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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 20 June 2003


Angel Group

Peter Bradley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the properties acquired by the Angel Group and its subsidiaries from the Department and its agencies and the (a) dates and (b) costs of their acquisition. [118833]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: No properties have been acquired by the Angel Group or any of its subsidiaries from my Department.


Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will list the actions his Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies are taking to comply with the requirements of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002; whether he has made an estimate of the cost of compliance; and if he will make a statement. [117709]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: My Department has recently commissioned independent specialist consultants to carry our asbestos surveys in all the buildings the Department occupies and manages. These surveys will provide us with up to date information on the location, type and, most importantly, the condition of asbestos. Appropriate risk assessments have also been carried out, asbestos control measures confirmed and a programme of regular reviews and updates has been scheduled.

All these procedures are being incorporated into an updated Departmental Health and Safety Management Plan. This will incorporate specific job responsibilities for building safety managers to maintain asbestos registers, undertake appropriate reviews and risk assessments and address all other statutory requirements to effectively manage the risks from asbestos in departmental buildings. These measures are being progressed in cooperation with the Health and Safety Executive and will result in the Department complying fully with the new Regulations.

Accurate costings for compliance with the new Regulations are not available.

Rural Issues

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills in which subjects (a) rural and (b) countryside issues feature in the National Curriculum at (i) primary and (ii) secondary level. [119150]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: Rural and countryside issues are covered within the National Curriculum through citizenship and geography.

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Through geography, a foundation subject studied by all pupils aged 5 to 14; pupils investigate different places and environments, including the countryside within the United Kingdom and abroad. Through citizenship, a statutory requirement in secondary schools from September 2002, pupils should be taught about the wider issues and challenges of global interdependence and responsibility, including sustainable development and Local Agenda 21. This gives teachers in rural schools the opportunity to incorporate issues of a rural nature in lessons.

From October 2003, schools opting for Specialist School status in any one of the 10 specialisms will be able to build in a rural dimension into their chosen specialism. Target setting subjects, which schools may utilise as part of the rural dimension, include: GCSE Geography, GCSE Environmental Science, GCSE Rural and Agricultural Science, GNVQ or GCSE Leisure and Tourism and GNVQ Land and Environment.


Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills pursuant to his answer of 10 June 2003, Official Report, column 785W, on synthetic appliances, if he will list the international research over the last 30 years on which the teaching of phonics in the National Literary Strategy is based; how many schools have adopted the Jolly Phonics programme; and when he will publish the report on the seminar of 17 March 2003. [119912]

Mr. Stephen Twigg: The teaching of phonics in the National Literacy Strategy (NLS) is based on a wide range of research, and can be found in Roger Beard's "Review of Research and Other Related Evidence", which is available on the Department for Education and Skills Standards website at: www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/literacy/publications

The Department does not collect information on the number of schools who have adopted the Jolly Phonics or any other commercial programme. Schools are able to choose from a range of phonics programmes, including the NLS Progression in Phonics, as well as other commercial schemes. It is up to individual schools and teachers to decide which scheme is most effective in meeting the needs of their pupils.

The report on the phonics seminar of 17 March 2003 will be published shortly.



Paul Flynn: To ask the Prime Minister what assessment has been made of the function of the two vehicles suspected of being biological weapons laboratories that were discovered in Iraq. [120497]

The Prime Minister: Investigations into their role are continuing.

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Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the people appointed to ad hoc posts within his Department bearing the titles of advocate, tsar, adviser, champion and comparable titles since May 1997; what their job title is or was; what their role is or was; whether they were or are being paid; what the total cost of each such person was in each financial year, including expenses and benefits; what the expected cost of each such person is in 2003–04; to whom they are accountable; and if he will make a statement. [112468]

Mr. McNulty: The Special Advisers currently in post, appointed by the Secretary of State for the Department for Transport are Andrew Maugham and Tom Restrick.

The above are paid appointments. Under exemption 12 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information, details of individual salaries are not disclosed in order to protect the privacy of the individual concerned.

Drink Driving

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to his answer of 3 June 2003, Official Report, column 166W, on drink driving, what plans he has to amend police powers to allow evidential breath-testing at the roadside and to increase penalties; when he plans to introduce these changes; and if he will make a statement. [119993]

Mr. Jamieson: As stated in our Road Safety Strategy, the Government intend to create a power for police to carry out evidential breath-testing at the roadside. This measure requires primary legislation and will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time permits.

With regard to penalty changes, the Criminal Justice Bill, currently before Parliament, provides for an increase in the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs from 10 to 14 years' imprisonment. We are planning to implement further penalty changes referred to in the report on the Review of Road Traffic Penalties (July 2002), including those applying to repeat drink-drive offenders, when a suitable legislative opportunity arises.

Freight Grants

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what body co-ordinates the national strategy for freight grants. [120074]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government support the movement of freight by rail and waterways as a key part of our sustainable distribution policy. The freight grants programme is a demand-led scheme, which encourages the movement of goods by these means.

Following the Transport Act 2000, the programme is administered by the Strategic Rail Authority (for rail freight) and by the Department for Transport (for inland waterways and sea freight). There is regular consultation between the Department and the SRA.

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John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much track access grant aid was paid to freight operators in each year since 1992 (a) at current prices and (b) at outturn prices, broken down by location of company. [120075]

Mr. Jamieson: Track Access Grants became available in 1994, with the first payment being made in 1996. The table below excludes grants made by the Scottish Executive, which is a matter for the Scottish parliament. Track Access Grant is awarded only to freight train operators, who operate throughout the network.

£ million

Value of TAGsValue of TAGs at 2002–03 prices

Mersey Tunnels Bill

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many meetings his Department has held in the last five years with the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority and Executive to discuss the Mersey Tunnels Bill. [120136]

Mr. Jamieson: There have been five meetings between the Department and the Merseyside Passenger Transport Authority and Executive to discuss the current Mersey Tunnels Private Bill.

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