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7 Jan 2003 : Column 95W—continued

EU Structure

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Prime Minister to whom his speech of 28 November on the future structure of the European Union was distributed prior to delivery; and whether it has been presented to the Convention on the Future of Europe. [88710]

The Prime Minister: My speech was not distributed outside Government prior to delivery. After the speech, the text was passed to interested parties including members of the Convention on the Future of Europe, and as usual it is available on the No. 10 website.

Turkey (EU Accession)

Keith Vaz: To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the European Council decision to postpone negotiations on Turkey's accession to the EU; and what steps he plans to take to assist Turkey's accession. [89022]

The Prime Minister: The Copenhagen European Council marked a step forward in Turkey's accession to the EU. It decided that if the European Council in December 2004, on the basis of a report and a recommendation from the Commission, decides that

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Turkey fulfils the Copenhagen political criteria, the European Union will open accession negotiations with Turkey without delay.

The new UK Action Plan for Turkey includes a wide range of bilateral reform initiatives, aimed at helping Turkey prepare for EU membership.

Written Constitution

Mr. Allen: To ask the Prime Minister what recent discussions he has had on establishing a written constitution for the UK. [88926]

The Prime Minister: None.


Aircraft Security

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to improve security checks on aircraft users from non-UK based airlines, flying into the UK; and if he will make a statement. [88444]

Mr. Jamieson: The UK supports the principle of host state responsibility, whereby each state is responsible for the security of civil aircraft leaving that state. This is enshrined in Annex 17 to the Chicago Convention 1944.

My Department liaises closely with international fora such as the International Civil Aviation Organisation, European Civil Aviation Conference and the European Union to improve aviation security standards across the world. The UK has contributed to the development of EU regulations which are about to be published, making basic security standards mandatory in the Union. In addition, there is also close liaison with the US Transport Security Administration, the Israeli Security Agency and equivalent bodies of other key international partners on aviation security issues.

Using the powers of the Aviation Security Act 1982, all non-UK carriers flying into the UK have been required since 11 November to ensure that all flight doors are locked while in UK airspace or on the ground while the engines are in operation, that the flight crew do not leave the flight deck other than for certain specified reasons, and that passengers cannot obtain access to the flight deck while in UK airspace.

As regards UK carrier operations from overseas airports, my Department issues guidance on the recommended security measures that should be implemented where the threat to those operations dictates. Departmental inspectors have been undertaking a programme of visits to particular locations to assess the security afforded to and carried out by UK carriers and, where appropriate, liaise with the relevant authorities to improve standards. The frequency and coverage of these inspections has been stepped up significantly in recent months.

My Department will shortly be establishing Regional Aviation Security Advisers in East Africa and the Middle East. Their role will be to advise and assist the relevant authorities to improve aviation security standards in those areas and to assess and influence how

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flights to the UK are secured. Further appointments are planned for West Africa, South East Asia and the Indian sub-continent later in the year.

Airport Capacity

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the outside consultancy firms which have been appointed to undertake work in connection with his consultation on airport capacity in the South East, together with (a) the tasks assigned and (b) the value of the contracts awarded in each case; and if he will make a statement. [88280]

Mr. Jamieson: The following table lists the organisations that have carried out work on the South East and East of England Regional Air Services (SERAS) Study and have provided advisory support for the Future Development of Air Transport in the United Kingdom (South East) consultation. Their areas of expertise are also indicated. The total cost of their work since the SERAS study began in January 2000 is approximately #5 million. This does not include NOP and Avia Solutions, as their costs cannot be broken down by region.

Organisation Area of expertise
Civil Aviation Authority Noise, airspace
Halcrow Fox SERAS managing consultants, wide range of appraisal work
Ove Arup & Partners Airport optioneering, land use and urbanisation
AEA Technology Air quality
Scott Wilson New airport site search, environmental appraisal
QinetiQ Climate change
Crown Business Communications Event management
Avia Solutions Response analysis
NOP Questionnaire analysis
NATS Air traffic control
Booz Allen Hamilton New south east airport: airline development

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many people have responded to his consultation on the future of airport capacity in the south-east in the form of (a) petitions, (b) letters, (c) questionnaires and (d) detailed submissions; [88493]

Mr. Jamieson: By 18 December, for the south-east region, 33 petitions, over 25,000 letters (including a number of detailed submissions from both members of the public and organisations), and 11,000 completed NOP questionnaires in response to the consultation had been received.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced to Parliament on 28 November that the consultation on airports capacity will be kept open until we have consulted on options for new runways in relation to Gatwick. We aim to publish a further consultation document shortly.

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Broadway-Honeybourne Railway

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to ensure that no developments prejudice the re-opening of the railway line between Broadway and Honeybourne; and if he will make a statement. [88417]

Mr. Jamieson: This is a matter in the first instance for Wychavon district council as the local planning authority. I understand that a planning application has been made by SUSTRANS for a cycle track along a section of the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire railway line which also extends into Cotswold district. This is for the authorities to determine and it would not be appropriate for Ministers to become involved in this local matter.

As part of the planning application process, details of all developments close to railway lines (whether in use or disused) are referred to the Strategic Rail Authority who will comment as appropriate.

Certificates of Equivalent Competency

Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many certificates of equivalent competency have been issued to foreign seafarers by the UK maritime administration in each year since the scheme was established. [88903]

Mr. Jamieson: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) has issued the following number of certificates of equivalent competency in each year since the scheme began in 1997:

1997 37
1998 257
1999 363
2000 1,107
2001 2,337
2002 2,033

Commercial Aircraft (Terrorism)

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of terrorist threats to British commercial aircraft from handheld ground to air missile launchers; and what advice has been issued by his Department. [88521]

Mr. Jamieson: Terrorist threats are assessed on a continual basis and appropriate advice issued. The Government do not believe that it is appropriate to disclose advice issued in relation to such matters for obvious reasons.

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the British fleet of commercial aviation will be protected by electronic counter measures equipment over and above Goodrich video surveillance apparatus. [88520]

Mr. Jamieson: We are seeking specialist advice to establish the technical feasibility of fitting electronic counter measures to UK civil aviation fleets.

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Community Transport Schemes

Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representation he has received in respect of amending regulations relating to community transport schemes so as to facilitate their development. [88982]

Mr. Jamieson: We have had several discussions with the Community Transport Association and the Association of Transport Co-ordinating Officers about the regulations affecting community transport.

Regulations were brought forward in England, with effect from 1 May 2002, to extend the Bus Service Operators Grant (formerly Fuel Duty Rebate) to a wider range of community transport services. I understand that the National Assembly for Wales has introduced similar provisions with effect from 14 August 2002.

In addition we have recently consulted on proposals (affecting both England and Wales) to facilitate the registration of flexibly routed bus services, which should increase the scope for community operators (among others) to register such services. We are now analysing the responses.

Hywel Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what provisions are in force for the exemption of community transport vehicles from vehicle excise duty when (a) they are used exclusively by disabled people and (b) they are used both by disabled and able bodied people. [88983]

Mr. Jamieson: The provisions governing the exemption from vehicle excise duty for vehicles used by or on behalf of disabled people are set out in schedule 2 of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994. Paragraph 20 of the schedule states that a vehicle used for the carriage of disabled people by a body recognised by the Secretary of State is exempt from vehicle excise duty. In practise this means that the body should be registered with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee.

However, section 15(2) of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act states that where a vehicle is used in a way which would render it liable to taxation at a higher rate, the higher rate is payable. This means that where a vehicle is used for both disabled and able-bodied people, vehicle excise duty is payable at the normal rate applicable to that vehicle.

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