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Local Transport Infrastructure

Mr. David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will announce the allocation of capital resources for expenditure on local transport infrastructure in 2000-01. [103349]

Mr. Hill: This is the second year of the three-year £2.4 billion package for local transport under the Comprehensive Spending Review, including £700 million of additional expenditure.

The total allocation for 2000-01 will be £754.9 million, which will provide for major improvements to local transport infrastructure.

Schemes approved or provisionally approved include innovative proposals for integrating public transport, providing greater travel choice; new bypasses to take through traffic away from local communities, improving their quality of life.

We have also made provision of £301 million for highway maintenance--up 24 per cent. on this year's figure and in line with our commitment to reverse previous cuts in this area. In addition, we have increased general allocation for public transport, minor road improvements, walking, cycling and safety schemes.

In addition, we are providing an extra £18 million for local authorities to improve public transport ahead of the introduction of congestion charging or workplace parking schemes.

Local Transport Plans replace the Transport Policies and Programmes regime, and are the cornerstone of our integrated transport policy. They provide for a longer-term, more strategic approach and greater certainty of funding for Local Authorities.

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Copies of the Press Notice, containing a full analysis of the settlement, have been placed in the Library of the House. They have also been placed in Members' mail boxes in the Members' Post Office counter.

Railways Bill

Mr. Burgon: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will publish the Government's response to the report on the Railways Bill by the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. [103369]

Mr. Prescott: I am today presenting as a Command Paper (CM 4538) the Government's response to the Select Committee's report on the Railways Bill (HC 827).

The Committee's report has informed the revised railway provisions now included in the Transport Bill. Our response also covers the Committee's recommendations which did not relate directly to the Railways Bill. We will make a substantive response on transport safety regulation to the Committee when we have received and considered the results of our transport safety review.

Beacon Council Scheme

Ms Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he will announce the first Beacon Councils; and if he will make a statement. [103538]

Ms Armstrong: We intend to announce the Beacon Councils for 2000-01 on Monday 20 December. We will publish the First Report of the Advisory Panel on Beacon Councils, at the same time as the announcement giving details of the Panel's recommendations on Beacon Councils, together with a brochure "The Beacon Council Scheme: Where to Go and What to See", setting out the best practice the Beacons have to offer. Copies of the two publications will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Marine Pollution

Mr. Quinn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how he proposes to carry out the review of offences relating to the entry into the sea of noxious, poisonous or polluting matter following marine casualties, which he announced in response to Lord Donaldson's report on salvage and intervention and their command and control. [103550]

Mr. Hill: My right hon. Friend has decided that the review should have the following terms of reference:

The Review will focus on offences under Part III of the Water Resources Act 1991 in respect of England and Wales and Part VI of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, in

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so far as they relate to entry of such matter resulting from marine casualties and their associated salvage and clean-up operations.

The Review will also consider, in so far as it is appropriate to do so, the offence of public nuisance (including the statutory nuisance procedure) and offences relating to the entry of such matter from ships in cases which may not in themselves represent or follow marine casualties.

The results of the Review will also, if possible, take account of the outcome of the appeal against sentencing of Milford Haven Port Authority following its prosecution in connection with the Sea Empress casualty.

The Review will be carried out by a consultant, Mr. Colin Ingram, working under the supervision of a team of DETR officials. Since the Merchant Shipping legislation is a reserved matter, while the water legislation is a devolved matter, this team will need to work in close co-operation with the devolved administrations. All organisations that are known to have an interest will be invited to make submissions to the review. The invitation will also be posted on the DETR website, and we shall welcome other submissions.

Speed Cameras

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he is taking to make more effective use of roadside speed cameras; and if he will make a statement. [103549]

Mr. Hill: A number of pilot schemes to test new funding arrangements for speed and traffic light cameras will start on 1 April 2000. This will increase the number of cameras deployed, further deter speed and red light running and thereby achieve the Government's road safety objective. Each pilot scheme will involve Local Authorities, Magistrates Courts, the police, and in some cases the Highways Agency and Crown Prosecution Service. The schemes will be based in eight police areas: Essex, Northampton, Thames Valley, Nottingham, South Wales, Cleveland, Lincolnshire and Strathclyde. In the light of the results of the pilot schemes, consideration will be given to the extension of the funding arrangements nationally.

Genetically Modified Crops

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to review the separation distances between genetically modified crops and non-genetically modified crops, including the farm-scale trials; and if he will list the proposed revised distances for each crop. [99534]

Ms Quin: I have been asked to reply.

My Department has secured a commitment from the industry group SCIMAC to review on a regular basis its guidelines for growing GM crops, which were published in May 1999, but as yet there are no proposals for revised separation distances. We are convening another meeting between the GM and organic sectors to discuss safeguards for organic production, including separation distances between GM and organic crops.

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EU Common Foreign and Security Policy

Mr. Bradshaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress was made on a common foreign and security policy at the Helsinki summit. [100990]

Mr. Vaz [holding answer 13 December 1999]: European Union Heads of Government at Helsinki agreed Conclusions on a number of subjects under the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including on South-Eastern Europe, the Middle East Peace Process, human rights, and Macao. They also adopted a separate Declaration on Chechnya. In addition, they agreed Conclusions adopting two Presidency reports, one on Strengthening the Common European Policy on Security and Defence and one on Non-Military Crisis Management, as part of a strengthened common European policy on security and defence.

Western Sahara

Ms Kingham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings he (i) has had and (ii) plans to have, with (a) the Government of Morocco and (b) Polisario to discuss the situation in Western Sahara and the UN referendum process. [102491]

Mr. Hain: During my visit to Morocco between 30 November and 2 December I discussed the Western Sahara in several high-level meetings with Moroccan Ministers. FCO officials meet regularly with the Polisario in London, New York and the refugee camps in Tindouf.

British Prisoners Abroad (Clemency Pleas)

Dr. Naysmith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the result of the review of Government policy on supporting pleas for clemency by British nationals imprisoned abroad. [103371]

Mr. Hain: We have reviewed our policy on making representations about the convictions and sentencing of British prisoners abroad to the authorities of the countries where they are detained.

At present we consider making such representations if, when all legal remedies have been exhausted, the British national and their lawyer have evidence of a miscarriage or denial of justice.

We are extending this to include those cases where fundamental violations of the British national's human rights had demonstrably altered the course of justice. In such cases, we would also consider supporting their request for an appeal to any official human rights body in the country concerned, and subsequently giving advice on how to take their cases to relevant international human rights mechanisms.

We have decided not to change the policy on supporting clemency pleas. We will continue to base these pleas only on compassionate grounds, namely where a

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prisoner is terminally ill or when a close relative is terminally ill and their death will leave children or elderly relatives with no one to care for them.

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