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1 Mar 2004 : Column 644Wcontinued
Mr. Damian Green: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made with the pilot study aimed at providing dedicated rest areas for lorry drivers away from the motorway network. 
Mr. Jamieson: I have asked officials to work up a pilot scheme to provide a dedicated rest area for lorry drivers away from the motorway network. This is in response to concerns raised by the haulage industry, and others, about the lack of such facilities. These proposals are still at an early stage, although it is envisaged that any such scheme should be a joint initiative involving the Highways Agency, the haulage industry, and the ultimate operator of the facility. Much of the work to date has concentrated on identifying a suitable site and undertaking discussions with relevant local planning authorities, the haulage industry and potential operators.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will allow cars which are free of road fund licences to travel free on the M6 toll road; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The legislation (the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991) enabling tolling at the M6 toll road provides exemptions from toll charges for police vehicles, identifiable as such by writing or markings on them or otherwise by their appearance, if being used for police purposes.
The same legislation also provides exemption from liability to pay toll charges for certain types of vehicle, which are exempt from vehicle excise duty. These are:
The provision of any further exemptions from toll charges for other vehicles using the M6 toll road is solely at the discretion of the M6 toll concessionaire, Midland Expressway Ltd.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what sum was paid to the Post Office in each of the last five years for dealing with motor vehicle licensing applications. 
Mr. Jamieson: Post Office Ltd. provides facilities for motor vehicle relicensing at over 4,500 post office branches. The costs are as follows.
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Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what considerations control the number of post offices permitted to deal with motor vehicle licensing applications. 
Mr. Jamieson: A number of factors have to be taken into consideration. The main one being striking a balance between cost to the taxpayer and convenience to the motorist. The current network of offices means that 95 per cent. of customers have access to a MVL issuing post office branch within two miles of their home.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) post offices and (b) sub-post offices were authorised to deal with motor vehicle licensing applications in 1997; and how many are now authorised to deal with motor vehicle licensing applications. 
Mr. Jamieson: There were 4,000 Motor Vehicle Licensing [MVL] offices in 1997. Of these around 600 were Branch (Crown) Offices and 3,400 other post offices.
At present there are 4,548 MVL issuing offices. These comprise 552 Branch (Crown) offices and 3,996 others.
By the end of March 2004 a further 44 offices will provide the service, bringing the number of MVL offices to 4,592.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the post offices in Chorley which deal with motor vehicle licences. 
Mr. Jamieson: At present there are seven motor vehicle licensing post office(r) branches in the Chorley constituency. They are:
|Whittle Le Woods||23 Shaw Brow, Chorley, PR6 7LE|
|Chorley||Cleveland Street, Chorley, PR7 1AW|
|Adlington||18/20 Market Place, Chorley, PR7 4EZ|
|Eccleston||Unit 14a Carrington Centre, Chorley, PR75UP|
|Coppull||165 Spendmore Lane, Coppull, Chorley, PR7 5BY|
|Brinscall||50/54 School Lane, Brinscall, Chorley, PR6 8QP|
|Hoghton||The Straits, Hoghton, Preston, PR5 0DA|
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action his Department is taking to tackle the problem of uninsured driving. 
Mr. Jamieson: Last August, we commissioned an independent review of motor insurance with uninsured driving as a key consideration. The reviewer, Professor David Greenaway of Nottingham university, will report in April. We shall study his findings closely, with a view to taking effective action to tackle the problem. We expect to consider a range of measures, some of which may involve legislative change.
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Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the value is of the Government stake in the ownership of motorway service stations; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Government have retained a freehold interest in 21 of the 64 existing Motorway Service Areas (MSAs) in England; these have a total current book value of £28,626,000. There are currently no plans to dispose of these remaining freehold interests, with the possible exception of Burtonwood MSA on the M62.
Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many parliamentary questions have been tabled to his Department since 1st January 2003, broken down by (a) ordinary written and (b) named day; what percentage in respect of (a) were answered within 10 working days and what percentage in respect of (b) were answered by the specified date. 
Mr. McNulty: At 27 February 2004, the Department for Transport had answered 3,541 written parliamentary questions tabled since 1 January 2003. This comprised 3,002 ordinary written questions (98.5 per cent. of which were answered within 10 sitting days) and 539 named day questions (76 per cent. of which were given a substantive answer on the specified date).
Norman Lamb: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the (a) target lead time and (b) average waiting time for practical driving tests are; what the waiting time for a practical driving test at the Jupiter Road Test Centre in Norwich is; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jamieson: The Driving Standards Agency has a national target for the average annual waiting time for a practical car driving test of six weeks. The current national average waiting time for a test is 10 weeks. The current waiting time for a test at the Jupiter Road test centre in Norwich is 18 weeks.
Demand for driving tests rose sharply in 200203, with demand for car tests 20 per cent. higher than forecast. In response, 235 driving examiners were recruited and a further 85 examiners will be recruited by the end of the financial year. The recruitment of another 140 examiners is planned for next financial year. By November 2003, the national average waiting time for a car test was down to 8.7 weeks. However, waiting times rose in December, mainly as a result of the holiday period. In January, bad weather resulted in some tests being cancelled nationally, with certain parts of the country more badly affected than others. Some 120 tests were cancelled at the Jupiter Road centre. Bad weather has resulted in some 30 tests being cancelled in February. Industrial action by driving examiners on 17 February resulted in around 30 tests being cancelled.
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A continued work to rule is likely to result in more tests being cancelled, further adversely affecting waiting times.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects the provisions of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 relating to (a) the Rail Accident Investigation Board and (b) the testing of alcohol levels in pilots will take effect. 
Mr. McNulty: A consultation on the secondary legislation required for the Rail Accident Investigation Branch is planned before the Summer with the expectation that the provisions will come into force by the end of the year.
It is anticipated that the aviation alcohol testing provisions of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 will be brought into force before Easter.
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