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13 Jul 2005 : Column 1056W—continued

Robin Hood Airport

Mr. MacShane: To ask the Secretary of State forTransport if he will instruct relevant agencies to create a motorway link to the Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster. [10202]

Dr. Ladyman: Any new road would be for Doncaster metropolitan borough council, the local highway authority to promote. They are currently looking into the need for a new link road and may wish to discuss their findings with my officials later this year.

Safety Cameras

Mr. David Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guidance is given to local authorities with regard to their participation in safety camera partnerships. [11710]

Dr. Ladyman: The Department issues a Handbook of Rules and Guidance for the National Safety Camera Programme for England and Wales. The Handbook for 2005–06 can be found in the Library of the House and on the Department for Transport website,

Special Advisers

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list (a) the special advisers in his Department, (b) their specific areas of expertise and (c) the total cost of employing them in the latest year for which figures are available. [8824]

Ms Buck: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 4 July 2005, Official Report, column 36W.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason 30 train units were diverted by the Strategic Rail Authority to other train operating companies from South West Trains; what research was carried out into the consequences of the reduction in capacity; what plans he has to provide replacements for the 30 units; and if he will make a statement. [11289]

Derek Twigg: The original agreement to supply Desiro rolling stock to SWT was linked to a 20-year franchise being awarded, and assumed significant infrastructure works to accommodate these units. The interim three-year franchise did not provide for such investment, and therefore 30 units could not be deployed in the short-term.

The current franchise replacement process will seek to address the provision of capacity for the SWT area and the appropriate deployment of rolling stock.

Vehicle Licensing

Dr. Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many British petrol engined vehicles licensed for use on British roads were built prior to 1993. [11567]

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Dr. Ladyman: At 31 March 2005, there were 3,235,000 licensed petrol propelled vehicles that were first registered before 1993. This represents 13.7 per cent. of all petrol propelled vehicles.


Clearing Banks

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will refer the banks' practice of taking three days to clear cash from one account to another to the Office of Fair Trading; and if he will make a statement. [11033]

Mr. Sutcliffe: In the first instance questions regarding competition or consumer issues in the banking sector are a matter for the independent competition authorities, in this case the Office of Fair Trading.

The Office of Fair Trading chairs the Payment Systems Task Force, which includes representatives from the banking industry, consumers, business and government. The Task Force recommended in May that a faster payments service be introduced for telephone and internet banking payments, with the ability to accept standing order payments. Instead of taking three days, payments would either be made same day, or overnight. The industry will report back to the Task Force with a full specification by the end of this year, with full implementation two years after that.

Design and Artist Copyright Society

Derek Wyatt: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many meetings his Department has had with representatives of the (a) art market and(b) Design and Artist Copyright Society since 1 April. [11529]

Alan Johnson [holding answer 11 July 2005]: The Department has had one meeting with the British Art Market Federation and two with the Design and Artists Copyright Society.

Directorate Staff

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many members of each Directorate have taken voluntary redundancy since October 2003; and for what reasons. [10518]

Alan Johnson: The following table shows the number of staff in each Directorate who have taken voluntary early severance and voluntary early retirement since October 2003.

Their reasons for doing so are not recorded.
Voluntary early:
Business Relations5184
Business Support30
Consumer and Competition Policy Directorate719
Corporate Law and Governance416
Energy Industries and Technology Unit823
Energy Markets Unit39
Employment Relations815
Energy Resources and Development Unit48
Energy strategy Unit22
Europe and World Trade710
Finance and Resource Management513
Human Resources and Change Management315
Industry Economics and Statistics23
Innovation Group1423
Information and Workplace Services822
Ministerial and Parliamentary Support Team813
Office of Manpower Economics25
Office of Science and Technology68
Project Work Team66
Small Business Service1323
Strategy Communications Unit76
Shareholder Executive23
UK Trade and Investment3528
Women and Equality Unit53
Export Control and Non-Proliferation49
Other small directorates(4)29

(4) This represents British National Space Centre, Internal Audit, Low Pay Commission and the Strategic Policy Analysis Unit where the numbers are small and there is a risk staff could be identified.

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Helen Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to tackle the problems arising from i-dialling. [10841]

Alun Michael: By i-dialling I take it that the hon. Member means rogue diallers on the internet running up large bills for consumers. The Government asked Ofcom to carry out a review of premium rate services regulation to ensure that the right level of protection is in place to protect consumers. Ofcom has now produced its report with recommendations designed to improve the effectiveness of premium rate regulation. We are working with the premium rate regulator, ICSTIS, and Ofcom to implement these recommendations as soon as possible. This Department is currently consulting on implementing recommendation 6 from the Ofcom report on increasing the maximum fine for breaches of the ICSTIS code from £100,000 to £250,000.

Late Payments

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will introduce measures to amend the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Act 1998 to ensure the strict application of the 30 day limit and increased compensation for late payments. [11881]

Barry Gardiner: The Government are determined to improve the UK's payment culture. That is why we introduced legislation giving suppliers a statutory right to claim interest on late paid bills. The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998 provides a useful tool for companies suffering from late payment to use 'if they wish' to claim compensation and interest on late debts. The legislation sets a default period of 30 days if there is no other agreed credit period. The default period does not constitute a statutory credit period and therefore its strict application cannot be enforced.

The interest rate, at 8 per cent. over the Bank of England base lending, rate is the highest in Europe for late payment legislation. In comparison the EC directive
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on late payment sets a rate of 7 per cent. over the ECB rate. The legislation also allows for a compensation amount up to £100 to be claimed in addition to the interest.

In a recent survey the Credit Management Research Centre of Leeds university found that overall, 62 per cent. of firms reported that they do specify their rights to customers under the late payment legislation and that 75 per cent. of large firms are more likely to do so.

The Government want more companies to agree credit terms and define payment periods up front, using the legislation as a backup measure to their normal trading relationship.

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