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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 24 February 1992


Repossession Orders

Mr. Cox : To ask the Attorney-General how many repossession orders in favour of building societies or other lending institutions were made by Wandsworth county court in 1979, 1990 and 1991.

The Attorney-General : The 1979 figures are not available. The total number of mortgage possession actions entered, suspended orders and orders made during 1990 and 1991, in each county court in England and Wales, is contained in two lists which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. These figures do not indicate how many houses have been repossessed through the courts as not all of the orders made will have resulted in the issue and execution of warrants of possession. At this stage, the 1991 figures are provisional and therefore liable to revision in the future.


Vehicle Test Certificates

Mr. Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will supply the figures of the numbers of Ministry of Transport test certificates for both heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles that have been reported stolen over the last five years from heavy goods vehicle and private vehicle testing stations.

Mr. Chope : The numbers of heavy goods and public service vehicle testing certificates reported as stolen in each of the last five years are as follows :

                   HGV test certificates                                                  

Year              |Motor vehicle    |Trailer test     |PSV test                           

                  |test certificates|certificates     |certificates                       


1987              |3,499            |1,189            |1,077                              

1988              |111              |48               |0                                  

1989              |0                |0                |0                                  

1990              |0                |0                |250                                

1991              |1,160            |1,005            |505                                

                  |-------          |-------          |-------                            

Total             |4,770            |2,242            |1,832                              

Black Cabs

Mr. Bendall : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the steps that are taken to ensure the fitness of applicants for black cab licences in London ; what action he is considering to tighten the scrutiny procedure ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : On my behalf, the Public Carriage Office of the Metropolitan police already carries out

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stringent checks on the suitability of applicants for taxi drivers' licences in London, including a criminal record check. It also carries out further checks on each driver every three years when his or her licence is due to be renewed. It is difficult to know what effective additional checks might reasonably be carried out. I am satisfied that the present procedures do ensure, as far as possible, that licensed cab drivers are suitable for the task they undertake, although no such system can give a 100 per cent. guarantee.

There is at present no regime for the licensing of minicabs or minicab drivers in London. I have commissioned a working party to make recommendations on the framework needed to ensure that users of taxis and minicabs in London can travel in reasonable safety and security.

Pollution, Bristol Channel

Mr. Speller : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the progress of measures to reduce pollution of the Bristol channel by the dumping of refuse or the pumping out of bilges by vessels in transit.

Mr. McLoughlin : Standards for the discharge of oil and garbage from ships are set by international convention and implemented by domestic legislation which applies to all ships in United Kingdom waters. The Department's marine surveyors monitor compliance with the regulations as part of their responsibilities when they go on board ships to undertake port state control inspections. In addition the marine pollution control unit's surveillance aircraft regularly overfly all United Kingdom waters, including the Bristol channel, to check for infringements which may also be reported by ships in the area.

The Department recently completed research into the shore provision of reception facilities for oil and garbage. Although the report of the findings is still being considered, indications are that such provision is adequate.

BR (Disabled People)

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answers to the hon. Member for Southport (Mr. Fearn) on 5 November 1991, Official Report, columns 23-24 on British Rail's duties in respect of access to its services by disabled people, whether British Rail is permitted to make arrangements to exclude wheelchair accessible taxis from Eltham station.

Mr. Freeman : It is for the courts to interpret the law. My advice is, however, that what British Rail is alleged to be doing at Eltham station is not contrary to the London Cab and Stage Carriage Act 1907. I am, however, disturbed to learn that its effect may be to reduce the transport opportunities open to disabled people, and I am writing to the chairman of British Rail about it.

Rail Investment

Mr. Gregory : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will give the percentage change in British Rail rail investment between (a) 1964 to 1970, (b) 1970 to 1974, (c) 1974 to 1979 and (d) 1979 to 1991-92 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : The percentage changes in real terms for the given periods were as follows :

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             |Per cent.          


1964-1970    |-57                

1970-1974    |+48                

1974-1979    |+13                

1979-1990-91 |+55                

The 1991-92 financial year is not yet complete, so no outturn figures is available.

Over-height Vehicles

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will publish, or give references to, the latest report into the problem of over-height road vehicles, or their loads, hitting bridges, overhead structures, or the roofs of tunnels ; and what methods are currently in use or are being developed to deter or prevent their use of approaches to such obstructions.

Mr. Chope : The recommendations of a joint British Rail and Department of Transport working party were published in 1988 in a report, entitled "A Strategy for the Reduction of Bridge Bashing", published by HMSO.

The Department has made progress with implementing the working party's recommendations. Last month I announced proposals for increasing driver awareness of the height of the vehicle, and the award of contracts worth £1 million for warning systems at 15 high-risk low bridge sites. Other measures include better road signing and road improvements to increase the headroom at some low bridges.

Cradlewell Bypass

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the cost of the Transport and Road Research Laboratory pilot study of traffic origins and destinations prepared for the Cradlewell bypass project, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Mr. Chope : In autumn of 1991 the Transport and Road and Research Laboratory carried out the "before" part of a study to improve understanding of traveller responses to road improvements at a total cost of £109,000. This study forms part of a larger research project being undertaken by the Department of Transport.

Blind Spots

Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are the number of accidents due to blind spots involving lorries over 12 tonnes, first used before 1 October 1988, in each of the last three years.

Mr. Chope : The statistics requested are not available. It is almost impossible to prove that a blind spot was the cause of any particular road accident.

British Rail Leasing

Mr. Gregory : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how a long -term finance lease by British Rail would be capitalised for public expenditure purposes.

Mr. Freeman : Leased assets will be capitalised for external financing limit--EFL--purposes in the same way as if they had been bought. The capitalisation of such leases follows standard accounting practices applying to

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all similar business undertakings whether in the private or public sector. Leasing is a form of borrowing, and the Government need to ensure that BR borrows according to its means ; hence it is brought within the same EFL control as all other borrowing.

M42-A45 Junction

Mr. Roger King : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the progress of road improvements at the M42-A45 junction adjacent to the Birmingham exhibition centre.

Mr. Chope : Good progress is being made on a number of planned highway improvements at this junction. Statutory orders will soon be published for the construction of a new dedicated slip road from the M42 northbound to the A45 westbound. Design work is well underway on a scheme to improve access from the national exhibition centre to the M42 northbound. Work will also begin soon on a scheme to improve the roundabout itself.

An extra camera has been installed to improve television surveillance of traffic conditions at the junction and new motorway gantry signs will be erected later this year on the approaches to it. In the longer term the M42 is to be widened and consultants have been asked to investigate the options for improved access to the NEC and other facilities.

Rotherhithe Tunnel

Ms. Gordon : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) when he expects continuous TV surveillance to be installed in Rotherhithe tunnel for traffic control ;

(2) when he expects work to be put in hand to improve ventilation in the Rotherhithe tunnel.

Mr. Chope : Management of the Rotherhithe tunnel--including ventilation and TV surveillance--is a matter for the London boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Southwark. I understand that discussions are taking place on the need to install surveillance equipment in the tunnel, linked to the new east London traffic control centre.


Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has made representations to the European Community for lorries weighing over 12 tonnes, and used prior to 1 October 1988, to be obliged to be fitted with additional close proximity mirrors on their near-side, and, if the articulated type, also fitted with additional wide-angle mirrors.

Mr. Chope : The directive which requires the fitment of additional close proximity mirrors and, in some cases, additional wide-angled mirrors has applied to new lorries since 1 October 1988. The Government have not sought a retrospective requirement that vehicles manufactured before that date be fitted with such mirrors.

Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will extend the MOT test to require all lorries over 12 tonnes to be fitted with additional close proximity mirrors on their near-side and, if articulated, to be fitted also with additional wide-angle mirrors.

Mr. Chope : No. It would not be reasonable to require vehicles manufactured before 1 October 1988 to be fitted in such a way in the absence of any proven road safety benefit.

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Motor Vehicles

Mr. Fry : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will consider amending the construction and use regulations for motor vehicles to prohibit the use of fluorolastomel or veton.

Mr. Chope : As no danger arises from the use of fluorolastomel or veton in the normal course of construction or use of motor vehicles, there is no reason to amend construction and use regulations to prohibit these materials. There is only a risk from these materials if they have been subjected to high temperatures. For motor vehicles this is only likely to be a problem when scrapping burnt out vehicles. Health and safety inspectors are aware of the risks and give appropriate advice.

Rail Services

Mr. Adley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what standby assets are specifically allocated for contingencies by British Rail InterCity, French and German railways ;

(2) if he will issue a general directive to British Rail to seek to reduce InterCity train cancellations, even if this involves a lower utilisation of capital assets ;

(3) if he will tabulate the cancellation records of British Rail InterCity and the French and German railways ;

(4) if he will meet the chairman of British Rail to discuss the relationship between the improved financial results on InterCity and the increase in the number of InterCity train cancellations.

Mr. Freeman : As part of the quality of service objectives agreed between the Government and British Rail, InterCity already has an objective to operate 99.5 per cent. of its scheduled services. The actual performance achieved in recent years is as follows :

              |Percentage of              




1987-88       |99.5                       

1988-89       |99.0                       

1989-90       |98.0                       

1990-91       |97.8                       

Not all cancellations are due to rolling stock problems. I understand that crew shortages, particularly in the south-east, have been a major factor in the recent decline in performance. It is a management matter for BR to judge how much spare capacity is needed for maintenance and other contingencies. The Department does not hold information on this or on the performance of French and German railways in this area.

I have no reason to believe that there is any direct link between InterCity's financial performance and the rate of cancellations.


Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list all the television advertising campaigns and all other publicity campaigns costing over £100,000 to be carried out by his Department in February, March, April, May or June of the current year.

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Mr. McLoughlin : My Department currently proposes to carry out a child road safety publicity campaign in April. Further road safety publicity campaigns in the period to June are under consideration.

Helmsdale Auxiliary Coastguard

Mr. Maclennan : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) why he proposes to reduce the Helmsdale auxiliary coastguard complement to seven ; and if he will make a statement ;

(2) what changes he proposes to make to the present roles of the Helmsdale auxiliary coastguard.

Mr. McLoughlin : The recently completed sector and auxiliary coastguard review defined the Coastguard's coastal commitments and reviewed the availability, readiness and training of coastguard personnel to meet current requirements. It concluded that the present day coastguard needs modern bases from which to operate. The present complement at the Helmsdale auxiliary coastguard station is 11 members. Their present roles will not change, and the premises currently occupied will not be released. Equipment utilised by the team is to remain unchanged, except that the Land Rover presently in use will be replaced by a modern 4WD Vauxhall Brava in March 1992. The complement will be reduced by four members initially, however a further two will be recruited in the Dunbeath area to the north in order to fulfil the initial response requirement between Helmsdale and Wick. It is anticipated that these changes will be implemented by the end of the financial year 1992-93.


Mr. Speed : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the road improvement schemes and their estimated time of completion that are being planned for the A21 trunk road.

Mr. Chope [holding answer 21 February 1992] : The road improvement schemes in the national programme for the A21 trunk road are as follows :

Tonbridge bypass to Pembury bypass

Kippings Cross to Lamberhurst improvement

Lamberhurst bypass

Lamberhurst to Flimwell improvement

Hurst Green bypass

Silver Hill improvement

These schemes are at varying stages of development. Their completion will depend on progress that can be made with the design, statutory and other procedures and the availability of funds. In addition, there are a number of smaller scale works in the regional programme, mostly aimed at improving safety and traffic flow.

Leicester Eastern Bypass

Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport in relation to the tender secured by Travis Morgan to act as advisers on the proposed route of the Leicester eastern bypass, if he will state the total number of companies who submitted unsuccessful tenders and, where possible, their names and addresses.

Mr. Chope [holding answer 21 February 1992] : Two companies submitted unsuccessful tenders. They were Sir Owen Williams and Partners, 41 Whitcomb street,

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London, WC2H 7DT ; and Sir Alexander Gibb and Partners, Earley House, London road, Reading, Berkshire RG6 1BL.

National Parks

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what appraisal he has made of transport needs to and within each of the national parks.

Mr. Chope [holding answer 21 Feburary 1992] : My right hon. and learned Friend's responsibility is for the trunk road network, which forms a small proportion of the transport infrastructure serving national parks. The Government's policy remains as stated in the 1987 White Paper :

"In National Parks the Government is committed to ensuring that no new trunk routes will be constructed or an existing road upgraded unless there is a compelling need which cannot be met by any reasonable alternative means."

Policy for trunk roads in national parks in Wales is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

Other transport needs are a matter for local authorities, passenger transport executives, and British Rail, in consultation with the national park authorities where appropriate.


Civil Service (New Tasks)

42. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what new tasks have been assumed by the civil service in the past year ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : As departmental and agency reports show, the civil service is responding to a wide range of new tasks flexibly, effectively and efficiently. The question of functions and priorities is constantly under review.

Racial Discrimination

43. Mr. Hind : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what measures he is taking to counteract racial discrimination in the civil service ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : We continue to implement the servicewide programme for action on race, introduced in May 1990. There has been an increase in ethnic minority representation among staff. Copies of a recent report on progress have been placed in the Libraries of the House.


Royal Academy

32. Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Minister for the Arts when he last visited the Royal Academy ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : I visited the Royal Academy on 15 January when I formally opened the Andrea Mantegna exhibition and was a guest there at the Japan festival gala one month later. I have also again seen the Mantegna exhibition, and very splendid it was too. I am delighted to congratulate the

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Royal Academy on its magnificent and almost entirely

self-sufficient work of refurbishment and pleased that the Government were able to contribute to the renovations via the museums and galleries improvement fund.

Natural History Museum

34. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Minister for the Arts what is (a) the current number of employees and (b) the current funding for the natural history museum.

Mr. Renton : There are currently 672 staff in post at the natural history museum. In 1991-92 the museum will receive £27.8 million grant -in-aid.


35. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will meet the Association of London Authorities to discuss public library provision.

Mr. Renton : Yes. The association should first write to me outlining its points for discussion.

Mr. Meale : To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will meet representatives from the Association of District Councils to discuss library provision.

Mr. Renton : Yes. The association should first write to me outlining its points for discussion.

Welsh Arts Council

36. Mr. Hain : To ask the Minister for the Arts when he next intends to meet the chairman of the arts council for Wales to discuss funding.

Mr. Renton : I meet the chairman of the Welsh Arts Council from time to time to discuss matters of mutual interest. I met the chairman in May and October last year and look forward to meeting him again in the near future.

Museums and Galleries (Attendance)

37. Mr. Carrington : To ask the Minister for the Arts how many people visited the national museums and galleries in the last year for which figures are available.

Mr. Renton : I was delighted to see that it is estimated that more than 21 million people visited the 11 national museums and galleries for which I am responsible during 1991.

Galleries and Theatres (Regulations)

Mr. Steen : To ask the Minister for the Arts what arrangements his Department has to assess the effect of proposed regulations affecting museums, art galleries and theatres prior to implementation ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : The Office of Arts and Libraries carefully monitors the likely impact any proposed regulations might have on museums, art galleries and theatres before their implementation. The number of such regulations is, however, small.

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Customs Checks

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he intends to review the number of routine checks by Customs officials at Scottish airports ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Routine checks by Customs officers are becoming less of a feature of customs work at all ports and airports as a result of that department's strategy of more flexible deployment of staff based on intelligence and assessment of risk and concentrating on drugs, obscene material, instruments of terrorism and other high priority smuggling targets.

The strategy is kept under constant review.

Customs (Honesty System)

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the honesty system employed by Customs and Excise at Cardiff airport.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The arrangements at Cardiff international airport are part of Customs' strategy to provide a more flexible deployment of staff according to intelligence and assessment of risk and targeted on the key areas of drugs, instruments of terrorism, pornography and so on. We aim to allow honest travellers the freest movement through our frontiers.

Customs will continue to monitor the effectiveness of the approach but it is too early to make an assessment.

Income Tax

Mr. Bill Walker : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the cost of collecting income tax from Scottish-based taxpayers ; and how this relates to the Inland Revenue's calculations of the late 1970s.

Mr. Maude : Information specific to taxpayers resident in Scotland is not available.

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