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Rail Safety

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of (a) staffing reductions and (b) dividend payments by Railtrack on the performance of its rail safety responsibilities. [63645]

Ms Glenda Jackson: Under the Railways (Safety Case) Regulations 1994, reductions in staffing levels would require amendment to a Railway Safety Case where this might affect safety. The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE's) Railway Inspectorate monitors compliance with the Regulations and will take whatever action it considers appropriate to ensure safety is not compromised.

Dividend payments are a commercial matter for Railtrack's Board of Directors.

15 Dec 1998 : Column: 438

Members Car Parking Charges

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on his plans for introducing car parking charges for hon. Members within the parliamentary estate; and what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the financial incentives of the scheme. [63632]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Greater London Authority Bill will enable London's elected Mayor to levy a charge on non-residential workplace parking. Alternatively the London Borough of Westminster will be able to introduce a levy within its boundary, subject to the agreement of the Mayor. The Bill provides that, if any scheme is brought forward in the Westminster area, it will be able to apply to the parliamentary estate. The charge would be payable by the Corporate Officer of the House. Whether or not to pass the charge on to individual Members would be for the House itself to determine.

Railways (Carnet Tickets)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what is his policy in respect of the issuing of carnet tickets by train operating companies. [63644]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Government's White Paper on the Future of Transport (Cm 3950) made it clear that we consider that carnets are a desirable alternative to season tickets. They would be a particular benefit to part-time workers as well as occasional travellers and we wish to encourage all rail (and indeed other transport) operators to offer them as part of their ticketing range. The current arrangements for fares are a consequence of legally binding franchise agreements inherited from the previous Government. When opportunities arise for negotiating franchises, the structure and marketing of fares is one of the areas in which the new Strategic Rail Authority will look for improvements.

Local Transport Plans

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received on his proposals with regard to local transport plans. [63555]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Government's proposals for local transport plans were announced in the White Paper on the future of transport "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone". We have received numerous representations following the White Paper, many of which have included consideration of local transport plans. These helped inform our draft guidance for local authorities on local transport plans, which was published for consultation on 12 November. The consultation period ends on 8 January 1999.

Local Agenda 21

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he has received from local authorities on the Local Agenda 21 environmental strategies. [63554]

Mr. Meale: We receive representations on a range of matters relating to sustainable development, including from local authorities on Local Agenda 21 strategies.

15 Dec 1998 : Column: 439

Pesticides

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) if he will make it his policy to exclude pesticides used in horticulture from the proposed environmental tax on pesticides; and if he will make a statement; [64031]

Mr. Meale: The Government have not made a proposal for a pesticide tax. However, my Department has commissioned extensive research into the scope for a pesticide tax or charge, including sectoral usage, consideration of price elasticities of demand for different pesticides, and the impact on users, manufacturers and suppliers. The Government will take this work fully into account in reaching a decision on whether to introduce such an instrument.

Scotland Act 1998 (Schedules)

Mr. Swinney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the offices or agencies under his control which will be subject to L.2 of Head L in Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998; how many people are currently employed in these offices; and what equal opportunities practices are adopted in these offices. [63806]

Mr. Meale: I will write to the hon. Member with this information, and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

Northern Line

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what extra funds his Department has given to London Underground since August 1998 for the provision of the new trains on the Northern Line. [64112]

Ms Glenda Jackson: The Department does not provide funds specifically for the new Northern Line trains. However, when making decisions on the overall level of funding for London Transport, the Government take into account the payments which London Transport are required to pay to PFI contractors. This includes the deal with ALSTOM for the new Northern Line trains.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list (a) the number of train cancellations and (b) the punctuality performance on Northern Line services for each day since 1 November. [64105]

Ms Glenda Jackson: This information is not available in the form requested. London Underground measure their performance against a series of Key Performance Indicators and data on performance are collected for weekdays only and presented for each 4-week period.

In the period from 9 November to 4 December, a total of 406 trains were cancelled at weekday morning and evening peak times out of a total number of 3,360 scheduled trains. This means that 87.9 per cent. of scheduled trains were in service during the period compared with the target of 98.3 per cent.

15 Dec 1998 : Column: 440

London Underground base their punctuality measure on whether the scheduled time interval between trains--the 'headway'--was achieved. This is expressed as a percentage of the total number of headways during weekdays. The following table sets out the latest data available from London Underground and covers the period from 2 November to Friday 4 December (inclusive).

DatePercentage of headways achieved
2 November89.3
3 November91.2
4 November90.5
5 November85.1
6 November88.4
9 November85.0
10 November85.4
11 November88.5
12 November89.3
13 November92.4
16 November91.7
17 November88.4
18 November88.2
19 November88.6
20 November88.8
23 November90.2
24 November92.5
25 November91.9
26 November89.3
27 November91.0
30 November83.7
1 December86.5
2 December79.5
3 December89.6
4 December84.9
Target94.4

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many complaints his Department has received concerning the service on the Northern Line since 1 September. [64106]

Ms Glenda Jackson: Since 1 September the Department has received 26 letters relating wholly or mainly to the poor service on the Northern Line. Establishing the total number of letters which refer to poor performance on the Northern Line could be done only at disproportionate cost, because letters are often wide-ranging and only the main issue raised is logged.

Building Regulations (Control Charges)

Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what progress has been made on devolving the setting of Building Regulations control charges to individual local authorities in England and Wales. [64386]

Mr. Raynsford: A consultation paper on draft regulations to devolve the setting of Building Regulations control charges to individual local authorities in England and Wales with building control functions, was published in June this year. Having considered the responses I announced my decision on 31 July to proceed to lay regulations with a coming into force date of 1 April next year. I have today laid those regulations before Parliament. They are entitled "The Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 1998".

15 Dec 1998 : Column: 441

An essential part of operating this new system of charging will be the making of a Scheme by each local authority responsible for building control in order to fix those charges and administer the charging process. The Department is therefore publishing a Circular whose primary purpose is to give guidance to local authorities on how to produce a Scheme. This will be available shortly.


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