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27 Feb 2008 : Column 1580W—continued


Departmental Correspondence

Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people were employed in his Department’s ministerial correspondence unit in each of the last five years; and how much it cost to run the unit, including utilities and other expenses, in each year. [187048]

David Cairns: The Scotland Office currently has one member of staff dedicated to processing correspondence. The Office does not maintain a central record of the number of staff undertaking this function in previous years but, in 2006-07, had two members of staff undertaking these duties. The Office does not disaggregate its corporate and central running costs to this level of detail.

Departmental Sick Pay

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what the cost of sickness pay to staff within his Department was in the most recent year for which figures are available. [187518]

David Cairns: The staff in the Scotland Office are seconded from other Departments who are reimbursed by the Office for salaries etc. The Office does not have a record of any sick pay element involved; that is a matter for the parent Departments.

Personal Injury: Applications

Mr. Grieve: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many personal injury claims for pleural plaques he estimates the Government will be liable to pay as (a) an employer and (b) the funder of the liabilities of former nationalised industries if the Scottish Parliament passes legislation making pleural plaques a compensatable condition; and what estimate he has made of the size of the Government’s potential liability. [186303]

David Cairns: The Scottish Parliament has not yet legislated to facilitate compensation for pleural plaques through the Scottish civil courts. We are therefore unable to offer any accurate assessment of the associated potential Government liability for claims. Any estimates which could be drawn from the current numbers and value of claims across Government Departments may well be affected by legislation that is passed.


Olympic Games 2012: Gun Sports

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Minister for the Olympics what the estimated total cost is of providing for the 2012 Olympics shooting events at the Royal Artillery Barracks; what provision for shooting will remain following the games; and if she will make a statement. [188745]

Tessa Jowell: The total budget for the shooting venue has not been announced. Until such time as detailed venue requirements are agreed and contract negotiations are complete, the information about construction costs remains commercially sensitive.

It is important we deliver a legacy beyond 2012 and we are one of the first games to have made legacy a core component of our planning from the outset. We are still four-and-a-half years away from the opening ceremony and the Olympic stakeholders are making sure that we scope out an appropriate legacy. In the case of shooting, this will include LOCOG working with the Royal Artillery Barracks, the Home Office and Greenwich council to determine what is practical in terms of legacy at Woolwich after the games.

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Boats: Licensing

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to enable operators in tidal Category C waters to obtain a Boatmaster’s licence under the new Boatmasters Licence Scheme. [189318]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Subject to satisfying the requirements of procedures published on the website of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency under Marine Guidance Note 333, an existing master in tidal category ‘C’ waters will be issued a ‘tier 2’ Boatmaster’s licence which will allow same type and area of operation. If an applicant wishes to change, or extend, his/her area or/and type of operation, beyond that authorised by their old licence, further assessment(s) may be required.

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the reasons are for the time taken to introduce the new examination procedure for candidates wishing to take their Boatmaster’s examination; and if she will take steps to ensure that these arrangements will be in place before the start of the tourist season in March 2008. [189447]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The examination procedures for new Boatmaster’s licence (BML) regulations are already in place. The regulations allow the assessment of the candidate’s knowledge underpinning his/her practical skills to be assessed through a written or oral test. Currently, the Underpinning Knowledge (UPK) for a BML generic licence is tested orally. However, preparations are in hand for assessment to be undertaken by written examination. This system is expected to be fully operational by the end of the current year.

Department Equality

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what changes in human resources policy her Department has made to comply with the gender duty. [189095]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department for Transport has had a policy of promoting gender equality since it was formed in 2002. No specific changes in human resources policy were introduced in response to the gender duty.

Individual actions to improve gender equality are set out in our Gender Equality Scheme, which is published on our web-site. The scheme action plan will be reviewed 12 months after publication in April 2008.

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether judicial review proceedings have commenced against her Department concerning its implementation of the gender duty. [189096]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The PCS union has challenged by way of judicial review the Department for Transport’s Gender Equality Scheme for ‘allegedly’ failing to comply with its duty to eliminate sex discrimination, and failing to consult the PCS in generating the Gender Equality Scheme.

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Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for each of her Department’s and its agencies’ bargaining units (a) how many equal pay claims have been lodged, (b) which grades of staff are making the claims and (c) which grades of staff the claims are being made against. [189097]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The PCS has issued equal pay claims in the employment tribunal on behalf of 37 of its members employed at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. The claimants are female executive officers and compare themselves with driving examiners and/or senior driving examiners employed by the Driving Standards Agency.

Mrs. Humble: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether (a) the Equal Opportunities Commission and (b) the Equality and Human Rights Commission has made representations to her to conduct a cross-departmental equal pay audit. [189098]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Equal Opportunities Commission wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport on the 4 September 2007 in relation to a cross-departmental equal pay audit. The contents of the letter were noted and the Secretary of State replied on 1 October 2007 stating consideration will be given to the issues raised.

Driving Tests: Interpreters

Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the answer of 30 October 2007, Official Report, column 1301W, on driving tests: interpreters, what the cost of providing interpreters for practical car tests was in (a) 2003-04, (b) 2004-05, (c) 2005-06, (d) 2006-07 and (e) in 2007-08 to date. [188084]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Driving Standards Agency does not provide an interpreter for candidates who require this assistance when they take a practical driving test. It is the candidate's responsibility to arrange and pay for this service, therefore the agency does not incur any direct costs.

Lorries: Foreign Companies

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reason plans to introduce a vignette for foreign lorries have not been proceeded with. [188477]

Jim Fitzpatrick: We have carried out a study of options for compiling a database of foreign haulage operators and their vehicles to assist in the targeting of enforcement activity, including a “vignette” scheme whereby lorries would pay a charge for use of the roads for a given period of time. We published a progress report alongside the 2007 pre-Budget report. The study has raised a number of legal, technical and practical issues and we are considering the way forward.

Motor Vehicles: Repairs and Maintenance

Colin Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many and what proportion of vehicles which did not receive an MOT certificate failed due to faulty front suspension springs in each of the last three years. [189233]

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Jim Fitzpatrick: Figures provided by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) from MOT computerisation give an indication of the rate of failure of all suspension springing components; these include front and rear spring leaf and coil springs, torsion bars, rubber bonded components etc. Individual figures for front suspension springs are therefore included in the overall failure rate figure.

For the year April 2006 to March 2007 out of 26,297,141 Class 3 and 4 vehicles tested, 490,776 failed for "springing" defects. That indicates a fail rate of 1.9 per cent. If it were possible to ‘drill down’ to the failure of front suspension springs, it is likely that defects relating to fracture of front road suspension springs would be significantly below 1.9 per cent.

For the year April 2005 to March 2006 out of 12,136,297 Class 3 and 4 vehicles tested, 228,432 failed for “springing” defects, making the fail rate 1.9 per cent.

Railways: Exhaust Emissions

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she is taking to require (a) new and (b) existing railway rolling stock to lessen its carbon footprint. [188501]

Mr. Tom Harris [holding answer 22 February 2008]: Starting with the Intercity Express, the Department for Transport is working with the rail industry to ensure that all new train designs meet increasingly demanding energy efficiency targets. The Department is also working closely with the industry to identify and support the implementation of cost-effective carbon reduction measures. Notable current initiatives include the roll-out of regenerative braking on electric trains and trials of biofuels.

Railways: Planning

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps she has taken to identify and protect routes for a high speed line from London to Scotland. [188486]

Mr. Tom Harris: There is no existing or disused alignment for a route from London to Scotland. The July 2007 White Paper made clear there was no case for new lines in the immediate future but did not rule them out in the longer term. It would be premature to embark on any formal protection at this stage.

Registered Travellers Programmes

Philip Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions her Department has had with the Home Office on the use of registered Traveller programmes within the UK's borders programme. [188645]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Department seeks to maintain an understanding of all elements of the UK border security programme, through its very regular contacts with the Home Office, insofar as these may have potential implications for its own regulation of transport protective security. That regulatory regime does not itself include registered Traveller programmes.

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Rolling Stock

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what requirement she places upon the rolling stock companies to consult Network Rail before considering new rolling stock. [188483]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Secretary of State has no direct contracts with the rolling stock leasing companies and therefore cannot place any requirements on them.

Rolling Stock: West Coast Main Line

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what extra costs were incurred by Network Rail as a result of the measures taken to facilitate the introduction of tilting trains on the west coast main line; and what contribution towards these costs was received from Virgin. [188484]

Mr. Tom Harris: Some 20 per cent. of the total cost of £8.125 billion, to renew and upgrade the west coast main line, has been incurred to upgrade the line for greater capacity and higher speed operation. Virgin Trains, along with other passenger and freight train operators meet this total expenditure through the access charges they pay to Network Rail.

House of Commons Commission

Drinking Water

Mr. Spellar: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how much bottled water was (a) sold and (b) provided in the House in the most recent year for which figures are available. [189814]

Nick Harvey: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 8 October 2007, Official Report , column 18, in which I told the House that a total of 105,957 litres of bottled water are recorded as being sold by the House of Commons Refreshment Department in the financial year 2006-07, the last year for which figures are available. In the same year, 16,200 litres of bottled water were supplied to the Serjeant at Arms’ Department for use in the Committee Rooms, and an estimated 34,000 litres of bottled water were provided—mainly in water coolers—to staff of the House.

Translation Services

Mr. Spellar: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the cost was of translating the About Parliament pages on the parliamentary website into (a) Welsh and (b) Scots Gaelic. [189769]

Nick Harvey: The cost of translating the About Parliament pages on the website into Welsh and Scots Gaelic was £19,440.40. This covered the cost of translating 226 pages into each language (i.e. translating 452 pages in total).

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Work and Pensions

Departmental Consultants

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which external consultancy received the highest payments from his Department in each of the last four years. [185652]

Mrs. McGuire: The external consultancy suppliers who received the highest payments from DWP in the last four years are as follows:










(1)( )The highest expenditure in the current financial year to date is with Accenture. This may change at year end and once expenditure figures have been collated and validated.

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