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11 Dec 2006 : Column 734W—continued

In addition Defra's Higher Level Stewardship offers certain grant options for the maintenance and improvement of smaller scale farm woodland and larger woodlands that are normally grazed as part of a farming system.

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimate his Department has made of the cost of an acre of woodland in each year since 1988; and if he will make a statement. [105244]

Barry Gardiner: Comprehensive statistics on woodland prices are not available. Unlike agricultural land price statistics, the value of woodland incorporates the changing value of the timber growing stock, as well as the underlying land value and specific factors that attract buyers. Since 1993 the Forestry Commission's annual reports and accounts have shown a total value for the Public Forest Estate, which has been independently valued every five years since then. This is best indication we have of the changing cost of woodland over time. The open market values and the area of forest are shown in the following table.

1993 1998 2003

GB area (thousand hectares)




Value (£ million)




Unit value (£ per hectare)




One hectare equals 2.471 acres

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Blue Badges

Paul Holmes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) whether his Department is (a) investigating and (b) taking action against local authorities for failure to ensure that blue badges for disabled parking are correctly issued; [106198]

(2) what action his Department takes against local authorities that do not ensure that blue badges for disabled parking are correctly issued; [106199]

(3) what measures his Department has in place to ensure the secure delivery of blue badges for disabled parking to local authority social services departments. [106200]

Gillian Merron: Local authorities are fully responsible for administering the Blue Badge Scheme including issuing application forms, assessing them and issuing badges to applicants who meet the eligibility criteria under the legislation governing the scheme. The Department provides guidance to local authorities on all aspects of the scheme but has no power to intervene in the process or in particular cases.

Following a review of the scheme new guidanceis being prepared by the Department which willinclude further advice on the eligibility criteria and assessments. This will help ensure that applications are dealt with effectively and efficiently by local authorities. We intend to go out to public consultations on the draft guidance in the near future.

The Stationery Office (TSO) produces and issues Blue Badges to all local authorities on behalf of the Department. The company is well-versed in highly secure publishing, printing and distribution. Blue Badge shipments are sent via DHL diamond security service. The service provides secure delivery to the address, requiring signed confirmation of receipt. In the event that a written signature is not obtained, the package is returned to TSO as undelivered.

Channel Tunnel

Stephen Hammond: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the Government’s policy is on whether Eurotunnel should charge rail freight operators using the Channel Tunnel only the costs of running services through it and in line with the principles set out in EU Directive 2001/14. [107863]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Government’s policy is established in The Channel Tunnel (International Arrangements) Order 2005, no. 3207, implementing a Regulation of the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission. This transposes to the Channel Tunnel the principles of EU Directive 2001/14.

Cotswold National Trail

Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the safety of the Cotswold National Trail route where it crosses the A417; and if he will make a statement. [105686]

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Dr. Ladyman: The Highways Agency is responsible for the management of the A417, and is aware of difficulties for users attempting to cross the road in this area. It is considering suitable future schemes to address the problem, but there are no programmed improvements planned in the immediate future.


Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what amendments have been made to plans for Crossrail at (a) Romford depot, (b) Romford train station and (c) Gidea Park sidings; and if he will make a statement. [104988]

Mr. Tom Harris: On 7 November, we laid amendments before the House that would (among other things):

In the event that the alternative depot strategy is not accepted by Parliament, we have proposed revised worksites in connection with the Romford depot scheme. This would avoid any permanent loss of sports pitches from Westlands playing fields and reduce the temporary losses during construction.

Further information is provided by the Environmental Statement for the Additional Provisions laid before the House on 7 November.

Departmental Staff

Danny Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many and what percentage of staff employed in his Department were registered disabled in each year since 2001. [104469]

Gillian Merron: Data on the disability status of civil servants working at the Department for Transport, for the years requested, are available on the civil service website. However, please note that the Department was not created until 2002. The latest available data are as at April 2005 and these, together with previous years' data, can be found at the following website addresses:

Departmental records of disabled staff are solely based on voluntary declaration of disability under the Disability Discrimination Act and not connected in any way to a formal register of disability.

Diesel Spillages

Anne Snelgrove: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with oil companies on ways to stop diesel spillage in forecourts. [105664]

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Dr. Ladyman: The Department has invited a representative of the UK Petroleum Industry Association to attend the next meeting of the Technical, Engineering and Environmental sub-group to the National Motorcycling Council. The agenda will include discussion of a proposed diesel spillage warning leaflet, the possibility of display or distribution of such a leaflet through UK petrol retail outlets, and other views and comments on the diesel spillage issue.

Exhaust Emissions

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the Answer of 5 December 2006, Official Report, column 229W, on exhaust emissions: Dartford, if he will publish the latest (a) survey of air quality in toll booths and (b) comparison of the survey with the Health and Safety Executive’s Occupational Exposure Standards. [105524]

Dr. Ladyman: A copy of the latest survey will be made available. It currently contains personal information and the Highways Agency will arrange for a redacted copy to be placed in the House of Commons Library within the next two weeks.

The survey includes a comparison of measured air quality against Workplace Exposure Limits, which have replaced Occupational Exposure Standards, in accordance with guidance issued by the Health and Safety Executive.

Flash Mobbing

Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what security measures have been taken at London train and underground stations in response to flash mobbing; and if he will make a statement. [105418]

Mr. Tom Harris: This information is not held by the Department for Transport but by the British Transport Police who can be contacted at British Transport Police, 25 Camden Road, London NW1 9LN, E-mail


Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what account he will take of his Department's New Approach to Appraisal criteria on value for money when he evaluates the M6 widening project between junctions 11A and 19, with particular reference to (a) the non-monetised impacts and (b) the carbon dioxide impacts. [106609]

Dr. Ladyman: In assessing the value for money of the M6 project between junctions 11A and 19 the DfT will take account of the impacts against all of the criteria considered under New Approach to Appraisal (NATA). This will include the non-monetised impacts as well as the impacts that are monetised, such as carbon dioxide impacts. The guidance that is used by officials providing advice on the value for money of schemes, is published on the DfT website at:

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Ministerial Travel

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the occasions since he has held his present office when he has used (a) rail services, (b) the London Underground, (c) tram or light railway services and (d) buses in connection with his ministerial duties. [101859]

Gillian Merron: Since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was appointed to his present office he has used public transport on the occasions detailed in the table in the course of his ministerial duties.

Mode of transport Number of journeys





London Underground


Public transport is also used by my right hon. Friend in his capacity both as an MP and as Secretary of State for Scotland.

Ministers use public transport wherever possibleand practical to complete their journeys taking account of security considerations. All ministerial travel is undertaken in accordance with the rules set out in Travel by Ministers.

Operation Stack

Mr. Gale: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether provision exists for the payment of compensation for (a) business and (b) personal losses arising from the implementation of Operation Stack when necessitated by industrial, civil or government action in France. [107842]

Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 6 December 2006]: No provision exists for the payment of compensation for losses arising specifically from the implementation of Operation Stack. The Highways Agency works closely with all relevant stakeholders to minimise the impact of any disruption of Channel traffic due to, for example, industrial action in France.

Whether any other sort of compensation is payable in the circumstances described will depend on the facts of the individual case, on which independent legal advice should be sought.

An instance when compensation was paid by the French authorities was in 1996 following the French lorry drivers' dispute which lasted 12 days. Compensation was paid to some UK hauliers in respect of damage to vehicles or loads and for loss of earnings.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether his Department has a traffic light system in place for processing parliamentary questions, where questions are categorised using a colour code. [103150]

Gillian Merron: The Department for Transportdoes not use a traffic light system in processing parliamentary questions.

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However, my ministerial colleagues and I aim to ensure that hon. Members receive a substantive response to their named day question on the named day and endeavour to answer ordinary written questions within a working week of being tabled. It is not always possible but the Department for Transport makes every effort to achieve these timescales.

Reading Station

Mr. Arbuthnot: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when a decision is expected to be made on the scheme to increase railway capacity by 75 per cent. at Reading Station. [107978]

Mr. Tom Harris: We are reviewing and discussing with Network Rail the proposals for the enlargement of Reading Station and the track around it. The schemes are linked with Network Rail‘s plans to renew the signalling in the Reading area in 2012. The possible costs are significant and Reading has to be considered against other major calls on rail funding. The Government will publish its High Level Output Specification for the railway in July 2007, setting out the capacity, reliability and safety it expects to buy up to 2014 and stating the funds it will make availablefor this.

Speeding Offences

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many speeding offences were committed by (a) males and (b) females between the ages of 17 and 25 in Tamworth constituency in each of the last four years. [107006]

Mr. McNulty: I have been asked to reply.

The information is not available centrally.

Electoral Commission Committee

Commission Chairman

Mr. Heald: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission what factors affected the decision on the period of office of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission on his recent reappointment. [108482]

Peter Viggers: Such decisions are not matters for the Speaker’s Committee. The Secretary of the Speaker’s Committee has written to my hon. Friend describing the procedure that is being followed in relation to the re-appointment of the Chairman of the Electoral Commission. I have asked him to place a copy of this letter in the Library of the House.

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