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Railways (Speed Restrictions)

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many speed restrictions were in place on the railways during the weeks commencing (a) 8 January and (b) 15 January; and if he will make a statement. [147010]

Mr. Hill: On 8 January there were 446 speed restrictions on the rail network which were due to gauge corner cracking. On 15 January there were 421.

Train Certification

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many trains are awaiting certification; how long he estimates it will take to certify these trains; what the procedure is; and what factors have delayed the process of certification. [147011]

Mr. Hill: The entry of 750 new vehicles (circa 200 trains) into passenger service has been delayed. These are gradually being introduced on to the network and about half should be in service during the first six months of the year.

The introduction of new trains has in part been delayed by the rigorous safety approvals process which is required before any passenger train enters service. There have also been a number of technical difficulties which have needed to be remedied. These have only come to light when the new trains have been operating.

The safety certification process (owned by Railtrack) requires operators, in conjunction with manufacturers, to submit requests for safety approval at various stages of the design, manufacture and testing of a new train with a view to allowing the trains to enter full passenger service.


Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects negotiations on a suitable strategic partner for the National Air Traffic Service to be concluded. [147144]

Mr. Mullin: I refer the hon. Member for Poole to my reply given to the hon. Member for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (Mr. Moore) on 9 November 2000, Official Report, column 346W. I stated that subject to passage of the Transport Bill, the Government's firm intention was to have the PPP in place in the spring of 2001. The Transport Bill received Royal Assent in November 2000 and the Government's firm intention remains to have the PPP in place in the spring of 2001.

25 Jan 2001 : Column: 681W


Local Council Elections

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he plans to announce the date of the local council elections in Northern Ireland. [147138]

Mr. George Howarth: Section 11 of the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962 as amended by the Electoral Law (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 states that there shall be Local Government Elections every 4 years. The Local Elections (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 states that the election day referred to in that section of the 1962 Act will be "the third Wednesday in May".

RUC (Retirements)

Mr. William Ross: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many police officers in Northern Ireland of the rank of superintendent and above have indicated that they will retire in (a) December 2000, (b) January 2001, (c) February 2001 and (d) March 2001, broken down by rank. [141939]

Mr. Ingram: The figures shown in the following table illustrate the number of officers at the rank of superintendent and above who have left or are expected to leave the Royal Ulster Constabulary under the terms of the voluntary early retirement/severance scheme in the period between December 2000 and March 2001.

Assistant Chief ConstableChief SuperintendentSuperintendent
December 2000000
January 20010818
February 2001067
March 2001175

To date, no officers of the rank of Superintendent or above have either left the RUC under ordinary or medical retirements during this period or indicated an intention to do so.


Departmental Policies (Slough)

Fiona Mactaggart: To ask the Solicitor-General if he will set out, with statistical information relating as directly as possible to the Slough constituency, the effects on Slough of his Department's policies and actions since 2 May 1997. [146937]

The Solicitor-General: My hon. Friend's constituency falls within the geographical area covered by the Thames Valley Area of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). In November 1999, in line with national policy, this area of the CPS, in liaison with the police and East Berkshire magistrates court, introduced the Narey proposals. All defendants charged with a criminal offence in the East Berkshire areas should make their first appearance before Slough magistrates court within 72 hours. This is in line with the Government's policy of speeding up and

25 Jan 2001 : Column: 682W

modernising the criminal justice system. The CPS holds no statistical information in relation to the Slough area alone.

On 1 April 2001, the Berkshire Branch of Thames Valley CPS will finalise its structure in line with proposals in the Glidewell Review. This represents a policy of more effective working between the police and prosecutors. A trial unit based in Reading will deal with serious crime at Reading Crown court. The CPS has set a goal the better handling of serious cases, in the interests of justice and the victims.

The CPS, together with other agencies, has been working to speed up youth justice, particularly persistent young offenders. All cases involving youth offenders in East Berkshire are now dealt with at one court centre in Maidenhead. The time taken for persistent youth cases has fallen from 145 days in 1997 to 97 days in the third quarter of 2000.

As a member of the Thames Valley Area Criminal Justice Strategy Committee, the CPS has been working to improve its response to the prosecution of racially aggravated offences. In May 2000 the Chief Crown Prosecutor addressed a conference held in Slough to launch the Report of the Committee's Race Sub-Group entitled, 'Race and Criminal Justice', to explain how the CPS approached prosecuting such cases. The CPS holds no statistical information which relates to the Slough area alone.

Neither the Treasury Solicitor's Department nor the Serious Fraud Office has policies which directly affect my hon. Friend's constituency.


Pensioner Incomes

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much it would cost a pensioner to purchase an annuity that provides an income covering the gap between the basic pension and the minimum income guarantee at current annuity rates for (a) a single man and (b) a single woman. [146351]

Mr. Rooker: The answer would depend upon the relative movement in future years between the value of the basic State Pension and of the minimum income guarantee, as well as upon detailed decisions on the form of the pension credit which will replace the minimum income guarantee, about which we are currently consulting.

Mr. O'Hara: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate (1) the number of additional retirement pensioners who will become eligible to receive Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit in consequence of the measures announced in 2000; [145113]

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Mr. Rooker [holding answer 15 January 2001]: As a result of all the measures announced in 2000 (increase in capital limits, equalisation of the three rates of the Minimum Income Guarantee (MIG) and protection of the retirement pension increase), the additional number of pensioners and pensioner couples estimated to receive the MIG is 100,000. The total number to benefit from the capital limits change across the three income-related benefits is estimated to be 500,000. The additional number who will receive MIG in 2001 as a result of the capital limits change is estimated to be 50,000.

The number of additional pensioners and pensioner couples who will receive Council Tax Benefit as a result of all the measures announced in 2000 is estimated to be 50,000. The additional number estimated to receive Housing Benefit is negligible from the survey data.

Average additional income which retirement pensioners are modelled to receive, for newly entitled and existing cases as a result of the measures announced in 2000
£ per week

BenefitNewly entitledExisting
Minimum Income Guarantee14.003.50
Housing Benefit6.001.50
Council Tax Benefit1.500.50


1. The figures provided have been calculated using the Policy Simulation Model (PSM). This models the benefit system in 2001-02 and is based on data from the Family Resource Survey (FRS) for 1997-98, uprated to 2001 prices.

2. The effect of earnings uprating the MIG has not been included. The latest changes to the MIG assume equalisation and protection of the rise in the retirement pension only.

3. Figures for floaters are due to capital changes have come from the PSM and are therefore based on data from the FRS. The FRS questions relating to assets and savings are a sensitive section of the questionnaire and have the lowest response rate; Capital holdings are often under reported. Therefore figures should be treated with some caution.

4. Figures for floaters and gainers have been calibrated to administrative records and historical take up assumptions. Floaters have been rounded to the nearest 50,000 cases. For average gains the figures have been rounded to the nearest £0.50.

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