Previous Section Index Home Page

Rail Safety

Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what advice he has received from the Chief Inspector of Railways on the effectiveness of the railway safety regime in place since rail privatisation; and if he will list the relevant papers and place copies in the Library. [99313]

Mr. Hill [holding answer 23 November 1999]: The Health and Safety Commission, together with the Health and Safety Executive (of which the Railway Inspectorate forms a part) is the sole rail safety regulator and advises my right hon. Friend on rail safety.

Soon after the election, we made it clear that the HSC should bring forward whatever regulations they considered necessary to improve rail safety. Following public consultation, they recommended regulations to bring forward the elimination of slam-door rolling stock and install train protection systems across the network, which following signature by my right hon. Friend, were laid before Parliament in August this year.

In October this year the HSC sent my right hon. Friend interim advice on Railtrack's Safety and Standards Directorate.

Advice on the effectiveness of the railway safety regime is also included in the Chief Inspector of Railways' Annual Report on Railway Safety, and his provisional annual safety statistics.

All these documents are available in the Library.

24 Nov 1999 : Column: 113W

Independent Safety Authority

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what estimate he has produced of the cost of establishing an independent safety authority covering maritime, rail and aviation sectors of transport; [99618]

Mr. Hill: In response to recommendations from the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Select Committee, the Government are reviewing the principles which should govern how transport safety is regulated and accidents investigated. The review is looking, among other things, at the case for a new safety authority which would embrace all of the transport modes, including roads. If it is decided that there would be benefits, including for safety, in making changes to the present arrangements, the Government will consider the most cost effective way of implementing them.

Biodiversity Protocol

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what representations he is making to his counterparts in the EU concerning the enforcement of a Biodiversity Protocol to be discussed in Montreal next January. [99495]

Mr. Meacher: The UK and the EU are considering the concepts discussed at the informal consultations on the Biosafety Protocol held by the President of the Extraordinary Conference of the Parties (Ex-COP), Minister Mayr, in Vienna in September. I have put the UK views to my Ministerial colleagues at meetings of the Environment Council. The Environment Council is next due to discuss the Protocol and agree the framework for the negotiators at its meeting on December 13 and 14. The draft text of the protocol contains an article that the Parties to the Protocol would, at their first meeting, consider and approve cooperative procedures and institutional mechanisms to promote compliance with the provisions of the Protocol, and to address cases of non-compliance.

Local Government Finance

Ms Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the provisional local government finance settlement for 2000-2001. [99885]

Ms Armstrong: I will make a statement in the House tomorrow announcing the Government's proposals for the local government finance settlement 2000-2001.

Hammersmith and Fulham Executive Mayor

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he or any of his ministers last met the Executive Mayor of Hammersmith and Fulham; what the date was of that meeting; what was discussed at the meeting; and who else was present at the meeting. [98665]

Ms Beverley Hughes: My right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and the Regions met my hon. Friends the Members for Ealing, Acton and

24 Nov 1999 : Column: 114W

Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley), for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Coleman) and for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble) on 4 November to discuss local government reform, including local government finance and the ongoing review of possible alternatives to Standard Spending Assessments, asylum seekers and homelessness, and how these relate to Hammersmith and Fulham. The Executive Mayor, the First Deputy and the Chief Executive of Hammersmith and Fulham also attended and took part in the discussions.

I apologise that this information was not included in the answer I gave to the hon. Member on 11 November 1999, Official Report, column 699, in response to a similar question. The hon. Member will now know that I wrote to him on 17 November, as soon as the error became known, with the correct information and placed a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

National Land Information Service

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress made in developing the National Land Information Service. [98746]

Jane Kennedy: I have been asked to reply.

Following a successful pilot of the National Land Information Service in Bristol, the project is now being prepared for full commercial exploitation. As a first step, the Local Government Information House, on behalf of HM Land Registry and the Improvement and Development Agency, is seeking a contractor to deliver services that will provide online access to Land Registry and local authority data. The Lord Chancellor launched the prospectus, calling for responses from organisations interested in supplying the new service, on 8 October 1999. Responses are now being evaluated and potential suppliers shortlisted.

This is a very exciting project that fully supports the "Modernising government" agenda. When implemented, it will facilitate faster and easier access to land information and make an important contribution to speeding up the house buying and selling process.


Departmental Expenditure

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much his Department has spent in (a) legal fees, (b) travel costs and (c) other expenses in opposing the application at the European Court of Human Rights by former servicemen and servicewomen challenging the ban on homosexuals joining Her Majesty's Forces. [98587]

Mr. Spellar: The Department has spent £25,000 in legal fees and approximately £1,000 in associated Departmental travel and subsistence costs in contesting the European Court of Human Rights application by homosexual ex-Service personnel.

24 Nov 1999 : Column: 115W

Gulf War Syndrome

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in respect of how many service personnel the cause of illness sustained during the Gulf War campaign has still not been identified. [98580]

Mr. Spellar: I will write to my hon. Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Saffron Sands

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how long the troops assigned to the Saffron Sands exercise will be in Jordan; and when they are expected to return. [99415]

Mr. Spellar: Exercise Saffron Sands 99 took place in Jordan between 26 September and 31 October 1999. All members of the battalion participating in the exercise were back in Cyprus by 3 November 1999.

East Timor

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many United Kingdom soldiers are participating in the international peacekeeping force in East Timor. [99301]

Mr. Spellar: As at 22 November 1999, there were 275 British Service personnel serving with the international peacekeeping force in East Timor (INTERFET), consisting of 262 Army personnel--of which 218 are from 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles--12 RAF personnel and one Royal Marine.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Indonesian pilots have been trained in the UK in each of the last five years; and how this training has been funded. [99299]

Mr. Spellar: One Indonesian pilot attended a training course at RAF Valley in 1995, funded by the Ministry of Defence. No other training of Indonesian pilots has been carried out or funded by the MOD in the last five years. Training under commercial auspices is a matter for the companies concerned.


Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what military personnel assistance his Department provides to Colombia; and for what purposes. [99430]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 23 November 1999]: UK military assistance is provided to Colombia to meet specific requests. Examples of training provided over the last ten years include Explosive Ordnance Disposal, search techniques and some assistance to the counter- narcotics authorities. In addition, advisory visits and information exchanges have taken place on operations in urban theatres, counter-guerrilla strategy, and psychiatry. Military assistance offered to the Colombians generally includes human rights elements.

Next Section Index Home Page