890]

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Mr. Tom Harris: No. An examination has already been made of the options available to Government to secure additional accommodation on the Pendolino trains. I am satisfied that the proposed way forward, led by the Department, represents best value of money, the fastest way to deliver the required capacity and compliance with relevant legislation.

Communities and Local Government

Carbon Monoxide: Alarms

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will place in the Library a copy of the guidance issued by (a) her Department and (b) the Housing Corporation to (i) social landlords and (ii) local authorities on the use of carbon monoxide alarms in (A) residential care, (B) sheltered housing and (C) social housing in the last five years. [198651]

Mr. Iain Wright: There has been no guidance specifically for targeted towards social landlords relating to the use of carbon monoxide alarms. However, in 2006 the Housing Health and Safety Rating System came into force for all housing, including social housing. The guidance associated with this system contains advice on the use of carbon monoxide alarms.

The Housing Corporation regulates by means of the regulatory code which sets out the fundamental obligations on Housing Associations in meeting the Corporation's regulatory requirements. Under the code, housing associations are required to comply with the law, and to ensure that “the homes their residents live in are well maintained and in a lettable condition”. The issue of detailed guidance on maintenance or health and safety issues does not form part of the Corporation's duties. The Corporation would however, expect associations to adopt and follow best practice issued by the relevant agencies, e.g. the Health and Safety Executive.

Construction: Crime

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what steps the Government has taken to reduce illegal construction since 1997. [196523]

Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 27 March 2008]: The Government take the issue of illegal construction (i.e. construction undertaken without proper planning permission or building control approval) very seriously and aims to ensure that the building control and planning systems support local authorities in identifying and dealing with illegal construction activities effectively.

The 2006 planning enforcement review confirmed that local planning authorities had sufficient enforcement powers to deal with breaches of planning control.

There are penalties for developers who commence or complete development prior to obtaining planning permission. In practice, anyone who undertakes development without first obtaining the necessary permission puts the investment at considerable risk, especially in the case of a building which may subsequently have to be demolished. Alternatively, they may find
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themselves subject to a summary penalty on conviction of an enforcement notice or stop notice offence. The maximum penalty in the magistrates court is £20,000 and there is no upper limit on the penalty which the Crown Court may impose on conviction.

Since 2005, local planning authorities can also now serve a temporary stop notice. The temporary stop notice enables the local planning authority to require a breach of planning control to stop immediately for a period of 28 days, during which the local planning authority can decide whether to take further enforcement action. In addition to enforcement notices, stop notices and temporary stop notices, authorities may also apply for a planning injunction in the High Court or county court, to restrain an actual or expected breach of planning control. Once an injunction has been granted, anyone who fails to comply with its terms risks imprisonment.

In the case of building control, local authorities work with builders to identify where the work they are undertaking does not comply with the building regulations and resolve any issues. However, where enforcement action is necessary they have a range of enforcement options available to them such as serving enforcement notices and fines through the courts.

To support local authorities' enforcement efforts, legislation came into force on 6 April which extended the time limit from six months to two years for local authorities to prosecute offenders for breaches relating to energy efficiency requirements. This will be widened to cover all breaches of the building regulations as soon as possible. We are also consulting on extending the time limits in other areas, for instance the issuing of an enforcement notice requiring non-compliant work to be pulled down or rectified.

The current consultation on the Future of Building Control proposes a further range of enforcement mechanisms to prevent illegal work from going ahead such as stop notices and fixed monetary penalties. There are also proposals to help industry forward plan and comply with the building regulations by moving towards a more planned approach to building regulation and to free up more time and resources for local authorities to focus on high-risk building work.


Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what targets her Department has set in relation to its employment of people with disabilities over the next five years. [199052]

Mr. Dhanda: Currently 6.1 per cent. of Communities staff have reported a disability, based on a diversity data completion rate of 74 per cent. In March 2008, we set an aspirational target to increase this figure to 8 per cent. of staff by end March 2009, based on London work force data as published by the London Assembly. However, we have moderated our target to account for a large proportion of our recruitment being cross-civil service rather than external.

On 31 March 2008 we achieved the 10 Point Diversity Plan cross-Government target for disabled staff in the senior civil service (SCS). The target was set by Cabinet Office as 3.2 per cent., which we exceeded with 4.7 per cent. of our SCS reporting a disability, based on a SCS reporting level of 77 per cent.

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This result will be reported to Cabinet Office in due course, who are expected to confirm and publish the figures in the coming year. We will also assist in the drafting of a new 10 Point Diversity Plan, which will build on these results and set revised targets for all Government Departments.

Energy: Conservation

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what energy efficiency increases she has required to be achieved by the Bridging Newcastle Gateshead Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder. [196111]

Mr. Iain Wright: Bridging Newcastle Gateshead has not been set any specific energy efficiency targets. However, it will be expected to adhere to implementing energy efficiency standards, environmental sustainability and eco-design in its programme as set out in its business plan for 2008-11. On a wider front, the Government have set out an ambitious timetable with the aim of achieving zero carbon new homes by 2016, including the progressive tightening of building regulations in 2010 and 2013.

Homelessness: Immigration

Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what plans her Department has to assess (a) levels of and (b) trends in homelessness among immigrants from (i) A8 countries and (ii) non-EU countries. [199851]

Mr. Iain Wright: The information requested is as follows.

Statutory homelessness

Information about local authorities' actions under homelessness legislation is collected quarterly at local authority level. This information includes the number of households accepted by local authorities as eligible for assistance, unintentionally homeless and in priority need, and therefore owed a main homelessness duty. The duty owed to an accepted household is to secure suitable accommodation. If a settled home is not immediately available, the authority may secure temporary accommodation until a settled home becomes available.

(i) A8 nationals

Information about decisions taken under the homelessness legislation for A8 (and more recently A2) headed households is published quarterly, on CLG's Housing Statistics website in “Live Tables”.

Table 629 contains data on A8 households accepted as owed a main homelessness duty, including the reason for eligibility, from May 2004 onwards:

Data for 2007 show that 425 A8-headed households were accepted as being owed the main homelessness duty, comprising 0.7 per cent. of the total acceptances over the same period. The quality of A8 foreign national data submitted is improving, and we are working with local authorities to continue this improvement.

(ii) Non-EU nationals

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We are also working with local authorities to obtain better information on numbers of homelessness decisions and acceptances for other, non-EU foreign nationals on the P1E statutory homelessness form. These figures will be published as soon we are satisfied that both the response rate and quality of the data reported is sufficiently robust.

Rough sleeping

Local authorities who conduct rough sleeper counts collect information on any individuals sleeping rough, and these are published annually on our website. These figures include those from EU accession states and other countries, but a breakdown of nationality is not provided.

Housing: Construction

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what assessment she has made of the effect of the introduction of Lifetime Homes on the plot size of new homes; and what discussions she has had with (a) the house building industry and (b) disability organisations on this matter. [200058]

Mr. Iain Wright: In ‘Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods: A National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society’, published by CLG in February 2008, we stated that we would review the take up of Lifetime Homes Standards in all sectors in 2010 with a view to bringing forward regulation in 2013 if take up has not matched expectations.

While our assessment of the effect of the introduction of Lifetime Homes on the plot size of new homes was informed by findings from ‘Designed for Manufacture, Lessons Learned’ (English Partnerships, CLG, June 2006) my officials are considering what work needs to be commissioned to further develop the evidence base for the proposed review and this will include additional research into the potential impact of Lifetime Homes Standards on affordability and density.

There has been formal consultation on Lifetime Homes Standards in the Green Paper ‘Homes for the future: more affordable, more sustainable’ (CLG, July 2007), ‘The future of the Code for Sustainable Homes—Making a rating mandatory’ (CLG, July 2007) and the pre-strategy document for the ‘National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society’ (CLG, May 2007). The Home Builders Federation Retirement Housing Group, industry representatives, Age Concern and Help the Aged were among a variety of organisations represented on the Housing and Older People Development Group, the expert reference group that advised on the development of the ‘National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society’ from 2006.

My officials are also continuing to work with key stakeholders, including representatives of the house building industry and disability organisations to explore how best to develop accessible and adaptable housing while ensuring we can meet our housing supply targets.

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