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To ask the Leader of the House further to her Written Answer on 11 January (WA 135-6), what steps have been taken to bring to the attention of
1 Feb 2010 : Column WA12
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): I wrote to all Cabinet colleagues on 26 January stressing the importance that Ministers should continue to give Written Questions; highlighting the recently published statistical information; and drawing specific attention to the significant variations across departments. My office has also been in direct contact with the Department of Energy and Climate Change which has confirmed that, since the last parliamentary Session, it has created a new dedicated database and introduced a new monitoring system for Written Questions. Recent statistics show a significant improvement, with approximately 68 per cent of Lords Questions for Written Answer falling to the department in the current Session being answered within 14 days.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for electric IC225 units in use on the east coast main railway line; and whether those plans have been discussed with the owning rolling stock company. [HL1566]
The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): Plans for the use of electric IC225 units, including their replacement in 2017-18 by super-express trains, were outlined in the east coast franchise consultation document, which was released on 21 January 2010.
All rolling stock leasing companies were fully involved in the development of the super-express train specification up until the issue of the European Journal initial tender notice in 2007, at which point their continuing involvement could have created a conflict of interest.
Lord Adonis: Plans for the use of electric IC225 units, including their replacement in 2017-18 by super-express trains, were outlined in the east coast franchise consultation document, which was released on 21 January 2010.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they plan to establish an international agreement to prohibit the payment of ransoms for the release of hostages taken by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean. [HL1446]
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): The Government do not make or facilitate substantive concessions to Somali pirates, including the payment of ransoms. Although there is no UK law preventing third parties such as ship owners paying ransoms, we counsel against them doing so, as we believe making concessions to pirates encourages future hijacks.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is working with international partners, including the UN, to address the issues of financial flows related to piracy including the payment of ransoms, and has supported work by Interpol and others to develop practical proposals in this area.
The Minister for Trade and Investment (Lord Davies of Abersoch): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister, my noble friend Lord Mandelson and other Ministers from my department have regularly met or spoken to senior representatives of Corus and Tata Steel as well as local MPs, trade unions and regional offices about the situation at Teesside.
Lord Davies of Abersoch: There have been no ministerial meetings with potential buyers but the Government continue to explore the opportunities and scope for Corus to find the strategic partner it regards as necessary.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): We will wish to consider carefully the lessons from the recent severe weather, taking into account the reviews which local authorities and others conduct. Valuable reviews were conducted last year by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee (The Effects of Adverse Weather Conditions on Transport, HC328), the Local Government Association (Weathering the Storm), the UK Roads Liaison Group (Lessons from the Severe Weather February 2009) and the Greater London Authority (Slipping Up?). It will be important to build on these. Four recommendations from the UKRLG report were specifically addressed to this department and the Highways Agency. My Written Statement on 15 December 2009 (Official Report, cols. WS 253-55) advised what action had been taken by this department and the Highways Agency consistent with those recommendations. These recommendations have been adopted.
With respect to the strategic road network in England, following the winter season the Highways Agency will be conducting its own review of the events this winter and will contribute to any wider lessons-learnt exercises that are undertaken.
Looking at the longer term, my department's climate change adaption plan, which is due to be published in March, will set out how the department and its agencies will be addressing the challenge of making the United Kingdom's transport network more resilient to the more extreme weather events which we are likely to see in future.
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