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Tourism: Planning Policy Evidence

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Following the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's review of Planning Policy Guidance note 21 on tourism, I am announcing today the publication of a consultation paper. This seeks views on a proposal to replace PPG21 with good practice guidance on planning for tourism. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

European Parliament: Representation and 2004 Election

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Treaty of Nice (to which the UK Government are a signatory) provides that, following the accession of all 12 candidate states, the UK be entitled to 72 MEPs—an overall reduction of 15 MEPs. The treaty also provides for an interim reduction in the number of MEPs for the 2004 elections if not all candidate states accede in time. The European Parliament (Representation) Bill, currently passing through Parliament, provides for the Lord Chancellor to ask the Electoral Commission to make recommendations about the redistribution of MEPs once the number is known. The Bill sets out (in Clause 2) the criteria for calculating the redistribution—no region shall have fewer than three MEPs and otherwise the ratio of electors to MEPs shall be, as nearly as possible, the same in each region. The Electoral Commission's recommendations will be implemented by statutory instrument. The timing of any implementation will depend on the progress of the accession of candidate states.

Ministers and Members of Parliament: Correspondence

Lord Henley asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Ministers' official papers, including correspondence with Members of Parliament relating to the work of departments, are public records. In common with all public records, they are reviewed for disposal or preservation in line with the requirements of the Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967, the latter of which established the 30-year rule. The Public Record Office has published guidance entitled Management of Private Office Papers, which is available on the Public Record Office website at: Copies of this guidance will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Drivers: Eyesight Tests

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many eyesight tests were administered by police at accidents involving motor vehicles in each of the past five calendar years in the United Kingdom. [HL1765]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Where there is reason to suspect that a driver's defective eyesight may have been a contributory factor to a road collision resulting in injuries, the police would normally request the driver to undergo an eyetest. While the police in England and Wales are required to record extensive incident data relating to road collisions resulting in injuries, the requirements do not cover eyesight tests conducted at such incidents. The information requested is therefore not available centrally.

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to ensure that all drivers over 45 can meet the standards of the eyesight test to obtain a licence; and [HL1766]

    Whether they consider that the current eyesight test to obtain a driving licence is sufficiently rigorous to maintain a proper safety standard. [HL1769]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): All drivers, irrespective of their age, must be able to satisfy the visual standard for driving. The number plate eyesight test for checking drivers' vision has served its purpose well. It is the equivalent to the minimum standard laid down in the EC second Directive on Driving Licences (91/439/EEC) and there are no plans to change the driver licensing arrangements with regard to eyesight.

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals the European Commission have put forward to harmonise eyesight standards in the European Union in order to obtain a licence to drive a motor vehicle. [HL1767]

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Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I am aware of no such current proposals. However, I believe that the European Commission is considering a third directive on driver licensing with a view to publishing proposals this summer. Although neither I nor my officials have seen these proposals, I understand that they are unlikely to include provisions on eyesight standards as such, or to include proposals likely to affect the majority of drivers. As soon as any such proposals are published by the Commission, I shall ensure that full consultation is undertaken to elicit views in the UK. It is also within the competence of the European Commission to adapt the eyesight standards for driver licensing to scientific and technical progress without recourse to a Council directive. The Commission is setting up a working group to review the eyesight standards. The UK will be strongly represented on that group, with a view to encouraging a helpful consensus on good practice taking account of opinion in the UK, including the results of current research sponsored by my department.

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have that eyesight below the standard required to obtain a licence has contributed to (a) fatal and (b) non fatal accidents in the United Kingdom.[HL1768]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The current eyesight standards are based on the requirements of the EC Directive on Driving Licences (91/439/EEC). These standards are applied on the recommendation of the expert opinion of the Honorary Medical Advisory Panel on Driving and Visual Disorders (which is made up of highly qualified eye specialists nominated by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists). There are no official statistics available on road traffic accidents that include the numbers of accidents which are attributable to specific health conditions. We have commissioned specific research into visual field impairment and its relevance to driving fitness.

Road Surfaces

Lord Lloyd-Webber asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there are plans to extend the use of the road surface employed on the Newbury bypass, which has proved effective in both reducing noise from the road and spray in wet conditions, when resurfacing major roads in the future.[HL1686]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: It is the Government's policy generally to use quieter surfacing when resurfacing trunk roads in England. The type of quieter surfacing used is an operational matter and I have asked the chief executive of the Highways Agency, Mr Tim Matthews, to write to the noble Lord.

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Letter to Lord Lloyd-Webber from David York, operations director Highways Agency. Tim Matthews has been asked by Lord Macdonald to reply to your recent question asking whether there are plans to extend the use of the road surface employed on the Newbury bypass when resurfacing major roads in the future. I am replying since Tim is currently away on leave. The surfacing on Newbury bypass is porous asphalt, which was developed to be quieter and cause less spray than conventional surfacings. Proprietary quieter surfacings have now been developed, often referred to as thin surfacings, which have advantages over porous asphalt and it is these we now use as a matter of course for all our maintenance and new schemes. They reduce noise to a similar extent as porous asphalt, but cost less and have a longer life. They are also easier to maintain, use less premium surfacing aggregate and are therefore more sustainable. Their ability to reduce spray is more limited and does depend on the particular product in use but in studies comparing porous asphalt and conventional surfacings, accident rates have been found to be similar. This is because whilst spray does cause drivers concern it also encourages them to drive more cautiously in wet weather, when the skid resistance is reduced. If it would be helpful, John Williams, in our pavement engineering team, would be pleased to discuss the quieter surfacings in current use on the trunk road network with you. His telephone number is 01234 796116.

Integrated Transport: 10-Year Plan

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend fully to implement their 10-year plan for integrated transport.[HL1707]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Government remain committed to delivering the increased levels of investment set out in the 10-year plan to secure the improvements in our transport system that we seek. Progress to date, along with the improvements we expect to see by 2005, were set out in the progress report, Delivering Better Transport, published in December. The report also confirmed that a full review and roll-forward of the plan will be carried out in conjunction with the next cross-government spending review in 2004.

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