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DERA (Support Services Division)

Mr. George: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to complete the sale of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency's support services division; what are the reasons behind the delay in completion of the sale; if APAX Partners has agreed bulk transfer terms for staff pensions with the Government Actuary's Department; and what bulk transfer terms for staff pensions were agreed in previous privatisations of Ministry of Defence services or agencies. [18107]

Mr. Arbuthnot: We have not yet been able to reach agreement on acceptable terms with APAX and have, therefore, decided to open negotiations with CinVen, the other financial institution that was on the original shortlist. We will conclude a deal only if and when mutually satisfactory terms have been agreed. I expect to have come to a decision within a matter of days rather than weeks.

Regarding staff pensions, there will now have to be further negotiations with CinVen over bulk transfer terms. Previous MOD organisations have generally involved an agreement on this issue and I hope that the offer of similar terms will prove acceptable.

NATO Strategic Concept

Mr. Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans NATO has to revise and update its strategic concept. [18722]

Mr. Soames: NATO's strategic concept was adopted by Alliance Heads of Government at their meeting in Rome in November 1991. NATO's strategy has evolved since then in the light of changes in the European security situation, and this process will continue. Whether the strategic concept itself should be updated to take account of those changes is under consideration within NATO. Any decision to update the strategic concept would be a matter for NATO Ministers.

TRANSPORT

Salisbury Bypass

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on his proposals for the Salisbury bypass. [18902]

Mr. Watts: My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Transport announced on 29 October 1996 that they were minded to confirm the orders to authorise construction of the bypass. However, before reaching a final decision, they have afforded interested parties an opportunity to make representations on the effects of induced traffic and alteration of a section of the proposed route to take it away from housing at Harnham, as recommended by the inspector who held the year-long public inquiry. They also instructed the

6 Mar 1997 : Column: 713

Highways Agency to review three matters: the possibility of realigning the section of the route across the River Avon floodplain, south of Salisbury, to avoid the newly designated east Harnham meadows SSSI; the scope for further mitigating the landscape impact of the bypass in this sensitive area; and the need for any measures in addition to those already proposed to mitigate the potential impact of the bypass on the proposed River Avon special area of conservation. The Highways Agency report on the reviews has just been received and will now be considered by my right hon. Friends.

Rail Employment

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the total number of people employed by British Rail before the start of the privatisation process; and if he will estimate the number employed on the railways at the current time. [19004]

Mr. Watts: On 31 March 1994, the British Railways Board employed 121,052 people. The latest available estimate of the total number employed in the railway industry is 94,600 people employed in September 1996.

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will provide a breakdown by project of PFI schemes for which his Department is responsible as identified in Table 5.5 of the Red Book. [18937]

Mr. Watts: The figures underlying table 5.5 relate to expected expenditure on the following PFI projects.

Italicised entries denote projects not yet signed.
Birmingham Northern Relief Road
CAA New Scottish Centre
CAA Oceanic Flight Data Processing System
Croydon Tramlink
Channel Tunnel Rail Link
DBFO roads (first eight schemes)
DBFO roads (tranche 2)
Highways Agency pavement management system
Heathrow Express
LT "connect" (Communications)
LT Power
LT "Prestige" (Ticketing)
Midland Metro
Northern Line trains.

Details of individual projects are commercially sensitive.

Railfreight Distribution

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the total amount payable to Her Majesty's Government for the sale of Railfreight Distribution. [19003]

Mr. Watts: The British Railways Board has yet to finalise the sale of Railfreight Distribution.

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Ferry Safety

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to stage a trial evacuation of 1,000 passengers from a roll-on/roll-off ferry in realistic conditions. [18771]

Mr. Bowis: None, since "realistic conditions" would imply damage to the ship and potential injury to the participants.

Payment of Bills

Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what percentage of bills to his Department were paid (a) in accordance with agreed contractual conditions and (b) within 30 days of receiving goods and services or the presentation of a valid invoice where no contractual conditions applied in the last year for which figures are available. [18808]

Mr. Bowis: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by the Economic Secretary on 17 December 1996, Official Report, columns 506-7. Any additional information can be provided only at a disproportionate cost.

Channel Tunnel

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is (a) the fastest time the channel tunnel has been evacuated; (b) how many doors in the tunnel were open during that exercise; and (c) if the air fell to the point where it equalised between the central tunnel and the running tunnels. [19009]

Mr. Watts: (a) 85 minutes timed from the train coming to a stop until passengers reached the open air. (b) A maximum of three cross passage doors were open on this occasion. (c) No.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is the present normal working pressure of the central service tunnel in the channel tunnel; and how many doors can be opened before the pressure equalises between all three tunnels. [19007]

Mr. Watts: The pressure in the service tunnel is maintained within a range from 2,000 pascals near the ventilation shafts to 500 pascals at the midpoint. No more than three cross passage doors should be open if overpressure is to be maintained in the service tunnel.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many new semi-open wagons have been purchased for use in the channel tunnel since 1 January; and what evaluation has been made of their safety case. [19010]

Mr. Watts: No semi-open wagons have been purchased since 1 January.

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if there was smoke in either of the two tunnels not affected by fire during the channel tunnel fire of November 1996. [19008]

Mr. Watts: Details of the behaviour of smoke in the channel tunnel fire in November 1996 are being investigated by the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority and will be contained in the authority's report on the fire. I understand that this will be completed shortly.

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Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with the French Government about the channel tunnel fire of November 1996. [18653]

Mr. Watts [holding answer 4 March 1997]: The intergovernmental commission meets on a regular basis to discuss the operation of the channel tunnel on behalf of the Governments. The Channel Tunnel Safety Authority also meets regularly.

The heavy goods vehicle shuttle fire on the 18 November has been discussed at each of the meetings held by these bodies since November 1996.

In addition, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has corresponded with the French Transport Minister, Bernard Pons, about the fire.

Departmental Revenue Hypothecation

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement regarding the hypothecation of revenue from his Department. [19002]

Mr. Bowis: Proceeds of asset sales do sometimes go to the Department concerned. The proposed privatisation of London Underground is, however, the first time this approach has been adopted in a privatisation. This is in recognition of the particular needs and circumstances of London Underground.


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