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Written Statements

Volume 688: debated on Monday 15 January 2007

Written Statements

Monday 15 January 2007

Crime: Conspiracy to Defraud

On 29 March 2006, I indicated to the House that I would issue guidance to prosecutors about the use of the common law conspiracy to defraud offence following the commencement of the Fraud Act. I have today placed in the Library a copy of this guidance, which has been issued to the directors of the prosecuting authorities, the Law Society and the Bar Council.

Economy: Consumer Financial Capability

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government's long-term approach for financial capability, which is announced today, intends to raise consumers' financial capability—the knowledge, skills and motivation to actively engage with their finances—to achieve lasting benefits for individuals, the financial services industry and the wider UK economy.

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) leads the national strategy on financial capability, working in partnership with the Government, industry and the voluntary sector. In 2006 the FSA identified low levels of financial capability across the UK population and particularly among young people. The Government have an active role to play in meeting the financial capability challenge. The Government's long-term aspirations are to ensure that:

all adults in the UK have access to high-quality generic financial advice to help them to engage with their financial affairs and make effective decisions about their money;

all children and young people have access to a planned and coherent programme of personal finance education, so that they leave school with the skills and confidence to manage their money well; and

a range of government programmes are focused on improving financial capability, particularly to help those who are most vulnerable to the consequences of poor financial decisions.

To meet these aspirations the Government will review their policies and programmes with the potential to raise financial capability. This will include the curriculum, services aimed at children, young people and families, the Child Trust Fund, adult skills, retirement planning and effective signposting for information on personal finance from a range of government services. To take forward this agenda the Government will:

set up an independent feasibility study, led by Otto Thoresen, chief executive of AEGON UK, to research and design a national approach to generic financial advice;

establish a ministerial group to develop, oversee and co-ordinate the Government's work, ensuring a cross-cutting approach to financial capability; and

publish an action plan by the end of 2007, setting out how financial capability will be integrated into existing services, particularly for those most vulnerable to the consequences of poor financial skills.

The Government's long-term approach forges an ambitious agenda that supports the wealth of emerging best practice by the FSA, the voluntary sector and the financial services industry. The Government are seeking views from stakeholders on the issues raised in the document. Copies of the paper are available in the Vote Office, House Libraries and the Printed Paper Office.

Human Rights Act

I have today laid before the House the Government's response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights report of 14 November on The Human Rights Act: the DCA and Home Office Reviews. Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The Government’s response will also be made available on the Department for Constitutional Affairs website. I would like to thank the committee for its response to the DCA and Home Office reviews.

Following the findings of the DCA and Home Office reviews, the Government are continuing to work to equip public authorities to build a human rights culture within their organisations. The Government are pleased that the committee agrees with the findings of the Home Office and DCA reviews that the Human Rights Act has not significantly impeded the Government's objectives on crime, terrorism or immigration.

Immigration: Entry Clearance Refusals

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mrs Margaret Beckett) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have placed in the Library of the House copies of the 2005 report by Linda Costelloe Baker, the independent monitor for entry clearance refusals without the right of appeal. A copy is also available on the UKvisas website (at www.ukvisas.co.uk) together with its response to the monitor's recommendations.

Mrs Costelloe Baker's report is based on a sample of entry clearance refusals without full rights of appeal, made in 2005. It focuses on decision quality with recommendations on how UKvisas can further improve in this area. I welcome the recommendations, which UKvisas will implement.

I wish to express my thanks to Mrs Costelloe Baker for her hard work in completing this, her first report as independent monitor for entry clearance refusals without the right of appeal. Her next report will cover the period January to September 2006 and will be published in spring 2007.

NHS: Pharmaceutical Shortages

My honourable friend the Minister of State (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today the department has issued joint guidelines with the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and the British Generic Manufacturers Association (BGMA). These guidelines will give guidance to companies on how to communicate and manage potential shortages of a particular medicine and will mean better and more effective working between the Government and industry in this area.

Shortages of medicines are caused by a number of factors: manufacturing problems; supply and demand imbalance; raw material problems; and regulatory problems. When there is a shortage of a particular medicine, this new guidance will encourage companies to give early notice to the department in cases where patient care will be adversely affected. This will enable a contingency plan to be formed and will give time for alternative suppliers or medicines to be found when possible or for options to be found for managing the shortage. This will help reduce the effect of any shortage on the National Health Service and patient care.

These guidelines follow the successful guidelines between government and the ABPI on the discontinuation of medicines. Those guidelines have meant that on several occasions the effect of discontinuations on patients has been minimised. The new guidelines have been placed in the Library and are available on the department's website at www.dh.gov.uk/medicinesupply.

Urban Regeneration: Northern Ireland

The Minister of State for Northern Ireland (David Hanson) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have deposited copies of the annual report and financial statements of Ilex URC Ltd for the year ended 31 March 2006 incorporating the auditor’s report in the Libraries of both Houses.