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West Moors Bypass and Sturts Farm Community

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): It is for the local planning authorities to consider the impact of the proposed West Moors Bypass on the people living within their areas, including the residents of the Sturts Farm Community. The local planning authorities are best placed to assess any such impact and to decide whether to include the

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proposed bypass in the emerging structure and local plans. At the present time, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions sees no reason to call in either of the plans.

London Transport Ethics Policy

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the rules governing the award of contracts by London Underground to organisations in which relatives of senior staff have an interest.[HL3367]

Lord Whitty: For appointments to the LT Board, as with any ministerial appointments to public bodies, all candidates, whatever the source of their application, are asked to declare any potential conflicts of interest as early as possible in the scrutiny process. If it appears that a possible conflict exists or may arise in the future, this is explored fully with the candidate to establish whether it is sufficiently significant to prevent candidates carrying out the requirements of the post.

Should any relevant changes to the appointee's situation or connections arise during the period of the appointment, there is the same obligation on appointees to inform LT and the Department. In addition there is a formal, annual review process.

London Transport's Business Ethics Policy covers all staff and makes it clear that employees of LT and its subsidiaries must not use their authority or position for personal gain, or against London Transport's interests.

The Business Ethics Policy requires all staff to inform their employing manager or director in writing if they have any personal interest which might affect, or could be seen to affect, their impartiality or that of any other employee, (e.g. dealing with suppliers, customers and other parties doing, or seeking to do, business with LT; ownership of securities in any company with which LT has a current or potential future business relationship; direct or indirect (family) company share holdings, holding paid or unpaid external positions).

In the event that a manager or director has or could be seen to have a conflict of interest with a potential supplier, there is provision for both the invitation to tender and award process to be personally approved by the Head of Commercial Group or an independent director.

Empty Homes

Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to bring into use empty homes in England of which there were 767,000 in April 1997; and what progress they have made in the past year.[HL3371]

Lord Whitty: Making best use of existing buildings and bringing empty homes back into use is at the heart of the Government's approach to planning for the communities of the future. We are encouraging local authorities to develop effective empty property

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strategies that make best use of existing stock and tackle under-occupation. Some 200 authorities have strategies in place. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is providing funding to the Empty Homes Agency to work with authorities to bring more empty commercial property back into housing use and to assist rural authorities in drawing up successful strategies.

The Government have significantly increased the resources available to local authorities to invest in housing, including properties which may have been empty for a long time awaiting refurbishment. Eight hundred million pounds has been made available in 1997-98 and 1998-99 through the Capital Receipts Initiative. A further £3.6 billion is being made available over the period 1999-2000 to 2001-2002, following the Comprehensive Spending Review. Local authorities can also make use of a number of other sources of funding, such as the Single Regeneration Budget and the Housing Corporation's Approved Development Programme to support action on empty property.

Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are considering the introduction of an empty property rate after a home has been unoccupied for a period of time, to encourage private owners of empty homes to occupy or let or sell these homes.[HL3373]

Lord Whitty: We have received representations that the council tax liability attracted by long term empty dwellings should be increased, and we are currently considering these.

Youth Homelessness

Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to rid Britain of the problem of youth homelessness by the year 2000; and what progress has been made in the past year.[HL3375]

Lord Whitty: For young people to be without a suitable home can blight their lives and future development and lead to the social exclusion that this Government are determined to tackle. The problems of youth homelessness go beyond the simple provision of accommodation; many other factors are involved. That is why the Government are keen to address a range of circumstances that can lead to youth homelessness.

We have established the Youth Homelessness Action Partnership to bring together senior representatives of central government, local government and the voluntary sector. The partnership's tasks are to: produce an agreed definition of youth homelessness and estimate the numbers involved; identify what works in tackling and preventing youth homelessness; and disseminate good practice to all the key players. The partnership will also contribute towards the evaluation of the impact of Government policies on youth homelessness. The work of the partnership will be underpinned by research to be

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commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) later this year.

We have refocused the DETR Section 180 grant programme, which provides grants to voluntary sector organisations concerned with homelessness, to give priority to projects that prevent and tackle youth homelessness. £8.1 million is available in 1998-99 and over 200 projects around England are benefiting from these grants.

The Government are committed to reducing the most extreme example of homelessness--rough sleeping--to as near to zero as possible in our towns and cities. The Prime Minister asked the Social Exclusion Unit to address the issue of rough sleeping as one of its first priorities. Its report sets a tough initial target of reducing the number of people sleeping rough throughout England to a third of its current level by 2002.

A new ministerial committee has been established to ensure effective co-ordination of government policy in preventing and tackling rough sleeping. The DETR will be responsible for co-ordination of the overall strategy for England on rough sleeping; including housing, health, access to employment and training and benefits.

We will establish a new body for London which will be responsible for reducing the numbers of people sleeping rough in the capital. The new body will have an integrated budget of £145 million over the three years until 2002 to combat rough sleeping and the causes of rough sleeping. Outside London, local authorities are in the best position to take the lead on tackling rough sleeping and single, including youth, homelessness. To support local authorities in achieving the target reduction in rough sleeping in their area, the DETR has launched a new Homelessness Action Programme which will provide £34 million over the next three years to help voluntary organisations outside London to tackle and prevent rough sleeping.

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In Scotland the Government have allocated £16 million over the three years from 1997-98 for the Rough Sleepers Initiative. The aim of the initiative is to ensure that by 2002 no one in Scotland will have to sleep rough. The Scottish Office gives financial support to the Scottish Youth Housing Network, which promotes exchanges of information between voluntary bodies, and the Scottish Homelessness Advisory Service, both of which play an important role in tackling youth homelessness. Also in Scotland, the Government have made young people under 21 who were looked after by local authorities (formerly "in care") at school-leaving age or later a statutory priority need group under the homelessness legislation.

The New Deal for 18-24 year olds is a key initiative which can help homeless young people to address their specific problems at the same time as seeking to improve their employment opportunities. Young people who are sleeping rough have the right to enter the New Deal as soon as they claim Job Seekers Allowance if they wish rather than first having to claim JSA for six months. New Deal Personal Advisors also have the discretion to offer early access to other homeless young people who are at a particular disadvantage in finding work.

We have restored a proper safety net for families and vulnerable individuals who are homeless unintentionally. The Code of Guidance on Allocations and Homelessness is currently under revision and will provide more advice to help local housing authorities develop effective strategies to assist single homeless people, including young people.

Youth homelessness can be a particular problem for young people leaving care. The Government are currently considering the recommendations made by Sir William Utting in his report on Safeguards for Children Living Away from Home and will publish their response shortly.

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