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12 Mar 2008 : Column 446W—continued

Mineral Waters

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many litres of bottled water were purchased by her Department in each of the last three years; and if she will make a statement. [191258]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The information requested can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Public Transport: Lancashire

Geraldine Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funding is available for promoting the use of public transport in Morecambe and Lunesdale. [192589]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The general revenue support grant, and, for some services the specific grants and capital allocations, as listed in my answer of 6 March 2008, Official Report, column 2767W, can be used by the local authorities to promote the use of public transport in Morecambe and Lunesdale.

In addition private sector funding, including from transport operators, may be available to promote public transport in the area.

Road Traffic Offences: Traffic Lights

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps the Government has taken to reduce the number of vehicles travelling through red traffic signals. [193608]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The Road Traffic Act 1991 provides highways authorities with the power to install and maintain, on or near a highway, structures and camera equipment at traffic-light junctions to detect vehicles failing to comply with a red traffic light. A total of 600 red light cameras were operating within the National Safety Camera Programme for England and Wales on 31 March 2007. Since 1 April 2007 the Department’s guidance has allowed local authorities greater freedom to deploy red light cameras in order to prevent or reduce such incidents.

Roads: Repairs and Maintenance

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate she has made of the amount of compensation paid by local authorities in response to claims for (a) injury and (b) damage caused by potholes in roads maintained by such authorities in the most recent period for which figures are available. [192403]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Highway maintenance on local roads in England is the responsibility of each local highways authority. This responsibility includes management of claims for compensation for personal
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injury and damage to vehicles resulting from alleged inadequate road maintenance. No estimate is made centrally of the likely level of compensation which may be paid by local authorities to settle such claims.

SS Richard Montgomery

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what (a) further research she has conducted and (b) representations she has received on the potential impact on the SS Richard Montgomery wreck of dredging the Thames Estuary for the Thames Gate Port shipping channel; and if she will make a statement. [190494]

Jim Fitzpatrick: It is anticipated that the Port of London Authority will be carrying out a dredge in the Thames Estuary for the development for the London Gateway Port channel later this year. The SS Richard Montgomery lies over two kilometres away from the edge of the channel and is, therefore, well outside the range of this project.

Sustainable Development: Local Authorities

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assistance her Department provides to local authorities or directly elected mayors to participate in the European Commission’s Civitas programme promoting sustainable energy cities. [192813]

Ms Rosie Winterton: We welcome the involvement of towns in the UK in the Civitas programme which is helping to drive local transport innovation and sharing of best practice about sustainable travel initiatives. On 3 March, I met representatives from Civitas initiatives across Europe and helped them celebrate the launch of the UK and Ireland Civitas network.

Sustainable Development: Wales

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions she has had with her counterpart in the Welsh Assembly Government on the implementation of her Department’s sustainable travel towns initiative; and what plans she has to include more towns in the initiative. [192814]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Officials in the Department for Transport have, on request, provided advice to officials in the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) on how to set up a similar programme in Wales. They have also had discussions with officials in the Scottish Executive about their proposals for similar schemes there and with other territories in the British and Irish Isles through the British/Irish Council. It is for the WAG to decide on implementation of sustainable travel towns in Wales. Ministers have had no such discussions with their counterparts in the WAG.

The Department’s sustainable travel towns complete their work in April 2009. We are considering the way forward and will make a decision in due course.

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Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many plasma television screens have been purchased by her Department and its agencies, and at what cost, in the last 24 months. [191077]

Jim Fitzpatrick: During the last year the Department for Transport and its agencies purchased, for official purposes, 27 plasma television screens at a cost of £30,990.

This cost figure excludes spend on seven plasma television screens that were purchased as part of a package of conference room equipment—for the enhancement of videoconference facilities—as costs were aggregated with associated items and cannot be separated out.

All items are used for official purposes and as well as videoconferencing use, the screens are also used for training purposes and for the provision of information to members of the public. In many cases the screens do not contain any television links.

Data are not available on purchases undertaken by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency as spend is recorded via a generic code within their accounting systems and not separately itemised.

Transport: Finance

Mr. David Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will take steps to ensure that transport funding per head of population in the north-east is increased to the national average. [192041]

Ms Rosie Winterton: Expenditure across English regions is not directly comparable and a wide range of factors are taken into account in determining how funding should be distributed, including the needs of different areas.

Investment in transport within the north-east is at record levels. The Department for Transport's spending on road and rail in the region has increased by 80 per cent. over the six years to 2007-08—from £165 million to £298 million. £457 million is provisionally allocated to fund major schemes in the north-east in the 10-year period to 2015-16 through the regional funding allocations process. And the recent local transport plan settlement allocated £245 million funding over the next three years for local authorities across the north-east, providing more funding per head of population in 2008-09 than any other region except the south-west.

The north-east also benefits from improvements to key corridors and services outside of the region. For example, A1 upgrades in Yorkshire will improve north-east connectivity to major cities to the south and improvements on East Coast Main Line and TransPennine Express benefit many regions.

Transport: Urban Areas

Robert Neill: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether she plans to amend the governance and structure of urban transport authorities. [192407]

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Ms Rosie Winterton: The Local Transport Bill, currently under consideration includes powers to enable authorities in urban areas and elsewhere outside London to carry out reviews of their existing transport governance arrangements and structures and to propose changes. These changes could then be enacted through secondary legislation.

The Government will consider whether to introduce secondary legislation applying to any particular area in the light of the review undertaken locally.

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street: Parliamentary Tours

Bob Spink: To ask the Prime Minister (1) how many tours for members of the public sponsored by hon. and right hon. Members were made of No. 10 Downing Street in each of the last five years; [192013]

(3) how many people (a) visited and (b) had a tour of No. 10 Downing Street in each year since 1997; what restrictions are placed on persons (i) visiting and (ii) having a tour of 10 Downing Street; on how many occasions he was present when a tour was given; how many (A) visits and (B) tours were organised by (1) Labour and (2) Conservative hon. Members; and if he will make a statement. [192528]

The Prime Minister: The information requested is not held centrally. My Office has a programme of events at Downing street in order to give access to as many people as possible. This includes school visits to Downing street and receptions for a wide cross-section of the community.

Jennifer Moses

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Prime Minister (1) what job title Jennifer Moses has been given; and whether she is subject to the rules applying to special advisers; [191970]

(2) whether Jennifer Moses was appointed following an open recruitment procedure; and whether recruitment consultants were used during the appointment process; [191971]

(3) whether Jennifer Moses has been appointed on a permanent contract. [191972]

The Prime Minister: Jennifer Moses is appointed as an unpaid special adviser under terms and conditions set out in the Model Contract for Special Advisers, a copy of which is in the Library of the House.

Official Residences

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Prime Minister whether the criteria upon which Lord Malloch-Brown was assigned a Ministerial residence include (a) security considerations, (b) to enable better performance of official duties and (c) to enable proper performance of official duties. [193191]

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The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the press briefing given by my spokesman on 6 August 2007. A transcript of this is available on the No. 10 website

and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.


Mr. Hancock: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to the Answer of 28 February 2008, Official Report, columns 1798-9W, on Romania, if he will make it his policy to make an official visit to Romania other than to attend an EU or NATO conference, during 2008; and if he will make a statement. [192843]

The Prime Minister: The Government are working to strengthen ties between the UK and Romania and we welcomed Prime Minister Tariceanu’s visit to the UK in December 2007. I am looking forward to the NATO Summit in Bucharest. For security reasons, my future engagements are announced as and when appropriate.


Afghanistan: Peacekeeping Operations

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) pursuant to the answer of 26 February 2008, Official Report, column 1359W, on Afghanistan peacekeeping operations, what the circumstances were surrounding the loss of each of the 27 Desert Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles; [193157]

(2) how many of the 27 lost Desert Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles have been (a) recovered, (b) not recovered and are believed to be in enemy control and (c) not recovered and are not believed to be in enemy control. [193158]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The 27 Desert Hawk Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) lost in Afghanistan all crashed either as a result of technical failure or following an unexplained loss of signal.

Of the 27 lost, one was subsequently recovered. We are aware of two that came into the possession of opposing forces. Due to their lightweight design and the harsh operating environment, the Desert Hawk would be expected to break apart on impact, putting them beyond serviceable use. Even if recovered intact the UAV itself offers no value to opposing forces, and these losses therefore raise no operational security concerns.

Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the six Merlin helicopters purchased from Denmark will be deployed in Afghanistan. [193229]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 30 January 2008, Official Report, column 364W, to the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox).

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Armed Forces: Genetics

Jenny Willott: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether DNA samples of soldiers taken under the voluntary DNA sampling scheme will be stored on the National DNA database; and if he will make a statement. [190212]

Derek Twigg: DNA matching is a near-failsafe method of identifying a deceased individual but only if there is a reference sample with which to compare the bodily remains. At such times, collecting samples from personal effects or family members can prolong the identification process and be traumatic for the grieving family. The aim of our voluntary DNA sampling scheme is to minimise the pain and distress to families by taking a reference sample, which could be analysed in the event of the suspected death of the individual and DNA obtained from the sample at that stage, to enable deceased personnel to be identified quickly and with less intrusion on the family.

Since 1999, the MOD has offered aircrew the opportunity of storing reference samples from which DNA could later be identified in order to hasten the identification process. The MOD has now decided that, from later this year, all military, MOD civilian and other entitled civilian personnel deploying to operational theatres will be offered the same opportunity to store reference samples for use in the event that their death is suspected and a body or body parts required identification. In due course, the offer of voluntary reference sampling will be extended to new recruits from all three services. Eventually, therefore, the programme will include all service personnel.

The samples are currently taken in the form of bloodspot samples. However, in future, it is intended to take buccal (cheek) swab samples which can be collected either before operational deployment or at regular dental checks. The samples are then stored in secure cabinets in rooms with restricted access. The samples are stored in an un-processed state and therefore the DNA profiles have not been created and are not stored on any database. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 states that voluntary DNA samples can only be analysed and entered onto the National DNA Database with the specific written consent of the individual. The MOD has no plans to amend its policy to include this process.

Samples held by the MOD will be withdrawn from storage if requested by a Coroner, for the purpose of post-mortem identification, or at the request of the individual. It is possible that a sample could be released by court order, although, very strong arguments would have to be presented to the court to obtain an order for release.

Since the inception of the scheme, samples have been released on two occasions only, at the request of a coroner, for the purpose of post-mortem identification of six personnel in total. There have been no other requests for the release of samples for any other reason, and as such have never been used in a criminal investigation.

The sample will be destroyed by incineration when the individual leaves the armed forces, after 45 years, or at the request of the individual, whichever is sooner.

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The circumstances in which the samples are taken, stored and might be used are fully explained in internal defence communications.

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