§ Mr. Waterson
To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office what proposals the Government have to introduce changes to speed up the process of public inquiries. 
§ Dr. Jack Cunningham
On 31 March, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Regions, Regeneration and Planning announced how the Government proposed to proceed with their proposals to improve the efficiency of planning appeal procedures, whether handled by written 339W representations, hearings or public inquiries. He also announced challenging new targets for the Planning Inspectorate for handling planning appeals by written representations, hearings and inquiries.
The Government will be issuing shortly a consultation paper on ways in which the handling of major infrastructure projects of national importance might be improved. The Government have also published a Consultation Document on Transport Safety, as announced on 31 March 1999, Official Report, columns 759–63, which notes the tensions there can sometimes be in the relationship between accident investigations and inquiries, and the pursuit of legal proceedings, and invites views on the right balance to be struck.