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Education Standards: LEA Contribution

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We will outline in the forthcoming White Paper our policies for combining support to, and pressure on, local education authorities to ensure that they contribute effectively to raising standards.

Defence Review

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The world has changed dramatically in fewer than 10 years. Since the end of the Cold War the security risks to the United Kingdom and to our Allies have changed fundamentally and we no longer face the threat of general war in Europe. New security challenges confront us, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, aggressive nationalisms, international terrorism and the impact of scientific and technological developments. The review is intended to give the Armed Forces a coherent and stable planning basis for several years ahead.

Rough Sleepers

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for the Environment and Transport (Baroness Hayman): The following table gives figures from single night head counts of people sleeping rough in Greater London, undertaken by voluntary sector homelessness agencies and local authorities. Housing authorities have an obligation to consider the housing needs of everyone residing in their areas, including people sleeping rough, and to reflect those needs in their housing strategies. Government assistance specifically to tackle rough sleeping is provided in areas where a major rough sleeping problem has been demonstrated, including most of the areas listed below. Funding is provided through a number of programmes, including the Department of the Environment's Rough Sleepers Initiative and Rough Sleepers Revenue Fund, and the Department of Health's Homeless Mentally Ill Initiative and Drug and Alcohol Specific Grant. The Government

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expects these programmes to result in significant reductions in the numbers of people sleeping rough over the next two to three years; and our overall aim is to ensure that there is no necessity for people to sleep rough in Britain.

AreaNumber of rough sleepers Source
Strand/West End140
Counts conducted by voluntary
Waterloo/The Bullring57
sector homelessness agencies on
South Camden45
14 November 1996, co-ordinated
Whitechapel and the City43
by Homeless Network
W1/W2 postal districts28
Counts conducted in June and
Hammersmith and Fulham19
July 1996 by Shelter, on contract
Kensington and Chelsea25
to the Department of the
Environment, in conjunction with
Tower Hamlets(1)8
local authorities and local
Waltham Forest2
voluntary sector agencies.

(1) The figure for the Tower Hamlets area excludes the western side of Borough, which is included in the Whitehcapel and City area.

Regional Development Agencies

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they propose to take forward their plans for regional development agencies in England.

Baroness Hayman: We plan to bring forward legislation in the autumn to create regional development agencies in England to improve regional economic competitiveness and to provide for effective, co-ordinated regional economic development. It is intended that the boundaries of regional development agencies (RDAs) will be the same as the administrative areas of the Government Offices for the Regions, except that there will be a single RDA for the North West region including Merseyside.

My honourable friend the Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning is today beginning a series of regional tours to seek local views and to open a dialogue on how to take matters forward. The Government recognise that the English regions have different characteristics and different problems, and we do not wish to impose a single prescriptive model for the agencies. We want to ensure that legislation allows each region to have arrangements which fit its particular circumstances, building on the work that many bodies are currently doing.

This morning my honourable friend met representatives of the national organisations with a major interest in regional development to outline our plans for touring the regions, to hear their views, and to encourage them to participate fully in the regional process.

As a means of focusing debate, the Government have produced a paper setting out the issues for discussion, and inviting any written views by 5 September. We have placed a copy of the paper in the Library.

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Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made in integrating the Department of the Environment and the Department of Transport.

Baroness Hayman: Significant progress has already been made in integrating the policies of the two departments. To secure the maximum advantage from

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integration, and to simplify lines of responsibility; my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Minister for Transport have concluded that the two departments should now be merged into a single department, to be known as the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

This change will take place from Monday 16 June. Detailed decisions on organisational structures will not be taken before the end of September, and will be preceded by a process of review and consultation with staff and trade unions.

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