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Piracy

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to reduce the risk presented by piracy to UK-registered or owned shipping. [26701]

Mr. Spellar: The United Kingdom Government have taken positive steps to identify and deal with the problem of piracy against ships at sea.

This includes readily available guidance to UK seafarers and shipowners on how to avoid or deal with acts of piracy. It has been made available on the internet to ensure a wide coverage.

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Concerted action by the international community is the key to addressing the problem. In the past few years the UK has supported and participated in counter piracy missions and seminars in "hotspot" areas sponsored by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). Last year, through the IMO, we prepared codes of practice for the investigation of piracy incidents and the registration of "phantom" (stolen) ships. These codes have now been issued as circulars to all IMO member states and adopted at the IMO General Assembly. We continue to raise the matter in other international fora, including the United Nations General Assembly, to highlight the issue and raised the topic at ministerial level in areas where the problem continues to be of concern. We also meet the maritime industry on a regular basis to discuss how best we can continue to deal with the issue and whether there are any new ways of tackling the problem. We are currently reviewing the use of technical aids to counter piracy and will issue further advice to the industry when this is completed.

STCW 95 Standards

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many applications for dispensation from the requirement to validate certificates to STCW 95 standards have been granted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. [26700]

Mr. Spellar: The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), has granted no dispensations from the requirement to validate certificates to STCW 95 standards. No revalidation to STCW 95 will be given unless the necessary short courses have been completed.

However, a lack of places on short training courses has meant that some officers have not been able to revalidate in time for the 1 February deadline. In December, with the support of industry and the officers' union NUMAST, the MCA issued an Advice Note that enables dispensations to be applied for up to 31 January 2002, with a maximum validity of up to 31 July 2002. These are issued under Article VIII of STCW 95, are ship specific, non-renewable and apply only to officers serving below the ranks of Master and Chief Engineer, enabling them to complete the necessary courses. The number of those applying for these dispensations will not be known until later in February.

Maritime Security

Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what representations he plans to make to the International Maritime Organisation concerning the adequacy of existing shipping and port security measures. [26703]

Mr. Spellar: The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will hold an additional, intercessional meeting from 11 to 15 February to review proposals for further maritime and port security measures. Based on its own work since September, the Government intend to make an active contribution to that review.

Building Inspectors

Ian Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he

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is taking to monitor the quality of the work of approved independent building inspectors following the introduction of statutory instrument 2532. [26745]

Dr. Whitehead: My Department cannot intervene in specific decisions taken by building control bodies, but we would carefully consider any complaints about the quality of the building control service provided by an inspector approved by the Secretary of State under Part II of the Building Act 1984.

Any complaints about the quality of service provided by inspectors approved under Part II of the Act by the Construction Industry Council would be considered by that council. All inspectors approved under Part II of the Act must periodically apply to the Construction Industry Council for re-approval.

In addition, my Department is participating in the work of the Building Control Performance Standards Advisory Group, which is drawing up proposals for performance indicators that will apply both to approved inspectors and to building control departments of local authorities.

Air Travel Trust Fund

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to introduce legislation to provide powers to impose a levy to recoup the costs of the Air Travel Trust Fund set up in 1975. [27144]

Mr. Spellar: A draft Bill to secure the necessary powers to impose a levy will be introduced as soon as a suitable legislative opportunity arises.

Disused Railway Lines

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what steps he is taking to safeguard the trackbed of disused railway lines where lines could be re-opened; and if he will make a statement. [27166]

Mr. Spellar: The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has instituted a review process for disposals of former British Rail non-operational land which was not transferred to Railtrack at privatisation. The process involves a property advisory group, which includes representatives of the Rail Passengers Council, the Rail Freight Group and local authorities, advising the SRA on potential future use of sites for rail and other integrated transport uses. In this way sites with potential for future transport use are identified while surplus sites can be sold with proceeds re-invested by the SRA in support of its objectives. Where disused lines are in other ownership the local planning authority may restrict development which may prevent future re-opening.

Motorcycles

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans he has to allow motorcycles to use bus lanes. [26923]

Ms Keeble: Local authorities can make traffic regulation orders allowing motorcycles or other vehicles to use bus lanes. The Department's advice does not promote this but we are carrying out research to see

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whether this should be changed. The Secretary of State can permit motorcycle use of bus lanes on trunk roads and motorways if he considers it appropriate.

Heathrow

Dr. Tonge: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what plans he has for compensation for residents living under the flight path to Heathrow Airport; [26918]

Mr. Spellar: We have no such plans.

Ministerial Travel (India)

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what the financial implications were to his Department of his recent return from India earlier than he had planned; [25993]

Dr. Whitehead [holding answer 11 January 2002]: None.

Number Plates

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the new regulations on Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) will be laid before Parliament. [27409]

Mr. Spellar: Amendments to the Road Vehicles (Display of Registration Marks) Regulations 2001 and the Road Vehicles (Lighting) Regulations 1979 are required. The legal process will commence following completion of technical discussions with the number plate industry in the next week or so.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions whether (a) car number plate manufacturers can produce plates with a national identifier in the UK in accordance with the DTLR press release of 28 December and (b) vehicle owners can use such plates in advance of the new regulations being promulgated. [27410]

Mr. Spellar: Negotiations are currently taking place with the number plate industry about specific designs in advance of an amendment to the regulations. In the meantime, manufacturers may produce number plates displaying the flags and national identifiers as announced on 28 December.

Current regulations do not allow for the display of national flags on number plates. However, in the short period before the regulations are amended the police have been requested not to prosecute those who choose to display national flags and national identifiers on vehicle number plates.

Speed Cameras

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many

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automatic speeding cameras were in operation at the most recent date for which figures are available; and what the total was in each of the past 10 years. [27008]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 14 January 2002]: This information is not collected centrally. It is for local highway authorities, in conjunction with the police, to decide where speed cameras are deployed. Guidance on deployment is available to local authorities in Circular Roads 1–92.


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