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Motor Vehicles: Registration

Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what factors he took into account in increasing the vehicle registration fee from £38 to £50; and if he will make a statement. [139758]

Dr. Ladyman: The increase in first vehicle registration fee from £38 to £50 was implemented to ensure that the DVLA driver and vehicle registration costs continue to be covered by the fees levied. This is necessary for the DVLA to comply with its statutory duties as an executive agency and trading fund. The initial vehicle fee increase was mirrored by a smaller increase from £38 to £45 for the first provisional driving licence.

The fee increases result from three public consultations over a two-year period in which the different options for meeting the DVLA budget envelope were explored in detail and gradually focused on the two fees noted. The consultation reports and conclusions were shared with respondents to the consultation and are published on the DVLA website. The explanatory memorandum to the changes in regulations summarises these. In essence, the DVLA undertakes 62 different registration transaction streams to maintain the vehicle and driver registers, but is only able to levy fees on 10 of these. Hence 16 per cent. of the transactions carry the costs for all the register maintenance and, of these, the 3,000,000 first vehicle registrations and the 950,000 first provisional driving licences bear the brunt. Other transactions such as change of vehicle keeper or of address are not fee-bearing, to encourage compliance, and these transactions have increased in number far faster than chargeable transactions.

DVLA has made very significant productivity gains over the last four years and by 31 March 2008 will have reduced its costs for the 2004 by some £50 million. However, its volumes have increased by around 15 per cent. during the same period. This has resulted in a rise in total costs. Conclusions drawn from the consultations were that the preferred way of addressing this was to increase the fees.

Parking: Disabled

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what estimate has been made of the number of people with temporary disabilities who do not meet the criteria for a disabled parking permit; [140741]

(2) what plans he has to allow people with temporary disabilities access to a disabled parking permit. [140742]

Gillian Merron [holding answer 6 June 2007]: The Department is conducting a full strategic review of the Blue Badge Scheme. The review will consider the issue of temporary badges, including the potential impact of their inclusion within the Scheme. The review and upcoming reforms will help to make the scheme fairer,
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more consistent, tougher on fraud and easier to understand. We are scheduled to receive the findings in September 2007.

Public Transport

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve the contribution of the transport infrastructure to the economy. [139626]

Gillian Merron: The Eddington Transport Study’s recommendation to focus investment aimed at improving productivity on the three strategic priorities of congested and growing city catchments, key inter-urban corridors and key international gateways. The Department for Transport’s 2007 annual report details estimated capital spending of over £5.9 billion in 2006-07 to support reliable and efficient local, regional and inter-regional transport systems. Furthermore, the Transport Innovation Fund will provide more than £9 billion over seven years from 2008-09 to support schemes of benefit to national productivity, and innovative local transport packages aimed at tackling congestion. The Department’s formal response to the Eddington recommendations will be published in the autumn alongside the comprehensive spending review.

Railways: Hampshire

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will hold discussions on expanding the train network in (a) Portsmouth and (b) the rest of Hampshire; and if he will make a statement. [139729]

Mr. Tom Harris: I would be pleased to meet relevant MPs to discuss the Department's approach to development of the railway in Portsmouth and the rest of Hampshire.

No funding is specifically allocated to new railways or re-openings. We are, nevertheless, always prepared to look at proposals of this sort put forward as priorities by regions and local authorities, provided that they are supported by a proper business case.

The Southern Regional Planning Assessment for the railway was published in January this year and sets out the Department's thinking on this issue. The Secretary of State has made a commitment that 1,000 additional train carriages, to lengthen trains and alleviate crowding on the most congested routes across England and Wales, will result from Department for Transport's High Level Output Specification to Network Rail for 2009-14. This will be published in July.

Railways: Reading Berkshire

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what upgrades are being planned for the up and down relief lines between Reading and London Paddington. [140816]

Mr. Tom Harris: In relation to upgrades for the up and down relief lines between Reading and London Paddington, the Network Rail Business Plan 2007 says: “We plan to increase relief line speeds to 90 mph on 86 per cent. of the route.”

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The hon. Member should contact Network Rail’s Chief Executive at the following address for a fuller response to her question:

Railways: Stoke on Trent

Joan Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funding is available to reopen strategic and inter-regional links of disused rail lines, including the Leek to Stoke-on-Trent line; and if he will make a statement. [140871]

Mr. Tom Harris: No funding is specifically allocated to rail re-openings. We are, nevertheless, always prepared to look at proposals of this sort put forward as priorities by regions and local authorities, provided that they are supported by a proper business case. I am not aware of any current plans to re-open the Stoke-on-Trent to Leek line but any proposal which did come forward would be considered on this basis.

Rolling Stock

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proportion of the 1,000 new train carriages announced in his speech on 14 March 2007 he estimates will be manufactured in the UK. [140453]

Mr. Tom Harris: Once the industry has assessed where new carriages can best be deployed to improve capacity and determined the types of trains required, I expect orders for new rolling stock to be placed on the basis of competitive tender.

UK manufacturers and component suppliers will be able to compete for those contracts on the same basis as other bidders.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many calls for assistance the Royal National Lifeboat Institution received on (a) Sunday 27th and (b) Monday 28th May 2007, broken down by vessel. [140904]

Dr. Ladyman: All Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) launches are reported to and co-ordinated by Her Majesty's Coastguard (HMCG).

HMCG co-ordinated the following number of incidents in which RNLI lifeboats were involved:

The following table shows the breakdown by type of vessel for 27 and 28 May:

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Commercial Fishing vessel Yacht Other pleasure( 1) Other( 2) None( 3) Total

27 May








28 May








(1) Including personal water craft.
(2) Other = where not possible to determine purpose of vessel.
(3) None = where no vessels were involved.


Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what account is being taken of the special needs of drivers with disabilities in the forthcoming road pricing scheme pilots; and what lessons have been learned from the experience in London of the congestion charge. [141054]

Dr. Ladyman: The Secretary of State announced in a written ministerial statement on 8 February 2007, Official Report, column 47WS, the publication of guidance for local authorities interested in developing business cases for funding from the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) for local schemes to tackle congestion. The road pricing section of this guidance covers exemptions and discounts. The Department has not drawn any conclusions from the London Congestion Charge on the treatment of drivers with disabilities. Any authorities putting forward local pricing schemes will need to have considered such issues, taking account of local circumstances.

Tolls: Global Positioning System

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether satellite local authority road pricing schemes will be able to use the (a) American GPS, (b) Russian Glonas and (c) Chinese Beidou satellite global positioning systems. [141491]

Dr. Ladyman: There are presently no proposals from local authorities for satellite based charging systems. The use of signals from different systems will be dependent on the technology selected at the time that any such scheme were proposed.


Departments: Ministerial Red Boxes

John Hemming: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what tendering process is used to decide which company supplies ministerial red boxes to his Department. [134952]

John Healey [holding answer 8 May 2007]: As the value of orders placed for the supply of ministerial red boxes is below the minimum HM Treasury threshold for competition, the requirements are placed on a single tender basis with Barrow and Gale Ltd.

All Government Departments operate a similar minimum threshold for competitive tendering.

London Development Agency

Robert Neill: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much the borrowing limit of the London Development Agency was in 2006-07; and how much it will be in 2007-08. [141106]

John Healey: It is for the Mayor of London, as part of the wider GLA arrangements, to set the borrowing limits for the LDA on an annual basis, in accordance with the Local Government Act 2003.

Revenue and Customs: Conferences

Mr. Francois: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many conference bookings have been (a) booked and (b) cancelled by HM Revenue and Customs with Travelocity since June 2006; and what the cost was to the public purse of each. [133443]

John Healey: HM Revenue and Customs aim to minimise the costs of cancelled event and conference bookings by confirming the availability of attendees prior to booking.

However, since HMRC is an operational department which has been undergoing a rapid degree of reorganisation in recent years, it is an unfortunate fact: (i) that members of staff are often obliged at short notice to pull out of prior commitments to attend events or conferences because of their operational responsibilities, and (ii) that the restructuring or reorientation of staff responsibilities will also occasionally make planned events and conferences redundant.

Where this necessitates the cancellation of events or conferences, the department's contract with Travelocity requires Travelocity to negotiate down any cancellation fees to the minimum possible.

It is the view of HMRC's management that where conferences and events cease to be viable due to low attendance or become redundant due to the restructuring of unit and team responsibilities, it is the least costly option simply to cancel the event and incur any necessary cancellation fees, rather than pressing ahead with such an event, thereby incurring the higher direct costs of the event and the opportunity cost involved in wasting staff time.

In the period between 1 July 2006 to 31 March 2007, a total of 39 conferences and events were cancelled with the resulting imposition of cancellation fees, around 7 per cent. of the total number of events and conferences organised during that period.

Around a third of this total relates to cancellations in October 2006 alone, when extensive reorganisation within the department and operational pressures led to the cancellation of 14 separate events at late notice with resulting fees totalling £24,000.

Excluding the exceptional month of October, the average monthly number of cancelled events incurring cancellation fees over this period was three, and the average monthly cost was £3,400.

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Taxation: Dentistry

Dr. Murrison: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions he has had with representatives of the dental profession on their tax and national insurance status since 1 April 2006. [139869]

Ed Balls: There have not been any discussions between Treasury Ministers and representatives of the dental profession about the employment status of dentists for the purposes of tax and national insurance contributions since 1 April 2006.

Voucher Schemes: Day Care

Ms Buck: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what estimate he has made of the number of employers who are offering child care vouchers; and how many employees are covered by the scheme; [138685]

(2) what the estimated annual cost was to the Exchequer of child care vouchers in each of the last three years. [138686]

Ed Balls: Employers and employees are not required to report the provision of tax-free employer supported child care provided to employees since the tax and national insurance contributions exemptions were introduced in April 2005.

HMRC commissioned the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), an independent social research organisation, to monitor the initial impact of the reforms to the tax and NICs exemptions for employer-supported child care, from the employer’s perspective. This was published on 6 December 2006 on HM Revenue and Customs’ website at:

The research estimated that during 2005-06 around 9,600 employers were offering childcare vouchers. It also includes information on the number of employees using the tax and NICs exemptions at this time, indications of how this may change in the future, income levels of the beneficiaries and the average size of claims made.

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