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Emergency Fire Cover: Cost of Using "Green Goddesses"

Baroness Hanham asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): It is very difficult to predict exactly what the cost to central government of providing emergency fire cover will be. It will depend very much on what strike action the FBU actually takes.

The UK Government will meet the additional costs incurred by the MoD in providing emergency fire cover in England and Wales net of savings in wages lost by striking firefighters.

The Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Office will meet the MoD additional costs net of savings in wages lost by striking firefighters in Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively.

Mortgage Equity Withdrawal

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Rooker: Information is available only for the United Kingdom. This is shown in the table below.

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Mortgage equity withdrawal seasonally adjustedPost-tax income seasonally adjustedMEW as a percentage of post-tax income
(£ million)(£ million)

Source: Bank of England Monetary and Financial Statistics and National Accounts, Office for National Statistics (ONS).

GLA Election Rules

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the guidance to voters at the next mayoral election in London will state that there is no obligation to make a second, as well as a first, choice.[HL6269]

Lord Rooker: The prescribed notices for guidance of voters at GLA elections instruct voters to vote once for their first choice and once for their second choice at the mayoral election.

The Greater London returning officer has made recommendations for changes to the GLA election rules, including a recommendation that there should be greater flexibility in the wording of the notices for guidance of voters. The Government are considering these recommendations and intend to issue a consultation paper before the end of the year setting out proposals about the future content of the GLA election rules.

Assets Recovery

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will appoint the first director of the assets recovery agency, established under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.[HL6367]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: We have appointed Jane Earl as director-designate of the assets recovery agency. We expect that she will take up her appointment as director in the New Year, in time for the agency to start operations next February.

Baroness Goudie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many bids were submitted for funding in the second round of the recovered assets fund; how many of these were recommended for funding; how the selection of bids was made and when the next round of bidding will begin.[HL6368]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: A total of 330 bids were received in round two (compared to 130 in round one)

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of which 27 (21 in round one) with a total cost of £11.5 million (£3 million in round one) were recommended for funding.

The bids selected for an award of grant were those which were assessed as best able to meet the objectives of the fund and as far as possible ensured coverage of a wide geographical area.

We are currently reviewing the future use and operation of the fund. Future bidding rounds will be dependent on the outcome of the review on which we hope to make an announcement before the end of the year.

Tourist Signs on M6: Southport

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many "brown signs" giving directions to tourist attractions have been erected on the M6 motorway; and whether any are planned on that motorway directing traffic to the attractions of Southport.[HL6252]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): I have asked the chief executive of the Highways Agency, Tim Matthews, to write to the noble Lord.

Letter from the chief executive of the Highways Agency, Tim Matthews, dated 5 November 2002.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Lord Macdonald, has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the number of tourist signs on the M6 Motorway, and whether any are planned on that motorway directing traffic to the attractions of Southport.

There are currently 50 brown tourist signs on the M6 on its full length through the West Midlands and the North West of England. Although there are no signs on the M6 to tourist attractions in Southport, there are two tourist signs for attractions in Southport on the M58 motorway for westbound traffic prior to the exit to the A570. The town itself is signed on the M6 for both north and southbound traffic at its junction with the M58 (Junction 26), and for northbound traffic at its junction with the M62 (Junction 21A).

The provision of tourist signs is only considered when a request is received from the owner or operator of a particular attraction. The cost of providing signs falls to the applicant. We have not received any requests for tourist signs on the M6 for attractions in Southport and there are therefore no plans to provide any such signs at present.

Currently, tourist signs are provided on the motorway network only where there are clear traffic management and safety benefits. On receipt of an application for tourist signs, the Agency considers a number of factors including the size of the tourist attraction in terms of the number of visitors it attracts, the distance of the attraction from the motorway, the need to ensure a safe environment for road users by not providing too much information on signs and the need

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for consistency and continuity in the signing proposals. There is clearly a need for road users to be able to quickly assimilate information on traffic signs, so that they can react safely, especially when travelling at high speeds.ralph

I hope this is helpful. If you would like any further information about signing for Southport you may wish to contact the Agency's Route Manager for the M6 in Lancashire, Roy Wood, at Sunley Tower, Piccadilly Plaza, Manchester M1 4BE, telephone 0161 930 5686.

Road Congestion

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government;

    What research has been carried out in the past five years into road congestion; and with what results.[HL6270]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Department for Transport (DfT) and the Highways Agency have undertaken a range of work on the impacts of their policies on the levels of road traffic, including their effects on congestion. The results of this research have fed into DfT's modelling of the transport network, leading to more confident forecasts of congestion. In particular, in 2001 DfT commissioned work on public perceptions of congestion. This was published last year and a copy is available in the House Library.

DfT has recently let a contract to examine the potential for new methods of congestion measurement which it is hoped will improve our coverage of congestion levels at a more detailed level. It should also capture information about aspects of congestion, such as travel time variability, which are not covered by our current measure.

Reading Station: Congestion

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to relieve the train congestion at Reading station; and, if so, when they will bring these plans forward.[HL6271]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: We understand that resignalling work at Reading station has already commenced and platform 3 has been resignalled in order to allow Virgin Trains' services to enter and leave the station without crossing other tracks. A new signal is about to be installed closer to the station so that trains awaiting platform clearance are stopped nearer the station than at present. This will speed up station operations. The feasibility of improving capacity in the area is also currently being investigated in conjunction with the renewal of the signalling system which is being planned for implementation over the next five years.

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Trains: Emissions

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What initiatives are being taken by train operating companies to improve fuel consumption of trains and restrict dangerous emissions; and what encouragement these initiatives are receiving from official sources.[HL6272]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: All operators have a policy of engine monitoring through emissions testing and sampling of fuel and engine oil to predict signs of engine degradation that could cause poor emissions. New trains are also now being built with engines which meet the same emissions regulations as applied to vehicles used in the bus and truck industries.

Train and rolling stock operating companies have also been working on existing train fleets to reduce the level of emissions emanating from their vehicles. This includes projects to re-equip older locomotives with modern engines.

All of these initiatives also serve to improve fuel consumption.

The Strategic Rail Authority works with the rail operators under directions and guidance from government, which require it to contribute to the 10-Year Plan targets for improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gases.

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