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Prime Minister

Intelligence and Security Committee

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): Following appropriate consultation and in accordance with section 10 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994, I have appointed the right hon. the Lord Foulkes of Cumnock as a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee in place of Baroness Ramsey of Cartvale.

House of Lords Appointments Commission

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I am today announcing the re-appointment of the House of Lords Appointments Commission for a further 18 months, as from the beginning of this year, pending further discussions on House of Lords reform.

The Commission's membership is unchanged. The Chairman is Lord Stevenson of Coddenham CBE, the Chairman of HBOS plc and a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords.

The independent members are: Ms Angela Sarkis CBE, National Secretary of the YMCA England; and Mrs Felicity Huston, Commissioner for Public Appointments for Northern Ireland and a tax consultant.

In addition, there are also three party-political members who are each nominated by one of the three main political parties: the Labour Party member is the right hon. the Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde; the Conservative Party member is the right hon. the Lord Hurd of Westwell CH CBE; the Liberal Democrat member is the Lord Dholakia QBE DL.

Trade and Industry

Electricity Generating Station (Ormonde Project)

The Minister for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks): The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has granted consents under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 for the construction and operation of the gas generating station and wind farm that comprise the Ormonde project.

The consents are being granted to Eclipse Energy Company Limited (EECL) and Ormonde Energy Limited (a majority owned subsidiary of EECL). This innovative hybrid project will be sited around 10 km from Walney Island and has the potential to generate a total of up to 200 MW of electricity, with around half coming from the wind farm.

The decision to grant the consents was taken after a thorough consideration of the possible impacts of the project on a range of environmental and other issues and interests and of the advice received from a range of stakeholders, including statutory consulters on navigation and nature conservation issues. The Secretary of State concluded that the impacts envisaged by those making representations will either be of low significance or can be mitigated or avoided by the use of suitable conditions in the Electricity Act consents or in the licence for the project that is to be issued by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985.

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The Secretary of State will, in due course, announce the outcome of an application for the grant of approval for the proposed Ormonde gas field development under the separate Petroleum Act 1998 regime, relating to the extraction of gas from the sea bed. Today's announcement does not pre-judge the outcome of that application.

Royal Mail Financing

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): The Government and Royal Mail have agreed to the financing framework following my statement of 18 May last year.

The financing framework will provide Royal Mail with the ability to manage its pension deficit and invest in modernisation to improve its performance and efficiency. In addition to the loan facilities of £900 million and the transfer of £850 million of reserves into an escrow account to support the pension fund announced last year, we have also agreed to make an additional shareholder loan of £300 million available to the business to provide the company with adequate financial headroom. As with the proposed framework already announced, all financing for the Royal Mail will be on commercial terms. We plan to agree the final legal documentation and have these measures in place by 25 March 2007.

We have also agreed with Royal Mail management a reward scheme that allows the employees to share in the value they help to create in the business as it improves its performance.

Under this reward scheme the Government have agreed to the company providing employees with partnership units of a notional value equivalent to a 20 per cent. economic interest in the projected equity value of the group in the ordinary course of business and based on the management's plan. This will allow employees to share fully in the value they help to create. In addition we have agreed to the replacement of the current and highly effective Share in Success programme with a new scheme. To provide adequate certainty for the public finances, while properly rewarding the efforts of Royal Mail employees, the partnership unit scheme will run for the duration of the Royal Mail Letters' transformation plan, up until March 2012. Employees can receive a maximum of £5,300 over the period.

The scheme aligns employee, management and shareholder interests in making all parties committed to the successful performance of the business—this is the right approach in a fully competitive market.

We fully support the business in delivering the programme of reform that it needs to undertake. We recognise that there a number of difficult changes that need to be made to the way the company operates, including limiting the pension liability going forward, and fully supports the business in making them. It is for the management and staff to make the changes necessary to give the company a sound platform on which to build for long-term success in a competitive market.

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Driving Standards Agency

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I have today published the “Response to Consultation”reporting on the results of the consultation on a package of measures which proposed changes to the way in which the Driving Standards Agency conducts its business to deliver a better service and improve the quality of the assessments they offer, and to ensure that the costs of the services provided are recovered in a fair and efficient manner.

The changes are grouped into four areas:

Copies of the “Response to Consultation”have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The documents are also available from the DSA website: or by telephone on 0115 901 5921/minicom 0115 9015922.

Many of the changes will be introduced with effect from 2 April 2007.

Transport Innovation Fund

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Douglas Alexander): Further to the written statement by the then Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South-West (Mr. Darling) on 26 January 2006, Official Report, 66-67WS, I am today publishing further guidance for local authorities interested in developing business cases for funding from the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) for local schemes to tackle congestion. Local authorities have asked for support in developing their proposals to enable them to come forward with business cases in 2007.

The Department has supported those authorities that want to bring forward innovative schemes to address specific local congestion problems. On 6 November we awarded a further £7.5 million of pump-priming funds to support the development of local TIF packages that combine demand management, including road pricing, with better public transport.

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Up to £200 million per year from TIF will be made available for such packages. However, although we would not expect to fund any individual package that was larger than the total amount, more may be made available if a sufficient number of high quality and higher value schemes emerge.

We will be particularly looking to fund schemes that can pilot approaches to road pricing elsewhere as well as provide benefits locally. We would hope to see small schemes that could be up and running by 2010-11 and larger local schemes within two years of that. As the forthcoming draft Road Transport Bill will specify, any subsequent proposals on a national road pricing scheme will require new primary legislation.

We are today sharing the product of the substantial analytical work on local scheme design and appraisal undertaken by the Department over the last year. It will help local authorities develop well-designed schemes which are, where appropriate, consistent with each other and any future local or national schemes.

This funding policy is without prejudice to any other decisions that may be required in relation to the schemes that underlie TIF proposals, which will be separately considered at the appropriate time.

Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work and Pensions

Winter Fuel Payments (Correction)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): During Department for Work and Pensions oral questions on Monday 5 February, in response to a supplementary from the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Mr Mulholland), I said that 11.5 million pensioner households receive the winter fuel allowance every year and that the £200 winter fuel allowance—it is more than £300 if a person is over 80—is paid regularly to older people's household; Official Report, column 567. I should have said that 11.5 million winter fuel payments were made to over 8 million households in winter 2005-06 and I expect figures for this winter to be similar and that the winter fuel allowance is £300 if a person is over 80. I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for these inadvertent errors.

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