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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 2 February 1998

PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL

Non-Career Civil Servants

Mr. Burns: To ask the President of the Council how many non-career civil servants have been appointed to her Department since 1 May 1997. [25845]

Mrs. Ann Taylor: The number of casual, fixed term appointees and Special Advisers appointed since 1 May is four.

Anti-drugs Tsar

Mr. Hawkins: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what specific powers she plans to allocate to the new Anti-drugs Tsar. [24644]

Mrs. Ann Taylor: The UK Anti-Drugs Coordinator, Keith Hellawell, took up his post as a special adviser to Government on 5 January. He therefore has no specific powers, and has been tasked with reviewing all aspects of the Government's existing action against drugs--including overseeing a Comprehensive Spending Review of existing drug resources. When this review is complete, he will advise Ministers on a new strategy.

ENVIRONMENT, TRANSPORT AND THE REGIONS

Structure Plan (West Sussex)

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what meetings he or Ministers in his Department had with representatives of the House-builders Federation to discuss matters relevant to the West Sussex structure plan between 2 May and 3 December 1997. [22897]

Mr. Raynsford: I will write to the hon. Member.

Train Overcrowding

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received about overcrowding of trains on the trans-Pennine routes; and if he will make a statement. [25275]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I have received 2 representations specifically about overcrowding on the trans--Pennine routes between Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield. Both representations were complaints about journeys affected by disruption which caused some cancellations and delays, affecting available capacity. The Franchising Director places an obligation on operators to avoid excessive overcrowding by requiring train operators to make reasonable endeavours to ensure that sufficient capacity is provided on each train.

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Airedale and Wharfdale Lines

Mrs. Ann Cryer: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received regarding services on the Airedale and Wharfdale lines, between Keighley, Shipley and Leeds and Ilkley, Ben Rhydding and Leeds. [25631]

Ms Glenda Jackson: I have received 15 representations specifically about the performance of rail services on the Airedale and Wharfdale lines between these points.

Performance on services in the West Yorkshire area has improved significantly in recent months as Regional Railways North East have reduced the impact of driver shortages. I want that improvement to be sustained.

Transport Safety

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions which United Kingdom transport operators have powers to prevent the publication of safety information relating to their operations. [25962]

Ms Glenda Jackson: No United Kingdom transport operators have powers to prevent the publication of safety information relating to their operations beyond those that are provided by normal rules of commercial confidentiality.

London Underground

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many letters he has received to date (a) supporting and (b) opposing the proposed privatisation of the London underground system; and if he will make a statement. [26053]

Ms Glenda Jackson: It was the previous Government which proposed the privatisation of London Underground. We are totally opposed to wholesale privatisation and are developing proposals for public-private partnership. We have received over eight hundred letters about the Underground since the election. While detailed figures are not kept, it is clear that, of those letters which referred to privatisation, only a handful supported it and the vast majority opposed it.

Health and Safety

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the role of the HSE in making available support for private prosecutions under health and safety at work legislation. [26257]

Angela Eagle: Private prosecutions under health and safety legislation can be brought with the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The role of the Health and Safety Executive in relation to a private prosecution would be to disclose to the parties, on request, any information available publicly under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information and/or the Environmental Information Regulations 1992, and any other information it has which the Court requires it to provide.

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Rail Services (Portsmouth)

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the reliability of the rail service from Portsmouth to London in each of the last three years; and if he will make a statement. [26058]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Franchising Director is responsible for monitoring train operators' performance and publishes performance details, though on groups of routes rather than on individual lines, in quarterly Bulletins. A copy of the Franchising Director's Bulletin is available in the House Library.

Empty Properties (NHS Trusts)

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will encourage health trusts that are disposing of property to liaise with local councils to use those properties for temporary housing or shelter for the homeless. [26143]

Mr. Raynsford: My Department has issued, in 1995, a Guidance Note for Departments entitled "Government Residential Property--Securing Better Use of Empty Homes", which encourages Government Departments to liaise with local authorities about the use of empty homes and encourages temporary letting, particularly when empty properties are not being sold immediately. It is for individual health trusts to decide for themselves how best to make use of surplus property, but the guidance was circulated to all trusts in June 1995 so that they could have regard to its advice.

Drinking Water

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposal he (a) advanced and (b) supported in respect of the maximum concentration of boron to be permitted in drinking water during discussion with EU partners on the Drinking Water Directive; and if he will make a statement. [26823]

Angela Eagle: The Commission proposed a standard of one milligramme per litre for boron. The Council in its Common Position unanimously accepted that value.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is his policy in respect of the terms of the amended EC Directive on Drinking Water as they relate to the powers given to exempt drinking water supplies (a) of less than 10 cubic metres of water per day and (b) serving 50 people or less from the terms of the directive; and if he will make a statement. [26821]

Angela Eagle: The proposal for a revised Drinking Water Directive is at the stage of the Council having agreed a Common Position. The proposal now goes to the European Parliament for Second Reading, before coming back to Council for consideration of any amendments. Policy on implementation cannot be decided until the terms of the Directive are settled, which may not be for some time.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the pesticides for which he sought relaxation of the maximum

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concentrations permitted in drinking water during discussions with EU partners on the Drinking Water Directive; and if he will make a statement. [26822]

Angela Eagle: No such relaxations were sought.

Planning Guidance

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to revise planning guidance in respect of the development of back garden land in urban and suburban areas. [26423]

Mr. Raynsford: I have no current plans to do so.

Rail Industry

Dr. Marek: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to take an equity stake in the rail industry in return for Government subsidy. [26564]

Ms Glenda Jackson: Renationalisation of the railways would be extremely costly and cannot be a priority given the other pressures on public expenditure. We therefore have no such plans. Our main task is to improve the railways as we found them, not as we would have wished them to be.


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