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TRANSPORT

Marchioness Inquest

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement of his Department's conclusions in respect of the recommendations of the Marchioness inquest jury. [13418]

Mr. Norris: My noble Friend the Minister for Aviation and Shipping has arranged for a paper setting out the Department's views on the recommendations of the Marchioness inquest jury to be placed in the Library of the House.

The Department agrees with the majority of the jury's 12 recommendations. In many cases, existing rules and guidelines already meet the jury's proposals. In those cases where recommendations are aimed at other agencies, the Department is pursuing the recommendations with the agencies in question.

The jury endorsed the earlier recommendations of the marine accident investigation branch report into the Marchioness sinking, together with the recommendations of the report of the inquiry into river safety by Mr. John Hayes. All of the recommendations in the MAIB's report have since been implemented. Action has also been taken on the recommendations of the Hayes report and an updated statement of the position is included in the paper published today.

Central Railways plc

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 22 January, Official Report, column 36, if he will provide a schedule of the applications by Central Railways plc for partial, conditional or absolute waiver from compliance with certain application requirements under the Transport and Works Act 1992 that he is considering. [12537]

Mr. Watts: Central Railway plc has withdrawn the waiver applications previously before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I understand that it intends to re-apply for waivers in a modified form. It would not be appropriate in the circumstances to reveal details of the

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withdrawn waiver applications but copies of any subsequent such applications will be placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 22 January, Official Report, column 36, when he reached the conclusion that the applications by Central Railways plc were of national importance under the Transport and Works Act 1992. [12536]

Mr. Watts: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has reached no such conclusion. My answer, like the hon. Member's question, dealt with what would happen in the event of such a conclusion being reached. From what we know of the proposal, this conclusion seems very likely, but it cannot be reached unless and until a formal application is made under the Transport and Works Act 1992.

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 22 January, Official Report, column 36, if he will make a statement on the consultations with local planning authorities and other bodies which Central Railways plc is required to make under the Transport and Works Act 1992 rules; and what monitoring he has carried out as to whether the consultations have been carried out to the satisfaction of the local authorities concerned. [12538]

Mr. Watts: Rule 3 of the Transport and Works (Applications and Objections Procedure) Rules 1992 (SI 1992 No. 2902) sets out the pre-application consultation and notification requirements. The applicant must provide with the TWA application copies of all statements of views obtained from local planning authorities under rule 3(1) and evidence by affidavit of compliance with the notification requirements under rule 3(2) and 3(3).

Driving Instructors

Mr. Alex Carlile: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the policy of the Driving Standards Agency concerning driving instructors with criminal convictions. [12414]

Mr. Norris: Under part V of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the registrar of approved driving instructors, who is responsible for the administration of the ADI register, has to be satisfied that an instructor is a "fit and proper person". Any instructor who is aggrieved by the registrar's decision to remove his name from the register can appeal to the Secretary of State, which appeal is heard by an independent appeal board. That strikes a reasonable balance between the rights of the individual and the protection of the learning public.

Mr. Carlile: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the proposed deregulation of the Driving Standards Agency and its future monitoring of driving instructors. [12415]

Mr. Norris: There are no plans to deregulate the Driving Standards Agency and it will continue to be responsible for the statutory register of approved driving instructors and for the conduct of driving tests.

Mr. Carlile: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has to ensure that persons convicted of offences of indecency are not permitted to work as driving instructors; and if he will make a statement. [12413]

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Mr. Norris: Under part V of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the registrar of approved driving instructors, who is responsible for the administration of the ADI register, has to be satisfied that an instructor is a "fit and proper person". If, for example, following the criminal conviction of an instructor, the registrar is no longer satisfied on this score, he can remove that person's name from the register.

Mr. Carlile: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to restrict persons convicted of indecency from setting up driving schools to teach driving practice or theory; and if he will make a statement. [12416]

Mr. Norris: In the environment in which ordinary driving instruction takes place, it is sensible that the instructor should be subject to vetting as to previous convictions, and so on. However, there is no obvious need for a special conduct regime for classroom tuition services since the isolated and relatively vulnerable circumstances of one-to-one in a car do not arise.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the total cost to public funds of the high speed rail link between London and the channel tunnel; and if he will make a statement. [12170]

Mr. Watts: The amount of public sector support which the Government will make available for this project will depend on the outcome of the competition currently under way to select a private sector promoter. We anticipate that the contribution will be substantial. We hope to announce the winner of the competition shortly.

Driving Licence Fraud

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps are being taken to combat driving licence fraud; and if he will make a statement. [12169]

Mr. Norris: Photographs are to be added to driving licences. This will help eliminate misuse of licences and impersonation at driving tests.

Railway Line Repairs (Dawlish)

Mr. Jamieson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what estimate he has made of the cost of repairs required to the railway line at Dawlish. [12524]

Mr. Watts [holding answer 30 January 1996]: None. However, Railtrack informs me that £500,000 per year is spent on maintenance of the Dawlish sea wall, with a further £200,000 this year for repairs necessitated by the poor weather conditions in January.

Public Service Vehicle Licences

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many public service vehicle operators' licences have been (a) applied for, (b) issued, (c) objected to by (i) the police, (ii) the public and (iii) others, (d) issued and (e) withdrawn by the authorities in the latest year for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement on the trends in each category in the last five years. [12869]

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Mr. Norris: The information on applications, issues of licences, and withdrawals for 1994-95, the latest figures which are available, is contained in annexes 1 and 2 of the annual reports of the traffic commissioners 1 April 1994 to 31 March 1995, copies of which are available in the Library. In that year, there were five objections to licence applications, of which two came from the police, none from the public, and three from others.

Over the last five years, the number of applications and the number of licences issued have shown a slow but steady growth, punctuated, in both categories, by a sharp reduction in 1994-95. The number of objections received has remained roughly constant.

As for the number of withdrawals, 1990-91 showed a high, and the subsequent four years have produced lower, broadly similar figures.

Mr. Allen: To ask the Secretary of State for transport what computer links exist between his Department, the police, the traffic commissioners and others to cross check public service vehicle operators' applications in order to detect unsuitable applicants, with particular reference to those with a criminal record of offences against children; and if he will make a statement. [12874]

Mr. Norris: There are no computer links between the traffic area offices and the police. All applications for public service vehicle operators' licences are published in advance of the grant of a licence and circulated to the police, who have a statutory right of objection to a licence being granted on the grounds that the requirement of good repute has not been satisfied.

The applicant must declare on his application form any relevant convictions that he or any of his employees has had in the last five years. Any person who knowingly makes a false statement for the purpose of obtaining a licence is liable to a fine and the revocation or suspension of the licence.


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