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Written Statements

Volume 515: debated on Tuesday 14 September 2010

Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Defence

Army Inspector's Review (Detainee Handling)

The Army Inspector, who reports directly to the Chief of the General Staff, was commissioned in early 2010 to conduct a review of the implementation of policy, training and conduct of detainee handling.

All three services and the Permanent Joint Headquarters are involved in detainee handling in the land environment, and the review has consulted widely. It has taken evidence from soldiers and commanders in Afghanistan as well as staff involved in policy, doctrine, legal advice, training and the planning and conduct of operations. The review team also included an independent member, Mark Lewindon, a retired senior civilian police officer with long experience of police detention practices and other relevant fields.

The Chief of the General Staff reported the outcome of the review to Ministers during the summer recess. A copy of the report has been placed in the Library. The key findings can be summarised as follows:

a. The review has found no evidence to suggest that pre-deployment and in-theatre training are failing to prepare forces to carry out detainee handling in accordance with applicable law and policy. The systems in place for current operations are essentially sound.

b. On operations in Afghanistan, commanders are clearly focused on this issue; governance mechanisms are in place to monitor and assure detainee handling processes, with any allegations of improper behaviour by UK forces (including complaints by the detainees themselves) being formally investigated.

c. Nevertheless, there are areas in which there is room for improvement. The review makes 31 tactical-level recommendations that should be seen as improvements to a system that is now working, rather than as mending a broken system. It also notes that a number of actions are already underway.

d. The review also recognises that further work is underway on more strategic issues:

i. The importance of a higher governance structure in the Ministry of Defence that holds to account those individuals responsible for delivering the various aspects of the detainee handling capability.

ii. The importance of embedding into every soldier, from his or her earliest training, an understanding of the principles and importance of detainee handling, so that it is seen as a mainstream military skill rather than a matter for specialists.

iii. That there may be benefit in greater transparency and impartial assurance open to public scrutiny, over and above the role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Defence Board and Ministers have accepted the conclusions and recommendations of the review. Some of them have resource implications which will not be easy to absorb in the current financial climate, and which will have to be considered against competing priorities; we intend to press ahead with implementation of those recommendations without significant resource implications as quickly as we can.

The review has been disclosed to the Baha Mousa public inquiry, as part of the Department’s evidence for the final stages of the inquiry.

Grob Tutor (Service Inquiry)

I wish to inform the House today of the findings of the Royal Air Force service inquiry into the loss of Grob Tutor, G-BYXR, on 14 June 2009 in Oxfordshire. Tragically, the volunteer reserve pilot, Flight Lieutenant Mike Blee, and Combined Cadet Force (CCF) cadet, Nicholas Rice, were killed. Our deepest sympathies remain with their families and friends.

The purpose of a service inquiry is to establish the circumstances of the loss and to learn lessons from it; it does not seek to apportion blame. The service inquiry was convened on 15 June 2009 and has now presented its findings. The service inquiry found that on the afternoon of the 14 June 2009, Grob Tutor G-BYXR, departed from RAF Benson, to conduct an air experience flight for the CCF cadet. The aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision with a civilian standard Cirrus glider. The civilian glider pilot parachuted to safety with only minor injuries.

The service inquiry was able to identify the sequence of airborne events and concluded that the cause of the accident was the controlled flight of Grob Tutor G-BYXR into the glider. Five contributory factors were identified including the medical condition of the pilot and supervision arrangements. The RAF has apologised privately to the bereaved families for the shortcomings in its supervisory processes and I wish to restate that apology today.

The service inquiry panel made a total of 18 recommendations primarily relating to procedures, equipment and training. Twelve of these recommendations have already been implemented and the remaining six recommendations are under active consideration.

A redacted version of the inquiry findings will be placed in the Library of the House today. It will also be made available on the MOD internet site and can be found by following the link below:

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/CorporatePublications/BoardsOfInquiry/serviceinquiryinvestigatingtheaccidenttotutorgbyxr.htm

Service Complaints Commissioner's Second Annual Report

I am pleased to place in the Library of the House, the Ministry of Defence’s formal response to the Service Complaints Commissioner’s (SCC) second annual report on the fairness, effectiveness and efficiency of the service complaints system.

The MOD accepts the SCC’s 10 new recommendations, three updated recommendations and two new objectives. The formal response sets out how the MOD proposes to address the recommendations and what we will be doing in the coming months.

Progress made against the recommendations in the 2008 annual report has done much to improve awareness of the service complaints process and brought some important organisational change. We shall maintain and build on that progress in the coming year as we address the recommendations in the 2009 report, further improving on our current system and increasing confidence in it among our service personnel.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Equine Infectious Anaemia

I wish to inform the House that on 11 September 2010 the chief veterinary officer for the United Kingdom confirmed equine infectious anaemia (EIA) in one horse in Devon after the owner requested a private vet to examine a sick horse.

The premises are currently under disease control restrictions and the infected horse has been humanely destroyed.

The horse had been in this country for two years and became ill only very recently. Two other horses on the premises are being tested for evidence of infection. The local authority has put in place notices at the relevant points advising horse owners not to exercise their horses in the area.

There is currently no evidence of a link between this case in Devon and the case of EIA confirmed in Northumberland on 7 September. As part of our control measures we will be undertaking a detailed epidemiological investigation.

All remaining horses on the premises in Northumberland have now tested negative for EIA, and movement restrictions remain in place. The horses are required to have two negative tests for equine infectious anaemia carried out three months apart before restrictions can be lifted.

The risk of further spread among horses is considered by experts to be very low, but this will be kept under review pending further epidemiological investigation. Expert advice from the Health Protection Agency is that EIA is not a risk to human health and that there is no evidence that this incident presents a risk to the local communities.

This is the third case of equine infectious anaemia in horses this year. Two of these cases were imported horses, and the third, most recent, case was detected by the owner. Prior to 2010 there had been no confirmed cases since 1976. This shows the success of our post-import testing regime, but also highlights the need for horse owners and keepers to remain vigilant of signs of disease and immediately notify any suspicion of EIA to their vet who should then report any signs of exotic disease to the local Animal Health Office.

Justice

Bribery Act 2010

On 20 July I announced my intention to conduct a public consultation on the form and content of guidance to be published under section 9 of the Bribery Act before it comes into force in April 2011. I am pleased to announce that this public consultation commences today with the publication by the Ministry of Justice of a consultation paper “Consultation on guidance about commercial organisations preventing bribery (section 9 of the Bribery Act 2010)”.

This consultation paper seeks views on draft guidance about procedures that commercial organisations can put in place to prevent persons associated with them from bribing. The draft guidance proposes six general principles that are designed to be applicable across all sectors and for all types and size of business. It is intended that these general principles will aid businesses to formulate procedures appropriate to their particular circumstances should they choose to do so.

As I made clear in my statement of 20 July, Official Report, columns 11-12WS, our concern is that the formulation of the guidance to be published under section 9 is informed by the wealth of expertise currently available. To that end we are also holding a number of open discussion forums in all parts of the United Kingdom during the consultation period to further encourage the sharing of views on what is being proposed.

Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and are available from today on the Ministry of Justice website

(http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/consultations.htm)

along with further details on how to respond and on the open discussion forums referred to above. I believe that this consultation will provide the basis for the publication of effective but flexible guidance on bribery prevention for commercial organisations seeking to ensure that they conduct business competitively while maintaining high standards of integrity and transparency.

Trustee Exemption Clauses

I am pleased to announce the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations made by the Law Commission in its 2006 report “Trustee Exemption Clauses” (Law Com 301).

Briefly, the Law Commission recommended that the Government should promote the adoption by professional and regulatory bodies in the trust industry in England and Wales of a model rule of practice relating to the inclusion in trust documents of clauses limiting the liability of trustees for the consequences of their actions. The recommended model rule provides that a paid trustee or trust draftsman proposing to include such a clause should take reasonable steps to ensure that the person creating the trust is aware of the meaning and effect of the clause before the trust is created.

Model rules to this effect have already been widely adopted by leading regulatory and professional bodies but the Government will be promoting further uptake by writing directly to the relevant regulatory and professional bodies to urge them to adopt the approach recommended by the Law Commission.