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The Council discussed air cargo security. Following the recent discovery of explosive devices in air cargo, a high-level group produced a report on strengthening air cargo security, for both Council meetings on 2 December (Transport and Justice and Home Affairs). The presidency presented this report, which sets out ways to strengthen the security regime around air cargo coming into the EU.
The UK broadly welcomed the report and the associated action plan and provided the Council with some details of the recent air cargo incident. The presidency concluded orally that the Council had a "positive appreciation" of the report, and asked the Commission and member states to ensure a speedy implementation of the action plan. The Commission was asked to report back to the Council on progress made. A parallel discussion took place in the JHA Council.
The presidency updated the Council on progress with negotiations on the draft directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. The proposed directive aims to improve cross-border enforcement of certain road safety offences by facilitating exchange of data between authorities. The UK and Ireland supported a proposal to change the legal base for this proposal to Justice and Home Affairs, and emphasised that this change engaged our right to decide whether or not to opt in to the directive. We reserved our position on the substance, pending formal consideration of our stance
and consultation with Parliament during the permitted three-month period. Both countries tabled minute statements to this effect.
All member states were in favour of the change of treaty base. The Commission has however made it clear that it does not support a JHA legal base. The presidency concluded that there was consensus on the text of the draft directive, but did not seek confirmation of a political agreement. They acknowledged the UK's rights under protocol 21 to have the necessary period to consider whether or not to opt in.
The Commission presented its recent proposal to recast the 2001 first rail package, which set the initial framework for a single European rail market. The presidency gave an account of early discussions on the proposal. The discussion in the Council concluded that the publication of national rail infrastructure development strategies was a good approach. The UK broadly supported the proposal, in particular endorsing the need for adequately resourced and properly independent regulatory bodies, in order to facilitate market entry and competition. However, I highlighted the importance of effective enforcement of the existing directive if we are to see real progress on opening up rail markets across Europe to cross-border competition. Discussions will continue under the Hungarian presidency.
The presidency reported on progress in discussions on a proposal for a decision on the public regulated service (PRS) of the Galileo programme. The decision would set out controls over access to the high-accuracy positioning signal from Galileo. The UK noted the lack of an impact assessment and expressed disappointment at the lack of visibility on costs. We expressed concern about handling of security and stressed that common minimum standards needed to be defined by the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) Security Board. Discussions will continue under the Hungarian presidency.
Following the informal meeting of EU Transport Ministers held in Antwerp in September, the Council adopted conclusions on the integration of waterborne transport into the EU logistics chain. The conclusions are acceptable to the UK.
The Council also adopted conclusions following the Commission's communication entitled "Towards a European road safety area: policy orientations on road safety 2011-2020". The conclusions state that any new EU legislation must be proportionate and supported by robust impact assessments, and the UK was able to support their adoption.
Among AOB items, the Commission gave a presentation of its recent proposal to revise the regulation which established the European Maritime Safety Agency and to bring the agency's tasks into line with more recent legislation. The UK supported a statement by Germany, which expressed concern about any increase in EMSA's budget and staffing.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker):
I wish to inform the House of the plans to publish next month detailed guidance on the operation of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, for which £560 million has been set aside in the four-year
period to 2014-15. Coupled with the funding local authorities will receive through the Integrated Transport and Highways Maintenance Blocks, which I am announcing today, this represents almost £5 billion funding for small local transport schemes over the next four years.
The establishment of the LSTF reflects the importance the Government attach to helping build locally a strong economy and addressing at a local level the urgent challenge of climate change and the commitment made in the coalition agreement to promoting sustainable travel initiatives.
The guidance will invite local transport authorities in England (outside London) to apply for funding to support the cost of a range of sustainable travel measures. Packages might, for example, include measures that promote walking and cycling, encourage modal shift, manage effectively demands on the network, secure better traffic management, improve road safety and improve access and mobility for local communities.
The guidance will also set out the criteria against which decisions on the allocation of funding will be taken. The criteria will include meeting the core objectives of supporting economic growth and reducing carbon. Bids will also need to demonstrate value for money, deliverability and affordability of package proposals.
This fund will also support Bikeability training in each financial year and the following projects in 2011-12 only in order to maintain momentum on sustainable travel while local authorities prepare their proposals:
£13 million for Links to Schools, Bike Club and walking to school initiatives;
£1 million for Transport Direct cycle journey planner; and
£250,000 to take forward business to business initiatives on alternatives to travel.
The application process is being designed to be as simple and straightforward as possible with the flexibility to deal with proposals to the fund of different complexity and scale. Local authorities will also be given a choice as to when to apply to the fund in recognition that they will be at different levels of readiness to submit proposals, with two rounds of bidding; one closing in April, the other at a later date.
I am writing today to local transport authorities in England (outside London) inviting them to start preparing and developing their proposals and to consider what skills and resources they will require. Bids from local transport authorities will be particularly welcome if they can demonstrate support from, and the involvement of, voluntary and community organisations, and the
private sector. The ability to lever in financial contributions from external sources will also be taken into account in assessing value for money.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): Following the spending review on 20 October 2010, which included the England-wide totals for future transport grants, I have today placed in the Libraries of the House details of the local transport capital settlement for individual local authorities in England.
This includes over £3 billion over the next four years for local highways maintenance. With limited resources available, it is essential that highways maintenance continues to be prioritised, reflecting the economic and social importance to local communities, the need to safeguard the largest single local public asset and the liabilities for future years that can be created from short-term cuts in maintenance.
The Department is also providing over £1.3 billion for small transport improvement schemes, reflecting the contribution these schemes make to improving road safety, stimulating local economies by reducing congestion, and delivering social justice to local communities.
Funding allocations are calculated according to needs-based formulae that are developed with local authorities. The funding is not ring-fenced, and local authorities are free to spend their allocations in accordance with their priorities. All funding will be supplied as capital grant, and not as supported borrowing. The figures provided include final allocations for 2011-12 to 2012-13, and indicative allocations for 2013-14 to 2014-15.
This announcement follows a recent consultation on local transport capital funding. A summary of responses and the Department's proposed next steps are available on the Department's website at: http://www.dft.gov.uk/localtransportfunding
The Department is separately setting aside £560 million over the four year period to 2014-15 for the local sustainable transport fund. I am announcing today in a separate statement to the House plans for publishing guidance on the operation of this fund.
The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): Today we will publish a consultation on default investment options for those people who are automatically enrolled into defined contribution pension schemes.
Automatic enrolment into workplace pensions will see millions of individuals newly saving for their retirements. Many of these people will not choose to make an active investment choice and it is therefore important that suitable default options are available to them.
This consultation provides the opportunity for the Government to work with interested and knowledgeable parties to ensure that this guidance is balanced and appropriate and that members' interests are protected.
The consultation document is available on the Department's website at: www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Miller): In June 2010, following the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) to new applicants for the remainder of the 2010-11 financial year, the coalition Government announced that they would work closely with the trustees of the fund to consider settling the future of the fund.
The Government are firmly committed to disability equality and the development of a personalised approach providing full choice and control for disabled people. The 2007 independent review of the ILF recommended reform to ensure long-term sustainability. We believe there is a strong and principled case for reform and for the social care support needs of all disabled people to be delivered equitably as part of local authorities' broader independent living strategies in line with local priorities and local accountability.
The ILF is a discretionary trust and payments from the fund do not take precedence over the responsibility
of the local authority to make an assessment of a user's needs. Local authorities already have a statutory responsibility to provide social care support to its residents and as part of this responsibility, local authorities will need to consider the requirements of clients who may otherwise have received an additional ILF package.
Having reviewed the role of the Independent Living Fund, and consulted informally with disability organisations, local government representatives and colleagues in the Department of Health, working with the fund's trustees, we have concluded that the model of the ILF as an independent discretionary trust delivering social care is financially unsustainable. The Independent Living Fund will, therefore, remain closed permanently to new applications and the trustees support this decision.
In 2011, following the publication of the report by the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, carry out a formal consultation. This will inform decisions on determining how best to continue to support existing users of the ILF in to a social care system based on the principles of personalised budgets, the findings of the commission and recognising the importance of the support that ILF users have built their lives around. We will consult fully with disabled people, particularly current users of the Independent Living Fund and their families, local authorities and other interested parties, including the devolved Administrations;
Support the ILF to continue to administer existing awards throughout this Parliament; and
Fully protect the programme budget for existing recipients of the Independent Living Fund within DWP throughout this Parliament.