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Mr. Freeman : The Franchising Director is responsible for the sale of franchises. I understand that it is too early to estimate how many micro -franchises might be created. A micro-franchise may offer benefits through the provision of clearly focused services, targeted on a relatively discrete market, where the route involved is substantially self-contained.
Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the salaries and principal conditions from 1 April of (a) the chairman of British Rail, (b) the chairman of Railtrack, (c) the Rail Regulator and (d) the Franchising Director ; and if he will list the percentage increase of their salaries over the 1993-94 rates.
Mr. Freeman : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) on 15 April Official Report, column 333. The 1994-95 salary rates for (a) and (b) have yet to be determined but the salaries for (c) and (d) have been increased by 2.75 per cent. with effect from 1 April 1994. Accordingly the salary for Mr. John Swift QC is now £128,440 and that for Mr. Roger Salmon is £102,750.
Mr. Freeman : Supersaver is the brand name of a discount ticket offered by BR, and it will be for the train operators to decide whether this name is maintained. The Franchising Director is considering whether the scope of mandatory interavailability should be widened to include such tickets.
Mr. Freeman : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport holds regular meetings with Railtrack to discuss a wide range of topics. They have not specifically discussed the Barking to Gospel Oak line.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the timing of his announcement of changes to the officer nationality requirements for United Kingdom vessels in relation to the consultation period on these proposals ; and what consideration he will give to submissions received since his announcement.
Mr. Norris : Consultation on the proposal to relax the officer nationality requirements for United Kingdom vessels will be completed by the end of May. Careful consideration will be given to the representations made. My right hon. Friend expects the new arrangements to be in place by the autumn of this year.
Mr. Key : My right hon. Friend announced on 29 April that the Vehicle Inspectorate is required to achieve an efficiency improvement of 5 per cent. this year as measured by the agency's aggregate cost efficiency index.
Column 58Department have had on recruitment by the Vehicle Inspectorate ; and what assessment he has made on the effect on road safety.
Mr. Key : Recruitment to the Vehicle Inspectorate is a matter for the agency's chief executive, but I am advised that it was on a very limited scale in 1993-94 and that the position is likely to be similar this year. The targets set by my right hon. Friend for the agency last year and those he announced last month for 1994-95 imply, as well as efficiency gains, an improvement in the quality of service which can only contribute to road safety.
Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the individuals and organisations consulted by the consultants who carried out the privatisation review of the Transport Research Laboratory.
Mr. Key : The consultants KPMG Peat Marwick consulted a wide range of organisations and individuals in studying the options for privatisation of the Transport Research Laboratory and their feasibility. It is not my Department's normal practice to publish the names of those involved in such consultations.
Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans his Department has (a) to utilise the Internet (b) to make available on the Internet press releases and other departmental information which the public may wish to have access to and (c) to use the Internet as a means of increasing the openness of his Department.
Mr. Norris : My Department's press releases issued electronically through the Central Office of Information are accessible to users of the Internet via Data-Star Dialog (Europe) or Mead/Lexis/Nexis. They are also available to subscribers to FT Profile, Reuters Textline and POLIS.
My Department's press releases are also made available through the COI's fax retrieval service, details of which can be provided by its news distribution service.
I have no further plans to use the Internet.
Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is his target for cuts in the running costs of his Department ; when he will make an announcement on the details of such cuts ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. MacGregor : I have set my Department a requirement to make a 20 per cent. improvement in efficiency with the target of achieving it over the two years beginning 1 April 1994. Agency chief executives and senior managers elsewhere in the Department will be preparing proposals on how they might secure such an improvement in efficiency in their areas of responsibility.
Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action his Department has taken as a result of the findings of Transport Research Laboratory report 1120 ; and what plans his Department has to carry out further studies into safety at roundabouts.
Mr. Key : The question which is related to safety at roundabouts is an operational matter for the Highways Agency. I have asked the chief executive, Mr. Lawrie Haynes to write to the hon. Member. Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Mr. Douglas French, dated 6 May 1994 :
The Minister for Roads and Traffic, Mr. Robert Key, has asked me to write to you in reply to your recent Parliamentary question regarding further studies into safety at roundabouts.
The findings of the TRL study report LR1120 have been incorporated into the Departmental Standard for the geometric design of roundabouts TD16/84 and TA42/84 and in TRL's computer program for roundabout design ARCADY/3. A fundamental review of the geometric design of roundabouts was undertaken in 1990 and this led to the revised Standard TD16/93. Whilst continuing to embrace the findings of the earlier TRL study, Report LR1120, the new Standard has adopted additional measures to improve safety for all road users, like amended entry path curvature requirements to ensure adequate deflection on entry, and revised visibility requirements. Concerning further studies into safety, the Highways Agency closely monitors accidents occurring at all Trunk Road junctions, including roundabouts. The accident statistics show that roundabouts are still one of the safest forms of road junction, excluding those comprising flyovers or underpasses and have remained fairly constant over the last 15 years.
The Highways Agency is, of course, committed to ensuring the safety of the whole of the Trunk Road network and contributing towards the Government's target for reductions in road traffic accidents. In order to maximise the benefits from the limited research resources that are available you will appreciate the need to target future safety studies towards those areas where the greatest contribution towards safety can be made. I therefore have no plans at present to undertake further studies into safety at roundabouts but of course will keep the issue under review.
Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the future prospects for the Dorchester West to Castle Cary line, and on the current arrangements for its maintenance.
Mr. Freeman : I am not aware of any proposals to suggest the future of the line between Dorchester West and Castle Cary is in doubt. The line is inspected, maintained and renewed to meet both present and anticipated future traffic.
Mr. Dicks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in transferring British Rail's subsidiary, European Passenger Services Ltd., into Government ownership ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. MacGregor : European Passenger Services has today transferred from British Rail into direct Government ownership. This will allow the company to prepare for privatisation while completing preparations to launch its international services this summer. Jim Butler, the new chairman of EPS, and his board will be working to ensure the success of these services in the months ahead. This marks another important milestone on route to the completion of the new channel tunnel rail link.
Mr. Gale : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when, following the submission of the inspector's report he expects to be able to make an announcement concerning the routeing of the centre section of the A299 Thanet Way dual carriageway.
Mr. Key : The inspector's report into the A299 Thanet Way dual carriageway was received by the Secretary of State for Transport on 27 April 1994. It is not possible at this time to predict when the decision will be announced but consideration of the report is currently under way and is being given the highest priority.
Mr. Don Foster : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are the criteria for deciding on the closure of driving test centres ; and what plans he has to restrict driving tests to larger towns.
Mr. Key : Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Driving Standards Agency under its chief executive, Dr. Ford. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given. Letter from S. J. Ford to Mr. Don Foster, dated 6 May 1994. The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to the questions you have raised about the criteria used when deciding on the closure of driving test centres and whether there are plans to restrict driving tests to larger towns.
The 1994-1995 Business Plan for the Driving Standards Agency explains that the review of the DSA test centre estate will continue with the aim of maintaining a list of possible centres for rationalisation. This might include a range of options from re-siting, merger with another centre or closure. Each test centre will be assessed against the following criteria : --
(i) the number of satisfactory test routes, including an assessment of the proportion of routes which include higher speed roads ; (
(ii) the quality of facilities for customers, including the provision of toilets and off-road parking ;
(iii) financial efficiency, including rent, maintenance and energy costs, compared to equivalent costs at an alternative centre ; and (
(iv) demand for tests at the centre and its proximity to other test centres, including the capacity of neighbouring test centres to meet the existing level of transferred demand and cope with a possible increase.
There are no proposals to restrict driving tests to larger towns. It is not practicable for DSA to provide a test centre in every town in Britain, and the Agency must review its network by applying its criteria as even- handedly as possible across the country as a whole.
Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the economic importance of Newhaven to the local economy of east Sussex in formulating his trunk road improvement plans ; and what plans he has to extend the A26 to Newhaven port by the construction of a new route from the southern terminal of the A26 to the quayside.
Mr. Key : The economic importance of Newhaven is reflected in the Department's cost benefit analysis which is applied to all proposed schemes. The primary purpose of the recent review of the road programme was to establish priorities to concentrate effort and resources on the most urgently needed schemes, and produce a clear set of objectives and targets. Cost benefit was one of the three main criteria applied on a national basis.
There are currently no plans to extend the A26 to Newhaven port.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) arrests and (b) convictions there have been for illegal plying for hire by minicab drivers for each of the last eight years ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Norris [holding answer 6 May 1994] : Illegal plying for hire of itself is not an offence for which people are arrested. Information on the number of convictions for illegal plying for hire by minicab drivers is not available. The police do not keep information on crimes broken down by the alleged occupation of the criminal.
The present law prohibiting plying for hire by cars not licensed as taxis dates back to the middle of the last century. In its present form it is not easy to enforce. Modernisation is clearly a priority. "Plying for hire" should not be confused with touting, although in practice taxi touts are normally associated with illegal plying for hire. I hope we can deal with the problem of touts through the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill, at present under consideration in another place.
Mr. Waldegrave : The Government's new code of practice on access to Government information came into force at the beginning of April. We will introduce legislation on access to personal records and health and safety information as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.
Mr. David Davis : It is for each public service provider to consult its users in line with the principles of the citizens charter and to provide information to users about the standards of service that they are entitled to expect. Published surveys reveal that seven out of 10 people are aware of the citizens charter.
Column 62"The Citizen's Charter Second Report" a free guide called "The Citizen's Charter Report Back 1994" was published which highlighted the good progress already made and set out future commitments, as well as full details about how to obtain further information on individual services and charters. The guide has been made widely available around the country and is also published in six other languages, on audio cassette in large print and braille. Copies of the second report and the free guide were placed in the Library of the House. In addition, individual Departments, agencies and other organisations are responsible for ensuring that the standards and other information set out in their charters are made widely available to their customers.
42. Mr. Luff : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what steps he is taking to progress initiatives that will improve public understanding of science following the national week of science and technology.
Mr. Waldegrave : SET was a great success. Planning has begun for next year's national week of science, engineering and technology. At the same time the Office of Science and Technology is continuing to support a number of initiatives to encourage greater understanding and appreciation of science and engineering, especially in our schools but also among the general public.
Mr. Waldegrave : We have made an excellent progress. The first forward look of Government-funded science and technology was published last month ; this provides a clear and up-to-date survey of the research and development scene, and sets out strategic objectives for the next five to 10 years. The new research council structure came into being on 1 April. The technology foresight programme is well under way ; and the week of special events to promote public understanding was described by New Scientist as "a staggering success".
Mr. McMaster : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many parliamentary questions to his Department have not been answered because of disproportionate costs or because the information requested was not held centrally over the last five years ; how many could be answered now due to computerisation and/or more effective operational systems ; and if he will list each such question along with the name and constituency of the hon. Member who tabled it.
Mr. Waldegrave : Since my Department was established in May 1992 there have been 48 parliamentary questions where the answer given by my Department included a reference to part or all the information being available only at disproportionate cost or because the information requested was not held centrally. Details of these questions can be obtained from the POLIS database, access to which is available in the Library.
The remainder of the question could itself be answered only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans his Department has (a) to utilise the Internet, (b) to make available on the Internet press releases and other departmental information which the public may wish to have access to and (c) to use the Internet as a means of increasing the openness of his Department.
Mr. Waldegrave : My Department's press releases issued electronically through the Central Office of Information are accessible to users of the Internet via Data-Staff Dialog (Europe) or Mead/Lexis/Nexis. They are also available to subscribers to FT Profile, Reuters Textline and to POLIS.
My Department's press releases are also made available through the COI's fax retrieval service, details of which can be provided by its new distribution service.
I have no further plans to use the Internet.
Mr. David Davis : Information held centrally does not include some smaller Departments and agencies. Of those for which information is available, at 1 July 1993 there were five which met the 3 per cent. quota for the employment of people with disabilities. These are as follows : Department of Education ; Employment Group ; Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce ; the Office of the Paymaster General and Registers of Scotland.
Overall, 1.5 per cent. of civil service staff are registered disabled, compared with 0.8 per cent. in the public sector generally and 0.7 per cent. in the private sector. Like many other employers, civil service departments also employ many staff with disabilities who have chosen not to register.
Sir George Young : The redevelopment of Eland house is being undertaken by Land Securities plc. The Department has signed an agreement to take a 25-year lease with a 15-year break provision. The sourcing of the building's cladding is therefore a matter for the company and not for the Department.
I understand, however, that Land Securities plc is anxious to maximise the United Kingdom content of the building within its commercial and legal constraints. The company is a founder member of the Construction Procurement Group established by leading specifiers in the industry and supported by my Department to work with suppliers of building products in enhancing their competitiveness. I am pleased to say that they have agreed to make Eland house one of the early case studies for the group.
Mr. McAllion : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what civil service-wide co-ordination exists in the recycling of waste materials in order to maximise efficient use of resources and value for money.
Mr. Atkins : Government Departments now have environmental strategies in place and are preparing, or have prepared, action plans to implement them. These strategies set out the policy of each Department for the use of its own resources and are designed to ensure that full account is taken of the needs of the environment. They cover a wide variety of issues including recycling, and are co-ordinated by a committee of green Ministers drawn from the major Departments.
Mr. Patchett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to ensure affordable housing in rural areas ; what statistical information he has of rural housing need ; if he will publish it ; and if he will make a statement.
Sir George Young : We provide funding through the Housing Corporation's annual approved development programme for new social housing in rural and non-rural areas. In rural areas--defined as settlements with a population of 3,000 or less--the ADP has approved funds through the corporation's rural programme for more than 6,000 new units between 1989-90 and 1992-93 ; and some 2,200 units in 1993-94--exceeding the Government's target by some 19 per cent. In 1994-95 the corporation aims to approve a further 1,850 new units. In addition, the Rural Development Commission provides support for the work of the Rural Housing Trust to assist the setting up and support of rural housing associations, and for other measures which facilitate the supply of social housing in rural areas.
The resources for the ADP are distributed each year in accordance with my Department's housing needs index. The index is calculated for all local authority districts, and the individual scores are published annually by the Housing Corporation.
My Department does not specifically compile information on rural housing need. However, we are currently carrying out research into the nature and causes of housing need in rural England with the aim of identifying possible solutions. We expect the results to be published in due course.
Mr. Gummer : In line with Government policy, my Department employs security companies in situations where this can be shown to provide best value for money. There has been no requirement so far to engage private detective agencies.
Mr. Robert Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total amount of financial aid provided in the implementation of agenda 21 of the Rio agreement ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : Chapter 33, paragraph 13 of agenda 21 said that, in general, financing for the implementation of agenda 21 should come from countries' own public and private sectors. In the case of developing countries, it was accepted that foreign aid would continue to be required. The United Kingdom has a substantial overseas aid programme.
Sir George Young : Tables showing the available information on total council house sales for each English local authority for every financial year since 1980 and a cumulative total to December 1993 are in the Library.
Mr. Tipping : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his most recent estimate of accumulated capital receipts from the sale of council houses for each district council in Nottinghamshire.