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Refurbishment

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 21 January 2002, Official Report, column 571W, what the cost of refurbishing each ministerial private office was in each year since May 1997. [37887]

Dr. Whitehead: The cost of refurbishment works in ministerial accommodation since May 1997 is as follows:

£

YearApproximate cost (exclusive of VAT)
1997–98138,000
1998–9912,300
1999–20006,200
2000–012,100


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Fire Authority Funding

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the Government will make a decision on funding to fire authorities in England and Wales for the additional costs of emergency planning following the events of 11 September 2001; and if he will make a statement. [37886]

Dr. Whitehead: We are providing £53 million funding for the fire service to give further protection to the public and emergency services in the event of a major chemical, biological or radiological attack. The funding would provide new equipment, including decontamination facilities for members of the public and personal protective equipment for firefighters.

In view of the heightened levels of threat following the events of 11 September, we want to ensure that the fire service has the necessary equipment to protect the public and the emergency services should an attack occur. Detailed contingency plans are already in place and responses to a range of different threats, including chemical, biological and radiological, are tested regularly in exercises. This new equipment will further increase the level of preparedness.

Political Parties and Elections

Mr. Moss: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what proposals his Department has to introduce legislation relating to the regulation of (a) political parties and (b) elections in the next 12 months. [37851]

Dr. Whitehead: When parliamentary time permits, we intend to introduce legislation to adjust the numbers of UK MEPs consequent upon enlargement of the European Union and to enfranchise Gibraltar for the European parliamentary elections. Current plans for secondary legislation this session include regulations about the sale of the electoral register under section 9 of the Representation of the People Act 2000 and regulations to re-commence section 143 of, and paragraph 14 of Schedule 18 to, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 relating to election publications.

Railtrack

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment has been undertaken by (a) his Department and (b) the HSE of (i) the work undertaken by Global Crossing within the railway industry, (ii) the safety critical functions of Global Crossing within the railway industry, (iii) the nature of the contract between Global Crossing and Railtrack and (iv) progress towards meeting a timetable for the implementation of safety improvement in the railway industry by Global Crossing. [34977]

Mr. Jamieson: Racal Telecom (now Global Crossing) have a contractual arrangement with Railtrack, which is a commercial matter between the companies. There are no agreements between Racal Telcom/Global Crossing and either the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or my Department. Global Crossing supplies telecom and associated services to the British rail industry. Railtrack as infrastructure manager retains overall responsibility for safety. HSE advise that there have been no prosecutions against Racal Telecom or Global Crossing since 1 April

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1999, or enforcement notices since 1 April 2001. HSE data from before this date are not available without incurring disproportionate cost.

Level Crossing, East Tilbury

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will request the appropriate safety agencies to investigate the frequency of failures to the level crossing gates at East Tilbury on the LTS line, and the consequent ability of vehicles of the emergency services to gain access to East Tilbury; and if he will make a statement. [36852]

Mr. Jamieson: The Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) Railway Inspectorate is aware of the recent problems experienced with equipment at the East Tilbury Level Crossing. The HSE advise that technicians have always arrived on site immediately to rectify these problems and that provision has been made for the emergency services to be able to communicate directly with Railtrack regarding any emergency issues.

M25

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make it his policy not to widen the M25 between junctions 12 and 15 within the vicinity of terminal 5. [36853]

Mr. Jamieson: The decision to widen the M25 between Junctions 12 and 15 was made as part of the Roads Review announced in July 1998. This section of road was already severely congested and widening within the existing motorway boundary was considered to be and remains the most appropriate solution. The more recent decision to approve the construction of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport will necessitate the construction of a new access road (T5 Spur Road) from T5 to the M25 between Junctions 14 and 15. Both sets of improvements can now be designed and constructed at the same time to limit the delays during construction.

Electronic Voting

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what information he has collated on the proportion of the population in each 10-year age band that has sufficient (a) access to equipment and (b) training to be able to vote from home this year. [38042]

Dr. Whitehead: We have given approval to 31 local authorities to run electoral modernisation pilot schemes in this May's local and mayoral elections. We have been careful to ensure that all sectors of the electorate—young and old, and those with physical disabilities including the visually impaired—are not disadvantaged by the new arrangements. Where authorities pilot internet or other online voting techniques, these will be run alongside traditional methods of voting so that a person can choose to vote at the polling station or by postal vote on demand.

We will be asking authorities piloting all postal ballots to provide for those visually impaired electors who wish to use the voting device allowing them to vote in secret. Pilot authorities are working closely with disability groups and others in the run-up to the elections, and will provide information and advice on how the different ways of

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voting work. Following these elections, the Electoral Commission will carry out an extensive evaluation of the pilot programme which will provide more information on specific voting patterns and how we go about establishing modern voting methods.

Deeside Park Junction Study

Ms Christine Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he has considered the recommendations of the North West Regional Assembly following completion of the A550/ A5117 Deeside Park Junction Study; and if he will make a statement. [39373]

Mr. Spellar: I have today written to the Leader of the North West Regional Assembly and a copy of this letter has been placed in the House of Commons Library, together with a copy of the Department's Press Notice.

The Deeside Park Junction Study was commissioned by the Government as part of their 10-year Plan for Transport. The study looked at ways to improve safety and congestion on this strategic section of route between the M56 and the Welsh Border.

In my letter to the Assembly I outline my support for the recommendations made by the study. I am pleased to say that the scheme for on line improvements to the route, which includes the grade separation of the three junctions, is to be added to the Targeted Programme of Improvements with immediate effect. I am also encouraging the local authorities to take forward the other study recommendations.

This is good news for motorists in Deeside and North Wales and the improvements will reduce not only congestion and delays but also accidents. This route serves the expanding Deeside Industrial Park and is the main route into North Wales and the Port of Holyhead and these improvements will help the further economic regeneration of the region.

Decontamination Facilities

Mr. Borrow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will make a statement on the provision of funding for mass decontamination facilities. [39514]

Dr. Whitehead: We are providing £53 million funding for the fire service to give further protection to the public and emergency services in the event of a major chemical, biological or radiological attack. The funding would provide new equipment, including decontamination facilities for members of the public and personal protective equipment for firefighters.

In view of the heightened levels of threat following the events of 11 September, we want to ensure that the fire service has the necessary equipment to protect the public and the emergency services should an attack occur. Detailed contingency plans are already in place and responses to a range of different threats, including chemical, biological and radiological, are tested regularly in exercises. This new equipment will further increase the level of preparedness.

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