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25 Apr 2006 : Column 990W—continued

Westinghouse Electric Co.

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the progress of the sale of Westinghouse Electric Co. to Toshiba Corporation; and when he expects the sale to be completed. [63804]

Barry Gardiner [holding answer 18 April 2006]: The sale of Westinghouse to Toshiba is proceeding smoothly. The parties are working to complete the transaction speedily with timing still dependent on obtaining the necessary regulatory clearances (which began last week with the US anti-trust and CFIUS filings). We currently still expect completion of the sale by end September 2006.


Parliamentary Network

Mr. Drew: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission on how many occasions the parliamentary network has been inaccessible from (a) the parliamentary estate and (b) remote locations in the last 12 months; and what plans the Commission has to ensure service improvements. [64962]

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Nick Harvey: During 2005 there were eight occasions when the Parliamentary Network was not accessible from within Parliament, five occasions when it was not accessible from remote locations using the VPN (virtual private network), and eight occasions when it was not accessible from either location. Most were instances of planned maintenance for which users of the network are normally given seven days' notice, and which is normally undertaken either at weekends or before 9am and after 7pm on weekdays. Over the year overall network availability, excluding planned maintenance, was 99.65 per cent. and including planned maintenance was 98.59 per cent.

Since late January 2006 the performance of the VPN remote access service has deteriorated. The Parliamentary ICT service is, as a matter of priority, working to identify the root cause of slow running experienced on occasions by many users. In the medium to longer term the Parliamentary ICT service has begun a fundamental re-assessment of the technologies used and services offered to remote users. A key objective of this work is to provide more assured access and performance than can be guaranteed at present.


Air Quality (Fines)

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) cars and (b) ministerial cars have been fined for leaving their engine running unnecessarily under the air quality management areas since this provision came into effect; and if he will make a statement. [65854]

Derek Twigg: No fines for breaking local air quality management regulations have been issued to the Government Car and Despatch Agency for its ministerial cars or any other vehicles it operates.

Aviation White Paper

Mr. Randall: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the planned timetable for the publication of the review of the Aviation White Paper will be affected by the postponement of the consultation on railway alternation at Heathrow airport. [64865]

Derek Twigg: In the Air Transport White Paper, we said that by the end of 2006 we would report progress generally on the White Paper policies and proposals. There are no plans to change this timetable in view of the postponement of the consultation on mixed mode at Heathrow airport.

Blackpool Tramway

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether it is his policy to fund the renewal proposals for the Blackpool tramway. [58915]

Derek Twigg: Our policy is to support tram schemes, where they are the right solution, and where they represent value for money. In July 2004, the Department rejected a bid to convert the Blackpool system to a
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modern light rail system, because the scheme did not represent value for money. We asked the promoters to re-examine lower cost alternatives.

Last year, Blackpool borough council and Lancashire county council submitted a business case to the Department for upgrading the Blackpool tramway. We are considering the proposals based on value for money, including the wider benefits, affordability and region advice.

Bridge Construction (A27 Beddingham)

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects construction to begin on a bridge to replace the level crossing at Beddingham on the A27. [65548]

Dr. Ladyman: A decision on the Inspector's Report following last year's public inquiry is the next stage in the statutory processes of this scheme. The earliest date construction could start of the A27 Southerham to Beddingham improvement, which includes a bridge to replace the Beddingham level crossing, is in late summer this year. This is subject to a favourable decision, completion of statutory procedures, and the availability of funds.

Contracts (Voluntary Sector)

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many contracts are let by his Department to voluntary sector organisations; how many of those are let on an annual basis; and how many of those had received finalised contracts for 2006–07 by 31 March. [63214]

Derek Twigg: This information could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

The Department provides local authorities with financial support for the provision of transport services but it is at their discretion how much of this goes to the voluntary and community sector.

Disability Access

Mr. Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how the implementation of the voluntary code of practice on disability access on aeroplanes and ships is being monitored by his Department. [64470]

Derek Twigg: The Department for Transport, in conjunction with the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee, has commissioned research projects to monitor both sectors' compliance with the voluntary codes. These projects are due to report shortly.

We are committed to legislation if the codes prove ineffective. The provisions in the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 enable us to do this without further primary legislation.

Disabled Access

Mr. Khan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to encourage train operating companies to create disabled access facilities at railway stations. [64482]

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Derek Twigg: I refer my hon. Friend to the Written Statement to the House on the Railways for All Strategy on 23 March 2006, Official Report, columns 39–40WS.

Grievance Procedures

David Simpson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many complaints of (a) bullying and (b) sexual harassment have been investigated in his Department in each of the last three years; and how many complaints have been upheld. [63549]

Derek Twigg: There has been a total of 33 complaints of bullying across the Department and its Executive Agencies over the past three years, nine of which have been upheld, and five of which are ongoing. There have been six complaints of sexual harassment, four of which have been upheld. Owing to the low number of cases, and the need to maintain confidentiality, it is not possible to break these figures down further.

These figures include the Government Car and Despatch Agency throughout the period, even although it only became part of the Department for Transport in November 2005. They exclude the Highways Agency, who have not to date recorded this information centrally, although they will do so from 1 April 2006.

The Department's Staff Handbook contains guidance on procedures to be followed in cases of bullying and harassment, and this was supplemented by a Diversity Briefing Note that was published by the Department's Equality and Diversity Unit in June 2005.

The Department has a network of Harassment Contact Officers, who are able to investigate complaints in a confidential manner. We have also run events covering the issues of Bullying and Sexual Harassment as part of our Valuing Diversity series of events in DfT (Central), and the agencies have also included this aspect into their diversity training.

Homeland Security

Patrick Mercer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 28 March 2006, Official Report, column 855W, on homeland security, what the (a) lessons learnt and (b) improvements made were from the Merseyrail exercises for emergency preparedness in January 2006. [63885]

Derek Twigg: It is not appropriate to discuss the detail of any exercises undertaken or security arrangements in place.

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