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9 Sept 2004 : Column 1337W—continued

Transport Projects

Mr. Wiggin: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many transport-related projects on the (a) railways and (b) roads are running (i) on schedule and (ii) behind schedule. [186801]

Mr. McNulty: There are nine major programmes of enhancement work currently contracted on the railways, each comprising many individual projects. Of these, eight are on schedule in line with the agreed works programme, and one is behind schedule.

There are 16 major new road schemes currently contracted on the Strategic Road Network. 13 are on schedule to complete in line with the programme planned at Works Commitment stage, three schemes are behind schedule, one by several months and two by no more than six weeks.

There are 27 major road and road maintenance schemes which are currently fully accepted within the local transport programme. Of these, 13 are on schedule to complete in line with the timetable planned at full acceptance stage. 14 schemes are behind schedule, some only marginally.

Transport Funding

John Thurso: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how planned funding in the Government's transport strategy The Future of Transport will be allocated between transport modes. [187538]

Mr. McNulty: Because of the timing of the Olympic bid the Secretary of State announced a funding settlement for the GLA transport grant through to 2009–10 in his statement to the House of Commons on 20 July.

It is up to the Mayor to decide how to allocate the GLA Transport Grant between different modes. Other decisions relating to the 2004 Spending Review Settlement will be taken in due course.
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Retirement Age

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission what the (a) set retirement age applying to all or most personnel and (b) maximum age beyond which applications for employment will not be considered is for each department of the House. [186374]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: General conditions of service are House-wide rather than on a departmental basis. House of Commons staff normally work until the age of 65, which is currently the maximum retirement age. They may, however, retire at any time between 60 and 65 if they wish. Applications for most posts are accepted up to the age of 65 with the exception of casual appointments, where applicants may be appointed over the age of 65. House policy will be reviewed in the light of the age discrimination regulations, which we understand will come into effect in October 2006.

September Sittings

Mr. Key: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, what estimate the Commission has made of the marginal cost of recalling the House this September, and if he will make a statement. [186359]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The daily costs of sitting days in September are similar to those of sitting days at other times of year. Such costs include staff overtime, telecommunications and postal costs, together with infrastructure costs such as heating.

As a result of having a shorter summer recess than in some previous years, some additional costs may arise from the need to interrupt some elements of the summer works programme. However, as the September sitting was taken into account when the programme was planned, the additional costs are relatively modest, estimated at around £88,000 against a total works programme spend of £19 million.

Serjeant at Arms

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission if he will make a statement on the methodology involved in the appointment of a new Sergeant at Arms. [187403]

Sir Archy Kirkwood: The Serjeant at Arms is a Crown appointment, made on the recommendation of the Speaker. Following the announcement that the current Serjeant at Arms, Sir Michael Cummins, would shortly retire, the Speaker decided that the post should be advertised both internally and externally, in the national press. A recruitment board was set up under the chairmanship of the Clerk of the House. It included an external member, drawn from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments' central list of independent assessors, and the hon. Member for North East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) as a representative of the Commission. The board agreed a long list of candidates for preliminary interviews by external recruitment consultants and, subsequently, a short list for final interviews, conducted by the board. As a result
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of this process, the Speaker recommended the appointment of Major General Anthony Peter Grant Peterkin, CB, OBE. His appointment was announced to the House on 20 July and he will take over from Sir Michael on 1 January 2005.


Amyl Nitrate

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what measures she proposes to take against shops illegally selling amyl nitrate in the form of poppers, with particular reference to the products (a) Pure Gold, (b) Liquid Gold and (c) TNT. [178805]

Mr. Sutcliffe: I have nothing further to add to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office on 22 July 2004, Official Report, column 573W.

Credit Card Fraud

Mr. Bellingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the current levels of consumer credit card fraud; and what steps her Department is taking to tackle it. [186354]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply

The Government do not collect figures on the cost of credit card fraud but the Association for Payment Clearing Services (APACS) estimates the cost of plastic card fraud on UK-issued cards in 2003 to have been £402.4 million, a decrease of five per cent. over the previous year.

The Home Office provided £1.4 million over two years (towards a total cost of £5.6 million) to fund, jointly with the banking industry, a specialist police unit, the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU). The pilot, which ran from April 2002 to April 2004, was successful in detecting or preventing significant fraud on the banks and card issuers. The Unit is continuing with full financial support from the industry. The Home Office continues to chair the Steering Group.

We are also providing significant extra resources for fraud policing more generally. The Home Office and the Corporation of London have each agreed to contribute £1 million towards the cost of an expanded City of London Police fraud squad. The Home Office has also met capital start up costs of the new unit. This funding will enable the City of London Police to expand its fraud squad significantly and take a lead role in the investigation of fraud in London and the south east, including providing police resources for the majority of Serious Fraud Office cases.

A great deal of fraud can be prevented if organisations have proper fraud prevention measures in place. Prevention initiatives therefore complement fraud investigation and prosecution.

We have encouraged the financial and retail sectors to work towards early implementation of more secure systems to combat fraud, including the introduction of microchips into payment cards to help authentication, and the use of PIN codes in place of signatures.
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The Home Office has launched a website to combat internet fraud. The "e-tailing mini site" (part of the Crime Reduction Website) provides information to help both businesses and consumers protect themselves when using the internet.

We have also recently published, jointly with the Association of Payment Clearing Services (APACS), a leaflet for members of the public about safe credit card use. Supplies of the leaflet have been sent to all police forces and Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships in England and Wales.

Gay Discrimination

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans she has to end insurance discrimination for gay men based solely on sexual orientation. [187135]

Ms Hewitt: The Government are aware of concerns about current imbalances in legislative provision for the different groups protected by discrimination legislation, which include gay men, and one of the first tasks of the proposed Commission for Equality and Human Rights will be to review the legislative framework to ensure that it meets the needs of a modern Britain.

The Government are committed to improving equality and human rights for all in our society. This underpins our vision of a modern, fairer and more prosperous Britain. The creation of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights will help create a more equal and cohesive society.

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