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9 Jun 2003 : Column 587W—continued



Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which Department is responsible for co-ordinating Government policy on the development of the use of biofuels. [117542]

Mr. Spellar: The Department for Transport is responsible for co-ordinating overall Government policy on the use of biofuels in the transport sector. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is, however, responsible for policy on all taxation issues, including duty incentives for biofuels.

Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what preparations his Department is making for the introduction of the Biofuels Directive later this year; and if he will make a statement. [117543]

Mr. Spellar: The United Kingdom and other European Union member states are required, under the terms of the recently agreed Directive on the Promotion of Biofuels and other Renewable Fuels for Road Transport, to set their own indicative targets for the use of biofuels and other renewable fuels in their areas. Member states are required to set indicative targets to be met in the years 2005 and 2010, and to notify the European Commission of these targets by July 2005 and July 2006 respectively. The Government will consult key stakeholders in due course on possible indicative targets for biofuels sales and sales of other renewable fuels in the UK, as well as on the most appropriate ways of meeting these targets. Regulations will then be laid before the House in advance of the Directive's transposition date of 31 December 2004.

The Government have already put in place a number of measures to incentivise the production and use of biofuels in the UK. These include a 20 pence per litre fuel duty incentive for biodiesel, which came into effect in July 2002. Sales of biodiesel in the UK have increased significantly as a result of this, and are now getting on for a million litres a month. Budget 2003 announced that a similar duty incentive in favour of bioethanol would come into effect in January 2005. It also indicated that the Government are considering how best to give further support to bioethanol produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks, which potentially offers even greater environmental benefits.

Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which Minister in his Department is responsible for developing transport policy on the use of biofuels. [117589]

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Mr. Spellar: The Secretary of State for Transport has overall responsibility for developing all transport policies, including policies on biofuels. He is supported in this by myself and by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport.

Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to investigate the basis on which car manufacturers impose a lower limit for the use of biofuels in the UK than in the rest of the EU for the purposes of the engine warranty. [117593]

Mr. Spellar: Almost all new diesel cars can run on biodiesel without any problems and without invalidating the manufacturer's engine warranty, provided that the biodiesel is blended into mineral diesel at a ratio of no more than 5 per cent. biodiesel to 95 per cent. mineral diesel, and provided that the biodiesel itself is of good quality. Higher rates of biodiesel in blends could cause performance problems and engine damage in some vehicles and would currently invalidate most vehicle manufacturer's vehicle warranties, both in the UK and elsewhere.

The suitability of any diesel vehicle to run on blends consisting of more than 5 per cent. biodiesel is dependent upon the make and model of the car, rather than the country in which it is sold and used. For example, new Volkswagen diesel cars are warranted to run on 100 per cent. biodiesel anywhere in the EU. Supplies of 100 per cent. biodiesel are not widely available in the UK, however, and studies show that a greater environmental benefit can be achieved by using the available fuel in blends with mineral diesel than by using it as 100 per cent. biodiesel.

Bioethanol, which can be used as a blend in petrol cars, is not yet on sale in the UK. Budget 2003 announced that a duty incentive for bioethanol of 20 pence per litre would be introduced in January 2005. Ford has developed a 'flex-fuel' petrol-engined vehicle, which can run on blends of up to 85 per cent. bioethanol, and which is already on sale in some other European countries (notably Sweden). Once bioethanol becomes available in the UK, it is likely that similar vehicles will be sold here, with similar warranties.

Air Transport Consultation

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many responses his Department has received to the Future of Air Transport-Scotland Consultation document, broken down by local authority area. [118252]

Mr. Jamieson: We have not broken down the number of responses by local authority area. However by 1 June 2003 we had received over 1,500 responses concerning Scotland.

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many Future of Air Transport-Scotland consultation documents have been (a) sent out and (b) downloaded. [117093]

Mr. Jamieson: By 1 June over 29,000 paper copies of the Scottish consultation documents had been despatched and 32,000 documents were successfully downloaded from our website.

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Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many consultation forms had been returned from the Midlands Region Airport proposals by 1 June 2003. [117386]

Mr. Jamieson: By 1 June 2003, we received just over 21,000 completed Midlands' questionnaires in response to the consultation.

Blue Lamp Vehicles

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list classes of vehicles that have an entitlement to use blue lamps; and if he will list regulations that are in force that control the use of blue lamps on vehicles. [117757]

Mr. Jamieson: The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 restrict the fitting of blue warning beacons or special warning lamps to emergency vehicles. The meaning of an emergency vehicle in these regulations is defined as a motor vehicle of any of the following descriptions

Regulation 27 of the same regulations prohibits the use of warning beacons emitting blue light and special warning lamps by emergency vehicles except (i) at the scene of an emergency (ii) or when it is necessary or desirable either to indicate to persons using the road the urgency of the purpose for which the vehicle is being used, or to warn persons of the presence of the vehicle or hazard on the road.

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Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the legal instruments that (a) control the behaviour of drivers in vehicles using blue lamps and (b) exempt drivers in vehicles attending emergency incidents from observing speed limits. [117758]

Mr. Jamieson: Regulations on the use of blue lights do not in themselves provide any special privileges for drivers.

There are, however, certain relaxations often associated with the use of blue lights. Section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 exempts drivers of vehicles used for fire brigade, ambulance or police purposes from speed limits in an emergency. The Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations 1997 give qualified exemptions from signals at Pelican and Puffin crossings to vehicles being used for fire brigade, ambulance, national blood service and police purposes. The Traffic Signs Regulations 2002 give similar qualified exemptions from other red light signals and keep right/left arrows to vehicles being used for fire brigade, ambulance, bomb or explosive disposal, national blood service or police purposes.

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