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The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): Security measures are in place that are designed to be proportionate and responsive to the prevailing level of threat. They have been jointly agreed with the French Government to ensure comparability of standards. The measures are kept under continuous review by both Governments.
Chris Bryant: I wonder whether the measures are proportionate. Someone who flies to Paris buys a ticket with their name on it, and before they get on the aeroplane the name on their ticket is checked against their passport at least three times. Someone who gets on Eurostar to go to Paris, Brussels, or wherever does not necessarily have a named ticket and all that is checked is whether they have a ticket. We therefore have no idea who is travelling on Eurostar. Should not we review that arrangement to ensure that our borders are secure?
The arrangements are very different as between Eurostar and the airlines. Airlines have named tickets because they must have a passenger manifest in case of an accident and because they must carry out a reconciliation between the hold baggage and the individuals on the plane. There is no hold baggage on Eurostar, and it is not necessary to have the same passenger manifest. Nevertheless, I have noted my hon. Friend's comments and will ensure that they are relayed to the people who keep security on Eurostar under review.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): Trams can be very effective in heavily trafficked areas. We remain prepared to support the introduction of trams when they are the right solution, but we must take account of the cost. In many cases, a well-designed and promoted bus-based system is likely to provide a more cost-effective solution.
Greg Mulholland: The Under-Secretary's answer is as enlightening as the Department's usual communications on light rail. In the light of the Government's decision not to fund the Leeds supertram scheme, and figures that show that three times as much money is spent per person on public transport in London and the south-east compared with Yorkshire and the Humber, does he agree that the Department is failing on public transport outside London, that the Government's regional economic policy is a sham and that all that shows an ever-increasing
Derek Twigg: The answer is no, we are not failing on public transport policy. Indeed, we are doing well. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should speak to his Front-Bench colleagues about getting Liberal Democrat policy on trams right. During a debate on 1 February, the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) said:
"All that needs to be underpinned by paying attention to value for money, which is why my Liberal Democrat colleagues in the London assembly are putting forward a proposal to replace the tram scheme for London with a trolleybus scheme that could do the same job for about a third of the price." [Official Report, 1 February 2006; Vol. 442, c. 411.]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Jim Murphy): The Government have made good progress on e-government, with 96 per cent. of services estimated to be online. Our flagship website, Directgov, has more than 2 million visitors a month. We have set a clear forward strategy for transformational government.
What steps are the Department taking to ensure that the lessons of e-innovation rounds 1 and 2, as they relate to local
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government service improvement and accessibility, are being rolled out to all councils in the country, including those that serve my constituency?
Mr. Murphy: First, may I pay tribute to my hon. Friend who, in the months that she has been a Member of Parliament, has taken a close interest in such matters, lobbied me and discussed how IT can help enable the transformation of people's lives in her constituency? She is right that IT crucially enables local government's delivery of public services and I believe that approximately 30 local authorities are involved in the initiative. Of course, we would like it to be rolled out much further so that best practice becomes common practice throughout the country.
Mr. Murphy: I would assume that the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) knew the position in North Yorkshire better than I do. Nevertheless, I can tell her that public services have been transformed and personalised throughout the country through changes in IT. In North Yorkshire, like the rest of the country, most of those services are highly effective and our constituents use them. For example, they may renew tax discs and pay tax online and visit Directgov. If the hon. Lady genuinely wishes to know the specific position in her constituency, I shall investigate and get back to her.
David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): My hon. Friend correctly said that e-government services are widely available. However, the uptake varies greatly by region, age group and social grouping, as the publication "Digital Strategy" acknowledged a year ago. What progress has been made in bridging the digital divide and extracting the full potential of IT in delivering government?
Mr. Murphy: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that IT has the potential to bridge the divide, which, left unchecked, would grow. There are excellent examples of that improvement throughout the country. I visited Eastserve in Manchester, a project in the western isles and another on an oil platform in the North sea halfway to Norway. They are excellent innovations and examples of the delivery of public services to people, regardless of their background and age. However, I agree that much more can be done and many comments and ideas are contained in our transformational government strategy, which was published in November last year.
Mr. Jim Murphy:
We remain on track to deliver the radical programme of regulatory reform set out in the March 2005 Budget and the better regulation action plan published in May 2005. The Legislative and
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Regulatory Reform Bill will make it quicker and easier to reform outdated, unnecessary or over-complicated legislation.
Mr. Bellingham: Is the Minister aware that one of the most regulatory measures around is the temporary agency workers directive, which the CBI has described as a job destroyer? It would certainly damage employment in my constituency. Labour MEPs are in favour of the directive. Are Her Majesty's Government still totally opposed to it?
Mr. Murphy: The United Kingdom Government support any initiative that manages to protect the competitiveness of UK business and the UK economy, so our position has not changed on this matter. We have heard these siren calls before, not from the CBI but from the Conservatives. It was of course the Conservatives who said that the national minimum wage would cost 1 million jobs and be bad for British business. The fact is that nearly 2 million more people are now in employment. I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that the position of the UK Government has not changed.
Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): May I thank my hon. Friend for acknowledging the reason for my absence from last week's debate on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill? I was attending an important funeral. May I ask him specifically when he expects to be able to reply to the substantive points made on the Bill by the Regulatory Reform Select Committee?
Mr. Murphy: The whole House accepted the reason why my hon. Friend could not attend last Thursday's Second Reading debate. May I again put on record the thanks of the whole House for the work that he and his Regulatory Reform Committee have done on this important issue? I confirmed on Second Reading that we would respond to the Committee's 17 specific and substantial recommendations before the Bill went into Standing Committee. I repeat that we remain open and sensitive to ways to offer further reassurances on the Bill.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): Given the Minister's responsibility for deregulatory initiatives, and the merits of learning from successful experience in other countries, what assessment has he made of the merits of the Regulatory Flexibility Act 1980 and of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 1996 in the United States?
Mr. Murphy: As usual, the hon. Gentleman's questions are very precise. I am not in a position to provide the specific information that he requests, but I can confirm that, in regard to the Government's better regulation agenda, we are looking at experiences across the world, especially of administrative burdens. We are learning from the Dutch, the Danes and others who match our aspirations and ambitions on better regulation. Importantly, we shall know that we have succeededas we are beginning to do nowwhen other countries look at our example. I met some colleagues from the new German Government recently, and they are looking to us for ways in which to advance their own better regulation agenda to help their economy.
Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)
(Lab): Clearly, this was one of the key matters pursued by the Government
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under the UK presidency. What meetings did my hon. Friend have with his European Union colleagues to ensure that regulatory reform was not just limited to one country but applied to the rest of the European Union as part of our ongoing agenda to make the European Union more competitive?
Mr. Murphy: My hon. Friend's analysis is correct. If the UK and the European Union are to succeed in the global economy, given the challenges from China and India, our ambitions for better regulation need to be much more robust. We hosted a conference in Edinburgh for regulatory reform Ministers from throughout the EU to further that agenda, and to determine how we could learn together from our best experiences in order successfully to create the dynamic European economy that we all wish to see.
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): The Department of Trade and Industry has recently published its list of forthcoming regulations to be made this year. It runs to a whopping 30 pages, and that is just the list. The Minister has said that he favours the principle of one in, one out. That is, for every new regulation, an old one should be scrapped. So why has not he, as the Cabinet Office Minister charged with responsibility for deregulation, published a list of the regulations to be scrapped? Or is he content that there is now £40 billion-worth more regulation than there was in 1997 and that it is rising fast? What is he going to do about that?
Mr. Murphy: The hon. Gentleman has limited ambitions if all that he seeks to do is ensure that the DTI will publish simplification proposals and deliver on them. Not just the DTI but every Department is committed to publishing its simplification proposals by the time of the pre-Budget report, and the Bill will allow their implementation.
Labour Members make no apology for well-targeted, effective regulation that delivers protection for families, helps the working poor and protects our environment. It is a shame that the Conservative party has not yet flip-flopped on all those issues.
John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Does the Minister not agree that the reason the Government have failed so dismally on regulatory reform is that regulatory reform orders are initiated by Ministers? Ministers do not wish to reduce their powers; they generally act to increase them. If we are to succeed in reducing regulation, we need orders to be initiated from outwith the ministerial structure.
The hon. Gentleman plays an important part in the work of the Regulatory Reform Committee, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller). I assume that he has signed up to the Committee's report and its 17 recommendations. The Government are minded to adopt many of those recommendations. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to bring specific matters to the Government's attention I shall be happy to listen, but I do not recognise the economic picture that he portrays. We have the lowest interest rates, the lowest unemployment and record levels of employment in our dynamic economy, but we must do more, and our agenda will help us to achieve that.
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