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Transport Research Laboratory

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): We shall be seeking bids for the Transport Research Laboratory from a wide range of interests. Our objectives are:

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value for money across the range of my department's inland surface transport;

    to transfer the laboratory to the private sector as soon as reasonably practicable;

    to optimise the net proceeds to the taxpayer.

In pursuing these objectives we shall have full regard to the need to help promote a competitive market for the supply of research services to the Department of Transport and to obtain reassurance that the purchaser has the capacity to meet transferred obligations and liabilities.

The work of our financial advisers, Price Waterhouse, has confirmed that there is interest in acquiring the TRL business as a whole, with a lease or freehold interest in the land and buildings required for the operation of the laboratory. We shall be seeking competitive bids for the laboratory on this basis. We have not ruled out any sale option, including the possibility of a proposal from TRL's management and staff to take over the laboratory as a non-profit distributing company.

To emphasise the Government's continuing commitment to TRL as it moves into the private sector, we have decided to provide the laboratory with guarantees of future research work for a number of years. The guarantees will be subject to the delivery of high quality, independent and impartial research at competitive prices. Bidders will be asked to demonstrate that the supply of scientific advice and research to government will not give rise to conflicts of interest with their other operations.

We are aiming to complete the sale of TRL during 1995.

Airports: Economic Regulation

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have come to any conclusions on the Department of Transport's review of the system of economic regulation of airports.

Viscount Goschen: The review considered how the system of economic regulation established in the Airports Act 1986 had worked to date, and whether there was scope for improving the process of regulation. It was not concerned with principles of methodology of regulation.

Following consultation, my department has identified a number of measures to improve the way the system works, including clarification of the procedures for regulation of airports and for handling of complaints, improved availability of information, and clarification of the criteria for designating airports under Section 40 of the 1986 Airports Act for closer economic regulation. In addition, some measures have been identified which will require legislation; these will be taken forward when the opportunity arises. The main such change concerns the roles of the MMC and the CAA in the regulation of the designated airports; it is proposed to adopt a regime based on what has become the "standard" model for the regulation of utilities. It is

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expected that the next quinquennial reviews of BAA's South-East Airports and Manchester Airport will proceed under the existing system.

In the light of a recommendation from the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, we have also considered whether Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports should be designated for the purposes of economic regulation. We have found no evidence of abuse of monopoly position or inefficiency, and we have therefore concluded that there is no case at present for designating these airports.

I am placing the report of the conclusions of the review in the Library.

Community Sentences: Effectiveness

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to restore public confidence in community sentences as an effective form of punishment.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): We will tomorrow lay before Parliament and publish a Green Paper which invites views on wide ranging proposals intended to strengthen and simplify the arrangements for the punishment of offenders in the community.

Powys Unitary District: Policing

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the future policing arrangements for the new unitary district of Powys.

Baroness Blatch: We have consulted the forces, police authorities and local authorities in the area on the future policing arrangements for the new unitary district of Powys. In the light of the replies received we have decided that the Dyfed Powys Constabulary shall be responsible for policing the whole of the new district from 1 April 1996.

An order will be made in due course under Section 21A of the Police Act 1964 (as inserted by Section 14 of the Police and Magistrates Courts Act 1994) to give effect to this decision following discussions with the police authorities and forces concerned on the details of its content.

BA 2000

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in view of the assurance given by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mr. Nicholas Soames, on 23 February 1995 HC Deb, col.497), they will cease all work on MoD BA 2000 as far as further merging or abolition of regiments is concerned.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): Since BA 2000 does not address the merging or abolition of regiments, there is no such work to cease.

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Royal Parks: Management Policies

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they now propose to permit car parking in Hyde Park for 4-hour periods rather than the recently introduced 2-hour periods; and whether they intend to prevent immediate re-parking by commuters and shoppers; and

    Whether the level of all day parking in Hyde Park has been satisfactorily reduced;

    Whether they will expedite the provision of traffic-calming measures in Hyde Park; and

    Whether they intend to return the car park which was established to serve the restaurant at the southern end of the Serpentine Bridge in Hyde Park to grassland; and if so, when; and

    Why the Royal Parks Agency commissioned a three-year market research project on visitor profiles and visitors' views on services and facilities in their parks; and what was the cost of this project; and

    Whether the provision of services and facilities is included in the remit of the Royal Parks Agency; and, if so, whether this responsibility includes the provision of buildings.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Agency, Mr. David Welch, dated 14 March 1995:

I have been asked by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage to reply to your parliamentary Questions about a number of aspects of the management of the Royal Parks. Car Parking

We have extended the maximum stay at pay and display spaces to four hours throughout both Hyde Park and Regent's Park because it was felt that two hours was insufficient. Many park visitors, particularly families and people taking part in sports or enjoying the summer entertainments, often spend up to half a day at a time in the park, especially in the summer months.

We shall, of course, monitor the new arrangements and, if there are shortcomings, take whatever action is necessary is put them right.

I am pleased to say that we appear to have prevented the worst of the commuter parking in Hyde Park. However, it is almost impossible to introduce a system that will satisfy every criterion, and we introduced the new regulations because it became clear that the scheme

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we introduced last August was less than satisfactory for people who visit the park frequently. I hope the new arrangements will result in more vehicles parking because more motorists are visiting the parks, but I certainly do not want only to provide cheap parking for commuters.

I can confirm that we do intend to return the Serpentine car park to parkland again when resources permit. Traffic calming measures

Traffic calming measures and improved access for pedestrians are among our priority objectives, subject to the availability of funds. A phased programme will commence in 1995/96 with the construction of a pedestrian crossing at Temple Gate. Visitor Survey

In order to manage the parks effectively we need to know who our visitors are, what they want in the way of facilities, how successful they think we have been in managing the parks and what improvements they would like to see. We have therefore commissioned consultants to carry out surveys of visitor attitudes. The contract is based on a schedule of fixed charges, but the full cost will depend on the scope of the survey in the second and third years of the contract, but the cost will not exceed £180,000. Provision of services and buildings

We manage the Royal Parks principally for the public to enjoy quiet recreation in the open air. We do provide some services and facilities to enhance that enjoyment—for example, refreshments and recreation facilities. Most have been provided in the parks for a long time and many of them, such as the horse-riding tracks, have historical origins. Some, such as the golf and tennis school in Regent's Park and the golf courses in Regent's Park, were donated by past monarchs.

We are frequently asked to provide additional facilities for a variety of activities and we try to accommodate those we can provided that the activity is appropriate to the parks, the facility will not damage the visual or physical integrity of the park landscape, and the activity will not interfere with the enjoyment of other park users.

A number of lodges and other buildings have been erected in the Royal Parks over the years and the majority are used for the management and maintenance of the parks. Others were erected to provide amenities to park users, such as the restaurant at the Dell in Hyde Park and the Cakehouse in St. James's Park. There is now a presumption against any further buildings in the Royal Parks, as recommended in the Review of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, chaired by Dame Jennifer Jenkins.

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