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Transport Supplementary Grant

Sir John Stanley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment he has made of his Department's vulnerability to claims by highway authorities for damages if his allocations of transport supplementary grant were insufficient to enable highway authorities to meet their existing contractual financial commitments in relation to highway schemes approved for transport supplementary grant; [9448]

Mr. Watts: When local highway authorities submit their annual transport policies and programme proposals, the Department looks scrupulously at the bids for support for schemes accepted for transport supplementary grant in past rounds. The aim is to determine the extent to which estimated expenditure is eligible for grant, is consistent

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with published guidance, and is in line with previous advice to the bidding authority on affordability. The Department makes it clear that TSG is not necessarily intended to cover the entire costs of an accepted scheme. There may be elements of expenditure in a contract that are not eligible for the grant. The Department is therefore under no obligation to provide sufficient resources for an authority to meet its contractual commitments. Subject to those qualifications, the Department none the less aims in making its allocations to avoid the authority having artificially to delay schemes that have already started construction. No case has been recorded in which an authority has pursued a claim against the Department because of alleged failure to provide sufficient resources.

Leaded Petrol Ban

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Environment regarding exemptions to the European leaded petrol ban; [9738]

Mr. Bowis: The Government endorse the need to sustain the continuing decline in leaded petrol sales but believe a total ban to be unnecessary. At the Environment Council on 15 October, my noble Friend the Lord Lindsay urged our European partners to adopt the UK approach of reducing sales through fiscal rather than regulatory means, thus allowing the owners of older or historic or classic vehicles to buy leaded petrol for as long as there is a market demand. Discussions are still at an early stage but there are signs that some of our European partners would share our approach.


Mr. Hain: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) permanent and (b) non-permanent staff there have been in (i) his Department and (ii) executive agencies of his Department in each year since 1992. [9619]

Mr. Bowis: I will write to the hon. Member as soon as the information can be assembled and place a copy of my reply in the Library of the House.

Heavy Goods Vehicles (Road Tax)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the road tax charges for heavy goods vehicles in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) France, (c) Germany and (d) Belgium. [9129]

Mr. Bowis: In the United Kingdom, goods vehicles pay vehicle excise duty according to their revenue weight and their axle configuration. The following table summarises the main features of current rates after the Budget of 26 November 1996. In the Budget, the Chancellor also announced his intention to offer concessions to heavy goods vehicles with low emission levels meeting targets from 1988. Full details of rates are published by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency on form V149 "Rates of Vehicle Excise Duty" available at post offices.

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Goods vehicle type Revenue weight details Current annual fee
All typesOver 3,500 kgs not over 7,500 kgs150
All typesOver 7,500 kgs not over 12,000 kgs290
Rigid vehicles:
2 axleMinimun: Over 12,000 kgs not over 13,000 kgs450
Maximum: Over 1,500 kgs not over 17,000 kgs1,280
3 axleMinimum: Over 1,2000 kgs not over 17,000 kgs470
Maximum: Over 25,000 kgs not over 27,000 kgs2,260
4 or more axleMinimum: Over 12,000 kgs not over 21,000 kgs340
Maximum: Over 31,000 kgs not over 32,000 kgs4,250
Articulated vehicles
2 axle tractorMinimum: Over 12,000 kgs not over 16,000 kgs440
1 (or more) axle trailerMaximum: Over 33,000 kgs not over 38,000 kgs5,000
2 axle tractorMinimum: Over 12,000 kgs not over 28,000 kgs440
3 axle trailerMaximum: Over 36,000 kgs not over 38,000 kgs3,100
3 axle tractorMinimum: Over 12,000 kgs not over 23,000 kgs440
1 (or more) axle trailerMaximum: Over 36,000 kgs not over 38,000 kgs2,730
3 axle tractorMinimum: Over 12,000 kgs not over 33,000 kgs440
3 axle trailerMaximum: Over 36,000 kgs not over 38,000 kgs1,240

In France, goods vehicles not over 16 tonnes pay road tax as part of the graduated system that applies to ordinary motorcars. The tariff depends upon the power of the vehicle, its age and the area of the country or departement. Typically, vehicles in the lowest power bands pay FF200 to FF300, those in the highest power bands FF12,000 to FF14,000.

Vehicles with a total permissible weight in excess of 16 tonnes are exempted from this graduated tax, but instead pay axle tax. The tariff is based upon both axle configuration and gross weight, and ranges from FF200 to FF14,400 per year, although vehicles may qualify for certain reductions in these rates depending upon how they are used and operated. An articulated vehicle with two-axle tractor, two-axle trailer and weighing between 37,501 kg to 38,000 kg would pay FF5,200.

In Germany, taxes are based upon total permissible weight in kilogrammes. Standard rates for 1995 range from DM22 per 200 kg, for vehicles not over 2,000 kg, to DM124 per 200 kg for vehicles over 15,000 kg, up to a maximum of DM3,500. Vehicles meeting specified noise and pollution standards qualify for lower rates, which for the most environmentally friendly vehicles range from DM12.55 per 200 kg, for vehicles not over 2,000 kg, to DM30.85 per 200 kg for vehicles over 15,000 kg, up to a maximum of DM1,300. Trailers are surcharged according to total maximum weight, ranging from DM730 for those not exceeding 10 tonnes, to DM1,750 to those over 18 tonnes. Under those arrangements, a 38,000 kg articulated vehicle without environmental improvements would pay DM3,500.

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In Belgium, vans, trucks, lorries and articulated goods vehicles pay road tax based upon the deadweight of the vehicle. The following rates were applicable between July 1995 and June 1996. Up to 1,000 kg deadweight, the basic charge is 150 Belgian francs per 100 kg, subject to a minimum tax of 888 Belgian francs. Over 1,000 kg deadweight, vehicles pay at a rate per 100 kg of 150 Belgian francs plus seven francs for every 100 kg over 1,000 kg, subject to a maximum rate of 346 francs per 100 kg.

At deadweight 4,650 kg tax payable is 15,916 Belgium francs. Over 4,640 kg, a supplement of 346 francs is payable for each additional 100 kg. Some vehicles may be subject to additional municipal taxes. A reduction of 25 per cent. is permitted to vehicles over five years of age. A 38-tonne articulated vehicle, assumed to have deadweight of approximately 13 tonnes, would pay roughly 46,500 francs.

Information Technology (Euro)

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what tenders his Department has put out to convert its information technology systems to be euro-compliant; what are the cost and person hours required to convert the systems to handle the euro; and when he expects his Department's systems to be fully economic and monetary union compliant. [9455]

Mr. Bowis: The Department and agencies will need to assess the impact that a single currency would have on their information systems, whether or not the United Kingdom decides to participate in the third stage of economic and monetary union.

Coastguard Service

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what will be the proposed staffing arrangements at (a) Lerwick coastguard station and (b) Pentland coastguard station following the introduction of coastguard watch assistants; [8469]

Mr. Bowis [holding answer 11 December 1996]: I have asked the chief executive of the Coastguard agency to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from C. J. Harris to Mr. James Wallace, dated 18 December 1996:

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District controllerStation officerSenior watch officerWatch officerSector officerTotals
1 December 1990 Shetland1246215
1 December 1990 Pentland12(21)55316
1 December 1995 Shetland1248217
1 December 1995 Pentland1147417
1 December 1996 Shetland1246215
1 December 1996 Pentland1137416

(21) One over complement due to overlapping transfer.

PQ 643/96/97

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District controllerStation officerSenior watch officerWatch officerSector officerTotals
Shetland (Lerwick)1248217
Pentland (Kirkwall)1248419

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District controllerDeputy district controllerWatch managerWatch officerCoastguard watch assistantSector managerTotals
Shetland (Lerwick)11456219
Pentland (Kirkwall)11456320

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Mr. Robert McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to pay a gratuity to those coastguard auxiliaries informed this year that their services were no longer required; and if he will list the numbers involved and lengths of service. [9577]

Mr. Bowis: The "focus for change" review recommended the replacement by permanent employees of the volunteer auxiliary service which supported Her Majesty's Coastguard's operations. There were approximately 360 auxiliary coastguards in the operations rooms with service varying between one and 20 years.

As volunteers they are not eligible to receive severance payments but we would like to put on record our appreciation of the valuable service given by operations rooms auxiliaries over many years. More than 3,000 auxiliaries will continue to form the coast rescue companies around the coast, preserving the long tradition of voluntary service to the seagoing community within Her Majesty's Coastguard.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for the privatisation of the Coastguard agency. [9764]

Mr. Bowis: None.

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