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I am promoting this package of proposals as they represent a positive and considered way forward that can be safely introduced given current constraints on provider services and an approach which can be built upon over time. I repeat our firm commitment to find the best approaches to the needs of this age group.

There will be a further report to the House later in the year.

Trade and Industry

EU Informal Competitiveness Council

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Ian McCartney): An informal meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council took place in Wuerzburg in Germany from 26-28 April. The Council was split into two halves. Part I dealt with Science and Research. Part II dealt with Economic issues.

Part I Science and Research

Malcolm Wicks represented the UK at Part I of the Council. The Council was chaired by Annette Schavan, German Federal Minister for Education and Research.

Under the first item, research Ministers debated the recent Commission Green Paper on the European Research Area. Along with other Ministers, the Minister my hon. Friend for Science and Innovation emphasised the importance of this debate on fostering the free movement of knowledge and overcoming fragmentation in Europe, and stressed the need to include consideration of subsidiarity and European added value.

Under the second item there was a discussion of the proposed European Institute of Technology, where my hon. Friend and other Ministers welcomed progress made in negotiations under the German presidency while noting outstanding financial and governance issues to be addressed.

In the final item, the German presidency presented a proposal for an IPR charter following a recent Commission communication on knowledge transfer.

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Part II Economics issues

I represented the UK at Part II of the Council. The Council was chaired by Michael Glos, German Federal Minister for Economics and Technology.

Under the first item, Ministers discussed Europe's single market and global competition. In particular they focused on factors affecting the attractiveness of the EU as an investment location, noting that the Ernst and Young European Attractiveness Survey confirms that the EU remains the most attractive region in the world for more than 50 per cent. of the companies surveyed. In my intervention I emphasised the economic factors which had made the UK a highly attractive investment location.

As a second item, Ministers discussed the role of EU state aid in influencing foreign direct investment in the EU. Ministers noted that the Ernst and Young Survey recorded that only a relatively small proportion of companies considered state aid was a significant factor in their investment decisions. Commissioner Kroes, myself and a majority of other Ministers who spoke intervened to oppose a Presidency suggestion that consideration be given to relaxing EU state aid rules in order to match aid offered by third countries, arguing that this would distort competition and risk WTO litigation.

Mr. Richard Steele

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Jim Fitzpatrick): The Department of Trade and Industry issued a written answer to House of Commons Parliamentary Question Number 2005/3120 from my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), 13 February 2006,Official Report, Volume 442, column 1635W, which sought information regarding the (a) prosecutions and (b) successful prosecutions for insider trading since 1991. Richard Steele was named as a person who had been convicted of such an offence. The record should show that whilst criminal proceedings were brought against Richard Steele for insider trading, namely an offence contrary to Section 52 of the Criminal Justice Act 1993, he was not convicted of that (or any other) offence. The record should also therefore show that from 1997 to 13 February 2006 proceedings were brought against 15 individuals, of which eight were successful.


South-West Regional Planning Assessment (Railways)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): The Department for Transport has today published the South West Regional Planning Assessment for the railway (RPAs), the latest in the series of eleven RPAs covering England and Wales. Copies of the document have been placed in both Libraries of the House today and can also be
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downloaded from the Department's website

The South West RPA covers the entire South West of England region including Bristol, Plymouth, Bournemouth/Poole, Exeter and Swindon.

RPAs provide the 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 over the next 20 years,
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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.

It is the Government's intention to publish the remaining RPAs covering the Thames Valley, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, and Wales later this year.

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