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Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to encourage European vehicle and catalyst manufacturers to pool their research on DeNOX--removal of nitrogen oxide--catalysts.
Mr. Norris: The development of the DeNOX catalyst, for controlling oxides of nitrogen from diesel engines and lean-burn petrol engines, is a major research project to which United Kingdom and European companies are devoting substantial resources. There are already a number of collaborative programmes between catalyst and vehicle manufacturers. The Government see no need, at present, to encourage further European collaboration.
(2) if he will now make it his policy to bring in a registration scheme for light goods vehicle instructors and driving schools similar to that governing car driving instructors; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Norris: The Government have no plans to introduce a statutory register of goods vehicle driving instructors. Industry bodies are, however, considering a voluntary scheme with the Driving Standards Agency, the official body with expertise in driver testing and training matters, offering a standards assurance service on a cost recovery basis. In addition, the agency published earlier this year a comprehensive manual for learning to drive all types of goods vehicles.
Mr. Norris: Fundamental changes to the way in which vehicles are registered and licensed locally by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's vehicle registration offices and the London enforcement office were announced by the DVLA's chief executive on 12 August. These changes mean that the current network would be gradually reduced and eventually closed by 1997. A DVLA press notice--No 23/94--was issued containing the details.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what annual savings he expects to achieve for his Department if the proposal to close the Ports Office for Scotland and relocate its functions in London is implemented;
(2) what is the estimated cost of implementing the proposal to close the Ports Office for Scotland in Edinburgh and relocating its functions and staff in London; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Norris: If the closure takes place we would expect initial annual savings of at least £44,000. The savings could be larger in later years. The total associated costs will depend upon the net costs of redundancies that may result from the closure of the office and consequent changes.
Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to confine expenditure on new roads to the construction of new bypasses for local traffic, and on the maintenance of existing roads.
Mr. Watts: Expenditure on trunk roads is targeted carefully on maintaining and upgrading the existing network. Urgently needed bypasses for towns and villages are a priority and form about a quarter of the programme. We also encourage local authorities through their investment programmes to provide relief for communities on the more important local roads.
Mr. Watts: The Department commissioned its standing advisory committee on trunk road assessment to report on that issue. The report together with the Department's formal response, will be published in due cause.
Mr. Norris: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) to my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) on 21 March, Official Report , column 9 .
Mr. Norris: The Government have funded the Docklands light railway, the Greater Manchester metrolink and the South Yorkshire supertram and have given development funding to the Midland metro project. We are continuing our discussions with promoters of other light-rail schemes and we will consider funding these projects when resources allow.
I am writing in response to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Transport about the A417/A419 trunk road between Swindon and Gloucester. This is a matter for which the Highways Agency is responsible.
The A419/417 Swindon to Gloucester road has been named as one of the first four projects to be designed, built, financed and operated (DBFO) by the private sector. This will include the management of the road and the construction of the Latton Bypass, the Cirencester and Stratton Bypass and the north of Stratton to Nettleton Improvement. The Secretary of State announced on 9 November the names of the consortia who are to be invited to bid for the contract.
On the same route there are three national trunk road schemes which will not initially form part of the DBFO contract: the Blunsdon Bypass, for which the Secretary of State is currently considering the response to public consultation and the next stage will be announcement of the preferred route: the Nettleton to Crickley Hill Improvement--our first task will be to appoint a
Column 130design agent to identify possible routes for an improved road: and Brockworth Bypass, which is under construction and should be completed in autumn 1995. The future progress of the Blunsdon Bypass and Nettleton to Crickley Hill schemes depends no the satisfactory completion of the statutory planning procedures and the continuing availability of funds. If and when these other schemes are completed, the relevant sections of the A419/417 trunk road could be added to the DBFO contract for operational and maintenance purposes.
Dr. Mawhinney: Following consultation earlier this year, the Government continue to favour privatisation of the National Air Traffic Services. Privatisation would provide a number of significant benefits to both National Air Traffic Service and its customers. It would offer the opportunity for improved standards of service and increased efficiency; it would expose National Air Traffic Service to commercial incentives and the prospect of increased
competition--especially in the airports sector; it would free National Air Traffic Service's investment and management decisions from the constraints of Government ownership; and it would facilitate greater transparency in charges and the separation of regulation from service provision.
A number of concerns were expressed by those who responded to the recent public consultation, and I wish these concerns to be properly considered before I put proposals before Parliament. I am today publishing a report on the outcome of the consultation, and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Hardy: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether the runways at those Royal Air Force stations scheduled for closure or which have been closed recently will be retained for training or relief landing purposes; and at how many former stations this facility has been retained.
Mr. Soames: My Department has regular consultation with planning authorities and other statutory bodies in connection with any development proposals for the Army's training facilities. On the more significant developments, independent consultants have been appointed to carry out environmental impact assessments during which the view of the local planning authorities, statutory bodies and interested parties are sought.
Mr. Freeman: My Department has, in the usual way, given and will continue to give views to the regulatory authorities on the competition and any other relevant aspects of the possible takeover on VSEL. These views are confidential.
Mr. Freeman: As we have previously made clear, the Royal Navy will maintain three Invincible class aircraft carriers, with two operational at any one time. In accordance with this long standing practice, HMS Ark Royal entered a state of extended readiness in September at Portsmouth.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which consultants were commissioned to undertake the recent study into the feasibility of rationalising the Defence Accounts Agency's mainframe computers at Cheadle Hulme, Bath and Liverpool; what assessment they made of the suitability of each of those three locations; and which of those three locations, if any, they nominated as a preferred location for the concentration of computing facilities.
Letter from M. Dymond to Mr. Nicholas Winterton, dated 22 November 1994:
You asked the Secretary of State for Defence which consultants were commissioned to undertake the recent study into the feasibility of rationalising the Defence Accounts Agency's Mainframe Computers at Cheadle Hulme, Bath and Liverpool; what assessment they made of the suitability of each of those locations' and which of those three locations, if any, they nominated as a preferred location for the concentration of computing facilities. As Chief Executive of the Defence Accounts Agency I have been asked to reply.
The DAA Mainframes Rationalisation Project was undertaken mainly by an in- house team. Consultancy assistance was obtained
Column 132as required for specific elements of the project, such as communications network design and business risk assessment. There was no consultancy assessment of the suitability of the three locations as part of the Project and no nomination by consultants of a preferred location.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the role, structure, and current membership of the Defence Accounts Agency information technology board; and what information he has concerning the numbers of the members of the board who reside in or around (a) Bath, (b) Liverpool, or (c) Cheadle Hulme; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Freeman [holding answer 21 November 1994]: This is a matter for the agency's chief executive and I have asked him to reply. Letter from M. Dymond to Mr. Nicholas Winterton, dated 22 November 1994:
You asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the role, structure, and current membership of the Defence Accounts Agency's Information Technology Board; and what information he has concerning the numbers of members of that Board who reside in or around: (a) Bath
(b) Liverpool or
(c) Cheadle Hulme;
and if he will make a statement. As Chief Executive of the Defence Accounts Agency I have been asked to reply.
The DDA's IT Board sets its IT strategy, within MOD's corporate IT strategy, and oversees major IT plans and projects. The Board comprises myself as Chief Executive, my three operational Directors, and my Assistant Directors responsible for Finance and IT at the corporate level, together with a senior representative from the Ministry's central IT support organisation. Apart from one operational Director, based at Liverpool, and the central MOD representative, based at Swindon, all members of the Agency's IT Board are based at the Agency's Corporate headquarters in Bath.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has concerning the potential cost savings offered by the choice of (a) Cheadle Hulme, (b) Liverpool and (c) Bath for the location of Defence Accounts Agency computing facilities.
Mr. Freeman [holding answer 21 November 1994]: This is a matter for the agency's chief executive and I have asked him to reply. I understand he has already written to the hon. Member stating that on cost comparison the advantage lay narrowly with Bath.
Letter from M. Dymond to Mr. Nicholas Winterton, dated 22 November 1994:
You asked the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has concerning the potential costs and savings offered by the choice of:
(a) Cheadle Hulme
for the location of the Defence Accounts Agency's computing facilities. As Chief Executive of the Defence Accounts Agency I have been asked to reply.
The DRA Mainframes Rationalisation Project has just completed its full study stage and will shortly be submitted for approval. Ultimately the decision on this major project rests with Ministers. The project team's assessment showed that compared with separate replacement of the computers the rationalisation approach would save some £3 million per annum. The comparison of costs made in the Agency's study narrowly favoured Bath. The other factors tended to favour either Bath or Cheadle Hulme, the collective balance of these other factors being narrowly with Cheadle Hulme.
These differences were seen to be too marginal to support a recommendation for a specific choice of site by the study team. The
Column 133decision by the Agency's IT Board to seek approval for the Bath location was based on wider corporate and strategic implications, particularly the Department's IT strategies for Finance and Civilian Pay/Personnel.
Mr. Freeman: We plan to procure additional medium support helicopters to enhance significantly the RAF's current fleet. As stated in this year's statement on the Defence Estimates, only the Chinook and the Utility EH101 are capable of meeting our particular requirements. We are currently assessing price and performance data received for these helicopters.
Mr. Freeman: The Chief of the Defence Staff and the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff have visited Indonesia during the last year to discuss defence matters. The United Kingdom also provides training for Indonesian students.
Letter from Mr. John Chisholm to Mr. Derek Fatchett, dated 22 November 1994 :
In today's written answer the Minister of State for Defence Procurement informed you that I would be replying to your question concerning work being carried out for Indonesia by the Defence Research Agency.
The Defence Research Agency is not currently undertaking any work for Indonesia.
Mr. Fatchett: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will outline the training provided over the last 10 years in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in defence-related matters for Indonesia; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Soames: The United Kingdom has provided training assistance, including developmental and technical courses, for Indonesia over the past 10 years. Details of training, including the numbers involved, are not normally disclosed as they are regarded as confidential between the Governments concerned.
Mr. Freeman: Invitations to tender for the design and build for the replacement of the assault ships HMS Fearless and HMS Intrepid were issued on 16 August 1994. All United Kingdom warship building yards that have expressed an interest have been invited to compete for this requirement. Tenders are due for return in March 1995 and, subject to a successful competition, we hope to place an order towards the end of next year.
Mr. Soames: The United Kingdom attaches great importance to the strong defence links it enjoys with Germany. United Kingdom and German views are close on a range of important issues. We have regular defence contacts with Germany at all levels, and there is an extensive programme of exchanges between the British armed forces and the Bundeswehr. We have also recently exchanged staff officers between the two Ministries of Defence, and are involved in several collaborative equipment projects.
Mr. Freeman: All the study teams set up as part of the defence costs study have submitted their final reports, which have been considered by Ministers and decisions taken on recommendations to be pursued. There is no requirement for the teams to continue to meet and they have been disbanded. The proposals being taken forward following the defence costs study are being pursued with vigour by the relevant budget holders. Central arrangements have also been established, with direct ministerial involvement, to oversee the implementation process.
Mr. George Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is his policy on supporting the actions of local authorities in assisting defence industries to adapt to reduced defence expenditure levels.
Mr. Freeman: My Department is in close contact with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Employment, and we participate in local liaison groups which include representatives of local authorities and other Government Departments.
Mr. Bill Walker: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make it his policy that any further cuts over those already agreed for the Air Cadets budget, with particular reference to cuts which, if implemented, would impact on the number of cadets, cadet activities, including flying and gliding, or the well-being of cadets, will require category 1X ministerial approval.
Ms Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if his Department monitors the observance of DEF 05/21 or equivalent NATO standards by his Department's suppliers from Europe and other overseas countries;
(2) what procedures his Department follows to ensure that DEF 05/21 or equivalent NATO standards are observed by his Department's suppliers from Europe and other overseas countries.