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Written Statements

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 28 April 2011

Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 28 April 2011

Defence

Call-out Order to Contribute to the UN

With the expiry of the call-out order made on 1 May 2010, a new order has been made under section 56(1) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into permanent service as part of the United Kingdom’s contribution to the United Nations forces in Cyprus (UNFICYP).

The new order is effective until 30 April 2012. Some 224 reservists are currently called out in support of UNFICYP, of whom 27 are in Cyprus.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Malawi (Expulsion of British High Commissioner)

I would like to inform the House of recent developments in our bilateral relationship with Malawi.

On 26 April the Government of Malawi communicated to us their decision to expel the British high commissioner to Malawi. Mr Fergus Cochrane-Dyet. That decision is totally unacceptable and unwarranted. Mr Cochrane-Dyet is an able and effective diplomat who has behaved with integrity throughout his posting to Lilongwe, and who retains the full confidence of the Government. It is a worrying sign that the Malawian Government are expending their energies in this way, rather than focusing on the real and substantial challenges facing it, including the need for improved governance.

At my direction the FCO yesterday told the acting high commissioner of Malawi that she and her dependants must leave the UK. I have also asked my officials, working closely with their colleagues elsewhere in Government, rapidly to review the full range of our wider relationship with Malawi.

The Government intend to maintain diplomatic relations with Malawi. But we will not immediately appoint a successor to Mr Cochrane-Dyet.

Health

Social Care PFI Credits

On Monday 11 April 2011, we confirmed continued financial support rising to £10.1 million by 2014-15 for four local authority social care PFI projects in England.

Following the spending review in October 2010, which transferred responsibility for PFI schemes to sponsor Departments, the Department of Health undertook a full review of the affordability of the social care PFI scheme and the quality of the proposals that had bid for support. This is in line with the cross-Government reassessment of PFI schemes to ensure they do not create an unaffordable burden.

The projects to receive PFI credits are based in Leeds, Hull, Sandwell and Hammersmith. They will all provide community social care and health facilities for vulnerable people. These projects were among 17 that the Department reviewed. The criteria for the review were: available funding, deliverability and minimising waste—giving priority to those projects already in procurement.

The Government will look to the local authorities whose projects were unsuccessful to give priority to them as front-line services or to look at other ways of providing these services.

Home Department

Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (Remedial) Order 2011

The Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (Remedial) Order 2011 and consequential amendments to the Registration of Marriage Regulations 1986, the Registration of Marriages (Welsh Language) Regulations 1999 and the Civil Partnership (Registration Provision) Regulations 2005 were made on 25 April and will come into force on 9 May 2011. Copies of the remedial order and regulations will be available from http://www.legislation.gov.uk in due course.

The remedial order will have the effect of removing the certificate of approval scheme which the UK courts found incompatible with the European convention on human rights (ECHR). From 9 May, those persons subject to immigration control wishing to give notice of marriage or civil partnership will no longer be required to demonstrate that they have an entry clearance granted for the purpose of marriage or registering civil partnership; a certificate of approval from the Home Office; or settled status in the UK.

Tackling sham marriage abuse remains a priority. Building on success over the last year, which has resulted in 155 arrests, the UK Border Agency will continue to investigate suspected abuse and, where possible, disrupt marriages before they take place. The UK Border Agency is also working closely with the three General Register Offices and partners such as the Anglican Church to look at ways in which the problem of sham marriages can be addressed.

The requirement for a person subject to immigration control to give notice of marriage or civil partnership at a designated register office will remain unchanged. This requirement allows the UK Border Agency to focus enforcement action on specific register offices.

As part of our reform of the immigration system, the Government intend to consult later in the year on family migration, including measures to tackle sham marriages and other abuse, promote integration and reduce burdens on the taxpayer.

Transport

Written Parliamentary Question (Correction)

I regret to inform the House that there was an inaccuracy in my written answer (45254) given on 14 March 2011, Official Report, column 97W, about assessment of the effects on competition in the railway industry of the acquisition of Arriva Trains by Deutsche Bahn. The correct answer is that the European Commission carried out an assessment of the Deutsche Bahn acquisition of Arriva plc in 2010. A copy of the European Commission’s assessment of the effects can be viewed on their website.