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Aircraft Noise

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions further to his answers of 5 July 2001, Official Report, column 243W, and 23 October 2001, Official Report, column 194W, on aircraft noise and night flights, when he will publish the Government's response to his Department's consultation on the control of noise from civil aircraft; and if he will make a statement. [31066]

Mr. Jamieson: Many of the proposals set out in our consultation paper "Control of noise from civil aircraft" (July 2000) concerned enabling powers relating to noise policy issues that will be dealt with in the air transport White Paper. There are also relevant provisions in the recently proposed EC Directive on "the establishment of rules and procedures with regard to the introduction of noise related operating restrictions at Community airports". Having examined the responses to the consultation paper in this context, we have decided that it would be more appropriate to announce conclusions on the enabling powers in the White Paper itself.

Responses to the consultation are available for inspection at the Department's offices. We shall shortly publish a summary.

Merchant Ships

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to ensure that crews on ships (a) registered in the UK and (b) sailing in UK waters comply with international safety standards. [30748]

Mr. Jamieson: International safety standards for seafarers are enshrined in the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping 1978, as revised in 1995, known as STCW 95. Those

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standards are implemented in the UK through the Merchant Shipping (Training and Certification) Regulations 1997 and the Merchant Shipping (Safe Manning, Hours of Work and Watchkeeping) Regulations 1997.

All Parties to the STCW 95 Convention have until 1 February 2002 to comply with the requirements of the Convention. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Merchant Navy Training Board (MNTB) have worked closely to ensure that all maritime training courses properly reflect STCW 95.

To comply with the revised international standards, and to revalidate their certificates under STCW 95, seafarers have to undertake further short courses in, for example, Advanced Fire Fighting and Proficiency in Survival Craft and Fast Rescue Boats.

Seafarers holding foreign Certificates of Competency will only be able to sail on UK registered ships if the country issuing the certificate has been assessed by the MCA to be of STCW 95 standard with training equivalent to that of the UK. The certificates of seafarers on foreign registered ships calling at UK ports are checked as part of the inspections carried out under the Port State Control regime.

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to improve the recruitment rate of merchant ships' officers. [30749]

Mr. Jamieson: Recruitment is a matter for the individual shipping companies themselves. There are Government measures, however, to assist and encourage the training and employment of British seafarers. We provide financial support for seafarer training through the Support for Maritime Training (SMarT) scheme. Following a review of SMarT in autumn/winter 2000 and the receipt of EU state aid clearance, additional courses will be included in the scheme and levels of funding will be increased. We introduced the tonnage tax option as part of the Finance Act 2000, a key feature of which is a minimum training obligation. This feature is unique to the UK, and requires each shipping company opting for the tonnage tax to recruit and train one officer trainee each year for every 15 officer posts in its fleet and also give consideration to employment and training opportunities for ratings.

Train Reliability

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the reliability of each train operating company over the last six months. [31122]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 28 January 2002]: Performance figures and commentary are published in the Strategic Rail Authority's six monthly "On Track" publication, copies of which are placed in the Library of the House. The latest edition, published in December 2001, covers the six months from 1 April to 13 October 2001.

Railway Capacity

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 23 January 2002, Official Report,

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column 871W, what is the (a) current and (b) expected capacity of the (i) London to Southampton and London to Portsmouth and (ii) Bristol to Portsmouth railway lines; by when the expected capacity will be achieved; and if he will ensure that new franchise arrangements for Island Line provide for effective connections with the London to Portsmouth line, even when its services run late. [31089]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 28 January 2002]: There is no simple measure of capacity on the network. The part of the network used by the South West Trains franchise is congested in a few particular areas, especially where lines converge in the approaches to London. Under the proposed new franchise agreement Stagecoach plan a revision of the timetable to permit an increase in the number of trains into Waterloo from September 2003. Some new trains have already been introduced by SWT, providing additional capacity, and a further tranche are due to enter service at the end of 2002. In the longer term work to lengthen platforms will allow longer trains to operate on the Southampton and Portsmouth routes.

The SRA are developing a franchise proposition for the replacement of the Island Line franchise. The authority are well aware of the importance of connections between trains, ferries and buses.

Combined Fire Authorities

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will take steps to separate precepting for combined fire authorities. [31282]

Dr. Whitehead: We announced at paragraph 6.53 of Part II of the Local Government White Paper "Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services", published on 11 December, proposals to take the legislative steps necessary to make combined fire authorities in England major precepting authorities. A copy of the White Paper is in the Library and is also available on the DTLR website:

Rail Services (Romford)

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on rail services to Romford since June 2001. [29448]

Mr. Jamieson: The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) does not monitor performance by route group. However, the SRA's public performance measure indicates that 85.6 per cent. of First Great Eastern services, which include services to and from Romford, arrived at their destination within five minutes of timetable between July and October 2001. As part of the SRA's franchise replacement process it is intended that the First Great Eastern franchise will form part of a new Greater Anglia franchise from 2004. This will provide an opportunity for the Strategic Rail Authority to secure improvements in performance and quality of service for passengers.

Air Transport Industry (Insurance Costs)

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment he has made of the impact of the level of insurance costs imposed on the air transport industry following the events of 11 September. [31285]

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Mr. Jamieson: The Government are aware that following the events of 11 September there has been a significant increase in the cost of insurance for the air transport industry. This is primarily a commercial matter, and we would expect the increased premia to be passed on to users of air transport services in the normal way.

In the case of third-party war and terrorism risks there was a market failure, with the insurance industry withdrawing cover above minimum levels in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks. In response the Government intervened to guarantee levels of cover for airlines up to the amounts held prior to 11 September, with similar arrangements for airports and ground service providers. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has recently announced that this scheme, as subsequently amended, will be carried over till 20 March 2002.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas

Mr. David Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what estimate he has made of the numbers of (a) private and (b) commercial vehicles running on LPG fuel in (a) 1997, (b) 1998, (c) 1999, (d) 2000, (e) 2001, (f) 2002 and (g) 2003. [31278]

Mr. Jamieson: DVLA statistics do not provide a breakdown by fuel type, only vehicles that are dedicated gas or petrol/gas combinations. The following table shows the number of vehicles that are dedicated gas or petrol/gas combination, by tax class as they do not distinguish between private and commercial usage. DVLA statistics also do not distinguish between Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) and Natural Gas vehicles. However, cars and light commercial vehicles tend to use LPG, while heavier vehicles use natural gas:

Private and Light Goods6,68910,12114,42121,09823,533
Goods vehicles7593141171227
Special vehicles1,3271,2811,3101,3941,413
Other vehicles9659861,0411,1841,381

But this understates the number of vehicles because not all conversions to alternative fuelling are notified to DVLA.

There are currently estimated to be around 50,000 LPG vehicles in the UK. Motorists are converting to LPG at an increasing rate, with the number expected to increase by about 25,000 per year over the next two years, prompted by the Government grants available, and the fact that low-cost LPG fuel is now available in all areas of the country.

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