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1996 - PMQT Written Answers 16th October 1996

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 16th October 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Rail Privatisation

Mr. Spearing: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his statement of 10 October in Bournemouth concerning improvements to rail passenger services from privatisation, if he will (a) give specific examples and (b) show that criteria he used for coming to this general conclusion.

The Prime Minister: Rail franchising is leading to extra investment, additional train services, better passengers charters and improved passenger care. The new franchisee on South Eastern, for instance, is committed to replacing its existing trains with modern rolling stock, at a cost of up to £400 million. The franchisee for Midland MainLine plans to introduce an extra 22 weekday services each day between Leicester and London, and InterCity East Coast intends to invest some £17 million in improvements to rolling stock performance, passenger security and disabled access. These are just some of the improvements which franchising will bring to the passenger rail network at less cost to the taxpayer.


Royal Travel Expenditure

Mr. Rathbone: To ask the Prime Minister what plans the Government have for the future funding of royal travel by rail and air.

The Prime Minister: The Government propose, with Her Majesty the Queen's agreement and following consultation with the Leader of the Opposition to invite Parliament to approve next year a single grant in aid on the Department of Transport's vote for official royal travel by rail and air. The royal household will use this to purchase the services of the royal train, of No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron or suitable commercial providers.

At present, these costs are met by the Department of Transport and the Ministry of Defence or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of their general expenditure. The aim of the change is to have one focus--the royal household--responsible for securing the best value for money from this public money and to improve accountability to Parliament through the Department of Transport.

The grant in aid from the Department of National Heritage, under which the royal household takes on first line of responsibility for property services on the occupied royal palaces, provides a suitable model. It has enabled savings in excess of 25 per cent. in real terms to be achieved since it was introduced in 1991. An annual report on the new grant in aid for royal travel will be presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Transport. Once the new system is established, targets for savings will be agreed and performance against them published in this annual report.

The new grant in aid will not cover expenditure on the royal yacht, which is due to be decommissioned in 1997.

I am confident that these measures, which are consistent with modern financial management, will improve the cost-efficiency and public accountability of this expenditure.