Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

24 Jan 2000 : Column WA165

Written Answers

Monday, 24th January 2000.

Ridgeway National Trail

The Lord Bishop of Oxford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take to prevent the Ridgeway National Trail becoming more rutted and muddy through use by vehicles other than farm vehicles.[HL615]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The legal status of the Ridgeway National Trail allows vehicles to use most of its western half. The Countryside Agency has responsibility (along with the local highway authorities) for implementing and protecting the trail and, in addition to the maintenance work that they carry out, they have developed a Code of Respect for the Trail. Among other things the code asks users of vehicles to:

    respect the rights of others;

    limit use when the surface is vulnerable during and after wet weather;

    avoid using the trail if another route can be found and developed;

    keep to well-used parts of the track to prevent damage to the whole width;

    reinstate the surface where possible;

    drive quietly and carefully in groups of no more than four vehicles (eight for motorcyclists);

    use the trail when it is less busy; and

    watch for and respect temporary voluntary restraint signs.

The agency has also reached an agreement with the Motoring Organisations' Land, Access and Recreation Association--LARA--that if the agency, or a member of the public, gives them the number plate of a vehicle breaking the code, LARA will do all it can to sanction those drivers.

Multi-storey Car Parks

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures are being taken to draw up inspection guidelines for checking the structural condition of multi-storey car parks following evidence that some car parks may have hidden structural faults.[HL542]

Lord Whitty: My department is currently considering a proposal for funding to support the review and collation of information on deterioration, appraisal and repair performance and its comparison with current practice in car parks. The proposal has been made under the Construction Directorate's

24 Jan 2000 : Column WA166

Partners in Innovation funding scheme. If accepted, the review will assist the work of the Institution of Structural Engineers Task Group on Car Parks which is in the process of revising the report "Design recommendations for multi-storey and underground car parks"; and the work of the Institution of Civil Engineers, which has also appointed a working group on car parks. My department is also funding a project that will provide input to these two working groups on design, construction and on-site testing of car park barriers.

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action the Health and Safety Executive is taking to ensure the safety of the public following the incident in November 1999 at Croydon's Dingwell Road multi-storey car park when a vehicle fell to the street below having been driven through the safety barriers on the fourth floor.[HL543]

Lord Whitty: I am advised that the Metropolitan Police are pursuing an inquiry into this incident. It was not reportable under the RIDDOR Regulations 1995 and the local HSE inspectors have not investigated it. At present, HSE proposes no further action in relation to this specific incident. HSE is currently carrying out a joint review with the Department of Transport, Environment and the Regions of existing regulatory and enforcement regimes to determine whether adequate legislative cover is in place to ensure the continued structural stability of buildings for health and safety reasons. This will include car parks such as the Dingwell Road multi-storey car park.

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Structural Safety that multi-storey car park owners should undertake regular inspections of their structures will be implemented.[HL544]

Lord Whitty: These and other recommendations from the Standing Committee in Structural Safety (SCOSS) report are being considered as part of a current joint review of structural safety being undertaken by my department and the Health and Safety Executive.

River Wye Navigation Order

Lord Onslow of Woking asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why it has not yet been possible to announce the results of their inspector's inquiry on the River Wye Navigation Order, the report on which was received in February 1998.[HL575]

Lord Whitty: The Environment Agency's application for this order under the Transport and Works Act 1992 raises complicated legal issues which have required very careful consideration. In addition, since the close of the inquiry, the Secretary of State has received a series of detailed representations from

24 Jan 2000 : Column WA167

parties to the inquiry, including the agency. In the interests of proper administration, the department has decided to make these post-inquiry representations available to all others who appeared at the inquiry so that they may have a chance to comment on them. The Secretary of State will consider any such comments before he determines the application, which he will do as soon as is reasonably possible. It should be noted that, as part of the devolution settlement, should the Secretary of State conclude that an order should be made, the agreement of the National Assembly for Wales would be required to that decision, since the order would affect Wales as well as England.

Eurocontrol: Charges

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the "global unit rate" applied by Eurocontrol in respect of flights operated by aircraft registered in the United Kingdom is, by a significant margin, higher than that of any other country participating in the centralised route charging arrangements operated by Eurocontrol.[HL537]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The UK Eurocontrol unit rate for 2000 is higher than the other states' rates for a number of reasons:

The pound has strengthened considerably against the euro, previously the ecu, in recent years. Restated at the 1997 published exchange rate, the UK Eurocontrol unit rate for 2000 would be euro 64.77--i.e. more than 20 per cent lower.

Under the Eurocontrol charging scheme, states recover the costs incurred in providing air navigation services. This is achieved through the operation of an adjustment mechanism whereby over- or under-recoveries arising in any year are taken into account two years later. Consequently, states' unit rates are affected by the over- or under-recoveries of earlier years. For 2000, the UK unit rate has been increased by 1.4 per cent as a result of returning an under-recovery from 1998, while most states' rates have been reduced by previous years' over-recoveries. In particular, the German rate is 8.7 per cent lower due to previous years' over-recoveries.

The UK interest charge is higher than that of other states, particularly those using the euro, due to higher capital employed and a higher cost of capital. Were the UK interest charge in line with states such as France and Germany, the 2000 rate would be a further 7 per cent or so lower.

The UK also continues to incur high levels of expenditure related to development of the new air traffic control centre at Swanwick. While some other states have recently developed smaller centres, the Swanwick centre will be one of the largest in Europe. The development of the Swanwick centre places the UK at a different point in the investment cycle when compared with other states, leading to an unfavourable comparison between cost bases.

24 Jan 2000 : Column WA168

However, development of the Swanwick centre is essential if future traffic growth is to be accommodated. During the 1999 summer period, nearly all the other major European operators experienced worsening ATC delays, while delays due to UK ATC were reduced.

In addition to the above, differences between states' unit rates arise from the following:

    (a) The peak flight demand for a specific volume of airspace (density of airspace). The greater the demand for a volume of airspace, the higher the cost of providing the services to meet that demand. The derivations of states' unit rates make no allowances for differing levels of peak demand. The UK is one of the busiest areas of airspace in Europe, if not the world.

    (b) The traffic mix within a specific volume of airspace. The greater the percentage of aircraft wishing to descend and land and take off and climb within an airspace rather than overfly it, and the greater the mix of aircraft sizes affecting separation standards, the greater the cost will be to provide the required ATC. The derivations of states' unit rates make no allowances for differing traffic mix or complexity. Again the UK (especially SE England) has a very complex traffic mix.

Anti-personnel Mines Stocked in UK

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many anti-personnel mines or devices which could be used as such are stocked by other governments or their armed forces, or on behalf of other governments and their armed forces, in the United Kingdom.[HL261]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): There are no anti-personnel mines as defined under the Ottawa Convention stocked by other governments or their armed forces, or on behalf of other governments and their armed forces, in the UK.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page