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10 Oct 2006 : Column WS41

Written Statements

Tuesday 10 October 2006

Chemicals Regulations: REACH

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): I am pleased to announce that, together with my counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, I have asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to take on the responsibilities of UK competent authority for the proposed new EU chemicals legislation REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) and that it will today be launching a helpdesk for UK business.

The competent authority will provide advice and support to UK business for dealing with the requirements of REACH, liaise with the new European Chemicals Agency in Helsinki and co-ordinate enforcement of the regulations in the UK.

The Health and Safety Executive will be responsible for delivering the functions of the competent authority, working with the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland and in close partnership with the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Northern Ireland Environment and Heritage Service, which will together help ensure delivery of the environmental benefits of REACH. The full competent authority will be operational when REACH enters into force.

The legally designated competent authority will be the Secretary of State in England and the relevant Ministers or departments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who will then together delegate the functions of the competent authority to the Health and Safety Executive while maintaining overall ministerial responsibility.

We will be working closely with the Health and Safety Executive and other organisations involved to finalise details of the competent authority role and financial arrangements and we hope to reach final agreement shortly.

Civil Aviation Authority

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Gillian Merron) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport is responsible for determining the remuneration of board members of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) under paragraphs 6 and 7 of Schedule 1 to the Civil Aviation Act 1982. This responsibility includes determining pension provision for current and former board members. In practice, board members’ pensions are broadly analogous with the Civil Aviation Authority Pension Scheme (CAAPS).

Under paragraph 7(2) of Schedule 1 to the 1982 Act, once the Secretary of State has made a determination he or she is obliged to lay a Statement before each House of Parliament containing particulars of that determination.

With effect from 6 April 2006 the CAAPS rules have been amended to take account of changes in pensions legislation introduced by the Finance Act 2004. The CAA section of the CAAPS has been amended to reflect these legislative changes. The determination, which has been laid before Parliament today, has been made to bring the named current CAA board member’s pension into line with the CAAPS.

As a consequence of the changes the salary for pension purposes is now no longer subject to the earnings cap (established under Section 590C of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988) which existed previously. Mr Arscott (a pension member by analogy) will now have his benefits calculated on that basis with a commensurate increase in his pension. The determination relates only to the pension payable to Mr Arscott and does not affect the pension arrangements for any other member of the board.

Defence Logistics Organisation and Defence Procurement Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 3 July 2006 (Official Report, cols. 27-8 WS) my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced the decision in principle to approve proposals to co-locate elements of the Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) with the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) in the Bristol/Bath area. He also announced that he had accepted in principle the recommendations of the Enabling Acquisition Change report. These were both subject to subsequent consultation with the trade unions.

The department entered into the formal consultation period immediately after the announcement. I and my ministerial colleagues met with trade union representatives over the summer to discuss their views on the proposals during this time. The formal consultation period has now closed, although we remain committed to trade union engagement throughout the next stages of both projects.

After careful consideration, and taking full account of the points raised by the trade unions, I have decided to proceed with implementing the co-location proposals. I announced this final decision on 29 September 2006 and am updating the House now at the earliest opportunity after the parliamentary Summer Recess.

We will now move into the implementation and assessment phase of the project that will include the moves from Andover and Telford, the tendering process for the development of the new site in Bristol and introducing flexible working arrangements at various sites. We expect to have completed the co-location process by 2011.

Co-location planning has, however, been adjusted in two respects since the 3 July announcement. There will now be no moves from Sapphire House, Telford, before March 2008, although the closure date of 2009 remains. It is also now likely that some current activity will be retained at RAF Wyton instead of moving to main operating bases. This does not alter plans to move about 500 acquisition-focused posts to the Bath/Bristol area in subsequent phases of the project that will also include the withdrawal from Caversfield in 2009-10.

I appreciate that this decision on the way forward for the co-location project will have consequences for MoD employees and their families, particularly in current DLO sites where we will be scaling down our presence or withdrawing altogether. The department will work to mitigate this effect by providing appropriate support for those affected by the outcome of these necessary changes.

The Enabling Acquisition Change report also made a series of recommendations intended to improve the MoD's ability to undertake through-life capability management. Consultation with the trade unions on the recommendations of the report has also concluded. One of the recommendations in the report was to merge the DPA and DLO from 1 April 2007. It has now been decided that the merged organisation will be called Defence Equipment and Support and on formation it will be led by General Sir Kevin O'Donoghue as the first Chief of Defence Materiel.

These decisions will mean that in the future we will have one single, co-located organisation responsible for the procurement, maintenance and sustainment of military capability. This will provide a greater unity of purpose in acquisition, facilitate better decision making in the early stages of acquisition and effectively manage military capability through life. I am confident that this is the right way forward for defence as a whole and will improve the support we give to our Armed Forces.

EU: Transport Council

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Dr Stephen Ladyman) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I will attend the first Transport Council of the Finnish presidency which takes place in Luxembourg on 12 October. The main items on the agenda are: the mid-term review of the 2001 White Paper on transport policy; the Galileo satellite navigation project; the draft regulation on aviation security; and two aspects of aviation external relations.

There will be a policy debate on the mid-term review of the Commission white paper on European transport policy. The review, entitled Keep Europe Moving—Sustainable Mobility for our Continent, appeared in July. It reviews the EU's transport objectives between 2001 and 2010, as set out in the 2001 white paper. Evident in the review is a change of emphasis, the aim now being to get the best from each transport mode, rather than seeing present and future policy in terms of conflict between road and rail. Key themes are better regulation, competitiveness, transparency, innovation and logistics.

The UK's overall aim is to ensure continued emphasis on reducing regulatory burden, ensuring the proper working of the internal market and protection of the environment. This means that new Commission proposals should be based upon a rigorous impact assessment; that the rules of the internal market are monitored to see that they are working properly; that liberalisation of the domestic passenger rail market is treated as a priority; and that measures such as aviation emissions trading are brought forward to help mitigate environmental damage.

There will be a report from the Commission on its communication on freight transport logistics, entitled Freight Logistics in Europe—Key to Sustainable Mobility. The communication,

The Commission plans to present an action plan for freight transport logistics in 2007. The Finnish presidency will take forward consultation on the communication and prepare for the action plan. Logistics is Finland's central presidency priority in the transport field. The UK supports this initiative from the Commission and the proposal to develop an action plan. However, in future discussions on the action plan we will need to ensure that any regulatory proposals that emerge are proportional and supported by industry needs.

The presidency will aim for a general approach on two draft regulations related to management of the Galileo programme. The first amends the statutes of the Galileo Joint Undertaking (Regulation 876/2002 EC) to allow for its closure at the end of 2006; the second amends the regulation (1321/2004 EC) which established the Galileo Supervisory Authority, allowing it to take over the joint undertaking’s responsibilities for the current development phase. The UK supports these amendments, which aim to ensure that an appropriate management structure is in place, with an efficient transition of responsibilities for managing the Galileo programme.

Gas: Safety

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Gas is widely used in households across the country. Gas is safer to use today than 10 years ago, with the number of fatalities down by a third. Yet 20 to 30 people still needlessly die every year from preventable gas-related carbon monoxide poisoning. New research suggests that faulty gas appliances are still being used in many homes and that public awareness of carbon monoxide poisoning risks is worryingly low.

It is not right for the current situation to continue. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is conducting a review to improve consumer gas safety. Gas safety stakeholders need to work with the HSE in that review to produce proposals that will put in place a modern, effective gas safety regime. I am calling on the gas industry meanwhile to do all it can to increase public knowledge of the dangers of unsafe use of gas. I intend, with ministerial colleagues, to meet the industry to review its actions and progress.

Middle East Peace Process and Lebanon

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Margaret Beckett) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I welcome the opportunity to update the House on developments in the Middle East since my last Statement on 13 September.

As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made clear, advancing the Middle East peace process is a key priority for this Government. This is vital for the Israeli and Palestinian people above all, but also for the stability and prosperity of the region. As events this summer demonstrated, the failure to resolve this conflict has serious consequences for the international community, including for the security of our citizens.

Since my last Statement to the House I have met my Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni, and Palestinian President Abbas, and together with Security Council colleagues I have met the Arab League and the parties to discuss how best to re-energise the Middle East peace process. Over the coming period we will remain fully engaged in helping to drive the peace process forward, working closely with both parties and our international partners. We welcome the decision of the quartet to meet with the parties and with the key regional players. We continue to encourage Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to meet as soon as possible.

In particular, we must work with our partners, particularly in the EU, to develop a new programme to build viable institutions for a future Palestinian state. As we set out at the London meeting in 2005, capacity building in the Occupied Territories remains central to advancing the peace process. We will continue to do all we can to support this work. We will also work closely with the US Security Co-ordinator, General Dayton, and other international partners to improve Palestinian security. Past events have repeatedly shown that without progress on this, extremists will always be able to block the political process.

We and the international community must continue to support President Abbas. I would like to pay tribute again to his courage in advancing the interests of his people and the cause of peace. We support his efforts to work for a Palestinian Authority government based on the three quartet principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of past agreements. As the Prime Minister has made clear, we would work with such a government. We remain deeply concerned by the situation on the ground, particularly in Gaza. We call for the immediate release of Corporal Shalit, and particularly welcome efforts by the Government of Egypt and President Abbas to secure his release.

The UK is committed to helping the Palestinian people. The Department for International Development has committed £30 million to the Palestinians this year. This is in addition to the €329 million given by the European Commission this year—the largest contribution in a single year. The UK supports an extension of the “temporary international mechanism” to help alleviate the situation. We are working with EU and quartet partners to deliver this. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn), announced yesterday, the UK is providing an extra £3 million to the mechanism.


The situation in Lebanon has improved significantly since the unanimous adoption on 11 August by the UN Security Council of Resolution 1701. The ceasefire which the resolution established continues to hold. Israeli forces have withdrawn from Lebanon except for those in the divided village of Ghajar. The Lebanese armed forces have deployed in large numbers across the country, including along the blue line and in areas in southern Lebanon in which they have not been seen for many years. The first phase of the expansion of UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), over 5,000 troops, has been deployed in full. A second phase of some 5,000 further troops is in preparation.

The Prime Minister, during his visit to Lebanon in September, stressed our continuing commitment to supporting the Lebanese armed forces, with equipment and training, as they take control throughout the territory of Lebanon. Javier Solana announced on 3 October that the EU will send a team of experts to Beirut to take the EU's work in this area forward.

I pay tribute to the UN, its agencies and the many NGOs involved for the manner in which, during the height of the humanitarian crisis, they delivered essential supplies in difficult circumstances. Most of the Lebanese people displaced by the conflict have now returned, but some 200,000 have been unable to reoccupy their homes because of the level of destruction in their villages or contamination by unexploded munitions.

The reconstruction effort is now under way. On 31 August, the Secretary of State for International Development attended the Stockholm Conference for Lebanon's Early Recovery. The Government of Lebanon set a target of $530 million for their recovery plan, but in the event pledges from countries attending the conference reached over $940 million. The Secretary of State announced in Stockholm a further £4 million package of UK assistance, covering unexploded munitions clearance, shelter, water and sanitation, and bringing the UK total to over £21 million.

We continue to work with the UN Secretary-General and international partners to ensure the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and the earlier resolutions relating to Lebanon. Prime Minister Siniora and the Government of Lebanon have our full support in their effort to secure Lebanon's sovereignty and prosperity. We urge all countries, including Syria and Iran, to implement the Security Council's requirements and to provide firm support to the Government of Lebanon in meeting the challenges ahead.

North Korea: Nuclear Weapons

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Margaret Beckett) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 9 October, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Foreign Ministry announced that it had conducted an underground nuclear test. There is still some doubt about the exact nature of this test, but given North Korea's stated intention last week, there can be very little doubt that it was a nuclear test. We await further information to confirm this, but the international community is proceeding on the basis that this was indeed what the DPRK has said.

The world has been united in its condemnation of North Korea's action, which was carried out in direct defiance of the will of the international community. Comments made by world leaders, nuclear experts and international organisations have highlighted North Korea's isolation. This issue has underlined the scale of the counter-proliferation threat that we face. The international community is working together to overcome this threat to peace and security.

Discussions are taking place within the UN Security Council in New York. Partners have unanimously condemned the DPRK's actions and agreed that a robust response is needed. Negotiations will continue. The UK will be pushing for a robust response given the clear threat posed to international peace and security by North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons, including legally binding sanctions. Under Security Council Resolution 1695, adopted in July, there exists already a sanctions regime which requires all states to prevent missile-related items being transferred to or from North Korea. Any new sanctions will have to go further than this. They will make it clear to North Korea that it must return to the six-party talks and stop disregarding the concerns of its neighbours and the international community. We should in particular strongly support the need for measures to prevent the DPRK from exporting goods and technologies that would help others to develop nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities.

Immediately following the test my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and I both issued statements making it clear that North Korea's actions were both highly irresponsible and provocative. Since then, I have discussed the situation with Foreign Ministers including Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, Japanese Foreign Minister Aso and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Those contacts will continue over the hours and days ahead. We have also called the DPRK ambassador in London to the Foreign Office to make clear our views.

Railways: South Western Franchise

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The department announced on 22 September the award of the South Western rail franchise to Stagecoach South Western Trains Limited (Stagecoach Group plc) for a period of 10 years from 4 February 2007. Stagecoach has undertaken to pay the Department for Transport a premium of £1,191 million net present value (NPV) over the life of the franchise. The franchise has been awarded for 10 years, with the final three dependent on service performance achieving preset targets, including further performance improvements.

The South Western franchise combines two existing franchises, South West Trains and the Island Line, both currently operated by Stagecoach plc. South West Trains operates the busy commuter routes into London Waterloo and serves destinations in south-west London as well as places further afield such as Bournemouth, Bristol, Exeter, Paignton, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Reading, Salisbury, Southampton and Weymouth. Island Line is a much smaller business, serving five towns between Ryde Pier Head and Shanklin over 14 kilometres of track.

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