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RAF: Chinook Helicopter Fleet

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

The Ministry of Defence has today announced the award of a contract for the through-life customer support (TLCS) of the Chinook helicopter fleet to the
 
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Boeing Company (Boeing). The key benefit offered by this through-life partnering arrangement is the delivery of a holistic, affordable and incentivised support solution, with clearly defined outputs that transfer substantial risk from the MoD to industry, where it can be better managed. The 34-year TLCS contract, which is worth £199 million over the first five years, will result in savings of 17 per cent (approximately £170 million), over the 34-year life of the contract, compared to the value-for-money benchmark.

The contract is part of the wider defence logistics transformation programme and is entirely consistent with the policy set out in the defence industrial strategy. It follows the successful implementation of similar support contracts for the Sea King, Harrier and Tornado fleets, all of which seek to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of military logistics support to the front line.

As the major subcontractor for this contract, DARA, has worked in partnership with Boeing and the MoD to deliver an availability-based repair and maintenance capability. DARA's sub-contract is worth £69 million over the five-year period and provides work for its bases in Fareham, Perth and Sealand.

Railways: Regional Planning Assessments

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 first of its series of regional planning assessments for the railway (RPAs). This is the eastern RPA, covering north and east London and the east of England region.

Regional planning assessments are designed to inform the development of the Government's strategy for the railway. They look at the challenges and options for development of the railway in each region over the next 20 years, in the wider context of forecast change in population, the economy and travel behaviour. An RPA does not commit the Government to specific proposals. Instead, it sets out the Government's current thinking on how the railway might best be developed to allow wider planning objectives for a region to be met, and identifies the priorities for further development work.

RPAs are the key link between regional spatial planning (including preparation of regional transport strategies) and planning for the railway by both Government and the rail industry. There will be 11 RPAs covering England and Wales.

The RPA clarifies the role of the railway in the region, its contribution to the economy and its place in the overall transport system, setting out where greater rail capability and capacity will be needed over the next 20 years, and the options route by route for
 
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responding to that need. In the shorter term (five years), the Government are committed to making the best use of existing capacity on the network by matching resources to demand.

Copies of the eastern RPA have been placed in the Library today.

Small Business Research Initiative

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): On 13 December 2005 in response to a question from the honourable Member for Burnley (Kitty Ussher), Official Report, Commons, col. 1907W, Alun Michael, Minister for Industry and the Regions informed the House that the DTI's Small Business Service (SBS) would shortly be publishing the overall small business research initiative (SBRI) performance figures for 2003–04 and 2004–05. I have today published these figures. A copy has been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The overall SBRI target is that government departments will procure at least 2.5 per cent of their extramural R&D from small firms. Very good progress is being made. In 2004–05, of a proposed SBRI baseline of £2,532.9 million, £269.1 million (10.6 per cent) went to small firms in the form of contracts.

Also on 12 December 2005, in reply to a Question from the honourable Member for Burnley (Official Report, Commons, col. 1675W) as to whether the guidelines issued to all government departments in implementing the mandatory SBRI would be placed in the Library, the Minister for Industry and the Regions said the guidelines were being revised and would be placed in the Library shortly; the updated guidelines have, today, been placed in the Libraries.

Vehicles: UK Registers

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

I am today launching a full public consultation on the release of data from the DVLA and DVLNI vehicle registers. I have placed copies in the Library and it is also available on the DfT website at www.dft.gov.uk.

The Government take very seriously their responsibilities for protecting individuals' legitimate expectations of privacy and confidentiality. Information collected from citizens is therefore held securely and will be released to third parties only where there is a lawful basis for doing so. There is a broad consensus that some groups—such as the police—should have full access to details from the vehicle register. Over the past 40 years, a wide range of other groups have been granted access to details held on the register for what is judged to be "reasonable cause".
 
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However, the activities of a small number of groups that have been granted access has raised significant concern. And so we are today setting out how the current system operates, and the main options for the future. Consultation will last six weeks and we look forward to receiving responses by 31 March.

Specifically, the consultation seeks views on the groups that should have information from the vehicle register and the reasons for their having it; how we manage access to the register; and the audit regime for those who are granted access.
 
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Following the consultation, we will announce any changes that are to be made and, if necessary, amend legislation accordingly. We intend to ensure that this current review produces a system that protects vehicle keepers from misuse of their information; ensures that those who have a good case can get the data they need; balances the right to privacy of individuals whose data are held on the register with the rights of others to gain proper redress; is cost effective, in that the costs to all are proportionate to the benefits that the scheme delivers; and is right in principle and works in practice.


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