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Paul Clark: I could not agree more. The situation the hon. Lady describes serves as a good example of why it is important that there is work going on at the local level through programmes such as the crime and disorder
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reduction partnership, which can bring together all those players in making sure that crime levels continue to decrease on our public transport, and particularly at railway stations. I, too, commend the work of the BTP.

Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): In commending the work of the BTP, I hope the Minister will recognise that, in terms of numbers, over much of the rail network its resources are very stretched. Despite increased funding, its staff find they are having to cover vast areas. Will the Minister talk to ministerial colleagues about ways in which BTP funding can be enhanced and its work can be improved?

Paul Clark: Obviously, I take every opportunity to work with colleagues to improve the position of the BTP and those involved in security at our stations. In 1997, there were just over 2,100 BTP officers, whereas there are now 3,200 police and community support officers patrolling our network. Obviously, the budget is a matter for the BTP authority.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): How effective does the Minister think CCTV is in combating antisocial, as well as violent, behaviour on public transport?

Paul Clark: All the research on this matter and the consultation that is conducted with consumers and customers of the public services show the importance of CCTV in deterring antisocial behaviour and in increasing safety, and the feeling of being safe, at stations. The number of CCTV cameras has increased, and they are now in 50 per cent. of overground stations.

Seafarer Training and Employment

5. Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): What recent representations he has received on seafarer training and employment; and if he will make a statement. [303668]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark): I am grateful to the maritime trade unions and the Chamber of Shipping for submitting joint maritime training proposals, and I am aware of the strength of feeling on this matter. However, the proposals would require significant additional investment at a time of increasing pressures on Government resources, which is why we need to consider all elements of the proposals very carefully.

Mr. Carmichael: I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, and I am aware that his Department has been carefully considering these proposals since it first received them from the unions in April 2007. He recently referred to them as being open-ended. I can tell him that the unions are happy to talk about limits to define these proposals, but they would need to have an answer from the Department first.

Paul Clark: I appreciate that. Actually, the latest proposal was submitted on 30 March this year. I have had regular meetings with Nautilus International, the Chamber of Shipping and others concerning support for training and employment opportunities for seafarers. I want the UK's position to continue to be strong. I also want to build on these opportunities, and I am currently
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considering how we can progress towards exactly the same goal that the hon. Gentleman clearly has, as do those in the industry.


6. Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): What recent discussions he has had with the Highways Agency on improvements to the A417 Cowley to Brockworth road in Gloucestershire; and if he will make a statement. [303669]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Mole): The proposed A417 Cowley to Brockworth improvement scheme has not been included by the south-west region in its forward programme of priorities up to 2019 contained in its regional funding advice submitted earlier this year, and I have accepted that advice. As the major scheme is not being pursued, the Highways Agency has commissioned a study to identify what smaller-scale, more affordable measures might be pursued to improve the performance of the road. I expect the study to report later next year.

Mr. Robertson: I thank the Minister for that response, but he will be aware that this issue has been dragging on for probably the best part of 20 years, having been ably taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown)-the road runs through his constituency and into my area-and we are now told it will not be considered for the next 10 years. This is a major disappointment for the residents of the area, and for the people who are injured on those roads and who queue on them every single day, not just in the rush hour. Is there nothing the Minister can do to bring about the much-needed improvements to that road?

Chris Mole: As I said in my initial answer, the Highways Agency is committed to ensuring that the road is as safe as possible until regional colleagues are able to identify the scheme for inclusion in its programme.

Mobile Phones (Road Deaths)

8. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): What his most recent estimate is of the number of road traffic accident deaths which have been caused by driving while using a hand-held telephone in the past three years. [303671]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark): Contributory factor data reported in the statistical returns to the Department show that "driver using a mobile phone" was a factor in 19 deaths in road accidents during 2008-the returns do not distinguish between hand-held or hands-free phones. However, there has been no formal estimation of the numbers of deaths.

Andrew Selous: Frankly, I think this is an area in which the Government need to raise their game a bit. What action is the Minister taking in respect of the police, who seem very focused on motorists who abuse the speed limit but do not always seem to take seriously the issue of people driving with phones stuck to their ears, often as they go around dangerous corners? What more will the Government do?

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Paul Clark: Tackling distraction and excessive speeding is important if we are to ensure that the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads continues to decline. I should point out that there were 135,000 prosecutions and fixed penalties issued in 2007 for hand-held phone offences, those enforcement actions being undertaken by the law enforcement authorities-the police.

Jessica Morden (Newport, East) (Lab): One of the most watched YouTube clips around the world this summer was a short film called "Cow", which was commissioned by Gwent police and graphically illustrated to young people the dangers of texting while driving. If the Minister has not seen the film, will he do so? Does he agree that we could learn lessons from this hard-hitting, well-targeted campaign?

Paul Clark: Most certainly. Invariably, getting the message across about the implications of certain actions in cars is fundamental. I congratulate Gwent police on what they have achieved, and we need to continue exactly that sort of work. The pre-driver programme that we are looking at for 14 to 16-year-olds will seek to change behaviour; we also recognise the importance of getting people to understand that once they are behind the wheel they are in control of a very important vehicle.

Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): This summer, the Government spent £2.3 million on their controversial "spooky eyes" drug-driving campaign, suggesting that police officers can easily spot a person who has taken drugs. However, every day we see drivers openly using mobile phones, which is a much more obvious offence. Despite the tougher penalties, is the Minister concerned that drivers think they can get away with this dangerous behaviour unless they bump into another vehicle?

Paul Clark: Both are important. I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman drew attention to a hard-hitting anti-drugs campaign. Since its launch in August, we have had substantial feedback about its effect. Unfortunately, he clearly did not listen to the response that I gave to his Front-Bench colleague about the police undertaking the enforcement regime correctly and their rightly looking at both the distraction caused by mobile phones and speeding.

Concessionary Bus Fares

9. Natascha Engel (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): What recent representations he has received on the national concessionary bus fares scheme; and if he will make a statement. [303672]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): I have received many representations, including those from my hon. Friend, on the concessionary travel scheme recently, mainly in relation to funding issues. As she will know, I have recently launched a consultation regarding the concessionary travel special grant funding for 2010-11. Representations have been received from Members of both Houses, local authorities, councillors and members of the public.

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Natascha Engel: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. The reason why the campaign to safeguard this scheme has been so important is that the scheme has meant so much to the over-60s, especially in such very rural places as North-East Derbyshire. Will he use this opportunity to put on the record a guarantee for this scheme under any future Labour Government?

Mr. Khan: May I put on the record a recognition of the work that my hon. Friend has done, and not only in lobbying me? I remember that at the previous Transport oral questions she asked a similar question about access issues for her constituents on rural buses. The £1 billion that goes towards concessionary bus travel in off-peak hours means that 11 million older and disabled people in England can use buses at off-peak times. Had we accepted the advice to make a cut in this year's budget from a 2.25 per cent. increase to a 1 per cent. increase, that would have led to cuts. We will not means-test this, or cut it as some would want us to do.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Will the Minister of State congratulate Conservative-controlled Kettering borough council, of which I am a member, which has extended the concessionary fare scheme to cover peak-time travel, too?

Mr. Khan: May I, through the hon. Gentleman, commend the council for its use of that discretionary element of the scheme? Other parts of the country have also, on a discretionary basis, increased the coverage that they provide and have found the means within their coffers to do so. I congratulate them on that.

Mr. David Chaytor (Bury, North) (Lab): Does not the enormous success and popularity of the pensioners' concessionary fares scheme lead the Government to conclude that we must now extend the national concessionary fare scheme to young people? From the point of view of reducing congestion, reducing emissions, improving road safety and reducing car dependency, is that not the next step in a sensible, integrated green transport policy?

Mr. Khan: Mr. Speaker, I know that you were present during the Youth Parliament debate that took place here a few Fridays ago, although some did not want it to take place in the Chamber. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that that was one of the key issues raised by the young people who came to Parliament. I met young people around the country on my bus tour and this was one of the key issues that they raised. He will appreciate the pressures on our budget, but we keep these things under review all the time.

Stephen Hammond (Wimbledon) (Con): The Minister will remember that we urged the Government to consider the distribution of funding arrangements for the scheme. Indeed, we welcome the commitment to a review. However, we cannot welcome the fact that the Minister has arbitrarily reopened the three-year settlement. His proposals would savagely penalise London and savagely penalise the constituents of Tooting. I urge the Minister yet again, as London Councils has, to reconsider that proposal, which will savagely hit the voters of London. I am sure that the voters of Tooting will savagely remember that.

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Mr. Speaker: Order. I think there was a question in there somewhere, but I did not find it.

Mr. Khan: The hon. Gentleman is a mate-a savage mate-but I have to say that there are dangers in trying to face both ways. I caution him against doing so. We know, because we have seen the London Councils minutes, that in 2008-09 the councils spent £5 million on off-peak travel caused by the additional intake of out-of-London commuters. We gave them £55 million. They did not send us a cheque for the difference. We know from discussions that I have had with the Tory chair of the transport and environment committee that next year they will need £18 million, with the TfL agreement. We are giving them £30 million. I look forward to receiving a cheque from the Tory chair for the difference.

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): Could the Department work more closely with the devolved Administrations to improve and increase free bus travel across borders?

Mr. Khan: My hon. Friend asks an important question. At the moment, we are unable to have a harmonious system across borders because, as he will appreciate, these matters are devolved. Councils near the borders have made arrangements to reach agreements with councils on the other side of the border. He will appreciate that if we were to harmonise cross-border travel with Scotland and Wales, the cost would be extreme, but we will keep this under review and we encourage local authorities to reach agreement where they can.

Train Operating Companies (East Anglia)

10. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): When he next expects to meet representatives of the train operating companies serving East Anglia. [303676]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Mole): I will be meeting representatives of National Express East Anglia on Monday 14 December 2009 at Liverpool Street station in London.

Mr. Bellingham: Will the Minister turn his attention to the First Capital Connect service from King's Cross via Cambridge to King's Lynn? Is he aware that, in spite of recent improvements, there is still substantial overcrowding on trains leaving London during the rush hour? Furthermore, does he agree that a route of such importance should have refreshment trolleys on the trains? Will he find time to join me on the route to see the problems for himself?

Chris Mole: The hon. Gentleman's Front-Bench colleagues accuse us of micro-management, yet he seems to be asking us to intervene to specify what should be on the trolleys on trains on the First Capital Connect routes. The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs. Villiers) seems to want to spend her time in the future specifying how many Mars bars there should be. For us, it has been about ensuring that we have the capacity on that line, which is why we have been investing in the Thameslink programme.

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Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): I wish the Minister well with his meeting on Monday. I am pleased to say that I had one with National Express East Anglia on Tuesday afternoon. In his meeting on Monday, will he try to get confirmation about, and to firm up, the promises and pledges that there would be improved rail services, more trains and more carriages on the line from Ipswich to London Liverpool Street via Colchester, and about the improvements to Colchester station?

Chris Mole: I am very much aware that improvements have been made to the signalling at Colchester station to ensure that we can get the right capacity of vehicles through. I hope that on 14 December we will be able to make an announcement about the additional rolling stock being delivered through the high-level output specification, which will bring 120 new vehicles on to the National Express East Anglia network.

Northern Rail Franchise (Rolling Stock)

11. Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): What the timetable is for provision of new rolling stock for the Northern Rail franchise. [303677]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): We are in discussions with the Northern Rail franchise and the passenger transport executives on a first phase of additional rolling stock. We will make an announcement in due course.

Dr. Pugh: I thank the Minister for that slightly disappointing answer. We have already had a number of bids for rolling stock from different regions of the UK, but the 142s on the Manchester-Southport line are some of the oldest, most unsafe and, at times, most overcrowded stock in the network. Surely, if anything is a priority, this is.

Mr. Khan: Of all the rolling stock interventions, Northern is the most complex for a variety of reasons, not least because five major cities are involved and because of the interrelationships between the different cities. I have referred before to the discussions that the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Chris Mole), has had with the integrated transport authority and passenger transport executives in the region. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that we are working more closely with the PTEs and Northern to form a joint undertaking of the predictions, which will include his constituents and his area, as well as on the appraisal process. We hope that there will be good news around the corner.

Topical Questions

T1. [303684] Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

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