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11 Feb 2003 : Column 623W—continued

Low-cost Airlines (Consumer Protection)

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to increase existing levels of consumer protection for flight only customers of low-cost airlines; and if he will make a statement. [97258]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government has recently been involved in extensive discussions at a European level on a proposal for a regulation establishing common rules on compensation and assistance to air passengers in the event of denied boarding and of cancellation or long delays of flights. Political agreement was reached on this proposal at the European Transport Council in December 2002.

This regulation, which will apply to all airlines operating within the European Union, will ensure a higher level of protection for passengers in cases of denied boarding, cancellation and delay. A ministerial

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letter detailing the outcome of the Transport Council was sent to the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committee on 10 December 2002.

New Transport Infrastructure

Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the availability of low interest loans from the European Investment Bank for (a) financing repair and renewal of London Underground, (b) the purchase of vehicle fleet by local authorities and (c) new transport infrastructure for the introduction of congestion zones and on emission zones. [96444]

Mr. Jamieson: The European Investment Bank is one of many lenders involved in the tube modernisation plans. The bank might potentially make financing facilities available for the procurement of a clean vehicle fleet or for new infrastructure related to congestion and emission zones. However, any project promoter would need to satisfy the bank that its initiative helped to achieve the objectives of the European Union. And the cost of the project would normally need to exceed Euro25 million.

Overweight Vehicles

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many accidents there were on UK roads where overweight vehicles were a factor in the accident in (a) 1999, (b) 2000 and (c) 2001. [97073]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department does not collect data on whether a vehicle involved in an accident was over-laden.

Rail Officials (Conduct Rules)

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what rules govern the conduct of the (a) chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority, (b) Head of Planning of the Strategic Rail Authority and (c) Rail Regulator in regard to their dealings with their former employers. [94846]

Mr. Jamieson: All public servants are expected to act in good faith and in the best interests of their organisation.

Road Tax

Mark Tami: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many vehicles were found to be overweight at weigh-bridges in (a) 1999, (b) 2000 and (c) 2001; and how many prosecutions were pursued against individuals and companies relating to such vehicles in each of those years. [97071]

Mr. Jamieson: The Police, Local Authorities' Trading Standards and the Vehicle Inspectorate conduct vehicle weighings at weighbridges and other locations to enforce compliance with maximum legal weights in Great Britain. The Department only holds records of weighings conducted by the Vehicle Inspectorate.

The Inspectorate's policy is to weigh only suspect overloaded vehicles and prohibit them from further movement until the load is adjusted to conform to legalrequirements. Overloading is reported to the traffic

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commissioners for action through the operator licensing system where appropriate. More serious cases and serial offenders are also prosecuted.

The table below shows the results of the Vehicle Inspectorate operations over the last four years:

Reported for prosecution2,7932,9332,6943,547
Reported for prosecution2326
Reported for prosecution1,2721,3831,2301,262

1. Figures include UK and foreign vehicles.

Ryanair (Compensation)

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the Civil Aviation Authority's role will be in ensuring compensation for those affected by the cancellation of Buzz Flights by Ryanair; and if he will make a statement. [97257]

Mr. Jamieson: The CAA has no role in what is a commercial matter.

Strategic Rail Authority

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will place in the Library copies of the letters of comfort issued in relation to the Strategic Rail Authority. [96528]

Mr. Jamieson: A copy of the proposed comfort letter to the Strategic Rail Authority was placed in the Libraries of the House on 3 February. It is subject to approval in the normal manner.


Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the reason was for the re-branding of TransportAction as TransportEnergy; and what the total cost was to the Energy Savings Trust broken down into (a) consultancy fees, (b) publicity, (c) reprinting of stationery and (d) other material costs. [96438]

Mr. Jamieson: In September 2002 the Energy Saving Trust re-branded TransportAction as TransportEnergy as part of a wider exercise to rationalise all of the trust's environmental initiatives, enabling them to deliver their messages with improved effectiveness and cost-efficiency. The term TransportEnergy better reflects the trust's goal of supporting a move to a less energy intensive transport system and is more consistent with the trust's domestic energy efficiency programmes.

No Government funding was used in the re-branding exercise. All re-branding costs were met through the Energy Saving Trust's corporate funds.

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Unlicensed Vehicles

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many DVLA staff are employed in monitoring unlicensed vehicles on the public highway in the London borough of Harrow. [96796]

Mr. Jamieson: It is not possible to provide a breakdown of staff specifically for Harrow but the DVLA local office at Stanmore covers most of north London including Harrow. 29 staff at that office work on the enforcement of vehicle excise duty.

Most reports of unlicensed vehicles are submitted to DVLA by police officers and traffic wardens as part of their normal duties.

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he is taking to speed up the process of impounding unlicensed vehicles; and if he will make a statement. [96797]

Mr. Jamieson: Regulations were amended in April 2002 to reduce the period impounded vehicles have to be kept before they can be disposed of from 35 days to seven or 14 days. The deciding factor is the value of the vehicle. The majority of impounded unlicensed vehicles are now disposed of within 14 days.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has increased the number of wheelclamping teams operating in London from two to four. Plans further to increasethe level of wheelclamping across the UK are being considered as part of the proposals to modernise the vehicle registration and licensing system.

Mr. Gareth Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to grant the DVLA further powers to remove unlicensed vehicles from the road; and if he will make a statement. [96799]

Mr. Jamieson: DVLA plans to extend partnership working with local authorities to clamp and impound unlicensed vehicles following a successful trial scheme in the London Borough of Newham. Teams working for the boroughs of Wandsworth, Croydon and Lewisham, and Hastings and Southend-on-Sea councils have been trained by DVLA and now, together with Newham, clamp and impound untaxed cars in their areas. These teams complement the existing national contract for wheelclamping untaxed cars.

DVLA is currently in discussion with a further eleven local authorities who have expressed an interest in joining the scheme.

Wales and Borders Franchise

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what requirements his Department has made of companies bidding for the Wales and Borders franchise as to the minimum level of service provision required within the term of the franchise; and if he will make a statement; [96808]

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Mr. Jamieson: The Strategic Rail Authority has asked bidders for the Wales and Borders franchise to provide a baseline bid for maintaining services at or around the current level. Bidders are also being asked for options to increase the level of service and to show what can be provided for 10 per cent. and 20 per cent less subsidy. The bidding process is in progress and bids have yet to be submitted. The outcome will be announced in due course.

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