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12 Jul 2005 : Column 999W—continued

Fuel-efficient Cars

Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to encourage people to buy cars that are fuel-efficient. [9220]

Dr. Ladyman: The main steps are summarised in the Government's 2002 Powering Future Vehicles Strategy. The progress we have made in encouraging people to choose more fuel efficient vehicles is described in the first two annual reports on the delivery of the strategy. All of these documents are available via the Department for Transport's website.

In 2001 we introduced a graduated vehicle excise duty system which rewards those who choose the most fuel-efficient vehicles. In 2002, we introduced a revised company car tax scheme, under which those who choose the most fuel efficient vehicles can save up to several thousand pounds a year. These changes have reinforced the actions of the motor industry to deliver fuel efficiency improvements under their voluntary agreements with the European Commission, improving the average fuel efficiency of new cars sold in the UK by some 10 per cent. over the last decade.

We have also this year launched a colour-coded fuel efficiency label which will be displayed on new vehicles in nearly all UK car showrooms by the end of the summer. This will highlight the savings that motorists can make by choosing more fuel efficient vehicles. We are also considering, subject to the necessary state aid approval from the European Commission, the introduction of a purchase grant scheme which will reward those who choose the very cleanest and most fuel-efficient vehicles.


Mr. Davey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what investigations his Department has carried out into the additional (a) air and (b) noise pollution that will result from a fifth terminal being built at Heathrow airport; and what plans he has to combat these increases; [10306]

(2) what discussions he has had with the British Airports Authority regarding the limitation of environmental damage in the construction of the fifth terminal at Heathrow; [10309]

(3) what assessment he has made of the effect the building of the fifth terminal at Heathrow will have on the surrounding transport infrastructure, with particular reference to the (a) M25 and (b) rail network. [10311]

Ms Buck: These matters were examined at the Planning Inquiry and the Inspector's conclusions and recommendation were set out in his report. The 20 November 2001 decision struck a balance between the benefits and the disbenefits of this development and imposed strict controls.

These include a limit on flights of 480,000 per annum, a noise contour cap, a requirement that the Heathrow Express and Piccadilly Lines are extended to Terminal 5 before it opens, a reduction in car parking spaces, including for employees, below the levels proposed by BAA, consultation on stricter controls on night flights and no widening of the M4.
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Interchange Box (St. Pancras Station)

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what planning considerations are preventing the fitting out of the interchange box under St. Pancras Station. [10838]

Derek Twigg: Construction of the Thameslink Midland Road station box was authorised by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996. The fitting out of the station does not require further authorisation.

London Underground

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will undertake a review of safety procedures for railway staff attending incidents on electric railway tracks following the incident on 29 June at King's Cross Station on the Piccadilly line; and if he will make a statement; [10843]

(2) if he will undertake a review of safety procedures for staff from the (a) Ambulance Service and (b) Fire Brigade when attending incidents on electric railway tracks following the incident on 29 June at King's Cross Station on the Piccadilly line; and if he will make a statement. [10844]

Ms Buck [holding answer 11 July 2005]: A formal investigation is now being undertaken by both London Underground (LU) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to determine the causes of the incident at King's Cross on 29 June. This type of incident involving electric shocks is very rare and so far it has not proved possible to identify the power source for the shocks received by the emergency services staff.

Once the investigation is complete HSE and LU will review the findings to identify and implement any necessary changes to safety procedures to minimise the risk of a recurrence.

M6 Toll Road

Mr. George Osborne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the Government will announce its decision on the proposed new M6 Toll Road. [10679]

Dr. Ladyman: The consultation exercise, M6: giving motorists a choice" sought views on whether the Department should develop the option of an M6 Expressway between Birmingham and Manchester as an alternative to the current option to widen the M6 between junctions 11a and 19. The Government are considering the response to the consultation and will respond in due course.

Pensioners (Free Travel)

Mr. Meacher: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will extend the pensioner concessionary travel scheme to include use of trams. [11822]

Ms Buck: I refer my right hon. Friend to my answer of 4 July 2005, Official Report, columns 24–25W.

Rail Services

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with the Strategic Rail Authority on the review of off-peak train services. [7296]

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Derek Twigg: None. The SRA is not currently conducting a general review of off- peak rail services.

However, on 1 June the Strategic Rail Authority issued invitations to tender to bidders for the new Greater Western franchise and on 2 June issued a stakeholder consultation document. The current half-hourly 'inter-city' service between Cardiff and London Paddington is included in the timetabled specification that forms the base case. To determine the value for money of running these services and to assess options, each bidder is also being asked to provide a priced option for a reduction in the service frequency in the off peak, from half-hourly to hourly.

Rolling Stock

Greg Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will break down by project the £600 million rolling stock and infrastructure investment referred to at page 19 of the Integrated Kent Franchise Stakeholder Briefing Document published in January. [11312]

Derek Twigg: This investment has been carried out as part of a single project: the new trains programme which has been carried out to replace Mark 1 slam-door rolling stock with modern trains. This project represents a total investment of over £600 million in Kent including works carried out to upgrade the power supply, lengthen platforms and provide new depot facilities.

Vehicle Licensing

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what percentage of cars licensed to run on British roads were first licensed prior to 1975. [11565]

Dr. Ladyman: In March 2005, there were 212,000 licensed cars first registered prior to 1975 making up 0.8 per cent. of the total licensed stock.

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many British-owned motor vehicles are licensed to drive on British roads. [11566]

Dr. Ladyman: There are 32.9 million licensed vehicles in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The vehicle registers do not hold information on the nationality of the vehicle keeper but before a vehicle can be registered an address in Great Britain or Northern Ireland must be supplied.


Asian Tsunami

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department has taken to assist the recovery of the tourism industry in South East Asia following the tsunami. [9250]

Mr. Thomas: DFID has not provided any direct assistance to support the recovery of the tourist industry after the Asian tsunami. Our response has focused upon saving lives, alleviating the suffering of displaced poor people, the restoration of basic services for homes and livelihoods.
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Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with the Sri Lankan Government on tsunami recovery work in Sri Lanka. [9574]

Mr. Thomas: Discussions were first held in January when the Secretary of State for International Development visited Sri Lanka to make an initial assessment of the situation and the impact of our emergency assistance. I visited Sri Lanka from 15–17 June to review progress and to consider how best we may maintain support. During my visit I held discussions with the Finance Secretary, the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, the President's spokesperson for Relief, Reconstruction and Reconciliation, the Heads of the Government's Task Forces for Relief and Reconstruction, and local government representatives. I also met officials leading the peace process. I discussed progress with other donors, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and met some of the communities devastated by the tsunami.

International organisations and NGOs have mobilised sufficient resources to meet all identified relief and reconstruction needs. The immediate relief effort was successful and recovery work has now started. There has been good progress: some 30,000 transitional homes have been constructed for families who lost their homes; contracts have been signed to rebuild 176 of the 182 schools damaged and funds promised for the balance. Some 95 per cent. of the children affected by the tsunami are now back at school. Hospital reconstruction is also underway and fully financed. Roads, railways and power supplies (where these existed) have been restored.

Much remains to be done however. Increased effort is required to restore livelihoods. In addition the Government ban on rebuilding within a buffer zone stretching 100 to 200 metres from the sea is causing problems in some districts because of the scarcity of suitable alternative land. Furthermore the immense size of the reconstruction task is stretching the capacity of central and local government to manage and coordinate the reconstruction effort. Inevitably this contributes to bureaucratic delay in some instances and assistance reaching some communities sooner than others. The Government and LTTE agreement to establish a post-tsunami operational management structure should help ensure that communities in the north-east are better able to access external support.

The Government have commissioned an inquiry into the buffer zone regulation and has indicated that it may consider flexible implementation where appropriate. The Government also assures me that they will take the necessary steps to reduce delays in implementing reconstruction plans. I confirmed that Her Majesty's Government stands ready to provide support as needed. DFID staff in Sri Lanka are discussing options with Government and partners.

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