PQs 23rd – 25th May 2011

Roads: Snow and Ice
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether his Department has established a monitoring and forecasting process for salt stocks and supplies as recommended in the Winter Resilience Review interim report. [56039]
Norman Baker [holding answer 17 May 2011]: In taking action on the recommendations from the Winter Resilience Review report which were assigned to the Department for Transport, we developed a salt stock monitoring portal system. In co-operation with local highway authorities, Transport for London, the devolved Administrations and the Highways Agency, we undertook regular audits of both local authority and highways agency salt stock levels throughout the winter.
These audits commenced weekly in early December 2010 and, following an improved weather situation, a decision was taken to suspend them in February 2011.
In order to inform preparations for next winter, we are currently undertaking a survey of highway authorities to assess their latest salt stock holdings and plans for restocking.
The Department also worked closely with the domestic salt producers throughout the winter.
Transport: Snow and Ice
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he last met the Independent Review Panel on Winter Resilience; and how many times he has met the Panel since December 2010. [56038]
Norman Baker [holding answer 17 May 2011]: The Secretary of State met the Winter Resilience Panel on 7 October 2010 in advance of the publication of the Final Report on 22 October. He also met with David Quarmby CBE, chair of the Panel, on 17 December in advance of the publication of his Audit on 21 December.
24 May 2011 : Column 582W
The publication of these reports completed the terms of the Winter Panel’s appointments and no further meetings have been held.
PACTS comments: The Transport Committee has published Keeping the UK moving: The impact on transport of the winter weather in December 2010 (available at http://bit.ly/mfD5wz), which recommends measures the government should take to improve resilience and minimise disruption. These include:
– Provide better online advice for individuals and communities about tackling problems arising from severe winter weather
– Launch a high profile campaign to increase the proportion of motorists taking precautions for driving in winter weather
– Develop clearer snow and ice risk travel warnings for freight vehicles   similar to those for strong winds
Measures are straightforward and it is suggested that the cost would be minimal when compared to the losses incurred due to winter weather disruption. 
At the PACTS Rail Safety Working Party the issue of climate change adaptation and weather related incidents was discussed. The Rail Safety and Standards Board presented a project currently underway – Tomorrow’s Railway and Climate Change Adaptation (TRaCCA) which aims to allow climate change adaptation to be built into the planning process. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch presented several case studies where incidents occurred due to snow and ice, high temperatures, high rainfall, high winds, low adhesion, or fog. It was explained that in many cases the technology to reduce the risk of these incidents is not complicated, for example it could just be a case of larger drains; the important factor is probability of risk.
Driving Offences: Speed Limits
Gordon Banks: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans his Department has for future levels of penalties for motorists convicted of speeding offences. [56684]
Mike Penning: The Government recently published their Strategic Framework for Road Safety which sets out how they intend to reduce deaths and serious injuries on Britain’s roads. This can be found at:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/strategicframework/
Among the measures included, we propose to increase the level of fixed penalty notices for traffic offences to £80-£100 from the current level of £60.
Level Crossings: Accidents
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many injuries on level crossings there have been in the last five years. [55322]
Mrs Villiers: I can confirm that there have been 332 injuries to passengers, members of the public and workforce in the last five years. 43 of these were considered major injuries.
Public Transport: Vandalism
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to reduce vandalism on public transport services. [55317]
Mrs Villiers: We are committed to reducing crime, antisocial behaviour and the fear of crime wherever it occurs in the transport system. Crime on public transport can best be tackled by industry working together with the police and local authorities to reduce the incidence of vandalism.
Vehicle Number Plates
Mr Sheerman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will take steps to strengthen the integrity of the number plate regime. [56470]
Mike Penning [holding answer 19 May 2011]: The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has a register of authorised suppliers as a means of controlling the availability of number plates.
There is evidence that despite this control, number plates are obtained illegally and used for criminal activities.
Officials will continue to review the system to see what improvements could be made to strengthen the regime and tackle crime.
Driving under Influence
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what evidence he (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated prior to his decision not to lower the level of alcohol in the blood at which driving impairment becomes an offence; and if he will make a statement. [53778]
Mike Penning: The Government’s published response to the independent North review about drink and drug driving, particularly chapter two, outlines the considerations related to the decision not to change the prescribed alcohol limit for driving.
The response has been published on the Department for Transport website at:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/drivinglaws/govtresponse/
Motor Vehicles: Insurance
Chris Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 11 May 2011, Official Report, column 1211W, on roads: accidents, what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of uninsured drivers. [56787]
Mike Penning: The Government have introduced the continuous insurance enforcement scheme which will come into force in late June, which means that all vehicles must be covered by insurance unless they are declared off the road by a valid statutory off-road notification (SORN).
Motorways: Repairs and Maintenance
Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much his Department has spent on resurfacing motorways in the last five years. [55328]
Mike Penning: The Highways Agency does not separately record or report the cost of resurfacing motorways. However, the annual accounts for the HA over the past five years has reported the following in terms of expenditure on maintenance:
 £ million

2009-10

1,307

2008-09

914

2007-08

878

2006-07

850

2005-06

852

Expenditure figures have been adjusted to account for spend relating to roads trunked or detrunked in the financial year.
The expenditure figures provided are for maintenance on the strategic road network managed and maintained by the Highways Agency. This includes renewal of the road surface and repairs to structures, as well as routine maintenance such as gully clearing, white lining, cleaning and winter maintenance, but not those associated with our private finance initiative contracts.
To disaggregate the cost of resurfacing motorways only would be a very lengthy exercise, and as such could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Railways: Snow and Ice
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will establish a system of accountability for the Department for Transport and the Office of Rail Regulation to hold (a) Network Rail and (b) train operating companies to account on the implementation of contingency timetables during severe weather conditions. [56168]
Mrs Villiers [holding answer 17 May 2011]: Provisions contained in franchise agreements enable appropriate remedial action as required by the Department, in the event that the operator fails to fulfil its contractual requirements with regard to the operation of temporary or contingency timetables.
The Office of Rail Regulation monitors Network Rail’s operational activities. If it considers that Network Rail is falling short of its Network Licence obligations, it may take appropriate enforcement action.
Road Traffic
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when his Department plans to commence its development of measures to reduce road congestion caused by incidents. [56114]
Mike Penning: I refer the hon. Member to my written ministerial statement of 19 May 2011, Official Report, columns 39-40WS.
Roads: Safety
Mr Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to paragraph 5.9 of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety, 11 May 2011, what his target date is for finalising the additional requirements for type approving drugs-testing devices for use at the roadside. [57228]
Mike Penning: The responsibility for the type approval of drug screening devices rests with the Home Office and not the Department for Transport. We expect the Home office to have a final specification for a roadside drug testing device available shortly.
Speed Limits
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the potential effects of the new police framework for speeding on the level of (a) fatal, (b) serious injury and (c) minor injury accidents; and if he will make a statement. [53779]
Mike Penning: I have not specifically assessed the effects on accidents of the Association of Chief Police Officers’ (ACPO) advice to police forces about the circumstances when education should be used as an alternative to prosecution for speeding.
However I endorse the use of education as an alternative to prosecution in a wider set of circumstances, on the basis of previous assessments of its effectiveness. This includes the findings of roads research report number 66 ‘Effective Interventions for Speeding Motorists’ (March 2006), which considered the methods of re-educating speeding motorists and was published on the Department for Transport website, at:
http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roadsafety/research/rsrr/theme2/
Speed Limits: Cameras
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when his Department expects to publish the speed camera data it has collected from local authorities. [56024]
Mike Penning: The Department for Transport is not collecting speed camera data from local authorities to publish the data itself.
I have previously announced that local authorities and the police will have to publish full information about speed cameras.
Officials have been working with local authority officials and the police, in order to advise me about the appropriate requirements for publication of this information. As set out in the DfT Business Plan, an updated version of which was published on 13 May, we expect to issue guidance to local authorities by the end of June.
Mr Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport pursuant to the answer of 22 November 2010, Official Report, column 30W, on speed limits: cameras, whether the fixed gantry cameras are (a) switched off and (b) used for any enforcement purposes when no temporary speed limits are in force on the M1. [57198]
Mike Penning: The fixed gantry spot speed enforcement cameras for the M1 motorway between junctions 25 and 28 are still undergoing testing and commissioning and are not as yet operational. These cameras which enforce the variable mandatory speed limits displayed on gantries and will be fully operational this summer.
The Highways Agency has introduced safety cameras on the M1 between junctions 25 and 28 as part of the Controlled Motorway scheme to increase compliance when speed limits are varied from the national speed limit.
When no restrictions are in place normal motorway regulations and enforcement regimes will apply. The enforcement of speed limits, whether using the safety cameras provided as part of this controlled motorway scheme or traditional methods, is undertaken by the police, in this case Nottinghamshire police.
 
Tolls
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress his Department has made on developing the (a) scope and (b) objectives of a road user charging system. [56047]
Mike Penning: We are committed to introducing a new system of lorry road user charging which will ensure that all heavy goods vehicles over 12 tonnes, whether UK or foreign-registered, contribute to the cost of maintaining our roads. This will provide a fairer deal for UK operators. We are currently finalising the details of the proposed scheme and intend to consult later in the year.
The Government have ruled out the introduction of a wider national road user charging scheme during this Parliament, or any preparations for the introduction of such a scheme in the next Parliament.
House of Lords
Cyclists: Accidents
Question
Asked by Baroness Smith of Basildon
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many road traffic accidents involving cyclists have been recorded in (a) London, and (b) the United Kingdom, in each of the past five years.[HL9379]
Earl Attlee: Information on damage only road traffic accidents and road accidents in Northern Ireland is not held by the Department for Transport.
The number of reported personal injury road accidents involving pedal cyclists in (a) London and (b) Great Britain in each of past five years for which data are available is given in the following table.

Number of reported personal injury accidents involving pedal cyclists in London, Great Britain: 2005-09

 

 

Number of reported road accidents

Year

London

Great Britain

2005

2,979

16,856

2006

3,036

16,440

2007

3,057

16,460

2008

3,299

16,585

2009

3,786

17,369

British Summer Time
Question
Asked By Lord Spicer
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will further consider the practice of changing the clocks between British Summer Time and Greenwich Mean Time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, we have been changing the clocks between British Summer Time and Greenwich Mean Time for a century in order to benefit from lighter evenings. The dates on which we do so are now fixed by the European Community directive on summer time, so there is no scope for change.
Lord Spicer: I sort of thank my noble friend for that, but is she aware that no relevant organisations now support the turning back of the clocks in the autumn? In other words, they all favour more daylight time, with the possible exception of the Government of Scotland.
Baroness Wilcox: Yes, I am of course aware that many organisations throughout the country would like to see a change. However, other industries-the construction industry et cetera-really do not. I am sympathetic to many of the arguments but, as the Prime Minister has made clear, we can make a change only if there is consensus throughout the United Kingdom, which, of course, includes Scotland.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. In our tourism debate on 27 January, a number of us argued in support of the Lighter Later campaign to extend the useful hours of daylight. The Minister replied:
“We are all agreed that the issue deserves more discussion. My right honourable friend the Minister for Employment Relations made the offer during the Private Member’s Bill currently going through the other place to publish a review of the evidence and to start a dialogue with the devolved Administrations, because there appears to be a growing body of opinion about daylight saving”.-[Official Report, 27 January 2011; col. 1150.]
Will my noble friend please report on the progress of these discussions?
Baroness Wilcox: My noble friend asks an important question and I can answer it, so that is very good. We know about the Private Member’s Bill that is going through at the moment and we know about the Lighter
25 May 2011 : Column 1816
Later campaign, which suggests that there may be great benefits for a move to Central European Time. However, much of the evidence points both ways when you start looking at it. In the end, it comes down to whether you like lighter evenings in summer more than you dislike dark mornings in winter. We cannot support the Bill that is going through as it is presently formed, but we will take back any suggestions that are made today. We are constantly looking at this, because it affects the whole of the United Kingdom.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, I am a bit puzzled by the Minister’s first Answer. Is she saying that we could not adjust our time to that of the bulk of western Europe without permission from Brussels? Surely we could do that of our own volition.
Baroness Wilcox: On changing the date, the EC ninth directive on summer time harmonised for an indefinite period the dates on which summer time begins and ends across the united Union, in order to make sure that everyone is certain when the start and end dates occur and to avoid obvious risk of confusion, especially for cross-border trade and travel. As the directive is enforced across the EU, it would not be possible for the United Kingdom to change the dates.
Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Northern Ireland Assembly has been granted bold powers to select a timescale relative to its geographical co-ordinates and the will of its electorate and without reference to Westminster, whereas the devolved Governments of Scotland and Wales do not have these powers? Will the noble Baroness rectify this apparent anomaly by amending the forthcoming Scotland Bill accordingly? Alternatively, will the coalition Government accept my Private Member’s Bill, the Devolution (Time) Bill, which allows both Scotland and Wales to choose timescales best suited to their people and their geographical co-ordinates?
Baroness Wilcox: The noble Lord has made himself clear on this subject many times in this House, as he is entitled to do. We know that Northern Ireland can make its own decisions, but the Prime Minister is certain that we should make a change only if there is consensus, and we will work very hard towards achieving that. The noble Lord may of course continue to press this matter, but for the moment the answer is no.
Lord Howe of Aberavon: Is my noble friend the Minister aware that the People’s Republic of China, large as it is, is able to work successfully with a single time zone throughout the entire country? Is it not quite sensible, therefore, that all our European neighbours-with the exception of Portugal-do the same? Would not joining the Central European Time zone be much the most sensible thing for us to do?
Baroness Wilcox: We consult regularly on this. The Central European Time zone, which is the area that we would come into-with France, Germany, Holland and Spain-is one thing, but there are two other zones, which have different times. We are very concerned, as we are a tiny country, not to have too many changes as we cross over borders. That would be far too confusing for business, let alone for everybody else. As
25 May 2011 : Column 1817
far as China is concerned, I do not believe that it is a democracy. People there have this imposed on them and I am not quite sure what the average Chinaman would say if I asked him.
Baroness Corston: My Lords, will the Minister cast her mind back to the 1960s, when we had a two-year experiment involving a change to British Summer Time, which was voted for overwhelmingly by Parliament? Does she recall that two years later Parliament voted overwhelmingly to go back to the status quo, because the experience was very depressing? Even in rural Somerset, I used to take children to primary school in the dark. Back then, we all walked-I shudder to think of the effect of people rushing to school in the dark in cars. It was a total disaster.
Baroness Wilcox: The noble Baroness is quite right. I have a timeline here that expresses exactly what she has just said and I am completely with her on this.
Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, may I strongly support the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, that the question of time zones should be a devolved matter for Scotland? That would allow England to join the Central European Time zone, which, as has been shown, would lead to fewer deaths and to economic benefit.
Baroness Wilcox: My noble friend expresses himself clearly and I can express myself clearly, too. We have no actual evidence for all that and, as the Prime Minister has made very clear, he does not want us to change until there is consensus throughout the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland.
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