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11 Jan 2005 : Column 158W—continued

Train Overcrowding

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance is given to train operating companies on preventing dangerous levels of overcrowding on commuter trains. [207589]

Mr. McNulty: Commuter train operators are required to carry out passenger counts to demonstrate that adequate capacity is provided to accommodate the passengers expected throughout the morning and evening peak periods. This ensures that franchise operators properly address the issue of capacity requirements in peak periods, whilst accepting that the railway provides a walk-on service, that forecasting demand in advance is not an exact science and that loadings, even on the same train, can vary from day to day or week to week.

Transport Projects (Coventry)

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the level of investment in local transport projects in Coventry was in the last year for which figures are available; and how much was spent in the West Midlands region during the period. [206966]

Charlotte Atkins: Capital expenditure on local transport projects in Coventry during 2003–04 amounted to £6.437 million. Expenditure across the West Midlands region for 2003–04 totalled £187.936 million. Figures are taken from the 2004 Annual Progress Reports for Local Transport Plans.

Vehicle Registration

Mr. Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the cost has been of providing new style V5C registration certificates to comply with the European Directive on harmonising vehicle registration certificates; and what the estimated total costs, including postage costs, will be of the replacement of all UK vehicle registration certificates. [206630]

Mr. Jamieson: The European Directive 1999/37/EC, which came into effect on 1 June 2004, requires all member states to introduce a common format for
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vehicle registration certificates. This is intended to facilitate the identification of vehicles in international traffic and in re-registration in other member states.

The costs directly related to the design and preparation of the forms and project planning were approximately £0.9 million, with a further £5.2 million system change and development costs to accommodate the additional information now held and printed onto the new harmonised registration certificates.

The legislation does not require the replacement of existing documents until a reissue is requested, so that additional running costs would not have been incurred. However, it was decided to embark on an accelerated circulation of existing registration documents (V5s) and to replace these existing certificates in line with the annual registration/licensing process:

This was an important adjunct to the Continuous Registration process and is intended to help in reducing the number of vehicles without current registration, according to DVLA's Secretary of State performance target.

The current forecast for the total costs associated with this accelerated process, which has six months yet to run to completion are £9.3 million.

Working Time Regulations

Mr. Brady: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many officials working in ministerial private offices in the Department have worked more than a 48-hour week at any time in the last 12 months for which figures are available; how many of those had signed a waiver under working time regulations; and what percentage these figures represented of the total in each case. [204136]

Charlotte Atkins: The working time regulations provide workers with the protection of a limit of an average of 48 hours a week working time. This is not an absolute cap of 48 hours in any one week. This average is normally calculated over a 17-week reference period, although this can be longer in certain situations (26 weeks) and can be extended by agreement (up to 52 weeks). Workers may choose to work more than 48 hours per week over this reference period by signing an opt-out agreement, but employers cannot force a worker to sign an opt-out and workers cannot be subjected to detriment for refusing to sign an opt-out.

In the past year, a total of 26 individuals working in ministerial private offices have worked more than 48 hours in at least one week. This total reflects a number of staff changes during the course of the year. There are currently 11 staff working in ministerial private offices who have signed an opt-out. Given the changes of staff during the year, it is not meaningful to calculate this as a percentage of the total of 26.
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Animal Welfare

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will make a statement on the level of protection afforded to circus animals in the Animal Welfare Bill; [206623]

(2) what discussions her Department has had with circuses over the welfare of their animals; [206624]

(3) if she will make a statement on the future of animals in circuses in the light of regulations to be introduced under the Animal Welfare Bill. [206625]

Mr. Bradshaw: Our proposals under the Animal Welfare Bill will improve significantly the welfare of all animals used in entertainment, including animals performing in circuses. The introduction of the welfare offence means that the owner or keeper of an animal is required to take reasonable steps to ensure its welfare. This will enable the courts to take action where an animal although not currently suffering is being kept in a way that will cause eventual suffering.

The contents of the Bill have been subject to public consultation and pre- legislative scrutiny. This has enabled a wide range of animal keepers, including the keepers of circus animals, to make their views known.

It is our intention, through regulations under the Bill, to license all performing animal trainers. We propose that inspectors will be given the right of entry to all premises where performing animals are kept or are performing, including winter holding quarters. The regulations would be backed up by a code of practice which would set out welfare standards. The regulations and code would be subject to public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny.


Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate she has made of the (a) value and (b) potential value of sea angling for bass in UK inshore waters on a recreational and commercial hook and line fishing basis only. [200047]

Mr. Bradshaw [holding answer 29 November 2004]: The value of commercial landings of bass by line gear used by the UK fleet was approximately £354,000 in 2003. The proportion of this figure relating to landings in inshore waters is not available. Although a report by Drew Associates, commissioned by Defra, and published in July 2004, provided information on the economic contribution of sea angling in England and Wales, this did not provide information relating solely to bass so recent data on the value of this activity is not available. However, as part of the process of taking forward the recommendations in net benefits report from the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit, we will be reviewing the evidence for re-designating commercially caught species for wholly recreational sea angling, beginning with bass.

Bass Trawler Fishing

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent
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assessment she has made of the impact of bass trawler fishing on (a) dolphin welfare and (b) the size of the dolphin population. [201734]

Mr. Bradshaw: Defra-funded research identified a dolphin bycatch problem in the pair trawl fishery for bass and trials, which concluded in spring 2004, demonstrated that mitigation devices were not sufficiently developed to reduce this bycatch in the short-term. This was why I approached the European Commission for an emergency closure of this fishery and, in the light of the Commission's rejection of the UK case, announced my intention to prohibit pelagic pair trawling for bass within 12 miles of the south west coast.

When our request for an emergency closure was put to the Commission it was understood that the relevant population of common dolphins was approximately 120,000. More recent abundance estimates show however that the population is several times this figure. Although dolphin bycatch may not now be considered a significant threat to the conservation of the species, I intend to continue with bycatch reduction measures to comply with commitments to minimise bycatch and to reduce it to its lowest level.

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