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14 Nov 2003 : Column WA231

Written Answers

Friday, 14th November 2003.

House of Lords: Royal Gallery

Lord Berkeley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What events have taken place in the Royal Gallery in the past five years. [HL5506]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The Royal Gallery is part of Her Majesty The Queen's residual estate in the Palace of Westminster, and as such is administered on Her behalf by the Lord Great Chamberlain. Its use, other than as a working/meeting area for Peers, is largely limited to state, royal and major parliamentary occasions. Events held in the Royal Gallery in the period 1998 to the present day were as follows:

1998AprilSilks Ceremony
1998NovemberState Opening(1)
1999AprilSilks Ceremony
1999MayCouncil of Europe 50th Anniversary Address
1999NovemberFarewell to Hereditary Peers
1999NovemberState Opening(1)
1999DecemberMillennium Award Winners(1)
2000JanuaryMixed Faith Communities(1)
2000MaySilks Ceremony
2000JulyAustralian Passage of Rights Address
2000JulyAmerican Bar Association Opening Ceremony
2000DecemberState Opening(1)
2001AprilSilks Ceremony
2001JuneState Opening(1)
2001JuneBritish Council Address
2002AprilSilks Ceremony
2002AprilGolden Jubilee Reception(1)
2002NovemberState Opening(1)
2003AprilSilks Ceremony
2003NovemberState Opening(1)

(1) Her Majesty The Queen and/or members of the Royal Family were present at these events.

Railway Overbridge, Langley: Lorry Accidents

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many lorries have hit the railway overbridge at Langley (near Slough) in the past 12 months; how many minutes of delay have been incurred by trains as a result; whether any lorry drivers have been prosecuted; and what action is being taken to improve the situation.[HL5483]

Lord Davies of Oldham: Network Rail advises that over the past 12 months (from 11 November 2002) there have been 17 bridge strikes at Station Road bridge in Langley; and that the total minutes delay to trains over the last year amounts to 6,749 minutes.

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I understand that the local police record only personal injury accidents. They have no record of any such accidents at this site or of any prosecutions of lorry drivers that they are able to link to this site.

As the Written Answer by my noble friend Lord Macdonald of Tradeston of 16 January 2003 (WA 51–52) made clear, Network Rail and highway authorities work in association to try and reduce the incidence of road vehicles striking railway bridge structures. At this site Slough Borough Council as local highway authority working with Network Rail has been carrying out a programme of sign refurbishment. High visibility boards have been re-erected on the bridge. New signs showing mandatory height limits in imperial and metric units have been erected on the south approach. Gantry-mounted prohibitory signs in advance of the bridge have very recently been refurbished.

Special Advisers

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

    Whether special advisers are empowered to perform executive functions on behalf of Ministers of the Crown; if so, what is the source of such powers; and what are the executive functions.[HL5152]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Special advisers are appointed under Article 3(2) of the Civil Service Order in Council, for the purposes of providing advice to any Minister. Article 3 (3) of the Order in Council removes the advice restriction for up to three posts in the Prime Minister's office thereby conferring executive powers on them. Only one post in the Prime Minister's office currently has executive powers under the Order in Council.

Regulatory Impact Assessments

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the report on regulatory impact assessments published between January and June 2003 will be issued.[HL5552]

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government are committed to ensuring that regulations are necessary, give effective protection, balance cost and risk, are fair and command public confidence. In accordance with this, we require departments to produce and publish regulatory impact assessments (RIAs) for all regulatory proposals likely to have an impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies.

The Minister for the Cabinet Office (Douglas Alexander MP) has today presented to Parliament a Command Paper listing RIAs published between 1 January and 30 June 2003. Copies of those listed have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. This is the 19th such Command Paper.

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EC Budget: UK Contribution

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their most recent forecast of the United Kingdom's net contribution to the European Community's budget; and what that contribution would be if the United Kingdom's abatement were withdrawn (a) in total and (b) per head of the population.[HL5328]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): Details of the United Kingdom's net contribution to the EC Budget for the period 1997–98 to 2002–03, and the abatement which is included within these figures, can be found in Table 3.1 of Her Majesty's Government's 2003 European Community Finances White Paper (Cm 5800).

The estimated UK net contribution for 2002–03 was shown as £3,097 million. Excluding the UK abatement (£3,234 million) would increase this to £6,331 million.

Per head of population for 2002 (60.1 million), these figures would be some £51 and £104 respectively.

National Statistician

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

    Why the National Statistician is appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and who appoints the head of the national statistical service in each member state of the European Union.[HL5360]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As specified under the Framework for National Statistics, the Chancellor, as Minister responsible for national statistics, will, with

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the agreement of the Prime Minister and normally following open competition, appoint the National Statistician. In this way, the Chancellor remains ultimately responsible, and answerable to Parliament, for national statistics.

I have asked the National Statistician to write to the noble Lord separately with details of how the heads of the national statistical services in other member states of the European Union are appointed.

Retail Prices Index

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

    Why the scope and definition of the retail prices index are matters for the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and who is responsible for the scope and definition of the national index of retail prices in each member state of the European Union.[HL5361]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Retail Prices Index (and its derivatives) is an indicator of the utmost economic importance which is used for many different purposes including: inflation targeting; the uprating of pensions and social security benefits; wage bargaining; price-setting formulae applied by regulated industries; and the indexing of tax thresholds and allowances, Excise duty rates and index-linked gilts. In view of its unique importance, it is only right that, in line with long-standing arrangements, ultimate responsibility for the scope and definition of the RPI lies with the Chancellor. This means that on matters of scope and definition there is direct accountability to Parliament.

This position is mirrored in the governance of the leading national consumer price indices of a number of other European countries including Austria, Belgium and Sweden.

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