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22 Jun 2005 : Column 1039W—continued

Regional Assemblies

Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the running costs of the South East of England Regional Assembly have been in each of the last five years. [5389]

Yvette Cooper: I refer the hon. Member to the answers given to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Browne) on 17 March 2005, Official Report, column 368W.

Regional Fire Control Centres

Mr. Fallon: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister if he will list the sites short listed for the proposed regional fire control centres. [4935]

Jim Fitzpatrick: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 6 June 2005, Official Report, columns 410–11W, to the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale).

Right to Buy

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what plans the Government have to increase Right to Buy discount ceilings in line with house price inflation. [4275]

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Yvette Cooper: There are no current plans to increase the discounts available under the Right to Buy scheme to tenants who wish to purchase 100 per cent. of the home they live in. However, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is consulting on a number of options for tenants who wish to purchase a share of their homes under Social Homebuy.

Torquay Crematorium Chapel

Mr. Steen: To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what guidance Torbay Unitary Authority sought from his Office in relation to (a) changing the name of Torquay Crematorium Chapel and (b) decreasing the size of the cross inside the ceremonial hall. [5962]

Ms Harman: I have been asked to reply.

Torbay Unitary Authority has not sought any advice from my Department in relation to changing the name of Torquay Crematorium Chapel and decreasing the size of the cross inside the ceremonial hall.


A303 (Stonehenge)

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the estimated total cost is of the tunnelled section of the A303 in Wiltshire near Stonehenge. [111]

Dr. Ladyman: The approved budget for the A303 Stonehenge Improvement is £223 million, which includes an estimated £100 million for the costs of the bored tunnel section. These figures are currently being reviewed by Highways Agency following further site investigations, and some further increase in costs is now anticipated. Details of the revised cost will be announced alongside our decision on the Inspector's Report following the public inquiry into the Stonehenge Improvement scheme.

Air Safety

Sarah Teather: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) collisions and (b) near-misses of aircraft above London there were in each of the last five years. [5312]

Ms Buck: An airprox is a situation in which, in the opinion of a pilot or a controller, the distance between aircraft as well as their relative positions and speed have been such that the safety of the aircraft involved was or may have been compromised.

Over the period of 2000 to 2004 there have been 23 airprox in controlled airspace over London. These can be broken down on an annual basis as follows:

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These are statistically insignificant numbers which should not be used to derive any trends, especially considering the volumes of air traffic which have increased over the period. The UK Airprox Board assessed that there was no risk of a collision in any of the subject airprox. There have been no mid-air collisions.

Concessionary Fares

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the distribution formula is for the half fare concession to the over 60s; and how much has been paid by the Government to each local authority or transport authority in each of the last five years. [6316]

Ms Buck: There is currently no specific distribution formula for concessionary fares; they are one of a wide-range of services covered in the district-level Environmental Protection and Cultural Services Block of the Revenue Support Grant (RSG) system. It is therefore not possible to work out how much grant an authority has received with respect to concessionary fares.


Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of whether capacity offered by Crossrail on the Shenfield branch will meet the change in demand expected as a result of plans for homebuilding in the South East. [5429]

Derek Twigg: It is estimated that Crossrail will provide a 40 per cent. increase in capacity of the local services between Shenfield and Liverpool Street with the service pattern currently proposed. That additional capacity will help to meet increases in demand for transport along the branch. In addition, by releasing platform capacity at Liverpool Street, Crossrail would improve the potential for expansion of services from the Lea Valley.

Disability Discrimination Act

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance he has issued to the aviation industry on the application to it of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and if he will make a statement. [5288]

Ms Buck: In common with other transport infrastructure such as stations and ports, airports are covered by Part 3 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) which covers access to goods, facilities and services. The Disability Rights Commission has produced a code of practice for service providers on meeting the Part 3 duties.

There is currently an exemption in Part 3 for

which means that the element of the service involving air travel is not covered. We have, however, amended that exemption under Section 5 of the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 to make clear that it applies only to services involving the provision and use of a vehicle (including an aircraft) and to allow for it to be lifted to different extents, for different services at different times.
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We have said that we would use the new power in respect of air services if the voluntary code of practice which we issued in March 2003 proves to be ineffective. That code, "Access to Air Travel for Disabled People—Code of Practice", was developed in close co-operation with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (the Government's statutory advisers on transport and mobility for disabled people) and industry representatives. It draws on internationally agreed best practice from the European Civil Aviation Conference and the International Civil Aviation Organisation and includes specific advice on all aspects of air travel, from accessing information through to on board services and disembarkation at the final destination.

Research is currently under way to monitor the sector's compliance with the code's recommendations. The study is due to report around the end of this year and will inform our decision on whether to use the provisions in the 2005 Act to bring air services within the scope of Part 3.


Mrs. Lait: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions his Department has had with (a) Eurotunnel (i) staff and (ii) creditors and (b) other Government Departments in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement. [R] [6013]

Derek Twigg: Officials at the Department for Transport have periodic discussions with a wide range of industry parties, other stakeholders and counterparts in other Government Departments in relation to the Department's strategic interest in cross-channel rail services. The Department also has regular contact with Eurotunnel management on issues relating to the day-to-day operation of the channel tunnel, through its representation on the Anglo-French Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission.

Free Fare Scheme

Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport who will meet the costs of the Free Fare scheme; what assessment has been made of the likely cost; whether the scheme will include free local bus travel for (a) people over 60 years and (b) people with disabilities; and when he expects further information on the operation of the scheme to be published. [6242]

Ms Buck: Free off-peak concessionary travel will be introduced in England for those 60 and over and disabled people on their local bus services from April 2006. The Government will provide an extra £350 million in 2006–07 which will be sufficient to fund the cost. Final decisions on the distribution of the extra funding—which will be done through the Revenue Support Grant process—have not been made.

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