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Prisoners: Voting Rights

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Hirst, concerning prisoners' voting rights, has raised a number of difficult and complex issues which need careful consideration. The ECHR indicated that there should be proper debate about those issues. I have therefore concluded that the best way forward would be to embark on full public consultation in which all the options can be examined and which will give everyone the opportunity to have their say. A consultation document is therefore in preparation and I hope it will be available for discussion in a few weeks' time. Thereafter there will be a period for those with an interest to make their views known, which will help to inform the development of future policy.

RAF: Canberra T4 Crash

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Don Touhig) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 2 September 2004 a RAF Canberra T4 aircraft of 39 Squadron crashed at RAF Marham during a training sortie, resulting in the deaths of the two pilots and serious injuries to the navigator. The RAF board of inquiry has now reported and the findings have been given to the next of kin of the deceased aircrew. I have today placed the redacted board of inquiry (parts 1 to 5) in the Library.

Railways: Brighton Main Line

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

Today the Department for Transport has published the route utilisation strategy for the Brighton main line. This strategy has been designed to improve the
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journey experience for the majority of the users of this busy and important route by delivering improved punctuality and more seats at peak times. This will be achieved through a re-timetabling exercise that will exploit the capability of the network to its fullest extent. I have placed a copy of the strategy in the Library.

Route utilisation strategies take a strategic look at the rail network and its timetable. They outline plans to improve timetables to ensure the best use is made of the current rail network and to ensure that services meet current and future demands. This particular strategy was the last to be initiated by the Strategic Rail Authority. Strategies for other parts of the network are being developed by Network Rail.

The strategy published today confirms proposals for Brighton main line services up to 2012. It builds on the work undertaken by the SRA and takes account of the responses it received to its consultation. In particular it takes account of concerns raised by BAA and airline companies about the Gatwick Express service.

The concept of a fast, frequent service between Gatwick and Victoria will remain, although it will be necessary for those trains to serve additional stations. This will still constitute a high-quality service geared towards airline travellers, and in addition most Sussex coast trains will also serve the airport.

Further proposals will bring benefits to passengers elsewhere on the route. Punctuality and journey times will be improved by simplifying train movements, and crowding will be eased through the introduction of longer trains and additional stops at the busiest stations. One of the proposed improvements has already been introduced: a direct Brighton to Ashford
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service now links coastal towns with the Brighton main line and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Commercial negotiations with the relevant train operators to facilitate the proposed changes have already begun. Network Rail will lead on the implementation of the specific timetable proposals. Some 32,000 commuters use the Brighton main line each day. This strategy will build on improvements already made—including the introduction of over 700 new carriages in the past three years—through the provision of an additional 1,280 seats in each of the busiest commuting hours. I am confident that together these changes will deliver real improvements for all rail travellers whether they are travelling for work or for leisure.

Sustainable Development: Construction

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today launching a consultation process on the Government's draft strategy for sustainable construction report 2006. The strategy is an update of the existing Building a better quality of life produced by the then DETR, and focuses on the principle of sustainable development to which the Government as a whole are signed up.

The purpose of updating the strategy is to provide a framework to guide future progress within the construction industry. I expect the review to be complete and published by summer 2006 and I shall inform the House of the outcome.

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