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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 18 July 2007

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

British Council Annual Report

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): Copies of the British Council annual report, incorporating the trustees’ annual report and accounts, for the financial year ended 31 March 2007 have been placed in the Library.

During the period the British Council received £188,124,000 grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Northern Ireland

Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland’s annual report and accounts for the year ended 31 March 2007 is published today.

Copies will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.


“Rail Franchising Process”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): “The Future of Rail” White Paper and the Railways Act 2005 set out a new role for Transport for London (TfL) in relation to rail, giving them more say in the specification of rail services and allowing them greater flexibility to make choices about the balance between rail and other modes. I am today publishing guidance that explains how the new role of TfL in the franchise specification, letting and management process under the Railways Act 2005, will work in practice. Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be found on the Department for Transport’s website at: www.dft.gov.uk.

The London suburban commuter rail network does not stop at the GLA boundary. Certain rail services terminate just outside the Greater London area. Because of this the Mayor and TfL were not able to propose changes to “inner suburban” services, to improve service levels or better integrate services with other transport modes. “The Future of Rail” White Paper set out a commitment to change this by enabling TfL to specify and pay for enhancements to these services.

Following consultation on the proposal, I am today announcing that TfL, as part of the franchise specification
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process, can propose and pay for extra train services or improvements to stations on a number of these “inner suburban” routes.

It is vital to ensure that the rights and interests of rail passengers outside London are protected by those democratically accountable to them. Therefore TfL will be required to consult with Local Transport Authorities in the affected areas beyond the boundary, as well as Regional Assemblies, and London TravelWatch.

Were TfL to seek any reductions to service levels, the governance arrangements are stronger. TfL would be required to obtain the agreement of affected Local Transport Authorities.

In instances where TfL and Local Transport Authorities cannot reach agreement, the disputes should come to the Secretary of State for Transport and feed through the normal franchise dispute resolution process. The Secretary of State shall be the final arbiter of any disagreements.

Section 17 of the Railways Act 2005 amends schedule 10 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999 so as to ensure that within six months of section 17 coming into force the membership of the TfL board includes at least two members who can represent the interests of people living, working and studying in areas outside Greater London served by rail services running into London. A commencement order bringing section 17 of the Railways Act 2005 into force on 8 August 2007 was made on 10 July 2007.

These governance arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the rights and interests of rail passengers outside London are suitably protected. TfL will not be able to propose changes to fares on “inner suburban” routes that run beyond the boundary. As a general rule, TfL will not be allowed to propose additional stops on long distance and inter-city services, although the Department will look at individual proposals on a case by case basis.

The “inner suburban” services that terminate beyond the GLA boundary, and on which TfL will be able to propose changes to services levels are:

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The services above reflect the main weekday services and may alter for operational purposes or for some late night or weekend services.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): I have today published a summary of the responses to the Government’s consultation on the design and longer term evolution of the proposed renewable transport fuel obligation (RTFO). Copies have been placed in the Libraries of
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both Houses and are available on the Department for Transport’s website www.dft.gsi.gov.uk.

There were over 6,000 responses to the consultation, the great majority highlighting concerns over the sustainability of biofuels. The Government have already indicated how they intend to strengthen the RTFO's environmental safeguards in the light of these concerns, as set out in a written ministerial statement on 21 June 2007, Official Report, column 116-117WS. The changes we proposed in that statement put the UK at the international forefront of work to promote sustainable biofuels.

The Government have given careful consideration to the issues raised by stakeholders, and the document I have published today summarises how we intend to take them into account in finalising the RTFO Order which is due to be laid in Parliament in the autumn.

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