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Mr. Ingram: Three members of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment have served in Afghanistan since British troops were deployed. One officer and one warrant officer are in Afghanistan at present; one officer served there during 2004-05.
Mr. Ingram: 34 members of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment have received the general service medal for service in Iraq. One officer has received the general service medal for service in Afghanistan, and was also awarded the military cross for gallantry in action; the same officer was also awarded the bronze star medal with valour device by the United States Army. Another officer was awarded the bronze star medal by the United States Army for service in Iraq.
Derek Twigg: The Ministry of Defence places a very high priority on the welfare of its service personnel and their families. To that end, there are significant single service welfare resources in place for all personnel and their families which can be accessed through unit welfare and community support staff. This support is significantly increased during operational periods for the families of those deployed on operations. In particular extra travel allowances are available for dependants and close family members and a welfare grant is also made available to the parent unit to help fund group welfare activities and facilities.
Mr. Purchase: To ask the hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission (1) how many (a) employees and (b) commissioners the Electoral Commission has; 
Peter Viggers: The Electoral Commission informs me that, as at 31 January 2007, the Commission employed 140 people. On the same date, there was one full-time Electoral Commissioner, the chairman, and four part-time Electoral Commissioners.
The remuneration of Electoral Commissioners is determined in accordance with the provisions of Resolutions of the House of 26 March 2001 and 13 July 2004. The current annual salary of the chairman of the Commission is £151,960. The average remuneration of the part-time Commissioners for the ten months of the 2006-07 financial year to date is £23,860.
Gillian Merron: The management of queues at London airports is a matter for the airport operator. While the Department is sympathetic to passengers who might have had to queue for longer than usual, it is important that security screening is carried out properly and to the required standard.
Gillian Merron: I assume the hon. Member is referring to contrails. Contrails, which are ice crystal clouds that form at high altitudes from the exhaust products of aircraft but only when atmospheric conditions of temperature and humidity favour this. There are many uncertainties in this area and the Department is sponsoring research to reduce these and UK scientists are actively engaged in international research in this topic. The Department sponsored a major international scientific meeting last year which presented significant new research on the subject:
Gillian Merron: Within the Department, contract catering services are only used at the Department's HQ in London, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) sites in Swansea, the Government Car and Despatch Agency (GCDA) in London and at the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) HQ in Bristol.
In the Department's headquarters in London it is the policy of our catering provider to source the majority of its products from within the UK, unless occasionally for reasons of supply and competitive pricing it is necessary to obtain products from outside the UK. Typically this means that 100 per cent. of meat and poultry is of British origin, along with the majority of dairy products, fruits and salad items and vegetables.
100 per cent. for soft drinks;
70 per cent. for bakery products;
90 per cent. for dairy products;
100 per cent. for confectionery;
30 per cent. for fruit and salad items;
85 per cent. for vegetables;
100 per cent. for meat and poultry; and
100 per cent. for eggs.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what revenue funding arrangements each public transport authority in the South East outside London concluded with (a) Stagecoach, (b) Arriva, (c) Transdev and (d) Firstbus prior to the passing of
the statutory provision for concessionary fares; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: The information requested is not held by the Department. Reimbursement paid to bus operators for providing concessionary travel is a matter for individual local authorities. The hon. Member might wish to contact local authorities for the information.
Gillian Merron: The following table sets out integrated transport block funding provided by DfT to North Lincolnshire council from 1997-98 to 2006-07. The integrated transport block allocations have been available for the council to use on road and public transport improvements, according to its local policies and priorities.
|North Lincolnshire council|
|Integrated transport block|
|(1) Figures are minor works allocations (a precursor to the integrated transport block).|
Since 1998, the Department has also separately provided specific grant funding to local authorities for bus services through the Rural Bus Subsidy Grant (RBSG), the Rural and Urban Bus Challenge and the Kickstart schemes. The following table shows the amounts provided under these grants to North Lincolnshire council.
The majority of support for local bus services is provided by local authorities using the Governments Revenue Support Grant (RSG), which is an unhypothecated block grant, and authorities own resources. It is for each authority to decide how much of their RSG allocation to devote to bus support.
Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the average number of passengers on a bus in the public transport system in England in the last 12 months. 
Gillian Merron: The average number of passengers on a bus in the public transport system in England was nine in 2005-06the last period for which the data are available. The average includes both peak and off-peak bus journeys and is mileage-based, so long rural bus routes with few passengers have a relatively large influence on the estimate.
RBC and UBC competitions were held between 1998 and 2003 and provided funding for innovative ideas for improving local transport and addressing social exclusion in rural and urban areas. The criteria for these competitions allowed for a wide range of schemes to compete for funding, including bids aimed at improving transport to schools. The projects supported brought enhancements to rural and urban bus services improving the links of the communities served to essential services and facilities. In a number of cases, improved links to educational facilities were specifically identified as among the benefits secured.
Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the amount of subsidy support for concessionary fares schemes, under the national scheme, that local transport authorities will have to bear from their own budgets; and if he will make a statement. 
Gillian Merron: From April 2008, persons 60 and over, and disabled people, will be guaranteed free off-peak local bus travel anywhere in England. The Government have earmarked up to an extra £250 million per year which for this, and is confident that this should be sufficient to cover the total additional cost to local authorities.
Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will estimate the cost of introducing free public transport on buses for (a) young people under 18 and (b) young people under 21; 
Gillian Merron: Analysis for the Department for Transport estimated the marginal costs (in 2002-03 prices) of extending existing concessions offered by local authorities in their areas to free bus travel, at all time and for all purposes, for five to 16-year-olds at around £365 million per year, and around a further £160 million per year for 17 and 18-year-olds. A total extra cost of approximately £525 million per annum. These estimates are for England only, are restricted to concessionary bus travel within the local authority in which the concessionaire is resident, and excludes any Barnett consequentials. The Department has no cost information on concessionary travel for people aged 18 to 21 years and on other forms of public transport for children and young people.
At the present time, the Department does not have an estimate of the cost of free public transport for children and young people across England. This is extremely difficult to estimate due to the uncertainties about: take-up, the extra concessionary travel generated, the switch from dedicated school transport, travel behaviour and the amount of additional capacity required. The existence of all these inter-related variables creates significant uncertainty in any estimate.
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