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4 Mar 2003 : Column 938W—continued

Rail Services

Mr. Keetch: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many trains travelling from Worcester to Hereford have been prematurely terminated at (a) Malvern and (b) Ledbury stations in the past six months; what percentage of total journeys from Worcester to Hereford this represents; and if he will make a statement. [99877]

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Mr. Jamieson: During the period from 18 August 2002 to 1 February 2003, 1,854 trains were timetabled to travel between Worcester and Hereford of which 1,818 arrived at Hereford. This means that 36 trains or 1.94 per cent. of the timetabled services failed to complete their journeys in full.

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to ensure sufficient passenger capacity on cross country trains. [100461]

Mr. Jamieson: All train operators have an obligation to avoid excessive overcrowding on the services they provide, and they must agree a plan with the Strategic Rail Authority detailing how they will match capacity to demand. The authority have recently announced a number of timetable revisions agreed with Virgin Cross Country to be made from May and September which are aimed at improving performance and relieving congestion. In the longer-term the authority's "Capacity Utilisation Policy" will determine the most efficient use of the network.


Communications Bill

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what representations she has received on the impact on employment in regional newspapers of the provisions of the Communications Bill. [99656]

Miss Melanie Johnson: I have been asked to reply.

A number of representations relating to the newspaper merger provisions of the Communications Bill have been received. None of these has focused on any impact of these provisions on jobs in regional newspapers.


Domestic Violence

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Solicitor-General if she will make a statement on the role of the Crown Prosecution Service in domestic violence cases. [99404]

The Solicitor-General: The role of the Crown Prosecution Service is to review and prosecute cases of domestic violence in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and CPS policy. The revised policy, launched in November 2001, focuses on victims' priorities of safety, support and information and promotes the immediate and long-term safety of the victim and any children, while holding abusers accountable for their actions. This is achieved by promoting close working relationships between the Crown Prosecution Service, the police and the voluntary sector, to ensure that decisions are properly informed and victims are properly supported. The revised policy also emphasises the need to construct cases, wherever possible, on the basis of evidence other than that of the victim. To underpin CPS policy, each CPS area has a domestic violence coordinator.

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Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Crown Prosecution Service and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary are currently preparing to undertake a joint thematic review of the investigation and prosecution of cases involving domestic violence, which will be concluded later this year.

Serious Fraud Office

Mr. Laws: To ask the Solicitor General how many staff worked for the Serious Fraud Office in each year from 1988–89 to 2003–04 (planned); and if she will make a statement. [99833]

The Solicitor-General: The following table provides all the relevant Serious Fraud Office statistics in relation to numbers of staff employed by the SFO from its inception in April 1988 to 2003–04 (planned).

Financial YearNumber of Permanent Staff Employed
1989–90Figure unavailable
2003–04 (planned)240

Staffing levels at the Serious Fraud Office have steadily increased over the last four years. This has been necessary in order to accept a higher caseload and to compensate, in part for the reduction in the number of police officers made available to the SFO. The SFO continues to be an important tool in the fight against white-collar crime and its dedicated and professional staff play a fundamental role in the fight against fraud.


Car Parking

Mr. Laws: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what estimate he has made of the revenue forgone in each of the last five years from providing free parking for hon. Members and senior staff at the House; and if he will make a statement. [99892]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The House has never had a policy of charging for use of the car park, which is provided for security reasons as well as for the convenience of Members and staff. No estimate of revenue foregone has therefore been made.

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Public Expenditure

Mr. David Laws: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what total public spending on the House of Commons was in each year from 1992–93

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to 2003–04 (planned), broken down by (a) hon. Members' salaries and allowances, (b) other staff costs, (c) building costs and (d) other costs; and if he will make a statement. [99891]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The amounts of cash spent, or estimated to be spent, in each year are as follows:

Expenditure from 1992–93 to 2003–04

Members' pay and allowances 67,03868,50269,46972,12881,76695,81986,17591,49594,417
House staff costs26,18030,51931,05631,94933,79534,95137,48339,92840,943
Portcullis House3,3677,6626,29215,10430,00235,95854,89344,76938,557

Expenditure from 1992–93 to 2003–04

2001–022002–03 Forecast2003–04 Planned
Members' pay and allowances 116,567131,000143,607
House staff costs43,00047,82046,907
Portcullis House6,6862,657


The Members' costs shown include financial assistance to opposition parties (Short money) and the regular payments to the Members' Fund;

Staff costs include pensions paid in-year;

Accommodation includes new works, maintenance, rent rates and utilities; and

The figures in 2001–02 show the cash spent in the year. This was the first year of resource accounting and the figures in the audited accounts are now presented on a resource basis

The House of Commons Commission is not responsible for the pay and allowances of hon. Members. However, to assist the hon. Member for Yeovil I have included figures already on the public record.



Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions her Department has had with his US counterparts on the reconstruction of Afghanistan; and if he will make a statement. [100008]

Clare Short: Both my officials and I regularly meet with other donors to discuss a variety of issues, including the reconstruction of Afghanistan. I have discussed these issues with US counterparts on a number of occasions.

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate her Department has made of the number of Afghans who suffered hunger-related deaths in 2001. [100005]

Clare Short: Neither DFID nor the UN agencies WHO or FAO have made an estimate of these figures. Malnutrition increases the propensity to catch other illnesses but is very hard to isolate as the direct cause of death in Afghanistan, where there is food insecurity but no famine.

The WFP estimates that in 2003 approximately 4.3 million people in rural settled areas will not be able to meet basic food needs. The WHO estimates that acute malnutrition in children is aroung 10 per cent. and chronic malnutrition is approximately 50 per cent. 20 per cent. of children are born with a low birth weight.

UN agencies are co-ordinating a response that provides food aid to the most vulnerable sections of society, including returning refugees and people in isolated, rural areas. WFP have put forward a strategy for 2003 that aims to provide food assistance to over 9 million people over two years. WFP's food aid is in the form of wheat fortifield with nutritional supplements to halp combat the problems of malnutrition.

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