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Written Statements

Volume 404: debated on Thursday 1 May 2003

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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 1 May 2003


Board Of Transport Accident Investigators

I have recently announced the appointment of the Chief Inspector designate of Rail Accidents, and we are now setting up a Board of Transport Accident Investigators. This will comprise the Chief Inspectors of the Air and Marine Accident Investigation Branches together with the Chief Inspector designate of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB). The Board will initially support the Chief Inspector designate in her establishment of the RAIB and in the longer term will seek to identify areas where the accident investigation branches can co-operate and adopt best practice.

London Regional Transport Board

In my written statement of 4 February, Official Report, Col 10WS, I announced that the Government, Transport for London (TfL) and the London Mayor had agreed to work together to secure a speedy and orderly transfer of the Underground to TfL.It remains my intention for the transfer to be completed as soon as possible. In the interim, I have decided to appoint two non-executive members to the London Regional Transport Board, Paul Godier, Managing Director of London Underground Limited (LUL), and Martin Callaghan, PPP Director of LUL, so that it can operate at full strength in carrying out its remaining functions, including the transfer of the Underground to TfL, in this final period. Both already attend LRT Boards, but as non-members have hitherto been unable to contribute to its quorum.The appointments took effect on 24 April 2003. Neither member will receive any additional remuneration.

Home Department

Immigration Control

The Government are firmly committed to maintaining effective immigration controls while at the same time ensuring that genuine passengers are able to pass through our ports with the least possible inconvenience.The number of Algerian nationals arriving at UK airports who are found to be inadmissible is unacceptably high. Although Algerian nationals must obtain a visa to enter the UK they may, in common with other nationalities, transit this country for up to 24 hours without a visa. However, this is a concession open to abuse by those who are intent on circumventing our immigration controls. A significant number of Algerian nationals who do not qualify for leave to enter or remain in the UK go on to make unfounded asylum claims, some 1,060 in 2002. Therefore from 00.01 hours on Friday 2 May all Algerian nationals wishing to transit the UK will require a direct airside transit visa to do so.To avoid undue hardship for those who had already made their travel plans, we have agreed to operate a grace period. Until 23.59 hours on 6 May any transit passenger who brought their ticket on or before 1 May will not be refused transit solely on the basis of not holding a valid transit visa. Also, any person on the return leg of a journey they commenced before 1 May and who passed through the UK on the outward leg of their journey will be allowed to transit the UK without a visa.


Social Security (Incapacity Benefit) (Her Majesty's Forces) (Amendment) Regulations 2003

In my capacity as Minster for Veterans I am pleased to announce that on 14 April 2003 the Department for Work and Pensions laid before the House the Social Security (Incapacity Benefit) (Her Majesty's Forces) (Amendment) Regulations 2003. The regulations provide that people discharged from the armed forces may in future count days of absence from duty on health grounds while in service towards the higher rates of incapacity benefit.For many years there have been special pay arrangements in place for members of the armed forces which recognise their unique position. Veterans with continuing health problems are able to make a claim for incapacity benefit immediately on discharge. However, until now, they were required to be in receipt of incapacity benefit for 28 weeks before qualifying for the higher rates. The new regulations, which take effect from 5 May, bring ex-members of the forces into line with civilian claimants who have been in receipt of statutory sick pay.I am grateful to DWP Ministers for making this change, which serves as an illustration of the power of the veterans initiative launched by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister with the aim of joining up the Government's response to veterans' concerns. I would also like to pay tribute to ex-service organisations such as South Atlantic Medal Association (82), who first brought this matter to my attention, for the valuable work they do in the interests of ex-servicemen and women and their dependants.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

European Council

The forthcoming business is as follows:

2–4Cruise from Rhodes to KastellorizoGymnich (Informal Foreign Ministers)
3–4AthensInformal Environment (Ministerial Informal)
5–6BrusselsEducation, Youth & Culture Council
BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
10–13CorfuAgriculture (Ministerial Informal)
BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
15–16BrusselsConvention Plenary
15–16BrusselsEU—ACP Ministerial
16–17HalkidikiInformal Regional Policy (Ministerial)
16–18Cruise off GreeceInformal Transport & Merchant Marine (Ministerial)
BrusselsEU—W. Balkans (Zagreb Process)
19BrusselsCompetitiveness Council
BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (+ Defence)
BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
ThessalonikiInformal Culture (Ministerial)
26–27BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
26–27CreteEUROMED Conference (Mid Term Ministerial)
BrusselsEnvironment Council
BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
28BrusselsEconomic & Financial Affairs Committee
30–31BrusselsConvention Plenary
St. PetersburgEU—Russia Summit
5–6BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
5–6BrusselsConvention Plenary
5–6BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs Council
2–3BrusselsEmployment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs Council
RhodesPublic Administration (Ministerial Informal)
BrusselsMeeting of the Presidium
11–12BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
2–3AlexandroupolisDevelopment Co-operation (Ministerial Informal)
12–13BrusselsConvention Plenary
13BrusselsEnvironment Council
17–18LuxembourgGeneral Affairs & External Relations
ThessalonikiZagreb II Summit
BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
2–3RomeResearch (Ministerial Informal)
4–5NaplesTransport Infrastructure (Ministerial Informal)
10Palermo VareseTrade (Ministerial Informal) Informal Council/ Troika
11–12VareseEmployment & Social Policy (Informal Council)
17–18TrevisoEU Employment Committee (Informal)
18–20MontecatiniEnergy & Environment (Ministerial Informal)
22–23BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
24–25MilanEuropean Conference on Discrimination
25–26RomeCompetitiveness (Informal Ministerial)
25–26VeronaEducation (+ Research?) (Ministerial Informal)
No Meetings, Planned
3–4ViterboTelecommunications (Ministerial Informal)
5–6Riva del GardaGymnich (Informal Foreign Affairs)
7–9TaorminaAgriculture (Informal Council)
12–13StresaECOFIN (Informal Council)
19–20RomeJustice & Internal Affairs (Informal Council)
22–23BrusselsCompetition (Internal Market, Industry & Research)
26–27EriceCommunity Regional Cohesion Policy (Ministerial Informal)
29–30BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
29–30BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
2–3BrusselsJustice & Internal Affairs
3–4RomeDefense (Ministerial Informal)
9–10BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
13–14BrusselsGeneral Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC)
13–14BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
20–21BrusselsEmployment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs Council
27BrusselsEnvironment Council
6BrusselsJustice & Internal Affairs (Informal Council—to be confirmed)
17–18BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations
17–18BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
2.4–25BrusselsEducation, Youth & Culture Council
27–28BrusselsJustice & Internal Affairs (Informal Council)