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1 Mar 2010 : Column 855W—continued

Sky Lanterns

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what information his Department has collated on the risks posed by air-released Chinese lanterns for (a) grazing livestock and (b) ripening crops; and if he will make a statement. [318578]

Jim Fitzpatrick: DEFRA has made no formal assessment of the risks posed by air-released Chinese lanterns. However, we recognise there has been concern among farmers and livestock keepers about the effect of these lanterns on grazing livestock. Anecdotal evidence suggests that while few animals have been affected, the impacts can be severe.

We are not aware of evidence that Chinese lanterns have caused damage to ripening crops, but we appreciate concern over potential risks including fire, contamination, and litter.

We will be working with interested parties to consider how the risks may be mitigated.

Veterinary Services: Complaints

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs pursuant to the answer of 22 February 2010, Official Report, column 49W, on veterinary services: complaints, if he will (a) invite the group Rights 4 Pets (PrOtEcT) vets to participate in the meeting on 2 March 2010 and (b) meet that group to discuss its representations on the investigation of complaints against veterinary surgeons. [319020]

Jim Fitzpatrick [holding answer 26 February 2010]: I am meeting representatives of the Action Group Against the Disciplinary Committee of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons on 2 March 2010. Rather than invite the Rights 4 Pets group to this meeting at this late stage, I would be happy to meet the group on a separate occasion to discuss their concerns.


1 Mar 2010 : Column 856W

Transport

Airports: Sales

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport (1) what progress has been made on the sale of (a) Glasgow and (b) Edinburgh airports by BAA; when each such sale is expected to be completed; and if he will make a statement; [319595]

(2) when he last met representatives from (a) BAA and (b) the Competition Commission to discuss the sale of (i) Edinburgh and (ii) Glasgow airport. [319596]

Paul Clark: The Competition Commission's market inquiry into BAA's ownership of seven UK airports included a recommendation that BAA should sell one of either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports. I have had no meetings with either BAA or the Commission on this matter. The Commission's decisions are currently the subject of legal process and it would not therefore be appropriate to comment further at this time.

Bus Services: Concessions

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport how much the Government has spent on concessionary bus travel for pensioners (a) in England and (b) in the City of York in each year since such schemes were introduced. [318579]

Mr. Khan: Before 1 April 2008, funding for the statutory minimum bus concession was provided exclusively through the formula grant system. Formula grant is an unhypothecated block grant and as such it is not possible to identify how much formula grant has been allocated to local authorities for any particular service, such as concessionary travel.

When the statutory minimum concession increased from half-fare to free fare in April 2006, additional funding of £350 million in 2006-07 and £367.5 million in 2007-08 was added to formula grant to fund the additional burden to local authorities.

From April 2008, the Department for Transport has provided additional special grant funding to local authorities to cover the extra costs of providing England-wide travel of:

The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) continues to provide the bulk of concessionary travel funding to local authorities through formula grant.

The following table shows how much was spent on concessionary travel by all local authorities in England and by the City of York council since 2000, when the Government first introduced a statutory minimum bus concession. These figures include spending on both older and disabled travel concessions and include any discretionary enhancements offered by local authorities.

£ million

2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09

England

468

487

487

510

539

532

783

873

990

City of York council

0.853

1.078

1.130

1.171

2.098

1.891

2.942

3.258

4.579


1 Mar 2010 : Column 857W

Departmental Empty Property

Sarah Teather: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport pursuant to the answer to the hon. Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough of 5 January 2010, Official Report, column 90W, on departmental buildings, what the (a) book value and (b) estimated annual rental value is of vacant residential properties owned by the Highways Agency. [315966]

Chris Mole: Property owner-occupiers who are unable to sell their homes because they are directly affected by a proposed Highways Agency road scheme (i.e. likely to have land acquired in the future) and are unable to sell it at a normal market price because of the scheme, can serve a blight notice on the Highway's Agency under the blight provisions of the Town and Country Planning Acts. If the notice is accepted, the agency has to purchase the property in advance of its operational requirement.
1 Mar 2010 : Column 858W
These properties cannot be sold immediately because any new owner would be able to serve another blight notice on the agency requiring it to purchase the property again. The properties could also not be sold at a normal market value. These properties are therefore held by the agency while the scheme is in the major projects programme and the route is protected from development. In some cases this can be for a number of years.

The potential annual rental income from the Highways Agency's residential properties would be £3.4 million, if all the properties were let and in good tenantable condition. The net book value of the agency's properties that are currently let is £67.3 million; the net book value of the empty properties is £22.9 million. This valuation takes into account current condition and the effect of the planned road improvement on the property.

The values and potential rental income are broken down in more detail in the following table.

£

Net book value Potential annual rental income

Beyond economic repair

1,335,200

97,200

In sale process

8,282,000

258,504

Currently under repair/refurbishment

5,377,000

225,900

Seeking tenants

1,515,000

58,380

Awaiting demolition

362,500

23,400

Held vacant for consideration for refurbishment next financial year

6,045,000

248,940

Total for empty properties

22,916,700

912,324

Total for occupied properties

67,258,250

2,534,787

Total

90,174,950

3,447,111


Departmental Housing

Sarah Teather: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport what recent estimate he has made of the (a) potential annual rental and (b) total book value of (i) empty and (ii) occupied residential properties owned by his Department. [313740]

Chris Mole: Information in respect of the Driving Standards Agency and the Highways Agency is provided as follows.

The Driving Standards Agency owns the freehold of the land for its Bournemouth Driving Test Centre. Above the centre are two residential flats. Both are occupied. The Driving Standards Agency receives a peppercorn rent of £20 per annum in total. The occupiers of the flats each own the leasehold of their flat.

Property owner-occupiers who are unable to sell their homes because they are directly affected by a proposed Highways Agency road scheme (i.e. likely to have land acquired in the future) and are unable to sell it at a normal market price because of the scheme, can serve a blight notice on the Highway's Agency under the blight provisions of the Town and Country Planning Acts. If the notice is accepted, the agency has to purchase the property in advance of its operational requirement. These properties cannot be sold immediately because any new owner would be able to serve another blight notice on the agency requiring it to purchase the property again. The properties could also not be sold at a normal market value. These properties are therefore held by the agency while the scheme is in the major projects programme and the route is protected from development. In some cases this can be for a number of years.

The potential annual rental income from the Highways Agency's residential properties would be £3.4 million, if all the properties were let and in good tenantable condition. The net book value of the agency's properties that are currently let is £67.3 million; the net book value of the empty properties is £22.9 million. This valuation takes into account current condition and the effect of the planned road improvement on the property.

The values and potential rental income are broken down in more detail in the following table.


1 Mar 2010 : Column 859W

1 Mar 2010 : Column 860W
£

Net book value Potential annual rental income

Beyond economic repair

1,335,200

97,200

In sale process

8,282,000

258,504

Currently under repair/refurbishment

5,377,000

225,900

Seeking tenants

1,515,000

58,380

Awaiting demolition

362,500

23,400

Held vacant for consideration for refurbishment next financial year

6,045,000

248,940

Total for empty properties

22,916,700

912,324

Total for occupied properties

67,258,250

2,534,787

Total

90,174,950

3,447,111


Government Car and Despatch Agency

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport how many driving offences of each type were committed by drivers of the Government Car and Despatch Agency while on duty in each of the last three years. [319168]

Paul Clark: The Government Car and Despatch Agency does not hold information on driving offences.

The agency conducts an annual inspection of all driving licences of its drivers. Any driver with six or more points on his or her licence is reminded that the maintenance of a valid licence is a requirement of the job.

Hackney

Ms Abbott: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Transport if he will set out, with statistical evidence relating as closely as possible to Hackney, North and Stoke Newington constituency, the effects on that constituency of his Department's policies since 1997. [318375]

Mr. Khan: The Department for Transport (DFT) does not routinely hold transport statistics on a parliamentary constituency basis. The Department provides Transport for London (TfL) with a block grant to fund transport delivery in London. This grant has more than doubled in the last nine years, rising to almost £3 billion in 2009-10. Drawing on these and other resources, the Mayor is responsible for publishing and, through TfL, implementing a transport strategy for London, while the boroughs are required to publish local implementation plans which set out how they will contribute to the Mayor's strategy.

The additional funding that has been made available has helped deliver 1,089 million passenger journeys on the tube in 2008-9, the highest ever. London Underground's scheduled service is now its largest ever, and in 2008-09 96.4 per cent. was run, the best annual result for 14 years.

Bus services in London have also improved. 2,247 million passenger journeys were made in 2008-09 and patronage grew by almost 47 per cent. between 1997-98 and 2007-08.

Rail routes serving Hackney, North and Stoke Newington have also improved. Served by National Express East Anglia, this franchise has seen punctuality increase from 85 per cent. to 91 per cent. since 2004, over 450 carriages have been refurbished and many stations have been upgraded.

On the roads, national targets to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured by 40 per cent. and reduce the number of "slight" casualties by 10 per cent. (compared to the period 1994-98) by 2010 were largely exceeded by TfL by 2004, leading to TfL setting themselves new targets of 50 per cent. and 25 per cent. respectively.

There have also been improvements to cycling across London. In May 2010 TfL will launch its cycle hire scheme and construction of the cycle superhighways is now under way; one route will run from Tottenham to the City through Hackney. TfL report that cycling now accounts for 2 per cent. of trips in London compared to 1.2 per cent. in 2000, and between 2000-01 and 2007-08 TfL's automatic cycle counters reported an increase in cyclists of 91 per cent.


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