PQs 24th – 27th Oct 2011

Motorways: Speed Limits
Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will withdraw her Department’s proposals to increase the speed limit on motorways to 80 miles per hour. [75875]
Mike Penning [holding answer 20 October 2011]: On 3 October 2011, the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), announced his intention to consult on raising the national speed limit on motorways from 70 mph to 80 mph. The Government plan to launch a full public consultation on the issue later this year with a view to implementing any change in early 2013.
Railways: Safety
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps her Department is taking to improve (a) passenger safety at rail stations and (b) safety at railway level crossings following the Office of Rail Regulation’s Health and Safety report 2011. [76482]
Mrs Villiers: Safety and the reduction of risks, so far as is reasonably practicable, at both stations and level crossings is the responsibility of the relevant duty holder such as the station or infrastructure operator.
This is a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work 1974. Compliance is both monitored and enforced by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR). The ORR noted the measures being taken by duty holders with regard to station and level crossing safety in their 2011 Health and Safety Report.
Separately the Department runs the Secure Stations Scheme. Over the past 13 years this scheme has put in place a best practice programme aimed at enhancing passenger safety at railway stations through security improvements. There are currently 1,263 accredited Secure Stations across the railway network.
Railways: Accidents
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress the Rail Accident Investigation Branch has made in its investigation into the incident on 18 July 2011 involving a tamper train on the Northampton Loop being hit by loose metal panels from containers from a freight train. [76487]
Mrs Villiers: The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is investigating the circumstances surrounding the incident on 18 July 2011 involving a tamper train on the Northampton Loop being hit by loose metal panels from containers from a freight train. The details of the incident were as described as follows:
At 17:55 hrs, the driver of a tamper travelling on the Down Northampton line, reported that his cab had been struck by an object from freight train 4L68, the 12:15 hrs container service from Birch Coppice (near Tamworth) to Felixstowe, as it passed on the adjacent line. The tamper driver had observed a metal panel flapping from the side of the approaching container train. He released the safety device in his cab as he moved to protect himself and the tamper came to a stand. The side window of the cab had been smashed but he escaped injury. He then called the signaller to request that all trains be stopped on the adjacent line. When he re-continued his journey, the tamper driver reported finding another similar panel beside the track closer to Rugby.
The two metal panels were later recovered from the trackside and were found to be from two containers that were on 4L68. The containers were fitted with power generation equipment. The panels, approximately 2.5m high x 1m wide, had been screwed to the container sides; each had covered a louvred-aperture. The RAIB has examined the containers and found evidence of loose and missing screws on other panels that had been fitted.
The RAIB has examined the panels that became detached and the containers to which they were originally attached. Through interviews, industry records, CCTV images and analysis the RAIB has determined the sequence of events leading up to the incident. It has identified that the panels became detached due to failure of their fastening arrangements to the container.
The RAIB has identified the controls that are in place to manage and approve design and modifications to freight containers. The RAIB is currently considering their effectiveness and the industry’s compliance with them. Similarly, it is investigating the railway specific arrangements that are in place to prevent unsafe containers entering railway service.
Upon conclusion of the investigation, the RAIB will, if appropriate, make recommendations to limit the likelihood and/or reduce the consequence of future similar incidents on the railway.
 
Maria Eagle: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether her Department is conducting work on the crashworthiness of tables on Class 156 units following injuries to passengers at a crash on the Sudbury branch on 17 August 2010. [76488]
Mrs Villiers: The role of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is to conduct independent investigations into accident and incidents on the railways of the UK for the purpose of improving safety. The RAIB undertook an investigation into the accident on 17 August 2010 at Sewage Works Lane and published its report on 11 August 2011 (RAIB report 14/2011, available at:
www.raib.gov.uk
The RAIB made six recommendations including recommendation number six:
Owners of class 156 units should assess whether or not there is a case for improving the crashworthiness performance of the tables on Class 156 units and implement any measures found to be reasonably practicable. When undertaking this assessment, the owners should seek the co-operation of operators of Class 156 units.
The owners of Class 156 units are rolling stock leasing companies (known as ROSCOs); in this case the Porterbrook Leasing Company and Angel Trains.
The Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005 places a duty on the safety authority, the Office of Rail Regulation, to ensure that recommendations are considered and where appropriate acted upon. The RAIB has no role or statutory powers to follow up on the implementation of recommendations, other than if it becomes relevant as part of a subsequent investigation.
Prime Minister Questions
Q4.  Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): My 14-year-old constituent Lillian Groves was killed outside her home by a driver who was under the influence of drugs. He was sentenced to just eight months in jail and was released after four months. Will the Prime Minister agree to meet Lillian’s family to hear their case for “Lillian’s law”, a package of measures to ensure that in future we take the menace of drug-driving as seriously as we currently take drink-driving?
The Prime Minister: I think that my hon. Friend speaks for the whole House when he says that we really have to make sure that we start treating drug-driving as seriously as drink-driving. This issue has been raised repeatedly, but not enough has been done. One of the things that we are doing is making sure that the police are able to test for drug-driving and making that drug-testing equipment available. As we test that and make sure that it works properly, we can look at strengthening things still further, and I am very happy to do as he says.
Invalid Vehicles: Regulation
Mr Ivan Lewis: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) pursuant to the answer of 20 June 2011, Official Report, column 19W, on invalid vehicles: regulation, when she plans to announce the results of her Department’s consultation on proposed changes to legislation governing powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs; [75484]
(2) pursuant to the answer of 11 July 2011, Official Report, column 200W, on invalid vehicles: regulation, what the reasons are for the time taken to publish the results of her Department’s consultation on proposed changes to legislation governing powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs. [75485]
Norman Baker [holding answer 18 October 2011]: The Department’s full response to the consultation will be published as soon as possible. Following careful consideration and analysis of all the responses received, I have asked my officials to undertake further work with transport operators, the industry and user group representatives on the following issues:
options for training and incentives for vehicle users to take up training;
a possible minimum eyesight requirement and incentives for users to meet these requirements;
the case for increasing the unladen weight limit for powered wheelchairs only;
the carriage of mobility scooters on public transport;
improved guidance and information for mobility vehicle users; and
replacing the legal term “invalid carriage” with a more suitable and contemporary term, and a review of how current legislation could be better enforced.
These issues will be considered in relation to the aims of the Red Tape Challenge.
Invalid Vehicles: Safety
Annette Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress her Department has made in considering responses to its consultation on proposed changes to the law governing powered mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs; and whether she has considered implementing additional requirements to make mobility vehicles more conspicuous for the purposes of improving the safety of the mobility vehicle user and other road users. [75513]
Norman Baker [holding answer 19 October 2011]: The Department’s full response to the consultation will be published as soon as possible. Following careful consideration and analysis of all the responses received, I have asked my officials to undertake further work with transport operators, the industry and user group representatives on the following issues:
options for training and incentives for vehicle users to take up training;
a possible minimum eyesight requirement and incentives for users to meet these requirements;
the case for increasing the unladen weight limit for powered wheelchairs only;
the carriage of mobility scooters on public transport;
improved guidance and information for mobility vehicle users; and
replacing the legal term “invalid carriage” with a more suitable and contemporary term, and a review of how current legislation could be better enforced.
Any improved safety measures will need to be considered in relation to the aims of the Red Tape Challenge.
The Highway Code reminds users of the need to be conspicuous and this advice will be reiterated in any guidance and information produced by my Department.
Driving: Disqualification
Question
Asked by Lord Bradshaw
To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many people were convicted of driving while disqualified in 2008, 2009 and 2010.[HL12621]
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): The number of persons found guilty at all courts in England and Wales for driving whilst disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence, from 2008 to 2010, can be viewed in the attached table.
Information for Scotland and Northern Ireland are matters for the Scottish Executive and Northern Ireland Office respectively.

Number of persons found guilty at all courts for driving whilst disqualified from holding or obtaining a licence(1), England and Wales, 2008 to 2010(2)(3)
Findings of guilt
2008(4) 2009 2010

Number of persons

15,579

13,217

10,465

(1) Includes offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988, s.103(l)

(2) The figures given in the table on court proceedings relate to persons for whom these offences were the principal offences for which they were dealt with. When a defendant has been found guilty of two or more offences it is the offence for which the heaviest penalty is imposed. Where the same disposal is imposed for two or more offences, the offence selected is the offence for which the statutory maximum penalty is the most severe.
(3) Every effort is made to ensure that the figures presented are accurate and complete. However, it is important to note that these data have been extracted from large administrative data systems generated by the courts and police forces. As a consequence, care should be taken to ensure data collection processes and their inevitable limitations are taken into account when those data are used.
(4) Excludes data for Cardiff magistrates’ court for April, July and August 2008
Source: Justice Statistics Analytical Services-Ministry of Justice.
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