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Railway Incident, Bow Junction

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will call for a report from the Railway Inspectorate on the recent incident at Bow Junction. [68056]

Ms Glenda Jackson: A serious incident occurred at Bow Junction in East London on 8 October 1994 and was mentioned in paragraph 233 of the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways' Annual Report on Railway Safety for 1994-96. The cause of a failure of the signalling system was a series of failures in the design, commissioning and testing of intermediate stages of signalling works because of poor communications and lack of project management staff. The project was restarted only after all management and safety procedures had been examined, critically reviewed and rewritten or strengthened as necessary. In February/March 1995, HSE's Railway Inspectorate carried out a thorough audit of these new procedures. The audit team of four, led by a Principal Railway Inspector and including inspectors with railway signalling background, communicated their findings to Railtrack on 1 March 1995. The project has been continually monitored until its substantial completion last year.

Greater London Authority Headquarters

Mr. Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what advice he received recommending that the final shortlist for consideration as the new headquarters for the Greater London authority should contain three proposals. [67948]

1 Feb 1999 : Column: 465

Mr. Raynsford: Of the seven sites considered in detail, two schemes, London Bridge City and Victoria House, stood out. It would not have been right to have put other developers to the trouble and expense of working up their proposals when they had no chance of succeeding.

M6 (Staffordshire)

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress made by the Regional Planning Group on alternatives to M6 widening to relieve traffic congestion in Staffordshire. [68322]

Ms Glenda Jackson: My noble Friend the Minister for Roads and Road Safety on 10 December 1998, Official Report, House of Lords, column 110, as well as announcing the Programme of Trunk Road Starts in the West Midlands, took the opportunity to announce the start of the consultation with Regional Planning bodies on the programme of studies to address the most urgent problems on the Trunk Road network not addressed by schemes in the Targeted Programme of Improvements.

The West Midlands to North West Conurbation Study is scheduled to begin in the Summer of 1999. Consultation with the Regional Planning Conference will take place during the preparation of the consultants brief and at regular time throughout the life of the study.

As part of this multi-modal study, the consultants will be asked to indicate a comprehensive range of strategies that could be used to tackle the traffic problems of the area, including the possibility of modal shift especially for freight. All infrastructure improvements that are identified as a preferred option, whether road or other modes, will be assessed against the New Approach to Appraisal.

Packaging Waste Regulations

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects to announce changes to the Packaging Waste Regulations. [68247]

Mr. Meale: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Environment on Thursday 28 January 1999, Official Report, columns 335-37.

Social Services (SSAs)

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list (a) by social services authority and (b) in total (i) the standard spending assessment for personal social services in 1998-99, (ii) the standard spending assessment for personal social services in 1999-2000, (iii) the difference between (i) and (ii), (iv) the difference expressed as a percentage, (v) the special transitional grant for 1998-99, (vi) the difference between standard spending assessment for personal social services in 1999-2000 and the standard spending assessment for personal social services in 1998-99 combined totalled with special transitional grant for 1998-99 and (vii) the difference in (vi) expressed as a percentage. [68367]

Ms Armstrong: The figures requested have been placed, in the form requested, in the Library of the House.

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The comparison which they provide is, however, misleading. This is because they do not reflect the Comprehensive Spending Review's full provision for personal social services, which started from a zero base, looking at expenditure needs afresh. The only fair comparison is to look at total resources provided for social services which, in aggregate, show a 6.1 per cent. cash increase or a 3.5 per cent. real terms increase between 1998-99 and 1999-2000. The increased resources we are making available will meet the costs of looking after existing and new community care clients, and enable local authorities to deliver real improvements in services.

Employees at Risk

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what assessment he has made of the opportunities available under current legislation to take steps to reduce the risk of violence to employees whose job brings them into face to face contact with the public. [68372]

Mr. Meale: I have looked carefully at this issue. There has been a lot of good work done by the Health and Safety Commission and Executive. However, I want to examine what other measures are available. I have therefore written to the Health and Safety Commission to ask for advice on options for further action that will have a positive impact on preventing work-related violence.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to require the Health and Safety Executive to advise employers about measures that can be taken to reduce the risk to employees of violence at work. [68373]

Mr. Meale: None at present. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has already issued general guidance and sector specific guidance for the retail and finance sectors. The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has also issued sector specific guidance for the health care and education sectors. Health and Safety Inspectors also offer advice in the course of their normal contact with employers and employees.

Once I have received advice from the HSC, I will be able to consider what further action is necessary.

Mr. Clapham: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions he has had with (a) trade unions and (b) employers about violence at work; and if he will make a statement. [68374]

Mr. Meale: When I replied to a Private Member's Debate on health and safety proposed by my hon. Friend on 4 November 1998, Official Report, columns 804-06, I stressed that this Government would not tolerate violence and aggression towards working people. I have continued to promote that message whenever I can, especially during the meetings I have with trade unions and employers. I also continue to draw attention to the issue in the many speeches I make about health and safety. Recent occasions when I have done so were speeches I made at the National Health and Safety Groups Council on 28 January and the AEEU National Academy of Safety and Health on 14 September 1998.

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In addition, both trade unions and employers participate in the Interdepartmental Committee on Violence to Staff (ICVS) which is chaired by the Health and Safety Executive.

Road Closures

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions on how many occasions in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available were the (a) A62, (b) M62, (c) A66 and (d) A69 closed due to inclement weather. [68168]

Ms Glenda Jackson: From the records that are available, the numbers of closures are as follows:












Full closure Partial closure (HGVs and caravans)
YearNumber of timesReasonNumber of timesReason
1999 (to date)----3High wind
19983Snow/ice19High wind
19971Snow/ice16High wind
199613Snow/ice26High wind
19956Snow/ice18High wind
19944Snow/iceNo records available
19934Snow/iceNo records available



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