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Written Statements

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 1 March 2007

Written Statements

Thursday 1 March 2007

Animal Procedures Committee

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On behalf of the Home Secretary and the Minister for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety for Northern Ireland, I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Penny Hawkins, Dr Simon Glendinning and Dr Kenneth Simpson as members of the Animal Procedures Committee from 1 November 2006, each for a four-year term.

Dr Hawkins is an animal welfarist working for the RSPCA. She has expertise and knowledge of the welfare and ethics of research animals and the practical application of refinements in husbandry and scientific procedures.

Dr Simpson is a medical practitioner and liver specialist, involved with the Edinburgh liver transplantation programme, with an established research interest in the development and use of genetic modification technologies to produce more relevant animal models of liver function.

Dr Glendinning is fellow in European philosophy in the European Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has an established interest in the philosophy of animal life and ethics.

I welcome the contribution that each new member will bring to this important advisory committee.

Council for Science and Technology

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Prime Minister has appointed three new members to the Council for Science and Technology (CST). They are:

Professor Peter Davies;

Professor Alan Gilbert;

Dr Philip Ruffles CBE.

The Prime Minister also reappointed the following 13 members to the CST. They are:

Professor Sir John Beringer CBE;

Professor Geoffrey Boulton OBE FRS FRSE;

Professor Janet Finch CBE DL AcSS;

Professor Wendy Hall CBE FREng;

Dr Hermann Hauser FREng;

Professor Alan Hughes;

Dr Sue Ion OBE FREng;

Sir Paul Nurse FRS;

Sir Keith Peters FRS AMS;

Dr Krishnamurty Rajagopal FREng;

Professor Michael Sterling FREng;

Professor Kathy Sykes;

Dr Mark Walport AMS;

The Prime Minister also appointed Professor Janet Finch as CST independent co-chair. Professor Finch will act as co-chair alongside the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King.

CST is the UK Government's top-level advisory body on science and technology policy issues. It reports directly to the Prime Minister. CST's remit is to advise the Prime Minister, the First Ministers of Scotland and Wales and the responsible Minister at the Northern Ireland Office on strategic science and technology policy issues that cut across the responsibilities of individual government departments.

Full details of CST's terms of reference and organisation can be found at www.cst.gov.uk.

Appointments were made in accordance with the guidance from the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. The appointments will run for three years from 1 March 2007.

Defence Industrial Strategy

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

In the defence industrial strategy (DIS) fixed-wing sector, the Ministry of Defence committed to negotiating with BAE Systems the terms of a long-term partnering agreement (LTPA) to help to sustain the key industrial skills and capabilities needed to support and upgrade the current and future aircraft fleet. The Ministry of Defence has today signed a foundation contract with BAE Systems as the first step towards delivering a full and legally binding LTPA by the end of 2007, subject to negotiations.

The foundation contract is intended to help to establish the key elements of the LTPA and inform the detailed negotiations ahead. It also incentivises BAE Systems to further transform its air sector business to ensure the efficient delivery of the key through-life defence industrial capabilities that the Armed Forces require.

Immigration and Nationality Directorate: Independent Inspectorate

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

Last July, the Home Secretary announced the biggest shake-up of the immigration system in its history. To drive through this programme of reform, the Home Secretary made it clear that the IND, which will become the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) on 1 April, required more transparency and stronger oversight and accountability arrangements.

Today there are a number of bodies that monitor, inspect or advise on specific parts of the immigration system. What is lacking is a clear and consistent overall view. There is also no external oversight of key areas such as enforcement.

In December 2006, we carried out a public consultation on proposals for an independent inspectorate that would deliver an effective inspection of IND. We are extremely grateful to everyone who contributed. The responses received revealed very wide support for the idea of an independent inspectorate and how it should be taken forward. This paper sets out the Government’s formal response to the consultation exercise.

We propose to create a single inspectorate that will focus on overall efficiency and effectiveness across IND’s and its partners’ operations, quality of decision-making, enforcement powers, access to information and treatment of individuals, including a sense of comparative performance in different regions of the country.

Effective assessment of these key themes will provide confidence to Parliament and the public and to those who use and receive services from IND. I very much hope that everyone who is concerned with the immigration and nationality system will continue to work with us as we seek to develop the improvements and assurance that this new, stronger and more effective inspection will bring.

Iraq: Reconstruction

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has made the following statement.

Four years after the invasion, progress on reconstruction and development in Iraq remains mixed. Prime Minister Maliki’s Government, less than a year old, face immense security, political and economic challenges. The escalating sectarian violence, which is for many Iraqis a daily reality, has displaced large numbers of people both within Iraq and the wider region. We are therefore responding to help to meet urgent humanitarian needs across the country. But the critical priority now is for the Iraqi Government to end the violence, so that Iraq’s rich resources can be invested in creating better services and opportunities for all Iraqi people. Only a political solution will break the destructive cycle of violence, and Prime Minister Maliki has made tackling the violence his highest priority. It is therefore vital that we give this new and democratically elected Government every assistance.

But there are gains worth noting and, more importantly, protecting. The most important achievement of recent years has been the establishment of a democratically elected Government, the first in Iraq for decades, replacing Saddam's brutal regime. Prime Minister Maliki's coalition Government were established following elections in which 76 per cent of the population voted. The constitution was agreed in a referendum and will be reviewed later this year. The Council of Representatives has agreed a budget law and will soon consider a hydrocarbons law to determine how Iraq's oil revenues will be managed. International support was crucial in helping to run and monitor the elections, as well as funding outreach programmes to encourage participation.

Once a relatively wealthy country with high levels of education and healthcare, Iraq had by 2003 suffered more than 20 years of conflict, mismanagement and chronic underinvestment. The 2003 conflict and the continued violence, including sabotage of key infrastructure, as well as low (but growing) levels of management capacity in Iraq's national and local government, have slowed progress. However, reconstruction has continued and much has been achieved by the Government of Iraq, with support from the UK, US and a range of other donors.

With international community support, Iraq has made some improvements to basic services. Over 5 million children have received life-saving vaccinations and Iraq is now spending 30 times more on healthcare compared to pre-war levels. Over 5,168 schools have been rehabilitated and a further 450 are in progress. More than 100,000 primary and 40,000 secondary teachers have been trained. Unfortunately, the violence is seriously affecting Iraq's health and education systems, as talented professionals are targeted or choose to leave the country.

There has also been progress on the economic front. The Iraqi economy rebounded quickly in 2004 and dollar income has continued to grow, almost doubling by 2006. Income growth has mainly been driven by rising oil prices, so the challenge now is to convert more of the windfall earnings from oil to productive investments in public services and infrastructure.

The UK is one of the first major donors to Iraq to fully disburse our Madrid pledge—£544 million since 2003. The further pledge of £100 million announced by the Chancellor is on top of this, bringing the total UK commitment to £644 million. From our own resources, we have funded major electricity and water projects in southern Iraq. For example, DfID has repaired the Al Hartha power station chimney and ensured the equivalent of 24 hours of electricity to 85,000 households (enough to supply a city the size of Cardiff with 24-hour power). By the time these projects are complete, we will have added or secured 470 megawatts to the national electricity grid and improved access to water for about a million people. These projects will have employed around 450 people, generated almost 100,000 work days and secured around 17,000 work days per year for operation and maintenance.

But there is still a long way to go. The major focus of our effort now is in helping the Iraqi Government to take the lead in investing in critical services and infrastructure. The Iraqi Government need to do more to provide basic services for their people and to protect those at risk. And they need to make a start on some of the economic reforms that will unlock more money to invest in better public services and infrastructure in the longer term. We and other donors are providing support to help them to do so.

Much of the work done to get development in Iraq back on track goes unnoticed—the backroom, unglamorous slog of getting the right policy advice on tough issues such as drafting and redrafting budgets, setting up systems to manage central government business and dealing with milestones such as regular IMF reviews. But it is paying off. With help from donors, including DfID, the Iraqi Government have stayed on track with its stand-by arrangement, therefore meeting the conditions of the Paris Club debt reduction deal.

This work is hugely important because it puts Iraqis in the lead. With oil revenues of $30 billion (93 per cent of the national budget) in 2007, there is no shortage of resources in Iraq. Iraq has the resources to finance its own development. The challenge is spending it effectively. What has been lacking is the capacity of Iraqi institutions to deliver. Thanks in large part to our work in Basra and Baghdad, this is beginning to change.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister recently held a meeting with the Basra governor and Provincial Council and a range of relevant national Ministers to set out Iraqi plans for the development of the province. For the first time, Basrawis heard from their own Government how much money was to be invested in their area, when and on what. This sort of transparency is vital to building a culture of trust and accountability between government and people.

Large numbers of civil society initiatives are springing up throughout Iraq. Over 250 newspapers and magazines have been launched since the fall of the regime and there are more than 2,500 registered Iraqi NGOs, which range from groups focused on reconciliation to groups promoting women's rights and organisations trying to enhance political participation. DfID's support for Iraqi NGOs has encouraged poor and marginalised sections of Iraqi society to engage in the political process by fostering partnerships between international NGOs to provide advice and support to other Iraqi grass-roots organisations.

While these achievements are important, and a credit to the Iraqis and their partners who work so hard in the face of enormous risks and challenges, there is much still to do. Our objective remains to develop the capacity of the democratically elected Government of Iraq and to increase their ability to provide security and basic services to the Iraqi people.

Legal Aid

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Vera Baird) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 1 March, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) published the following papers, which take forward the Government’s legal aid reform programme set out last November in Legal Aid Reform: The Way Ahead. The papers reflect comments and concerns raised during consultation on Legal Aid: A Sustainable Future, published in July alongside Lord Carter’s report. The papers are:

the LSC’s strategy for family legal aid, Making Legal Rights a Reality for Children and Families, which sets out the LSC’s priorities for the delivery of family legal aid for the next five years;

a paper re-consulting for six weeks until 16 April 2007 on revised fee schemes for care proceedings and family help (private), which will apply from October 2007. Changes include retention of the uplift for panel membership for exceptional cases; lowering of the threshold for exceptional cases; and increasing the graduation of the fees in private law family cases;

a paper consulting for 12 weeks until 24 May 2007 on changes to the funding code in relation to public law children cases. This proposes to introduce a “reasonableness” test for special Children Act proceedings, and the removal of residential assessments from the scope of legal aid. As this is a new measure rather than a re-consultation, LSC is consulting for the full period;

the revised immigration and asylum legal aid fee scheme, to apply from October 2007. Changes include the dropping of the proposal to introduce the early resolution payment; reduction of the exceptional case limit; and the fact that all disbursements will now be claimed separately, including interpreter fees. This is the final scheme and we are not consulting on this further; and

a six-week consultation until 16 April 2007 on the category-specific sections of the unified contract, and on a separate specification for contracting for services within immigration removal centres, to come into effect with the new fee schemes in October 2007.

The revised mental health fee scheme will be published in the next few weeks. Advocacy arrangements in family cases from April 2008 will be the subject of a separate consultation later this year. The Government value the input of practitioners and interested parties on the ongoing reform of civil and family legal aid. We encourage all those with an interest to contribute fully to the current consultations. Copies of the papers published on 1 March are available on the Legal Services Commission’s website at www.legalservices.gov.uk and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

NHS: Foundation Trusts

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

Today the chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts) announced that, in accordance with Section 6 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, Monitor has decided to authorise South Devon Healthcare NHS Trust as an NHS foundation trust from 1 March.

Monitor's announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 59. A copy of Monitor's press notice has been placed in the Library.

The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to apply for foundation status as soon as practicable. Further waves of NHS foundation trusts are set to follow, with numbers expected to rise noticeably over the next financial year.

Regional Development Agencies: One NorthEast

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

I have decided to appoint the new board member, listed at Annexe A, for a period of two years and nine months. The appointment will begin on 5 March 2007 and will expire on 13 December 2009. This appointment was made in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. I attach biographical details of the new appointee at Annexe B.

Annexe A

New Appointment

Appointment will commence on 5 March 2007

RDA

Name

One NorthEast

Peter Jackson

Annexe B

Biography of Councillor Peter Jackson

Peter was born in Northumberland and has lived and worked in Northumberland since qualifying in economics at Bristol University. In local government, Peter is a Conservative councillor representing Heddon on the Wall on Castle Morpeth Borough Council. He has been a member of the council for 11 years and currently has the position of leader of the council. He is vice-chairman of the local strategic partnership, a board member of the Northumberland Strategic Partnership and an executive member of the Association of North East Councils. He is also a Northumberland county councillor.

In business, he has built up an arable farming enterprise covering 1,200 hectares in south Northumberland and Durham. He is the vice-chairman of the Tynegrain farmer co-operative, based at the Port of Tyne. He is a director of GrainCo, a grain marketing company covering the north of England and Scotland, and a director of Tees Valley Biofuels, a company formed to build a large rapeseed-crushing facility to feed the emerging biofuel and biomass market.

Peter Jackson’s political activities are detailed above. He holds no other ministerial appointments.

Supreme Court

I wish to update you on the implementation of the UK Supreme Court. As you know, on 7 September 2006 the Westminster City Council Planning and City Development Committee resolved unanimously to grant planning and listed building consent to the proposed renovation of Middlesex Guildhall in preparation for use as the UK Supreme Court. English Heritage fully supported the renovation plans.

Consent was granted subject to the completion of a Section 106 agreement, which was then signed by both parties on 21 November 2006. Both the planning and the listed building consents were also issued on 21 November 2006.

On 26 January 2007 an application was made for judicial review of the decision to grant listed building and planning consent for the renovation of Middlesex Guildhall. The application was made by SAVE Britain's Heritage against Westminster City Council.

The judicial review is about the way in which the issues were presented by Westminster planning officers to the committee and as a result whether there was an error in law in the way in which Westminster City Council reached its decision. It is about the process; it is not about the content of the application. I am named as an interested party in the case, and my department and I are fully supportive of Westminster City Council. Westminster City Council lodged their defence of the decision on 16 February, which we supported. The courts are now deciding whether or not there is a case to be heard.

In the interim, I have decided to resubmit the application for listed building and planning consent for the Middlesex Guildhall to Westminster City Council. This demonstrates our confidence in the original case and gives us a better control over timescales.

I believe that this step is the best way to meet the needs of all parties involved and gives the best chance to deliver the Supreme Court in October 2009. Our second application will be lodged on 9 March 2007. This will be followed by the usual statutory consultation.

The Crown Courts at Middlesex Guildhall will still close on 30 March 2007 as planned. New courtrooms are being built at Isleworth Crown Court and will be available in autumn 2008. In the mean time, transition plans are in place to maintain the number of sitting days across London Crown Courts.

As announced in my Statement of 17 October 2006, I will update you on costs once we have reached financial close with our preferred bidders—Kier Group plc for the Guildhall renovation and Osborne’s for the Isleworth development.

Terrorism: Finance

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

In my Written Ministerial Statement of 10 October 2006, I undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK's asset-freezing regime. This is the first of these reports and covers the period October to December 20061.

Asset-freezing framework

The following changes have been made to asset-freezing legislation:

Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006, made in October; and

Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006, made in November.

These two orders updated the previous orders, as I explained in Statements to the House on 10 October and 7 November 2006.

The Treasury has also strengthened the asset-freezing regime by agreeing, on the advice of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to use closed-source evidence in cases where there are strong operational reasons to impose a freeze but insufficient open-source evidence available. I notified Parliament of this decision in October.

Asset-freezing designations

In the quarter October to December 2006, the Treasury made seven domestic designations under the terrorism order and the al-Qaeda and Taliban order. Of these, two persons already listed were re-designated under the new orders. The terrorism order and the al-Qaeda and Taliban order provide, where appropriate, for designations to be made confidentially and with restricted circulation of notice. Four persons were listed on this basis. Two persons were listed on the basis of closed-source evidence provided by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. In addition, the following financial sanctions listings of persons with links to the UK took place:

none at the EU; and

one person at the UN.

No designated persons have been delisted in this quarter.

Designations this quarter make a total of 195 separate accounts and approximately £525,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK since 2001.

Litigation

There has been one case of domestic litigation regarding financial sanctions. The recent High Court judgment of 22 September 2006 in the case of M, A and MM v Her Majesty's Treasury (2006) EWCH 2328 (Admin) upheld the Treasury's actions regarding benefits payments to the households of designated individuals. The case was heard by the Court of Appeal on 18 December 2006 and we are awaiting the judgment.

Reviews

The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review. A number of formal reviews have been initiated in this quarter and the reviews of two cases have been completed. In both cases decisions were taken following the review to maintain the asset freeze.

Licensing policy

In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1452 (2002), the Treasury operates a licensing system whereby designated persons and others are able to apply to make or receive payments under specific and, if necessary, monitored conditions. In this quarter, the following licences were issued:

two listed persons were granted basic expenses licences, one of which was for benefits payments;

there were no extraordinary expenses licences granted; and

11 listed persons were granted legal expenses licences.

In addition, the household of one listed person was granted a benefits licence in accordance with the policy that I set out in my Statement of 3 July 2006 to Parliament.

1 The detail, which can be provided to the House on a quarterly basis, is subject to the need to avoid the identification, directly or indirectly, of personal or operationally sensitive information.