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In addition to these targets the service is required to meet centrally promulgated targets relating to replying from correspondence from hon. Members, making payment to suppliers and reducing sickness absence levels.

UK Trade and Investment

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) launched today its new five-year strategy entitled “Prosperity in a Changing World”. This strategy sets out how UKTI will respond to the enhanced role envisaged in the Budget.

The new strategy describes how UKTI will take the lead to maximise the UK’s ability to attract foreign
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direct investment, win market share in the new high growth economies, and help business internationalise in a globalised world. It will lead Government efforts to:

Market the UK overseas as a key business partner and as the preferred location for inward investment;

boost UK trade with, and secure investment from, emerging economies such as China and India;

promote the UK's financial services sector and the City of London as the world’s leading international financial centre;

lobby overseas on regulatory issues and barriers to trade and investment;

target innovative R&D-intensive companies both for inward investment and as potential exporters.

It outlines plans for UKTI to reform itself to become a more streamlined, entrepreneurial organisation, focusing on the ever-changing needs of its clients. UKTI will spearhead a more professional approach to marketing the strengths of the UK economy. It will allocate resources to frontline services where they can be most effective in adding value to the UK economy.

I am arranging for copies of the UKTI 5-year strategy to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Partnerships Law Reform

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Ian McCartney): The Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission published a report on partnership law reform in November 2003 (Law Com No 283; Scot Law Com No 192). It included recommendations in respect of general partnership law and limited partnership law, together with a draft Bill designed to replace both the Partnership Act 1890 and the Limited Partnerships Act 1907. I am very grateful for the Law Commissions’ detailed and thorough work.

The DTI followed this with a consultation document on the economic impact of reform of partnership law. Respondents to the consultation were divided on the economic benefits of the proposed reforms to the business community. A summary of responses is being published on the DTI website at:

http://www.dti.gov.uk/bbf/corp-governance/partnership/page25911.html.

Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Government have carefully considered the report from the Law Commissions and the consultation responses and intend to bring forward proposals for the reform of limited partnership law based on the Law Commissions’ recommendations. The recommendations for limited partnership reform have been widely supported and there is a strong economic case for taking them forward. The reforms are not dependent on the proposed reforms for general partnership law which the Government have decided not to take forward at this time.

The Government aim to take forward the reforms to limited partnership law by means of a Regulatory Reform Order when Parliamentary time allows, and to publish a consultation document containing draft clauses shortly.


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Civil Plutonium and Uranium Stocks

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): The Department will be placing the figures for the United Kingdom’s stocks of civil plutonium and uranium as at 31 December 2005 in the Libraries of both Houses. In accordance with our commitment under the ‘Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium’, we have also sent the figures to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who will circulate them to member states. The figures will be available on the Department’s and the IAEA’s websites.

The figures show that stocks of unirradiated plutonium in the UK totalled 104.9 tonnes at the end of 2005. Changes from the corresponding figures for 2004 are a consequence of continuing reprocessing operations (that is, as reflected in the increased quantity of ‘unirradiated separated plutonium in product stores at reprocessing plants’). HEU stocks decreased mainly as a result of down-blending. The increase in the civil depleted, natural and low enriched uranium figures reflects the increased stocks at the UK enrichment plant.

Transport

General Aviation Strategic and Regulatory Reviews

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today published the recommendations of its two reviews in the General Aviation sector. Ministers are grateful to the CAA for taking the initiative to review General Aviation and to the teams involved for their contribution to the process. We believe these are the first reviews of their kind in the EU and will improve understanding of the General Aviation sector and its value to the UK economy. It is, however, only the beginning. It is now for Government, the CAA and General Aviation to continue to work together and build upon the recommendations in these reports.

The reviews clearly demonstrate that General Aviation is an important and integral part of the UK aviation sector and that it makes a not insignificant contribution to the UK economy, both in terms of direct economic value (approx. £1.4 billion per annum) and numbers employed (approx. 11,600). As a direct result of the reviews, the Department for Transport has made a commitment to participate in a new General Aviation Strategic Forum with CAA and General Aviation representatives, which will meet quarterly to discuss strategic issues facing the sector.

Additionally, the Department has also established a focal point for General Aviation matters with in its Aviation Airspace Division. We will consider the other recommendations in due course. Copies of the full reports are available on the CAA’s website and have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


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Highways Agency

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): The Highways Agency annual report and accounts for 2005-06 is published today under section 7 of the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000. Copies of the report will be placed in the House Library and will be available from the Vote Office.

M6

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): On the 19 July last year I announced that I had asked the Highways Agency to carry out a detailed review to allow an informed decision to be taken on the case for building a new tolled Expressway to run parallel with the M6 between Birmingham and Manchester as an alternative to widening the existing M6 by one lane in each direction. This followed a consultation exercise undertaken in 2004 on the broad concept of an Expressway.

The Government had accepted the need for more road capacity in this corridor, as shown by the Midlands to Manchester multi-modal study (Midman), which reported in July 2002. The issue was how best that capacity could be provided. Given the high level of investment involved whatever option would be taken forward, it was clearly important that we properly considered the potential for the extra benefits that might be achievable from an Expressway.

The 2004 consultation document “M6: giving motorists a choice” suggested that the Expressway might be delivered more quickly than the widening, by avoiding the need to build new structures such as bridges, and avoiding substantial disruption to traffic during construction. The evidence from the detailed development work undertaken by the Highways Agency has not borne this out.

The Highways Agency’s modelling suggests that an Expressway would have a significant impact on both the levels and the mix of traffic using the Expressway and the M6. In particular, it is likely that the proportion of heavy freight traffic on the M6—which is already relatively high—would increase further, requiring additional infrastructure works at junctions to provide safely for traffic joining and leaving the road. This, together with providing for the appropriate range of access options at each junction between the Expressway and the existing M6, would require the demolition of many existing structures and reconstruction of 20 per cent. of the existing carriageway. The Expressway would also have a much larger land take, requiring some 50 per cent. more land than the widening. The Expressway and associated works would cause more disruption to existing traffic and would cost some 15 per cent. more than widening.

Although on-line widening would necessarily involve some disruption to M6 traffic during construction, the phasing of works could mean additional capacity being provided sooner than an entirely new road, with efforts focused on the most heavily trafficked sections first.


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The Highways Agency has held a series of seminars and meetings with stakeholders, to set out indicative plans for both options, and take feedback. On the basis of these more clearly defined propositions, few stakeholders regarded the Expressway as an attractive alternative to widening.

In the light of the further development work and stakeholder consultation, we have therefore decided not to pursue the Expressway alternative any further.

The Highways Agency has continued to progress the widening option and will now focus solely on that. This work will include examining the demand management measures needed to ensure that the benefits of additional capacity are locked-in.

A more detailed report on the options review has been placed in the Library of the House.

Airport Policing

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Douglas Alexander): In his statement on 21 November, the then Secretary of State for Transport announced the Government’s intention to commission an independent, wide-ranging review of policing at airports. He subsequently appointed Stephen Boys Smith, a former senior civil servant, to lead the review.

The review was tasked with identifying a sustainable approach to the policing of airports which takes account of the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders and, in particular, addresses the need for funding arrangements that are objective and transparent.

The review was about airport policing not airport security, which had already been considered by Sir John Wheeler’s review in 2002. Wheeler recognised that the “designation” of airports for policing purposes was an issue and saw the implementation of a Multi-Agency Threat and Risk Assessment (MATRA) process as fundamental in modernising that process. MATRA is in place at over 40 UK airports and the present review has considered whether the process of designation should now be replaced, given the changes implemented following the Wheeler review.

The review report has now been submitted to both my Department and the Home Office. We welcome its broad thrust and will be working closely with key stakeholders to consider the recommendations in detail.

The review has identified areas where we can build on the good work already being done by all stakeholders at our airports. It makes recommendations in a number of areas:


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Although this review has not focused on aviation security measures it is concerned with a key element in the wider protection of our airports against a range of threats including from terrorism and serious and organised crime. Given these considerations, it is naturally not a report for public circulation. I intend to make a further statement in due course.

British Transport Police

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Douglas Alexander): On 11 October 2005 my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South-West, (Mr. Darling), announced his decision to review the role of the British Transport Police (BTP). The review, which has been carried out in consultation with interested parties including rail operators, passenger representative groups, the BTP, the BTP Authority and other policing organisations, has now concluded.

The review has examined a range of options in relation to the future policing of the railways, including transferring the function to local police forces and various options for expanding or re-focusing the role of the BTP. It has also considered the relationship between the work carried out by the BTP and the requirements of the rail industry.

I have concluded that there remains a strong case for retaining a national specialist police force for the railways. The BTP plays an important role in combating crime and helping to deter potential terrorist activity on the rail network. The review has confirmed the effectiveness of the force in its key role and, in particular, that its specialist knowledge of the operation of the railway is an important asset. I have therefore decided not to make any structural changes to the way in which the policing of the railways is carried out.

However, the review has identified a need for greater clarity in detailed aspects of BTP’s operation in relation to its responsibilities to the rail industry, the rail industry’s own duties and the role of local police forces.

I therefore propose to write to the chairman of the BTP authority and the chief constable of the BTP asking them to ensure that the force’s resources are focused on areas where the BTP can provide maximum added value to the fight against crime on the railway. I will be asking them to establish how the role and responsibilities of the BTP relative to those of other forces can be clarified and, where necessary, revised and incorporated into current protocols between BTP and local forces.

I will also be asking them to develop a more structured partnership approach between the force and the rail industry focused on agreed needs and priorities. This will require all stakeholders to interact more effectively at all levels, in particular at the local level to ensure that local issues and concerns are addressed. Bespoke neighbourhood policing for the railway
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community and enhanced communication between the train companies and the BTP will help ensure that the policing service is tailored more effectively to meet local needs.

I have also decided to increase the membership of the British Transport Police Authority to enhance scrutiny of the force’s resource requirements and to strengthen the industry’s input to the authority’s management and oversight of the efficiency and effectiveness of the force. I will be appointing two additional industry members.

The review has also considered the arrangements for funding the BTP. I have concluded that the BTP should remain largely funded by the rail industry. The Government will continue to consider providing additional central funding for specific projects and initiatives undertaken by the BTP which provide benefits beyond the railway environment.

West Midlands Planning Assessment for the Railways

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): Today the Department for Transport has published the West Midlands Regional Planning Assessment for the railway (RPA), the third in a series of 11 RPAs covering England and Wales. The West Midlands RPA covers the whole of the West Midlands Region.

RPAs are the key link between regional spatial planning (including preparation of regional transport strategies) and planning for the railway by both Government and the rail industry and are designed to inform the development of the Government's strategy for the railway. They look at the challenges and options for development of the railway in each region over the next twenty years, in the wider context of forecast change in population, the economy and travel behaviour. An RPA does not commit the Government to specific proposals. Instead it sets out the Government's current thinking on how the railway might best be developed to allow wider planning objectives for a region to be met, and identifies the priorities for further development work.

The area covered by the West Midlands RPA has a population of just over 5.3 million of which 2.5 million live in the West Midlands conurbation centred on Birmingham. While population levels are not expected to grow significantly, structural changes in the type of employment available and greater prosperity are expected to lead to more trips being made. Growth in rail passenger journeys is forecast for the region and it is expected that there will be particular growth in longer distance journeys, especially to London, and commuting to central Birmingham.

Planning for railways in the West Midlands needs to take into account a changing economic and social context set out in the Regional Spatial Strategy and Regional Economic Strategy. I am particularly grateful for the contribution made to the development of the RPA by the Regional Assembly, Advantage West Midlands, local authorities and others.


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