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Baroness Hayman: The training support programme budget for 1998-99 is £35.45 million. It is set to rise to £39.0 million for 1999-2000 and there are planning figures of £42.5 million and £44.5 million for the two subsequent years. This provides a sound basis on which local authorities can plan their local expenditure.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): This is the second consultation in the two-stage process announced earlier this year.
Part 1 of this consultation invites comments on detailed proposals for future night restrictions at the three airports. Part 2 deals with Heathrow only, and invites views on options for the possible introduction of night-time runway alternation and on changing westerly preference at night. It also includes a summary of the assessment of the continuing trial procedure for landings over London in the early morning. The Government wish to consider all responses to Part 2 before reaching a view.
In developing these proposals, we have taken into account the responses received to the preliminary consultation paper. We have sought to strike the right balance between the need to protect local communities from excessive aircraft noise at night and the need to allow air services to operate at night where they benefit the local, regional and national economy.
Our aim is to put in place arrangements which, over time, will bring about improvements in the noise climate during the night quota period (11.30 pm-6.00 am) around Gatwick, and further improvements around Heathrow. We also wish to provide for the planned development of Stansted, broadly as envisaged in 1993, while maintaining and strengthening the incentive for airlines to use quieter aircraft.
Lord Whitty: The New Towns Pension Fund, like all tax approved occupational pension schemes, is subject to an underlying trust deed, and to the requirements of legislation governing pension schemes. As the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is not a party to the trust deed, it is a matter for the fund's trustees, having obtained the necessary consents from the remaining employer, the Commission for the New Towns, to deal with any surplus in accordance with the trust deed and rules.
We understand, however, that discussions have taken place between the fund's trustees and the CNT over ways in which the surplus might be applied, but that the trustees are seeking to resolve various legal issues first.
Lord Whitty: There is no single width of an abnormal load that would result in the automatic removal of street furniture. Whether it was necessary to remove such objects would depend on all the dimensions of the load, its manoeuvrability and the specific road layout. It is unlikely that any street furniture would be required to be removed on motorways other than at the entrances to or exits from other primary routes.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Her Majesty's Government have made clear our support for UNHCR's effective involvement in relation to the refugees on the Thai-Burma border, through the British Embassy in Bangkok, which is in close touch with UNHCR. The Thai authorities and UNHCR have been discussing the role UNHCR should play. Progress is being made: two UNHCR offices have recently opened in the border area.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government have no plans to increase the grant-in-aid which the British Council will receive during the course of the current financial year. The Council has worked out its expenditure plans for the year on the basis of the available grant-in-aid, which will enable it to fund its activities at home and abroad. However, as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Government have been able to secure for the Council an uplift for inflation over the three years from 1999-00, plus a further real increase of approximately £2 million for each of those years. This will enable the Council to plan ahead securely and to continue to help to deliver the Government's objective of promoting Britain abroad.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: A wide range of factors must be balanced in determining the future of a particular post. These include the degree of development and openness of the market in question; its long term prospects; the need of British exporters for help and advice; the demand for commercial services and whether resources might bring greater overall benefits if deployed elsewhere.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Britain's global network of posts is under constant review. The outcome of the CSR has enabled the FCO to begin a wide-ranging modernisation programme to ensure that the deployment of staff and resources meets government priorities. Geographical strategic reviews put forward options to the Board of Management, which makes recommendations on post enhancements and closures. Relevant Ministers are consulted and the final decision rests with the Foreign Secretary.
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