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Baroness Blackstone: The Government believe that very many children assessed as having special educational needs are capable of reaching the appropriate reading standard for their age. They have therefore set inclusive targets, both for 2002 and 2006.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): Responsibility for the subject in question has been delegated to the Planning Service under its Chief Executive, Mr. T. W. Stewart. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
|Year||Shortest time taken (days)||Longest time taken (days)|
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The annual increases in London transport fares over the last three years is shown in the table below.
|Real Fares Indices (1994=100)||Real Year On Year Percentage Average Increases|
|London Underground||LT Buses||London Underground||LT Buses|
Because of the restructuring of the railways industry following privatisation, a consistent series of data on rail fares in London is not available. However, from 1 January 1996 until December 1998 increases in a range of fares, comprising main commuter fares and leisure fares, are capped at RPI (retail prices index).
Baroness Hayman: This Government take gas safety very seriously and are committed to ensuring that landlords take responsibility for their tenants' safety. It is too early to make a valid assessment about what impact the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 1996 will have on reducing incidents and fatalities from gas-related carbon monoxide poisoning as they only came into force on 31 October 1996. However, we hope that the amendment will lead to greater compliance by landlords and thus reducing the number of incidents and fatalities.
Baroness Hayman: As my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minster announced at the Water Summit, the Government are to review the system of charging for water in England and Wales. He is launching that review today. The purpose of the review is to ensure that we have a fair and sustainable system of charging for water and sewerage services.
The review will be conducted jointly by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Welsh Office, in consultation with the Office of Water Services. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will be writing today to interested bodies with details of the main issues which the review will address and inviting their representations. A copy of the letter has been placed in the Libraries of the House.
There is public concern about the system of charging for water. Water and sewerage services have to be paid for, but customers are entitled to expect that the basis on which their charges are levied is a fair one. The method of charging should have the support of customers as well as water companies.
The review will look at the various methods of charging for mains water and sewerage services, including both unmeasured and measured systems. Under Section 145 of the Water Industry Act 1991, water companies must not base their charges on rateable values after 31 March 2000. The review will consider the future use of rateable values and other possible bases for unmeasured charges, such as the use of council tax bands. It will also consider debt recovery arrangements.
We have made clear our opposition to compulsory metering for essential household use of water. We will also want to look very carefully at the issues of disconnection and the use of budget payment meters for household water supplies: no one should be deprived of water because of inability to pay for it. We will consider these issues in the review. But we do want to have views from all the interested parties before we bring forward proposals for changes in the present regime.
My right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister made a statement emphasising the importance the Government attach to Europe and stressing the constructive approach the United Kingdom would seek to take.
The Council reached political agreement on a Directive to co-ordinate and improve member states' arrangements for safety inspection of third country aircraft using EU airports. The United Kingdom, supported by Germany, asked for a statement to be entered in the Council minutes making clear that we would have preferred the Directive to apply also to EU aircraft.
The Council agreed conclusions on Community involvement in the EUROCONTROL organisation, which co-ordinates air traffic management arrangements within Europe, and on work towards the creation of a new European aviation safety organisation.
The Council held a further discussion on a draft directive on the levels of heavy goods vehicle taxation and of road user charges for those member states which levy a specific charge for the use of their motorways. By qualified majority (with Germany opposing) the Council agreed a regulation which will require new commercial vehicles to be fitted with electronic tachographs when such instruments have been type approved. This was the only item on which the Council took a vote. The United Kingdom secured an amendment intended to ensure that the security of new electronic tachograph products will be properly tested before they are approved for use.
The Council debated road safety, and agreed conclusions which, in particular, encouraged the Commission to take forward ideas on exchange of best practice. The Council also agreed conclusions endorsing a Commission report by the Commission on road transport telematics and inviting further work in this area.
The Council agreed conclusions welcoming a Commission communication on trans-European rail freight freeways, whose aim is to encourage the transfer of freight from road to rail by allowing greater freedom of access by train operators to the Community's rail network.
Among other issues raised at the Council were the growth of weekend lorry bans, the Community's aviation negotiations with the US and with central and eastern European countries, and duty-free sales on travel within the European Union. On this a number of member states sought an independent study of the effects of abolition: no undertaking was, however, given by the Commission.
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