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Written Answers to


Friday 19 July 2002


Advisory Committee on Business Appointments

Albert Owen: To ask the Prime Minister if he has received the Fifth report of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments; who the members of the Committee are; and if he will make a statement. [72102]

The Prime Minister: The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments has submitted its fifth report to me and I have today placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses. The report gives an account of its work from 1 April 2001 to 31 March 2002.

The Committee is an independent body which advises me on business appointment applications from the most senior civil servants and members of the Armed Forces. Where the applicant is a senior diplomat, it advises the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs under the similar rules which apply in the Diplomatic Service. The Committee also gives advice, under published guidelines, to former Ministers about any outside appointments they wish to take up after leaving office. It includes members with extensive experience of public life in England, Scotland and Wales, and, in this respect, it acts as a joint body although it provides its advice directly to those who seek it in accordance with the provisions of their Ministerial Code.

The current members of the Committee are:
The Right Hon. Lord Mayhew of Twysden QC DL (Chairman)
Sir John Blelloch KCB (Vice-chairman)
The Right Hon. Lord Morris of Aberavon QC
The Right Hon. Lord Maclennan of Rogart
The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn KT GCMG
Admiral Sir Kenneth Eaton GBE KCB FEng FIEE
Sir Bryan Nicholson

The Committee has an important role, and I am very grateful to all the members for giving their time so freely to it.


Rail Regulator

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his reply of 10 July 2002, Official Report, column 982W, on the Strategic Rail Authority and Rail Regulator, if he will list the type or nature of the occasions on which it is deemed approporiate for him and other departmental ministers to meet the (a) Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority and (b) Rail Regulator. [70639]

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Mr. Jamieson: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and other departmental Ministers would expect to meet the Chairman of the Strategic Rail Authority and the Rail Regulator to discuss matters of common interest, and at wider industry meetings and events.

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the responsibilities of (a) the office of the Rail Regulator and (b) the office of the international rail regulator; and if he will make a statement. [70661]

Mr. Jamieson: The functions and duties of the Rail Regulator are set out in Part I of the Railways Act 1993 as amended by the Transport Act 2000; and those of the International Rail Regulator in the Railway Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1340).

Strategic Rail Authority

Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the Strategic Rail Authority will consult on its review of rail fares policy. [72100]

Mr. Darling: The Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has today published its consultation paper on fares policy. Copies have been placed in the House libraries and the document can also be viewed on the SRA website (www.sra.gov.uk). The consultation period will end on 11 October 2002. This process is part of the SRA's review of fares policy announced in the Authority's Strategic Plan, published in January this year.

Network Rail

Jane Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his statement of 27 June 2002, Official Report, columns 971–73, on Network Rail, if he will make a statement on the Government's proposal to incur the contingent liabilities set out in the associated minutes he laid before Parliament. [72012]

Mr. Darling: In my statement on 27 June on Network Rail, I informed Members of two minutes I had laid in the House that day, setting out the contingent liabilities I proposed to incur on behalf of the Government to enable Railtrack plc to be acquired by Network Rail.

This classification of Network Rail was a decision taken, not by the Government, but by the Office for National Statistics. The ONS takes independent decisions in matters concerning the classification, preparation and publication of statistics. It was their view that Network Rail would be classified as a private sector corporation — once its board has been ratified by its membership — and that the company's borrowing could be classified as private sector borrowing in the national accounts. In reaching this conclusion the ONS has, I understand, based their considerations upon the European System of Accounts 1995 (ESA95).

As I explained to the House in my statement of 27 June the SRA is providing Network Rail with standby credit facilities. It is the commercial debt markets that will provide the required borrowing for Network Rail, with the credit facilities called upon in identified, though unlikely, circumstances. On this basis the SRA's standby credit

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facilities are considered to be contingent liabilities and would only score as public expenditure in the extremely unlikely event of them being called upon.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of the National Audit Office has, in his capacity as auditor of the SRA, concluded that Network Rail should be accounted for as a subsidiary of the SRA. This judgement is based on the application of UK Generally Accepted Accounting Practice (UK-GAAP). As such the expenditure and liabilities of Network Rail will be accounted for in an open and transparent way—a very welcome step.

The provision of any funds necessary to meet the SRA's financial obligations could be made by way of grant under paragraph 7 of schedule 14 of the Transport Act 2000 or by permitting the SRA to borrow in accordance with paragraph 8 of that schedule. Whether the SRA's financial obligations (subject to normal supply procedures) would be met by a grant, by allowing it to borrow, or a mixture of both would be determined if the need arose.

It therefore remains my intention to proceed as proposed and incur the liabilities set out in the minutes.

The Government judges that the contingent liabilities set out in the minutes I laid before the House on 27 June provide robust means of quickly setting up a strong and well-managed company to take over the responsibilities of Railtrack as network operator. And to do so by uniting the rail industry to work together under the strategic guidance of the SRA with Government with the overall aim of delivering the efficient, safe and reliable railway network that customers want.

Rail Services (Plymouth)

Linda Gilroy: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement with respect to (a) achieving and (b) building on the three hour target for rail journeys to Plymouth. [67600]

Mr. Spellar: I understand that the winter timetable will include a 3 hour service between London and Plymouth. The SRA has recently concluded a consultation on the potential combination of the Great Western and Thames franchises in 2006, which would provide an opportunity to review service patterns with a view to improving journey times between London and Plymouth, and other destinations in the South West. Decisions will be announced in due course.

Commuter Lines

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which lines are to be considered as commuter lines with regard to the intended output for more frequent services on commuter lines as given in his 10-year plan at paragraph 6.22, page 49; and if he will make a statement. [71158]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 18 July 2002]: Those on which a substantial proportion of passenger journeys and/or passenger kilometres involve travel to, or from, work. There is no standard definition, but traffic on such lines is generally heaviest in the morning and evening peaks.

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Passenger Rail Demand

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the methodology behind his Department's estimate, on page 20, paragraph 49 of the 10-year plan background analysis, that just under two thirds of the increased passenger rail demand due to fare reductions and service quality improvements will be from car users switching to rail; what percentage of the total estimated increase in passenger kilometres, resulting from the 10-year plan, this will represent; and what estimate has been made as to the number of car users switching to rail as a result of (a) economic growth and (c) car traffic growth. [71055]

Mr. Jamieson [holding answer 18 July 2002]: The estimate of the proportion of rail demand that would be a result of car users switching to rail came from evidence available at the time, collated by consultants to the Department, with the methodology reported in "Modelling using the National Road Traffic Forecasting framework for Tackling Congestion and Pollution and Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan—Technical Report" (DETR, December 2002).

This proportion represents about 15 per cent points of the growth in passenger demand over 2000 levels (from the total 50 per cent increase), as the two thirds factor was only applicable for patronage growth resulting from plan policies.

No separate estimates were made of the impacts of economic growth and car traffic growth respectively. It is intended that the multi-modal National Transport Model we are developing will be able to address such questions in the future.

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