Previous Section Index Home Page


EU Transport Council

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I attended the first Transport Council of the Czech presidency, in Brussels on 30 March.

There was a progress report and policy debate on the proposed amendment to Directive 1999/62/EC on the charging of heavy goods vehicles for the use of certain infrastructures—the “Eurovignette Directive”. Presenting its latest compromise text, the presidency explained that the draft amending Directive would give member states flexibility to add an element for external costs (e.g. environmental or congestion) to any distance-based charges they levied on lorries. I supported the inclusion of congestion charging from the outset, and restated the UK’s opposition to earmarking of revenues.

The Council reached a general approach on an amendment to the Directive on the organisation of working time in road transport. The presidency outlined its compromise text, which would allow member states to exclude self-employed road transport workers from the scope of the Directive, if they wished. The text of the general approach was acceptable to the United Kingdom.

The Council adopted conclusions on the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) action plan, which aims to promote the increase of ITS deployment across the EU, to support cleaner, safer and more efficient road transport. The conclusions were acceptable to the UK.

The Council adopted a decision endorsing the master plan for air traffic management in Europe (a part of the SESAR project for Single Sky implementation) and a Council resolution on the master plan. Both were acceptable to the UK.

The presidency and Commission reported on the good progress made on the legislative proposals comprising the Single European Sky package. These are: a regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004 which established the Single European Sky; and an amending regulation extending the responsibilities of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to the safety of aerodromes, air traffic management and air navigation services. I look forward to the formal adoption of these proposals, which are an important step towards completion of the SES.

The Council endorsed the recently agreed comprehensive air transport agreement with Canada. I look forward to the signature of this important agreement in the near future.

In maritime transport, there was a progress report and policy debate on a draft regulation on the rights of passengers when travelling by sea and inland waterway. The presidency outlined the aims of the draft regulation, which are to provide new rights for passengers with reduced mobility and to improve general passenger rights. I noted the progress made on this proposal and stressed that the final outcome of the negotiations should reflect an appropriate balance between the interests of passengers and those of the vessel operators.

Also in maritime transport, the Council adopted conclusions arising from two recent Commission communications, “Strategic Goals and Recommendations for the EU’s maritime transport policy until 2018”, and an action plan with a view to establishing “a European maritime space without barriers”. Both sets of conclusions were acceptable to the UK.

2 Apr 2009 : Column 87WS

The presidency reported on the draft regulation establishing the second “Marco Polo” programme. This should allow the Marco Polo programme to fully deploy its potential, and we strongly support it.

Under AOB, the Commission reported on the Galileo satellite navigation programme. It announced its plans to make two new legislative proposals, one revising the regulation which established the Galileo supervisory authority, and the other on policy for access to the Public Regulated Service (PRS) for Government-authorised users.

Also under AOB, the Commission presented its proposal to amend the airport slots regulation so as to suspend temporarily the ‘use it or lose it’ rule for airport slots, with the aim of helping airlines in the economic downturn. This would enable the EU industry to adjust supply to falling demand. I agreed that this was a sensible short term proposal, but stressed that it should be restricted to the summer season, and an extension should be considered only with an accompanying impact assessment looking at consumer/competition implications. I also pressed for a wider review of the slot allocation regulations to be undertaken by the Commission in 2010, to include an examination of how environmental considerations could be taken into account more fully. The Commission agreed to the UK request and underlined the temporary nature of the proposed suspension to those member states with concerns.

Over lunch, there was a discussion of the effects of the economic situation on the transport sector and measures to help mitigate the impact. I pointed to the real economic benefits secured from liberalisation of the transport sector, which are consistent with single market developments, and I emphasised that reduction of carbon emissions has to continue to be taken into account.

East Anglia Rail Service

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): In July 2007, the Government published they White Paper “Delivering a Sustainable Railway”. Within this the Government set out they High Level Output Specification (HLOS) for the railways, detailing the outputs they wanted the industry to achieve by the end of the five year period from the 1 April 2009 to 31 March 2014—known as Control Period 4 or CP4. These outputs covered the areas of capacity, reliability and safety.

In terms of capacity, targets for the accommodation of extra demand were produced for each of the main London termini and major cities. The White Paper indicated that a total of 1,300 additional carriages were expected to be required to meet these requirements. So far 423 of these additional carriages have been ordered, even before the start of CP4.

I am pleased to announce to the House that today that my Department has signed a deed of amendment to its franchise agreement with London Eastern Railway Ltd, which trades as National Express East Anglia (NXEA) and is part of National Express Group plc.

This contractual variation will enable NXEA to add 188 carriages to its existing fleet, boosting capacity into London Liverpool Street by providing approximately 11,000 extra seats during the morning three hour peak period by December 2011.

NXEA will lease 120 new Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) carriages, that will be built by Bombardier Transportation UK Ltd in Derby. These trains which
2 Apr 2009 : Column 88WS
have a capital cost of £ 160 million will be owned by Lloyds TSB General Leasing (No.8) Limited, a subsidiary of Lloyds TSB Bank plc. This is the first time this bank has provided finance for trains. The trains will principally be used on the Stansted Express route, enabling a cascade of rolling stock within the franchise to lengthen other services.

NXEA will also lease 68 Class 321 EMU carriages which are currently in use on the London Midland franchise where they are due to be replaced in July 2009. These carriages will receive an internal refresh.

NXEA will increase car parking space at four stations (Broxbourne, Audley End, Harlow Town and Diss), install two carriage washers and increase its workforce to implement the scheme.

Network Rail will be undertaking infrastructure enhancements to facilitate the changes to NXEA’s operations, including platform lengthening, power supply upgrades and two passing loops.

This is one of the largest contract changes negotiated with a Train Operating Company (TOC) during its franchise term since privatisation of the railways in 1997. I hope to make further such announcements over the next 12 months, although this requires TOCs to co-operate in providing my Department with affordable and value for money proposals which meet the capacity requirements for their franchise areas.

Cabinet Office

Equality Bill

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): In Great Britain, we already provide protection against direct discrimination and harassment that arises because the victim is wrongly perceived to belong or subscribe to a particular race, religion or belief, or to have a particular sexual orientation. Direct discrimination and harassment arising from association with a person of a particular race, religion or belief or with a particular sexuality are also prohibited.

The Government’s response to the consultation on reform of discrimination law(1), published on 21 July 2008, set out how we proposed to deal with direct discrimination and harassment based on perception and association in the Equality Bill. But we also made it clear that we would need to consider carefully the terms of the judgment of the European Court of Justice in the Coleman case(2), published on 17 July 2008, before determining the final approach for the Equality Bill.

I am today announcing that we have decided to extend the prohibition against associative and perceptive direct discrimination and harassment to other strands and areas where this does not currently apply. The Equality Bill will therefore prohibit direct discrimination and harassment based on association and perception in respect of race, sex, gender reassignment, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age and in relation to both employment and areas beyond this, such as goods, facilities and services.

This extension will implement the Coleman judgment in Great Britain and the extension to other protected characteristics is in keeping with the aims of the Equality Bill to simplify and strengthen the law.

    Index Home Page