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Motorways and Trunk Roads: Litter Clearance

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Highways Agency is responsible for clearing litter from motorways and a small number of special roads. Contractors employed by the Highways Agency are required to clear litter to cleanliness standards established in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. There is no maximum period between litter collections specified in the Act.

For all other trunk roads, this cleanliness duty lies with the local district and borough councils.

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M.11 and A.12 Roadworks

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why the Highways Agency has allowed major roadworks to be carried out simultaneously on the A.12 trunk road at Brentwood and the M.11 motorway; and what steps they intend to take to prevent the recurrence of the congestion which has resulted.[HL649]

Lord Whitty: The works referred to are on the A.12 Brentwood Bypass and the M.11 between Junction 8 and to a point where the motorway crosses the A.1060 near Little Hallingbury. These are the latest in a series of major maintenance schemes on these roads.

Although both routes have been regularly maintained in the past, this has largely been on the basis of localised and emergency repair works. As a result of our Comprehensive Spending and Trunk Road Reviews, we have now made road maintenance a priority and, with the extra and guaranteed funding, the Highways Agency has been able to tackle the backlog of essential maintenance with a concerted programme of major works on both these roads.

The Highways Agency very carefully considers the impact that such schemes will have on users of the trunk road and motorway network. Its aim is to keep disruption and inconvenience to a minimum and to make sure that, wherever possible, major roadworks on existing routes are no more than 2.5 miles long and at least 6 miles apart. The agency also has targets to keep 95 per cent of lanes on the motorway and trunk road network as a whole free of roadworks at all times and to keep 93 per cent of lanes on each motorway and trunk road free of roadworks.

Wherever possible, the agency tries to leave an alternative strategic route unaffected. Although the M.11 and A.12 cannot be considered as direct alternatives to each other, the current works were originally planned not to coincide on these vital routes to and from East Anglia. However, major schemes such as these require considerable time in preparation and unforeseen circumstances can delay the start of works, as has happened in the case of the A.12.

After careful consideration, the agency decided that the works could not be postponed on either route until the other had been completed. It concluded that the overall effect on the network of working on both the A.12 and M.11 simultaneously would not be severe if the schemes were carefully planned. The experience of earlier phases in the major maintenance programme and the evidence to date on the current works have shown this to be the case.

The agency has taken extensive steps to limit the severity of any disruption. Work on both schemes is being carried out 24 hours a day to ensure that they are completed as quickly as possible. At peak times the work is organised so that as many lanes as possible are open to traffic. The agency has also extensively publicised the schemes to encourage people to consider using alternative routes or public transport.

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I believe these measures have reduced the levels of inconvenience to the public a great deal and the agency will continue to use them to limit levels of congestion during future major maintenance works on these and other routes.

Habitats Directive and Planning Permission

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure the protection of fragile habitats of endangered species following the recent criticism by the European Commission of the degree of commitment to the European Union Habitats Directive in the record of planning permission granted in Britain.[HL751]

Lord Whitty: The Government are committed to protecting endangered species and habitats--it is a key part of our sustainable development agenda. This was demonstrated by the new measures introduced through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. Penalties for killing protected species have been increased and a new offence of recklessly damaging or destroying any structure or place occupied by these animals has been introduced. Increased protection was also given to Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

The regulations which implement the EC Habitats Directive in the United Kingdom clearly state that licences to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of a protected species as a result of development can only be issued if there is no satisfactory alternative; that the action authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at a favourable conservation status and for imperative reasons of overriding public interest.

Vehicle Number Plates

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the existing European Union regulations that determine the design, location and content of vehicle registration plates; and whether new regulations are due to come into effect later this year.[HL660]

Lord Whitty: The design and content of number plates generally are dealt with by member states' domestic legislation. New UK regulations on the display of vehicle number plates are due to be laid before Parliament shortly to take effect later this year. These will update the existing regulations and introduce a new mandatory character font, British Standard, registration format and allow the voluntary use of the Euro-symbol.

Two Directives (70/222/EEC and 93/94/EEC, as amended by 99/26/EC) affect the location of rear vehicle registration plates. Council Regulation (EC) No. 2411/98, which provides for the recognition of distinguishing signs on number plates as an alternative to the requirements of the 1968 Vienna Convention,

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regulates the design of the distinguishing signs, including the optional use of the Euro-symbol, for use on number plates.

London Underground: Performance Indicators

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether in the performance indicators set for London Underground they will include indicators on the new escalators on the Jubilee Line which are frequently out of action.[HL681]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The 10-Year Plan includes a target to cut journey times on London Underground services by increasing capacity and reducing delays. The plan states that specific targets will be agreed with the mayor after the Public Private Partnership has been established. Detailed performance indicators will be a matter for the mayor.

Bus Fare Concessions for Elderly and Disabled People

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether arrangements for introducing half-fare concession on buses for elderly and disabled people under the Transport Act 2000 are satisfactory.[HL863]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Yes. From 1 April, the additional benefits to disabled people will be reflected in the London Freedom Pass, which otherwise already exceeds the necessary standard. Outside London, all local authorities are preparing to meet the statutory requirement for at least half-fare reductions for elderly and disabled people by 1 June. In addition, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has announced his intention, as soon as parliamentary time allows, to equalise eligibility for travel concessions for men in England and Wales at the pension age for women. Legislation in Scotland would be a matter for the Scottish Parliament. This would extend the benefits of cheaper travel to a million men who are currently excluded from travel concessions.

Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On which dates during 2000 the Northern Ireland Commission of Human Rights met; and when during that year and in what form the minutes of such meetings were made public.[HL489]

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The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): During 2000 the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission met on the following dates:

    17 January

    14 February

    13 March

    10 April

    15 May

    12 June

    18 July

    14 August

    11 September

    9 October

    13 November

    11 December

The minutes of all commission meetings are posted on their website at shortly after they have been agreed. Hard copies are available from the commission on request.

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On which topics they have consulted the Northern Ireland Commission of Human Rights; and on what dates.[HL490]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Her Majesty's Government have formally consulted the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on the following occasions:

Date Subject
June 1999 and March 2000 Criminal Justice Review
March 2000 Document on the future of the Juvenile Justice Centre Estate
October 2000 Ongoing review of prisons legislation
October 2000 Draft Code of Practice: s.99 of Terrorism Act 2000
November 2000 Proposal for a Draft Financial Investigations (Northern Ireland) Order 2001
November 2000 Draft Code of Practice: Video Recording with Sound
December 2000 Draft of the Life Sentences (Northern Ireland) Order 2001

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