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4 July 2007 : Column 1031W—continued


Lorries: Tolls

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made on tackling competitive distortions in the UK haulier market via a system of national road pricing. [146255]

Ms Rosie Winterton: I refer to the answer of 21 June 2007, Official Report, columns 2114-15W. No decisions have been taken on whether to introduce a national system of road pricing or what form it might take. Such decisions will be taken only on the evidence of established local schemes.

Motorcycles

Robert Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when she or other Ministers from her Department last met the chairman of the Motorcycle Action Group to discuss policy issues; and when the next such meeting is planned. [146276]


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Jim Fitzpatrick: No Ministers from the Department have met with the chairman of the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) and there have been no requests to do so. The former Minister of State, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman), had met with senior representatives of MAG in the last six months.

Motorcycles: Electronic Tagging

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether it is her policy to introduce electronic tagging of motorcycles. [146256]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department for Transport currently does not have plans to introduce such a system.

However a small trial of electronic vehicle identification (EVI) technology using electronic tags attached to number plates on both cars and motorcycle number plates took place in 2006.

Motorways: Repairs and Maintenance

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what co-ordination exists between different regions of the Highways Agency to ensure that motorway lane closures in one region are notified to adjoining areas served by the same motorway; and if she will make a statement. [147442]

Mr. Tom Harris: For planned lane closures such as those required for maintenance activity and major improvements, the Agency has a Network Occupancy Management Process to ensure that roadwork activity is planned and coordinated effectively. As part of this process, the Agency records all this information on a national electronic system called the Schedule of Road Works. This national system is populated by its contractors and can be accessed by planning staff in all regions.

For unplanned lane closures such as those as a result of incidents, the Agency’s National Traffic Control Centre (NTCC) co-ordinates the strategic response and informs motorists of road closures and implements strategic diversions. The NTCC automatically alerts the corresponding Regional Control Centre (RCC) that it is about to set a specific response plan and also provides information to motorists through the Traffic England website, the Highways Agency Information Line and through travel news media.

Incidents are managed from the Agency’s seven RCCs. If the incident affects adjoining regions then the lead RCC will ensure they are notified and co-ordinate a joint response. Incidents of national significance are co-ordinated by a national crisis management team.

Mr. Greg Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what advice she has given on the use of overhead gantry signs to ensure that motorists using a motorway in one Highways Agency area are warned of carriageway closures in other Highways Agency areas. [147443]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Highways Agency (HA) have a wide variety of Variable Message Signs (VMS) and fixed message signs designed to give motorists advanced warning of any closures on the motorway
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network which could affect their journey. Where an incident occurs that necessitates the closure of a carriageway, the National Traffic Control Centre (NTCC) uses VMS located at key strategic points on the network, across HA areas and regions, to make motorists aware and allow them to make informed decisions about whether to change their route. It is important to note that the NTCC doesn't work on an HA regional or area basis, but sees the network as a whole.

Official Cars: Electric Vehicles

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what percentage of Government Car and Despatch Agency vehicles are hybrid electric vehicles. [147151]

Jim Fitzpatrick: At present, 41 per cent. of the Government Car and Despatch Agency’s fleet are hybrid electric vehicles.

Railways: South Wales

Mr. Touhig: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what evaluation her Department has made of the (a) punctuality and (b) reliability of trains operated by First Great Western between London and South Wales. [147216]

Mr. Tom Harris: Improving rail performance is a key objective for the Department for Transport. Joint action plans are in place between Network Rail and First Great Western to address performance issues. Additionally, First Great Western has implemented a 40-point Recovery plan. These are monitored monthly.

In the year to 31 March 2007 First Great Western achieved an average punctuality of 83.2 per cent. across the franchise as a whole.

Mr. Touhig: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment her Department has made of the standard of First Great Western’s train services between London and South Wales. [147217]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Secretary of State for Transport has not undertaken an assessment of the standard of First Great Western’s train services. The industry-standard public performance measure (PPM) is used to measure performance of a train operating company (TOC) across the whole of its franchise area, not specific routes in isolation. Passenger surveys are undertaken by Passenger Focus. The results of the latest National Passenger survey were published on 5 June 2007.

Shipping: ELL Action

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions she has had with her opposite numbers in other EU states about the EU’s consultation paper “Towards a future Maritime Policy for the Union”. [146403]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The former Minister of State, the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman) recently held a meeting with the Portuguese State Secretary for Defence and Maritime Affairs to discuss this EU consultation and the plans of the Portuguese presidency in addressing its outcome.


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In addition, officials have worked closely with those of other EU member states on this matter and have been involved in both formal community working groups and an informal ‘friends of the presidency’ group.

Traffic Officers: Speed Limits

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many Highways Agency traffic officers have, in the course of their duties, been (a) caught speeding and (b) prosecuted for speeding in each of the last 24 months, broken down by region. [147086]

Mr. Tom Harris: In the last 24 months one Highways Agency traffic officer has been caught and prosecuted for speeding while in the course of their duty. This was in the North West Region, where a notice of intended prosecution was issued on 8 May 2007 in relation to an alleged speeding offence on 4 April 2007.

Train Operating Companies: Fees and Charges

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent meetings her Department has had with train operating companies to discuss pricing structures for the railways; who attended; what the outcomes were; and if she will make a statement. [147870]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Department for Transport has been discussing with the Association of Train Operating Companies about how a simple national fares structure could be introduced, with standardised ticket names, terms and conditions. Discussions are ongoing.

Defence

Afghanistan: Drugs

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps are being taken by UK forces in the Helmand province of Afghanistan to prevent the cultivation of opium. [147138]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: UK military forces deployed under the international security assistance force contribute to the broader counter-narcotics effort by helping to provide the secure environment in which the rule of law can be applied, reconstruction can take place and legal rural livelihoods can be developed. They are also able to provide support to Afghan led counter-narcotics operations, within the scope of the NATO operational plan. They are not there to carry out eradication themselves.

Aircraft Carriers: France

Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he intends that France will participate in the construction of the UK future aircraft carriers. [144781]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth [holding answer 27 June 2007]: We have always stressed that co-operation with France through industry-to-industry links may offer potential
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benefits to both nations. It has been agreed with France that for co-operation to work, it must deliver cost savings and must do so without delaying UK or French programmes.

Armed Forces: Advisory Services

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he has taken to provide independent advisory panels to oversee welfare provision for trainee soldiers; at which barracks panels have been created; what guidance he has given on (a) the terms of reference for and (b) recruitment of lay persons to serve on such bodies; how the composition of panels is monitored; and what steps he has taken to involve parents of service personnel in an oversight role. [146185]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: Independent advisory panels (IAP) have been established across the Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD)'s Phase 1 (Initial Training) and Phase 2 (Special-to-Arm Training) units since 18 January 2006.

IAPs exist in the following ARTD sites:

Phase 1 Training sites Phase 2( 1)

Army Foundation College (Harrogate)

Armoured Centre (Bovington)

Army Training Regiment (Bassingbourn)

Royal School of Military Engineering (Chatham and Minley)

Army Training Regiment (Lichfield)

Royal School of Artillery (Larkhill)

Army Training Regiment (Pirbright)

School of Infantry (Catterick)

Army Training Regiment (Winchester)

School of Army Aviation (Middle Wallop)

(1) Including phase 1 and 2 combined sites

The Defence College of Logistics and Personnel Administration, and the ARTD Staff Leadership School are planning to have IAPs in place during 2007-08.

The terms of reference for IAPs, developed in October 2005, include guidance on recruiting and are as follows:

1. Introduction

As part of the process of implementing the recommendations of the DHALI reports, the Adjutant General has directed Director General Army Recruiting and Training to establish IAPs across the Army's training establishments at either school or regiment level but not both.

2. Aim

The aim of IAPs is to provide an independent, non-statutory source of advice, challenge, encouragement and support to the training establishment in order to exchange information, provide feedback and assist in identifying possible areas for improvement.

3. Roles

IAPs have the following roles:


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4. Limitations.

The IAP will not override the fundamental Army principle of self-regulation vested in the commanding officer and the higher chain of command. They will have no responsibility for budgets, objective setting, policy or staff selection.

5. Composition

IAPs are non-statutory bodies and their composition will depend on the circumstances for each establishment. IAPs might include opinion formers in the local community, who between them are able to speak with knowledge, credibility and experience on a range of issues that might relate to the operation of the training establishment and the training of young people. Examples might include local teachers, youth workers, social workers, councillors, religious figures (all faiths), policemen/women, businessmen/women, health professionals or sports personalities. The chairperson will be elected by the panel, and will not be a member of the training establishment. IAP membership from the training establishment could be:

6. Frequency

IAPs will meet termly (three times a year) or as the School Commander/Commanding Officer and Chairperson decide.

7. Output

IAPs will write an annual report to the School Commander/Commanding Officer, recording key issues raised and action taken.

The ongoing composition of a panel is a matter for the respective chairperson, once elected, in consultation with the respective training establishment and, externally the headquarters of the ARTD.

While parents of service personnel are not specifically identified as potential members of the IAP, they are not excluded, and it is implicit in the Terms of reference (paragraph 3) that an IAP would wish to seek the views of recruits and trainees.

Armed Forces: Catering

Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many vacancies there are for chefs in the (a) Royal Navy, (b) Army, (c) Royal Air Force and (d) Royal Marines. [146958]

Derek Twigg: The information is provided in the following table .

Strength and requirement of chefs in the UK regular forces as at 1 April 2007
RN RM Army( l) RAF

Strength

(2)975

(2)150

2,465

(2)690

Requirement

1,000

155

2,600

600

Surplus/Deficit

(2)-25

(2)-5

(2)-135

(2)90

FY 07/08 recruiting target

120

25

430

30

(1).Army figures are as at 1 March 2007 and include Gurkhas (2) Denotes provisional. Due to the introduction of a new joint personnel administration system (JPA) data are provisional and subject to review.

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