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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 12 February 1997

TRANSPORT

Railcards (Disabled People)

Ms Lynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what consultations he has had with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee concerning acceptance of railcards held by disabled people by automatic ticket machines; [15190]

Mr. Bowis: The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee has discussed this issue in its rail working group. Representatives of the Department and the Office of the Rail Regulator were present at those discussions.

The Department will be pursuing this with the Office of the Rail Regulator in the context of the Rail Regulator's code of practice on meeting the needs of disabled passengers.

Parking

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will review the law relating to parking near bus stops. [15351]

Mr. Watts: I have no plans to do so. The Government regard efficient enforcement of the existing law as more likely to improve compliance with waiting restrictions at bus stops than changes to the law.

British Railways Board

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is his current estimate of the out-turn of the British Railways Board for 1996-97. [15398]

Mr. Watts: I hope to announce shortly the British Railways Board external finance limit consistent with my latest estimate of its out-turn.

Environmental Impact Directive

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what environmental impact assessment study has been prepared for the Newbury bypass under the provisions of the EC environmental impact directive; what information he has received in respect of the petition made to the European Parliament Petitions Committee concerning the environmental implications of this road project; and if he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's monitoring of environmentally based petitions presented to the European Parliament on matters arising in the United Kingdom. [15434]

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Mr. Watts: The Government have taken the view consistently that directive 85/337/EEC on environmental impact assessment does not apply to projects such as the Newbury bypass, for which the formal development consent procedure was initiated before the directive came into force on 3 July 1988. In an announcement on 20 October 1995, the European Commission made it clear that it agreed with that view. The bypass scheme was, however, assessed carefully for its environmental effects in accordance with the Department of Transport's manual of environmental appraisal, which was the relevant guidance at the time.

The Government have been informed by the President of the European Parliament about the petition made to the Parliament's Petitions Committee about the bypass.

The Government are not informed routinely by the European Parliament of the content of petitions that it has received. It is for the European Parliament itself to decide how to handle such petitions.

Vehicle Document Fraud

Mr. Nicholson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received on the subject of reforming the current vehicle licensing and registration system to (a) prevent fraud and (b) enable (i) stolen vehicles and (ii) owners and drivers to be traced. [15421]

Mr. Bowis: My Department maintains close contacts with representatives of the motor, finance, leasing, insurance and salvage industries and with the police with a view to developing ways in which the vehicle registration system can be better adapted to deter and detect vehicle fraud and other related crime.

Following wide consultation we shall shortly be introducing new arrangements for recording the transfer of vehicles and for the annual notification of unlicensed off-road vehicles. These measures will help to improve the accuracy of the vehicle record and facilitate the tracing of drivers and vehicles for enforcement purposes.

Mr. Nicholson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated of foreign initiatives on vehicle title and document fraud; and with what result. [15420]

Mr. Bowis: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency maintains a register of vehicle keepers as opposed to owners because it is the registered keeper with whom the agency and police are normally concerned for law enforcement, revenue collection and road safety purposes.

Accordingly, while the agency maintains close links with a number of foreign registration authorities, it has not commissioned specific research into initiatives on vehicle title and document fraud.

Rail Companies (Profits)

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is his current estimate of profits by companies previously owned by British Rail to be paid into public funds in 1996-97. [15403]

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Mr. Watts: Up to 11 February 1997, dividends paid into public funds in 1996-97 in respect of the Secretary of State's residual holding of Railtrack shares amounted to £865,335.96.

Railways (Bus Services)

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many scheduled railway services were substituted by bus services during the week ended 18 January; for what reasons; and what penalty payments have been made by operators under their agreements with the franchising director. [15350]

Mr. Watts: The information is not available in the form requested. The Office of Passenger Rail Franchising monitors cancellations for franchised services. If an operator cancels more than a set threshold, that is a breach of the franchise agreement and enforcement action may follow. Some operators are also subject to a performance regime with Opraf and are penalised for each cancellation. Bus substitutions as a result of planned engineering work are not usually subject to penalty payments.

Heavy Goods Vehicles

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the number of heavy goods vehicles on roads without an operator's licence vehicle disc but operating under the margin arrangement. [15380]

Mr. Bowis: It is impossible to make any accurate estimate of the number of vehicles operated under the margin arrangements. Vehicles used by any licensed operator within their total authorisation limit for up to one calendar month do not need to be specified and thus do not need to carry a disc.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many heavy goods vehicles have been found to be operating without proper authorisation under the Goods Vehicle Operator Licensing Regulations during roadside checks in 1995 and 1996. [15381]

Mr. Bowis: We have no separate figures for heavy goods vehicles found to be operating without a valid operator's licence.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many goods vehicle operators were successfully prosecuted in 1995 and 1996 for operating vehicles without authorisation under the Goods Vehicle Operator Licensing Regulations. [15382]

Mr. Bowis: I have asked the chief executive of the Vehicle Inspectorate to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Ron Oliver to Mr. Andrew Smith, dated 12 February 1997:



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Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he has taken to ensure that the operator licensing details of heavy goods vehicles are ascertained at roadside enforcement checks. [15383]

Mr. Bowis: It is one of a number of checks carried out by traffic examiners at each roadside vehicle check, and is followed up as part of routine enforcement action where necessary.

Mr. Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has completed his consideration of proposals to impound illegally operated and dangerous heavy goods vehicles as indicated in his response to the Transport Committee's Fifth report in November 1996; and if he will make a statement. [15384]

Mr. Bowis: We are still working on plans for a possible scheme for the impounding of illegally operated and dangerous heavy goods vehicles.


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