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21 Dec 2004 : Column 1649W—continued

Freedom of Information

Matthew Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many staff in his Department were employed to deal with Freedom of Information Act 2000 issues in (a) 2001, (b) 2002, (c) 2003 and (d) 2004; and how many staff are budgeted to deal with Freedom of Information Act 2000 issues in (i) 2005 and (ii) 2006. [205040]

Charlotte Atkins: The Department for Transport was formed in May 2002. The numbers of staff (full-time equivalents) in DfT and its agencies employed, or budgeted, to deal with Freedom of Information Act 2000 issues, in the years mentioned, are as follows:
Number of staff
20023.4
20036
200425.95
200525.55
200623.55

Beyond those staff directly involved in the ongoing implementation and application of FOI within the Department, it is difficult to identify precisely the number of officials who will be dealing with Freedom of Information issues from 1 January 2005, since it is potentially part of every civil servant's role to respond to Freedom of Information requests.

Freight (Points of Entry)

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport through how many points of entry by (a) sea and (b) air commercial freight can enter the UK; and which agency is responsible for (i) the control of hazardous or toxic materials and (ii) the supervision of workers on ships and aircraft using documents of identity other than passports and visas. [204414]

Mr. Jamieson: Freight can be landed at any of the more than 600 port facilities in the UK, although commercial traffic is concentrated in some 50 ports with over one million tonnes of traffic per annum. However, commercial freight could be landed at almost any suitable point. Similarly, commercial freight by air could be landed at any suitable landing strip but in practice the majority passes through approximately 20 major airports.

The UK competent authority for the transport of dangerous goods (including toxic and otherwise hazardous substances) by sea is the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and by air is the Civil Aviation Authority. Once off-loaded from the means of transport to the shore/land side, dangerous goods enforcement becomes the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive.
 
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Workers (crew) on ships or aircraft entering the UK are subject to the usual controls set by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office. Workers going on board aircraft from the landside are subject to controls set by the Transport Security and Contingency Directorate of the Department for Transport. Ships that are engaged in international voyages are all required to have a ship security plan approved by their flag administration. These plans include access control arrangements.

Gender Pay Gap

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the gender pay gap among staff in his Department. [202423]

Charlotte Atkins: All departments and agencies were committed to completing an equal pay review and action plan by the end of April 2003. Within DfT, the Central Department and Agencies, as separate units, completed their individual equal pay reviews and action plans within the given timescale.

Invoice Payment

Michael Fabricant: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average length of time was between the date of invoices issued to his Department from a supplier and payment by the Department of the invoice in the last 12 months for which figures are available; what percentage of these invoices were paid within 30 days of the date of issue of the invoice; what percentage of these invoices remained unpaid after 90 days; and if he will make a statement on the Department's policy on the payment of invoices issued to it. [200627]

Charlotte Atkins: The Department for Transport was formed in May 2002. The Department does not hold details of the date invoices are issued. However, it does hold data relating to the date invoices are received. The average length of time between the date of receipt of invoices from supplier and payment of the invoice in the last 12 months is 16.5 days.

The percentage of invoices paid within 30 days of the date of receipt of the invoice for the last 12 months is 98.27 per cent.

The percentage of invoices that remain unpaid after 90 days in the last 12 months is 0.24 per cent.

The policy in the Department for Transport is that all valid invoices should be paid within 30 days from receipt. The target in DfT for 2004–05 is to pay 98 per cent. of valid invoices within 30 days of receipt. This target and progress on achieving it is monitored every month.

IT (Disciplinary Procedures)

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many staff in his Department have (a) received official warnings and (b) faced disciplinary procedures following breaches of IT policy in each year since 1997. [205808]


 
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Charlotte Atkins: The Department for Transport was established in May 2002 following machinery of Government changes. A new policy was introduced dealing with the use/misuse of the Department's ICT resources. This policy has been brought to the attention of staff in a Departmental Bulletin and is contained in the Departmental Staff Handbook.

One member of staff has faced disciplinary procedures following inappropriate use of IT equipment in 2003.

Light Rail Schemes

Mrs. Calton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what support his Department plans to give to light rail schemes. [206101]

Mr. McNulty: All bids for light rail schemes will be considered on the basis of their value for money, wider benefits, and affordability.

Older Drivers

Mr. Michael Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the number of car drivers over the age of 65 years in England. [206384]

Mr. Jamieson: According to the National Travel Survey, in 2002–03 there were an estimated 4.2 million persons age 65 years and above holding full driving licences.

Paddington Rail Crash

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with the Paddington Survivors' Group on the subject of signals passed at danger. [204897]

Mr. McNulty: The Secretary of State met with the Paddington Survivors Group on 13 June 2002 and 3 February 2003.

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC), as the independent rail safety regulator, have published reports showing that 268 of the 295 recommendations (from the Southall, Ladbroke Grove and train protection public inquiries) have been completed. The HSC say that work is already well under way on the outstanding 27 recommendations.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many written questions for his Department were unanswered when Parliament prorogued; and how many of the unanswered questions were tabled in each of the previous months of the 2003–04 Session. [201560]

Charlotte Atkins: The effective handling of parliamentary questions is an issue to which I, and ministerial colleagues, attach great importance.

No Department for Transport written questions remained unanswered when the House prorogued on 18 November.
 
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Pollution

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department is taking to reduce levels of pollution caused by public transport vehicles. [206382]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department's PowerShift and CleanUp programmes—administered by the Energy Saving Trust—have provided grants towards the cost of converting vehicles to run on cleaner fuels and towards the cost of fitting emission reduction technologies such as particulate traps. To date 6,532 buses, coaches and taxis and have benefited from these programmes.

In addition, grants funded through the New Vehicle Technology Fund have supported the demonstration of a range of innovative clean, fuel-efficient technologies such as fuel cells and hybrid vehicles. The Bus Service Operators Grant also reimburses to the operator 100 per cent. of the fuel duty paid on gas fuels and bio-diesel, compared with 80 per cent. reimbursement for other fuels.

Maximum emission levels for carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter are also specified for these vehicles. These requirements are in European Directive 88/77/EC and its amendments and have been in place since 1993. Extra tightening of these standards will take effect from 2005 and will reduce emission limits by 95 per cent. relative to the 1993 limits for particulate matter and 61 per cent. for oxides of nitrogen. A further stage will take effect from 2008 that will reduce the limits for oxides of nitrogen by a further 37 per cent.

More generally, we are encouraging investment in new buses by means of a target agreed with the bus industry of reducing the average age of the bus fleet to eight years. The industry is on track to achieve this target, meaning that older vehicles with poor emissions performance are being replaced by new, cleaner vehicles.


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