Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 691: debated on Tuesday 17 April 2007

Written Statements

Tuesday 17 April 2007

Armed Forces: Repatriation Ceremonies

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

With effect from April 2007 for a period of two years, RAF Lyneham will be used as the primary location for military repatriation ceremonies instead of RAF Brize Norton.

In the event of fatalities resulting from service personnel killed in operational theatres, a repatriation ceremony is held to mark the return to the United Kingdom to which family members of the deceased normally attend. With effect from April 2007, work is commencing at RAF Brize Norton to extend the aircraft servicing platform—the areas of hard-standing around the airfield that are used for aircraft parking. Given the disruptive nature of the work, it will be very difficult to hold a dignified ceremony at the station. Moreover, it would also be very costly to the public purse to temporarily suspend work each time a repatriation ceremony is due to take place. This work is expected to take up to two years, until April 2009.

The transfer of repatriations from RAF Brize Norton to RAF Lyneham means that the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner will have initial jurisdiction instead of the Oxfordshire coroner throughout these works. We are confident that the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has the necessary resources to take on this workload and he already has considerable expertise in handling military inquests in consequence of the presence of RAF Lyneham in his jurisdiction as well as Wiltshire being regularly used for military exercises. In addition, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner is also expected to transfer jurisdiction wherever possible to other coroners—normally to the jurisdiction of the next of kin—following the recent practice of the Oxfordshire coroner.

Mental Capacity Act 2005

I have today laid before Parliament the Mental Capacity Act 2005 (Lasting Powers of Attorney, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Public Guardian Regulations) 2007.

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 provides a statutory framework for people who lack the mental capacity to make their own decisions. It sets out who can take decisions, in which situations, and how they should go about this. It also enables people to make provision for a time in the future when they may lack capacity to make some decisions including through the introduction of a new power of attorney called a lasting power of attorney (LPA). LPAs will replace enduring powers of attorney (EPA) as the main way in which someone can choose a decision-maker to act on their behalf, particularly in the event of their loss of mental capacity.

These regulations set out the prescribed forms, supporting forms and other requirements necessary for the making and registration of LPAs and the registration of existing EPAs. They also make provision about the functions of the Public Guardian and the discharge of those functions.

A consultation process was held from 20 January to 14 April 2006 to seek views on the draft LPA forms, prescribed information and accompanying non-statutory guidance, as well as on the processes for certifying and registering LPAs. These regulations, and the forms contained within them, have been developed in light of the comments received during consultation.

Railways: Brighton Main Line

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

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced on 4 April 2007 the results of the recent consultation on the implementation of the Brighton Main Line (BML) Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS). I would like to take this opportunity to inform Parliament of the announcement.

The key conclusion is that the Gatwick Express will be retained as a non-stop service between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria every 15 minutes. In addition, at the busiest times of day, the service will also run beyond Gatwick to Brighton, doubling the number of express trains between Brighton and London Victoria in the high peak. Unused carriages will be taken from storage and reconditioned to provide the extra trains. At least two extra trains will also run between Redhill and London in the peak. These changes will provide more than 3,700 seats into and out of London at the busiest times.

To facilitate this change, the existing Gatwick Express franchise will be ended in May 2008 to allow the creation of a new franchise that will include both the Gatwick Express and Southern services. The new Gatwick Express service will begin in December 2008 under the same branding and with the same frequency to and from the airport. Luggage storage will continue to be provided to accommodate the needs of airport passengers.

A stakeholder briefing document giving summaries of the responses made by stakeholders to the consultation and outlining how the key decisions were reached was also published on 4 April 2007. This document has been placed in the House Libraries and can also be downloaded from the department’s website at www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/closed/brightonmainlinerusconsultation/briefingdocument.

This is the finalisation of the last of the RUSs that were started by the Strategic Rail Authority. All future RUSs, which are designed to show how the best use may be made of existing network capacity and to assess whether the available capacity can meet medium-term demand, will be led and published by Network Rail.