Ms Rosie Winlerton
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the progress being made in the legal proceedings initiated by the National Bus Company pension trustees to determine eligibility of the different categories of beneficiary for a share of the settlement sum paid over by the Government in July 1999. 
§ Mr. Hill
As I reported to the House in replying to the Adjournment debate held on 25 January, these proceedings were commenced in October 2000. I understand that a case conference was held on 9 February. As a result, the patties concerned are required to participate in discussions during March with a view to agreeing a settlement of the outstanding issues and to report back to the court. I urge all those involved to do their utmost to reach agreement within that time scale.
I also understand that, if—as I hope very much will not be the case—agreement is not reached and a full trial is necessary, a timetable has been set for this to commence in the autumn and to last around five weeks. it would obviously involve significant legal costs which could amount to several million pounds and this, combined with the further potential delay, underlines the need for every effort to be made to reach an early agreement in the forthcoming discussions.