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27 Oct 2003 : Column 61Wcontinued
Mr. Stinchcombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the process for considering applications for entry clearance as working holiday makers is the same for applicants from every Commonwealth country. 
Dr. Iddon: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office how many people from science and technology backgrounds have been seconded into the Civil Service following the recommendation of the Council for Science and Technology in its review in 1999 of Science and Technology Across Government. 
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Mr. Alexander: My Department has held regular discussions with DEFRA about its contingency plans for flooding. It has contributed to a forthcoming DEFRA Plan for "Tidal and Fluvial Flooding in England". We are also working with DEFRA on a tabletop exercise to test its Lead Government Department responsibilities against a range of flooding scenarios.
The scheme continues to recognise success. We have worked to enhance and further develop Charter Mark as a national standard for customer service and an important tool for public sector organisations to use in addressing customer service issues. The new content of Charter Mark was published earlier this year.
As well as modernising the content of the scheme to reflect our customer focus approach to public services we have redesigned the assessment process to better meet the needs of those using the scheme, offering real choice and better value. Following piloting of these new arrangements we will open the scheme for new applications from January 2004 onwards.
The government strongly encourages organisations to strive towards the Charter Mark Standard as a means of improving customer satisfaction as an important element of delivering better public services.
Mr. Alexander: The cars available to Ministers and others are set out in "Travel by Ministers". A breakdown of the car fleet is set out in the GCDA annual report and accounts which is available in the Library of the House. For reasons of security, it would not be appropriate to provide the details of cars used by individual holders.
Norman Baker: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what mechanism exists to identify the improper use of Government cars; what procedure is used to notify the user of improper use; and on how many occasions this procedure has been used since 1 May 1997. 
Mr. Alexander: Guidance to Ministers on the use of Government cars is set out in "Travel by Ministers". Similar rules apply to other office holders. As Travel by Ministers makes clear, individual Ministers are responsible for justifying their actions and decisions to Parliament.
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John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport following the publication of the White Paper on the future of airport expansion in the UK, whether the chosen site for expansion in the South East will have to undergo a planning inquiry. 
Mr. McNulty: No decisions have yet been taken on future airport capacity in the South East. The White Paper will not convey statutory authorisation for any development. That would need to be sought subsequently. Where an airport operator brings forward a planning application, under the major infrastructure projects provision in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill currently before the House, the Government will have powers to call in planning applications which it considers to be of national or regional importance. A Planning Inspector will then be appointed to consider the application and make recommendations to Ministers.
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment his Department has made of the likely timescale between the publication of the White Paper on the future of airport expansion in the UK later this year and a final decision being taken on the location of expansion. 
Mr. McNulty: The air transport White Paper will set out the Government's policies on any preferred locations for future airport capacity. Planning approval for any new capacity will need to be sought subsequently. For the purposes of the SERAS study, it was assumed that following the White Paper any new runway might require two years for detailed design and project definition and a further two years for authorisation.
Mr. McNulty: The European Union's Biofuels Directive requires member states to set their own indicative targets for sales of biofuels for road transport to be met in 2005 and 2010. The Government will be consulting early next year on the level of possible targets for the UK and on the steps it might take to meet them.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to his answer of 14 October 2003, Official Report, column 165W, on biofuels, what assessment he has made of the costs if the UK were to set targets for sales of biofuels at (a) 2 per cent. by 2005 and (b) 5.75 per cent. by 2010. 
Mr. McNulty: We have not carried out any detailed assessment of what the costs to the UK might be if we chose to set indicative biofuels sales targets at those levels. This sort of analysis will form part of the consultation paper on our plans for implementing the Directive which we plan to issue early next year, and will help inform the level of targets that we choose to set.
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The costs to the UK will depend on a number of factors, including the level of Government support for biofuels. The Government currently provide a 20 pence per litre fuel duty incentive for biodiesel, with a similar duty incentive for bioethanol due to come into effect in January 2005. At these levels of duty incentive, if sales of biofuels were to reach 2 per cent. of total annual fuel sales (i.e. almost 1 billion litres), the fuel duty revenue forgone would be in the region of £200 million per annum. If they were to reach 5.75 per cent. of total fuel sales (or total sales of a little under 3 billion litres), the revenue forgone would be close to £600 million per annum. There may be other public costs too, including any grants that help support the production of biofuels, or any subsidies provided under the Common Agricultural Policy.
Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with representatives of local government about the possibility of changes to the national minimum standards for concessionary travel schemes; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the additional payments were in each year since 200102 from central Government to (a) local government in England and (b) each local authority and London borough to reimburse local government for the cost of the national minimum standards for concessionary travel schemes introduced under the Transport Act 2000. 
Mr. McNulty: The Government have provided an additional £54 million each year since 200102 to local government for the cost of the national minimum standards for concessionary travel schemes introduced under the Transport Act 2000, with effect from June 2001. That expenditure, along with other costs falling on local authorities, is provided as part of the contribution that Government make to local authorities through the annual grant settlement.
Figures for the amounts received by each local authority in England, including London boroughs, are not available, as the additional funding for concessionary fares has been included in the total amount of grant distributed to local authorities.
Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the cost of concessionary travel schemes was (a) in England and (b) in each local authority and London borough for (i) the elderly and (ii) the disabled in each year since 200102. 
Mr. McNulty: The amount spent by local authorities on concessionary travel schemes for older and disabled people in England as a whole, in London, the metropolitan areas and the rest of England in 200102 and 200203 is summarised in the table. The amount for each authority has been placed in the Libraries of the House. From the data available it is not possible to separate the concessionary spending for older people and disabled people.
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|English metropolitan areas||203||216|
|English unitary, district and county areas||122||130|
Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the administration costs of implementing national minimum standards for concessionary travel schemes were for (a) local government in England, broken down by local authority and London borough, and (b) his Department in each year since 200102. 
Mr. McNulty: Implementation of the national minimum standard for concessionary travel schemes is a matter for local authorities. Information on the administration costs of implementation is not held centrally.
Mr. McNulty: Last year the Department published the Transport Statistics Bulletin, "Concessionary Bus Fare Schemes England 2001", which provided a survey of the provision of all the concessionary fares schemes in England following the introduction of the statutory minimum standard in June 2001.
This showed that over half of local authorities had a more generous concessionary fare scheme for elderly and disabled people compared with the position before the statutory minimum standard came into effect. This included 17 local authorities where there had been no concessionary fare scheme previously.
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