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Drivers: Eyesight Tests

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Current provisions already allow a police officer to require a driver to take an eye-test where there is reasonable cause to suspect that the driver's uncorrected eyesight might have contributed to a road traffic accident. The Government are satisfied that these powers are adequate and have no plans to introduce a requirement for routine eye-testing.

In 2001 there were 228 driving incidents in which eyesight might have been a factor. There are however approximately 750,000 road traffic accidents in Great Britain each year. Routine eye-testing after each would represent an unnecessary and onerous extra burden on the police.

It is in individual drivers' own interests to ensure that their eyesight meets the required standard for safe driving. The Department for Transport has recently introduced a public information film that emphasises the importance of eyesight to driving.

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Department for Transport has been encouraging the European Commission for several years to approach the question of medical standards for driver licensing (including eyesight) on a rational basis commanding appropriate consensus of opinion. Last month we secured international agreement to set up an expert working group to deal with this issue and to make recommendations. UK representatives will play a full part in that group and will ensure that recommendations take account of research in the UK and elsewhere.

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have received that drivers, driving with "below eyesight test" levels of sight, have been responsible for road traffic accidents.[HL1981]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Government have received written representations on the issue of defective eyesight and driving from a number of individuals and a few organisations, including Specsavers Optical Group and the National Federation of Women's Institutes. No official statistics are available attributing road traffic accidents to specific medical conditions, including defective eyesight.

Elections: Guidance to Civil Servants

Baroness Gould asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the guidance for United Kingdom civil servants on devolved and English local elections.[HL2078]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Copies of the guidance that has been issued to civil servants in UK departments on their role and conduct in the forthcoming election campaigns in Scotland and Wales and the local elections in England have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Employment on Ships: Race Relations Act

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

    Whether they will amend the Race Relations Act 1976 as it relates to employment on ships in the light of obligations imposed upon the United Kingdom by European Union equality legislation; and, if so, what amendments they will make.[HL2010]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): As part of a package of proposals for implementing the EC Article 13 Race Directive, set out in the consultation document Equality and Diversity: The Way Forward, the Government have made proposals in respect of Section 9 of the Race Relations Act 1976. (Section 9 currently provides an exception from the RRA in circumstances where an individual is engaged for employment on a ship outside Great Britain.) The responses to the consultation exercise are currently being analysed and policy is being developed in the light of the responses.

The Government aim to implement the Race Directive by its deadline of 19 July. Regulations will be laid before Parliament in the spring.

Advisory Panel on Standards for the Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency

Lord Clarke of Hampstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the recommendations in the ninth report of the Advisory Panel on Standards for the Planning Inspectorate Executive Agency.[HL2082]

The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): I am pleased to announce the Government's acceptance of all the recommendations of the Advisory Panel on Standards (APOS) for the Planning Inspectorate Agency, as set out in the ninth annual report published in November 2002. APOS jointly advises the First Secretary of State and the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government on the maintenance and improvement of quality standards for the Planning Inspectorate.

The panel's main finding was that the demanding quality standard target, that 99 per cent of the inspectorate's casework should be free from justified complaints, was being maintained. However, the panel also made a number of recommendations on steps that could be taken to further enhance quality standards. These included improvements to training and procedures, which have already been implemented, and the introduction of arrangements to correct simple errors within decision letters which is included in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill currently before Parliament. The remaining recommendations are all part of a continuous process of training, development and monitoring, such as the introduction of a rolling customer satisfaction survey, to build on the experiences of users of the system.

I am particularly pleased to note the panel's comments on the good work of the inspectorate in encouraging diversity within the organisation, in promoting training interchange schemes to develop staff and in encouraging electronic access to

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information for the public and other interested parties through its Planning Portal project. These initiatives are playing an important part in the Government's wider initiative to promote planning as a positive instrument and to involve the community more effectively.

I commend the work of the panel and thank them for their helpful recommendations, and look forward to seeing further results of their hard work over the next year.

Constitution Committee Report on Devolution: Government Response

Lord Merlyn-Rees asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will respond to the House of Lords' Constitution Committee's report Devolution: Inter-Institutional Relations in the United Kingdom.[HL2084]

Lord Rooker: I am pleased to announce to the House that my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister is today publishing the Government's reponse to the House of Lord's Constitution Committee report Devolution: Inter-Institutional Relations in the United Kingdom. The response is published as CM 5780 and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The response will also be made available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website.

Water Sports: Safety Measures

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What water sports safety measures have been legislated for or activated in the past two years.[HL1940]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): No legislation concerning water sports safety measures has been introduced or activated within the past two years.

The Government have promoted a number of key initiatives to help sport improve its safety provision. At present UK Sport is in the process of producing guidance information on health and safety issues for sport. The aim is to provide support which will be of assistance to governing bodies of sport but which will avoid overly bureaucratic systems and procedures. This will include a summary of existing legislative requirements placed on governing bodies; sports-focused risk assessment templates which governing bodies might use and disseminate among their member organisations; and case studies covering health and safety policies and practices of different types of sport.

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The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 19 November 2001 (WA 115), whether they have arrived at a conclusive definition of broadband in respect of data transfer speeds for (a) the commercial market; and (b) the residential market.[HL1851]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government view broadband as a generic term describing a range of technologies operating at various data transfer speeds.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the recent announcement that the United Kingdom has in excess of a million broadband subscribers, whether the data transfer speeds of these connections are all in excess of 384kbit/second; and, if not, what is the breakdown of data transfer speeds of these connections.[HL1852]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Oftel estimates that by the end of February 2003 there were over 1.5 million broadband connections in the UK. Not all these connections offered data transfer speeds in excess of 384kbps.

In order to assure a consistent definition for take-up, Oftel includes all services marketed as broadband in its monthly broadband statistics. These are based on publicly available information from operators such as BT, Telewest and ntl and include services ranging from 128kbps to over 1mbps. It is not possible to provide a breakdown of the statistics by data transfer speed, as this information is provided on a commercially confidential basis.

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