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3 Jun 2010 : Column 66Wcontinued
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what his Department's policy is on provision of pensions to pensioners by cheques; and what arrangements his Department is making for pensioners who wish to continue receiving their payments by cheque; 
(2) how many pensioners receive their state pension payments by cheque. 
Steve Webb: Making payments direct into an account, including a post office card account, is the way the Department pays pensions and benefits because it is safe, efficient and fast. Cheque payment is available for those customers who, exceptionally, cannot be paid into an account of any kind.
The Department has begun the process to replace the current system of cheques. Cheques are more vulnerable to fraud than payments into an account and the replacement product will better provide the security that is needed to protect the taxpayer against fraud and abuse. We have worked with stakeholders to ensure that the new service meets the needs of all customers who are unable to operate an account of any kind, including the more vulnerable.
The Department's statistical information is broken down by benefit or pension account rather than by individual. As at February 2010, the latest date for which information is available, the number of state retirement pension accounts paid by cheque was around 44,000, or 0.4 percent. However, some state pensioners also receive additional benefits or allowances. Overall, this means that some 90,000 pensioner accounts, around 0.7 percent, are paid by cheque in respect of state pension, pension credit or other allowance. Some of these allowances will be combined together and paid as one cheque.
Mr Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received on funding for (a) safety improvements and (b) carriageway widening on the A15 in the last 24 months; and if he will make a statement. 
Norman Baker: The Department for Transport has received no such representations in the past 24 months on either (a) safety improvements or (b) carriageway widening on the A15.
Mr Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will consider the merits of taking steps to reduce excessive charges for car parking at UK airports; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs Villiers: The setting of charges for car parking at UK airports is a commercial matter for the car park operators concerned. Airport car parks operate in a competitive environment, which offers a wide range of parking options and tariffs.
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward proposals to require British aeroplane operators (a) not to charge passengers with medical conditions who require oxygen and (b) to allow the use of portable oxygen concentrators during flights. 
Mrs Villiers: This issue falls under European Regulation 1107/2006 on the rights of disabled persons and persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. The regulation does not impose specific obligations to carry or provide medical oxygen in the cabin. The matter is therefore one for airlines themselves to determine.
UK airlines have a good record in this respect. Many, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, EasyJet, Flybe and Thomson/First Choice, allow passengers to use their own medical oxygen and their own portable oxygen concentrator free of charge. This compares favourably with other European airlines.
Mr Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when an announcement will be made on whether the planned electrification of the Blackpool to Manchester rail line will take place; and if he will make a statement. 
Mrs Villiers [holding answer 2 June 2010]: We are in the early stages of the new Government and Ministers are considering the full range of transport policy. The Government support rail electrification as it helps to reduce carbon emissions and cut running costs.
Mr Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward proposals for the regulation of the bus network throughout England. 
Norman Baker: The Coalition Agreement makes clear that we will encourage joint working between bus operators and local authorities. The Local Transport Act 2008 introduced a number of new bus regulations in relation to Quality Contract Schemes and Quality Partnerships Schemes in England and the related guidance has been published in full. I intend to wait for the outcome of the Competition Commission inquiry into the local bus market in England outside London before deciding on the need for any further regulatory reform of bus provision.
Dr Pugh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much capital funding his Department has allocated to the Crossrail project for (a) 2010-11 and (b) each of the two subsequent financial years. 
Mrs Villiers: Under the Crossrail Project Development Agreement between the Secretary of State for Transport, Transport for London and Crossrail Limited, the Department for Transport has undertaken to make the following funding available:
|Amount (£ million)|
Mr Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many full-time equivalent staff at each Civil Service grade are employed in the private office of each Minister in his Department. 
Mr Philip Hammond: The breakdown of staff showing full-time equivalents at each grade is in the following table.
|Minister||Staff grades||Full-time equivalents|
Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the level of use by passengers of Levenshulme Station in Manchester makes it eligible for funding for disabled access from the Government's Access for All scheme. 
Mrs Villiers: The Access for All programme was launched in 2006 and currently includes 148 stations, which are targeted to receive an accessible, step-free route to and between platforms.
Stations were selected based on footfall, weighted by the incidence of disability in the local area so as to prioritise investment where it could deliver the maximum benefit to disabled people. In addition, approximately a third of the funding was allocated to achieve an equitable
regional spread, with train operators and others consulted on their priorities. There was not a minimum usage threshold for eligibility.
In addition, the Access for All small schemes programme has made match funding available for smaller enhancements at stations, meeting local needs. Applications to this fund have been assessed based on indicative value-for-money criteria of £1 per annual passenger. To date, around £23,500 has been offered to Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive for enhancements at Levenshulme including hearing induction loops and passenger information systems.
Andrew Gwynne: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the Manchester Metrolink extensions phases 3a and 3b will be treated as a single contract. 
Norman Baker: Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, the promoters of the Manchester Metrolink system, incorporated an option in the procurement contract for Metrolink Phase 3a works to extend the contracted works to cover Metrolink Phase 3b extensions. The Deed of Variation to include Phase 3b extensions was signed on 25 March 2010.
Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information Network Rail has provided to his Department on its plans for cost reductions; and over what period of time he expects such reductions to be achieved. 
Mrs Villiers: Network Rail is required by the Periodic Review settlement to deliver efficiency savings of 24 % against its 2008 baseline by the end of March 2014.
In addition, Network Rail has now indicated that, subject to the consent of the Office of Rail Regulation, it will reduce its spending by a further £100 million in 2010-11, reducing the company's requirement for Government funding by £100 million in the current year.
Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the planned reduction is in the number of (a) cars and (b) employees in the Government Car Service (GCS); and what the expected reduction in expenditure on the GCS is. 
Mike Penning: The plan is to save at least one third from the cost of the Government Car Service. The exact amount will be determined once decisions on the number of cars and drivers required to provide an efficient service, in line with the new Ministerial code, have been taken.
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will undertake an investigation into (a) the cost effectiveness of all park and ride schemes and (b) the
relative cost effectiveness of park and ride schemes and increased town centre parking provision; and if he will make a statement. 
Norman Baker: The Department for Transport has no plans to undertake such an investigation. The cost effectiveness of park and ride schemes will vary considerably according to local circumstances and their interaction with other local transport measures. Local authorities are best placed to determine the relative costs and benefits of park and ride schemes against alternative measures in their own areas.
Gordon Henderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will assess the potential effects on the level of (a) congestion on the main approach roads into London and (b) carbon dioxide emissions of reducing fares on the North Kent railway line. 
Mrs Villiers: There are no specific plans in place to assess the potential effects of reducing fares on this corridor although the Government take fare levels into account in formulating its overall approach on rail.
Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information he has received from Network Rail on the likely effects on the number of jobs in the rail industry of his Department's requirement to make £100 million in savings. 
Mrs Villiers: Network Rail has indicated that, subject to the consent of the Office of Rail Regulation, it will reduce its planned spending by £100 million in 2010-11, reducing the company's requirement for Government funding by £100 million in the current year. Network Rail has not indicated that this will have an impact upon employment levels.
Mr Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent estimate his Department has made of the annual cost to the UK economy of road accidents. 
Mike Penning: The Department for Transport's latest estimates of the annual cost to the UK economy of road accidents are published in Reported Road Casualties Great Britain (RRCGB): 2008 Annual Report, on page 28, table 2c. Copies of the report have been deposited in the House Library and are also available at:
Mr Kevan Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport from which highway improvement plans in the North East he expects funding reductions to be made to contribute to his Department's £112 million cost reductions. 
Norman Baker: The Department for Transport has not produced any regional breakdown for our £683 million contribution to the £6.2 billion savings announced by the Chancellor. None of the three schemes delivered by the Highways Agency that will be deferred is in the north-east. The Government will shortly announce in more detail the implications for individual grants, including transport grants, that form the £1.65 billion savings contribution from local authorities.
Mr Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what original estimate was made of the number of (a) direct and (b) indirect jobs which would be created as a result of train carriage orders which have been recently cancelled. 
Mrs Villiers [holding answer 2 June 2010]: The orders which have been signed for new rolling stock are at various stages of completion. None of these orders have been cancelled. No assessment has been made of jobs created as management of resources to build the trains is the responsibility of the train manufacturer.
Jon Trickett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which orders for train carriages have been cancelled consequent on the recently-announced planned spending reductions. 
Mrs Villiers: The orders that have already been signed for new rolling stock are at various stages of completion. None of these orders have been cancelled. In terms of further new orders that were being discussed with operators as part of the HLOS programme, there will be a pause (for financial year 2010-11) to assist the Department in making its contribution to the Government's in-year savings programme.
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