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The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): I have arranged for copies of the second report of Robert Whalley CB, Independent Reviewer of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (the "2007 Act"), to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
This second report provides an assessment of the operation of sections 21 to 32 of the 2007 act and the procedures adopted by the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints. The report covers the period 1 August 2008 to 31 July 2009.
The report highlights the seriousness in the security position this year, with the reviewer reporting that the use of the powers under the 2007 Act has remained entirely appropriate and proportional. The reviewer makes clear that, in the light of the activities of dissident republicans, the balance of argument for continuing the powers is persuasive.
The independent reviewer notes that while the low level of general complaints regarding military activity has been maintained, there has been an increase in the number of complaints in relation to helicopter flying. The reviewer does, however, assess that the procedures adopted by the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade for dealing with these complaints is positive and he is satisfied that the staff concerned with addressing the complaints are aware of the importance of pursuing their inquiries fully and expeditiously. This is important, as these training flights are necessary and reflect the armed forces wider strategic commitment, particularly in Afghanistan.
There has also been a major change recently with the closure of RAF Aldergrove. While air activity will continue under the Joint Helicopter Command Flying Station Aldergrove, the reviewer has indicated this change presents an opportunity to review how best to reconcile military needs with the impact on the community, through the fullest possible engagement with the community.
The Chief Constable and the Brigade Commander 38 (Irish) Brigade have both welcomed the independent reviewer's report and the recommendations made. I too welcome the recommendations made by Robert Whalley in his second report and I will consider them carefully.
In January, the Government set up High Speed Two Ltd to advise on the development of high-speed rail services between London and Scotland. At the end of this month High Speed Two will report to me on a detailed route plan for the first stage of a north-south high-speed line, from London to the West Midlands. The company will also advise on options for extending high-speed services, and high-speed lines, to destinations further north, including the North-West, the East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North-East and Scotland. It will also advise on options for serving Heathrow Airport, and on connections between High Speed One and High Speed Two.
HS2 will present a business case supported by technical assessments, including demand forecasts, and the potential for shifting journeys to high-speed rail from air and road. In respect of the route between London and the West Midlands, the company will also present detailed plans, design specifications, and an assessment of costs, funding and delivery structures.
Having taken full account of the HS2 report, if the Government decide to pursue proposals for high-speed rail, we will publish a White Paper setting out plans by the end of March 2010. This would include route proposals, timescales and associated financial, economic, and environmental assessments. The White Paper would be followed by a full public consultation in the autumn of 2010, giving all interested parties an opportunity to comment before proposals are finalised and a Hybrid Bill is prepared.
It would not be possible to publish the HS2 report in advance of a White Paper setting out the Government's plans, as to do so would cause unnecessary blight in respect of options identified but not taken forward. However, the report will be published alongside the Government's response. I will seek to minimise uncertainty for those who are potentially affected by a proposed line, and the White Paper would therefore set out, for consultation, a non-statutory hardship scheme.
Under section 19 of the Transport Act 1985, the Secretary of State has the power to designate bodies who may issue permits under that section to eligible community transport operators. These "section 19" permits allow the holder to operate transport services for hire or reward, subject to certain conditions, without the need for a full public service vehicle operator's licence.
The Government published the 12-week consultation on the 21 July 2009, and intend final proposals to come into force around the middle of 2010. The proposals would apply to England, Scotland and Wales.
Copies of the formal response are available on the Departments website (www.dft.gov.uk) and in the Libraries of both Houses.
In July, I announced a £1.1 billion investment in the electrification of the Great Western Main Line between London and South Wales, and the line between Liverpool and Manchester.
In the pre-Budget report the Chancellor indicated that the Government are now going ahead with plans for electrification of further lines in the North-West. I can today set out the lines and expected timescales involved.
The first line is between Huyton-on the line running from Liverpool to Manchester-and Wigan, on the already electrified West Coast Main Line. This will allow electric trains to operate between Liverpool and Wigan via St. Helens. The second line is between Manchester and Euxton Junction-just south of Preston on the West Coast Main Line. This will allow electric trains to operate between Manchester and Preston, via Bolton. The third line is between Blackpool North and Preston. This will allow electric trains to operate between Blackpool North and both Liverpool and Manchester.
Our plans envisage that, once electrified, these three lines will be served by thoroughly refurbished electric commuter trains transferred from the Thameslink line. This will increase rail capacity and reliability between key cities and towns in the North-West. It will allow 30 year old "Pacer" diesel trains to be retired, and modern diesel trains to be transferred to other routes requiring extra capacity. It will also help to reduce the long-term cost of operating the railway, and reduce carbon emissions.
Network Rail will now develop detailed plans to complete these electrification projects alongside the previously-announced plans for Liverpool to Manchester, opening in sequence between 2014 and 2016. Funding of up to £1.1 billion had already been allocated for electrification between Liverpool and Manchester and on the Great Western Main Line. Subject to detailed work on value for money on each new line, a further £200 million will be provided from within Network Rail's capital programme, giving a total investment available for electrification of up to £1.3 billion.
In July I undertook to review the Department's rolling stock plan in the light of the electrification announcements and other developments. The Government remain committed to providing an additional 1,300 carriages by mid-2014. Until commercial negotiations on the Thameslink programme are completed, I am not in a position to update the rolling stock plan, which is critically dependent on the determination of the Thameslink rolling stock contract. However, I can give the following detail of recent and projected rolling stock procurements:
Southeastern introduced 48 cascaded carriages in March 2009 as the first phase of additional capacity to address the crowding of train services through London Bridge to London Charing Cross and London Cannon Street. The specification for the second phase is now being developed as part of the Thameslink Key Output 1 (December 2011) and Key Output 2 (December 2015) service patterns which are being discussed with train operators.
The East Anglia franchise operator will take delivery of 120 new carriages for Stansted Express services, as part of the Department's agreement with the current train operating company. This will enable the carriages currently forming these trains to be redeployed to lengthen other services into London Liverpool Street. National Express East Anglia is also deploying a further 68 cascaded carriages to lengthen existing trains. In total 188 new and cascaded carriages will be deployed to increase capacity into London Liverpool Street.
The first two phases of additional capacity on London Midland services have been agreed. These involve the deployment of 28 cascaded carriages to lengthen trains and also to operate more trains between Watford and London Euston during peak periods. The third phase of the additional capacity for London Midland services is now being developed with the train operator. This will focus on additional capacity into Birmingham.
Extra capacity provision is included in the recently-announced Southern franchise. This includes additional capacity into London Bridge and London Victoria over the next three years using 128 cascaded carriages.
Arrangements are almost finalised with First Capital Connect for the introduction of 41 carriages onto the services into London. The extra carriages will be introduced over the next 12 months.
Negotiations are underway with First Great Western to provide additional capacity on services around Bristol. This is expected to involve additional cascaded carriages, introduced over the next 12 to 18 months.
Proposals for the provision of additional capacity into London Waterloo are being negotiated with South West Trains.
The provision of additional capacity on the Shrewsbury - Birmingham route is being developed with Arriva Trains Wales.
Plans for additional capacity on the Liverpool-Nottingham route are being developed with East Midlands Trains.
The specification for a first phase of additional capacity on services into Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield has been completed and is now being discussed with Northern Rail and the relevant Passenger Transport Executives. Planning work is also underway with Northern Rail and the Passenger Transport Executives to develop a second phase scheme to address the further capacity requirements for these cities.
The specification for the new Essex Thameside (C2C) franchise in May 2011 will include extra capacity requirements. The proposed specification will be published in early 2010.
The specification for the new Intercity West Coast franchise, due to start in April 2012, will include a requirement to deploy the 106 new Pendolino vehicles on order to increase capacity between London, Birmingham and Manchester.
The current Transpennine Express franchise is due to end in February 2012, and the specification for its replacement will be developed over the next 24 months. This will include the deployment of new electric trains on the Manchester to Central Scotland route, allowing the diesel trains currently operating these services to be used to provide more capacity on the main trans-Pennine route.
Chiltern Railway's franchise agreement contains provision under Evergreen Phases 2 and 3 for extra capacity requirements to be delivered by 2014. Chiltern Railways has procured additional carriages to achieve this and further plans are now being discussed.
The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain): I am pleased to inform the House that the proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Transport) Order 2010 has been laid today, as Command Paper (Cm 7777). Copies of this can be found in the Vote Office and will be placed in the Library of the House from 12 noon. I have written to the Welsh Affairs Committee and to the House of Lords Constitutional Committee to request they undertake pre-legislative scrutiny.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper): The proposed rates of benefit for 2010 are set out in the table below. The annual up-rating of benefits will take place for state pension and most other benefits in the first full week of the tax year. In 2010, this will be the week beginning 12 April. A corresponding provision will be made in Northern Ireland.
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