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Written Statements

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 29 April 2003

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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 29 April 2003

Northern Ireland

Probation Board

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
(Mr. Desmond Browne)

:I have today published the Probation Board for Northern Ireland Business Plan for 2003–04. The Plan sets out the Board's key objectives and performance targets for the year. Copies of the Plan have today been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Transport

Performance Targets And Business Plans

:The Secretary of State for Transport has set key Ministerial targets for the Highways Agency, the Driving Standards Agency, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Vehicle Certification Agency and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency for 2003–04. They are included in the agencies' business plans. The plans also include management objectives and performance indicators appropriate to the agencies' businesses. Copies of the Highways Agency's Business Plan have been placed in the Library. Copies of the other agencies business plans will be placed in the Library in due course.The key targets for the Highways Agency, as shown in its Business Plan, are:

Targets
1: Average annual score on Road User Satisfaction Surveys.At least 84%
2: Meet all 13 annual Road Users' Charter targets with a minimum of 9 being validated as met by auditors.100%
3: The Six Service standards for Central Government met.100%
4:Estimated proportion of the network likely to require maintenance in the next year.Between 7%and8%
5:Reduction in number of people killed/seriously injured on trunk roads compared with the 1994–98 average of 4,991.At least 694(to4,297)
6: Reduction in the slight casualty rate per 100m vehicle km compared with the 1994—98 average of 22.14.At least 0.92(to 21.22)
7: Reduction in road workers killed per 100,000—target number.At least 5
8: Percentage of lanes available in peak hours.At least 98.5%
Targets
9: Achievement of Major Scheme milestones. At least 47 out of 49
10: Operational HA Traffic Control Centre.31 Mar 04
11: Average achievement across the following five sub-indicators: Improve air quality of at least 4 sites in Air Quality Management Areas. Achieve at least 12 per cent. of Biodiversity Action Plan, extending across 15 targets. Introduce no less than 8 planting schemes to enhance the landscape. Treat at least 300 lane kms of concrete road surface with lower noise surfacing. Treat at least 2 pollution risk water outfall sites.At least 95%
For clarity, Target number 7 is a new target where the Agency's measure is to ensure that the annual fatality rate for road workers is no more than 5 per 100,000 road workers.The measure for Target 11 is calculated by applying a simple arithmetical mean across the results of the five sub-indicators, the results of each being expressed as a percentage.The key targets for the Driving Standards Agency are:ROAD SAFETY

Contribute to casualty reductions by delivering all tests fairly and consistently.
Deliver a national programme of Arrive Alive presentations for 16–19 year olds.
Deliver improved theory and practical driving tests associated with implementing the new European standards in 2003.
Active involvement in EU policy development.
Increase take-up of the Pass Plus scheme.
Improve the quality of candidates by promoting a learning agenda.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Provide an Internet booking service for practical tests.
Achieve 90 per cent. satisfaction with theory and practical test candidates.
Deliver a national annual average practical car waiting time of six weeks.
Improve business customer satisfaction, including ADIS, above baseline of 65 per cent.
Increase the number of ADI check tests conducted from around 7,000 to 8,500.

PEOPLE

Recruit and train adequate staff resources to ensure that customer service standards are delivered.
Progress towards achieving a fair reward strategy for staff.
Continue a five-year rolling programme of training and development for existing examiner and administrative staff.

BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT

Deliver value for money by keeping fee increases within the cumulative RPI target whilst improving customer service.
Prepare for successful contract renewal for IT and TT services.
Reduce sick absence to below 2002–03 level.

The key targets for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency are:

Efficiency gain2.5%
Document Entry Accuracy (% without DVLA induced error)97.5%
Driving licences
Vehicle reg doc: New Changes
Document Response Times (% within working days)98%
Driving licences: Ordinary
(in 10 days)
Vocational (in 8 days)98%
First Provisional
(in 8 days)
Vehicle reg doc: New95%
(in 12 days) Changes
(in 12 days)
VED refunds/rebates (in 30 days) 95%
Cherished transfers (in 7 days)95%
Enquiry Response Times (% answered)95%
Telephone(in 30 seconds)
Written (in 7 days)95%
E-mails (in 3 days)95%
Service hours during which customers96%
have lines available to the call center
Enforcement Number of cases completed 820,0001
Deliver new procedures for Continuous January 20042
Registration
And the roll-out of new V5 Registration
Documents
Deliver new software and procedures for implementation of EVL Phase 1 February 20042

The key targets for the Vehicle Certification Agency are:

To achieve at least break even at the operating level.
To have at least 98 per cent. of approval certificates issued error free.
To ensure that the figure for average debtor days is 60 calendar days or less.
To ensure that invoices for Management System Certification work are issued within an average of 23 working days after completion of the chargeable work.
To operate a series of new, regularly monitored, customer satisfaction systems and to establish benchmarks for each of them by December 2003.

The key targets for the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency are:

To deliver against an effectiveness and quality improvement programme.
To pursue internal and cross-Agency initiatives which provide seamless services to our customers through a choice of delivery channels.
To break even while achieving an average 3.5 per cent. real rate of return on capital, over the period 1 April 2003 to 31 March 2008
To increase value for money.
To improve performance management across the business.
To secure the long-term development of the organisation.
(These targets are underpinned by 27 detailed measures, which are listed in full in the VOSA Business Plan).

Home Department

Terrorism Act

Lord Carlile of Berriew QC prepared a Report on the operation in 2001 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which I laid before the House on 26 November 2002.I am grateful to Lord carlile for his detailed Report and I have considered his recommendations fully. Following consultation within my Department and with other relevant Departments and agencies I am pleased to place my response to Lord Carlile's recommendations in the Library today.I also wrote to Lord Carlile last month outlining progress on recommendations made in his Report on sections 21–23 in Part 4 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. I shall also be placing this response in the Library today.

International Development

West Bank And Gaza (Humanitarian Situation)

A humanitarian crisis is accumulating in the West Bank and Gaza. Two and a half years of violence and closure have caused rapid economic and social decline. Poverty has increased dramatically with some 60 per cent. of Palestinians now living on less than $2 a day. Unemployment stands at 53 per cent. and many families are now dependent on food aid. Families have sold their assets, borrowed from friends and neighbours and cut their intake of food. The people are running out of coping mechanisms.The severity of the situation is highlighted by the sharp decline in health indicators. According to a recent study by the al-Quds and John Hopkins Universities, the incidence of acute malnutrition in Gaza (13.3 per cent.) is comparable to levels in Zimbabwe (13 per cent.) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (13.9 per cent.). Per capita food consumption has dropped by an estimated 25–30 per cent. since September 2000. Insanitary conditions in urban areas are the norm, with broken sewerage lines and littered streets. The incidence of diarrhoeal and parasitic diseases is rising.The context for this crisis is an intensification of military incursions and house demolitions by the Israeli defence forces which has resulted in more civilian deaths and injuries. Sustained road closures continue to restrict the free movement of people and essential supplies between the occupied territories and Israel, as well as within the occupied territories. Access for humanitarian workers and services is being denied or delayed on an almost daily basis, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. These restrictions contravene Israel's obligations under the Geneva Convention and they are impeding the effectiveness of any response to the humanitarian crisis.

Of particular concern is the construction of the "security fence" between Israel and the occupied territories. The fence will have serious humanitarian consequences. Current estimates indicate the northern and Jerusalem sections of the fence, approximately 215km long, will leave 290,000 Palestinians on the Israeli side of the fence. Of those, some 70,000 do not have Israeli residency permits and may therefore be forced to move east of the fence to retain access to basic services. Palestinians living in the occupied territories are likely to find their livelihoods drastically affected by the separation of villages from their water sources and agricultural lands. Some neighbourhoods will be cut off from health and education services and vital infrastructure. Others may be literally divided in two by the fence.

The economic effects of the crisis are significant. A recent study by the World Bank analysed the effect of the intifada, closures and curfews on the Palestinian economy. During the past two years the economy has shrunk by a half—real Gross National Income is now 48 per cent. lower than in September 2000, while the population has increased by 9 per cent. Movement restrictions placed on Palestinians have caused economic stagnation and a drastic decline in private sector activity. Many people have lost their livelihoods. The population is increasingly dependent on public sector salaries, with salaries paid by the Palestinian Authority making up 49 per cent. of wage income in the West Bank and Gaza.

In the face of this crisis, the Palestinian Authority's Ministries of Health and Education and municipalities have managed to maintain only a basic network of public services. Schools, hospitals and clinics are supported by UN agencies especially UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) and by Palestinian and international non-governmental organisations. UNRWA's programme includes emergency job creation programmes, shelter and food aid but the agency's capacity continues to be constrained by funding shortfalls.

The international community's response has focused largely on short-term support aimed at meeting the immediate humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. The World Bank, IMF and the European Community have played a leading role in shaping and supporting a strategic response to the deepening crisis. Key contributions include support given to UNRWA, budgetary assistance given by the EC to the Palestinian Authority, and employment generation and basic services programmes.

Support given by donors directly into the budget of the Palestinian Authority has played a crucial role in preventing the collapse of public administration and the economy in the West Bank and Gaza. This has offset the decline in domestic revenue and the budget deficit which resulted from Israel's withholding of Palestinian tax revenues. Now that Israel has resumed the transfer of these revenues, the EC is able to redirect its funding to a finance facility aimed at alleviating the effect of the arrears accumulated by the Palestinian Authority over the past two years.

DFID has provided £68 million to the Palestinians in 2002 and we will provide a similar level of support during the current year. This includes the UK share of EC funding, which was £31 million in 2002. These funds are being used to support a combination of emergency and development assistance. Some examples of the support we are providing are:

Emergency programmes in health, trauma counselling and special educational needs provided through local nongovernmental organisations;
Employment generation programmes operated through the World Bank;
Health and education, in the form of non-salary support provided direct into the budget of the Palestinian Authority.

This is a crisis which no amount of humanitarian assistance can resolve, which needs a political solution. The World Bank estimates that if the international community were to double its assistance to the Palestinians the effect on poverty levels would be no more than a few per cent decrease. Without an end to closures and restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods, the economy will continue to deteriorate. The only solution to the humanitarian crisis is a successful peace process leading to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel.

HMG remains strongly committed to the implementation of the road map for peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. With agreement on the publication of the road map and the appointment of a new Prime Minister and Cabinet, the prospects for peace have improved, but implementation will be difficult. The Government will continue to work closely with Israel and the Palestinian Authority and the Quartet to secure the implementation of the road map.

DFID will provide continuing support for the peace process and for building the capacity of the Palestinian Authority. We are providing assistance to the Palestinian Negotiation Affairs Department to help build and strengthen its negotiating capacity. We also plan to support public administration and civil service reform, development of the constitution and the establishment of the new Prime Minister's Office.

Work And Pensions

Child Support Agency

I am today able to announce the annual performance targets in 2003–04 for the Child Support Agency, one of the Department for Work and Pensions' Executive Agencies.The targets I have agreed are set out below.Further information on the plans of the Child Support Agency in 2003–04 is contained in its business plan, which has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.Reducing poverty through compliance:

Maintenance Calculations—New and Old Scheme
The Agency will increase the proportion of new applications that result in maintenance calculations for:
Old scheme cases by 3 percentage points; and
New scheme cases by 23 percentage points.
Case Compliance—New Scheme
To collect child maintenance and/or arrears from at least 78 per cent. of all
cases with a maintenance liability using the Agency's collection service.
Cash compliance—New Scheme
To collect at least 75 per cent. of child maintenance and/or arrears due to be paid through the Agency's collection service.
Cash and Case Collection—New Scheme
To develop individual targets for case and cash compliance to measure the collection of current maintenance separately from arrears collection.

CUSTOMER SERVICE:

Accuracy—New Scheme
Accuracy on the last decision made for all maintenance calculations to be checked in the year to be correct to the nearest penny in at least 90 per cent. of cases.
Throughput—New Scheme
Payment arrangements for new scheme cases will have been established on average within 6 weeks.
Customer perception
To develop a customer perception target for introduction in 2004–05.

PRODUCTIVITY:

To develop a unit cost target.

DEBT:

To develop a debt management target.

Defence

Executive Agency Targets

The Chief Executive of the Pay and Personnel Agency is responsible for providing civilian pay, pensions and personnel information services for the Ministry Defence as defined in the agency framework document. The Agency will be set the following key performance targets for 2003–04:

Achieve 99.0 per cent. average timeliness and 97.8 per cent. average accuracy for salary payments, expenses payments and pension awards.
Increase the number of customer forms available on line from 17 in 2002–03 to 25 by March 2004.
Provide customer service and business support for the Human Resources Management System (HRMS) by March 2004.
Improve customer satisfaction from 76 per cent. in 2000–01 and 85 per cent. in 2002–03 to 90 per cent. in 2004–05. [Note: this target is measured every other year and will next be measured in 2004].
Increase the proportion of the Agency covered by a single ISO 9001 2000 quality certification from 85 per cent. in 2002–03 to 100 per cent. by March 2004.
Achieve Initial Gate approval for the future pay system by September 2003.
Achieve unit costs of no more than: salary payments £10.25, expenses payments £5.75; pension awards £130.00.

Key targets have been set for the Chief Executive of the Defence Bills Agency (DBA) for the Financial Year 2003–04. The targets, which build on the already high standards of service provided by the Agency since its formation in 1996, are as follows:

To pay 99.9 per cent. of correctly presented bills within 11 calendar days of the Department's 30–day payment target.
To raise 98 per cent. of invoices accurately within four days of receipt of a correctly authorised claimable document.
To ensure that the average percentage of overdue collectable debt due to the Department does not exceed 35 per cent. of total collectable debt.
To deliver 99 per cent. of the required accounting and financial information feed to the Departmental Financial Management System portal within one working day, 100 per cent. within two days.
To make a progressive improvement of at least 1per cent. in the overall level of customer satisfaction over a baseline of 76 per cent. achieved in 2002–03.
To demonstrate at least a 1 per cent. improvement in year-on-year operating efficiency by 31 March 2004, as part of a longer term continuous improvement programme.

Chemical Protection Programme

The United Kingdom's chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the UK is fully compliant. Under the terms of the Convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, I am placing in the Library of the House a copy of the summary that has been provided to the Organisation outlining the UK's chemical protection programme for 2002. To increase transparency, the format of this year's summary has been revised and for the first time information on civil protection is included.

Defence Vetting Process

A business review of the Defence Vetting process is to be carried out by the Ministry of Defence.Preliminary work has defined the scope of the study. The second phase will begin shortly and should be completed by the autumn. The aim of the review is to examine the function, role, operation, funding and organisation of the Defence Vetting Agency, seek to identify key objectives and performance and to determine whether its current status is most appropriate for future needs.

The review team will consult with a range of stakeholders during the course of the review including MOD and single service sponsors, TUs, other Government departments and other relevant bodies. The Ministry of Defence is interested also to hear the views of other organisations or individuals who would like to make a contribution to the review. Those wishing to do so should send their contributions by 31 May 2003 to:

The Defence Vetting Process Business Review Team Ministry of Defence

2nd Floor
St Giles Court
1–13 St Giles High Street
London WC2H 8LD
Or by e-mail to:
dgmo-dmcs25 @defence.mod. uk

Trade And Industry

Office Of The Subsidence Officer

I am today announcing that my Department is undertaking a consultation on the future need for the Office of the Subsidence Adviser. My Department would welcome comments which should be submitted to Coal Liabilities Unit, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET. Such comments should be submitted no later than 30 May.