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The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Following the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's review of Planning Policy Guidance note 21 on tourism, I am announcing today the publication of a consultation paper. This seeks views on a proposal to replace PPG21 with good practice guidance on planning for tourism. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Treaty of Nice (to which the UK Government are a signatory) provides that, following the accession of all 12 candidate states, the UK be entitled to 72 MEPsan overall reduction of 15 MEPs. The treaty also provides for an interim reduction in the number of MEPs for the 2004 elections if not all candidate states accede in time. The European Parliament (Representation) Bill, currently passing through Parliament, provides for the Lord Chancellor to ask the Electoral Commission to make recommendations about the redistribution of MEPs once the number is known. The Bill sets out (in Clause 2) the criteria for calculating the redistributionno region shall have fewer than three MEPs and otherwise the ratio of electors to MEPs shall be, as nearly as possible, the same in each region. The Electoral Commission's recommendations will be implemented by statutory instrument. The timing of any implementation will depend on the progress of the accession of candidate states.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Ministers' official papers, including correspondence with Members of Parliament relating to the work of departments, are public records. In common with all public records, they are reviewed for disposal or preservation in line with the requirements of the Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967, the latter of which established the 30-year rule. The Public Record Office has published guidance entitled Management of Private Office Papers, which is available on the Public Record Office website at: www.pro.gov.uk/recordsmanagement/standards/privateoffice. Copies of this guidance will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): Where there is reason to suspect that a driver's defective eyesight may have been a contributory factor to a road collision resulting in injuries, the police would normally request the driver to undergo an eyetest. While the police in England and Wales are required to record extensive incident data relating to road collisions resulting in injuries, the requirements do not cover eyesight tests conducted at such incidents. The information requested is therefore not available centrally.
Whether they consider that the current eyesight test to obtain a driving licence is sufficiently rigorous to maintain a proper safety standard. [HL1769]
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): All drivers, irrespective of their age, must be able to satisfy the visual standard for driving. The number plate eyesight test for checking drivers' vision has served its purpose well. It is the equivalent to the minimum standard laid down in the EC second Directive on Driving Licences (91/439/EEC) and there are no plans to change the driver licensing arrangements with regard to eyesight.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I am aware of no such current proposals. However, I believe that the European Commission is considering a third directive on driver licensing with a view to publishing proposals this summer. Although neither I nor my officials have seen these proposals, I understand that they are unlikely to include provisions on eyesight standards as such, or to include proposals likely to affect the majority of drivers. As soon as any such proposals are published by the Commission, I shall ensure that full consultation is undertaken to elicit views in the UK. It is also within the competence of the European Commission to adapt the eyesight standards for driver licensing to scientific and technical progress without recourse to a Council directive. The Commission is setting up a working group to review the eyesight standards. The UK will be strongly represented on that group, with a view to encouraging a helpful consensus on good practice taking account of opinion in the UK, including the results of current research sponsored by my department.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The current eyesight standards are based on the requirements of the EC Directive on Driving Licences (91/439/EEC). These standards are applied on the recommendation of the expert opinion of the Honorary Medical Advisory Panel on Driving and Visual Disorders (which is made up of highly qualified eye specialists nominated by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists). There are no official statistics available on road traffic accidents that include the numbers of accidents which are attributable to specific health conditions. We have commissioned specific research into visual field impairment and its relevance to driving fitness.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: It is the Government's policy generally to use quieter surfacing when resurfacing trunk roads in England. The type of quieter surfacing used is an operational matter and I have asked the chief executive of the Highways Agency, Mr Tim Matthews, to write to the noble Lord.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston:
The Government remain committed to delivering the increased levels of investment set out in the 10-year plan to secure the improvements in our transport system that we seek. Progress to date, along with the improvements we expect to see by 2005, were set out in the progress report, Delivering Better Transport, published in December. The report also confirmed that a full review and roll-forward of the plan will be carried out in conjunction with the next cross-government spending review in 2004.
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