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Rural Bus Services

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 8 July 2002, Official Report, column 667W, how much has been (a) made available and (b) spent through the rural bus subsidy grant in each of the last five years, broken down by region; and if he will provide a regional breakdown of those services established through the rural bus subsidy grant scheme. [69351]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 12 July 2002]: The first table shows the annual amounts of rural bus subsidy grant allocated for local authorities in each region. It also shows by region the amount of grant paid to authorities

15 Jul 2002 : Column 16W

in each year which was dependent on their estimates of annual expenditure taking account of any grant unspent from a previous year. In 1998–99, the first year of this scheme, grant not required was reallocated and added to the amount distributed to schemes successful in that year's Rural Bus Challenge competition.

£ million

South East
South West
West Midlands
East Midlands
North West
Yorkshire and Humberside
Paid 1.172.882.863.59NA
North East

The second table shows the regional totals of new or improved services being supported by the grant in 2000–01, including those started in previous years. This has been compiled from local authority returns. Data are still being collected on 2001–02.

South East233
South West389
West Midlands259
East Midlands242
North West168
Yorkshire and Humberside183
North East111

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Transport for London

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what his Department's grant has been to Transport for London each year for the last four years. [69763]

Mr. Jamieson: Transport for London was created in July 2000.

In the nine months between July 2000 and March 2001, grant paid to the GLA for the purposes of Transport for London was £297,811,000. For the 2001–02 financial year, this grant was £720,053,000. For 2002–03, grant has been determined at £1,023,018,000.

Network Rail

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the answer of 10 July 2002, Official Report, column 984W, on what basis the details of the notification to the European Commission are confidential. [70082]

Mr. Jamieson: Details of the notifications of potential state aid are confidential between the Commission and the member state. But once the Commission has reached a decision, it issues a letter and this is published on the Commission's web page, though the member state to whom the letter is addressed can request that any commercially sensitive information is removed from the letter before publication.

Chris Grayling: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 10 July 2002, Official Report, column 984W, what is the total amount of public sector grant to Network Rail which will be securitised; and what funding guarantees will be required to secure such a securitisation. [70081]

Mr. Jamieson: This will be a matter for Network Rail to take a judgment upon based on future discussions with potential lenders.

US-UK Air Services

Mr. Moss: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he plans to discuss the agreement of a liberalised US-UK air services agreement with the United States; and if he will make a statement. [70060]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government are keen to liberalise the UK-US air services agreement to provide increased competition on fair terms and improved access by UK airlines to the world's largest market. All the options open to the Government are being reviewed before a decision on the best way forward is taken.

Singapore Airlines

Mr. Moss: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what decision he has made on an open skies agreement with Singapore to enable Singapore Airlines to commence services between London Heathrow and the US. [70061]

Mr. Jamieson: The Government's overall objective in negotiating air service agreements is to negotiate fully liberal agreements where possible. Singapore is one of a number of countries with which the Government intend to discuss the possibility of full liberalisation. The aim of such discussions would not be restricted to enabling a

15 Jul 2002 : Column 18W

particular airline to operate to a particular destination, but would be to provide benefits to the consumers, airlines and economies of both countries.

Light Dues

Nick Harvey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent representations he has received on the subject of light dues; what the nature of those representations were; and if he will make a statement. [70059]

Mr. Jamieson: We have received representations on light dues from the maritime industry in response to our Consultation Paper entitled 'Light Dues Review: Meeting the Costs of Marine Aids to Navigation' published on 10 May. The Independent Light Dues Forum and Maersk Sealand have, in addition to their formal response, written separately on the scope and format of the Consultation Document.

We will review the representations received following the end of the consultation period on 31 July.

Fire Service

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions when the Chief Executive of the Fire College Moreton-in-Marsh was suspended; when he will tell him what specific allegations he faces; and what guidance has been given to the acting Chief Executive as to how long his services will be required. [58734]

Mr. Leslie: I have been asked to reply.

Staffing and disciplinary matters are handled within the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in accordance with the appropriate Staff Handbook. Within that framework personnel matters relating to individuals are a confidential matter between them and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.


Defence Estates

17. Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the property disposal programme of Defence Estates. [66974]

Dr. Moonie: The Ministry of Defence disposal programme is driven by the operational requirements of the armed forces. We keep the estate under regular review to ensure that it is no larger than is required for operational purposes. The principles under which we manage the estate are set out in our Estate Strategy published in 2000.

Land and property is regularly released for disposal, usually on the open market. At present, some 3,000 hectares of land, covering more than 70 sites across the United Kingdom are either in disposal or will come forward for disposal in the next 12 months. Further rationalisation and consolidation of the estate is likely to lead to additional sites and properties becoming surplus.

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Infantry Manning Levels

19. Mr. Baron: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on manning levels in the infantry. [66978]

Mr. Ingram: The number of trained infantry in the Army has been increasing gradually and the current strength (as at 1 June 2002) of 25,526 is at the highest level for over five years.

British Commitments

20. Dr. Palmer: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the extent to which British commitments are stretching Army capacity. [66979]

Mr. Ingram: We do not believe that the armed forces are overstretched, but they are very busy. The announcement made to the House by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence on 20 June about the contribution of British forces in operations in Afghanistan demonstrates our commitment to withdraw service personnel from operations at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to ease the demands placed on them.

Currently around 25 per cent. of the Army is committed to operations compared to 44 per cent. at the height of the campaign in Kosovo. The latest assessment of the average unit tour interval is around 24 months, which is consistent with the Strategic Defence Review target.

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