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29 Jan 2009 : Column 697Wcontinued
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Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what his most recent estimate is of the error rate in benefit system data; and what factors he has identified as the most common causes of such error. 
Jonathan Shaw: I refer the hon. Member to tables 4A, 4B and 5B, 5C, and 5E in Fraud and Error in the Benefit System: April 2007 to March 2008 (ISBN: 978-1-84763-691-1), a DWP National Statistics publication, a copy of which is in the Library.
Paddy Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to reduce instances of fraud and error in the benefit system which arise from cases where mail has been misdirected. 
Mr. McNulty: The Department and local authorities have in place an agreement with Royal Mail whereby any mail that is returned to the postal system because the customer is not, or no longer, at the delivery address is returned to the Department or local authority and not redirected to any forwarding address.
Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps to ensure that payments made by his Department in sterling to UK pensioners resident abroad can be made by direct deposits into overseas sterling accounts; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Rosie Winterton: Pension payments to UK pensioners resident abroad are paid directly into an account overseas in local currency. This is more convenient for the majority of customers and the rates the Government have negotiated to convert from sterling to the relevant currency are more competitive than those that could be obtained by individual customers.
Customers can choose to have their payments made in sterling to a UK bank account if they wish.
Steve Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many full-time equivalent staff make up the Take Up Taskforce. 
Kitty Ussher: The taskforce membership comprises 15 representatives from local authorities and business, public and third sector bodies, and key voluntary organisations. Members are giving their time free of charge and bringing a wealth of existing expertise and research from within their organisations.
The secretariat for the Take Up Taskforce is provided by one full-time equivalent member of staff who has been seconded to the joint child poverty unit from a local authority. The secretariat also has some analytical support from within the child poverty unit.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what investigations the Highways Agency has undertaken into the state of the culvert under the A435 in Ashchurch parish; and if he will make a statement. 
The A435 through Ashchurch has now been renumbered the A46. The culvert has been the subject of CCTV investigation to identify its condition.
Debris which had collected at the southern outfall of the culvert has been cleared and the location is regularly monitored and clearance work undertaken as appropriate. The CCTV survey has shown that there is a problem with disjointed pipework and blockages within the culvert and a scheme is currently being costed by the Highways Agency and will be added to a future works programme.
Tim Farron: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if his Department will reimburse local authorities for the full cost to them of implementing the national concessionary bus fares scheme. 
Paul Clark [holding answer 28 January 2009]: The Government are confident that there is sufficient funding in total for statutory concessionary fares.
The statutory concession was improved from April 2008 to provide free off-peak concessionary bus travel throughout England. An additional £212 million is being provided to local authorities by special grant in 2008-09, rising over the next two years, solely to pay for this improvement of the statutory concession.
In autumn 2007 the Department for Transport consulted widely on the formula used to distribute the grant. The distribution is based on generous assumptions about fares, bus pass take-up, extra journeys and additional costs, taking account of the likely demand in visitor hotspots such as coastal towns, urban centres and tourist destinations.
The special grant is solely to cover the additional cost of the new concession. Funding for the existing elements of the concession, which make up the bulk of the costs, will continue to be provided through Revenue Support Grant and is not separately identified.
The Department proposes to begin consulting shortly on possible changes to the way concessionary travel is administered. Any changes may provide an opportunity to consider how best to distribute the totality of funding.
Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to which (a) charities and (b) voluntary organisations his Department has provided funding in the last five years; and how much funding was provided to each. 
Mr. Hoon: A complete list of contributions to voluntary organisations and charities within the last five years could be made only at disproportionate cost. However, I can provide details over the last three years of contributions made within the third sector over the last three years. Tables have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
Table A sets out expenditure made by the Central Department. Table B sets out expenditure made by the Department's agencies; details of expenditure of less than £100 could only be provided at disproportionate cost and these costs are therefore shown as an amalgamated total.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much the operator of the Dartford-Thurrock crossing has made under its contract with the Department in each year since 2002; and how much revenue has accrued to the Department from the operation of the crossing in each such year. 
Paul Clark: The current operator, Le Crossing Company Ltd., has been managing the operation of the crossing since 1 April 2003. Prior to this the crossing was managed by Dartford River Crossing Ltd. Details of their accounts are available through a search at Companies House.
The Highways Agency does prepare an annual account for the Dartford-Thurrock Crossing Charging Scheme. Copies of the accounts for the years from 2003-04 to 2006-07 have been placed in the House Library and include details of the amounts paid to the managing agent for operating the crossing and the gross/net revenue. The 2007-08 accounts were laid today.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much capital expenditure has been brought forward in response to the economic downturn by his Department, its agencies and non-departmental public bodies to (a) 2008-09, (b) 2009-10 and (c) 2010-11; from which years such expenditure has been brought forward; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Hoon: As part of the fiscal stimulus the Department for Transport has brought forward £700 million from 2010-11 to 2009-10. £400 million will be used by the Highways Agency to bring forward high value schemes on the strategic roads network. £300 million will be used for the procurement of diesel unit rolling stock as part of the Department's High Level Output Specification for Britain's rail network.
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Department spent on digital media training courses provided by the Internet Advertising Bureau in 2008; how many such training sessions were held in 2008; and how many staff in his Department attended at least one such training course. 
Mr. Hoon: The information requested can be provided only at disproportionate cost.
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many holding answers his Department has given in response to parliamentary questions for written answer in the last 12 months; and of those how many are still awaiting a final answer. 
Mr. Hoon: In the 12 months to 28 January 2009 the Department for Transport gave 363 holding answers. As of 28 January 2009 three await substantive answer.
Grant Shapps: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the cost was of external legal services engaged by his Department in (a) 2006-07 and (b) 2007-08. 
Mr. Hoon: In the past two years the Department for Transport (including its agencies) has spent the following on external legal fees.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what land the Highways Agency owns between junctions 8 and 9 of the M5; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Clark: Between Junctions 8 and 9 of the M5, the Highways Agency owns land within the highway boundary that was originally purchased to construct the motorway. Generally these boundaries are fenced from the adjoining land.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what studies the Highways Agency has undertaken into possible improvements to the culvert of the Carrant Brook under the M5 between junctions 8 and 9; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Clark: I refer the hon. Member to my answer of 18 December 2008, Official Report, column 1007W, to his previous question, which gave details of the work carried out by the Highways Agency to clear culverts and drains between Junctions 8 and 11a of the M5. This work identified maintenance requirements which are now being carefully monitored, but did not show a particular problem at the Carrant Brook culvert. As a result, the Highways Agency does not consider that a further specific study of this culvert is necessary at this stage.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent works to improve drainage have been undertaken between junction 8 of the M5 junction and junction 1 of the M50; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Clark: The Highways Agency has carried out the following investigatory work at this location:
Schemes to repair damaged drainage systems have been identified and are currently being priced and will be entered into future programmes;
Problems were identified with a Severn Trent water main being located within the present drainage system and the company has been contacted. They are programming work to remove this;
Removal of tree roots within the drainage system to improve capacity; and
Liaison with local land owners has resulted in them increasing drainage capacity on their land to prevent run-off onto the motorway.
Mr. Graham Stuart: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the average age of the rail rolling stock operated by Northern Rail is; and if he will make a statement. 
Paul Clark: Northern Rail can provide the most accurate answer. However, our calculations indicate the average age of the fleet is 19.78 years. The life of diesel and electric rolling stock is assumed to be around 30-35 years. During the life of the rolling stock it will undergo a number of major examinations and will normally have improvements made to the interiors of the vehicles.
John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Department gave to Operon facilities management to supplement Operon employee wages in 2008. 
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