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Electoral Reform

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) what plans the Government have to review the electoral system used for elections to (a) the office of London Mayor, (b) the Greater London Assembly, (c) the Scottish Parliament and (d) the Welsh Assembly; and if he will make a statement on the structure and timing of any review; [42777]

Mr. Byers: In our manifesto setting out our intentions for this Parliament, we said we would review the experience of the new electoral systems for the devolved Assemblies, the European Parliament and the Greater London Assembly, together with the report of the Independent Commission on the Voting System chaired by Lord Jenkins, to assess whether changes might be made to the electoral system for the House of Commons. We have no plans for other reviews of voting systems.

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans the Government have to review the closed list electoral system for the European Parliament; and if he will make a statement on the structure and timing of the review. [42776]

Mr. Byers: A Home Office review of the 1999 European Parliamentary election, published in May 2000, and available on the DTLR website, included a review of the effect of the closed list voting system on turnout.

Staff Suspensions

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many members of staff have been suspended on full pay in each of the last five years; and how many were subsequently reinstated. [41994]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 11 March 2002]: There have been a small number of cases over the last five years, in which members of staff have been suspended on full pay, eg if alleged gross misconduct or criminal offences need to be investigated. Papers relating to such cases are kept separately and only added to personal files in the event that the allegations are proven. In the event that the allegations are unfounded and the individual is reinstated, any papers relating to the investigation are destroyed. It is not therefore possible to answer the question in the form requested.

Farming

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what advice his Department provides to local authorities and the Inland Revenue concerning the collection of business rates from farms engaged in (a) share farming, (b) contract farming and (c) machinery rings. [42679]

Mr. Raynsford: The Valuation Office Agency of the Inland Revenue, and its valuation officers, have a statutory duty to maintain the non-domestic rating lists, under the legislation in the Local Government Finance Act 1988 and relevant case law. It is a decision for the

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valuation officer in each case whether or not a farm qualifies for the current agricultural exemption from rates, in accordance with his or her statutory responsibilities.

It is not for my Department to provide formal advice to valuation officers on the exercise of their statutory duties. Nor is there any need for formal guidance to local authorities, whose responsibilities in this case are simply to issue bills in respect of hereditaments that valuation officers have entered in the rating lists. We will, of course, review policy when necessary and this process has led to the proposal in the White Paper, "Strong Local Leadership—Quality Public Services", to amend the legislation to extend the agricultural exemption to share farming, contract farming and machinery rings.

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions if he will define the meaning of contract farming in paragraph 7.52 of the White Paper, "Strong Local Leadership-Quality Public Services". [42703]

Mr. Raynsford: The consultation paper on "Extending the Agricultural Exemption from Non-Domestic Rates to Machinery Rings and Share Farming Enterprises", published on 16 February 2001, referred to in paragraph 7.52 of the White Paper, included a detailed explanation of the meaning of contract/share farming.

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the Government plans to introduce legislation to extend agricultural exemption from business rates to share farming, contract farming and machinery rings as outlined in paragraph 7.52 of the White Paper Strong Local Leadership-Quality Public Services. [42708]

Mr. Raynsford: We will introduce legislation when parliamentary time allows.

Rural Work Force

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what proportion of the rural work force travel to their place of work by (a) foot, (b) bicycle, (c) bus, (d) train and (e) car; and if he will make a statement. [42904]

Mr. Jamieson: Information is available only in respect of people living in rural areas, not by place of work. From the National Travel Survey, the distribution of mode of travel to work for people living in rural areas in Great Britain over the period 1992–2000 was as follows:





The sample size is too small to give an accurate figure for transport by train, but it is less than 3 per cent. Rural areas are those with a population of less than 3,000 as defined by the 1991 Census.

Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what proportion of the rural work force lives (a) less than 30 minutes, (b) 30 minutes to one hour, (c) one to two hours, (d) two to three hours and (e) more than three hours away from their place of work. [42911]

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Mr. Jamieson: Information is available only in respect of people living in rural areas, not by place of work. From the National Travel Survey, the distribution of time spent by travelling to work by people living in rural areas in Great Britain is as follows:




Data have been aggregated over the years 1992–2000 because the number of rural dwellers in the sample each year is small, and it is not possible to give accurate figures for journeys that take more than two hours. The figures are taken from travel diaries so they reflect actual journeys, rather than usual journeys, and may contain double counting as some people will have journeys of different lengths during the survey week. Rural areas are those with a population of less than 3,000 as defined by the 1991 Census.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (1) if he will undertake an analysis of the effectiveness of the Australian system of liquefied petroleum gas identification to alert emergency services in the result of a fire; [43097]

Mr. Jamieson: We have no knowledge of the voluntary red sticker system and have made no assessment or analysis of the Australian system for alerting their fire services to the use of vehicles fuelled with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Consideration is being given to the marking requirements of vehicles fuelled in this way as part of the LPG construction standards.

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions how many cases of boiling liquid expanding vapour explosion involving vehicles which run on liquefied petroleum gas have been reported in each year since 1999. [43094]

Mr. Jamieson: We do not hold any information on such incidents. The Fire Service is discussing safety issues with the vehicle manufacturers

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what assessment the Government have made of the effectiveness of the guidance which is available regarding pressure relief valves in the conversion of UK vehicles to liquefied petroleum gas. [43098]

Mr. Jamieson: The Department does not issue guidance regarding the use of pressure relief valves as their performance requirements are clearly stated in the Road vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. The LP Gas Association (LPGA) issues guidance (COP 11) to its members and the general public, part of which refers to ECE Regulation 67:01 which is currently being implemented in the Construction and Use Regulations as an alternative to the existing requirements. We are content that this information is satisfactory.

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John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what markings are required on UK vehicles to show that they run on liquefied petroleum gas. [43095]

Mr. Jamieson: There are no markings required by legislation to show that a vehicle is run on liquefied petroleum gas.

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what regulations exist covering the fitting of liquefied petroleum gas conversion kits to UK vehicles. [43090]

Mr. Jamieson: The fitting of liquefied petroleum gas conversions kits is regulated by regulations 40, 94 and schedule 5 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986.

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what plans the Government have further to regulate (a) the sale and (b) the fitting of liquefied petroleum conversion kits for UK vehicles. [43099]

Mr. Jamieson: Consideration is being given to the introduction of regulations to control the standards for the fitting of liquefied petroleum conversion kits for UK vehicles. As yet no decisions have been made as to what form these regulations may take and how they may be implemented.


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