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Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the policy reasons are for not taking into account licence points accrued in Northern Ireland in road driving bans in the rest of the United Kingdom; if he will ensure that they are taken into account; and if he will make statement. 
Dr. Ladyman [holding answer 19 February 2007]: The reason that licence points accrued in Northern Ireland are not simply added to those accrued in Great Britain in consideration of possible disqualification from driving is that the points are issued in separate jurisdictions under separate (and in Northern Ireland devolved) legislation.
Any sentencing court in Great Britain may, if presented with a Northern Ireland licence or its paper counterpart, take into account information contained on it, including Northern Ireland penalty points, if it so wishes.
Any driver disqualified from driving in Great Britain is also so disqualified in Northern Ireland, and vice versa, as a result of measures introduced in the Crime (International Cooperation) Act 2003 and the Road Traffic (Driving Disqualifications) (Northern Ireland) Order 2003, and brought into effect on 11 October 2004. The 2003 Act and the 2003 Order also enacted the necessary primary legislation to enable us to ratify the 1998 International Convention on driving disqualifications.
We have given priority to dealing with the most serious offenders, by concentrating on driving disqualifications, where officials of all three Administrations, Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland, are working closely together to initiate cooperation between the United Kingdom and Ireland as soon as practicable within the framework of the 1998 International Convention.
The Department is examining the feasibility and implications of bringing into effect mutual recognition of penalty points for motoring offences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This is being done as part of a wider study, undertaken in cooperation with the Irish Government, of the feasibility of cooperation
between the United Kingdom and Ireland to penalise motoring offences. I hope to be able to take a view on the way forward at the same time as we initiate practical cooperation on driving disqualifications between the UK and Ireland.
Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent discussions he has had with First Great Western about post-December 2006 (a) reliability and (b) staff shortages on trains to the far South West. 
Mr. Tom Harris: Issues such as staff shortages on trains are discussed when ministers meet monthly with the rail industry to assess performance and also hold other discussions as needed. The last discussion was held with First Group on 14 February 2007.
Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will impose road duty on overseas heavy goods vehicles calculated according to their contribution to (a) congestion and (b) pollution. 
Dr. Ladyman: Vehicle excise duty (VED) is paid according to the country of registration and UK VED may not be levied on foreign vehicles. No decisions have been taken on whether to move to a national system of road pricing and what the coverage of such a system might be, but application to foreign lorries is being considered as part of the Governments exploration of road pricing.
Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his Departments policy is on the peak oil concept; and what planning his Department has undertaken on the basis of estimates of oil reserves in (a) 25, (b) 50 and (c) 100 years time. 
Mr. Tom Harris: All passenger trains are already non-smoking and smoking is not permitted in areas at many stations. Those stations and bus stations where smoking is still permitted will become subject to the new legislation contained in the Health Act 2006 (smoke-free premises, places and vehicles) when it takes effect.
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much has been invested annually in infrastructure by rail services operating in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) each of the areas of London over the last 10 years. 
Dr. Starkey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate he has made of the number of empty seats on Virgin Pendolino trains passing through Milton Keynes Central Station on weekdays between 7 am and 9 am without stopping, or to set-down only. 
Mr. Tom Harris: The volume of spare capacity on each southbound Virgin Pendolino train passing through Milton Keynes Central station will inevitably vary from day to day. At present, this may amount to no more than 30 seats in standard class and twice this amount in first class, with business continuing to grow substantially.
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with South West Trains on extending rail platforms in Richmond Park constituency; which platforms are to be extended; and when this work is expected to be completed. 
Mr. Tom Harris: Decisions on the extending of rail platforms is an operational matter for Network Rail, the owner and operator of the national rail network. The hon. Member should contact Network Rails Chief Executive at the following address for a response to her question:
Mr. John Armitt
40 Melton Street
London NW1 2EE
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had on the future of the Nine Elms and Stewarts Lane viaducts near London Waterloo; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Tom Harris: These are operational matters for Network Rail, the owner and operator of the national rail network. The hon. Member should contact Network Rails Chief Executive at the following address for a response to her question:
Mr. John Armitt
40 Melton Street
London NW1 2EE
Mr. Tom Harris: Decisions on investment on rail infrastructure are made by Network Rail. The hon. Member should contact Network Rails Chief Executive at the following address for a response to her question:
Mr. John Armitt
40 Melton Street
London NW1 2EE
Susan Kramer: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions his Department has had with South West Trains on the future use of the former Eurostar platforms at London Waterloo; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Tom Harris: The use of Eurostar platforms at Waterloo was included as a priced option within the Franchise Specification for the South Western Franchise. The Department continues to discuss detailed options at Waterloo International with all interested parties including South West Trains and Network Rail.
Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if he will consider basing the charging regime for the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations on the number of livestock in each farm; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what international research his Department is (a) commissioning and (b) supporting into the (i) causes and (ii) transmission of avian influenza. 
Mr. Bradshaw: DEFRA continues to carry out surveillance for avian influenza on an international and domestic scale. These activities provide an essential early warning system. They also help in analysing the effectiveness of disease control measures, which improves our understanding of the virus.
The Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) is the world reference laboratory for avian influenza; in the forefront of international efforts to monitor disease patterns and provide advice on disease control. The VLA has a strong avian influenza research team investigating strain differences, improved methods of detection and a greater understanding of the infection and how it spreads.
(i) SE0518 (project code): Pathogenesis, transmission and characterisation of H9 avian influenza viruses
(ii) SE0760: Investigations into the genetic mechanisms that determine host restriction and virulence of avian influenza A viruses
(iii) SE0771: Pathogenesis and improved diagnosis and control of avian influenza infections
(iv) SE0776: Dynamics, selection and pathogenicity in avian influenza: from individual to population
(v) SE0783: Pathogenesis and the interrelationships between antigenic and genetic data for diagnosis and control of avian influenza.
Bill Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when he expects to lift the ban on bird gatherings and auctions assuming no further outbreaks of avian influenza are discovered. 
Mr. Bradshaw: The national ban on bird gatherings outside the restricted zones in Norfolk and Suffolk was lifted on 16 February. This followed the publication of the preliminary epidemiological report on the Suffolk outbreak, which suggested that there was little evidence for the involvement of wild birds in the spread of disease.
The lifting of the ban covers falconry displays, fairs, markets, shows, exhibitions and domestic pigeon races. These can go ahead subject to conditions; organisers must notify the state veterinary service at least seven days in advance, and must keep records and practise good biosecurity.
The earliest we would be able to lift the restriction zones in Suffolk and Norfolk is the second week of March, provided there are no further local outbreaks or suspect cases under investigation at the time.
The surveillance is now targeted to focus on species of wild birds that experts believe to have a greater potential role in the spread of avian influenza viruses. There is a comprehensive list which generally includes ducks, geese, swans, gulls and waders. Sampling is also targeted to high priority surveillance areas; these have been chosen on the basis of abundance of migratory water bird species and domestic poultry.
Information on the exact number of individual birds reported in each month is not available. However, the total number of dead birds reported and subsequently tested by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) in each month since February 2005 is set out in the following table:
|Month/year||Number of dead birds tested by the VLA|
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