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Written Statements

Volume 498: debated on Monday 2 November 2009

Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 2 November 2009

Home Department

Olympic Safety and Security

As part of our commitment to ensure the safety and security of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games a contract has been signed between Airwave Solutions Ltd and the National Policing Improvement Agency for the enhancement of the Airwave radio service, which provides core radio communications for police, fire and ambulance services.

This £39 million investment will fund an increase in the capability of the Airwave system in time for the 2012 Games which will mean it can cater for thousands more users from all of the emergency services. This will benefit all 2012 host venue police forces, fire and ambulance services.

This investment will provide capacity to support the additional policing requirements at all Olympic venues, coverage within Olympic venues, capability to support public order operational activities involving several thousand officers within confined geographical locations, and capability to address the risk of a spontaneous major incident while continuing to support business as usual and Olympics requirements.

UK Border Agency Guidance (Welfare of Children)

Together with the Under-Secretary of State for Children, Young People and Families, Baroness Delyth Morgan, I have today issued statutory guidance to the UK Border Agency under section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009.

Section 55 comes into force today. It places a duty on the Secretary of State to make arrangements for ensuring that immigration, asylum, nationality and customs functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. A similar duty is placed on the Director of Border Revenue in respect of the director’s functions. Subsections 55(3) and (5) require any person exercising any of these functions to have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State for this purpose.

Section 55 is intended to have the same effect as section 11 of the Children Act 2004 which places a similar duty on a range of key public bodies. This guidance is an important step in the process of bringing the UK Border Agency within the family of agencies who, together, have statutory responsibilities to have regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when carrying out their duties. The guidance is supported by a programme of reform to improve the way in which children are treated in the immigration system, led by the agency’s senior management, and which includes an extensive training programme for UK Border Agency staff. The UK Border Agency will be held to account by its new, independent Chief Inspector who will inspect and challenge us on our progress.

Copies of the guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Justice

Openness of Family Courts - Family Courts Information Pilot

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor announced on 16 December 2008 a package of measures to improve the openness of family courts, and on 27 April 2009 he made a written statement to the House about the implementation of new court rules concerning media attendance at proceedings and disclosure provisions, Official Report, column 38WS.

I am now able to confirm that the next phase of the programme has been implemented today—the family courts information pilot. This pilot will test the provision of written judgments in more cases than now, and place anonymised judgments and written reasons in the public domain via the British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) website. The pilot will run from today in the magistrates courts in Leeds and in the magistrates court and county court in Cardiff, and it will run from the beginning of January at the magistrates court and county court in Wolverhampton.

The provision of the judgments and written reasons is being piloted in order that we can assess the benefits to parties to proceedings and the wider public, as well as the resource impacts on court service staff and the judiciary. The pilot is expected to run for 12 months, and evidence from the pilot will be evaluated to inform a decision on whether the arrangements should be implemented nationally.

The following types of cases fall within the scope of the pilot:

Cases where an interim care/supervision order or a final order has been made at a hearing in either:

a) the family proceedings court (magistrates or DJ (MCs));

b) county courts (circuit or district judges or recorders); or

c) the High Court

Cases that fall under at least one of the following categories:

a) Either parent is given leave permanently to remove a child from the UK.

b) The final order prohibits direct contact between a child and either or both parents.

c) A final order is made in a Children Act public law case, including where contact continues.

d) The final order has depended on contested issues of religion, culture or ethnicity.

e) The court has had to decide between medical or other expert witnesses where there were significant differences of opinion.

f) The court has had to decide significant human rights issues.

g) The interim care/supervision order was contested.

There will be other types of case in which publication of the judgment will be encouraged. The type of cases include:

a) Contested cases where the facts, outcomes or solutions of the case would, in the discretion of the judge, be worthy of reporting publicly. So, for example, contested residence or disputed contact issues where the outcome is unusual (e.g. father has residence etc.).

b) Contested adoption applications, applications to make and revoke placement orders; cases involving dispensation with consent and contact.

c) Emergency protection orders.

Annual Report of the Public Guardian Board

The Public Guardian Board has provided the Lord Chancellor with a copy of its annual report on the Public Guardian for 2009. A copy of the report is available in the Library of the House.