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5 Jun 2007 : Column 19WS

Movement of Abnormal Loads

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I have today published a consultation paper for the attention of stakeholders seeking views on proposed new guidelines to clarify and support the Government’s “water preferred” policy of using water for the transport of abnormal indivisible loads.

Since the 1970s Government have had a stated policy of using coastal shipping for moving the largest and heaviest abnormal loads. This was extended in 2002 to include the use of inland waterways wherever practical, economic and environmentally desirable. The “water preferred” policy encourages taking slow-moving abnormal loads off the road network, offering real benefits in terms of reducing disruption and congestion. The consultation is aimed at clarifying how the policy is applied and to provide greater transparency of the decision-making process.

Further information on the consultation is available from the Highways Agency website:

Those wishing to comment on the proposals have until 28 August 2007 to do so. Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work and Pensions

Pensions Institutions (Review)

The Minister for Pensions Reform (James Purnell): On 16 January this year I announced that Paul
5 Jun 2007 : Column 20WS
Thornton had been appointed to undertake a review of the functions of pensions institutions as an independent external reviewer. I am pleased to advise the House that I am today laying a copy of his report in the Library of the House.

Paul Thornton has examined whether the functions of the Pensions Regulator, the Pension Protection Fund, the Pensions Ombudsman, the PPF Ombudsman and the Pensions Advisory Service, and the Financial Services Authority, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and the Financial Ombudsman Service in as much as their responsibilities covered pensions, are arranged most effectively. He has done so in an open and consultative way, seeking views from key stakeholders through an initial call for evidence, a consultation on emerging issues, meetings with key players and extensive engagement with the institutions themselves.

His report confirms that the existing institutions are delivering their functions effectively. He recommends that the Pensions Regulator should build on its effective joint working arrangements with the Pension Protection Fund and the Financial Services Authority. He also recommends that there would be benefits in bringing the Pensions Ombudsman and the Financial Ombudsman Service closer together, and identified a number of issues that would need to be resolved in doing so.

The Government welcome his report, and intend to proceed to implement his recommendations, working with the institutions and other interested parties to develop practical proposals that ensure that current and future pensioners may continue to rely on an effective institutional framework for pensions.

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