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Planning Powers

Mr. Waterson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what action he proposes to take in the light of the High Court decision on his planning powers and their relationship to the Human Rights Act 1998; and if he will make a statement. [143432]

Mr. Raynsford: On Wednesday 13 December the Divisional Court gave judgment on four test cases brought in relation to the compatibility of certain aspects of domestic legislation with Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) concerning the right to a fair hearing before an independent and impartial tribunal. The Convention right was incorporated into UK legislation in the Human Rights Act 1998, which became operative in England and Wales on 2 October this year.

The legal challenges related to cases involving the Secretary of State's ability under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to call in and determine applications for planning permission and to recover and determine appeals, the confirmation by him of Compulsory Purchase Orders and related Orders under the Highways Act 1980 made by one of his departmental agencies and the making of orders under the Transport and Works Act 1992.

The Court concluded that the processes involved in each of the cases were not compatible with Article 6(1) of the ECHR. In particular, the Court concluded that:

However, the Court held that the Secretary of State could not have acted in any other manner and will not act unlawfully in processing the cases that are the subject of the proceedings, because section 6(2) of the Human Rights Act applies.

Application was made, and the Court granted, leave for appeal to the Court of Appeal. The question whether an application can be made for the cases to be referred direct to the House of Lords is still under consideration by the Court. If the cases can be referred direct to the Lords, an application will be made for expedition.

The Court will make a "declaration of incompatibility" under section 4 of the Human Rights Act that the provisions of the relevant primary legislation are not compatible with a Convention right. However, such a declaration does not affect the validity, continuing operation or enforcement of the provision in respect of which it was given (section 4 (6) HRA). If the decision of the High Court is upheld on appeal, the Government will have to decide how to deal with this incompatibility. In the meantime, the existing primary legislation continues to apply and the Secretary of State has a duty to continue determining cases which have been called-in and appeals that have been recovered, and to fulfil his statutory functions in relation to orders made, for example, under the Transport and Works and Highways Acts and under Compulsory Purchase legislation. He will

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continue to exercise his discretion--for example, as to whether to call in planning applications--as before. In all cases, he will proceed in accordance with his usual practice. Pending final decisions on the appeals, in deciding whether to call-in or recover cases for his own decision, he will take account of the fact that call-in and recovery, although lawful, have been declared incompatible with the Convention by the Divisional Court.

Concessionary Bus Fares

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions from what date his Department will require local authorities to provide older people with a free bus pass allowing them to purchase bus tickets for no more than half-price; and if he will make a statement. [142762]

Mr. Hill: The requirement to offer at least half-fares on buses to pensioners and disabled people will come into effect from 1 April 2001 (London) or 1 June 2001 (rest of England). The appropriate Commencement Order was made on 7 December. We are in touch with local authorities and the bus industry about the implementation of the mandatory scheme, and are at present consulting about the terms of Guidance.


Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what further studies he intends to commission on the problems experienced in Bath by North-South A46/A36 traffic, and their wider implications, before determining whether to de-trunk the A46 and A36. [143574]

Mr. Hill: The Secretary of State announced on 14 December 2000 that the A36/A46 should remain part of the non-core network. We recognise that there remain traffic problems within Bath and we will work with Bath and North East Somerset to identify appropriate measures which we will urge them to progress through their Local Transport Plans. He has no plans for further studies on the problems experienced in Bath.

Local Transport Plan

Mr. Syms: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions following the announcement of the Local Transport Plan capital settlement on 14 December, what money has been unallocated and kept in the LTP Reserve Fund for (a) 2001-02, (b) 2002-03, (c) 2003-04, (d) 2004-05 and (e) 2005-06. [143437]

Mr. Hill: As announced by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on 14 December 2000, Official Report, column 202W, £8.43 billion has been made available for local transport over the five years from April 2001.

Amounts have been held back for each of the five years covered by the settlement. A large portion of these reserves are made up of resources that will be made available to authorities in respect of:

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In addition, resources have set aside for major local transport schemes which are defined as those with a gross cost of over £5 million. The resources will be used to fund fully accepted schemes. We have given a total allocation for these schemes but precise annual allocations depend on progress with each scheme and cannot be accurately forecast at this stage; provisionally accepted schemes, for which we have in some cases earmarked resources which will be made available once outstanding issues, such as completion of appropriate statutory procedures have been addressed; and possible additional major schemes on which we do not yet have sufficient information to make a decision since authorities have not yet completed full appraisals or which may become necessary, for example arising from the reports of Multi-Modal Studies.

Each year, as part of the annual settlement, the indicative allocations will be confirmed or revised, reflecting the use to be made of the reserve and decisions made on funding for major schemes.

In addition, for 2001-02 small amounts have been held back to fund capital works necessary to prepare for charging schemes in cases where authorities have endorsed a decision to introduce congestion charging and put forward a set of costed proposals; emergency works, particularly given the damage caused by this winter's flooding; and schemes under the Industrial Development Act 1982.

Taking all of these elements into account the total sums yet to be allocated are:

£ million
2005-06 993

Byelaws (Railways)

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the Government's proposals are regarding the byelaws submitted by the railway companies, London Underground and other light rail operators. [143836]

Mr. Hill: The national railway operators, London Underground, the Docklands Light Railway and Nexus Metro have submitted byelaws to the Secretary of State for confirmation. These byelaws, and the formal representations received from persons affected by these byelaws, have all been considered by the Secretary of State. I can announce that the byelaws, with a number of modifications, have now been confirmed, and 18 February 2001 has been set as the date that the new byelaws will come into force.

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Victim Support

Mr. Hesford: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about Government programmes for the support of victims in Northern Ireland. [142810]

Mr. Ingram: The Government have put in place a number of programmes of support in line with the recommendations in Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's report "We Will Remember Them", which considered ways of recognising and acknowledging the suffering of those who have become victims of events in Northern Ireland during the last 30 years. To date over £6.25 million has been allocated to programmes and further significant funding will be made available from April 2001, which in total will represent a substantial package aimed at alleviating the financial hardships and suffering inflicted on many by violence during the Troubles.

Initiatives that have been put in place include:

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