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17 May 2007 : Column 839W—continued

Local Government Finance: Elderly

Ann Coffey: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if she will bring forward proposals to change the formula for grant allocation to local councils for older people to reflect changes in the numbers of elderly people aged over 75 years and their increased social care needs. [134851]

Mr. Woolas: We tested a wide range of indicators of social service need, including those relating to age and health, when developing the current formula. As a result, I am satisfied that the variables in the older people’s formula adequately reflect relative social service need in different types of authority.

The new formula is calculated using data on the number of people aged 65 and over resident in each area, and pensioners living alone, in receipt of pension credit and attendance allowance, pensioners who live in rented accommodation and those aged 90 and over in each area.

We do expect to update the data we use in the relative needs formulae for the 2008-09 settlement, where possible. This will ensure that the calculations reflect changes in demographic and other trends in each local authority.

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Lorry Drivers: Standards

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what arrangements are in place to ensure that HGV drivers from (a) European Union member states and (b) other foreign jurisdictions meet the driving standards required of British HGV drivers. [136832]

Dr. Ladyman: The UK recognises driving licences issued by all other European Union (EU) member states, including HGV entitlement. As European Council Directive 91/439/EEC prescribes a minimum standard for health and driver testing (including HGV tests), it is presumed that HGV drivers from other EU states will have the same conditions applied to their driving standards.

Non-EU licence holders who are resident here may only drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes (motorcycles, cars and light vans). Visitors may drive larger vehicles only if the vehicles were registered outside Great Britain and have been driven into the country temporarily. While driving on British roads they are subject to the same road traffic laws as British HGV drivers.

Enforcement of road traffic law is a matter for individual chief officers of police.

Railways: Aviation

Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated in the last five years on the potential effect of high-speed rail on demand for air travel; and what plans it has to commission further research. [137566]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Government made a manifesto commitment to look at the feasibility and affordability of a new north-south high-speed link. The Department has committed to take this forward in the development of a long-term strategy for the railways.

In so doing the Department will draw on a range of evidence and commissioned work, including Sir Rod Eddington’s advice on the long-term impact of transport decisions on the UK’s productivity, stability and growth. The Department will release the evidence alongside our conclusions as part of the long-term strategy for the railways to be published in summer 2007.

Railways: Fixed Penalties

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many (a) fixed penalty notices and (b) court summonses were issued by rail companies in the London area to passengers in the last 12 months. [137115]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Department for Transport does not collate this information, as the prosecution of individuals is a matter for the train operators concerned, the British Transport police and the courts.

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Roads: Construction

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will place in the Library the most recent appraisal summary table for each road scheme in the Local Transport Programme. [124189]

Gillian Merron: I have arranged for the most recent appraisal summary table for each local major road schemes granted programme entry or subsequent approval through the local transport programme to be placed in the in the House Library.

Shipping: Radioactive Materials

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the required response time is in the event of an (a) incident and (b) terrorist attack involving a transport ship carrying plutonium-based MOX fuel in European Union waters. [137554]

Dr. Ladyman: Ships carrying MOX fuel are required to have a shipboard emergency plan which would be activated immediately in the event that an incident occurred. Emergency support is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

An immediate response to a terrorist attack would be provided by the onboard escort team, comprising authorised firearms officers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether alcohol consumption is permitted on the vessels used by PNTL and NDA to transport plutonium-based MOX fuels from Sellafield to (a) other EU Members States and (b) Japan. [137556]

Dr. Ladyman: All crew members on board PNTL and NDA vessels are limited, regardless of destination, to an alcohol level of half the UK legal limit for driving. This is more restrictive than the legal limits for alcohol for professional mariners.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what account is taken of whether a ship in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority nuclear transport fleet possesses the best available technology when decisions are being taken on which ship will undertake shipments of MOX plutonium-based nuclear fuel in European Union waters. [137658]

Dr. Ladyman: Ships used to transport MOX fuel are classified as INF class 2 or 3. These ships are designed and built to the highest standards and are certified according to national and international agreements.

The choice of particular ship is a matter for the operator.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the merits of requiring an escort for transport ships used to transport plutonium-based MOX fuel in European Union waters. [137659]

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Dr. Ladyman: All shipments of MOX fuel in UK flagged vessels are escorted by members of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary’s (CNC) Marine Escort Group, comprising authorised firearms officers who have been trained to a high standard by the Royal Navy.

Ships flagged to other nations may also transport MOX fuel. Approval of arrangements for such movements are the responsibility of that State’s competent authorities.

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what safety tests have been conducted on the type B flasks used for carrying plutonium-based MOX fuel on their ability to withstand explosions. [137660]

Dr. Ladyman: Packages for the transport of radioactive material must meet the stringent standards developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Type B packages for the transport of large quantities of radioactive material must undergo tests to demonstrate their ability to survive a severe impact followed by a severe fire.

Vehicle and Operator Services Agency: Telephone Services

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) number and (b) percentage of calls were unanswered at the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency in the last 12 months; and what targets the agency sets for response times to calls. [137330]

Dr. Ladyman: The VOSA enquiry unit operates a system that fields calls to appropriately trained staff. During the last 12 months 189,262 customers have terminated their call before being put through to enquiry unit staff. This represents 24.8 per cent. of the total calls received.

To meet the recent increase in demand on the enquiry unit, VOSA have employed 10 additional staff and implemented a call monitoring system. VOSA anticipate a reduction in unanswered calls to meet industry standards by the end of June 2007.


Armed Forces: Uganda

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contribution the UK Government made to the military capacity of the Government of Uganda in each of the last five years. [137644]

Mr. Ingram: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 15 March 2006, Official Report, columns 2297-98W, to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg) which provides details of military training provided to the Ugandan People’s Defence Force up to March 2006.

Over the last year, a number of training activities intended to further improve the professionalism of Ugandan soldiers have been taking place. These have included attendance at the Royal College of Defence Studies, the commissioning course at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and the Royal Engineers troop commanders and Explosive Ordnance Disposal
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courses. Briefing programmes have been delivered on peace support operations, border security and management and collective training. A similar programme will be delivered over the coming year, with an increasing emphasis on supporting Uganda’s contribution to the embryonic African Standby Force regional standby brigade.

In addition, the Security Sector Development Advisory Team has, since 2002, been assisting Uganda to enhance good governance in defence by more effective management and policy direction. This programme, funded by the Department for International Development, has included assisting in producing a White Paper on Defence Transformation and support to development of a Defence Corporate Plan. Current engagement is directed towards support on improving governance of logistics resources.

Army: Greater London

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the running costs were of the house provided by his Department to the General Officer Commanding London District in the last 12 months. [137441]

Derek Twigg: The following table provides the information for 2005-06, the most recent full year for which data is available.

Amount (£)











All service personnel living in service accommodation pay charges appropriate to the size and condition of the property they occupy. This is deducted at source from their salary.

Army: Official Cars

Mr. Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether any official cars used by senior members of the Army have been damaged in the last two years. [137132]

Derek Twigg: Over the last two years there have been 75 accidents recorded that can be attributed to vehicles being driven by senior Army officers (Lt. Col. and above). It is, however, impossible to tell from the MOD’s traffic accident reporting system the severity of the accident or whether any damage resulted to the vehicle. As incidents are recorded by driver name, senior officers who may have been involved as passengers are not identified on the system.

Civil Contingency Reaction Forces

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Civil Contingency Reaction Force; and if he will make a statement. [137917]

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Mr. Ingram: The Civil Contingency Reaction Forces have been fully operational since the end of January 2004, and continue to maintain their readiness through a rolling programme of training and exercises with the emergency services that test how they would work together in a crisis. They enhance the armed forces’ ability to support the civil police and other bodies, if requested, through their availability to deploy to assist at the scene of an incident or elsewhere, be it terrorist attack, accident or natural disaster.


Mr. Harper: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will place in the Library a copy of the minutes of the 16 April conference chaired by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State. [136036]

Derek Twigg: The record of the conference is currently being finalised. I will place a copy in the Library of the House when this work is complete.

Departments: Buildings

Sir Michael Spicer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the latest estimate is of the cost of refurbishing his Department’s headquarters in London. [136009]

Derek Twigg [holding answer 8 May 2007]: The physical refurbishment of the Department’s main building cost £323 million (VAT exclusive) and has delivered a modern and efficient workspace capable of intensive use for the next 20 years and beyond.

Food Supply: Security

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officials in his Department are involved in strategic contingency planning for the security of United Kingdom food supplies; and in what categories of posts. [137428]

Des Browne: None.

Hercules Aircraft

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 21 March 2007, Official Report, column 925W, on Hercules aircraft, if he will take steps to ensure that Hercules aircraft being fitted with explosive suppressant foam are flown to flex the wings after the sealant is applied but before the foam is put in place. [136695]

Mr. Ingram: The replacement of the fuel tank sealant is only undertaken on the Hercules C-130K aircraft. Flying the aircraft between fuel tank sealant replacement and fitting explosion suppressant foam (ESF) would introduce unacceptable delays to this urgent programme. Therefore, quality assurance processes are used to ensure that it is not necessary to fly the Hercules C-130K aircraft after the fuel tank sealant has been replaced but before ESF is fitted.

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Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to his answer of 21 March 2007, Official Report, column 925W, on Hercules aircraft, how long it has taken for each Hercules aircraft being fitted with explosive suppressant foam to return to active service; and if he will make a statement. [136696]

Mr. Ingram: The Hercules C-130K explosion suppressant foam (ESF) modification takes approximately 44 days per aircraft to complete. The less complex Hercules C-130J modification takes approximately 16 days. The difference in time scale between the two marks of aircraft is due to the need to replace the fuel tank sealant on the older C-130K. In order to improve overall aircraft availability to the front line command, the ESF modification has been combined with scheduled maintenance wherever possible.

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