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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 2 April 2003


Conservative Party

Norman Baker: To ask the President of the Council pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) of 18 March, Official Report, column 621W, if he will give a breakdown of the travel expenses for 2002–03. [105495]

Mr. Bradshaw: The information requested is not held centrally.


Mr. Heald: To ask the President of the Council if he will list the (a) funded and (b) unfunded public sector pension schemes for which his Department, its agencies and its non-departmental public bodies are responsible; when the last actuarial valuation was of each scheme; what the value was of the assets at the last actuarial valuation of each scheme; what deficit is disclosed by the last actuarial valuation of each scheme; and if he will make a statement. [104932]

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Mr. Bradshaw: The Privy Council Office has one unfounded pension scheme for its staff, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS). A Full actuarial valuation was carried out at 31 March 1999. Details of the scheme can be found in the resource accounts of the Cabinet Office: Civil Superannuation (www.civilservice-pensions.gov.uk).

The department has no agencies or non-departmental public bodies.


Aston Clinton Bypass

Mr. John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his latest estimate is of the cost of the construction of the Aston Clinton bypass. [106195]

Mr. Jamieson: The estimated cost of the construction contract for the Aston Clinton bypass is £22.1 million excluding VAT.

Bus Companies

Ian Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what level of transport subsidies was allocated to bus companies by each passenger transport authority in each of the last three years. [106453]

Mr. Jamieson: The table shows the funding in support of bus services provided by each of the Passenger Transport Authority (PTA) areas in each of the three years to 2001–02. The figures for public transport support include subsidies allocated to bus companies but also local authority administration and technical costs. The figures are the latest available and those for 2001–02 are based on provisional estimates.

Public transport support (£million) Concessionary fare reimbursement (£million)
Greater Manchester 22.527.427.538.038.140.7
South Yorkshire8.
Tyne and Wear11.011.912.521.521.522.0
West Midlands30.428.928.554.058.362.1
West Yorkshire24.229.029.418.519.820.0
All English PTAs108.8119.9122.4175.0183.0194.1

Central Line

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether penalties will be imposed on London Underground for the delay in re-opening the Central Line. [105814]

Mr. Jamieson: London Underground are bearing the full costs of the closure of the Central Line, including making the necessary safety modifications to trains and of compensating customers as well as the loss of income resulting from the suspension of services.

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether compensation will be offered to those businesses which have lost trade as a result of the closure of the Central Line. [105815]

Mr. Jamieson: London Underground have already put in place arrangements to compensate customers who have suffered as a consequence of the withdrawal of services on the Central Line. They do not propose to compensate businesses for any related loss of trade.

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment has been made of the impact on (a) retail trades, (b) small businesses and (c) the evening economy of the closure of the Central Line. [105820]

Mr. Jamieson: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 28 March 2003 to the hon. Member for the Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), Official Report, columns 412–13W.

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Cliffe Airport

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what assessment he has made of the risk of a bird strike to aircraft at the proposed Cliffe airport; [104717]

Mr. Jamieson: The SERAS study included a preliminary assessment of the risk of birds colliding with aircraft at Cliffe. Details of this work are contained in appendix four of "The North Kent Marshes Ecological Study" (phase 1 report), copies of which are available in the House Libraries.

The Central Science Laboratory and British Trust for Ornithology were jointly commissioned in September 2002 to conduct further research to assess more fully this risk and identify possible mitigating measures. It is intended that the final report of this work will be published shortly.

Commercial Confidentiality

Rob Marris: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance his Department issues to civil servants on how to deal with claims from organisations that the information they provide to the Department is commercially confidential. [105561]

Mr. Jamieson: It is not standard practice in my Department to verify claims of commercial confidentiality on receiving information from organisations, as this is normally only relevant if the question arises as to whether such information should be disclosed to another party. My Department follows the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The Code, and the guidance on the operation of the Code, helps officials determine whether such information should be disclosed.

The Code provides a specific exemption for a third party's commercial confidences. In deciding whether or not information should be withheld under this exemption, officials must consider whether "unwarranted disclosure would harm the competitive position of a third party". While it is ultimately up to the Department to decide in accordance with the Code whether to disclose the information, the third party whose interests may be adversely affected is normally consulted in order to inform the Department's decision. Even where the exemption prima facie applies, the information in question may still be disclosed if there is an overriding public interest in disclosure, but disclosure of commercially confidential information without consent will usually be appropriate only where the risk to public health, public safety or the environment is substantial and specific.

A decision to refuse requested information may be made without consultation with the supplier of information where the case for confidentiality is obvious and overwhelming.

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Creche Facilities

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what crèche facilities are provided by his Department; and at what cost. [104303]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department for Transport (central) currently provides six subsidised child care places, costing approximately £26,000, covering staff in London and Hastings. This amounts to 45 per cent. of the cost of these places.

The former DTLR provided 12 subsidised child care places as part of an inter-departmental nursery scheme administered by the Home Office, and the places have been split between ODPM and DfT.

DfT also participates in the Westminster Holiday Playscheme, which provides holiday care for children of school age. The Department subsidies 50 per cent. of the £26 per day cost of each place. The contract is with DTLR, and it is therefore not currently possible to identify DfT costs only.

The review of child care (originally begun by the former DTLR) has been jointly conducted with ODPM. The Departments are separately considering recommendations in the review, but the aim is to provide an enhanced package of provisions that will benefit more staff including central Department staff outside London.


Mr. Mark Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport [pursuant to his answer of 6 February, Official Report, column 369W], on telephone helplines, how many calls were made to each helpline charged at national and premium rate in the last year for which records are available; and what the average duration was of these calls. [105879]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department for Transport has 134 Helplines of which 66 are charged at national rate and three at premium rate. A table detailing calls made to each national and premium rate helpline between January and December 2002, together with the average call duration where known has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

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