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Written Statements

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Court Fees

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Bridget Prentice, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Ministry of Justice has published the response to the consultation paper (Public Law Family Increases (CP 32/07).

The consultation paper invited comments concerning specific proposals to increase court fees for public law Children Act and adoption proceedings.

Views were sought on how fees could be structured in relation to care proceedings. The options discussed were:

a single full fee payable at issue;variable application fee based on quality of preparation—this option reflecting a recommendation of the Review of the Child Care Proceedings System in England and Wales, published in May 2006; and three fees payable at successive stages of a case (based on the new public law outline procedure introduced in April 2008).

Copies of the response paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be obtained on the department’s website at the following web address—www.justice.gov.uk.

EU: Transport Council

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

I will attend the second Transport Council of the Slovenian presidency which takes place in Luxembourg on 13 June.

In road transport, there were progress reports to the April council on three current legislative proposals: the recast regulation on common rules for access to the international road haulage market; the regulation on common rules concerning the conditions to be complied with to pursue the occupation of road transport operator; and the recast regulation on common rules for access to the market for coach and bus services. The council will aim to reach a political agreement on these proposals. These include new provisions setting up national registers so that information about road haulage and coach companies operating within the EU can be exchanged between member states' authorities for enforcement purposes. The proposals also seek to clarify and simplify the rules for hauliers and coaches working outside of their home territory, including the rules on cabotage. The Government still have reservations about some of these proposals and will be putting our case to the other members of the Transport Council.



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The council will aim to reach a general approach on a recast directive on roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers. The proposal is essentially a consolidation—as well as providing for a very minor update—of existing directives covering the periodic technical inspection of vehicles to verify that they are roadworthy. UK domestic legislation already makes equivalent provision to the two changes in the text.

The council will be asked to adopt conclusions, following the Commission communication on multi-annual contracts for rail infrastructure quality. The aim of the communication is to promote the adoption through the Community of multi-annual funding agreements for rail infrastructure, in order to provide a more stable and efficient financial environment for the delivery of improvements in rail infrastructure quality. We support the adoption of the council conclusions.

There will be a progress report and the council will aim to reach a general approach on a directive on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles. The UK Government support the policy objectives behind the proposal, as well as the principle of using public procurement to help stimulate the market for cleaner and energy-efficient vehicles. We consider that the revised text submitted to council is a significant improvement on the Commission's original and goes in the right direction of encouraging cost-effective green procurement without imposing an unacceptable burden on public authorities. However, we regret the lack of a formal impact assessment, and will want, with the Commission, to keep the costs and benefits of the proposed measures under review, as discussions progress.

The council will be asked to adopt a decision authorising the Commission to open negotiations towards an EU/western Balkans transport treaty. The UK welcomes this opportunity to work towards improvement of the infrastructure of the western Balkans and better transport links.

In aviation, the council will be asked to adopt decisions authorising the Commission to open negotiations on comprehensive air transport agreements with Australia and New Zealand. The UK can support the opening of negotiations with these countries and is content with the proposed negotiating mandate.

Migration

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today publishing a plan that sets out the Government’s approach to managing the impacts of migration.

We believe that migration to the United Kingdom brings substantial benefits to our economy and to society as a whole. Our response to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into migration, published alongside this document,

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restates our case for these benefits. Together these documents set out our objective: to maximise the benefits of migration while minimising any transitional pressures experienced by communities and local service providers.

We are carrying out the biggest shake-up of the UK’s border security and immigration system for 45 years and introducing a new points-based system to attract those most able to make a positive contribution to the UK.

We will continue to provide refuge for those fleeing persecution, as we have done for centuries. Once people are here, we will ensure that they are able to integrate and make a positive contribution to their community. We are also taking steps to ensure that they learn English and do not access benefits or services unfairly.

Migration brings significant benefits nationally but the precise difference that migration makes to local places and people will vary from town to town, neighbourhood to neighbourhood, and sometimes even street to street. Some local areas are more affected by change than others and some communities feel the effects of change more than others. Public concern about immigration remains, particularly about pressures on public services and impacts on the labour market.

In some places it is the rate and scale of change which have an impact on local communities and services. Other places experiencing significant migration for the first time may not have the institutions and programmes in place to help them manage that change. And for some areas, there may be further challenges to face if net migration reduces.

We want to enable all places to share in the positive benefits of migration. But this will take practical action. Local authorities, working closely with their communities and public, private and third sector partners, are best placed to manage change. And, where it is necessary, the Government are committed to providing support in three ways.

First, it is our responsibility to understand the change that is taking place in our communities. We are committed to getting better at planning for the future, anticipating shifts in migration patterns and helping local authorities prepare for them. This work includes a £12 million programme led by the Office for National Statistics to improve population and migration data.

Secondly, we shall help public services respond in those places most affected by demographic changes, including the arrival of new migrants. We have already made specific funding available—such as additional resources for schools experiencing rapid growth in pupil numbers. We are committed to developing a new transitional impacts of migration fund to help manage the local impacts of migration. Money for the fund will be raised through increases to certain fees for immigration applications.

Thirdly, we will support people and communities to be confident in the face of change. We have already provided significant funding for community cohesion by helping new migrants understand local customs and make a positive contribution to local life, and by breaking down the misconceptions that can sometimes cause anxiety or tension with the settled community.

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We are committed to providing further support to local authorities and their partners and to sharing the successful approaches that are already making a difference in many places—from local citizen days to migrant information packs.

There are many commitments made in this document to support what we are offering now, and work is already under way for the rest of this year.

Early in 2009, we intend to provide an update on the changes made and the action taken as a result of this programme of work.

Copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and can be accessed via the Communities and Local Government website at www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/migrationimpact.

Regional Development Agencies

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs (Pat McFadden) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce that I have decided to reappoint 12 existing RDA board members who between them serve six of our regional development agencies; listed below.

Regional Development AgencyBoard member reappointees

Advantage West Midlands

John Crabtree OBE, Cllr Ken Taylor, Dr David Brown

East Midlands Development Agency

Stan Crawford OBE, Parvin Ali OBE

ONENorthEast

Kate Welch, Clllr John Shipley, Ian Brown

NorthWest Regional Development Agency

Vanda Murray (new term as deputy chair)

The South West of England Regional Development Agency

Kelvyn Derrick (continuing in the position of deputy chair)

Yorkshire Forward

Barry Dodd OBE, Cllr Kath Pinnock

The regional development agencies play a vital role in spreading economic prosperity and opportunity to everyone. All the reappointees have brought a wealth of experience to their RDA adding a vast amount of value.

I have agreed to 11 of the reappointments starting on 14 December for a period of three years, expiring in December 2011, with the exception of Ian Brown who I have agreed will be serving another two years until December 2010. I have also agreed to Kelvyn Derrick and Vanda Murray to serve as deputy chairs.

I have placed further details of these reappointments, including biographies, in the Libraries of the House. I can confirm that the appointments were made in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.



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Tramway and Heritage Rail Safety

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

In 2006, the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (generally known within the rail industry as ROGS) (S.I. 2006/599) were introduced as the new safety regulatory framework applicable to all rail-based transport systems. ROGS include new arrangements for ensuring the safety of new or significantly altered rolling stock and infrastructure via a system of independent safety verification that is managed by rail operators.

When ROGS were introduced, the application of the new safety verification arrangements to tramways and heritage rail was postponed until 1 October 2008, to allow further time for the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) to work with the tramway and heritage rail sectors to resolve their remaining concerns surrounding the safety verification process.

Chris Bolt, the chairman of ORR, wrote to me on 15 April 2008 to update me with progress on the work undertaken by ORR to address the concerns of the tramway and heritage railway sectors and recommending that safety verification should be applied to those

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sectors from October 2008, as originally provided for in ROGS. A copy of the letter is available in the House Libraries. Following this, I received a number of representations from both sectors advising that they still have outstanding concerns and requesting that the application of safety verification be postponed for a further period.

ORR acknowledges that the tramway and heritage rail sectors still have some remaining concerns. However, ORR is confident that application of safety verification to these sectors will secure safety in a proportionate and pragmatic way and have given a commitment to provide both sectors with enhanced support when safety verification comes into effect for them. Safety verification has already been successfully applied to the mainline railway network and the London Underground and Docklands Light Railways systems since October 2006.

Having considered the advice and recommendation from ORR and the written and verbal representations from the tramway and heritage rail sectors, I am satisfied that, with the enhanced support to be provided by ORR, the application of safety verification to these sectors will ensure adequate levels of safety are achieved in a pragmatic and proportionate way and am therefore content for ROGS safety verification automatically to come into force for the tramway and heritage rail sectors from 1 October 2008.


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