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7 Jun 2004 : Column 4W—continued

Rail Infrastructure

Mrs. May: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the (a) change in average train length, (b) change in average platform length and (c) change in track capacity has been in the London area since January 2002. [176252]

Dr. Howells: The information is not available in the form requested.

Rail Service Franchises

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what total costs have been incurred by the Government and Government agencies in the franchising and tendering of passenger rail services since 1997. [176270]

Mr. McNulty: Between April 2001 and April 2004 the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) has spent £40.7 million on franchise replacements and extensions. This includes the full costs of tendering and implementation. Prior to the SRA's inception in 2001 total spend, in the period between 1998 and April 2001, on franchising was £6.095 million.

Yellow School Buses

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the role of yellow school buses in easing traffic congestion. [176065]

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Mr. Jamieson: The Department carried out an evaluation of various small-scale Yellow School Bus schemes in 2003. The evaluation found that well designed schemes do have the potential to reduce car dependency on the school run, but that care needs to be taken to ensure that they are appropriate to local circumstances and, in particular, do not reduce levels of walking or cycling, or undermine the viability of important commercial bus services. I am arranging for copies of the full evaluation report to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

Separately, as part of last year's Local Transport Capital settlement, the Department has provided £18.7 million of funding for a much larger scale Yellow School Bus scheme in West Yorkshire. Once this scheme has been implemented, we will be working closely with West Yorkshire PTE to evaluate the impacts of the scheme including the benefits to road traffic congestion.


Plastic Baton Rounds

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many and what percentage of applications for export licences for L21 of A1 plastic baton rounds have been rejected; and from what country each application originated. [176092]

Nigel Griffiths: I have been asked to reply.

Details of all export licences issued, broken down by destination, are contained in the UK Strategic Export Controls Annual Report. Plastic baton rounds are covered by the descriptor "crowd control ammunition".

Since 1999 the DTI has refused two applications for export licences for plastic baton rounds/cartridges. These applications were from companies wishing to export from the UK.

Information on the percentage of applications for plastic baton rounds refused could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.



Huw Irranca-Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of (a) the risk of exposure to asbestos to householders from building materials in houses and outbuildings, (b) the level of public awareness of such risks, (c) the expected levels of illness and death of householders exposed to asbestos in the home and (d) the desirability of further measures to raise awareness of such risks amongst the public. [166747]

Jane Kennedy: The Health and Safety Executive is responsible for exposure to asbestos where it is within the scope of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

For the 1974 Act to apply to domestic premises, there would have to be either an associated work activity or undertaking. Therefore, most risks to householders from asbestos in their homes are outside the scope of the Act.
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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the number of farm buildings in England in which asbestos may be present. [176643]

Jane Kennedy: During the development of the regulatory impact assessment for the new duty to manage asbestos; Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 an assessment was made of the number of premises likely to require an asbestos survey.

This assessment suggests that approximately 50 per cent. of buildings on farms would need to be inspected for asbestos. The number of agricultural premises requiring a survey under the new regulation was estimated to be 70,000.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what assessment he has made of the health risks to farmers and their employees arising from (a) working in, (b) repairing and (c) dismantling farm buildings clad with corrugated sheeting made from asbestos cement containing white asbestos. [176645]

Jane Kennedy: The health risks will depend on the methods of work employed and the type of material being worked on.

Asbestos cement, the most common asbestos-containing material on farms, is considered a lower risk than other types of material because it does not easily release asbestos fibres. The controls required when working on asbestos cement are therefore relaxed accordingly. For this reason the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983 do not require an HSE licensed contractor to be used for work with asbestos cement.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether farmhouses occupied by farmers or their employees are regarded as workplaces for the purposes of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. [176647]

Jane Kennedy: If the building's primary purpose is a residence, farmhouse or other home, whether tied to the farm or rented out, it will normally be classed as domestic premises for the purposes of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations. Therefore regulation 4 (the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises) does not apply to them.

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions whether financial assistance is available to the farming industry to assist in complying with the provisions of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. [176649]

Jane Kennedy: There is no specific financial assistance from the Department of Work and Pensions to help farmers comply with the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002.

However, the new duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises is designed to be flexible and compliance with the duty should be costly only where the risk justifies it. For example, asbestos-containing materials should be left in place if they are in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed.
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Mr. Paterson: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what advice he has given farmers on alternatives to white asbestos construction products used specifically for the purposes of fire prevention and insulation in farm buildings; and what assessment has been made of the safety of these alternatives. [176651]

Jane Kennedy: Centrally the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has consulted with representatives of the farming community, including the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the Rural, Agricultural and Allied Workers section of the TGWU, on issues relating to asbestos through the Health in Agriculture Group which was set up in 1997. Guidance on asbestos is also included in the HSE guide to health and safety on farms 'Farmwise'. The NFU have also produced specific guidance on asbestos for their members, upon which HSE commented.

In order to inform the debate on the banning of white asbestos, and on behalf of the EC's Committee on Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment, HSE commissioned the Institute of Environment and Health to carry out a review comparing the risks from white asbestos with other materials that could be used as alternatives. This concluded that the physical properties of a range of alternative materials led to the conclusion that appropriate substitutes for chrysotile asbestos should be used. The findings were endorsed by the EC committee as well as the Department of Health's committee on carcinogenicity.

Benefits (Bootle)

Mr. Benton: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many senior citizens in Bootle have benefited from the winter fuel allowance since 1997. [176234]

Malcolm Wicks: The number of senior citizens in the Bootle constituency who have benefited from a winter fuel payment in each year since 1999–2000 (including provisional figures for 2003–04) is in the table. Information relating to the 1997–98 and 1998–99 winters is not available.
Payments made

1. Numbers are rounded to the nearest 5.
2. Please note that the figures for 2003–04 refer only to the main payment run i.e. they do not include the late payment run figures. We estimate that there are approximately 100,000 people in Great Britain paid via late payment runs (0.8 per cent. of all payments). However, since late payment runs are mainly in respect of non-system cases whose claim had not been received by Qualifying Week, they are heavily skewed towards men aged 60.
IAD Information Centre, 100 per cent. samples.

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