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17 Oct 2006 : Column 1131W—continued

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what progress has been made in the last
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three months in testing the recommendations in the Henshaw report for redesign of the Child Support Agency. [93876]

Mr. Plaskitt [holding answer 16 October 2006]: In our response to Sir David Henshaw's report we set out the broad direction of reform of the child support system. This initiated an informal consultation period which ended on 18 September. We are currently undertaking an intensive programme of work to consider the way forward, including consideration of the responses to the consultation.

We will publish a White Paper later this autumn with our final, detailed proposals.

Housing Benefit

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many new housing benefit claimants have been added in each of the previous five years, broken down by local authority. [91757]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information is not available.

Pension Funds

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the impact on the value of pension funds of the post A-Day (a) changes in the way shares are valued after a company has declared a dividend and (b) requirement for shares to be valued by the quarter up method; [94082]

(2) what estimate he has made of the total cost to pension funds administration of upgrading IT equipment to accommodate (a) the post A-Day requirement for shares to be valued by the quarter up method and (b) the changes to the treatment of ex-dividend shares. [94083]

Ed Balls: I have been asked to reply.

The post A-Day pension tax rules change neither the way shares are valued after a company has declared a dividend or the treatment of ex-dividend shares. They do require, under limited circumstances, for shares held by pension funds to be valued by the quarter up method.

A Regulatory Impact Assessment (“Regulatory Impact Assessment for Simplifying the Taxation of Pensions—Update”) was published on 22 March 2006. This sets out the Government’s assessment of the impact of pension simplification rules introduced from A-Day and the Government's plans for post-implementation evaluation. It is available at www.hmrc.gov.uk/ria/ria-pensions-simplification.pdf.

Pension Protection Fund

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make a statement on the implementation of the compulsory Pension Protection Fund. [93473]


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James Purnell: The Pension Protection Fund was established to protect members of defined benefit schemes and the defined benefit element of hybrid schemes by paying compensation if their employer becomes insolvent and the pension scheme is under funded to a certain level. In order to have sufficient funds to pay compensation, the PPF charge a compulsory annual levy on all eligible schemes and take in the remaining assets of schemes that enter the PPF. The PPF consulted on their proposals for levy calculation in 2005 and they were well received by industry.

The second annual report of the PPF will be laid in November outlining in detail the progress made towards the organisation’s goals. The PPF is currently issuing invoices for the first risk based levy of UK pension schemes. There are 150 schemes in the PPF Assessment period and in the region of 86,000 members.

Transport

Carbon Emissions (Air Travel)

10. Julie Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to tackle increases in carbon dioxide emissions from air travel. [94011]

Gillian Merron: Our priority is pressing for the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emission Trading Scheme from 2008 or as soon as possible. Good progress is being made, and the European Commission are committed to bring forward a legislative proposal by the end of this year.

14. Laura Moffat: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made on the inclusion of aviation in the EU emissions trading scheme. [94016]

Gillian Merron: Good progress has been made and, under our chairmanship last year, the European Union Environment Council agreed that emissions trading seems to be the best way forward, and called for a legislative proposal by the end of 2006 which was committed to by the European Commission.

Road Pricing

11. Mr. Rogerson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for a national road user pricing scheme; and if he will make a statement. [94012]

Daniel Kawczynski: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on his plans for road pricing. [94010]

Dr. Ladyman: We are exploring the potential for road pricing to address the very serious congestion problems that we face. We are encouraging local authorities to develop road pricing schemes to help us understand better how pricing works in practice.


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Work that has been done over the last three years confirms that we should take a measured approach in introducing road pricing, and these pilots will help inform decisions about how to move to a national system of road pricing.

15. Mr. McGovern: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the potential of road pricing to reduce congestion. [94017]

Dr. Ladyman: As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, the feasibility study of road pricing indicated that road pricing has the potential to cut congestion long term by nearly half with only 4 per cent. less traffic using the road.

We wish to explore this potential by encouraging road pricing pilots in local areas. These pilots will help inform our decisions about how to move to a national system of road pricing.

Nottingham Light Rail

12. Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the decision on funding of the Nottingham light rail extension will be made. [94014]

Mr. Tom Harris: Officials at the Department for Transport have been working closely with the promoters of the phase 2 extensions to the Nottingham Express Transit to ascertain the scheme's value for money aspects. We hope to announce a decision in the near future.

Congestion Charging

13. Graham Stringer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to introduce congestion charging in Manchester and Birmingham. [94015]

Dr. Ladyman: Any decisions to implement road pricing in a city will be taken locally. Authorities in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands are working hard to develop options to tackle the serious congestion problems they face. Both are looking at the role road pricing might play in a congestion reduction strategy, but more work is needed before any decisions can be taken. This work is being supported by funding from the Department.

Rail Freight

17. Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what change there has been in volumes of rail freight since 1997. [94019]

Mr. Tom Harris: The amount of freight moved by rail increased from 13.3 to 22.11 billion net tonne kilometres between 1996-97 and 2005-06. This represents an increase of 46.4 per cent.


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Air Travel (Access)

18. Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps his Department has taken to encourage the improvement of access to air travel for disabled people. [94020]

Gillian Merron: During its EU Presidency this Government gave priority to progressing a new European Council Regulation on the rights of disabled people travelling by air. This will apply with effect from July 2007. We are also considering research findings assessing the industry's compliance with our existing UK voluntary code of practice.

Road Network

19. Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve management of the trunk road network. [94021]

Dr. Ladyman: Through the Traffic Management Act, the Highways Agency has new powers to keep traffic flowing and improve journey reliability and manage congestion. This allows the newly appointed HA Traffic Officers to stop and direct traffic in live carriageways and support the police.

A14

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the Highways Agency will publish its report on potential improvements to the A14 around Kettering. [94727]

Dr. Ladyman: I have asked the Highways Agency to finalise the A14 Kettering Bypass Widening Options Study and submit recommendations on potential improvements early in 2007, so that I can make a decision on the way forward.

Buses

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the change has been in spending on bus transport in each of the last three years. [94018]

Gillian Merron: Local and central Government spending on bus support in England has increased from just over £1.64 billion in 2003-04 to £1.7 billion in 2004-05 and is estimated to have increased further to over £1.8 billion in 2005-06.

Local authority capital expenditure on bus infrastructure has increased from £131 million in 2003-04 to £153 million in 2004-05 and is estimated to have stayed at this level in 2005-06.

Channel Tunnel

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much freight was transported by rail through the channel tunnel on average in each month of the last period for which figures are available; and
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what estimate his Department has made of the levels of rail freight which will continue to use the channel tunnel after the Government withdraws its subsidies to English Welsh and Scottish Railways International on 1 December. [94723]

Mr. Tom Harris: Over the period between June 2005 and May 2006 an average of 130,800 tonnes of freight was transported by rail through the channel tunnel each month.

The Department has made no estimate on the levels of rail freight that will continue to use the channel tunnel after 1 December 2006 when existing contractual arrangements come to an end: these estimates are a commercial matter for the UK’s channel tunnel rail freight operator English Welsh and Scottish Railway (EWSI) and Eurotunnel.

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what projections his Department has made of the likely effect on the environment from carbon emissions that may be created should freight transported by rail through the Channel Tunnel be transported by alternative means. [94725]

Mr. Tom Harris: There are a number of assumptions that have to be made on the mode and likely route used for freight if rail freight services through the Channel Tunnel cease. We estimate that if the current level of channel tunnel railfreight is transported by road, then the additional carbon emission in Great Britain will be in the region of 2,000 tonnes per annum.

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate his Department has made of the possible effect on the number of jobs in UK freight yards if subsidies for freight operating companies using the Channel Tunnel are withdrawn. [94726]

Mr. Tom Harris: This is a commercial matter for the private sector rail operators which employ these staff.

Correspondence

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he will reply to the letter of 1 September from Sir Robert Atkins MEP. [94731]

Gillian Merron: A response was sent to Sir Robert Atkins MEP on 17 October 2006.

Departmental Expenditure

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Office spent on organising and hosting conferences in the last 12 months. [93093]

Gillian Merron: The cost of organising and hosting conferences across the Department and its Executive Agencies is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


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Driving Licences

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many people aged (a) 18 and (b) 19 years hold a UK (i) provisional and (ii) full driving licence. [94279]

Dr. Ladyman: The figures required, which are correct as at January 2006, are:

Age 18 Age 19

Provisional Licence

312,394

273,615

Full Licence

213,194

276,501


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