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5 Jan 2004 : Column 53W—continued

Traffic Management Bill

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what salaries will be payable to traffic officers appointed under the Traffic Management Bill. [145539]

Mr. Jamieson: Traffic officers will be paid within a salary range of £15,800 to £20,000. They will receive an additional allowance of up to 20 per cent. for working a shift system. Other staff, such as supervisors and control centre personnel, who will be co-ordinating operations and fulfilling customer service functions, will be paid from aligned pay ranges.

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Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether there will be a standard national uniform for traffic officers appointed under the Traffic Management Bill; and if it will include a requirement to wear headgear. [145540]

Mr. Jamieson: A national standard uniform for traffic officers has been developed. It includes a hard hat for wearing at the scene of incidents when there is a risk of head injury.

A uniform is required to make traffic officers easily visible and recognisable, to establish authority and credibility, and to protect the public from persons impersonating a traffic officer.

Transport Council

Mr. Jim Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the outcome was of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 4 to 5 December; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [142977]

Mr. Jamieson: The transport session of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council met in Brussels on 5 December. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State represented the United Kingdom.

The Presidency gave a progress report on the proposed Directive on sanctions for ship-source pollution, indicating that further work was needed. The Transport Council would call on the Justice and Home Affairs Council to look at the parallel proposal for a framework decision for criminal sanctions. The UK is among Member States seeking to ensure the exclusion of criminal sanctions from the Directive.

The Council reached a General Approach on an amendment to the Regulation which established the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The Regulation extends EMSA's role into the areas of certification of third country seafarers, counter-pollution measures and ship security. The security role is to be limited, on the basis of a Presidency compromise proposal, to ships only (thereby excluding the ship/port interface and ports themselves). This was accepted by all delegations.

The Council reached a General Approach on a Regulation on transfer of vessels between Community registers. The text is acceptable to the UK.

The Council reached Political Agreement on an amending Regulation on airport slot allocation. The Presidency explained that the proposal concerned technical amendments to the existing rules on slot allocation, with market measures left to a later phase. A compromise text safeguarded the possibility of secondary slot trading at congested airports (the key issue for the UK), and removed a time limit on the re-letting of public service contracts. My right hon. Friend joined others in speaking in support of the compromise. The Commission said it would come forward in 2004 with a proposal to introduce market elements to the slot allocation system.

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The Commissioner reported on her recent informal talks with the US on EU/US air service negotiations. The US had said that they envisaged the negotiations focusing on ownership and control issues, competition, leasing, and airport access.

The Council reached Political Agreement on a revised proposal to amend the guidelines to the transport Trans-European Network. This provides for: simpler environmental assessment requirements; tighter conditions for start-up aid in the context of 'motorways of the sea'; greater Commission consultation with Member States over action in response to project delays; and scope for adding to or amending the list of priority projects on the basis of two-yearly Commission reports. The amendments are largely acceptable to all Member States, including the UK.

Among AOB items, the Commission reported on progress in negotiations with the United States on interoperability of the Galileo satellite navigation system with the US Global Positioning System (GPS). The Commission also welcomed the commercial and development agreement reached with China on Galileo.

The Council reached a General Approach on the Directive on interoperability of European electronic road tolling systems. The UK has particular interest in this measure because of our plans to introduce lorry road-user charging. We were able to accept the revised text at the Council, which had moved a considerable way to accommodate concerns we had had.

There was a policy debate on the directive on charging of heavy goods vehicles (the Eurovignette directive), on the basis of three questions put in advance by the Presidency. The written submissions by Member and accession States will be used to inform future negotiations during the Irish Presidency. We explained specific points in the UK submission, in particular pressing for the scope of the Directive to permit the inclusion of congestion and environmental costs in any charges and arguing against mandatory hypothecation of toll revenue.

The Council failed to reach agreement on the Directive on weekend lorry bans. We joined a number of other Member States in speaking in support of the proposal. However, the number of Member States opposed to even minimal EU rules prevented agreement. This issue will now be examined further and put to a future Council.

The Commission presented two new legislative proposals in the area of road transport: the third driving licence directive; and a proposal requiring more frequent checking of commercial vehicles for compliance with drivers' hours legislation. These will now be examined in detail before being submitted to a future Council for agreement.

The Council agreed Conclusions on road safety, confirming the agreement reached at the informal meeting in Verona in October. The UK welcomes the Conclusions as a significant contribution to European road safety, and will support future proposals which stand up to the tests of subsidiarity and proportionality. The Commission also presented a Recommendation on enforcement in the field of road safety.

No formal votes were taken.

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US Ships (Decommissioning)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what inspections (a) have been carried out and (b) are planned into the sea-worthiness of the US Navy ships moored in Hartlepool to assess their safety for returning to the United States; and if he will place copies of the completed assessments in the Library. [143762]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 15 December 2003]: Inspections of the vessels are being undertaken to ensure that they do not pose any risk while remaining in Hartlepool.

To ensure that the vessels are in a suitable condition to cross the Atlantic, a survey would be necessary before Load line Exemption Certificates can be issued.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment the Government has made of the (a) safety and (b) speed with which the US Navy ships moored in Hartlepool could be returned to the US with the use of a heavy lift vessel; and if he will place a copy of such assessments in the Library. [143764]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 15 December 2003]: Initial risk assessments and routing plans have been produced for the return voyage of the vessels, under tow. No assessment has been produced for using a heavy lift vessel.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to his Answer of 16 December 2003, Official Report, column 794W, on US Ships (decommissioning), by whom an application could be made. [145193]

Mr. Jamieson: By the owner of the vessels concerned.

Vehicle Licensing

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his latest estimate is of how many people are driving (a) without a licence and (b) without insurance; and how many unlicensed vehicles he estimates are on the road. [145528]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department's Report, "Research into Unlicensed Driving", published on 15 December 2003, estimated that the number of people driving without a valid driving licence would lie in a range between 620,000 and just over 1 million. The Government are committed to tackling this. We are already taking action with the widespread Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras allowing police to target unlicensed vehicles on the road. All police services have 24-hour access to DVLA driving licence records via the Police National Computer.

The number of people driving without insurance is estimated at approximately 1.25 million 1 . The Department has facilitated links between the Motor Insurance Database and the Police National Computer. The database contains details of every motorist's insurance and every vehicle insured. The police are currently making up to 25,000 checks each day on this database to detect and correct uninsured driving. In addition, the Government have appointed Professor David Greenaway of the University of Nottingham to

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carry out an independent review of motor insurance arrangements in the U.K, to advise on how to improve procedures and to reduce uninsured driving.

The number of unlicensed (i.e. untaxed) vehicles is estimated at 1.76 million 2 . Reforms of the vehicle registration system include:

In combination, the above measures are designed to improve the accuracy of the vehicle register from around 92 per cent. now to 97.5 per cent. by 2005 and to reduce evasion from around 4.5 per cent. to no more than 2.5 per cent. by 2007.

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