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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 26 October 2006

Transport

Parliamentary Questions

Stephen Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he will answer Question 95494, on Crossrail, tabled by the hon. Member for Wimbledon on 17 October 2006 for named day Answer on 20 October. [97376]

Mr. Tom Harris: The parliamentary question was answered on 24 October 2006, Official Report, column 1744W.

Driving Licences

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many older pensioners in Hendon have availed themselves of the cheaper driving licence arrangements. [96931]

Dr. Ladyman: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has issued a total of 3,160,380 free licences in Great Britain for drivers aged 70 and over since the renewal fee for these drivers was abolished on 1 March 2004.

In the period from 1 March 2004 to 31 January 2006, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency issued 2,872 licences to drivers aged over 70 in the Hendon parliamentary constituency. This figure includes both licence renewals and licences issued to newly qualified drivers aged 70 and over.

Highways Agency

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of customer use of the Traffic England Highways Agency website. [96717]

Dr. Ladyman: Customer use of the Traffic England Highways Agency website is assessed in three ways. First, monthly usage figures are obtained for the number of visitors to the site and the number of pages viewed on each visit; second, a questionnaire is available on the website inviting customer feedback; and third, the Agency collates telephone calls and e-mail it receives about the site.

In September 2006, the site received 280,000 visitors, who downloaded 2.2 million pages of information. Over 71 per cent. of users giving feedback rated the site either useful or extremely useful, and over 95 per cent. stated the site had influenced a recent journey.


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Road Schemes (Emissions)

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what methodology was used to calculate the carbon impact of road schemes for data on carbon emissions submitted to the Environmental Audit Committee following the Secretary of State’s evidence on 14 June. [96821]

Dr. Ladyman: The Department set out the methodology used in its supplementary evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee published alongside the Committee’s report in August. Further details are available from the Committee’s website at:

Rolling Stock

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many slam-door carriages are still in use on the railway network. [96947]

Mr. Tom Harris: Of the traditional ‘slam door’ fleets only a handful of vehicles are now operated under exemption by franchised passenger operators. These include the two Class 421 three-car electrical multiple units operated on the Lymington branch line by South West Trains, and the two single-car Class 121 diesel multiple units operated by Chiltern Railways and Arriva Trains Wales on the Aylesbury—Princess Risborough and Cardiff Queen Street—Cardiff Bay routes respectively. All are fitted with central door locking.

In addition, though not ‘slam door’ stock, there are currently around 1200 locomotive hauled coaches used in passenger service by franchised passenger operators. The majority of these coaches have hinged doors which are opened and closed manually at stops and central door locking operated by the guard. The exception is Mark 4 coaches which comprise around 260 of this total and have power operated sliding doors.

Transport Infrastructure

Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what total (a) Government and (b) private funding for transport infrastructure was in each of the last 30 years at today’s prices; and what projected spending is for the next three years. [93668]

Gillian Merron [pursuant to the reply, 17 October 2006, Official Report, c. 1137-38W]: The figures for 2003-04 and 2004-05 are as follows:


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Public and private funding for transport infrastructure, 2003-04 to 2004-05
£ Million (2004-05 prices)
2003-04 2004-05

Road infrastructure

Public

4,307

4,660

Private

42

69

Total

4,350

4,729

Rail infrastructure

5,329

4,272

Ports infrastructure

318

202

Airports and air traffic control

Public(1)

72

63

Private(1)

1,411

1,432

Total

1,483

1,495

(1) Investment in NATS switched from public to private funding between 2000-01 and 2001-02.

House of Commons Commission

Energy Efficiency

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what assessment the Commission has made of the extent to which heating and ventilation systems in each building on the parliamentary estate (a) are controllable by individual users, (b) are energy efficient and designed to prevent heat leakage and (c) maintain comfortable temperature and humidity levels in varying weather conditions; and what plans exist to improve such systems. [97142]

Nick Harvey: A cyclical programme of surveys is carried out on parliamentary estate buildings and their services. Consultants are currently undertaking detailed surveys of the building services in the Palace of Westminster. A feasibility study is under way to explore methods of renewing the existing heating and ventilation system which is now largely 50-years-old for the Palace of Westminster. There are also plans to carry out building services surveys and option studies for the major refurbishment of the heating and ventilation systems of Canon Row, Derby Gate and Norman Shaw North in the near future.

The House authorities are aware that the heating and ventilation systems on a number of the buildings on the parliamentary estate are reaching the end of their economic life:

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Animal Welfare

Peter Bottomley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what the Government's policy is on the export of young calves for slaughter abroad; [94264]


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(2) what steps he is taking to encourage British farmers to rear calves to produce high quality British veal; [94266]

(3) what assessment the Government has made of the attitudes of the public to the export of young calves for slaughter abroad. [94267]

Mr. Bradshaw: I am aware of the public concern over the trade in live calf exports; it is generating a high volume of letters to the Department. However, this is a lawful trade and European Union (EU) law must be observed. The United Kingdom (UK) cannot place a unilateral ban on the export of calves. All exports must meet the necessary animal health and welfare rules.

This Government are committed to the welfare of animals and have played a key role in improving EU rules on transport since 1996 when the export trade in live calves from the UK ceased. New EU-wide welfare in transport rules will come into force in January 2007 providing further improvements. We are seeking to encourage the industry to develop alternative uses for calves other than live export, and welcome the joint initiative from Compassion in World Farming and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to bring together welfare groups, the dairy and beef industry and the retail sector to discuss this issue. They hosted an event in July which I attended.

The industry has developed domestic veal rearing systems that satisfy robust welfare requirements, but the opportunities to sell the product in the UK are very limited. Conversely, dairy farmers are now driven by the strong commercial demand for veal calves on the continent. The Department commissioned a study to look at the economic drivers and potential for developing alternative markets to the export of veal calves. The report confirmed that the domestic market for home produced veal is resistant to growth. It did, however, conclude that there are commercially attractive opportunities for rearing dairy calves for the growing domestic market for manufacturing beef. This is promising and Defra will continue to play its part in encouraging such alternative uses.

International Whaling Commission

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will press for Iceland's expulsion from the International Whaling Commission following the announcement that it intends to resume commercial whaling; and if he will make a statement. [95658]

Mr. Bradshaw: The UK will continue to protest at the highest diplomatic level against Iceland’s activities. I have called the Icelandic ambassador to my office to explain this decision and to voice our strong opposition to Iceland’s commercial whaling. We will continue our efforts, along with other countries, to urge Iceland to reconsider their position and reverse this unjustified and unnecessary decision.

However, there are no provisions within the International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) that provide for the exclusion of
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parties who are considered to have broken the rules. It is debatable whether Iceland’s action could reasonably be considered a breach of its treaty obligations, since it was taken under a formal Reservation made by Iceland on rejoining the International Whaling Commission in 2002. However, the UK’s formal objection to Iceland’s reservation to article 10(e) of the ICRW (the part enforcing the moratorium) remains.

Rurality

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will discuss with his Cabinet colleagues means of enabling the provision of departmental data broken down according to his Department's definition of rurality; and if he will make a statement. [94460]

Barry Gardiner: A research project co-sponsored by several Government departments and other bodies resulted in the publication of the “National Statistics Rural and Urban Definition 2004”. This new rural definition identifies the different types of settlements in which people live in rural areas. The definition can be used with other information, such as housing type, car ownership and household incomes to give a valid means of understanding how these measures vary within rural areas.

The new definition is accepted across Government, and is recognised as the Government standard by the Office for National Statistics. It was agreed after a public web-based validation exercise, and marks a big step forward in developing our evidence base and statistical toolkit for rural areas.

I have written recently to Ministers to promote the further use of the definition in their Departments’ work.

Wales

Farm Subsidies

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what the total level of subsidies given by the Government to farmers in Wales was in each of the last ten years; and what each figure represents per farmer. [93948]

Mr. Hain: The Welsh Assembly Government have published provisional figures for subsidies paid out to Welsh farmers in 2005. I have made this document available in the Library. The final figures will be published in due course. Equivalent information for the preceding nine years could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

The Welsh Assembly Government are committed to ensuring greater transparency in the publication of farm subsidy data. Accordingly, it recently announced its intention to publish such data by postcode. The data will also be subdivided to show the breakdown between all claims submitted under the 2005 single payment application form.


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Work and Pensions

Child Support Agency

Mr. Philip Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will list the (a) reviews and (b) consultations relating to the Child Support Agency undertaken since 1997; and the total cost of each to his Department. [90198]

Mr. Plaskitt: The information is not available in the format requested as the current accounting system of the Department for Work and Pensions does not enable us to associate costs to individual or discrete activities. Such information as is available is as follows:

The following reviews have taken place since 1997:

The following consultation exercises have taken place since 1997:

Departmental Dress Code

Anne Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his Department’s policy is on the display of religious (a) artefacts, (b) symbols and (c) dress by its staff; how many staff have been subject to disciplinary proceedings regarding this policy in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement. [95640]

Mrs. McGuire: The Department for Work and Pensions respects the beliefs and religions of all its staff. It does not have a specific policy on the display of religious artefacts, symbols or dress by its staff.

The Department has a standards of behaviour policy that allows its businesses to set dress standards that it expects staff to follow, though there are none that relate specifically to the wearing of religious dress, artefacts or symbols. All staff are expected to present themselves in a professional and business-like way.

The Department is very much committed to promoting equality and valuing diversity within the workplace and where possible facilities for prayer or quiet contemplation are provided for staff to use.

All managers are made aware of the Departmental guidance on enabling staff to observe religious obligations and festivals. Faith awareness training is delivered for staff through a learning and development toolkit, which provides information on religious beliefs, observances and practices.


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