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15 Dec 1998 : Column WA137

Written Answers

Tuesday, 15th December 1998.

Ammunition Contracts

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to meet the Army's requirements for ammunition.[HL335]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): We are pleased to announce the outcome of two recent ammunition competitions. First, we intend to contract with Royal Ordnance to meet most of the British Army's requirement for large calibre ammunition for the next five years. The contract will cover ammunition for use with the AS90 155mm self-propelled gun, Challenger 2 tank, and a range of reconnaissance and infantry fighting vehicles.

Second, we intend to contract with Marconi Marine Land and Naval Systems, formerly Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd., to develop and produce enhancements to extend the range and increase the effectiveness of the AS90 self-propelled gun. Within this contract, Royal Ordnance will be sub-contracted to manufacture new barrels, and a South African company, Somchem, will manufacture a new Modular Charge System.

These contracts, which are subject to the completion of final negotiations, are together worth around £200 million and will bring valuable work to both Marconi and Royal Ordnance, securing over 500 jobs for British industry.


Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When proposals from (a) the Stonehenge Working Group on Road Improvements and (b) the Working Group on the Stonehenge Management Plan will be put out for public consultation; and what is the relationship between these two groups and the group on the Master Plan, all of which the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has established to work on Stonehenge.[HL100]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: A steering group is being established to co-ordinate and oversee the implementation of the Master Plan for Stonehenge. A Working Group on the A.303 improvement scheme will report progress to this steering group. Public consultation in the lead-up to the announcement of the Preferred Route, particularly for the Winterbourne Stoke Bypass, is nearing completion. Further consultation will take place as the detailed design is developed. The World Heritage Site Management Group, chaired by Lady Gass, which has been set up to develop the Stonehenge Management Plan, will keep the Steering

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Group informed of its progress and will determine a timetable for consulting on its draft report.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Master Plan for Stonehenge outlined by the Secretary of State in Amesbury in September this year included a cut-and-cover tunnel within the World Heritage Site, despite the consensus established at the 1994 and 1995 public conferences in favour of a twin bored tunnel as the most cost-effective way of dealing with the A.303 in the World Heritage Site area of Stonehenge; and [HL97]

    Whether they have been informed by English Heritage why they no longer feel bound by the public pledge they gave, jointly with the National Trust, in 1994: "Only . . . the long bored tunnel . . . meets the essential requirements of this World Heritage Site . . . There is no historic site in England where we shall uphold our duty with greater resolve and determination".[HL99]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Although the 1995 conference supported in principle the proposal for a long tunnel at Stonehenge, it recognised that its cost would be far in excess of the funds available from the then government's transport budget. There was no mention of a twin bored tunnel being the most cost-effective way of dealing with the A.303. The cost of a 4-kilometre tunnel was estimated independently in late 1995 by two leading consultants to be in the region of £300 million. English Heritage agreed with the Government's view that a long tunnel at that price was unaffordable, and that the project's objectives could be achieved by a shorter cut-and-cover tunnel.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What preparations English Heritage is making, with the voluntary sector, for the celebrations of the Millennium at Stonehenge and Avebury.[HL102]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Arrangements for the celebration of the Millennium at these sites are currently subject to discussion with the South Wiltshire Police and local interest groups. No special events are planned.

Public Art Collections: Commercial Loans

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they approve of the lease of works of art from the Arts Council to the Marriott Hotel at County Hall; and whether they intend to encourage those in charge of public collections to increase their revenue by leasing works of art to private commercial organisations.[HL201]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The decision to lend works from its collection to the Marriott Hotel in County Hall was taken by the Arts Council independently of Ministers and only after careful consideration by its own Visual Arts Advisory Panel. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State understands that the Arts Council decided to do this

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exceptionally and that it is not its general policy to loan works commercially to other organisations.

My right honourable friend does not consider the Arts Council's decision in this instance as setting a precedent for our public collections. The stewardship of works of art or artefacts held by the national museums and galleries remains a matter for the trustees of each institution, and Ministers will not seek to intervene.

A.12, Little Glemham: Resurfacing

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the cost to public funds of the current resurfacing work being undertaken on the A.12 trunk road in the Little Glemham area; whether this is being undertaken in satisfactory weather conditions; and on what criteria it was decided that the work needed doing.[HL263]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency to write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Marlesford from Mr. John Kerman, Board Director of the Highways Agency, dated 15 December 1998.

The Minister for Roads and Road Safety has asked Lawrie Haynes, the Chief Executive, to reply to your recent parliamentary Question about the roadworks on the A.12 trunk road near Little Glemham in Suffolk. I am replying in Lawrie's absence from the office.

The Highways Agency has a remit to monitor the condition and safety of the trunk road network. In this case, we identified problems with "rutting" on the road surface and a reduction in its skid resistance, which has safety implications.

The winning tender cost for the resurfacing work is £192,000. The work began on 7 December and is expected to be completed by 15 December. It is part of a major resurfacing contract worth approximately £2 million covering 21 sites along the A.11, A.12 and A.14 in Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. The overall contract began on 14 November and is due to be completed this week to avoid the Christmas holiday period.

The resurfacing material can be successfully laid during the winter, but it is for the contractor to judge when it is appropriate to do so, within the terms of the contract. The contractor has guaranteed the work for a period of two years from completion.

Cross-Channel Rail Passenger Services

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In respect of Section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987 (which imposes a duty on the British Railways Board (BRB) to prepare plans to develop cross-channel rail passenger services):

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    (a) whether the BRB still retains responsibility for discharging the duties contained in this section; and, if not, to whom it was assigned and when;

    (b) when the plan was last reviewed or revised and when such reviews or revision were published;

    (c) whether in the light of the continuing lack of Channel Tunnel passenger services, the BRB intends to review the plans in the near future; and whether they will publish the result of that review.[HL86]

Lord Whitty: In respect of Section 40 of the Channel Tunnel Act 1987:

    (a) the British Railways Board (BRB) retains responsibility for discharging the duties contained in that section;

    (b) a plan was published in December 1989 and kept under review by the BRB and European Passenger Services Ltd, whilst responsibility for services remained with the board;

    (c) it is proposed that the BRB will transfer to the Strategic Rail Authority at the earliest opportunity, subject to legislation. In the meantime, the Government will be commissioning a thorough and independent review of the report Review of Regional Eurostar Services which has been presented to it by the consortium, and of the alternative proposals put forward by the Virgin Group.

Miners' Respiratory Diseases

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 16 November (H.L. Deb., col. 1116) regarding miners' respiratory diseases and the issue of medical assessments, what is: (a) their best estimate of the number of assessments required; (b) the estimated duration of each test; (c) the estimated number of specialists available to perform the tests; and (d) their best estimate of the date by which either the majority or 80 per cent. of all assessments will have been completed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville):

    (a) All claimants will undertake a medical assessment but the type and length of that assessment will depend on the details of the claim and the condition of the individual. We do not expect that all claimants will need an examination under our proposals but, until the Medical Assessment Process is finally agreed and the number of claimants is more accurately known--to date we have received some 65,000 claims--it is difficult to estimate the number who will need to be assessed.

    (b) The duration of each test will depend on the final agreed Medical Assessment Process (MAP)

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    and the claims and condition of the individual claimant.

    (c) There are approximately 500 respiratory lung specialists throughout the UK. However, these specialists will be required to carry out the examination of a claimant only where such an examination is necessary. The spirometry and summaries of the medical records--other elements of the MAP--need not be carried out by specialists.

    (d) We aim to start an initial national spirometry testing programme in February, subject to the outcome of the tendering process. This should ensure that interim payments and, in some cases, full and final settlements, can be offered by the early spring to those miners who are most severely disabled. We hope the delivery mechanisms for the MAP will be in place by early summer.

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