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5 Feb 2003 : Column 264W—continued


David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the level of (a) reliability and (b) punctuality of enterprise services on the Belfast-Dublin railway line. [94950]

Angela Smith: In relation to the reliability of the Enterprise Service I can report that there were four breakdowns of the locomotives servicing this line over a 30 day period in January 2003, this reflects a trend of mechanical failures in these locomotives.

Over the same period the punctuality performance was as follows:

Trains arriving at their destinationEx Belfast (per cent.)Ex Dublin (per cent.)
On time22.541.3
Within 10 minutes of their published arrival time50.0 (6)(72.5)38.5 (6)(79.8)
Within 20 minutes of their published arrival time15.6 (6)(88.1)8.3 (6)(88.1)
Within 30 minutes of their published arrival time4.6 (6) (92.7)6.9 (6)(95.0)

(6) The figures in brackets reflect the cumulative performance

David Burnside: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what efforts are being made to deal with the volume of train breakdowns on the Belfast-Dublin railway line. [94951]

Angela Smith: The performance of the Belfast-Dublin Enterprise Service continues to give cause for concern, representing as it does a serious disruption to passenger services. Northern Ireland Railways is working closely with larnrod Eireann, their partners on the Enterprise Service, to identify the technical causes of the increasing regularity of mechanical failure on the locomotives servicing this line. Engineers have closely examined the performance of the locomotives over a 2l/2 year period. On the basis of this assessment Northern Ireland Railways and larnrod Eireann have agreed to jointly approach the suppliers of the locomotives with a view to addressing this unacceptable performance.

Retail Planning (Belfast)

Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what the timescale is for the review of Belfast retail planning strategy; who is to conduct it; and what its terms of reference are. [93928]

Angela Smith: As part of the preparation of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan the Department of the Environment has appointed consultants to assess the potential need for additional retail floor space within the Plan Area up to 2015. The terms of reference also require the consultants to advise on where any

5 Feb 2003 : Column 265W

additional floorspace should be located, and if it should be phased, how it should be phased and why it should be phased.

The Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan covers Belfast, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and North Down Council Areas. The Retail Study will inform the policies to be included in the Draft Plan, which is programmed to be published in September 2003. The findings of the Study will be published with the Draft Plan and all policies and proposals will be open to objection. Unresolved objections will be considered at a Public Inquiry.

The Regional Development Strategy (RDS) acknowledges the vital role that retailing plays in the development of Northern Ireland. In particular it emphasises the need to create a thriving Metropolitan Area centred on a revitalised Belfast, through the enhancement of the role of the city, by supporting and strengthening the city centre as the leading regional shopping centre and maintaining the city centre as the primary retail and office location in the region. The RDS also advocates the development of the complementary role of the suburban districts of Castlereagh and Newtownabbey, and the development of the city of Lisburn, and the towns of Bangor and Carrickfergus and strengthening the multi-functional role of their town centres.

In recognition of this, the Department for Regional Development is currently preparing a new planning policy statement on Retailing and Town Centres (PPS5) to replace the current retail planning policy statement, which was first published by the Department of the Environment in June 1996. The purpose of this new policy is to assist the implementation of the Regional Development Strategy. In addition, it will provide strategic planning guidance to assist the Department of the Environment in the preparation of development plans and the determination of planning applications. Roger Tym and Partners were commissioned by the Department for Regional Development to carry out evidence-based retail research to guide the Department in the preparation of the new retail planning policy statement. The final draft report of the retail consultancy is due to be issued within the next few days. The new draft planning policy statement is scheduled to be issued for full public consultation during the next few months.


Mr. Donaldson: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who the purchasers were of land disposed of by (a) the former IDB and (b) Invest Northern Ireland at the TK-ECC factory site at Dundonald. [95536]

Mr. Pearson: European Components Corporation purchased a 23-acre land holding and the 275,000 sq ft factory from IDB in July 1995. There have been no subsequent land disposals at this site by IDB or Invest NI.

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Chemical Weapons Convention

Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he had with President Bush during his last visit to Washington on United States compliance with the inspection requirements of the Chemical Weapons Convention. [95268]

The Prime Minister: None. The US is fully compliant with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention including the requirements for inspectors.


Nick Harvey: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the (a) official entertainment functions and (b) conferences which have been held at Chequers in each year since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [95525]

The Prime Minister: My family and I have used Chequers in a variety of ways, both official and private, consistent with the wishes of the donor, Lord Lee, and the Chequers Estate Acts.

Nick Harvey: To ask the Prime Minister how many days he has spent in residence at Chequers in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [95528]

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Colchester (Bob Russell) on 3 February 2003, Official Report, column 16W.


Ian Lucas: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to his answer to the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), of 22 January 2003, Official Report, column 292, if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which the veto of a Security Council Resolution would be unreasonable. [95009]

The Prime Minister: As I outlined in my evidence to the Liaison Committee, we cannot have a situation in which there is a material breach recognised by everybody and yet action is unreasonably blocked.

No. 12 Downing Street (Refurbishment)

Norman Baker: To ask the Prime Minister from which countries timber was obtained for the refurbishment of No. 12 Downing Street; and what steps he took to ensure that the timber used was derived from legal and sustainable sources. [84733]

The Prime Minister [holding answer 3 December 2002]: The ground floor of No. 12 Downing Street was refurbished in 2001 in order to relocate staff from No. 10 Downing Street. The contract did not specify for the supply of timber as none was required. However during the course of the project the contractor had to replace a short length of skirting board using Medium Density Fibre Board (MDF) off cuts. Our contractors abide by the industry guidelines of "Forests Forever (A Campaign For Wood) Environmental Timber Purchasing Policy 2000 following the commitment given by DEFRA in July 2000 that timber used on the Government Estate should be derived from sustainable sources.

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Race Equality and Diversity Taskforce

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Prime Minister (1) whether it will be within the scope of the new Race Equality and Diversity taskforce to recommend (a) legislation and (b) financial incentives, to encourage positive discrimination; [94853]

The Prime Minister: Race Equality and Diversity Taskforce has been established by the Institute for Public Policy Research. The Government does not have any responsibility for the Taskforce or its terms of reference. However, the Government would of course take note of any reports or recommendations arising from the Taskforce.


Public Body Appointments

Mr. Frank Field: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many people at or above state pension age have been appointed to public bodies in the past two years. [95277]

Mr. Alexander: There is no age limit for people applying to be considered for public appointments.

The following figures on age are available for chairs and members appointed and re-appointed to the boards of public bodies within the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. As the figures are not broken down by gender there are no figures on how many of the appointees and re-appointees are at or above state pension age.

Age bandChairsPercentage of totalMembersPercentage of total
66 plus5612.22988.8
66 plus4712.72528.1

Figures for other public appointments, which do not fall within the remit of the Commissioner, are not available.

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