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Railways: Carriage of Cycles

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The space at the rear of Intercity 125 power cars trains, originally intended for guards' accommodation and luggage, is used for emergency coupling and fire extinguishing equipment as well as control units for automatic train protection and engine management. The area needs to be kept clear for rapid access to the equipment and is not, therefore, suitable for the carriage of cycles.

Railways: Cross Country Franchise

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government will not suspend the specification for the new Cross Country franchise.

The specification requires bidders to put forward proposals for capacity increases of at least 30 per cent from today's levels.

Railways: Electrification

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government have not rejected further significant extensions of railway electrification. The Government's long-term strategic framework for rail, which will be published in the summer, will include an assessment of the current case for additional electrification. This will take account of the operational and environmental benefits that electric trains currently offer compared with diesel. However, it will also reflect the cost of installing and maintaining electrification infrastructure and the improvements expected over time in the operational and environmental performance of diesel trains.

Railways: Great North Eastern Franchise

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The service specification for the new InterCity East Coast franchise will include the same services as that in operation from the May 2007 timetable. This represents the current (December 2006) timetable with the addition of a regular Leeds half-hourly service.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: One of the four principal objectives for this franchise is “to seek to accommodate current and anticipated future growth in passenger demand”.

This objective is stated in the consultation document for the InterCity East Coast franchise replacement, and is available in the House of Commons Library and on the Department for Transport website. Bidders will be required to address this and other franchise objectives when submitting their bids.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: One of the four principal objectives for this franchise is “to seek to accommodate current and anticipated future growth in passenger demand”. This objective is stated in the consultation document for the InterCity East Coast franchise replacement, and is available in the House of Commons Library and on the Department for

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Transport website. Bidders will be required to address this and other franchise objectives when submitting their bids.

Providing sufficient capacity at peak times will be a significant challenge for bidders, and they will be directed to the ongoing work of Network Rail's east coast main line route utilisation strategy (RUS) that is specifically addressing this issue. They will also be required to co-operate with the emerging recommendations from the RUS during the course of the franchise.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Bidders will be advised of the proposed electrification scheme at Hambleton between the east coast main line and westwards towards Leeds via Micklefield. They will be required to co-operate with Network Rail to determine the feasibility of such a scheme.

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Bidders for the new InterCity East Coast franchise will be required to provide a high quality service at stations and on trains. It will be for the bidders to determine the appropriate catering service offered on-board that meets the needs of passengers.

Railways: Great Western Franchise

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: In its invitation to tender for the Great Western franchise, the former Strategic Rail Authority specified a minimum train service pattern. Bidders were required to form their own views of existing and future demand, and to respond with proposals, including rolling-stock deployment, to meet this demand. Since the revised timetable was introduced in December 2006, First Great Western (FGW) has added three services; adjustments of this scale are routine at a time of major timetable change.



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Rights of Way

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): The Discovering Lost Ways project is about establishing what ways already exist, not creating new ones. However, in recognition of this, Natural England will be looking actively at the role that rights-of-way improvement plans and local access forums could play in the process of translating “lost ways” research into useful and enjoyable walking, cycling and riding routes on the ground.

As part of this appraisal, Natural England will also look at the value for money of different approaches, including comparison with existing ways of improving the rights of way network.

Roads: M40 Service Stations

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: Planning permission has been granted to develop motorway service areas near London at Cobham (M25 junctions 9-10) and Burtley Wood (M40 junction 2).

Secretary of State for Transport

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: In his capacity as Secretary of State for Transport, my right honourable friend has not attended any official engagements in Scotland since 1 January.

Lord Hanningfield asked Her Majesty's Government:



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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Secretary of State for Transport had engagements in England on 18 January before travelling to France.

Shipping: MSC “Napoli”

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) is carrying out a full investigation into the causes of the serious structural failure and flooding of the container vessel MSC “Napoli”. The scope of the investigation will not be extended to investigate the decision on a place of refuge and the ensuing salvage operation.

I refer the noble Baroness to the oral Statement made to the House by my honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport on Thursday 1 February 2007 [Official Report, Commons, cols. 376-78].

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) is carrying out a full investigation into the causes of the structural damage and flooding of the container vessel MSC “Napoli”.

The MAIB was established in 1989 following the “Herald of Free Enterprise” disaster as an independent professional accident investigation body. Its investigations involve gathering witness evidence from all those involved in an accident, and undertaking painstaking analysis leading to the publication of timely, comprehensive reports containing important recommendations for improving safety at sea.

Sudan: Darfur

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:



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The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): Over the past six months, the United Nations and non-governmental organisations have increasingly been targeted by all parties in Darfur. As a result, all humanitarian aid workers have become exposed to higher levels of personal risk. We utterly condemn these attacks and have made representations to the parties involved. The UK advises against all but essential travel to Darfur and we provide up-to-date reporting on the risks affecting the humanitarian community in Darfur. We are in very close contact with the humanitarian agencies and have provided funding to enhance the security management of their operations.

Taxation: VAT Carousel Fraud

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: The Government published estimates alongside the 2006 Pre-Budget Report, showing that levels of attempted MTIC fraud in the UK grew significantly during 2005-06, to between £3.5 billion and £4.75 billion, with a consequent impact on the in-year VAT receipts of between £2 billion and £3 billion. In response to this increase, HMRC has strengthened its operational strategy, increasing the level of criminal investigations with international partners in Europe and beyond and re-deploying over 700 extra compliance resources in order to check a greater number of suspect VAT repayment claims submitted by those operating in supply chains known to be associated with MTIC fraud.

Operational indicators in the current financial year suggest that HMRC's response has led to a dramatic reduction in MTIC activity. The latest monthly balance of payments statistics published by the Office for National Statistics, using trade data supplied by HMRC show that trade in MTIC-related goods has fallen by over 90 per cent since April 2006.

Transport: Fatalities

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) produces rail safety statistics, which are published in ORR's annual report on rail safety, copies of which are in the House Library.



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UN: International Covenant on Enforced Disappearance

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly in December 2006. It opened for signature and subsequent ratification on 6 February 2007.

The convention will be an important tool in preventing enforced disappearance in the future. The UK was active throughout the negotiations to draft the convention, and we supported its adoption last year at both the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly.

The Government now need to conduct a detailed analysis of the provisions of the treaty and their implications for implementation in order to determine the UK's position towards ratification, including whether we would need to make any reservations. The UK did not sign the convention at the ceremony in

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Paris on 6 February because the UK does not sign international treaties unless it has a firm intention to ratify within a reasonable time-frame. We understand that 57 states (including 10 member states of the European Union) have so far signed the convention. The convention requires 20 states to ratify in order to enter into force.

At the adoption of the convention at both the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, the UK made an interpretative statement clarifying our understanding of certain provisions, including what constitutes an enforced disappearance, the application of obligations under international humanitarian law and the procedures applicable to the adoption and placement of children found to have resulted from an enforced disappearance. This statement can be found at: www.fco.gov.uk/ukmisgeneva.


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