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17 Mar 2008 : Column 778W—continued

Road Traffic Control

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what work has been conducted by the Chief Scientific Adviser’s office or in partnership with the Chief Scientific Adviser’s office in the last 12 months on (a) active traffic management technology, (b) video-based traffic monitoring and number plate recognition technology, (c) fibre optic vehicle sensing and (d) traffic control centre management. [191719]


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Ms Rosie Winterton: Work on these topics has been taken forward through the relevant units in DFT(c) and the Highways Agency. The Chief Scientific Adviser’s office has not undertaken specific work but, through the Chief Scientific Adviser, has taken part in discussions with DFT colleagues on several of the issues.

Roads: Construction

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will take steps to introduce signage to alert motorists to the presence of stone mastic asphalt on recently resurfaced roads; and if she will make a statement. [193795]

Ms Rosie Winterton: The Department for Transport has authorised a specific traffic sign to advise road users of reduced skid resistance and of a maximum advisory speed following a road resurfacing. The management of local roads is the responsibility of the local highway authority, who can seek authorisation from the Department to use this sign. The Highways Agency, which manages the English trunk road network, does not use stone mastic asphalt.

Roads: Taxation

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what road taxation revenue was in each year since 1997. [191757]

Jim Fitzpatrick: Vehicle Excise Duty collected for each year since 1997 is as follows:

£ million
Gross Net

1997-98

4,717

4,487

1998-99

5,099

4,855

1999-2000

5,054

4,738

2000-01

5,250

4,658

2001-02

4,884

4,158

2002-03

4,612

4,385

2003-04

4,916

4,689

2004-05

4,972

4,737

2005-06

5,190

4,953

2006-07

5,220

4,984


Net figures are gross receipts less refunds.

Rolling Stock

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will provide in tabular form the allocation of the proposed new 1,300 train carriages by (a) franchise, (b) date and (c) type of vehicle. [193050]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Department for Transport is in discussions with the franchise operators with respect to their requirements. I refer the hon. Member to the Rolling Stock Plan on the Department for Transport web site, which set out indicative number of vehicles required by English TOCs.


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Sea France: Industrial Disputes

Dr. Ladyman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what estimate she has made of the cost to UK business and UK transport interests of transport disruption during the current Sea France strike and the consequent implementation of Operation Stack. [193324]

Mr. Tom Harris: We do not have the necessary information at this stage to enable us to make an accurate estimate of these costs.

Speed Limits: Cameras

Mrs. Villiers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment she has made of the effect of speed cameras on the incidence of traffic accidents in England and Wales in each year since 1997. [191761]

Jim Fitzpatrick: The following independent evaluations, undertaken for the Department, confirm that there have been substantial reductions in speeding and casualties at camera sites. These are available in the Library of the House, and on the Department’s website:

The most recent four-year evaluation recorded a 42 per cent. reduction in death and serious injury at camera sites and a 22 per cent. reduction in personal injury collisions.

Trams: Leeds

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much her Department spent on consultants for work on the Leeds Supertram; and if she will make a statement. [192433]

Mr. Tom Harris: The Department for Transport has spent a total of £106,748.26 on consultancy services specifically related to the Leeds Supertram scheme since the project was originally submitted to the Department by the West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive in 2000.

Transport: Sussex

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will make a statement on the remit and timescale of the proposed Sussex Route Utilisation Study. [192960]

Mr. Tom Harris: Network Rail is responsible for preparing Route Utilisation Strategies (RUSs). The remit of RUSs is to seek to balance capacity, passenger and freight demand, operational performance and cost, to address the requirements of funders and stakeholders. Work on the Sussex RUS commenced in January 2008. The RUS is due to be completed during 2009.


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Transport: Yorkshire and the Humber

Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what funding her Department has allocated for new transport projects in Yorkshire and the Humber in the next 10 years; and if she will make a statement. [193742]

Ms Rosie Winterton: In addition to the £927 million that has been allocated to the Yorkshire and Humber region for major transport projects up to 2015-16, a further £232 million has been allocated for smaller scale local authority integrated transport schemes for the next three-year period up to 2010-11.

There is also currently £65 million of programmed expenditure on the motorway network and a further £8 million on the rail network in Yorkshire and Humber, both within the next 10-year period.

Additional road and rail schemes in Yorkshire and Humber that will involve considerable levels of funding in the coming 10 years are at the option development stage, and as such, it is not currently possible to allocate specific funding levels against them.

Certainly, additional transport funding will be available for Yorkshire and Humber over the next 10-year period, including allocations from the £200 million that has been made available to support housing growth through the Community Infrastructure Fund and the £10 billion that has been set aside for enhancing the capacity of the national rail network. However, this has yet to be allocated toward specific schemes.

Communities and Local Government

Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2006

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what changes her Department is planning to make to regulation 14 of the Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2006. [193789]

John Healey: The Government are not seeking to make changes to the Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rating (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2006.

Council Tax: Appeals

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government pursuant to the Answer to the hon. Member for Bromley, of 1 February 2008, Official Report, column 688W, on council tax: appeals, how many council tax appeals were (a) received, (b) considered by tribunals and (c) allowed in whole or in part, in (i) 2005-06, (ii) 2006-07 and (iii) 2007-08 to date, broken down by billing authority. [194392]

John Healey: The information requested is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.


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Council Tax: Pensioners

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government which local authorities have introduced local council tax discounts for pensioners. [194025]

John Healey: As at 8 October 2007, four authorities—Bury metropolitan borough council, Kirklees council, the London borough of Hillingdon and the metropolitan borough council of Wirral—reported that they had introduced schemes to grant local council tax discounts for pensioners.

Empty Property: Rates and Rating

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government who is liable to pay empty property rates; and who is eligible for exemption from empty property rates. [193759]

John Healey: Section 45 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988 provides that owners of empty non-domestic properties are liable to pay non-domestic rates unless the property falls within a class prescribed by regulation 4 of the Non-Domestic Rating (Unoccupied Property) (England) Regulations 2008 No. 386, which was laid before Parliament on the 26 February 2008.

Housing: Rural Areas

Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what guidance her Department gives to local authorities and inspectors on the consideration to be given to local housing need when reaching planning decisions on proposals for affordable housing in rural areas where the proposals are brought forward under rural exceptions policies. [194167]

Mr. Iain Wright [holding answer 14 March 2008]: Planning Policy Statement 3 “Housing” (PPS3) expects local planning authorities and regions to take a positive, plan-led approach to providing market and affordable housing in rural areas. In particular, it requires authorities to assess local need for affordable housing so that they can set appropriate targets for the amount of housing to be provided in their plans, including specifying the size and type of housing that, in their judgment, is likely to be required.

Where proposals are brought forward for affordable housing under the rural exception site policy, PPS3 expects that schemes are considered against the local plan’s housing objectives, including the need for affordable housing in the area. In particular, a rural exception site policy should be used to address the needs of the local community by accommodating households who are either current residents or have an existing family or employment connection, while also ensuring that rural areas continue to develop as sustainable, mixed, inclusive communities.

Ipsos MORI

Mr. Pickles: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what payments each English regional chamber has made to Ipsos MORI in the last 24 months; and what the purpose of each such payment was. [193941]


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John Healey: In 2006-07 the South East England Regional Assembly spent £63,240 on research to inform the region’s updated Regional Housing Strategy and housing investment priorities. In 2007-08 the Assembly has committed to spend £62,300 on research to gather residents’ views on regional priorities.

In 2006-07 the East Midlands Regional Assembly spent £52,700 on Ipsos MORI research to gather residents’ views on regional priorities.

None of the other six Regional Assemblies engaged Ipsos MORI to undertake research in the period concerned.

Land: Contamination

Mr. Dai Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether she plans to provide the Welsh Assembly Government with the analysis of the cluster innovative project on the restoration of groups of contaminated sites. [194961]

Mr. Iain Wright: The ‘Cluster’ approach involves identifying a hub site to act as a centre for processing and treating contaminated soils. It is then possible to clean up and redevelop a number of local smaller sites by sending contaminated soils to the hub site for treatment and then returning the cleaned up soils for reuse as part of the development works at the smaller sites.

English Partnerships, together with National Grid and the Environment Agency, have been working on a pilot ‘Cluster’ project in Sheffield. The generic working plan for this concept is currently being written up and will be published in spring 2008. The document will demonstrate how ‘Cluster’ works on the ground and will substantiate the predicted environmental and financial savings. A workshop is being organized by CL:AIRE (Contaminated Land: Applications in Real Environments) in association with English Partnerships to launch the document. An invitation to the workshop will be issued to the Welsh Assembly Government. The generic working plan will also be made available on the CL:AIRE website www.claire.co.uk so that any interested organization can access it.

Local Authorities: Pensions

Lynne Featherstone: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (1) what the value of each local authority’s pension fund was at the most recent date for which information is available; and what estimate she has made of the value of each local authority’s fund invested in accordance with a socially responsible investment policy; [194299]

(2) what steps the Government has taken to promote socially responsible investment policies among fund holding local authority pension schemes; and if she will make a statement. [194300]

John Healey: Since 2000, the 89 pension fund authorities in England and Wales which administer the Local Government Pension Scheme have been required by the scheme’s regulations to publish and maintain a Statement of Investment Principles, including their policy on the extent to which social, environmental or ethical considerations are taken into account in the selection, retention and realisation of investments. The regulations also require that each statement is published locally.


17 Mar 2008 : Column 784W

All the scheme’s funds in England and Wales are undergoing an actuarial valuation of their funds as at 31 March 2007, as required by its regulations. The outcome for each fund will not be known until later in the year. In the meantime, the results from the 2004 valuation for English local authorities participating in the Scheme are given at

Information about the proportion of funds invested under a socially responsible investment policy is held by individual fund authorities; it is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost. Individual fund authorities in England and Wales will be able to provide specific figures for their funds.


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