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The Council will aim to reach a general approach on a regulation repealing Regulation 954/79 on ratification by member states of, or their accession to, the United Nations Convention on a Code of Conduct for Liner Conferences. This will remove the block exemption currently held by this sector of the shipping industry. We agree with this repeal.

There will be a report on the current situation on the Galileo satellite navigation programme. The Council will be asked to accept that the current negotiations for a PPP concession stand little chance of being completed satisfactorily. There are related scrutiny reserves. An explanatory memorandum is being submitted on the recent Commission communication on the negotiations and alternative options.

The UK position is that there is not enough evidence on the cost and risk, or the affordability in terms of the Community financial perspectives, for the Council to make a decision on an alternative way forward. The UK will continue to argue that a decision on the way forward is premature without more information and that finance Ministers should be involved.

The Council will be asked to agree conclusions on a European energy strategy for transport. The UK is broadly content with the latest draft. Our main concern is to ensure that the language on the planned framework for attaining the CO2 emissions target from new cars is consistent with that in the conclusions of the 21 May 2007 Competitiveness Council.

The Council will aim to reach a general approach on a directive bringing up to date the rules on transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterway. There were a number of difficult issues which were solved in the negotiations. The UK was content with the outcome and supports the proposed directive.

There will be a progress report on a draft directive on rail interoperability. The UK supports the proposal and will be working with the German presidency to solve remaining issues before the end of its term.

The Council will be asked to reach a political agreement on an amending regulation to extend the role of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) to flight operations, personnel licensing and the safety of third-country aircraft. The UK supports the development of a comprehensive European regulatory system, centred on an effective European Aviation Safety Agency, as part of its commitment to establishing a high, uniform level of aviation safety across Europe.

The Council will be asked to reach a general approach on a regulation on rulesfor the operation of air services. This is a recast version of the third aviation package, the legislation which set up the aviation single market. We have engaged robustly with the Commission and other member states to secure significant improvements to the original proposals. The improvements are largely deregulatory and will ensure the better and more consistent operation of the common aviation area, closing certain loopholes that were being exploited to the detriment of UK carriers.

One issue remains unresolved; namely, whether national social law should apply to airline staff employed outside that airline’s home country. We believe that such a provision is inappropriate here and cuts across established EU legislation on labour issues. In order to secure final agreement to the regulation, we are proposing to the Council a neutral text which simply asserts that all relevant social provisions of Community law would apply to such workers.

The Council will aim to agree a resolution on the formal establishment of a joint undertaking to implement the SESAR programme, the new generation European air traffic management system. We welcome confirmation of the commitment by the European Commission and Eurocontrol, as founder members of the JU, to fund the development phase. However, we believe that the financial commitment of industry is critical to the overall success of the project.

The Council will be asked to adopt broad conclusions on the EU position on aviation emissions trading, in preparation for the 36th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), in September. The UK is keen to work within the ICAO framework to develop policies, instruments and standards to reduce the impact of aviation’s emissions.

Health: NHS Trusts

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Minister of State (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts) announced last week that, in accordance with Section 35 of the National Health Service Act 2006, Monitor had decided to authorise the following NHS acute trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 June:

Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Trust; and West Dorset General Hospitals NHS Trust.

Monitor's announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 67. A copy of Monitor's press notice has been placed in the Library.

The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to apply for foundation status as soon as practicable. Monitor is now authorising trusts on a monthly basis, and further waves of NHS foundation trusts are set to follow.

Highway Code

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

In February 2006, we issued a draft of proposed revisions to the Highway Code for public consultation, which closed on 15 May 2006. More than 4,000 people offered a total of almost 27,000 comments.

Taking account of these comments, a new draft version of the Highway Code was laid before Parliament on 28 March 2007. A large number of responses to the consultation concerned the rules on cycling and more than 40 amendments were made to these and other rules to take account of comments from cyclists. However, since the code was laid before Parliament, further representations have been made by cyclists who remain concerned that the revised text of rules 61 and 63 on cycle facilities and cycle lanes is insufficiently clear.

Following informal discussions with the CTC, an organisation representing cyclists, we are proposing changes to draft rules 61 and 63 to make clearer the position regarding the advice in the code on the use of cycle facilities and cycle lanes. On 31 May, the Department for Transport wrote to key road safety interests, including members of the Road Safety Advisory Panel, as well as cycling and walking representative bodies, concerning further changes to the Highway Code. A copy of the department’s letter has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

We have asked stakeholders to let us have their views by the end of Tuesday 12 June. The reason for this short timescale is so as not unduly to delay the publication of the new edition of the Highway Code. Any proposed changes have to be laid in Parliament for 40 days before they can come into effect, so will need to be laid by 15 June if the 40-day period is to be completed before the Summer Recess. Views are requested by 12 June to allow time for them to be considered before laying the changes in Parliament. We would then expect to publish the revised edition of the Highway Code in September.

Pensions: Thornton Review

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell) has made the following Statement.

On 16 January this year, I announced that Paul Thornton had been appointed to undertake a review of the functions of pensions institutions as an independent external reviewer. I am pleased to advise the House that I am today laying a copy of his report in the Library of the House.

Paul Thornton has examined whether the functions of the Pensions Regulator, the Pension Protection Fund, the Pensions Ombudsman, the PPF Ombudsman and the Pensions Advisory Service, and the Financial Services Authority, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and the Financial Ombudsman Service in as much as their responsibilities covered pensions, are arranged most effectively. He has done so in an open and consultative way, seeking views from key stakeholders through an initial call for evidence, a consultation on emerging issues, meetings with key players and extensive engagement with the institutions themselves.

His report confirms that the existing institutions are delivering their functions effectively. He recommends that the Pensions Regulator should build on its effective joint working arrangements with the Pension Protection Fund and the Financial Services Authority. He also recommends that there would be benefits in bringing the Pensions Ombudsman and the Financial Ombudsman Service closer together, and identified a number of issues that would need to be resolved in doing so.

The Government welcome his report, and intend to proceed to implement his recommendations, working with the institutions and other interested parties to develop practical proposals that ensure that current and future pensioners may continue to rely on an effective institutional framework for pensions.

Railways: Thames Valley Regional Planning Assessment

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

The Department for Transport has today published the Thames Valley regional planning assessment for the railway (RPA), the latest in the series of 11 RPAs covering England and Wales. The Yorkshire and Humber RPA is also being published today.

Copies of the document have been placed in the Library of the House and can also be downloaded from the department’s website www.dft.gov.uk.

The Thames Valley RPA covers west London, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, plus a small number of stations in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Hertfordshire on lines from London Paddington and London Marylebone.

RPAs provide the link between regional spatial planning (including preparation of regional transport strategies) and planning for the railway by both the Government and the rail industry, and 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 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.

It is the Government's intention to publish the Wales RPA during the summer.

Railways: Yorkshire and Humber Regional Planning Assessment

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

The Department for Transport has today published the Yorkshire and Humber regional planning assessment for the railway (RPA), the latest in the series of 11 RPAs covering England and Wales. The Thames Valley RPA is also being published today.

Copies of the document have been placed in the Library of the House and can also be downloaded from the department’s website at www.dft.gov.uk.

The Yorkshire and Humber RPA covers the Yorkshire and the Humber planning region, together with parts of Greater Manchester and north Derbyshire which are both included in the wider journey-to-work area of the Yorkshire and Humber region, and the key trans-Pennine corridors, linking the region with Manchester and the wider north-west. The RPA excludes a small part of North Yorkshire where rail services on the Whitby line are closely linked to the north-east network and were covered in the north-east RPA.

RPAs provide the link between regional spatial planning (including preparation of regional transport strategies) and planning for the railway by both the Government and the rail industry, and 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 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.

It is the Government’s intention to publish the Wales RPA during the summer.

Shipping: Abnormal Loads

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

I have today published a consultation paper for the attention of stakeholders seeking views on proposed new guidelines to clarify and support the Government’s “water preferred” policy of using water for the transport of abnormal indivisible loads.

Since the 1970s, the Government have had a stated policy of using coastal shipping for moving the largest and heaviest abnormal loads. This was extended in 2002 to include the use of inland waterways wherever practical, economic and environmentally desirable. The “water preferred” policy encourages taking slow-moving abnormal loads off the road network, offering real benefits in terms of reducing disruption and congestion. The consultation is aimed at clarifying how the policy is applied and to provide greater transparency of the decision-making process.

Further information on the consultation is available from the Highways Agency Website at www.highways.gov.uk.

Those wishing to comment on the proposals have until 28 August 2007 to do so.

Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Library of the House.


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