Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 687: debated on Monday 18 December 2006

Written Statements

Monday 18 December 2006

Armed Forces: Army Base Repair Organisation

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In March 2006 I announced to the House that following a number of developments, primarily the decision to extend the depth repair programme for the FV430 fleet of armoured vehicles, the previously contemplated rationalisation of four of ABRO's business units, including the closure of ABRO's armoured vehicle facility at Donnington, would need to be reconsidered.

Further work has reinforced the decision I made in March. A major rationalisation of ABRO's operational capacity and capability on the scale previously contemplated (including closure of the Donnington armoured vehicle facility) is not likely to be required in the short to medium-term because of the volumes of repair, upgrade, maintenance and overhaul work. The market in which ABRO operates will continue to evolve in the medium to longer-term, in line with the demands of the military customers and the potential introduction of new arrangements for supporting land-based military equipment.

The Government remain committed to modernising our Armed Forces. To this end, we must continually look for more efficient support solutions to enable us to invest more resource to support our men and women at the front line. To enhance the future prospects of the organisation, ABRO, like all providers of equipment support, will therefore need to build on the improvements it has already made to its efficiency and effectiveness, in particular to the infrastructure supporting its operational capacity and capability. I have asked ABRO to pursue these further improvements with renewed vigour.

ABRO expects to announce plans to deliver this objective during the early part of 2007. Where required, ABRO will of course consult staff and trades unions about any changes impacting staff.

Boundary Commission

I should like to inform the House that I have made the following appointments under Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986:

The honourable Mr Justice Lloyd Jones, appointed as deputy chairman of the Boundary Commission for Wales, for a period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2008;

Mr Michael Lewer, CBE, QC, reappointed as a member of the Boundary Commission for England, for a period from 1 January 2007 to 7 October 2007; and

Mr Robin Gray, reappointed as a member of the Boundary Commission for England, for a period from 1 January 2007 to 17 May 2009.

Companies Act 2006

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Companies Act 2006, which received Royal Assent on 8 November 2006, will bring major benefits to business by modernising and simplifying company law. The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, made a Statement to the House of Lords on 2 November 2006 in which he explained that it is our intention to commence all parts of the Act by October 2008. As part of our implementation of the Act, I intend to commence some provisions early next year.

With effect from 1 January 2007, I intend to commence provisions in the Act relating to changes to the first company law directive. These changes are in large part designed to ensure increased facilities for e-communications with the national registrar of companies. With effect from 20 January 2007, I intend to commence the following provisions linked to implementation of the transparency obligations directive:

the provisions on company communications to shareholders and others, which include provisions facilitating electronic communication;

provisions concerning a public company's right to investigate who has an interest in its shares; and

Section 463, which sets out a statutory basis of directors' liability to the company in relation to the directors’ report (including the business review) and the directors’ remuneration report.

I also intend to commence all powers to make orders or regulations by statutory instrument with effect from 20 January 2007. I intend to commence some self-contained provisions of the Act from 6 April 2007, including:

the provisions in Part 28 of the Act implementing the takeovers directive;

provisions extending the community interest company regime to Northern Ireland; and

Section 1281, which amends Part 9 of the Enterprise Act 2002 to enable public authorities, in certain circumstances, to disclose information where the information is to be used in civil proceedings or otherwise for the purpose of establishing, enforcing or defending legal rights.

I also intend to repeal the following free-standing provisions of the Companies Act 1985 with effect from 6 April 2007:

Section 41 (authentication of documents);

Sections 293 and 294 (provisions relating to directors aged 70 and over in public companies or private companies which are subsidiaries of public companies);

provisions in Part 10 of, and Schedule 13 to, the Companies Act 1985 relating to the disclosure of share dealings by directors and their families;

Section 311 (prohibition on tax-free payments to directors);

Sections 323 and 327 (prohibition on directors’ dealing in share options);

Sections 343 and 344 (special procedure for disclosure of dealings in favour of directors by banks);

Section 358 (a power for companies to close the register of members);

Section 438 (a power for the Secretary of State to bring civil proceedings on a company's behalf);

Section 720 (a requirement for certain companies, including insurance companies, to publish periodical statements); and

Section 729 (a requirement that the Secretary of State shall prepare an annual report to Parliament of matters within the Companies Acts).

I also intend to commence the provisions about fees payable to Companies House under the new Act. The provisions about fees under the old Act will still remain in force until all the repeals of provisions in that Act have been brought into force.

The Government consulted in August on the application of the Companies Act 2006 to existing companies. The consultation focused on a number of difficult transitional issues affecting company constitutions, which will arise for existing companies when the Act is commenced. I am today publishing a summary of the responses and the Government's conclusions, together with the individual responses where respondents have given their consent for their full response to be made public. We will consult in February 2007 on the policy issues related to secondary legislation which will need to be made under the Act, and on further transitional issues.

Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004

I am very pleased to announce that I plan to implement Sections 1 and 12 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 on 1 July 2007. This confirms the commitment given by the Prime Minister on 6 December 2006.

Section 1 will make the breach of civil orders made under the Family Law Act 1996 a criminal offence punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. The Family Law Act 1996 provides victims with the non-molestation order and the occupation order. Victims can apply to a court for a non-molestation order to forbid someone using or threatening violence and/or harassing, pestering or intimidating them. Victims can also apply for an occupation order to enforce their entitlement to remain in occupation of the home, make the respondent leave the home, or regulate the occupation by both parties.

Section 12 extends the powers on restraining orders under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 to cover all violent offences. It also provides the courts with the power to make an order where a person is charged, pending trial, or where a person is not convicted but the court considers that it is necessary to make an order to protect the victim. The benefit is that a court may make a restraining order even if a defendant has been acquitted of other charges but the court considers there is sufficient evidence of harassment that it is necessary to protect a person from harassment by the defendant.

Both of these measures will significantly strengthen the suite of measures available to courts. Earlier measures already introduced included:

Making common assault an arrestable offence so that a police officer may arrest without a warrant under Section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. This provided the police with significant extra powers in respect of domestic violence and violent offences generally.

Amending the eligibility criteria in the Family Law Act so that same-sex relationships are treated in the same way and to offer the same level of protection to people in relationships who are not living together.

Electoral Administration Act 2006

My right honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Electoral Administration Act received Royal Assent on 11 July 2006. The Act aims to tackle four areas at the core of a healthy democracy by improving access, improving confidence, extending openness and transparency of party financing and maintaining professional delivery of elections. A third of the Act was commenced in September 2006. This second commencement order commences the vast majority of the remaining provisions within the Electoral Administration Act, including:

late registration;

anonymous registration;

introduction of new personal identifiers to absent voters;

regulation of loans and donations; and

handling of election documents.

These provisions, while coming into force on 1 January 2007, will not apply to any elections between 1 January 2007 and 3 May 2007.

Provisions relating to anonymous registration and observers, while commenced from 1 January 2007, will not take effect until June 2007 and 31 January 2007 respectively.

The only sections that will not be commenced relate to:

remaining provisions relating to core;

provision of signatures in polling stations;

reporting donations to include details of the nature of donation; and

regulation of loans to Northern Ireland etc.

The Government are committed to improving access and engagement in the democratic process. Increased registration is one way to achieve this. Some 3.5 million people entitled to vote are not registered. We have therefore commenced provisions that allow anonymous registration for a person who believes that having their name and address on the register would put at risk the safety of themselves, or others in their household. In addition, people will now be able to register 11 days before the poll, whereas in the past the deadline was between six and eight weeks before the poll.

We have also brought into force a requirement for all persons applying to vote by post or proxy to provide their signature and date of birth. At elections, postal voters must provide these identifiers on their postal voting statement when they cast their vote. The Government believe this, along with the introduction of new election offences, represents a comprehensive set of legislative changes that will improve confidence in the electoral system.

Energy: Wind Farms

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today granted consents under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 for the construction and operation of the Thanet and London Array offshore wind farms.

The consents have been granted to Thanet Offshore Wind Ltd (a subsidiary of Warwick Energy) and London Array Ltd, a consortium comprising Shell Wind Energy, E-on Renewables UK and Core Energy (itself comprising Farm Energy and DONG). When complete, the London Array project will be the largest wind farm in the world with the potential to generate 1GW of green energy. The Thanet proposal will generate up to 300MW.

In taking these decisions, I have considered representations about the possible impact of the projects on a range of environmental and other features and interests and taken advice from a range of stakeholders. I have concluded that the impacts envisaged by those making representations will either be of low significance or can be mitigated or avoided through the use of suitable conditions in the Electricity Act consent or in the licences for those projects that are to be issued by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. I was also aware that the developers have made changes to the proposed works in order to provide further mitigation for some of the potential impacts.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Nationality, Citizenship and Immigration, Home Department, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Justice and Home Affairs Council was held on 4 to 5 December 2006 in Brussels. The Home Secretary, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, and I attended on behalf of the UK.

The Finnish presidency opened the council with the “A” points list which was approved. These included general approaches on taking account of convictions in new criminal proceedings (an important measure that requires member states to ensure that judges can take into account previous convictions in other member states—when, for example, sentencing—in the same way that they would take into account previous domestic convictions) and the draft Council regulation (a measure that applies only to Schengen member states) listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders of member states.

The presidency presented its draft conclusions on the Hague programme review. Discussion focused on two elements of the conclusions: the passerelle and the wording with regard to the assessment of progress made in the areas of criminal and judicial co-operation. On the passerelle, there was robust discussion with some member states seeking to have reflected in the text the need for further work to explore the possibilities in the passerelle and a reference to the constitutional treaty. The UK opposed these suggestions strongly, noting that the majority of member states were against further work on the passerelle. The Home Secretary made clear additionally that there should not be any link to the constitutional treaty and that, given the limited support for the proposed use of the passerelle, the current debate should be regarded as over. A number of other member states joined in opposing reference to possible European Council discussion of the passerelle. The final text states that, “the subject of decision making would remain under consideration by the Council [i.e. the JHA Council]. This would be brought to the attention of the European Council in December”.

On the Hague programme review more generally, the agreed conclusions reflect the UK views that proposals or initiatives for new instruments at EU level should be based on a rigorous assessment of their potential impact and welcomes the progress made in implementing the programme to date.

The council reached political agreement on the regulation establishing the Fundamental Rights Agency on a basis that avoids any formal extension of the agency's remit to the areas covered by Title VI and any reference to the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the operative part of the regulation. Both of these elements were essential to enable the UK to agree the regulation. The text of the regulation will be formally adopted at a council in January 2007. The Commission is expected to implement the transitional arrangements from the existing European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.

No agreement was reached on the Prisoner Transfer Framework Decision. The presidency, with the support of the UK and a number of delegations, pushed hard for agreement on the latest text on the basis that it represented a compromise package for all. However, one member state maintained that the text did not go far enough to meet its concerns about the need for prisoner consent and the right of the executing state to determine whether transfer to its territory would facilitate social rehabilitation. Work will continue in the council on the outstanding issues.

The presidency asked whether the council wished to pursue work on a binding framework decision on procedural rights in criminal proceedings, pointing out that it and a non-binding resolution on practical measures (which had been put forward by six member states) were not mutually exclusive. Several member states, including the UK, preferred the non-binding text, arguing that the framework decision added no value for the citizen and created legal uncertainty. A large majority of member states were in favour of a binding instrument or prepared to be flexible. However, within the majority there was disagreement on whether a binding text should contain explicit derogations so as to protect national law. The issue would be taken up by the German presidency who are making it a priority of their presidency to reach agreement on a binding text.

Commissioner Frattini presented the Commission's communications on the global approach to migration and reinforcement of the southern maritime border. These were welcomed by the council, though it was noted that there was more that needed to be done. The UK introduced a paper on behalf of the G6 and underlined our wish for succinct, practically focused conclusions from the European Council. Work needed to be done to build partnerships with third countries and effectively planning the management of the southern maritime border.

The second-generation Schengen evaluation system (SIS II) and interim solution to connect the new member states to SIS I (SISOne4All) were discussed at length. A majority of member states wished to proceed with SISOne4All given their view that the political implications of delaying the lifting of internal borders were serious. The UK stressed its support for measures to allow the new member states to join the Schengen area as soon as possible, but also reiterated its concerns about costs, timetable and technical feasibility. The presidency proposed a compromise text on the basis that only those member states connected to SIS I would be liable for the extra costs resulting from the extension of the network, thereby excluding the UK and some other states from liability. The council conclusions were agreed on this basis.

The presidency called for agreement on the Rapid Response and Preparedness Instrument on the basis of a compromise text which would have seen the previous proposal for Community finance to be available for the hire of civil protection equipment removed from the instrument entirely. This represented a major move towards the UK position. Community finance would have remained within the scope of the instrument for the transport of civil protection assistance to disasters inside and outside of the EU provided the member state sending the assistance met 50 per cent of the costs. The amount of Community expenditure available for transport would also have been capped at 60 per cent of the total spend available through the instrument. There was support for this proposal from most other delegations. However the UK was not prepared to agree the instrument at the council on this basis. The presidency agreed to send the item back to COREPER for further discussion. Following a further concession to the UK whereby the maximum amount of Community expenditure available for transport was lowered to 50 per cent, agreement was reached at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 11 December.

The council conclusions on the future of Europol were agreed in principle with just one issue to be discussed at ambassadorial level on the replacement of the Europol Convention with a council decision.

The EU counter-terrorism co-ordinator presented a stock-take report which noted good progress on developing EU counter-terrorism legislation, secure intelligence analyses from the EU's Situation Centre and international co-operation. The report also identified shortcomings identified in implementing the legislation and in national capabilities to respond to attacks. As such, it may be useful to note that the EU has recently begun to develop initiatives in the field of combating radiological and biological terrorism. The UK has been closely involved with this work since its inception, lending our considerable expertise in this field, and ensuring that this work progresses in a manner that adds value at the European level and is not detrimental to UK interests.

The presidency presented a progress report on the strategy for the external dimension of JHA, which had been agreed under the UK's presidency. It was noted that implementation of the strategy was progressing, but that more time would be needed before a full evaluation of results would be possible.

There were a number of AOB items: the European evidence warrant should be adopted early in the German presidency; European contract law, during which the Commission stressed that the project concerned better law-making, not a European code of contract law; progress on the Prüm Treaty was noted and the German presidency indicated that it intended to attach priority to bringing the treaty into the EU acquis during its presidency. This would be discussed further at the JHA informal council in January.

At lunch on day 1 the Home Secretary took the opportunity to brief colleagues on the ongoing investigation into the death of Alexander Litvinenko. There was a brief exchange of views on violent video games where the Home Secretary emphasised the need to protect children, and others, from violent material and set out the UK's specific concerns about extreme pornographic material. Domestically the UK is proposing to make illegal the possession of a limited range of violent and extreme pornographic material and would like other member states to consider how they control the publication and distribution of such material. The Home Secretary urged that this work be taken forward under the German presidency. Judge Vassilios Skouris, president of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), gave a presentation on the ECJ's proposals for accelerated procedures for handling cases in the area of freedom, security and justice. Lunch items on day 2 included a presentation by Michel Barnier, diplomatic adviser to Nicolas Sarkozy, on disaster response and a presentation by Kristiina Kangaspunta, chief of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, followed by discussion of the EU action plan to combat human trafficking.

EU: Telecoms Council

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I represented the United Kingdom at the Telecoms Council in Brussels, on the morning of 11 December 2006. The council began with the presidency asking member states to approve the council resolution for a strategy for a secure information society in Europe. The resolution concentrates specifically on trust and security in the ubiquitous information society of tomorrow. There was a brief endorsement from the Commission after which three remaining linguistic and scrutiny reserves were lifted without discussion.

The presidency then presented its paper on the progress made in the council concerning the Commission proposal for a regulation on roaming on public mobile networks within the Community. In my intervention I welcomed this proposal, agreeing that there is definitely a need for control of wholesale and retail prices, but expressed my concern at the Commission's proposed course of action to achieve this reduction. I along with several other member states proposed the introduction of a sunrise clause on the imposition of an average (rather than maximum) retail cap. This would result in the best deal for consumers in terms of sustainable lower roaming prices, competition in the marketplace and continued innovation in the packages offered. I also referred to a co-authored UK and French paper setting out principles on how we believe the regulation should be structured (attached at Annexe A). I am pleased to report that the UK/French approach received considerable support.

The presidency concluded the discussion by emphasising the good progress that had been made on the dossier that would now pass to the German presidency for a conclusion before the summer.

Discussions then turned to the agenda items listed under any other business. The first of these was a presentation by the Finnish presidency on the i2010 conference, which it held in September. This was followed by an update on discussions that took place at the internet governance forum in October. As both of these presentations were fundamentally feedback on past events I did not intervene.

Commissioner Reding then made a brief request to member states to sign the memorandum of understanding on eCall. ECall is an automated emergency call system which is able to report traffic accidents from the vehicles involved in the crash which in turn could improve the emergency services’ response time. The Government are yet to decide whether to sign the MOU. This is a DfT lead, on which I understand the House has received one Explanatory Memorandum (EM 1238/05 COM2005431 FINAL) and will shortly receive a supplementary EM (EM15932/06 COM2006723 FINAL).

The fourth and final item under AOB was an update on the debate about “116”, on the request of the French (this was a last-minute addition to the agenda). “116” is a draft decision from the Commission requesting all member states to allocate numbers (116 XXX) for pan-European services of societal value. In my intervention I agreed with the Commission on the importance of this service and supported the French proposal that one of these numbers, when the decision is adopted, (116 000) should be reserved for a hotline for reporting missing children. I concluded my intervention by affirming the United Kingdom's commitment to do everything that we can to take this initiative forward.

On conclusion of discussions on telecoms issues, Commissioner McCreevy, the Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, presented the third postal services directive. The directive proposes the full accomplishment of the internal market for Community postal services through the removal or reduction of obstacles that hinder the functioning of the internal market. I along with several other member states supported the Commission's proposal and highlighted the benefits that we have experienced in the UK, such as choice of provider, better service quality and improved value for money, following the liberalisation of our postal market at the beginning of this year.

The Telecoms Council concluded with the presidency thanking member states for all their assistance over the past six months and wishing the Germans good luck for their forthcoming presidency.

EU: Transport Council

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Dr Stephen Ladyman) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I attended the transport session of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council, held in Brussels on 11 to 12 December. The Finnish Minister for Transport and Communications, Mrs Susanna Huovinen, was in the chair.

The council adopted conclusions on the Commission communication on its mid-term review of the programme for the promotion of short sea shipping. The conclusions are acceptable to the UK.

The council reached a general approach on a directive amending the current EU provisions on port state control. The general approach, reached on the basis of a compromise proposal, was acceptable to the UK.

The council also reached a general approach on a decision concerning the ratification by EU member states of the 2006 consolidated maritime labour convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This decision, enabling member states to ratify the convention, and incorporating member states’ and Community competence, is acceptable to the UK.

There was a Commission progress report on the regulation on liability of carriers of passengers by sea and inland waterways in the event of accidents.

The Commission gave a further report on progress in the PPP concession contract negotiations on the Galileo satellite navigation programme. It is keen to ensure that the main elements of the concession contract are in place by early 2007; was hopeful that the financial regulation setting out the financial and legal commitments for the public sector over the 20-year period of the concession contract could be finalised by autumn 2007; and expected that final signature of the concession contract could then take place by the end of 2007. I urged that the Commission ensure sufficient information is made available to the March transport council so that some preparatory work could be carried out before the important decisions that will need to be taken at the later June council. I underlined again the civil nature of the project, and called for better information for the council on economic returns versus cost.

The Commission announced that it would shortly issue a paper setting out its recommendations on future relations with non-EU countries in the Galileo programme. The Commission also reported on the recent publication of its Green Paper on Galileo applications. The paper invites comments from stakeholders on a host of issues relating to Galileo applications.

Over lunch Ministers discussed the member states’ bids for location of the Galileo Supervisory Authority (GSA). The UK's bid is for Cardiff and I spoke in favour of it. There are 10 other bids: from Greece, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Malta, Germany, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Italy and France. The presidency noted that all 11 bids met the criteria it had drawn up. It was not possible to reach a conclusion, so the Finnish presidency remitted the issue to the incoming German presidency.

The council adopted conclusions on the Commission's communication on freight transport logistics, entitled Freight Logistics in Europe—Key to Sustainable Mobility. The Commission plans to present an action plan for freight transport logistics in 2007. The UK supports this initiative from the Commission, and the proposal to develop an action plan and the conclusions are acceptable to us.

The council reached a general approach on a directive on retrofitting of blind-spot mirrors to heavy goods vehicles larger than 3.5 tonnes registered in the Community. The UK supports the objectives of this proposal, which extends the provisions of a type-approval directive adopted in 2003 (for new trucks) to the existing fleet. The directive will apply to lorries registered after 1 January 2000. I was able to accept the text of the general approach, in the interest of making progress on this important matter. I joined others in calling for the Commission to consider the addition of a mirror covering the front blind spot. A statement to this effect, recording the Commission's agreement, will be entered in the minutes.

The Commission reported on negotiations with the US on air transport. The situation was more complex now than at the previous transport council, since the proposed US rule-making procedure had been withdrawn. The Commission had accepted an offer of further talks in January to consider next steps. The Commission was disappointed with recent developments, but was determined to make progress and to continue to work towards a balanced agreement.

The Commission reported on the agreement reached with Russia on Siberian overflights. The agreement was widely welcomed in the council.

The council adopted a mandate authorising the Commission to open air transport negotiations with Ukraine. The UK supports this mandate.

The council reached a general approach on a regulation amending regulation 1592/2002, which established a framework for aviation safety regulation built around the European Aviation Safety Agency. The text of the general approach was acceptable to the UK.

Under AOB there were reports on the EU-Russia transport dialogue and on the ministerial conference on road safety held in Verona on 3 to 4 November. Agreed without debate were the following proposals, all of which were acceptable to the UK:

Regulation of the European Parliament and of the council laying down general rules for the granting of Community financial aid in the field of trans-European transport and energy networks and amending Council regulation (EC) No. 2236/95;

Adoption of the council decision on the signing of a co-operation agreement on a Civil Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) between the European Community and its member states and the Kingdom of Morocco;

Adoption of a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on public passenger transport services by rail and by road;

Adoption of a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on common rules in the field of civil aviation security;

Adoption of a proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers, and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicles (“framework directive”;

Adoption of a council regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 1321/2004 on the establishment of structures for the management of the European satellite navigation programmes;

Adoption of a council regulation amending Council regulation (EC) No. 876/2002 setting up the Galileo joint undertaking.

The GNSS agreement with Morocco was signed in the margins of the council, and I signed for the UK.

Environmental Impact Assessment Directive

My right honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today issued a consultation document on The application of the Environmental Impact Assessment Directive to ‘stalled’ reviews of old mineral permissions and periodic reviews of mineral permissions in England. This seeks comments on proposals for amending regulations relating to England to deal, first, with initial reviews of old mineral planning permissions which are undetermined and so “stalled” for want of environmental information. Secondly, comments are sought on proposals to apply sanctions to make the application of the environmental impact assessment Directive to all reviews of mineral planning permissions as effective as possible. Similar amending regulations are being proposed in relation to Wales.

The proposed regulations would put beyond doubt that the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 1999, as amended by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2000 (the 2000 regulations)—which include a sanction of suspension of operations for failing to provide the necessary environmental information—apply to stalled applications for initial reviews of old mineral permissions. These applications were submitted before the 2000 regulations came into force, and some have not been determined because necessary environmental information has not been provided.

Many mineral sites are operating under permissions granted many years ago which contained few, if any, conditions to mitigate the impact of mineral extraction. Uniquely within the planning system, legislation was introduced in the 1990s to review and update to modern environmental standards these old permissions which can last for many decades and to regularly review all mineral permissions. At that time, it was assumed that, because the reviews did not grant consent but merely updated mineral operating conditions, there was no need to apply the environmental impact assessment directive. However, subsequent court judgments established that conditions reviews did constitute “development consent” as defined in the directive, which had not, therefore, been fully transposed. Consequently, the 2000 regulations were introduced to apply the environmental impact assessment directive to these reviews.

Guidance issued with the regulations advised that they applied only to applications for review made after the 2000 regulations came into force on 15 November 2000. Operators of sites with applications for initial review which had not been determined by that date were asked to submit any necessary environmental information voluntarily. Most did so. But there are around 40 such applications in England which are “stalled” for a variety of reasons, including some where operators are refusing to provide environmental information when requested to do so by mineral planning authorities. There is currently no sanction to encourage them to do so and at active sites operations can continue under the terms of the original permissions with little or no mitigation of the environmental impacts.

Subject to consultation comments, the proposed amending regulations would apply the sanction of suspension for continuing failure to provide the necessary environmental information and so help to conclude these reviews and bring operations up to modern standards.

The consultation paper also proposes further sanctions to apply to all reviews of mineral permissions for failure to provide necessary environmental information. These are:

automatic suspension of operations if additional environmental information required to enable a determination of whether a review requires an environmental impact assessment is not provided;

a requirement for mineral planning authorities to consider making suspension orders to secure environmental remediation where operations have been automatically suspended for a period of 12 months without provision of outstanding environmental information; and

a requirement for mineral planning authorities to make orders prohibiting resumption of mineral working where operations have been automatically suspended for two years without provision of outstanding environmental information.

Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The paper is also available on the Communities and Local Government website at asp?id=1505253. The consultation period ends on 12 March 2007.

Immigration: Independent Inspectorate

My honourable friend the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The House will wish to know that I am publishing today a consultation document on the establishment of an independent inspectorate for immigration. Copies of this consultation document have been placed in the House Library.

At present there are a wide range of bodies that monitor, inspect or advise on specific parts of the immigration system. What is currently lacking is a clear and consistent view of the overall system in a way that can provide confidence to the public and to Parliament that the system is working efficiently and effectively and, where there are problems, that these are being addressed in a way that is consistent with the Government's policies and objectives.

In order to deliver this we believe there is a strong case for introducing a new independent inspectorate. The consultation paper sets out our thinking on the role such a new body might have to conduct an effective assessment of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate including overall effectiveness, quality of decision-making, enforcement powers, access to information and the treatment of individuals.

The consultation period ends on 16 February. We will then report on the results of the consultation and our proposed course of action.

Inheritance: Forfeiture Rule and Law of Succession

In July 2005, the Law Commission of England and Wales published its report The Forfeiture Rule and the Law of Succession (Law Com No. 295). The report recommends the reform of the law relating to the distribution of the estates of deceased persons where a legacy is forfeited or disclaimed. I am very grateful to the Law Commission for its report.

The Government have carefully considered the report and are pleased to announce that they accept all of the Law Commission's recommendations subject to minor modifications. Legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows.

Iraq and Afghanistan: Military Inquests

My right honourable friend the Minister of State has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I wish to make the following Statement to the House about the inquests of service men 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 and 12 October 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 October.


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 service man 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 service men 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 Swindon and Wiltshire coroner.

At the time of the June 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 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 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 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.

Since the October Statement, the coroner has provided us with details of outstanding inquests into six deaths from a military exercise in the Czech Republic in 2004. Including these deaths, there now remain 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.

We have not included in this Statement inquests into a further 11 deaths in Iraq and 33 deaths in Afghanistan which occurred after 15 May 2006 and which were repatriated into Brize Norton, as the additional support for the coroner outlined below is only intended to clear the backlog of cases he had in June. DCA and MoD officials continue to liaise with each other, the Oxfordshire coroner and his assistant deputies on the progress of all of these cases and on how to handle these recent deaths.

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 has 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 Gaff and Mr Derrick Bines have been appointed by Thames Valley Police to support the existing complement of five officers and one officers’ 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 provides administrative support for the investigations and inquests.

Recording equipment—to enable two courts to operate simultaneously.

Progress with the remaining inquests

Since the October Ministerial Statement all inquests of deaths have been allocated to the assistant deputy coroners. Eighteen inquests have been held; the inquest into the death of Sergeant Roberts is currently being held; and a further 51 have been listed for hearing.

In the October Ministerial Statement we said that the coroner intended that all outstanding inquests would either have been held or have a date fixed for the inquest hearing by the end of the year and dates for the remaining six inquests will have been fixed by the end of the year. We are 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.

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. The extra resources will improve the service provided to families by the Oxfordshire coroner, in addition to the normal liaison between the Ministry of Defence and the families concerned.

In order to further improve the service to families, I invited to meet me 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 service men 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 services 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.

Date of death

Name of deceased

Allocated to

In process of being listed for hearing

Date listed

Date inquest heard


Kevin Tucker

Andrew Walker



Michael Watkins

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006


Flight Lieutenant Maguire

Andrew Walker



Captain Crous

Andrew Walker


Lance Bombardier Evans

Andrew Walker



Sergeant Hehir

Andrew Walker


Major Ward (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


Captain Guy (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


Warrant Officer 2 Stratford (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


Colour Sergeant Cecil (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker


Marine Hedenskog

Andrew Walker


Operator Maintainer (Communications) 1 Seymour (Royal Navy)

Andrew Walker


Lieutenant Wilson

Sir Richard Curtis



Lieutenant West

Sir Richard Curtis


Lieutenant Green

Sir Richard Curtis


Lieutenant Williams

Sir Richard Curtis


Lieutenant King

Sir Richard Curtis


Lieutenant Lawrence

Sir Richard Curtis


Flight Lieutenant Main

Andrew Walker

30-31.10.06 Narrative verdicts


Flight Lieutenant Williams

Andrew Walker


Sapper Allsopp

Andrew Walker

29.09.06 Unlawful killing


Staff Sergeant Cullingworth

Andrew Walker


Terry Lloyd

Andrew Walker

03-13.10.06 Unlawful killing


Sergeant Roberts

Andrew Walker



Corporal Allbutt

Selena Lynch



Lance Corporal of Horse Hull

Andrew Walker



Lance Corporal Brierley

Nicholas Gardiner

21.06.06 Accidental death


Marine Maddison

Andrew Walker

20.11.06 Narrative verdict


Major Ballard

Andrew Walker

27-30.11.06 Narrative verdict


Lance Corporal Shearer

Selena Lynch



Fusilier Turrington

Andrew Walker

28.09.06 Narrative verdict


Private Muzvuru

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Killed in action


Lance Corporal Malone

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Killed in action


Private Smith

Andrew Walker

06-10.11.06 Narrative verdict


Sergeant Nightingale

Andrew Walker

27.09.06 Narrative verdict


Sergeant Patterson

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Accidental death


Major Stenner


Lance Corporal Craw

Andrew Walker



Robert Morgan

Nicholas Gardiner

05.07.06 Unlawful killing


Mark Carman

Nicholas Gardiner

05.07.06 Unlawful killing


Antonio Jose Monteiro-Abelha

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006


Fusilier Gentle

Selena Lynch



Flight Lieutenant Gover

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006 and will be heard in January 2007


Private O'Callaghan

Nicholas Gardiner

21.06.06 Unlawful killing


P Chadwick

Selena Lynch



Captain Loose

Andrew Walker


Sergeant Kemp

Gunner Kelly

Gunner Crain

Gunner Gomersall

Gunner Dimmock


Staff Sergeant Rose

Selena Lynch

13-15.11.06 She killed herself


Shaun Paul Husband

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006


Joseph Terry


Private Tukutukuwaqa

Nicholas Gardiner

05.07.06 Unlawful killing


Raj Gurung

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006


John Dolman

Selena Lynch



Nicholas Pears


John Eardley


Tracy Hushin


Guardsman Wakefield

Selena Lynch

11.12.06 Unlawful killing


Lance Corporal Brackenbury

Andrew Walker



Signaller Didsbury

Andrew Walker



Private Spicer

Selena Lynch



Private Hewett


2nd Lieutenant Shearer


Kenneth Hull

Selena Lynch

13.12.06 Unlawful killing


Andrew Holloway


Fusilier Manning

Selena Lynch

15.11.06 Unlawful killing


Fusilier Meade


Lance Corporal Douglas

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Unlawful killing


Corporal Pritchard

Andrew Walker



Trooper Smith

Selena Lynch



Private Ellis

Selena Lynch

27.11.06 Unlawful killing


Captain Holmes


Lieutenant Palmer

Andrew Walker



Corporal Cridge

Selena Lynch



Lance Corporal Craddock

Selena Lynch



Wing Commander John Coxen

Andrew Walker



Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman


Captain David Dobson


Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill


Marine Paul Collins


Private Morris

Selena Lynch



Private Lewaicei

Italics denotes non-Iraq related military death

Underlined denotes civilian Iraq related death

Mental Capacity Act 2005

Today the Government are announcing their timetable for the introduction during 2007 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

In April 2007 the independent mental capacity advocates (IMCA) and some directly related elements of the legislation to support it, the code of practice to provide guidance, and the criminal offence of ill treatment and wilful neglect will be in place. In Wales, the Assembly's Minister for Health and Social Services will very shortly be determining the date of commencement of the IMCA service in the light of this Statement.

From October 2007 the new Court of Protection, Public Guardian and the Office of the Public Guardian will become operational for England and Wales. This will ensure adequate time to train the many civil servants and professionals affected by the Act and the very important changes that it brings. Lasting powers of attorney will also begin operating from this time.

Ministry of Defence: Royal Irish (Home Service)

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

When I announced the settlement package for the Royal Irish (Home Service) on 9 March this year, I advised the House that a bespoke Royal Irish aftercare package would be provided to support former members of the UDR and the Royal Irish (Home Service) as well as their dependants.

I can announce today that we plan to maintain a publicly funded Royal Irish (Home Service) welfare organisation and, subject to trades union consultation on civilian staff appointments, will be recruiting the necessary personnel as soon as possible. The organisation will provide the vital interface needed between the regimental headquarters, ex-service personnel, their widows and their families.

We recognise that the disbandment of the Royal Irish (Home Service) and the Civil Service redundancy programme associated with security normalisation will result in particular challenges for ex-Home Service personnel: this was fully recognised in the settlement package announced earlier this year. Full-time soldiers of the Royal Irish (Home Service) leaving as a result of disbandment will be eligible for the normal tri-service resettlement package (seven weeks’ graduated resettlement training time, £534 towards costs), and fully funded access to the MoD's Career Transition Partnership (CTP) service for two years after discharge. Extended access to the CTP for a further five-year period is available through the Regular Forces Employment Association or Officers Association in cases of greater need.

In addition to these provisions, members of the Royal Irish (Home Service) discharged after 1 August 2005 will be eligible for a grant to fund further resettlement training. The Department for Employment and Learning, Northern Ireland has also agreed exceptionally to waive the qualification period of six months for entry to the “New Deal” programme for the Royal Irish (Home Service). This will allow immediate access to government-funded employment support. We will also be making additional provision for mental health and physical therapies to meet the particular needs of ex-Royal Irish (Home Service) and UDR personnel. Furthermore, we will be discussing with the trustees of the Royal Irish Benevolent Fund the need for some public support for the fund to take account of the disbandment of the Home Service element.

This package, worth in the region of £2 million a year, reflects our commitment to treat the Home Service with fairness and dignity. We intend to ensure that it is kept under review to guarantee that it continues to meet the needs of ex-UDR and Royal Irish (Home Service) men and women, and their dependants, both as we move through this difficult period of change and in the longer term.

Railways: InterCity Franchise

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The department announced last week that it has started a competition to find an operator to run train services on the InterCity east coast main line from London to the north-east and Scotland.

We expect that a new operator will be in place in 12 to 18 months’ time. Until that date it has been agreed that the current operator, Great North Eastern Railway (GNER), will operate the franchise on the department's behalf under a temporary management contract. The agreement, which was announced to the Stock Exchange on 15 December, is backdated to 10 December 2006, the start of the current railway accounting period. Under this temporary contract, GNER will continue to deliver train services and will help ensure a smooth transition to the winner of the franchise competition.

Most of the net worth of the company passed to the Government in addition and GNER will cover the department's costs of re-letting the franchise early. DfT has set GNER a challenging but achievable revenue target to incentivise a growth in the value of the franchise. If GNER beats this target it will earn a share of that success.

For passengers and staff the new contract will mean that services will operate as normal. All tickets are valid and passengers can continue to book and reserve seats in exactly the same way as today. This is in line with our intention in the rail White Paper of July 2004 that if an operator falls into financial difficulty it should expect to surrender the franchise. To renegotiate a contract would set a precedent that we are willing to bail out operators at extra cost to the taxpayer.

Companies interested in operating the services in the future are being asked for expressions of interest. My department is also consulting on the specification for the new franchise. Copies of that consultation have been placed in the House Library. It proposes that the current service levels are maintained and the additional Leeds half-hourly services are included. By ending the franchise early and putting this management contract in place we are protecting the interests of taxpayers, passengers and staff. It will ensure services continue to operate as normal.

Transport Innovation Fund

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

In June, I announced that the first schemes to be considered for funding from the productivity strand of the Transport Innovation Fund fell into two priority themes which fitted with the key objective of supporting national productivity. We considered a number of strategic rail freight schemes which could improve the capacity and resilience of the strategic national freight distribution network. We also considered several strategic road network schemes involving improved traffic management techniques which could help to make the most of capacity at key pressure points.

I am pleased to confirm that after initial scrutiny a number of these schemes have shown they have strong potential to provide a significant benefit to national productivity and to demonstrate high value for money. These schemes would all fit well with Rod Eddington's recommendations to address the constraints of our congested and growing city catchments, key inter-urban corridors and international gateways.

My department will now be working with Network Rail to take forward work on the detailed case for TIF funding for the following rail freight schemes: the reinstatement of Olive Mount Chord at Liverpool (including Chat Moss); the Humber ports/Immingham rail capacity enhancement; gauge and capacity enhancements from Peterborough to Nuneaton; and gauge enhancements from Southampton to the west coast main line near Birmingham. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Transport, the Member for Glasgow, South has similarly agreed that work should be taken forward on the Gospel Oak to Barking line scheme, in which I have an interest. Particularly if some or all of these schemes were taken forward together, they would greatly enhance the capacity of the railway to move modern, larger containers that would otherwise have to move by road.

We will work with the Highways Agency to develop the case for TIF funding for the traffic management schemes on the Birmingham motorway box and the M62 (Leeds Bradford). We will also be asking the Highways Agency to do further work on the A14 traffic management scheme.

Consideration of TIF funding for some of these schemes will be dependent on confirmation of funding contributions from regional bodies and private sector beneficiaries. We will be making final decisions on the allocation of funding as these schemes develop and in the light of my department's detailed investment appraisal and business case scrutiny process.

There were three other prospective schemes: the A1, M1, M11 resilience; the Teesport/east coast main line rail-gauge enhancement; and A14 widening (Ellington to Fen Ditton) scheme.

No clear proposals were put forward for the A1, M1, M11 scheme and therefore it has not been taken through to the next stage of consideration. The A14 Ellington-to-Fen Ditton scheme is subject to further consultation and it would, therefore, be inappropriate for us to prejudge the outcome at this point. However, we do recognise the need to deliver this scheme as quickly as possible, subject to the outcome of the necessary consultation and statutory procedures.

The Teesport/east coast main line rail-gauge enhancement scheme fitted well with our strategic approach, but the scheme was not sufficiently developed to enable an accurate appraisal to take place. Network Rail has, however, been working with the Northern Way and other stakeholders to develop a wider northern “W10 gauge” strategy for routes to markets for the major northern ports, in which Teesport would be a key element. We look forward to seeing the outcome of this work.

Decisions have not yet been taken on the future criteria or method for allocating productivity TIF resources, but, subject to meeting the criteria, these schemes would be eligible and will be considered for future rounds of TIF funding.

Transport: Local Transport Capital Settlement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

Today I am announcing a package of funding of £3 billion to improve local transport outside London. It builds on last year’s settlement of £1.6 billion to ensure that 122 local transport authorities, including the six passenger transport authorities, are allocated a total of £8 billion over the five years of the local transport plan period. This capital funding is in addition to the £3 billion made available in regional funding allocations for local authority major schemes and Highways Agency schemes of regional significance over the next four years. This is the first local transport settlement since local authorities reviewed the delivery of their first five-year plans and produced the final versions of their second five-year local transport plans.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate local authorities on their good performance over the course of the first five-year plans. I have been very impressed with the improvement in delivery of transport services during this period. There has been sustained progress, for example, in reducing local road casualties and in the condition of many local roads. Authorities have made substantial investment to manage traffic more effectively and reduce its adverse impacts on residents, town centres and the environment more generally. In many areas, better infrastructure for buses, cyclists and pedestrians has been put in place and transport is making a contribution to more sustainable development and economic growth. Examples of local authority achievement throughout the country are highlighted in a recent report by Atkins which has been placed in the Library of the House and is also available at documents/divisionhomepage/032393.hcsp.

Local authorities have also taken the opportunity to make substantial improvements in the quality of the provisional plans submitted last year. Some 21 authorities have been assessed as having produced excellent plans. Today’s announcement clearly demonstrates our commitment to building on the successes already achieved.

Alongside this year's settlement we have also issued financial planning guidelines for a specific road safety grant set up as part of the move to integrate safety cameras into the wider road safety delivery process from 1 April 2007. This funding represents a long-term commitment to fund further improvements in road safety and provides local authorities and their partners with the flexibility to implement a locally agreed mix of road safety measures that will deliver the greatest reductions in road casualties in their area.

Details of the 2007-08 allocations and assessments made of authorities’ performance and a report on the delivery of the first local transport plans have been placed in the Library of the House and are also available at /documents/divisionhomepage/032393.hcsp.