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Chinook

Mr. Mark Field: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the fleet of Boeing CH-47D Chinook helicopters is due to be replaced; and what interest the United Kingdom has in the Franco-German award of a study contract to Boeing for a jumbo Chinook. [33017]

Dr. Moonie: The CH-47D Chinook helicopters in service with the British armed forces comprise the Chinook Mark 2 and the Chinook Mark 2a variants. The out of service date of the Chinook Mark 2 is the middle of the next decade, but we are looking at the possibility of extending its life. The Chinook Mark 2a is expected to remain in service until the mid 2030s.

We maintain a keen interest in defence-related technological developments and possibilities for collaboration with Allies on procurement projects. However, we do not currently foresee a requirement for a 'jumbo' Chinook.

Aircraft (Afghanistan)

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the average length of the working day of aircrews in C130Ks operational in Afghanistan. [33097]

Mr. Ingram: Currently C130K aircrews are working an average of around 10 hours per day.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many C130Js and C130Ks from RAF Lyneham are operational in Afghanistan; how many of them are deployable; and how many are undergoing repair. [33096]

Mr. Ingram: As of 4 February there were eight C130Ks from RAF Lyneham flying into Afghanistan. All of the aircraft are currently serviceable, and undergo routine maintenance. NO C130Js are currently engaged on operations into Afghanistan.

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many 130Ks in Afghanistan have defensive aids suites. [33098]

Mr. Ingram: All C130Ks operating into Afghanistan are provided with defensive aids. Details vary but for all flights into Afghanistan self protection measures are adequate against the perceived threat.

TRANSPORT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND

THE REGIONS

Airline Disinfectants

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will list (a) the commercial airline flights arriving or departing in the United Kingdom that use pesticide disinfectants, (b) the commercial flights arriving or departing the United Kingdom that require pesticide disinfectants, (c) the different methods used to apply pesticide disinfectants to commercial aircraft arriving or departing in the United Kingdom, (d) the monitoring procedures in place governing the use of pesticides applied to international flights arriving in the United Kingdom and (e) which flights arriving or departing within the United Kingdom use the chemical permthrin as a pesticide disinfectant. [25214]

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Mr. Spellar [holding answer 10 January 2002]: I will write to my hon. Friend and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Open Skies

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) if it is his policy to pursue an open skies agreement with the US prior to the European Court ruling on such agreements; [30028]

Mr. Jamieson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Transport to the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) on 4 February 2002, Official Report, columns 727–28W.

Railway Land Sales

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how much ex-railway land has been sold in each of the last five years. [30746]

Mr. Spellar: This information is not readily available in the form requested. However, I understand that 218 sites have been sold by the British Railways Board and BRB (Residuary Ltd.) under the revised guidelines implemented when the moratorium imposed on the sale of non-operational railway land was lifted in September 1999. The sale of operational railway land is a commercial matter for Railtrack, and other privatised companies owning such land.

Lancet Report

Mr. Benton: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will suspend implementation of the decision of the Planning Inspectorate with regard to the land between Harris drive and Netherton way, Bootle, Merseyside until the Government's investigation has concluded, following the Lancet report on landfill sites of 26 January. [31639]

Ms Keeble [holding answer 30 January 2002]: It is not possible for the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions to suspend implementation of the planning appeal decision to allow the landfill of derelict land between Harris drive and Netherton way, Bootle. This case was transferred to an inspector and his decision is final unless it is successfully challenged in the High Court on a point of law. Two local residents have made such a challenge and the whole matter is now sub judice.

Council Rents

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what real terms percentage increase in each year he predicts for formula rents for council tenants in York local authority until 2011; [32033]

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Ms Keeble: The underlying rate of increase of formula rents will be the same for all local authorities. In 2002–03, we predict that the average rate of increase in real terms for formula rents for council tenants will be 1 per cent. Taking into account the policy that registered social landlord rents increases should be limited to RPI plus ½ per cent. a year, it is likely that local authority formula rents will have to rise by an average of about 1½ per cent. a year in real terms over the next 10 years to achieve Ministers' intention that similar rents should be charged for similar council and housing association properties by 2012. This is about half the average rate of council rent increases over the last 10 years.

However, the precise path of social rents over the next 10 years will depend, among other things, on the outcomes of future spending reviews and the decisions taken by individual landlords who retain responsibility for rent setting.

Rail Passengers (Woodlesford)

Mr. Challen: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if the new train operating franchise for trains operating on the Castleford to Leeds line will provide for sufficient capacity to allow passengers to and from Woodlesford to travel in comfort. [32221]

Mr. Spellar: The terms of extension of Arriva Train Northern's franchise to February 2003 included a commitment to procure 18 additional vehicles. On expiry this franchise will be replaced by two new franchises, Northern and TransPennine Express. The Strategic Rail Authority will be expecting to secure further improvements in capacity and new rolling stock in these franchise negotiations.

Rail Services

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, pursuant to his answer of 19 December 2001, Official Report, columns 532–33W, on targets for improving the reliability of train services, what enforcement actions can be taken upon train operating companies if they fail to meet targets; upon which train operating companies enforcement action has been taken as a result of a failure to meet performance targets; and what the dates and the nature of the enforcement were. [32417]

Mr. Spellar: Franchise agreements provide for a special call-in meeting where performance in any four- week period falls below the pre-set thresholds. Call-in meetings are formal and give the Strategic Rail Authority the chance to investigate with the operator the causes or the problem and remedial measures. Three call-ins in three years may be deemed a breach of the franchise agreement. Particularly poor performance in a period can lead straight to a breach, or, in extreme circumstances, to default upon which the authority can terminate the agreement. Enforcement action under section 55 of the Railways Act is available where breaches occur. The authority's annual reports, copies of which are in the Library of the House, list the breaches of franchise agreements registered in the year and the action taken.

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Housing (Wandsworth)

Mr. Cox: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will take steps to agree with the London borough of Wandsworth that in all housing developments taking place within the borough there will be an agreed percentage of affordable housing built for local people. [32903]

Ms Keeble: We have made our views known to the London borough of Wandsworth on this matter for some time and have objected to the absence of an adequate affordable housing policy in the current unitary development plan review. Where schemes have been drawn to our attention we have issued Article 14 "holding" directions, to give us time to consider whether insufficient regard has been had to affordable housing needs, and we will continue to do this. In at least one of four recent schemes, the applicant has revised the scheme to include a percentage (25 per cent.) of affordable housing. We are monitoring closely the other three schemes to see if there is a case for calling them in for public inquiry.


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