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12 Mar 1996 : Column WA55

Written Answers

Tuesday, 12th March 1996.

West Coast Main Line: Speed Restrictions

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list for the West Coast Main Line the number of temporary speed restrictions in operation and the total length of track involved at (a) the date of handover to Railtrack in April 1994 and (b) the present time.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Railtrack informs me that there are currently 50 speed restrictions in place on the West Coast Main Line. Historic information regarding speed restrictions imposed on the line is not held centrally and can only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

"Sea Empress" Incident

The Earl of Kimberley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How long the "Sea Empress" had been aground before measures were taken to refloat her; and

    Whether the radar system at Milford Haven has been out of order for nearly a year.

Viscount Goschen: I have asked the Chief Executive of the Coastguard Agency, Mr. Chris Harris, to write to my noble friend.

Letter to the Earl of Kimberley from the Chief Executive of the Coastguard Agency, Mr. Chris Harris, dated 12/3/96.

The Viscount Goschen has asked me to reply to your recent questions about the "Sea Empress" incident. THL 66/95/96

Measures were taken to refloat the "Sea Empress" immediately she ran aground at 2007 hrs on 15th February. The vessel was refloated just over one hour later. THL 67/95/96

The signal station radar is fully operational but the St. Ann's Head section of the radar has not been fully operational since October 1995.

Class 365 Trains: Approval Process

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, as part of the vehicle approval process which has caused 41 new Class 365/5 dual voltage Networker Express trains worth £150 million to be stored out of use, the Railtrack safety assessment panels have made a quantified risk analysis to determine whether the level of risk to which

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    passengers would be exposed would be reduced with prompt introduction of the new trains, which meet the most stringent crashworthiness requirements in Europe, compared with continuing to operate the 36 year old Mark I rolling stock which was criticised in official reports on the 1988 Clapham and 1991 Cannon Street station collisions as offering inadequate provision for safety.

Viscount Goschen: I understand that Railtrack has not made such a quantified risk analysis. Before entering into service all rolling stock must gain safety approval; the Class 365 trains currently await such approval. In presenting their safety case to Railtrack, the leasing company or train operator must demonstrate that any risks arising from the introduction of Class 365 trains have been reduced as low as reasonably practicable. Railtrack does not wish to see the process of approval delayed unnecessarily and has appointed a panel of independent experts to review the safety approval process for new rolling stock and to recommend areas for improvement whilst safeguarding safety. For the Class 365 trains there are also other matters which need to be resolved before the trains are brought into use.

Prisoners: Health Care Report

Lord Dean of Harptree asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to publish the Fourth Report of the Director of Health Care for Prisoners and the Health Advisory Committee's commentary on the report.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The report and commentary are published today. Copies are available from the Library.

Religious Registration in Prisons

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the results of the annual survey of religious registration in prisons, conducted in February 1996.

Baroness Blatch: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the temporary Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Avebury from the Director of Services of the Prison Service, Mr. A. J. Butler, dated 12/3/96.

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question asking what were the results of the annual survey of religious registration in prisons, conducted in February 1996.

Due to pressure of other work the annual census of religious registration in prisons was postponed. Arrangements are now in place and it will be conducted on Sunday 24th March 1996.

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Prison Service: Chaplaincy

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many full and part-time chaplains of each denomination were employed by the Prison Service chaplaincy at the end of December 1995, and at what estimated cost for the year 1995-96.

Baroness Blatch: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Avebury from the Director of Services of the Prison Service, Mr. A. J. Butler, dated 12/3/96.

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question asking how many full and part-time chaplains of each denomination were employed by the Prison Service chaplaincy at the end of December 1995, and at what estimated cost for the year 1995-96.

The latest available information for 1995 is that, on 7th December, 264 full and part-time chaplains were employed in the Prison Service.

I regret that no information is collected centrally on the denomination of these chaplains nor on their division into full or part-time.

Other than the normal Civil Service pay scales, which are published openly, there is no central record of chaplains' salaries. Staff salaries are included within overall pay budgets and specific information about chaplains could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Greenwich Hospital Act 1869, which restricts the permitted occupants, uses and periods of leasing of Greenwich Hospital (Royal Naval College, Greenwich), is now in force, and if so whether it is appropriate for the Secretary of State for Defence to spend or to commit public money in the expectation of Parliament agreeing to a change in the law; and

    What expenditures the Secretary of State for Defence has

    (a) made, and

    (b) committed himself to,

    regarding future uses of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich outwith the Greenwich Hospital Act 1869, including the Estate Agents' fees and expenses; expenses of the advisory group; other consultants, and other expenses.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The Greenwich Hospital Act 1869 is still in force. Costs have been incurred to date on ascertaining what interest there might be in occupation by organisations not falling within the terms of the 1869 Act, and on additional rent review costs. This expenditure totals some £64,500 plus

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VAT, exclusive of in-house staff resources. The advisory group has been paid no expenses. No action has been taken which pre-empts the will of Parliament.

Greenwich Site: Future

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Secretary of State for Defence has offered a 150-year lease of the buildings at Greenwich; whose advice he has taken about this; and whether he was aware that the Government intended to recommend Greenwich as a World Heritage Site, a status that under the World Heritage Convention imposes certain duties on the Government.

Earl Howe: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has invited expressions of interest on the basis of a long lease of up to 150 years. In deciding the term of a lease he will take account of the need for a period of return on necessary capital investment, and the importance of stability for the future of the site and for any organisation which might occupy it. It was made clear that the Government were considering an application to UNESCO to designate parts of Greenwich as a World Heritage Site, and that prospective tenants must undertake to co-operate in the preparation of the application and subsequent management arrangements that might be required.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Secretary of State for Defence has contemplated non British leaseholders at Greenwich, and what advice he received from his estate agents or others about this.

Earl Howe: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence is seeking the best ideas for the future use of this unique site. In so doing he did not wish to exclude any source of ideas.

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reason they have to believe that the armed services are content to see Greenwich disposed of in view of (a) the disturbance that will be caused by the intended new buildings at Camberley being neither ready in time nor within the estimated costs, and

    (b) of the importance of historic buildings and traditions both to service and national morale.

Earl Howe: Our work, which was detailed in the consultative document issued by my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces in January 1995, a copy of which is in the Library of the House, demonstrated that Greenwich was neither the most suitable nor the most cost effective site for the Joint Service Command and Staff College. Developing work on the new college since has not undermined that judgment.

Inevitably and understandably there will be some regrets when the Royal Navy vacates such an historic site. However, in recognising the national importance of the Royal Naval College, the Government is determined that there should in future be enhanced public access

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to site. This would be important to implementing the recommendations made in Dame Jennifer Jenkins' report on Greenwich Park, and the proposals to achieve World Heritage Site status for Greenwich.


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