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The House will also wish to be aware that 16 Air Assault Brigades deployment will last until October 2008. On current plans, the Brigade will then be replaced by 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines. I shall make a further statement on the units we expect to deploy in October in due course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has today announced the end of its immediate requirement for testing on live goats as part of its hyperbaric research in support of the MODs Submarine Escape Rescue and Abandonment System (SMERAS).
This research programme has been aimed at improving the accuracy of the information relating to the likely risk of the incidence of decompression illness following escape from a submerged submarine in varying depths and internal submarine pressures. Information obtained from these trials has been used to provide advice to submarine crews in the event of early abandonment of a disabled submerged submarine. This information enables the crew to make an informed judgement of the relative risks of delaying abandonment until rescue arrives. The welfare of its personnel is paramount to the MOD and this advice forms an integral part of MODs duty of care to its submarine staff.
The MOD only conducts animal testing where absolutely necessary and all work involving animals is carried out in strict accordance with the requirements of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Therefore, all testing using animals is subject to regular review to assess the need to continue with such work.
The MOD has recently reviewed the requirement for further such hyperbaric research. The testing programme was aimed at improving the accuracy of the information relating to the likely probability and consequence of decompression illness following escape from a submerged submarine in varying depths and internal submarine pressures. This requirement has now been achieved, and the review has concluded that the remaining associated areas of uncertainty in submarine escape and rescue relate to events that are considered highly unlikely, and do not therefore need to be addressed by means of animal testing. The MOD has endorsed these recommendations and as a result, it has no immediate need to continue animal testing of this type.
The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Liam Byrne):
Over the next year, the Government will deliver the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for over 45 years. As part of these reforms I am today laying the first of a series of new immigration rules implementing
the Points-Based System (PBS). The PBS will build on a package of measures already being introduced to deliver our four objectives of protection, prevention, accountability and compassion.
Steps to strengthen our border protection will include: checking fingerprints before we issue a visa, screening all travellers against watch lists and introducing a single border force with police-like powers for frontline staff. The PBS will form part of a robust system that is designed to prevent illegal migration. Associated measures will include big fines for employers who do not make checks and compulsory ID cards for foreign nationals make checks easier. We will continue to welcome those who promise to abide by the rules but we will hold to account those who break the rules, including automatic deportation for those who commit a serious offence.
The new rules for the points system strengthen our power to automatically refuse applications in which deception is used. Those who breach our immigration laws will be barred from returning to the UK for a fixed period of up to ten years. The new rules also begin to implement the PBS Tier 1 (General) route for highly skilled migrants.
The highly skilled tier will let Britain recruit some of the most successful people in the world. At the same time, we are toughening the immigration rules to make it easier to keep out migrants whom we do not want. All PBS migrants will need to provide original documents to prove that they are entitled to the points they claim. Where we have any suspicions about the documents, we will conduct rigorous checks and will disregard any document that we cannot verify. Any application in which deception is used will be refused automatically.
Under the new rules, those who try to cheat their way into Britain by lying in their immigration applications will automatically be refused. Those who breach our immigration laws will be barred from returning to the UK for a fixed period of up to ten years. This sends out the message that, although we welcome highly skilled migrants who wish to contribute to our society, we will not tolerate those who do not play by the rules.
Anyone who has used deception when applying for a visa will have any future applications to come here refused for ten years. Anyone who has used deception in any other application, or committed any other breach of the rules, will be refused permission to come back for the following periods, depending on how they left the UK after doing what they did:
Ten years if they were removed or deported;
Five years if they left voluntarily at public expense (for example, through an assisted voluntary return);
One year if they left voluntarily at their own expense.
Where migrants have left the UK at public expense, we will also require them to repay the cost of their departure if they want to return, once we have introduced primary legislation that allows us to do so.
We are implementing the PBS Tier 1 (General) route for highly skilled migrants, and their dependants. The route will be open to migrants applying in-country from
29 February 2008; and open to applicants applying overseas in India from 1 April 2008. The route will be opened to all applicants applying overseas by the summer. Tier 1 (General) builds upon the success of the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) in attracting and retaining the most talented migrants who have the most to contribute economically.
1. Simplifying the process for introducing specified application forms and procedures for applications or claims in connection with immigration.
2. Amending the rules for indefinite leave to remain as a work permit holder to allow time spent as a Highly Skilled Migrant or PBS Tier 1 (General) to count towards the current five-year qualifying period for settlement. This will correct an inconsistency in the immigration rules whereby time spent as a work permit holder can count towards an application for indefinite leave to remain as a Highly Skilled Migrant, but time spent as a Highly Skilled Migrant does not count towards an application for indefinite leave to remain as a work permit holder.
There are a limited number of postgraduate and speciality training posts in the NHS and in recent recruitment rounds significant numbers of UK-trained doctors have been displaced by doctors who have trained abroad. We are therefore amending the immigration rules to reduce the level of competition for training posts in the short-term.
Highly Skilled Migrants, Tier 1 (General) Migrants and their dependants will, in certain circumstances, have a condition imposed on their leave to enter or remain in the UK prohibiting them from taking employment as a doctor in training. This condition will not apply to migrants already in the UK with leave as a highly skilled migrant or as a postgraduate doctor/dentist undertaking the foundation course. These restrictions will be temporary pending the Department for Health implementing a sustainable solution to NHS recruitment issues.
The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell): I will attend the Education Council on 14 February, representing both DIUS and DCSF interests. The meeting will cover two items, as follows:
Ministers will adopt the 2008 joint progress report of the Council and the Commission on progress under the Education & Training 2010 work programme. The work programme is part of the EU objective to meet the Lisbon goals for growth and jobs and sets out benchmarks to be reached by 2010 in the fields of education and training. The report outlines progress in Europe against these benchmarks. It has been cleared by the European Scrutiny Committees in both Houses.
There will be an exchange of views and adoption of key messages to the spring European Council in the field of education and training. The messages are grouped in four themes: challenges which remain in the implementation of lifelong learning strategies; the importance of creativity, innovation and a broad skills base within the knowledge triangle, calling for a review of future skills requirements at European level, and increased autonomy for universities to enable them to benefit from private sector funding; intercultural dialogue as a means to create an inclusive society and competitive economy; and the development of transnational mobility. The proposed messages are acceptable to the UK.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): On the 22 February 2005 the then Secretary of State for Transport introduced a hybrid Bill to provide for the construction, maintenance and operation of Crossrail. At this time, directions were also issued for the safeguarding of the main Crossrail route, from Maidenhead to Shenfield and from Whitechapel to Abbey Wood, for the associated construction worksites, and for the possible extension of Crossrail from Abbey Wood to Hoo Junction. This safeguarding protects the route from any conflicting developments that could interfere with the construction or operation of Crossrail.
As a result of negotiations with affected parties and the development of engineering design works, there have been changes to the land needed for the construction and operation of Crossrail. This means that some land that has been safeguarded will no longer be needed, while we are proposing to use other sections of land that are not currently safeguarded. Accordingly, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has issued revised safeguarding directions for the main route that reflect these changes.
In July 2005, the Department consulted on the possibility of safeguarding land between Maidenhead and Reading West Junction, which would protect land potentially required, should it be decided to extend Crossrail services to Reading. The Department also consulted on updating the safeguarding directions in the Abbey Wood to Hoo Junction corridor, to allow for additional works considered necessary for an extension of Crossrail services to Ebbsfleet. A decision was deferred following an instruction by the House to the Select Committee, where it considered appropriate, to consider any petitions on the extension of Crossrail to Reading (and Ebbsfleet) and to report to the House whether there was a case for the extension to be made by an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992. The Committee heard some evidence but did not make any recommendation on these matters in its Special Report, published on 23 October 2007.
I have now decided to safeguard additional land between Maidenhead and Reading. While I am clear that Crossrail services will terminate at Maidenhead and have no plans to extend them to Reading, this measure gives the flexibility to be able to extend Crossrail in the future, should there be a business case. This safeguarding of the route would also protect the possibility of undertaking electrification works on the route to Reading, even without the extension of Crossrail. Again,
this keeps this option available should a decision be taken to electrify the railway beyond Maidenhead.
There is no need for works powers to extend to Reading to be included in the Crossrail Bill, which would seriously delay the passage of the Bill through Parliament. If such powers were needed these could be sought by means of a Transport and Works Act Order. There is also sensible advance planning through designing station improvement works at both Reading and Maidenhead so as to allow for the possibility of the future extension of Crossrail services.
The Department is still considering updating the safeguarded route to Ebbsfleet and will continue to discuss this matter with Cross London Rail Links and the relevant local authorities further. The Department will make an announcement regarding this in due course.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly): As part of the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, I was able to agree a funding settlement with the Mayor of London for Transport for London (TfL) through to 2017-18. This settlement included details of funding for Crossrail and provision for costs relating to Metronet in the light of its move into administration.
This 10-year funding settlement underlines the Governments commitment to deliver the transport investment central to our continued growth and prosperity. It carries forward our commitment to modernising and extending the capitals public transport system, including the upgrade of the London Underground. It sustains our support for transport projects central to our preparation for the Olympics in 2012. And it supports the delivery of Crossrail. I am taking this opportunity to place copies of letters setting out details of the TfL settlement in full in the Library of the House and on my Departments website.
I can set out these details now because those elements of the settlement that relate to Metronet are no longer commercially sensitive. As the House will know, in 2003, the Metronet companies (Metronet Rail BCV Ltd and Metronet Rail SSL Ltd) entered into Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts with London Underground Ltd (LUL), which is now a subsidiary of TfL. Under the PPP agreements, the Metronet companies were responsible for the maintenance, renewal and upgrade of discrete parts of LULs infrastructure. LUL remains responsible, in the public sector, for delivering services to customers.
The PPP contractual arrangements were accompanied by Put Option Agreements, whereby LUL could be required to purchase Metronets debt six months after any defined insolvency event. This borrowing was undertaken to finance the maintenance and renewal of the tube network under the PPP contracts, and was already reflected in planned public spending.
The Secretary of State will take into account, among other factors, all the obligations of LUL under any PPP contracts (including obligations under the Put Option Agreement or the Stand Still Agreement) in considering and setting transport grant for the GLA under section 101 of the GLA Act, or in making grants to LRT under section 12 of the LRT Act.
This letter of comfort was notified to Parliament as a contingent liability, and the existence of that letter of comfort has been recorded in successive resource accounts for the Department for Transport, without quantification of the amount in question.
On 18 July 2007, the Metronet companies entered into PPP administration, following a lengthy period of poor performance which led to their insolvency. This constituted an insolvency event for the purposes of the Put Option Agreements.
The Put Options were exercised yesterday (5 February), and I have today been advised by TfL that all the conditions for their exercise have been met. Having regard to the commitments in my predecessors letter of March 2003 and to the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review, I will make available to the GLA a grant under section 31 of the Local Government Act 2003 of £1.7 billion specifically for the use of LUL for the payment of the Put Option Price.
The timetable for payments under the Put Option Agreements means that a cash advance of £1.7 billion is needed from the contingencies fund to make the grant payment. Parliamentary approval for this new expenditure, repaying the contingencies fund advance, will be sought at the earliest opportunity in a supplementary estimate for the Department for Transport.
The net effect of this grant payment and other changes to my Departments resource accounts made as part of the settlement with Transport for London will be £2 billion, that will go through the Operating Cost Statement as capital grants. In addition to the sums associated with the Put Option, this funding provides:
Additional grant payments to replace planned Metronet borrowing up to 2010these borrowings were already provided for in planned public expenditure aggregates and so the additional grant does not involve any net increase in public expenditure.
Additional grant payments to give TfL short term flexibility while the costs associated with Metronets administration remain uncertain.
The settlement gives London Underground the resources needed to manage Metronets administration, and to support moving toward a more stable long term footing and to continue the work to maintain, renew and upgrade the Underground.