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Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what recent steps his Department has taken to reduce the effects on the environment in the Coventry area of (a) public, (b) road and (c) air transport. 
Mr. Khan: The Government announced in December 2008 a series of changes to the Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) which is paid to operators of local bus services in England. Changes have been introduced to ensure that the grant is targeted more towards achieving environmental and climate change objectives. The changes encourage operators of local bus services in and around Coventry (and the rest of England) to achieve greater fuel efficiency by paying a higher rate of grant to any operator which achieves fuel efficiency improvements. In addition, an extra payment of 6p per kilometre will now be paid for all kilometres operated by low carbon emission buses.
The Local Transport Act 2008 requires local transport authorities, including Coventry, to have regard to Government guidance and policies on the environment
when formulating their local transport plans and policies. Under European Union legislation, authorities are also required to undertake and monitor a strategic environmental assessment to ensure the environmental impacts of any transport-related investment are fully considered. These requirements ensure consideration is given to initiatives to encourage walking, cycling and other forms of sustainable travel.
The Government have recently invested over £80 million in major public transport and road schemes in the West Midlands conurbation, including Coventry, to encourage greater bus travel and tackle the problem of congestion and the effects on the environment. These include the Coventry Primelines Bus Network scheme, upgrading the Urban Traffic Control Centre and the first phase of the Red Routes network.
With regard to air transport, the Department for Transports responsibilities for noise mitigation measures do not extend to airports in the West Midlands. Noise restrictions at Coventry airport may be imposed voluntarily by the airport operator or by the local planning authority through planning conditions or agreements.
Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many external consultants are employed by (a) his Department and (b) the Army in relation to military operations in each area of Afghanistan; 
(2) what the average length of time is of a contract for external consultancy employed by (a) his Department and (b) the Army; and how long on average consultants assigned to theatres of operations spend in theatre. 
Mr. Paul Goodman: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many officials in his Department are suspended; how many are suspended on full pay; for how long each has been suspended; and what the reasons are for each such suspension. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The number of MOD civil servants on suspension as of 23 April 2009 is 45. MOD policy is that while on suspension individuals will continue to receive full pay and have been suspended for disciplinary reasons in line with agreed policy. The length of time on suspension is:
|(1) These are due to an ongoing fraud investigations.|
Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the framework for the research to be commissioned on the prevalence of certain conditions among the children of nuclear test veterans; and to what extent related research conducted in other countries will be drawn upon in compiling that framework. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The working group that I announced in my written ministerial statement of 21 April 2009, Official Report, column 6WS, is in the process of being convened. This group will have responsibility for finalising the details of the proposed research projects. It is therefore not possible to provide an answer to these questions at this time. However, I will ensure that my hon. Friend is kept informed of developments.
Mr. Ancram: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he has given to the British Nuclear Test Veterans' Association request for recognition for nuclear test veterans; and when he expects to make a decision on that request. 
Mr. Kevan Jones: The Ministry of Defence is not aware of a specific request for recognition from British Nuclear Test Veterans. The Government do, however, continue to recognise and be grateful to all the servicemen who participated in the nuclear testing programme. Their contribution ensured that the UK was equipped with an appropriate nuclear deterrent during the cold war which, thankfully, we never needed to use.
Mr. Kevan Jones:
The MOD commissioned research from Manchester University to investigate the level of suicide among those leaving the UK armed forces over the period 1996 to 2005, and to make comparisons with matched personnel remaining in service and the general population. This work was published in the peer reviewed journal, Public Library of Science Medicine in March
2009. For the first time, the study linked databases of discharged personnel and the national database of suicide and undetermined deaths. The results showed that overall rates of suicide of those who left were little different from the equivalent serving or civilian general populations. There was an increased risk for young men who left the armed forces after a short period of service.
Dr. Julian Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the repair work to the UK vessel occasioned by the collision between French and British ballistic missile submarines will be completed; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: The most recent estimate of the plaice stock in the Irish sea (Area VIIa) was given by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) in July 2008. It can be found on the ICES website:
At the time, the Spawning Stock Biomass was estimated to reach 9,720 tonnes in 2009 and the stock was considered to be at full reproductive capacity and harvested sustainably. I expect to receive an update on that advice in the coming weeks.
Mr. Benyon: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many fishing vessels of under 10 metres which fished in the Irish sea have been decommissioned in each year since 2002. 
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the extent to which local authorities are encouraging households and businesses to take up property flood resistance and resilience measures. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: My Department has made no formal assessment of the extent to which local authorities are encouraging households and businesses to take up property flood resistance and resilience measures. However, the household resilience grant scheme, announced by the Secretary of State in December 2008, has raised the profile of property-level flood risk mitigation initiatives as indicated by the 166 applications for the grant in the first round, and over 170 expressions of interest in submitting applications for the second round. Whether successful or not, we will be encouraging local authorities to publicise the merits of property-level initiatives using material that is already available, much of it funded by the Government.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what plans his Department has to increase the minimum amount of water that water supply companies are required to provide through emergency contingency arrangements in the event of normal supplies being contaminated by flooding. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: Sir Michael Pitt's report on lessons learned from the 2007 floods included the recommendation that DEFRA should amend emergency regulations to increase the minimum amount of water to be provided in an emergency, in order to reflect reasonable needs during a longer-term loss of mains supply.
Discussions have taken place with the water sector, the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the Health Protection Agency, the Consumer Council for Water, Ofwat and the Welsh Assembly Government, and we expect to make an announcement shortly.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps his Department has taken to prevent automatic connection of surface water drainage facilities to new developments since the publication of the Pitt Report on flooding. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: Amending the ability automatically to connect surface water drainage from premises to the public sewerage system would encourage the use of sustainable drainage systems. This will provide increased capacity in public sewers and mimic natural drainage.
The draft Flood and Water Management Bill, published on 21 April 2009, includes provision for the amendment of section 106 of the Water Industry Act 1991 to require sustainable drainage techniques to have been applied in new developments or redevelopments before any connection to the public sewer may be made.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what expenditure (a) British Waterways and (b) the Environment Agency has made on the maintenance and development of navigational infrastructure in the last five years; and how many such structures owned by each organisation are classified as at risk. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: In the last five years, British Waterways has spent approximately £650 million on its core waterways and major works, plus national restoration. Expenditure by the Environment Agency was in the order of £66 million on the replacement, maintenance and improvement of its navigational assets.
British Waterways has 153 structures considered at risk based on those principal assets classified as D and E with a significant consequence of failure. The Environment Agency has 170 structures considered at risk based on those assets which are not in their required condition.
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much his Department has allocated to (a) British Waterways and (b) the Environment Agency as grant in aid for 2010-11. 
Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many outstanding projects for maintenance works on waterways (a) British Waterways and (b) the Environment Agency had in each of the last five years; what estimate he has made of the cost to each organisation of clearing the backlog of projects; and if he will make a statement. 
Huw Irranca-Davies: British Waterways manages its maintenance programme using a risk-based approach in order to ensure that its network remains in a reasonable and safe condition. British Waterways estimates that it would cost around £200 million to remove a backlog of maintenance to both principal and non-principal assets. In 2004, British Waterways eliminated its backlog of safety related arrears.
However, more of the agency's navigation assets have fallen below required condition since 2004 as it has not had the funding needed to maintain them in a steady state. The agency currently estimates that it will cost £71 million to address all of the 2004 assets and the additional backlog. Up until March 2009, the agency spent £40.5 million on this programme. A further £9.5 million has been allocated for 2009-10, with £21 million remaining thereafter. The cost of addressing the remaining backlog is currently under review.
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