To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on funding arrangements for the implementing of (a) the rights of way legislation and (b) the vital villages policy. 
The information is as follows:(a) Under the new burdens procedure, local authorities are being fully funded for their new duties in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In the explanatory notes presented to Parliament with the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill in March 2000, we estimated those costs to be between £12 million and £19 million. The total funding is within this band and is paid through the unhypothecated Environment and Cultural Services Block. We are also funding various activities relating to the Act via the Countryside Agency.
(b) The Vital Villages Initiative was launched in 2001 as a three year demand led programme. It is administered by the Countryside Agency on behalf of Defra. The scheme delivered nearly £24.5 million to rural communities in its first two years of operation. A further £17 million has been budgeted for 2003–04, of which some £12 million has already been allocated. Due to the overwhelming success of the scheme there are currently more applications than available funding. Applications are being prioritised to ensure projects that benefit those communities in greatest need receive funding.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she last met the Chairman of the Countryside Agency to discuss rural proofing. 
I meet Sir Ewen Cameron frequently and regularly to discuss a wide range of issues in connection with his role as Rural Advocate and his role as Chairman of the Countryside Agency. Rural proofing is a regular topic of conversation. The Secretary of State and Ministers from Defra and other Departments also meet Sir Ewen from time to time.
To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding she expects the Countryside Agency to give the Rural Transport Partnership in Gloucestershire in (a) 2003–04 and (b) 2004–05; and if she will make a statement. 
On behalf of Defra, the Countryside Agency plans to give Gloucestershire Rural Transport Partnership a £90,000 grant over the period 2003–04 to 2004–05. The 2004–05 funds will be subject to approval after 2003–04. For each of the years 2003–04 and 2004–05 Gloucestershire RTP will receive the core costs for running the partnership (including a rural transport officer post) of £35,000, plus £10,000 delegated fund for small scale transport projects in their area.