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Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement of progress on the introduction of information technologies to facilitate internal communications in his Department and the provision of information to the public concerning those areas for which he is responsible ; and if he has any further plans to apply the newest technologies in these fields.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : An information technology steering committee oversees the cost effective development of the Department's information technology and communications strategies. The Department will continue to build on the existing uses of information technology and communications network, to expand the use of modern office facilities and to improve the provision of information to the public in areas such as statistics and driver and vehicle licensing. Recent examples include the development of systems at the DVLC, Swansea to give staff ready access to central databases and thus enable them to deal better with inquiries from the general public about driving licences, vehicle registration documents, etc ; in the statistical field, more extensive and rapid analyses of information have become possible and desktop publishing methods have reduced the time taken to publish results ; similar improvements are being sought in the publication of research reports by the Transport and Road Research Laboratory, who are increasingly using video to illustrate the results of their work.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : The proposals we announced on 7 February to reform road traffic law in the light of the North report have been widely welcomed. There has been general agreement about the need to simplify the law and influence driver behaviour. The measures proposed form part of our drive to cut by one third by the year 2000 the present toll of 5,000 dead and 300,000 injured each year on Britain's roads.
Further work to implement the proposals is being taken forward in consultation with all the interested bodies who have a part to play.
Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether surveillance aircraft were undertaking regular patrols at the time of the oil pollution in the English Channel in January ; if it has yet been possible to identify the cause ; and if he will make a further statement.
Mr. Portillo : An aircraft of my Department's marine pollution control unit was carrying out a routine Channel navigation surveillance patrol on 27 December 1988 when an oil slick was sighted. Patrols on 30 December and 5 January 1989 were mounted in direct response to further pollution reports received.
Samples of beached oil and oiled bird feathers have been analysed by the laboratory of the Government
Column 497chemist to determine whether they had a common source. The initial findings have proved inconclusive and a more detailed analysis is now being carried out.
Mr. Portillo : The Department does not calculate the costs of congestion on roads and rail in total because of the difficulty of defining the base case against which congestion would be compared. However, it is our policy to reduce the economic costs of traffic congestion by cost- effective rail and road schemes in which the relief of traffic congestion on roads and the reduction in overcrowding on the railways are taken into account in the assessment of benefits. Planned spending on new construction and improvement of motorway and trunk roads over the next three years amounts to some £2.6 billion (excluding VAT), an increase of 40 per cent. on the three years ending 1988-89. British Rail investment is at its highest level since the 1960s, with over £3.5 billion planned for the next five years, including investment in additional rolling stock to relieve overcrowding. We have also undertaken the central London rail study, which has identified options for relieving congestion.
Mr. Portillo : A scheme for providing financial assistance towards the costs of training future Merchant Navy officers has been set up under the powers in section 26 of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1988. This scheme is beginning to show encouraging results and the cadet intake at colleges has almost doubled to 279 in the current academic year.
Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what provision has been made for adapting container ships with sea sheds and heavy duty flatracks to carry dry cargo in military operations.
Mr. Portillo : Container ships need no adaptation to carry heavy duty flatracks, which are widely used commercially. Only minor adaptation is needed to permit container ships to carry sea sheds. No provision has been made by the United Kingdom.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are the geographical limits of the east London rail study ; and if the terms of the study will be to examine the links from Stratford to docklands.
Mr. Portillo : The study is examining the best options for improving access from central London to docklands and other Thames-side areas of the London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Greenwich, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets. It will include examination of links from Stratford to docklands.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many foreign-owned vessels polluted United Kingdom territorial waters in each year since 1974 ; on how many occasions in each year the relevant flag administrations were asked to consider prosecutions and on how many occasions in each year were prosecutions instigated by the relevant flag administrations.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the occasions since 1979 when his Department has made representations to the maritime transport authority of a foreign state concerning alleged infringement of international or pollution conventions by a ship registered in that state while at sea in waters under United Kingdom surveillance and jurisdiction.
|Numbers ------------------------ 1985 |2 1986 |1 1987 |1 1988 |5
The figure for 1988 reflects the extension of United Kingdom territorial limits from three to 12 miles. Figures prior to 1985 are not readily available.
Four of the reported incidents have been referred to the competent authorities in the relevant flag states for investigation--one in 1986 and three in 1988--but to date we have not been advised of any prosecutions that may have been instigated. Oil sample evidence in another case is still being analysed, prior to referral. In the remaining four incidents the evidence did not justify asking the flag states to investigate further.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward legislative proposals to enable legal action to be taken against the owners of foreign vessels which cause pollution within United Kingdom territorial waters in the British courts if no action is undertaken by the relevant flag
Column 499and not practically possible. However, I am satisfied that the recovery of clean-up costs from the polluter represents a significant sanction.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps have been taken by his Department in respect of paragraph XVI, 29 of the ministerial declaration of the second international conference on the protection of the North sea.
Mr. Portillo : Nationally, procedures have been strengthened to ensure that all reports received by my Department of suspected operational violations of pollution regulations are transmitted to parties to the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on port state control to ensure that ships alleged to have committed an offence are inspected when they call at an MOU port. At United Kingdom ports, a full inspection of suspected offenders is carried out in accordance with port state control procedures.
Internationally, contracting parties to the Bonn agreement, who are responsible for receiving reports of oil pollution, are liaising with parties to the MOU on port state control to ensure that there is close co- operation between their respective activities, that all ships suspected of an operational violation are rigorously inspected, and that where the circumstances warrant it, evidence is collected in accordance with procedures recommended by the International Maritime Organisation.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will identify the constraints preventing his Department from initiating a prosecution for an oil pollution offence against the master of a foreign- flagged vessel in his capacity as an agent of the vessel's owner.
Mr. Portillo : The master of a ship does not act as an agent for the vessel's owner. Under criminal law, service of a summons on the master does not serve summons on the owner. Prosecution of the master can only be in his capacity as master ; he cannot be made a surrogate of the owner.
Mr. Jack : To ask the Secretary of State of Transport whether any steps have been taken to help those whose property is damaged by uninsured drivers in the light of the new regulations requiring motor insurance policies to cover liability for property damage.
Column 5001988, to coincide with the introduction of the new regulations. Under the agreement the MIB pay compensation to people whose property is damaged by uninsured drivers, as well as those who suffer personal injury. The MIB have produced a leaflet giving information about the new arrangements. We greatly welcome these new arrangements with the insurance industry to give better protection to the victims of road accidents. Copies of the new agreement, and of the short MIB leaflet will be placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : The responsibility for the transport tribunal currently rests with the Department of Transport. The Prime Minister has agreed that it would be more appropriate for responsibility to fall to the Lord Chancellor's Department. A transfer of functions order giving effect to this will be made shortly. It will come into effect from April. No changes in the arrangements for appointments to the tribunal are involved.
Mr. Mudd : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what requirements are placed by his Department that it shall be the duty of cross-Channel ferry operators that, prior to sailing, the operational capability of public address systems shall be tested and proved to be audible for routine and emergency advice to passengers ; and what action is taken in the event of reports being lodged that technical break-up and background noise make such advice indecipherable to passengers.
Mr. Portillo [holding answer 6 March 1989] : The procedures adopted by the ferry operators to bring the passengers attention to emergency instructions in accordance with advice issued by the Department's marine directorate should ensure that the system is in frequent use and good order.
The systems are thoroughly tested at least once a year by surveyors. All reports of difficulties with PA systems are thoroughly investigated by marine surveyors.
Mr. O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what report he has received on the field tests being carried out on motorcycle leg protectors ; when he intends to publish it ; and if he will make a statement.
An in-depth study of motorcycle injury accidents carried out by the TRRL suggests that some 70 per cent. of motorcyclist casualties sustain some form of leg injury.
I believe that major motorcycle manufacturing firms recognise the urgent need to improve motorcycle safety. There is increasing concern worldwide over the risks of motorcycling. The United Kingdom represents only a small part of the global market for motorcycles ; there is a limit to the contribution any one country can make.
Column 501We are keen to see all road users respect each other and use the roads safely. We are also keen to see road users protected as far as possible from the consequences of crashes.
The prime responsibility for designing secondary protection in cars and motorcycles must be with the manufacturers and their designers.
Mr. Sainsbury : The formal response from Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd. to the tender invitation for the construction of SSBN07 was received by my Department on 19 February. It is planned to place the order for the submarine later this year.
Mr. Younger : I last met Mr. Carlucci at the meeting of the Defence Planning Committee in Brussels on 1 December, when a range of subjects of mutual interest were discussed, including modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : The Warsaw pact has not reduced its capability to conduct large-scale offensive operations since, as yet, there has been no movement rearward of the relevant manpower or equipment. Even if all the reductions recently announced by the Soviet Union and other Warsaw pact countries are implemented the Warsaw pact forces will still enjoy a considerable superiority in Key offensive weapon systems, such as tanks and artillery, in the central region.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : No, we do not consider that the Soviet naval threat in the northern Atlantic has reduced in the past year. Modernisation of both the Soviet northern and Baltic fleets has continued. New, increasingly sophisticated submarines and surface ships have entered the Soviet naval order-of-battle, more than offsetting the vessels from older classes which are being scrapped. The Soviet navy is now better placed than ever before to conduct wartime operations in the northern Atlantic.
22. Mr. Morley : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will discuss with his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation colleagues proposals to achieve a lower level of conventional forces in Europe, incorporating parity with the Warsaw pact over the whole range of such forces and dual capable forces.
117. Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will discuss with his NATO colleagues proposals to achieve a lower level of conventional forces in Europe incorporating parity with the Warsaw pact over the whole range of such forces and dual capable forces.
134. Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will discuss with his NATO colleagues proposals to achieve a lower level of conventional forces in Europe incorporating parity with the Warsaw pact over the whole range of such forces and dual capable forces.
Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will discuss with his North Atlantic Treaty Organisation colleagues proposals to achieve a lower level of conventional forces in Europe incorporating parity with the Warsaw pact over the whole range of such forces and dual capable forces.
Mr. Archie Hamilton : Proposals for the negotiations on conventional forces in Europe were discussed by NATO Ministers at their meeting in Brussels on the 8 and 9 December 1988. Close consultation on all aspects of the negotations will continue.
23. Mr. Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what further information he has on United States proposals to build new, and upgrade existing nuclear vaults at their bases in the United Kingdom.
29. Mr. Patchett : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what further information he has on United States proposals to build new, and upgrade existing, nuclear vaults at their bases in the United Kingdom.
132. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what further information he has on United States proposals to build new, and upgrade existing, nuclear vaults at their bases in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Neubert : The combined strength of the volunteer reserves, not including the Ulster Defence Regiment, stands at almost 84,500. This represents an increase of over 28 per cent. since 1979 when expansion measures were first set in hand. Over that period the strength of the TA has increased by 13,500 and the HSF has added a further 3,000. Comparable increases in the strengths of other services are RAux AF and RAFVR, 1,330 and RMR, over 400. In addition, the RNF has raised its strength by about 400 since the decision was taken to expand it in 1984.
Mr. George Younger : I last met the German Defence Minister at the Anglo-German summit in Frankfurt in February. We discussed a range of issues including the modernisation of short-range nuclear weapons.