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30 Oct 2000 : Column WA67

Written Answers

Monday, 30th October 2000.

Northern Ireland: Rail Safety Funding

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, following recent railway accidents, any extra funding to improve rail safety will apply to all rail networks in the United Kingdom[HL4344]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The Rail Regulator announced on 23 October that he will support expenditure by Railtrack on the network in Great Britain of some £15 billion over the next five years. This includes £3.5 billion for track maintenance and renewal; £4 billion on maintenance and renewal of signalling systems; and £500 million on signalling enhancements such as the train protection warning system (TPWS). All this will help to ensure greater safety.

The responsibility for railways in Northern Ireland lies with the Northern Ireland Executive.

Air Passengers: Deep Vein Thrombosis

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many British air passengers have suffered or died from deep vein thrombosis during, or shortly after, flights on any carrier over the past five years.[HL4369]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: These data are not collated centrally. Such data would be difficult to obtain, as any passenger developing thrombosis is usually likely to do so a number of days or weeks after the flight has taken place.

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many air passengers have suffered or died from deep vein thrombosis during, or shortly after, flights on United Kingdom carriers over the past five years.[HL4368]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: These data are not collated centrally. Such data would be difficult to obtain, as any passenger developing thrombosis is usually likely to do so a number of days or weeks after the flight has taken place.

Rail Franchise Non-renewal: Handover Arrangements

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that, when it becomes clear that a railway franchise is not to be renewed, a full, punctual, safe, clean, hygienic and reliable train service is provided and that the

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    wellbeing of passengers and staff is protected until a new operating company takes over active management.[HL4264]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Franchise agreements are legal contracts that place requirements upon franchise operators, including in relation to service provision, performance regimes, station standards and customer satisfaction. Failure to comply may make the operator concerned eligible for penalties or put them in breach of contract. If they are in breach of contract it will be open to the Franchising Director to seek the usual remedies of law.

Should the train operator concerned be bidding for other franchises in the replacement process, the Franchising Director will also be able to take any breach of contract into account when evaluating any proposals that they may make.

Train Protection and Warning System

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Train Protection and Warning System complies fully with the European directives on interoperability.[HL4211]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Council Directive 96/48/EC on the interoperability of the trans-European high-speed rail system lays down requirements for compliance with Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs) which, subject to provisions for derogations, must be met when certain categories of work are undertaken on the railway lines covered by the directive. No TSIs have yet been published, but the latest draft TSI relating to control-command and signalling subsystems, if adopted, would require that signalling systems compliant with the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) should be installed as part of these works.

The draft TSI also recognises that existing systems, which include the Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS), may continue to be used after the TSI has been published. TPWS therefore could be said to comply with the directive. However, TPWS does not comply with ERTMS specifications, which use different technology and provide a higher level of protection.

Working Time Directive: Lorry Owner-Drivers

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the proposal to exclude lorry owner-drivers from the provisions of the Working Time Directive.[HL4212]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Government have been concerned about enforceability of regulations on total

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working time in relation to lorry owner-drivers. We believe that the main purpose of working time legislation is to protect employees from being forced to work long hours by employers, and only employed workers are covered by the main Working Time Directive EC 93/104, as amended by Directive 2000/34. Self-employed drivers have more freedom to work the hours they choose and to take rest when they please.

There is an interim proposal from the Commission to exclude the self-employed from the provisions of the directive, pending a review of the impact of the exclusion two years after implementation.

Millennium Dome

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the sole shareholder of the New Millennium Experience Company, first had knowledge of the findings of the report on projected visitor numbers to the Millennium Dome, prepared by Deloitte & Touche; and why those findings were rejected by the Lord Falconer of Thoroton.[HL3876]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The report by Deloitte & Touche indicated that 12 million visitors to the Millennium Experience was achievable and gave 8 million as a worst case scenario. The report was made available to the Government during the course of the review of the project following the election--18 months before I became Shareholder. I did not see the report at that time.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the date of the deadline they have imposed upon Bourne Legacy by which all outstanding information regarding the financial details of the Company's offer to buy the site of the Millennium Dome must be provided to them. [HL4234]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: No deadline has been imposed upon Legacy plc. The competition team is currently analysing the Legacy proposal and an announcement will be made in due course.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Bourne Legacy have been provided with a clear prospectus listing the assets of the New Millennium Experience Company; and, if not, what are the plans to provide such a prospectus. [HL4236]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The proposal by Legacy plc, for a high technology industrial campus at the Greenwich site, requires a Dome that is virtually empty. Legacy plc has been in discussion with the New

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Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) regarding the full details of assets that it might consider acquiring.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their plans for holding a new auction of the Millennium Dome and its surrounding land if the negotiations with Bourne Legacy fail.[HL4235]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Government are currently in discussions with Legacy plc. The Legacy proposal is currently being analysed by the competition team in advance of any decision on preferred bidder status. An announcement will be made in due course.

The Government asked English Partnerships to undertake a review of all options available for the Dome site. This is work in progress which remains commercially sensitive and confidential while discussions with Legacy plc are continuing. However, the Government are not soliciting offers nor are they in serious negotiation with any other party.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 9 October (WA 12), what are the options that have been put forward by English Partnerships to the Deputy Prime Minister for the future use of the Millennium Experience site.[HL4238]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: English Partnerships were asked to undertake a review of all options available for the Dome site. This is work in progress which remains commercially sensitive and confidential while discussions with Legacy plc are continuing. However, the broad options include alternative uses for the Dome itself, and for the Dome site.

The Children's Fund

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they are making for the parliamentary accountability for the Children's Fund and for their strategy to co-ordinate services for tackling disadvantage among children and young people. [HL4414]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced on 28 July that he was establishing a new Cabinet Ministerial Group on Children and Young People's Services which would be chaired by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment as Vice Chair, and which would be supported by a new cross-cutting Children and Young People's Unit to be located in the Department for Education and Employment. He also

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appointed my right honourable friend the Minister of State and Deputy Home Secretary as Minister for Young People with day to day responsibility for the unit and the co-ordination of the Government's strategy in England on vulnerable children and young people.

The Children's Fund will form a major new part of the Government's strategy to tackle child poverty and prevent social exclusion. The fund will support services to work with children and their families and prevent children and young people falling into drug abuse, truancy, unemployment and crime. It will be worth a total of £450 millon over three years.

The new interdepartmental Children and Young People's Unit, based in the Department for Education and Employment, will run the Children's Fund in England at official level. The unit's remit will be set by the new Cabinet Ministerial Group on Children and Young People's Services. The unit will have its own Request for Resources within the Department for Education and Employment's Estimate. The Head of the Children and Young People's Unit, once appointed, will be an additional Accounting Officer within the department. As is usual, the appointment as additional Accounting Officer will be made by the Treasury and a copy of the letter of appointment, setting out the respective roles and responsibilities of the additional Accounting Officer and the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Education and Employment as Principal Accounting Officer, will be sent to the Comptroller and Auditor General and to the Clerk of the Committee of Public Accounts.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment will be answerable to Parliament for the Children's Fund and the work of the unit. However, my right honourable friend the Minister for Young People, will normally answer parliamentary Questions on the Children's Fund and the unit in another place, and in the case of Oral Questions will do so during Department for Education and Employment Question Time. The Government expect that the relevant Select Committees will normally wish to invite him to appear when they examine the Children's Fund and the Government's strategy on services to tackle disadvantage among children and young people. I shall answer for the Government in this House.

The Government will liaise as necessary with the House authorities to ensure that these arrangements work well and secure effective accountability for this innovative policy.


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