Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 29 March 2007

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 29 March 2007


United Kingdom Coins 2008

Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve my recommendation that the following coins should be issued in 2008:

a crown piece to celebrate the 60th birthday of the Prince of Wales;

a crown piece to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the accession of Elizabeth I; and

a two-pound coin to mark the 100th anniversary of the London Olympic Games of 1908.

Collector versions of these coins will be released at a premium above face value and, during the course of 2008, the coins will also become available at face value from banks and post offices.

Cabinet Office

Compact on Relations between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector

I am today placing in the Library of the Houses of Parliament copies of the report of the annual meeting to review the Compact held on 22 November 2006.

The coming years present the opportunity to make significant steps forward in the implementation of the Compact, building on what has been achieved. This year has seen a record 28 Compact Annual Meeting commendations for excellence, showing that the Compact is increasingly being used as a tool to improve partnership working and increase sector involvement. The publication of the Partnership in Public Services Action Plan, the Local Government White Paper and the review of the future role of the third sector in social and economic regeneration, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, will all contribute to the creation of an environment in which Compact principles can flourish.

We will continue to work to ensure that Compact principles become fully embedded in the culture of central and local government bodies and voluntary and community organisations. The appointment of the Commissioner for the Compact, John Stoker, will help us with this process, overseeing partnership working and the operation of the Compact. He will report to future annual reviews on the state of the relationship. The next annual review will look at progress against the Compact Action Plan.

Together we need to achieve consistent good practice, building on the Compact and improving public services, and supporting the sector's role in advocating for and empowering people and communities.

Civil Service Fast Stream Recruitment 2006

The 2006 Fast Stream Recruitment Report was published on-line at today. It summarises the results of the Civil Service Fast Stream recruitment competitions completed in the year ending November 2006.

Key facts and figures from the Report are as follows.

All vacancies in the Graduate Fast Stream scheme, and 93 per cent. of

Fast Stream vacancies overall, were filled.

The proportion of successful female candidates rose to 50.4 per cent.

from 43.7 per cent. in 2005.

The proportion of successful candidates from ethnic minority

backgrounds rose to 11.1 per cent., from 7.1 per cent. in 2005.

The proportion of successful candidates with a declared disability rose

to 7.4 per cent, from 6.7 per cent in 2005.

The Fast Stream selection process itself is subject to continuous review, and the results are monitored in detail to ensure no adverse impact on any particular groups of applicants. We shall continue to work to improve Fast Stream recruitment from the point of view of both applicants and employing Departments.

The Fast Stream Development Programme remains a popular career choice, and has featured continuously in The Times Top 10 Graduate Employers since the survey's inception. Over the last five years it has attracted an average of 14,000 applications a year.

Copies of the Report have been placed in the Library for the reference of Members.

Communities and Local Government

Permitted Development Rights for Householder Microgeneration

The Government will shortly be issuing a consultation paper on this subject. Copies of this paper will be made available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Council Tax

Figures published by my Department on 27 March show that the average council tax increase in England in 2007-08 is 4.2 per cent.

We had made it clear to authorities that we expected to see an average council tax increase of less than 5 per cent. and I am pleased that overall local government has responded in a positive manner in keeping down the average council tax increase.

We have therefore decided not to exercise our reserve capping powers in 2007-08.

However, keeping council tax under control remains a priority for the Government. We will have no hesitation in using our capping powers in future, if the circumstances require it.

Building Control System

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
(Angela E. Smith)

I am today publishing a short report by my Department on options for the future development of the building control system. This report follows in-depth discussion with a wide range of stakeholders over the last year which has raised a number of areas of concern and highlighted the need for reform to the system to ensure that it is fit for purpose now and in the future. This report is not a statement of intended Government policy. It is an indication of those ideas which we believe have the greatest potential for reforming the building control system effectively and which we intend to develop further before issuing a full consultation document later in the year.

The package outlined in the report includes possible reforms in six broad areas:

The Future of Building Control - Establishing the Vision and Strategy for Future


Modernising the System - Effective Risk Based Inspection and Enforcement

New Routes to Compliance - Minimising the Burden

Customer-Centric Approach - Improving Guidance and Other Tools to Aid

Individual Compliance

Improving our Approach to Regulation - Stability and Forward Planning

Performance Management and Future Capacity

The report can be accessed via the Communities and Local Government website at: and is also available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Government Response to the All-Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism

I am pleased to announce that I am today laying before Parliament a Command Paper setting out Government's response to the all-party inquiry into Anti-Semitism.

The Government welcome the all-party Parliamentary inquiry's constructive and comprehensive report into anti-Semitism and is grateful to the Committee for the detailed work it has undertaken in this area.

The Government share the Committee's commitment to the eradication of racism and intolerance wherever they exist. We acknowledge that there is no room for complacency, and recognise and commit ourselves to the practical nature of many of the Committee's recommendations.

The Government strongly condemn anti-Semitic incidents and understand the fears and concerns of the Jewish community. Anti-Semitism is not just a problem or concern for the Jewish community but impacts on society as a whole. The Government have a shared responsibility to tackle anti-Semitism and all other forms of racism and prejudice—not only with those communities directly affected, but with all members of society.

We believe the best way to do this is through effective implementation of strong legislation against racial and religious discrimination and racially and religiously motivated crime, underpinned by policies and strategies to increase racial equality and build community cohesion particularly through education.

The document I am publishing today sets out in full the Government's response to each of the Committee's recommendations.

Communities and Local Government

Major Works’ Costs (Leaseholders)

This statement reports progress on the Government’s review of the complex issues raised by the high major works bills now faced by some owners of ex-council flats (‘leaseholders’). It sets out progress and further steps that the Government will take to address these issues, while looking for other sustainable solutions in the longer term.


Tenants who buy flats from local authorities, and people who buy flats formerly owned by local authorities, are responsible for contributing towards the cost of repairing, maintaining and improving the properties in which those flats are situated.

Some current works of repair, maintenance and improvement to local authority properties are generating high major works bills, particularly in London. We have commissioned research into the impact on leaseholders, and have published the results on our website, at:

The Government’s Review

We recognise that substantial major works bills may cause difficulties for some leaseholders and have consulted widely on the implications with all the stakeholders.

Our review has mainly focused on the range of ways in which local authorities can help leaseholders to pay their bills. It has also considered how landlords currently communicate with leaseholders on scheduled major works and their costs.

Capping of Service Charges

Leaseholders do not always have to pay the full amount that their lease requires. Major works charges are capped to no more than £10,000 in any five-year period when the works are funded by specified Government grants.

Ways of Helping Leaseholders Pay Their Bills

Local authorities can already help leaseholders to pay their bills in a number of ways.

They may reduce bills to no more than £10,000 in any five-year period if the leaseholder would not benefit from the works financially or would face exceptional hardship in paying it.

They must offer loans to leaseholders who have bought their flats under the right-to-buy scheme, if they apply within a specified time, and they may give loans to leaseholders under other circumstances.

They may allow leaseholders to pay their bills by monthly instalments and over an extended period, or defer payment until the property is sold.

They can buy back properties from owners who are in financial difficulties. When doing so, they receive financial assistance from the Government.

Some local authorities offer leaseholders the HouseProud equity release scheme managed by the Home Improvement Trust. A number of lenders also offer other equity release products that can be tailored to people’s needs.

Taken together, these offer leaseholders a wide range of options. But we have found that these are not all available in all areas.

What the Government Will Do

We think more can be done in the short term to help leaseholders to deal with high major works bills by means of these existing options, with enhancements and additions in the longer term.

But the alternative of simply extending the existing scheme for capping bills would bring severe problems. Capping all major works bills to £10,000 while taking no account of ability to pay would be very expensive—in London, this could, on current figures, cost more than £40 million.

But we recognise that there may be people whose financial resources are so squeezed that more targeted action may be needed. So we will do the following:

We will make it clear to local authorities that they should:

i. inform and advise all leaseholders who face particularly high major works bills about the available payment options;

ii. offer the full range of available payment options to help leaseholders pay their bills, and share best practice to ensure that this happens everywhere;

iii. use existing resources, such as for private sector renewal which they are already expected to target towards those in need and on low incomes, to assist leaseholders in hardship;

we have in addition increased funding for LEASE so that social sector leaseholders can obtain authoritative advice and help at an early stage and LEASE can expand its alternative dispute resolution and mediation role in respect of social sector service charge disputes that arise;

we will work urgently with lenders and independent financial advisers, landlords and leaseholder representatives to develop the use of existing equity release/equity loan schemes (including ‘HouseProud’);

in the longer term, we intend to legislate to enable local authorities to offer equity loans to leaseholders, and to buy back shares in properties so that leaseholders in difficulties do not have to revert to being tenants.

We are continuing to look further at ways to address this complex and sensitive issue. These actions represent work in progress. We will also actively monitor developments, to ensure that all concerned focus on the best ways of tackling these issues both now and in the future.

Local Area Agreements

The Government announced the successful roll out of Local Area Agreements (LAAs) across England today.

In October 2004, 21 pilot LAAs were announced for implementation from April 2005. There were a further 66 LAAs signed in March 2006 and a further 62 were signed this month. This achieves the Government's target of having LAAs in every area in England (apart from the Isles of Scilly) from April 2007.

A Local Area Agreement (LAA) is a three-year agreement that sets out the priorities for a local area as agreed between central Government and the local authority and local strategic partnership (LSP).

The primary objective of an LAA is to deliver genuinely sustainable communities through better outcomes for local people. As set out in the Local Government White Paper, “Strong and Prosperous Communities”, the Government are strengthening the role of LAAs and placing them at the heart of the new performance framework for local authorities. LAAs will now apply to all outcomes delivered by local government working alone or in partnership with other organisations. The White Paper puts in place a new framework for strategic leadership in local areas, bringing together partners to focus on the needs of citizens and communities. It offers a deal where the local authority and local partners co-operate with each other on agreeing and delivering the improvement priorities for places.

In 2008 all areas will have moved to a new LAA enabling them to work with even greater flexibility over resources to respond to local priorities. The new LAAs are all about practical solutions for issues which really matter for local people. We are working across Government, with the LGA and with authorities to implement the new arrangements over the course of the next year.

Constitutional Affairs

Her Majesty's Courts Service Key Performance Indicators 2007-08*

My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement:

“The following list of Key Performance Indicators have been set for Her Majesty's Courts Service for 2007-08.

1. Improve the percentage of defendants' cases that commence within a specific time in the Crown Court, so that:

a) 78 per cent. committed for trial commence within 16 weeks of committal

b) 78 per cent. sent for trial commence within 26 weeks of sending

2. Simplify and speed up criminal cases in the magistrates' courts so by the end of 2008: most guilty plea cases are dealt with at the first hearing; most contested cases have no more than two hearings; the majority of simple charged cases take from a day to six weeks (on average) from charge to disposal.

3. To ensure that 95 per cent. of court registers in the magistrates' court are produced and despatched within three days and all cases cleared within six days.

4. To reduce the proportion of disputed civil claims in the courts that are ultimately resolved by a hearing to 38.5 per cent.

5. To ensure that 81.5 per cent. of small claims cases are heard within 15 weeks.

6. To ensure that 48 per cent. of Public Law Care Cases in the county court and 56 per cent. in the magistrates' court are completed within 40 weeks.

Copies of the HM Courts Service Business Plan for 2007-08 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.”

* More information on these and other key supporting targets are published in the Strategic and Business Plans, which includes how HMCS helps deliver PSA1 and 2 (joint Criminal Justice System targets).

Oxfordshire Inquests

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I wish to make the following statement to the House about the inquests of servicemen and women who have died overseas which fall within the jurisdiction of the Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner.

All casualties suffered by the UK armed forces are a source of profound regret. UK service personnel have put their lives on the line to help build strong, stable and democratic nations and protect the interests of the United Kingdom and we cannot pay high enough tribute to the job they are doing, or the sacrifice some of them have made. We are committed to assisting the families of UK Service personnel who have died on operations overseas when their loved ones are returned to the UK.

We made statements to the House on 5 June, 12 October and 18 December with information about the conduct of inquests by the Oxfordshire coroner and today we are announcing progress which has been made since the written ministerial statement in December.


Coroners are independent judicial officers appointed and paid for by the relevant local authority. Their officers and staff are employed by the local authority and/or the police.

Each death of a serviceman or woman killed in an operation overseas whose body is repatriated to England and Wales is subject to an inquest. The inquest – both the investigation into the death and the holding of the public hearing into the death – is conducted by the coroner with jurisdiction which derives from where the body lies. In the case of deaths of servicemen and women whose bodies are flown into Brize Norton military airbase, the Oxfordshire coroner has jurisdiction.

In the 12 months preceding the June written ministerial statement, in addition to the non-armed forces inquests which the coroner has in his jurisdiction, Mr Gardiner and his deputy coroners had conducted 31 inquests into the deaths of servicemen who died in Iraq. One inquest was dealt with by the Powys coroner and one by the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner.

At the time of the 5 June written ministerial statement, there remained 59 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel killed in Iraq and 11 inquests of civilians whose bodies were flown into Brize Norton.

At the time of the 12 October written ministerial statement, a further nine inquests had been held into the deaths of servicemen who have died in Iraq.

When I made the written ministerial statement in June, we had only asked the coroner to provide details of inquests into those deaths in his jurisdiction relating to Iraq. By the time of the October statement the coroner had provided us with details of outstanding inquests into six deaths from previous conflicts or other military exercises abroad and three further civilian casualties, the earliest of which occurred in 1998. The position in relation to the inquests in these additional deaths was reported to the House in the 12 October statement. Including these deaths, there remained 59 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel and 11 inquests into the deaths of civilians at the time of the October statement.

By the time of the December written ministerial statement, the coroner had provided us with details of outstanding inquests into six deaths from a military exercise in the Czech Republic in 2004. Including these deaths, there remained 48 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel and nine inquests into the deaths of civilians who lost their lives in Iraq and whose bodies were repatriated to RAF Brize Norton.

As of today, there remain 25 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel in military conflicts and exercises overseas whose bodies were repatriated to RAF Brize Norton and 4 inquests into the deaths of civilians who lost their lives in Iraq and whose bodies were repatriated to RAF Brize Norton.

Further support for the coroner to conduct inquests on deceased armed forces personnel

As we reported to the House in the earlier statements, the Oxfordshire coroner appointed the following as additional assistant deputy coroners to assist with conducting the inquests detailed above:

Sir Richard Curtis—who served as a High Court Judge between 1992 and 2005, was appointed on 8 August.

Ms. Selena Lynch—barrister at law, former full-time Coroner for Inner South London and currently deputy coroner for South London was appointed on 5 June.

Mr. Andrew Walker—barrister at law, Deputy Coroner for both North London and East London and Assistant Deputy Coroner for both Inner London North and Inner London South was appointed on 5 June.

To provide support for the coroner and his assistant deputy coroners, the following resources have been made available:

Three additional coroner’s officers, Mr. Geoff Webb, Mr. George Gatt and Mr. Derrick Bines have been appointed by Thames Valley Police to support the existing complement of five officers and one officer’s team leader in the Oxfordshire coroner’s office. They are supporting the coroners in various ways, including by contacting witnesses, listing inquests and providing support at inquests.

An additional administrative assistant, Ms. Stella Hartley-Morris has been appointed to the existing administrative assistant in the Oxfordshire coroner’s office who provide administrative support for the investigations and inquests.

Recording equipment—to enable two courts to operate simultaneously.

Progress with the remaining inquests

At the time of the December written ministerial statement, all inquests of deaths had been allocated to the assistant deputy coroners. 19 inquests had been held (the WMS mistakenly stated 18 inquests) the inquest into the death of Sergeant Roberts was currently being held and a further 50 inquests had been listed for hearing (the WMS mistakenly reported 51 inquests).

The position now is that 56 inquests have been held, 46 into the deaths of servicemen and 10 into the deaths of civilians. All of the remaining 25 inquests into servicemen’s deaths have been listed for hearing and pre-inquest hearings have been set in the remaining four civilian inquests. We hope that all the inquests will have been heard by the end of June. We are very grateful for the efforts of all those involved.

We shall continue to keep the House informed on a quarterly basis about progress through the remaining inquests. Below is a table, which outlines the status of all cases and the date of death of each case.

We have not included in this statement inquests into a further 66 service personnel deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan which occurred after 15 May 2006 and which were repatriated into Brize Norton, as the additional support for the coroner outlined above only intended to clear the backlog of cases he had in June. 16 of these cases have been dispersed to other coroners but there remain 50 inquests where the Oxfordshire coroner has retained jurisdiction which have been opened and adjourned.

Resources have now been made available to the Oxfordshire Coroner to enable Andrew Walker to remain as assistant deputy coroner with Geoff Webb as coroner’s officer to complete those inquests where the Oxfordshire coroner assumed responsibility.

Liaison with the next of kin

It is of the greatest importance that the next of kin have full information about the progress on the inquest of their deceased next of kin.

In order to further improve the service to families I invited to meet me on 4 December 2006 the families of service personnel who died in Iraq whose inquests had been held. We are grateful to the 17 relatives of the 12 deceased servicemen and women who gave us the benefit of their views and experiences so as to improve the inquest system for the benefit of future families of members of the armed service who die abroad.

Following that meeting we are working on providing families with better information about the inquest system, how we can help families to have access to all material relevant to the inquest; and holding inquests closer to where the relatives live.

Oxfordshire coroner: inquests of servicemen and related civilian deaths 1998 to May 2006

Date of death

Name of deceased

Allocated to

In process of being listed for hearing

Date listed

Date inquest heard


6 July 1998

Kevin Tucker1

Andrew Walker

26 February 2007 Narrative verdict


11 August 1998

Michael Watkins1

Andrew Walker

18 January 2007 Narrative verdict


9 April 2001

Flight Lieutenant Maguire1

Andrew Walker

22-26 January 2007 Narrative verdicts


9 April 2001

Captain Crous1

Andrew Walker


21 March 2003

Lance Bombardier Evans

Andrew Walker

16 April 2007


21 March 2003

Sergeant Hehir

Andrew Walker


21 March 2003

Major Ward (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


21 March 2003

Captain Guy (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


21 March 2003

Warrant Officer 2 Stratford (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


21 March 2003

Colour Sergeant Cecil (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


21 March 2003

Marine Hedenskog

Andrew Walker


21 March 2003

Operator Maintainer (Communications) 1 Seymour (Royal Navy)

Andrew Walker


22 March 2003

Lieutenant Wilson

Sir Richard Curtis

3-8 January 2007 Accidental death verdicts


22 March 2003

Lieutenant West

Sir Richard Curtis


22 March 2003

Lieutenant Green

Sir Richard Curtis


22 March 2003

Lieutenant Williams

Sir Richard Curtis


22 March 2003

Lieutenant King

Sir Richard Curtis


22 March 2003

Lieutenant Lawrence

Sir Richard Curtis


22 March 2003

Flight Lieutenant Main

Andrew Walker

30-31 October 2006 Narrative verdicts


22 March 2003

Flight Lieutenant Williams

Andrew Walker


22 March 2003

Sapper Allsopp

Andrew Walker

29 September 2006 Unlawful killing


22 March 2003

Staff Sergeant Cullingworth

Andrew Walker


22 March 2003

Terry Lloyd2

Andrew Walker

3-13 October 2006 Unlawful killing


24 March 2003

Sergeant Roberts

Andrew Walker

11-15 December 2006 Narrative verdict


25 March 2003

Corporal Allbutt

Andrew Walker

16 April 2007 (provisional) PIH in w/c/ 16 April 2007


28 March 2003

Lance Corporal of Horse Hull

Andrew Walker

29 January to 2 February 2007 and 12-13 March 2007 Unlawful killing


30 March 2003

Lance Corporal Brierley

Nicholas Gardiner

21 June 2006 Accidental death


30 March 2003

Marine Maddison

Andrew Walker

20 November 2006 Narrative verdict


30 March 2003

Major Ballard

Andrew Walker

27-30 November 2006 Narrative verdict


1 April 2003

Lance Corporal Shearer

Selena Lynch

24-26 January 2007 Accidental death


6 April 2003

Fusilier Turrington

Andrew Walker

28 September 2006 Narrative verdict


6 April 2003

Private Muzvuru

Selena Lynch

17 November 2006 Killed in action


6 April 2003

Lance Corporal Malone

Selena Lynch

17 November 2006 Killed in action


13 August 2003

Private Smith

Andrew Walker

6-10 November 2006 Narrative verdict


23 September 2003

Sergeant Nightingale

Andrew Walker

27 September 2006 Narrative verdict


1 January 2004

Sergeant Patterson

Selena Lynch

17 November 2006 Accidental death


1 January 2004

Major Stenner


2 January 2004

Lance Corporal Craw

Andrew Walker

8 January 2007 Narrative verdict


24 May 2004

Robert Morgan2

Nicholas Gardiner

5 July 2006 Unlawful killing


24 May 2004

Mark Carman2

Nicholas Gardiner

5 July 2006 Unlawful killing


22 June 2006

Antonio Jose Monteiro-Abelha2

Andrew Walker

PIH in w/e 16 April 2007


28 June 2004

Fusilier Gentle

Selena Lynch

2-4. May 2007


19 July 2004

Flight Lieutenant Gover

Andrew Walker

4 June 2007


9 August 2004

Private O’Callaghan

Nicholas Gardiner

21 June 2006 Unlawful killing


9 September 2004

Captain Loose1

Andrew Walker

23 April 2007


Sergeant Kemp1


Gunner Kelly1


Gunner Crain1


Gunner Gomersall1


Gunner Dimmock1


11 October 2004

P Chadwick2

Selena Lynch

19.-21 February 2007 Accident


31 October 2004

Staff Sergeant Rose

Selena Lynch

13-15 November 2006 She killed herself


7 November 2004

Shaun Paul Husband2

Andrew Walker

PIH in w/c 16 April 2007


7 November 2004

Joseph Terry2


8 November 2004

Private Tukutukuwaqa

Nicholas Gardiner

5 July 2006 Unlawful killing


9 December 2004

Raj Gurung2

Andrew Walker

PIH in w/c/ 16 April 2007


1 January 2005

John Dolman2

Selena Lynch

26 February 2007 Unlawful killing verdicts


1 January 2005

Nicholas Pears2


1 January 2005

John Eardley2


1 January 2005

Tracy Hushin2


1 May 2005

Guardsman Wakefield

Selena Lynch

11 December 2006 Unlawful killing


25 May 2005

Lance Corporal Brackenbury

Andrew Walker

14 May 2007


29 June 2005

Signaller Didsbury

Andrew Walker

15 January 2007 Narrative verdict


15 July 2005

Private Spicer

Selena Lynch

29 January 2007 Unlawful killing in all 3 cases


15 July 2005

Private Hewett


15 July 2005

2nd Lieutenant Shearer


30 July 2005

Kenneth Hull2

Selena Lynch

13 December 2006 Unlawful killing


30 July 2005

Andrew Holloway2


5 September 2005

Fusilier Manning

Selena Lynch

15 November 2006 Unlawful killing


5 September 2005

Fusilier Meade


30 January 2006

Lance Corporal Douglas

Selena Lynch

17 November 2006 Unlawful killing


31 January 2006

Corporal Pritchard

Andrew Walker

21 May 2007


2 February 2006

Trooper Smith

Selena Lynch

23 February 2007 Accident on active service


28 February 2006

Private Ellis

Selena Lynch

27 November 2006 Unlawful killing


28 February 2006

Captain Holmes


28 February 2006

Lieutenant Palmer

Andrew Walker

21 May 2007


22 March 2006

Corporal Cridge1

Selena Lynch

22 February 2007 Suicide


27 March 2006

Lance Corporal Craddock1

Selena Lynch

22 February 2007 Accident


7 May 2006

Wing Commander John Coxen

Andrew Walker

21 May 2007


7 May 2006

Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman


7 May 2006

Captain David Dobson


7 May 2006

Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill


7 May 2006

Marine Paul Collins


15 May 2006

Private Morris

Selena Lynch

14 March 2007 Both unlawfully killed while on active service

1 Non-Iraq related military death.

2 Civilian Iraq related death.

Freedom of Information Act/Data Protection Regulations

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary, my right hon. Friend Baroness Ashton of Upholland, has made the following written ministerial statement:

The Government are today publishing a supplementary paper to the consultation paper on the draft Freedom of Information and Data Protection (Appropriate Limit and Fees) Regulations 2007, which would give effect to the changes the Government announced it was minded to make on 16 October 2006.

Following the recent consultation of 14 December 2006 the Government are issuing this supplementary paper to consult on the principle of amending the 2004 regulations, specifically whether the 2004 regulations should be amended to deal with the identified problem of requests which are disproportionately burdensome on public authority resources. Further comments on the draft regulations contained in the consultation paper of 14 December 2006 are also welcome.

The draft regulations would extend the existing provisions by allowing public authorities to:

include reading time, consideration time and consultation time in the calculation of the appropriate limit above which requests could be refused on cost grounds; and

aggregate all requests made by a person (or persons apparently acting in concert or pursuance of a campaign) to each public authority within a period of 60 working days for the purposes of calculating the appropriate limit.

An independent economic review of the operation of the Freedom of Information Act commissioned by my Department and published on 16 October 2006 found that a small percentage of requests and requestors were placing disproportionately large burdens on public authorities in terms of the costs of officials’ time.

While the Government believe it is entirely right that a reasonable amount of resource is spent dealing with requests for information, it is also necessary to consider, in light of experience, whether the existing provisions need to be amended in order to provide the right balance between access to information for all and the delivery of other public services.

The supplementary paper is published today, with responses being invited by 21 June 2007. The paper will be sent to key stakeholders and all responders to the consultation published on 14 December 2006. Both papers are available on my Department’s website at: and will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.


Framework Document for the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency 2007

The Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) has been formed from a merger between the former Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency (AFPAA) and the Veterans Agency (VA). The formal launch of the SPVA on 1 April 2007 is marked by the placing in Parliament of the Framework Document 2007.

The Framework Document sets out the roles, responsibilities and required outputs for the agency. Its primary objectives will provide customers with an assurance that SPVA will focus on providing essential services such as pay and pensions to the Armed Forces and Veterans communities, and that SPVA will be committed to provide excellent customer service and increased efficiency.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Voluntary Modulation and the New Rural Development Programme for England

In my written parliamentary statement of 20 March, Official Report, Col. 38W, I announced that political agreement had been reached at the European level on a new regulation on voluntary modulation which would open the way to the implementation of the new rural development programmes in the UK for the period 2007-2013. The regulation was adopted formally by the Council on Tuesday 27 March.

Now that this regulation is finalised, I am able to announce that the overall budget for the next Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) 2007-2013 will be £3.9 billion. As was the case during 2000-2006, funding an ambitious programme of this size is only made possible through continued use of voluntary modulation. Shifting funding from farm subsidies to payments for environmental services—green farming—is consistent with the Government's long term vision for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

Details of the voluntary modulation and co-financing rates that will apply are as follows.

Rates of voluntary modulation

The rate of voluntary modulation to apply in England for Single Payment Scheme (SS) 2006 payments was already established under the old voluntary modulation regulation at 6 per cent.

For the SPS scheme years 2007-2012, I intend to apply the following rates of voluntary modulation, all significantly below the ceiling of 20 per cent. established in the new regulation:

2007-12 per cent.

2008-13 per cent.

2009-14 per cent.

2010-14 per cent.

2011-14 per cent.

2012-14 per cent.

Money generated from modulating SPS in any given year is made available for spend in the subsequent year (i.e. modulation of SPS 2007 is available for use in 2008).


In England, voluntary modulation is essential to enable us to deliver on the commitments we have made to implement effective agri-environment schemes under Axis 2 of the Rural Development Regulation. I attach very high priority to the environmental outcomes we wish to achieve through the Environmental Stewardship Scheme. I am therefore prepared to add a significant amount of national co-financing to voluntary modulation under Axis 2 in order to deliver on these objectives. I shall therefore provide national co-financing for Axis 2—which will account for 80 per cent. of the voluntary modulation funding—at a rate of 40 per cent. In other words, for every £60 taken from pillar 1 direct payments and transferred to Axis 2, I shall add a further £40 from national funding. I do not intend to provide national co-financing for the 20 per cent. of voluntary modulation receipts which will apply to Axes 1 and 3.

Programme budgets

The total programme budget of nearly £4 billion is more than double the amount of money made available under the old England Rural Development Programme 2000-2006.

The budget for the next Rural Development Programme in England is constructed from an EU European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) allocation of around £750 million, plus co-financing from the Government (including some state aided expenditure) of around £850 million. As set out above, this will be supplemented with approximately £1.5 billion generated through voluntary modulation (under the new and old voluntary modulation mechanisms), which will be co-financed with approximately £800 million of national funds.

Of this nearly £3.3 billion will be used to achieve environmental outcomes under Axis 2. A further £277 million will be applied to axis 1, which will be used to help make agriculture and forestry more competitive and sustainable, and £277 million will be applied to Axis 3, which will be used to enhance opportunity in rural areas.

Some of the additional VM receipts for Axis 1 will be used to fund a specific package of measures designed to assist the livestock industry in tackling some of the particular environmental challenges it faces. I shall make a further announcement as soon as we have worked out the details.

Next Steps

As we have agreement on the overall financing for the new programme for England we can now make quick progress towards finalising all the relevant programme documentation for submission to the Commission for approval. We expect to be able to submit the completed programme by late in the Spring, in preparation for which we shall shortly be consulting further with stakeholders on our plans. Our aim is that this should clear the way for speedy approval of the programme which will enable us to begin the new programme formally in the autumn. Until then, we shall continue to keep the Environmental Stewardship scheme open to new applicants with agreements entered into on a provisional basis.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Return of Bisher Al-Rawi

The House will be aware that in March 2006 my right hon. Friend the then Foreign Secretary agreed to make representations to seek the return from Guantanamo Bay of an Iraqi national formerly resident in the UK, Mr. Bisher Al-Rawi, based on the particular circumstances in his case. Detailed discussions between the UK and US Governments have been continuing since then.

I would like to inform the House that we have now agreed with the US authorities that Mr. Al-Rawi will be returned to the UK shortly, as soon as the practical arrangements have been made. His family and legal representatives have been informed of the decision, as has his family’s constituency MP.

This decision follows extensive discussions to address the security implications of Mr. Al Rawi’s return. The UK will continue to take the necessary measures to maintain national and international security.

Prime Minister

Re-Appointment of the Information Commissioner

I am pleased to announce that The Queen has approved the re-appointment of Mr Richard Thomas as the Information Commissioner, from 29 November this year until his 60th birthday on 18 June 2009.

Machinery of Government Change

I am today announcing Machinery of Government changes to the Home Office and the Department for Constitutional Affairs. These changes build on the ‘Security Crime and Justice’ strand of the Government’s policy review, which sets the broad direction for the Government’s policy response to security, public protection and the criminal justice system issues over the next decade.

The Home Secretary will be developing our capabilities to tackle the threat posed by terrorism. The security and counter-terrorism changes will have immediate effect. Alongside this, a new Ministry of Justice will be established, with the National Offender Management Service and lead responsibility for criminal law and sentencing policy being transferred from the Home Office to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, to create the new Ministry of Justice. This change will take effect from 9 May.

I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses a paper by the Cabinet Office, which sets out these changes in further detail.

Security and Counter-Terrorism

All those working in the field of counter-terrorism, particularly the police, security and intelligence agencies, have worked unstintingly to protect the country from the threat that we face. Our counter-terrorism capabilities are among the best in the world. However, the continuing and growing threat from terrorism means that the Government must develop and improve its counter-terrorism and security capabilities, and its governance.

I am therefore strengthening the role of the Home Secretary and the capabilities of his Department in facing the terrorist threat. While critical areas of the counter-terrorism strategy are overseen by other Secretaries of State, notably the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the Home Secretary has the lead responsibility for the strategy in relation to security threats in the UK, including their overseas dimension.

A new Ministerial Committee on Security and Terrorism will be established, subsuming the current Defence and Overseas Policy (International Terrorism) Committee and the counter-radicalisation aspects of the Domestic Affairs Committee’s work. The Prime Minister will chair the Committee, with the Home Secretary normally acting as deputy chair, although other Ministers such as the Foreign Secretary, and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, will deputise as appropriate. It will be supported by a sub-committee focusing on counter-radicalisation, which will be chaired by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. The Committee will meet regularly, and will be supported by a more frequent meeting focusing on the threat to the UK, which will be chaired by the Home Secretary.

In order to support the Home Secretary in his new role, an Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism will be established in the Home Office. This will report to the Home Secretary. The Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism will take on overall responsibility for the CONTEST strategy, reporting through the new Ministerial Committee. The Government will also establish a research, information and communications unit in support of the struggle for ideas and values. This will be based in the Home Office, reporting to the Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

The changes set out here are aimed at producing a step change in our approach to managing the terrorist threat to the UK and winning the battle for hearts and minds. These changes do not alter the responsibilities of the Foreign or Defence Secretaries, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, or other ministers, or the strategic and operational reporting lines of any of our security and intelligence agencies. The Cabinet Office will retain its role supporting the Prime Minister on national security and counter-terrorism.

Criminal Justice System

A new Ministry of Justice will be established. The National Offender Management Service, including the Prison and Probation Services, will move from the Home Office to the Department for Constitutional Affairs on 9 May, to form the new Ministry. The Home Office will retain its other existing responsibilities, including for policing, antisocial behaviour, drugs, overall crime reduction, immigration, asylum and identity, in addition to its responsibilities for security and counter-terrorism.

The Ministry of Justice will be responsible for policy on the overall criminal, civil, family and administrative justice system, including sentencing policy, as well as the courts, tribunals, legal aid and constitutional reform. It will help to bring together management of the criminal justice system, meaning that once a suspect has been charged their journey through the courts, and if necessary prison and probation, can be managed seamlessly.

The Ministry of Justice will take the leading role in delivering a fairer, more effective, speedy and efficient justice system, and also in reducing re-offending. In doing so it will, with the Home Office and the Attorney-General’s Office, respect the vital roles and independence of the judiciary and the prosecuting authorities.

Public protection and crime reduction will continue to be the core focus of Government policy. The Government have made clear that prison will continue to be necessary to protect the public from the most serious offenders, although some non-dangerous offenders do not need to be in custody because their offending can better be addressed through non-custodial means. The Government have announced plans to build a further 8,000 prison places by 2012, having already increased capacity by 19,700 since 1997.

Criminal law and sentencing policy will move to the new Ministry of Justice. In order to maintain the Government’s clear focus on public protection, the Home Secretary will continue to have a core role in decision making in this area, reflecting his responsibilities for crime reduction. The Secretary of State for Justice will work with the Home Secretary, the Attorney-General and other ministers to ensure flexible and effective responses to different types of crime, from anti-social behaviour to serious and organised criminality, including through the expansion of summary powers. Government policy in this area will, in future, be decided by a new Cabinet Committee on Crime and the Criminal Justice System, chaired by the Prime Minister.

Responsibility for the Crown Prosecution Service and the other prosecuting authorities will remain with the Attorney-General, who has a statutory duty to superintend them. The prosecuting authorities are an integral part of the criminal justice system and the Ministry of Justice will continue to work with the Attorney General’s Office to deliver a world-class criminal justice system.

The existing trilateral arrangements have been a success in delivering improvements to the criminal justice system, and will continue under the new structure. To facilitate this, there will continue to be a shared National Criminal Justice Board and an Office for Criminal Justice Reform, based in the Ministry of Justice, which will work trilaterally between the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General's Office.

The relationship between the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice remains vital, and strong working level agreements will be put in place, for example between the National Offender Management Service, the Police, and the Immigration and Nationality Department.


Public Attitudes to Alternatives to Prosecution

My right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:

“I am today arranging for the publication of research commissioned by the Office of Criminal Justice Reform from IPSOS MORI on public attitudes to alternatives to prosecution.

The research, conducted during March 2006, involved interviews with 1,027 people aged 15 and over in England and Wales and four focus groups. There were also six focus groups with victims and witnesses to test their views of out of court penalties for adults and youths. The research was commissioned as part of a review of out of court penalties which I have been leading.

Whilst the research has been available to criminal justice practitioners since last June, we are now putting it into the public domain because of the general interest in its existence. The findings show that:

Nine out of 10 participants think that first time minor criminal offences need not necessarily be dealt with by the courts;

Half of those participants think a caution or reprimand would be the most appropriate disposal;

Six out of 10 participants think that second minor offences (that this is after a FPN or warning has been given) could be dealt with out of the courts;

A quarter of participants think the best way to deal with second minor offences is by a caution with conditions attached, such as compensation or making amends;

A 44 per cent. majority of participants felt the most appropriate way to deal with offenders who own up to minor offences was for them to make amends to the victim, for example by compensation or an apology.

I am placing copies of the material in the Libraries of both Houses.”

Trade and Industry

East Midlands Development Agency

I have decided to appoint the new Board Members listed at Annexe A for a period of two years and eight months.

The appointments will begin on 2 April 2007 and will expire on 13 December 2009. These appointments were made in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

I attach biographical details of the new appointees at Annexe B.

Annexe A

New Appointments

Appointment will commence on 2 April 2007



East Midlands Development Agency (emda)

Haydn Biddle

Tricia Pedlar

Annexe B


Haydn Biddle

Currently Chief Executive of George Baternan & Son Ltd. a position held since 1994. The previous eight years were spent at Scottish & Newcastle Breweries PLC were he became Managing Director of Newcastle Breweries Ltd. Previous employment was with Proctor & Gamble Ltd. where he became Associate Advertising Manager.

He is currently Pro-Chancellor and Deputy Chair of the University of Northumbria, Deputy Chair of Lincolnshire and Rutland Learning and Skills Council, Chair of Princes Trust, Lincolnshire. Also holds Non-Executive Directorships with J.D. Wetherspoon, Bullman Pub Company Ltd, Boston, Investors in Lincoln, The Newcastle Initiative, Newcastle Enterprise Trust and St. Mary’s Training and Enterprise Centre, Newcastle.

Tricia Pedlar

Founded and is Managing Director of Strategic Spur Ltd., Marketing Consultancy in 2004. Previous ten years worked for Boots PLC where she became Head of Global Market Research for Boots Healthcare International. Previous to this spent seven years with Smith & Nephew Consumer Products as Group National Account manager.

Is currently an East Midlands Business Champion, an active member of Women in Rural Enterprise (WiRE), Leicestershire Chamber of Commerce and the County Land and Business Association.

Financial Reporting Council - Changes to Governance Arrangements

Sir Christopher Hogg, the Chairman of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC), is today publishing proposals for consultation on measures to improve the FRC’s internal governance. The Government welcomes this consultation

The FRC is the independent UK regulator and standard setter for accounting, auditing and the actuarial profession. The FRC’s remit was significantly expanded in 2004 as a result of the Government’s review of audit and accounting regulation, following the corporate scandals in the United States and elsewhere earlier in the decade. Its responsibilities were further expanded in 2006 to include actuarial standards and regulation, as recommended by the Morris Review.

Since his appointment as Chair in January 2006 Sir Christopher has been reviewing the FRC’s internal governance arrangements. While these arrangements have operated well, Sir Christopher has concluded there is now a strong case for changes to enhance the FRC’s transparency, efficiency and independence. The Government agree with Sir Christopher’s view and welcomes the consultation document he is publishing.

The changes Sir Christopher is proposing include merging the FRC Council, which at around 30 members is a large group, and its management board, to form a single governing body of directors. The new governing body would be larger than the existing six-strong board, to enhance its balance, composition and effectiveness. The majority of the governing body will be non-executive directors, including the Chair and Deputy Chair. In addition, the chairs of the FRC’s operating bodies would become directors for the first time.

Sir Christopher is also recommending changes to the process for appointing directors to support the new arrangements and ensure the new governing body reflects the range of skills and experience required. At present, the Secretary of State makes all appointments to the Board of Directors, with the exception of the Chief Executive who is appointed by the FRC. Under the new arrangements, the Secretary of State would appoint only the Chair and Deputy Chair of the FRC. The other directors would be appointed by a Nominations Committee chaired by the FRC Chair, through an open and transparent process, following the same principles as set out for public appointments by the Office of the Commissioner for public appointments. The committee, guided by a template of the range of skills and experience the board should include, will establish clear, objective criteria for individual appointments.

The Government believe the FRC has adapted well to its new responsibilities, and that it continues to receive strong support from companies, investors, the accountancy profession and other stakeholders. The Government are therefore confident the FRC under the new governance arrangements will continue to make an essential contribution to ensuring open, efficient and competitive markets and a strong enterprising corporate sector. Corporate reporting and governance in the UK are widely recognised domestically and internationally as being of a very high standard generally. The FRC’s integrated and market-led approach to regulation effectively underpins these standards.

Insolvency Service Performance Targets 2007-08

I have today agreed to the publishing of the Insolvency Service’s Corporate Plan for the period 2007-10.

The Insolvency Service plans to deal with some 77,000 new insolvencies in the year to 31 March 2008, principally as a result of a further increase in personal bankruptcies.

Its planning assumption for the level of redundancy payments and other insolvency-related claims is 90,000 in the year.

Action will continue to be taken against bankrupts and company directors in respect of financial misconduct or dishonesty and I have asked the service to increase its enforcement output by 7 per cent. over that achieved in 2006-07. Companies Investigation Branch will continue to investigate the affairs of companies in the public interest and I have set targets in relation to the timeliness of dealing with complaints made and the handling of investigations that follow from those complaints.

The service’s “Enabling the Future” strategy, a major programme of IT led investment, will deliver savings over the period of the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review and I have therefore set the service a target to have reduced its case administration fees by 15 per cent. by 31 March 2011.

The Corporate Plan is available at: www.insolvency

I have also set the Insolvency Service the following targets for the year 2007-08:

Published Targets 2007-08

Target 2007-08

Target 2006-07

Case Administration Targets

Reduce bankruptcy and company administration fees by 2010-11 from 1 April 2007 baseline by


New Target

Maintain satisfaction level of bankrupts and directors


New Target

Increase satisfaction level of insolvent creditors from 82.6% to


New Target


Increase the level of public confidence in the service’s enforcement regime from 62.8% to



To reduce the average time from insolvency order to the instigation of disqualification proceedings in appropriate cases

22 Months

New Target

Increase the quantity of enforcement outputs in 2007-08 from 2006-07 baseline by


New Target

Companies Investigation

Complete consideration of vetting complaints within 2 months


New Target

Complete internal Section 447 investigations within 6 months


New Target

Redundancy Payments

Maintain the cost of redundancy payment processing at the 2006-07 baseline

Maintain costs at 2006-07

New Target

Process Redundancy Payment claims for payment


3 Weeks



6 Weeks



Increase satisfaction level of redundant employees



from 74.2% to


In addition to these targets the service is required to meet centrally promulgated targets relating to replying to correspondence from hon. Members, making payments to suppliers and reducing sick absence levels. The service will also look to maintain Charter Mark and Investors in People accreditation following reassessments during 2007-08.

Other Targets

Target 2007-08

Target 2006-07

Reply to correspondence from Members of Parliament within 10 days



Process payments to suppliers in 30 days



Reduce the level of sick absence

7.5 man days per employee

8.5 man days per employee

Work and Pensions

United Nations Convention on Disability Rights

The United Kingdom played an active role in negotiating a new convention on disability rights, which was adopted by the United Nations on 13 December 2006. On the 14 December, the Prime Minister said that he hoped the UK would be among the first states to sign the convention, Official Report, written answers, column 1288W.

The convention opens for signature on 30 March and our signature tomorrow and that of other states will mark a significant step forward to ensuring that around 650 million disabled people worldwide will enjoy their human rights on an equal basis with every one else. It is the culmination of negotiations lasting more than four years in which disabled people have played a central role in the content of the convention.

Work is underway to check the UK’s legislation, policies and practices against the convention’s obligations. Before ratification, the convention will be laid as a command paper before both Houses of Parliament, together with an explanatory memorandum. It will also be sent to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for them to consider. Either, or both Houses, might decide to hold a debate.