Wednesday 21 March 2007
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 4 December 2006, (Official Report, col. WS 1) my honourable friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Kim Howells) set out in a Written Ministerial Statement the UK position on cluster munitions. We confirmed that we were committed to withdrawing dumb cluster munitions by the middle of the next decade. On 15 December 2006 the Government explained in another place (Official Report, col. 1727-1770) that we were examining the possibility of withdrawing dumb cluster munitions from service at an earlier date. This assessment is now complete and I am pleased to announce that we are withdrawing dumb cluster munitions from service with immediate effect.
We have considered carefully both military and humanitarian factors, reflecting our duty both to ensure that the Armed Forces have the capabilities they need to undertake the missions we ask of them, and to strive to reduce civilian casualties to the minimum.
Cluster munitions are legal weapons which have a valid role in modern warfare, particularly against an array of military targets in a defined area. However, they have also given rise to humanitarian concerns because they disperse submunitions over an area and those submunitions can have a high failure rate. Some cluster munitions address these concerns including through inbuilt self-destructing or self-deactivating mechanisms, reducing the risk of harm to civilians. Dumb cluster munitions do not.
At the moment, our inventory includes two dumb cluster munitions: the RBL 755 aerial delivered cluster munition, and the multi-launch rocket system M26 munition. Both will be withdrawn from service immediately and disposed of. Although withdrawing them represents a theoretical risk to our operational effectiveness, until their direct replacement is in service, there is no current plan to deploy them on operations. I have decided that this is an acceptable risk.
The types of cluster munitions we intend to retain are legitimate weapons with significant military value which, as a result of mitigating features, is not outweighed by humanitarian factors. As with all weapons, our forces' use of them will remain regulated by rules of engagement and internal scrutiny procedures designed to adhere to international law and reflect humanitarian values.
As well as living up to their responsibilities under international law, this decision is part of our wider efforts to reduce civilian casualties and to press other militaries to do the same. We continue to press for wider agreement to ban dumb cluster munitions through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) and complementary initiatives such as the Oslo Conference on 23 February, where we, alongside other nations, agreed to work towards an international ban in 2008.
Debt and Reserves Management Report
My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ed Balls ) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Debt and Reserves Management Report 2007-08 is being published today. Copies are available in the Library of the House.
Intellectual Property Rights
My honourable friend the Minister of State for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I have tasked the UK Intellectual Property Office with managing and shaping an intellectual property system which encourages innovation and creativity, balances the needs of rights holders and the public, promotes strong and competitive markets and provides a firm foundation for the knowledge-based economy.
I have set the UK Intellectual Property Office a broader range of targets for 2007-08 based on a balanced scorecard approach. These targets are:
Customers and Stakeholders
issue 90 per cent of patent search reports within four months of request;
grant 90 per cent of patents within two and a half years of request;
to register 90 per cent of processed trade mark applications, to which no substantive objections have been raised or oppositions filed, within eight months of application;
to examine 95 per cent of all design applications within three months;
to resolve 55 per cent of trade mark disputes in one year*;
to receive an overall “good” or “satisfactory” rating in at least 80 per cent of responses in customer and ministerial surveys;
the number of businesses taking action to improve the management of their IP will increase by 20 per cent above baseline in targeted groups;
meet 80 per cent of agreed milestones in development of policy initiatives;
generate a 10 per cent increase in demand for non-statutory innovation support services; and
develop six target profiles, using Telpat intelligence.
achieve the target of 4 per cent on return on capital employed; and
reduce total current expenditure on the operations of the trading fund compared with the baseline of the corporate plan 2004-05, in line with the DTI's published efficiency technical note. Cumulative savings target for 2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08 is £2.7 million.
achieve positive outcomes on 100 per cent of ISO and charter mark health checks;
make the correct decision on registerability in at least 98.5 per cent of trade mark applications;
give good customer service in patent search and examination in 95 per cent of quality assured cases;
reduce number of days sick absence per person to: nine days by March 2008, eight and a half days by March 2009 and eight days by March 2010;
complete, sign off and return 100 per cent of performance measurement forms to personnel by 31 May 2008: 95 per cent by 31 May 2007 and 100 per cent by 31 May 2008;
to achieve 99 per cent or more of the agreed monthly service levels for key IT systems;
80 per cent or more of internal customers are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the provision of internal IT customer services; and
apply for initial assessment of our environmental management system by the ISO accreditation body by the end of March 2008.
Change and Development
achieve a minimum of 75 per cent “no actions required” recommendations in follow up internal audit reports where initial recommendations were “necessary actions required” or “urgent actions required”;
80 per cent of completed TREFs to contain positive feedback from line manager on the improved competences of staff;
to achieve 80 per cent or more of agreed milestones for key projects within the reporting year; and
ensure that applications from black and minority ethnic people are running at 5 per cent of applications for A-B1 level posts by end March 2008.
*this target is intended to have a second element “to have disposed of at least 98 per cent of disputes within three years, from the third year of this target, ie 2008-09”
Invest To Save Budget
My right honourable friend the Chief Secretary (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am pleased to announce that a total of 24 bids from organisations spanning the public and third sectors have been awarded funding for projects following the ninth bidding round of the Invest to Save Budget. A total of £9 million has been allocated over the three years to 2009-10 for England. The allocated sum rises to £11 million to include consequential funding for the devolved Administrations. Details of the winning projects have been placed in the Library of the House.
The Invest to Save Budget (ISB), set up following the 1998 Comprehensive Spending Review, provides initial funding support for projects that increase the extent of joint working between different parts of the public sector, identify innovative ways of delivering public services, and reduce the cost of delivering the services and/or improve the quality and effectiveness of services delivered to the public.
This ninth bidding round was focused on supporting innovative approaches to the delivery of local services by third sector organisations. The intention was to encourage local authorities to work in partnership with local third sector organisations to deliver services in line with local needs and priorities.
Applicants were asked to address the priority areas of:
the third sector's role in delivering public services and building fairer communities—projects that deliver cash releasing efficiencies; and
projects that address the priorities set out in their local area agreement and support their community strategy—projects that are additional to those already funded by statutory bodies and which address recognised gaps in local service provision.
Successful projects are required to agree a detailed implementation plan, setting out how the project will be delivered. Each project must also provide six-monthly progress reports to sponsor departments and the Treasury and carry out an evaluation of the project's success once it has been completed. Wider dissemination of the good practice from completed projects is then fed back into the whole spectrum of public service providers.
This ninth ISB bidding round allocates the remainder of the £90 million awarded to the ISB in SR2004.
More information can be found on the ISB website at www.isb.gov.uk.