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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 5 November 2002



Bob Spink: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office if he will ensure that a reference number and, where appropriate, the name and address of the constituent concerned is given in correspondence with hon. Members from Government Departments. [79040]

Mr. Alexander: The Cabinet Office document XHandling Correspondence from Members of Parliament: Guidance to Departments" sets out the principles Departments should follow when replying to correspondence from MPs. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House.

The format of individual replies is a matter for the Minister concerned.

Focus Group Research

Mr. Graham Allen: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office whether commissions for focus group research by Government Departments are subject to competitive tender. [78415]

Mr. Alexander: Overall procurement policy is a matter for the Office of Government Commerce . I can answer for the practice only in the Cabinet Office, the Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA) and the Central Office of Information (COI).

The rules for procuring focus group research are the same as for procuring other types of service. In the Cabinet Office, commissions estimated to cost #10,000 or more are normally subject to formal competitive tendering. Commissions estimated to cost less than #10,000 are normally awarded following receipt of competitive quotations.

The GCDA does not commission focus group research. However the COI does, not on its own behalf but on behalf of its government clients. In such cases COI asks three of its roster of suppliers (appointed competitively under EC procurement rules) to submit proposals and costs; the supplier providing the best value for money proposal is appointed. On occasion, the client requires urgent research and COI appoints the roster supplier that it considers to be the appropriate agency for the work.

Non-governmental Organisations

Mr. Norman Lamb: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what plans he has to receive representations from non-governmental organisations as part of the interdepartmental discussions on

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Criterion 8 of the Consolidated Criteria relating to sustainable development being facilitated by his Office. [71536]

Ms. Hewitt: I have been asked to reply. I apologise for the delay in replying. The interdepartmental discussions on improving procedures for assessing relevant export licence applications against criterion 8 of the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria have already been completed. The results were published on 31 July 2002, Official Report, columns 309 12W.



Mr. Norman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the local public exhibition of the revised proposals for improvements to the A21 Tonbridge to Pembury stretch is due to be held. [79413]

Mr. Jamieson: I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, Tim Matthews, to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Tim Matthews to Archie Norman, dated 5 November 2002:

Air Travel Trust Fund

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 15 January, Official Report, column 208W, what plans he has to introduce legislation to provide powers to impose a levy to recoup the costs of the Air Travel Trust Fund; what action he plans to take to defray their debts; and what contingency plans he has made to deal with the situation following the collapse of a travel company; and if he will make a statement. [78797]

Mr. Jamieson: As my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport said previously, we will introduce a draft Bill to secure the necessary powers to impose a levy when a suitable legislative opportunity arises. The debts of the Air Travel Trust Fund (ATTF) are currently covered by a commercial loan backed by Government guarantee.

In the event of a collapse of a travel organiser which offers holidays including air travel, the Civil Aviation Authority would, under the terms of the Air Travel

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Organisers Licence (ATOL) scheme, refund or repatriate those customers affected. The Government would ensure that any subsequent calls on the ATTF would be met.

Bus Passengers

Jeremy Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information is collated by his Department on bus passengers and bus passenger miles travelled in Greater London in each year since 1997; what estimate his Department has made for 2003–04; and if he will make a statement. [79634]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department collects information on the number of bus passenger journeys made each year in Greater London, details are set out as follows:

In addition, the National Travel Survey collects information on the characteristics of bus passengers in Greater London (but excludes foreign tourists) and details of journey purpose and frequency.

Although not collected by the Department, details of the bus passenger satisfaction survey sponsored by Transport for London (TfL) are published by the Department each quarter in XTransport Statistics Bulletin: Bus Quality Indicators: England", which is held in the Libraries of the House.

The Department does not collect or collate information on bus passenger miles travelled in Greater London, although details can be found in the TfL publication, XTransport Statistics for London 2001" (also in the Library).

Bus passenger journeys in Greater London

YearPassenger journeys million


Department for Transport annual survey of public service vehicle operators and Transport for London.

The Department has not made an estimate of passenger journeys or passenger miles in Greater London for 2003–04, although Transport for London has produced some estimates in its Business Plan available on the TfL web site at:

www.transportforlondon.gov.uk/tfl/reports library business.shtml

Car Number Plates

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action is being taken to tackle illegal car number plate duplication. [79754]

Mr. Jamieson: We are taking active and immediate steps to tackle this difficult problem. The Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001 contains measures to require all number plates suppliers in England and Wales to register with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). This requirement will come into force on 1 January 2003 and will ensure that in future number plates are only sold by registered suppliers to a purchaser who can show proof of entitlement to that

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registration mark and proof of their own identity. Records will be kept of all sales for inspection by police or local authority trading standards officers.

Since September 2001 all number plates issued have had to display the name and postcode of the supplying outlet.

Car Sharing

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to encourage car sharing. [79335]

Mr. Jamieson: In August my Department published and disseminated to all local authorities and other major employers in England a guide on XMaking travel plans work: lessons from UK case studies" which highlighted successful car-sharing schemes set up by employers as part of their travel plans. A copy of the guide is in the Library of the House. The Government will shortly be responding to the report commissioned by the Motorists' Forum on car sharing and car clubs in which we will set out our plans for further work to encourage car sharing.

Disused Railway Track Beds

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much has been spent in each of the past five years in (a) feasibility studies into the possible re-opening of disused railway lines and (b) re-opening closed lines. [79087]

Mr. Jamieson: Although the Strategic Rail Authority undertakes, from time to time, project development work including feasibility studies, it is not possible to identify readily those elements that relate specifically to the re-opening of railway lines. Feasibility studies are also undertaken by other stakeholders, including local authorities.

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