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10 Mar 2003 : Column 42W—continued

Northern Ireland Assembly

Mr. Peter Robinson: To ask the Prime Minister for what reasons he would not hold the Northern Ireland Assembly elections on 29 May. [101943]

The Prime Minister: We intend that the election will be held on 29 May 2003 and will bring forward legislation to that effect later in the month.

Security and Intelligence Agencies

Harry Cohen: To ask the Prime Minister further to his Written Ministerial Statement of 28 February 2003, Official Report, column 58WS, on the Security and Intelligence Agencies' Vote, what the reasons are for

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(a) the change in resources, (b) the change in capital, (c) the change in administrative costs limits, (d) the change in the security and intelligence agencies DEL, (e) the take up of end of year flexibility, (f) the PES transfer from the MOD, (g) the PES transfer from the Home Office, (h) the transfer from capital to revenue, (i) the take up of end of year flexibility and (j) the PES transfer from the Cabinet Office; what his policy is on increasing resources to public service organisations (i) as a general rule and (ii) in relation to the security and intelligence agencies, when they have received adverse audit reports on how they have handled existing allocated resources; and if he will make a statement. [101346]

The Prime Minister: I have nothing to add to the information provided in my Written Statement of 28 February and in the published Estimates and Departmental Reports for the Security and Intelligence Agencies. Detailed information about the Agencies' accounts is outside the scope of the 'Code of Practice on Access to Government Information' (paragraph 6 of part 1). However, there are processes that exist to ensure that the detail of these accounts can be properly scrutinised while maintaining security.

Government policies on expenditure apply to the Agencies in the same way as to all other departments.


Chris Grayling: To ask the Prime Minister what policy his Department has adopted on smoking in the workplace. [100923]

The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Cabinet Office on 7 March 2003.

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Community Charge/Council Tax

Andy King: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many people able to pay the (a) community charge or (b) council tax refused to do so in each of the last 10 years; and from how many people the taxes could not be recovered by attachment to earnings or benefits. [100615]

Mr. Leslie: I have been asked to reply.

The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Fine Defaulters

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if she will make a statement on the (a) maximum and (b) minimum penalties for non-payment of financial penalties imposed by magistrates' courts. [99874]

Yvette Cooper: When a defaulter is brought before the court, the magistrates will have a number of enforcement options available to them. The sanctions to ensure the payment of fines include an attachment of earnings order if the defendant is in employment or deductions from social security benefits if they are not working. The maximum amount that can be deducted from an unemployed person is £2.70 per week. Other options include the issue of a distress warrant, (which empowers the person executing it to seize a person's goods or money to the value of the sum owed), or as a last resort, the court may decide to commit the defaulter to prison. The Courts Bill currently before Parliament proposes a number of new arrangements to facilitate the enforcement of fines, including new penalties such as clamping vehicles and entering the fine in the Register of county court judgments.

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Car Insurance

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with insurance companies on the provision of car insurance for young drivers with an aim to reduce driving without insurance. [101176]

Mr. Jamieson: The Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, in reporting on the UK vehicle registration system, recommended a review of the motor insurance industry aimed at reducing uninsured motoring. The Secretary of State established a Modernising Vehicle Registration Implementation Board to take forward the Jill Dando Institute's recommendations. The insurance industry are represented on that board. They have considered a number of matters and we are currently progressing measures which are intended, among other things, to help reduce uninsured driving. The Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 already provides that a driver caught driving uninsured within two years of passing his test will have his licence revoked.

Disabled Parking

Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what requirements the Department of Health places on (a) public and (b) private bodies to designate a proportion of parking spaces they provide for disabled only use; and what requirements are placed on such providers to enforce disabled only parking. [101051]

Mr. Jamieson: The responsibility for the provision of disabled persons' parking bays on the public highway lies with individual local authorities. They have a wide range of powers available to them to designate parking places for specific users, including bays for use by holders of disabled persons' badges (Blue Badges). The position in private car-parks is different and the conditions of use and provision of parking for disabled people are matters for the individual operators concerned.

The allocation of parking spaces for disabled people is the subject of a Departmental Traffic Advisory Leaflet (5/95) which includes guidance on the proportion of spaces that might be appropriate. The decision on exactly how many parking spaces to provide, both on and off street, remains one for individual authorities and operators to determine, depending on local circumstances.

However, under Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (when fully implemented) service providers will be required to take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled people do not find it impossible or unreasonably difficult to enjoy the service on the same basis as non-disabled people. This will have implications for local authorities and car park operators, who may have to demonstrate that as well as marking out disabled person's parking spaces, they have taken reasonable steps to ensure they are available to disabled people.

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In terms of enforcement of disabled persons' parking bays, there are a wide variety of powers available to local authorities under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to tackle abuse and misuse on-street. For example it is an offence to park a vehicle which is not displaying a badge in a designated disabled persons' parking bay.

Off-street car parks are private property and the conditions of use are a contractual matter between the owner and the motorist. In these car parks, spaces marked for badge holders only are in most cases not legally enforceable, but depend on the courtesy and consideration of other drivers. Car park operators could ask a non-disabled driver to move their car from a space set aside for disabled people but they might not be in a position to insist upon it.

The Department has, however, given its full support to the 'Baywatch' campaign run by a coalition of disability organisations (including the Disabled Drivers Association and the Disabled Drivers' Motor Club). They are committed to encouraging greater protection of disabled persons' parking bays in retail car parks from abuse by non-disabled drivers.

The issue of enforcement was a key part of the major review of the Blue Badge Scheme that we have just completed. Following a public consultation process that ended last year, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), the Department's statutory advisers on the transport needs of disabled people, considered responses and submitted 47 recommendations to Ministers on the future shape of the Scheme. I announced in the House on 18 December 2002 that the Government would be taking forward the majority of these, including a number of additional enforcement measures. Details of all the recommendations were placed in the House Libraries on 18 December 2002. The Government will be seeking to implement the changes at the earliest opportunity.

In the meantime, it is open to anybody to bring instances of fraudulent use to the attention of the police, traffic wardens, the appropriate local authority or car park operators and we will continue to work with these bodies and stakeholder groups to minimise the potential for abuse and misuse.

London Underground

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what role the Government had in assisting London Underground PPP Infrastructure Consortia to obtain grants or loans from (a) the European Investment Bank and (b) other financial institutions; and if he will make a statement. [101751]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government has played no direct role in assisting the London Underground PPP consortia to obtain grants or loans. The method by which they finance their obligations under the PPP, and how they raise the necessary funding, is a matter for the consortia.

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) train failures, (b) signals/

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points failures and (c) track failures there were on each London Underground line (i) in 2001–02 and (ii) in 2002–03. [100995]

Mr. Jamieson: This is an operational matter for London Underground who have provided the information set out in the table.

London Underground rolling stock, track and signal failures by line

Rolling stock failuresTrack and signal failures
Line2001–022002–03 to date(11) 2001–20022002–2003 to date(11)
Circle/Hammersmith and City2,0551,720562357
East London147809462
Waterloo and City36603229

(11) To 1 February 2003

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