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The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Edward Miliband): Following the Chancellor's pre-Budget statement, we will be publishing Partnership in Public Services: an Action Plan for Third Sector Involvement.
Third sector organisations play a number of roles in public lifefrom campaigning to building community cohesion and from delivering services to giving voice to their users. They have an enormous amount to contribute to our public services, both in the ways they are designed and delivered and in the ways they are improved and held to account.
The greater involvement of the third sector in delivery must not be about Government abdicating their responsibility to fund public services. Instead, it is about ensuring that, in the right circumstances, the sector can deliver services where it is best placed to do so. Many third sector organisations are already working very successfully with the public sector and there are significant areas of public service delivery where the Government are opening opportunities for the third sector. It is clear that we will not tackle the challenges of the coming years and continue to build the excellent public services to which we all aspire without the close involvement of the third sector.
The Council will be asked to agree conclusions on the Commission Communication, presented to the Council in June, on its mid-term review of the programme for the promotion of short sea shipping (any maritime journey within or between member states or a close third country, that is, Norway). This is a priority of the Finnish presidency. The programme was presented in 2003. It contains 14 different actions ranging from identifying bottlenecks which impede the smooth operation of short sea shipping to streamlining procedures through the setting up of short sea shipping promotion centres and legislative measures. The UK achieved all of its negotiating objectives for inclusion in the draft conclusions.
The Council will aim to reach a general approach on a directive amending the current EU provisions on port state control (examination of ships in port). This will bring about consolidation of the current directive and its subsequent amendments into a single text. The new directive will also ensure more precise targeting of ships for inspection, resulting in more effective use of resources, and provide for the refusal of access to EU ports of ships which are repeatedly found to be substandard.
There will be a progress report on the regulation on liability of carriers of passengers by sea and inland waterways in the event of accidents. This aims to incorporate the Athens convention relating to the carriage of passengers and their luggage by sea of 1974, as amended by its protocol of 2002, into community legislation. It also extends these provisions to the carriage by sea within the member states and to international and domestic carriage by inland waterways. We can accept this general aim, but we, like a number of other member states, oppose application to domestic sea journeys or to inland waterways.
As the final maritime item on its agenda, the Council will aim to reach a general approach on a proposal for a decision concerning the ratification by EU member states of the 2006 consolidated maritime labour convention of the international labour organisation (ILO). The convention aims to promote decent living and working conditions for seafarers and fairer competition conditions for operators and shipowners. The UK supports the proposal.
The Commission will give a further report on progress in the PPP concession contract negotiations for the Galileo satellite navigation programme. We continue to examine the emerging deal very carefully for its justification in terms of value for money, affordability, and risk to the public sector.
The Commission is also expected to report on the latest position in its consideration of the potential roles
and the terms of any future relations with non-EU countries in the Galileo programme and on its new Green Paper on Galileo applications.
The Council will aim to agree conclusions on the Commissions Communication on freight transport logistics, entitled: Freight Logistics in EuropeKey to Sustainable Mobility. The communication was presented to the Council in October. The Commission plans to present an action plan for freight transport logistics in 2007. Logistics are Finlands central presidency priority in the transport field. The UK supports this initiative from the Commission and the proposal to develop an action plan.
The Council will aim to reach a general approach on a directive on retrofitting of blind-spot mirrors to heavy goods vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes registered in the community. The UK supports the objectives of this proposal, which would extend the provisions of a type-approval directive adopted in 2003 (for new trucks) to the existing fleet. Approximately 30 per cent. of current HGVs in the UK will be exempt on age grounds. The age of the affected fleet together with the date of implementation has to be agreed as does the issue of the possible inclusion of front blind-spot mirrors for the largest of vehicles.
The Commission will give further progress reports on two aspects of aviation external relations on which it has been given mandates to negotiate agreementswith the US on a comprehensive air transport treaty, and with Russia on payments for Siberian overflights.
The Council will aim to reach a general approach on a Regulation amending Regulation 1592/2002, which established a framework for aviation safety regulation built around the European aviation safety agency. The amending proposals extend the regulations scope to cover safety standards and licensing of operations and their personnel, and the safety oversight of third country operators. We were concerned during negotiations to ensure that the extension of tasks to the agency matches its fitness to carry them out and that the proposals should not impose restrictions on non-EU airlines contrary to international obligations or member states' interests.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): We have completed our consultation on the Governments proposals for streamlining and modernising the licensing system for operators of heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles.
(1) new arrangements for holders of more than one licence involving the allocation of a lead traffic commissioner who will be responsible for all of an operator's licences;
(2) a simplified fee structure with most licence fees being merged with fees for annual roadworthiness tests;
(3) abolition of windscreen discs and margin concession for goods vehicles.
We propose to implement the first of these proposals as planned and the traffic commissioners will shortly be consulting the industries on the detail of the new arrangements with a view to their introduction in 2007.
In response to concerns raised by the road haulage industry, we have modified the proposed fee structure for goods vehicles so that only O licence vehicle fees will be merged with roadworthiness test fees. This will remove the vast majority of financial transactions but produce a fairer distribution of costs between different sectors of the industry. For the PSV sector, all fees will be merged except for application fees for new licences or major variations. We plan to introduce the new structure in 2008. Vehicle and Operator Service Agency
will be consulting the industries on arrangements for giving credit for fees paid in advance under the current system.
We plan to go ahead with the abolition of windscreen discs for goods vehicles when we are satisfied that access to new technology is sufficiently advanced to ensure that existing levels of enforcement can be maintained. However, evidence has been presented to us that abolition of the margin concession could impose a much higher burden on the industry than we originally thought. We therefore propose to carry out further work to evaluate the costs and benefits of this proposal before making a decision. We will also look at options for minimising the burden of an immediate notification requirement.
These measures will cut significantly the administrative burdens of the licensing process and reduce costs for the road haulage and passenger transport industries while maintaining safety standards. They will also build on administrative improvements already made by the VOSA.