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Written Statements

Volume 698: debated on Thursday 31 January 2008

Written Statements

Thursday 31 January 2008

Armed Forces: Coroners' Inquests

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) 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.  The Government are very proud of our service men and women who have served in operations overseas.  We owe them a great debt of gratitude for the job they have done, and are continuing to do.  They risk their lives to protect the interests of the United Kingdom.  With admirable courage and skill they help to build strong, stable and democratic nations.  We honour those who have given their lives in this work, and we remain strongly committed to providing our best possible support to their families. 

We made Statements to the House on 5 June 2006 (Official Report, col.4WS), 12 October 2006 (Official Report, col. 26WS), 18 December 2006 (Official Report, col. 112WS), 29 March 2007 (Official Report, col. 121WS) 20 June 2007 (Official Report, col. 97WS) and 30 October 2007 (Official Report, col. 36WS) with information about the conduct of inquests by the Oxfordshire and Wiltshire and Swindon coroners. Today we are announcing progress which has been made since the Written Ministerial Statement in October. This Statement shows the position at 21 January, since when unfortunately there has been one further fatality in Afghanistan. 

Background

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 were flown into RAF Brize Norton until it ceased being used for repatriations on 31 March 2007, the Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, has had initial jurisdiction. In the case of deaths of service men and women whose bodies have been flown into RAF Lyneham since 1 April 2007, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, David Masters, has initial jurisdiction.

In terms of the Coroners Act 1988, a coroner may transfer jurisdiction to another coroner. This may be done as long as the body lies within the district of the coroner transferring jurisdiction and provided the coroner to whom jurisdiction is transferred consents. Since late December 2006 the Oxfordshire coroner’s practice was to transfer jurisdiction to coroners closer to the next of kin wherever possible; this practice has been continued by the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner since 1 April 2007. Some inquests of deaths of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan before December 2006 have also been transferred to other coroners.

Progress with Inquests

At the time of the October 2007 Written Ministerial Statement, we reported that since additional funding had been provided by the Government to assist the Oxfordshire coroner, 104 inquests had been held, 90 into the overseas deaths of service personnel and 14 into the deaths of civilians in Iraq whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Brize Norton.

Since October, a further 19 inquests have been held into the deaths of service personnel who died in operations overseas whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Brize Norton or RAF Lyneham. This makes a total of 123 overseas military inquests held since June 2006. 

Since hostilities opened there have been a total of 144 inquests into the deaths of service personnel who lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan including one serviceman who died of his injuries in the UK. In two further cases, no formal inquest was held, but the deaths were taken into consideration during inquest proceedings for those who died in the same incident. 

Open Inquests

Pre 31 March 2007 fatalities

There remain 41 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Brize Norton prior to 31 March 2007.  The Oxfordshire coroner has retained jurisdiction in 32 of these cases; nine of these inquests have been transferred to coroners closer to the next of kin.

Hearing dates have been set in 22 cases. This includes the inquests into the deaths of 14 crew members who died together in the Nimrod crash on 2 September 2006 which will be heard together. In the remaining 19 inquests investigations are ongoing but it has not yet been possible for an inquest date to be set. The oldest individual military inquest for which no date has been set is that into the death of Lieutenant Palmer who died on 15 April 2006. The Board of Inquiry into Lieutenant Palmer’s death is yet to report.  

In addition there are 10 inquests into fatalities which were repatriated via RAF Lyneham prior to 1 April 2007.  These relate to the deaths of 10 crew members who died together in the crash of Hercules XV179 on 30 January 2005. The Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, David Masters, held pre inquest hearings in February and November 2007 and the inquests will be heard together starting on 31 March.

Post 1 April 2007 fatalities

Since October 2007, additional resources have been provided by the Government to ensure that a backlog of inquests will not build up in the Wiltshire and Swindon jurisdiction now that fatalities are being repatriated via RAF Lyneham. These have enabled the coroner, Mr Masters, to engage an additional assistant deputy coroner together with an additional coroner’s officer and administrative support and to provide appropriate accommodation to hold military inquests. These extra resources are helping to ensure that bereaved families are responded to sensitively and speedily following conclusions of the investigations. Mr Masters is continuing the practice of transferring military inquests to a coroner closer to the bereaved family, where possible.

There remain 58 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan whose bodies were repatriated after 1 April 2007. Of these, Mr Masters has retained 32 inquests while 26 inquests are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. Inquest hearing dates have been set in 10 of these cases. In the remaining 48 investigations are ongoing but it has not yet been possible to set an inquest date.

Inquests into the deaths of service personnel who returned home injured

There remain five inquests to be held of service personnel who returned home injured and subsequently died of their injuries.

We are very grateful for the efforts of all the coroners involved in conducting these inquests.   

We shall continue to keep the House informed on a quarterly basis about progress through the remaining inquests. I have placed tables in the Libraries of both Houses which outline the status of all cases and date of death of each case. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

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.

We have been working on better supporting bereaved military families. The Written Ministerial Statement issued on 7 June 2007 by my right honourable friend the then Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Adam Ingram), gives details of the support which is now being provided and we continue to look for opportunities to improve our procedures.  A new booklet has just been produced, to help explain inquest and Board of Inquiry procedures to bereaved families.

Armed Forces: Mental Health

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I can inform the House that the Defence Analytical Services Agency (DASA) will be publishing its second quarterly report recording figures on service personnel assessed with a mental disorder on its website www.dasa.mod.uk today. I shall also place copies in the Library of the House.

The findings, consistent with DASA's first report, show that the numbers of service personnel assessed with a mental disorder for the first time at one of our departments of community mental health in second quarter 2007 are low—around five per 1,000 strength, or 0.5 per cent of the total Armed Forces population. The numbers of service personnel assessed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for the first time during the same period are very low—around 0.3 per 1,000 strength or 0.03 per cent of the total Armed Forces population. They indicate that while service personnel who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are more likely to be assessed with PTSD than those who served in more benign environments, the actual numbers of individuals affected—26 among those who had deployed, seven among those not deployed; and five cases where the deployment history could not be identified from centrally available patient records—are very low.

We take very seriously the risk of service personnel developing mental illness and attach a high priority to ensuring that individuals have access to the appropriate advice and, if needed, treatment at the right time. We have measures in place to increase awareness at all levels and to mitigate the development of operational stresses. We have mental health professionals available in theatre and are also increasingly using trauma risk management (TRiM)—a model of peer group mentoring—within the operational environment. Where further treatment is required, our mental health services back in the UK are configured to provide community-based mental healthcare within a military environment in line with national best practice.

For those who have left the Armed Forces, I made a joint announcement with the Department of Health in November of the extension of priority treatment to all cases where an individual's doctor considers his condition may be due to service, and of the launch of the first of a number of pilots of a new community-based veterans' mental health service. This service will provide assessment and, where appropriate, treatment from experts in veterans' mental health. Veterans will be able to access the service directly or through their GP, ex-service organisations, the Veterans' Welfare Service, or social service departments. The pilots at the Staffordshire and Shropshire Foundation Healthcare Trust and Camden and Islington are now open; Cardiff, Middlesbrough, St Austell and Scotland are due to follow. If the pilots prove successful, the model will be rolled out more widely across the UK.

As an interim measure, and to assist those veterans not in the catchment areas of one of the new community mental health pilots, we have expanded our medical assessment programme (MAP) based at St Thomas's Hospital, London, to include assessments of veterans with mental health symptoms with operational service from 1982 and whose GPs are concerned that they may not understand the military background of the condition or the appropriate treatment.

The MoD is the single biggest contributor to Combat Stress. Last year we gave it £2.5 million in fees for the care of individuals whose mental health conditions are accepted by the war pensions scheme as due to their military service. I recently announced a further increase of 45 per cent in the rate of fees to be met by the department. In cash terms, this sees the daily fee paid by the MoD to Combat Stress for the treatment of each eligible war pensioner increase from around £180 to around £260 a day. This represents a significant boost to the charity's finances. This substantial increase demonstrates the department's continuing commitment to help Combat Stress play an appropriate part in treating veterans with mental health problems and will help Combat Stress deliver an enhanced capability to treat war pensioners.

The publication of the second results of our new method of collecting and analysing the mental health data demonstrates our continuing commitment to understanding the true relationship between service on deployed operations and mental ill-health and to making the results available to inform Parliament and the public.

I am confident that the more comprehensive quarterly reports will offer an increased understanding of psychiatric morbidity in the UK Armed Forces as the dataset grows over the coming years. It is our intent to publish subsequent quarterly reports on the same DASA website and to place a copy in the Library of the House as they become available.

Armed Forces: Porton Down Veterans

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Ministry of Defence has for some months been in discussions with solicitors representing a group of Porton Down veterans regarding compensation claims arising out of their participation in the programme of trials undertaken at the chemical defence establishment during the Cold War. I am pleased to report that an amicable settlement has now been reached with respect to these claims. This settlement is without admission of liability by the Ministry of Defence and involves the payment of a global sum of £3 million in full and final settlement of all claims made by the group.

The Government have in the past made clear the debt owed by the nation to those who took part in the trials at Porton Down designed to ensure that the United Kingdom had the defensive and deterrent capabilities to counter the real and horrific threat that chemical weapons would be used against our Armed Forces or civilian population, as they had against others; the security of the country rested on these trials and the contribution of those who took part in them.

The trials were in many cases conducted under considerable pressures of time as new threats emerged. The Government accept that there were aspects of the trials where there may have been shortcomings and where, in particular, the life or health of participants may have been put at risk. The Government sincerely apologise to those who may have been affected.

Firearms: Statistics

My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Tony McNulty) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The statistics for 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007 show that the number of police operations in which firearms were authorised was 18,053.

The police discharged a conventional firearm in three incidents.

Armed response vehicles were deployed on 14,530 occasions and there were 6,728 authorised firearms officers in England and Wales.

Full details are set out in the tables below:

Number of Operations in which Firearms were Authorised

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

Total

13,991

14,827

16,657

15,981

18,891

18,053

Avon and Somerset

195

262

311

333

247

285

Bedfordshire

237

301

442

475

575

684

Cambridgeshire

114

57

104

241

201

207

Cheshire

419

451

397

358

367

340

Cleveland

37

170

453

530

657

293

City of London

40

131

364

404

323

239

Cumbria

71

77

72

152

112

92

Derbyshire

275

401

369

287

305

223

Devon and Cornwall

101

96

112

71

84

80

Dorset

184

193

231

223

263

354

Durham

89

83

156

144

291

340

Essex

323

312

275

296

432

245

Gloucestershire

165

185

127

176

229

280

Gtr Manchester

580

518

507

461

478

481

Hampshire

198

162

208

237

289

352

Hertfordshire

112

172

195

185

187

280

Humberside

297

187

183

206

362

235

Kent

115

137

207

163

219

170

Lancashire

232

238

318

241

240

410

Leicestershire

300

268

295

260

363

334

Lincolnshire

477

392

386

294

220

157

Merseyside

1,020

628

751

733

669

727

Metropolitan

2,447

3,199

3,563

2,964

4,711

3,878

Norfolk

175

200

178

195

175

153

Northamptonshire

43

138

148

158

137

156

Northumbria

1,440

1,275

1,140

977

611

332

North Yorkshire

92

100

147

185

183

282

Nottinghamshire

384

452

459

408

394

289

South Yorkshire

258

463

484

546

749

737

Staffordshire

232

281

255

216

171

250

Suffolk

163

270

251

153

202

256

Surrey

245

247

203

151

222

222

Sussex

248

204

280

187

190

201

Thames Valley

179

167

195

289

427

264

Warwickshire

130

149

164

124

180

162

West Mercia

117

91

197

162

122

155

West Midlands

822

902

1,377

1,264

1,044

1,557

West Yorkshire

757

604

575

853

1,335

1,272

Wiltshire

45

58

63

88

139

226

Dyfed Powys

28

29

28

51

63

72

Gwent

20

37

40

81

94

133

North Wales

302

259

197

223

350

340

South Wales

283

281

250

236

279

308

Number of Authorised Firearms Officers (AFOs)

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

Total

5,776

5,763

6,096

6,243

6,584

6,728

Avon and Somerset

116

84

122

118

117

103

Bedfordshire

48

53

58

56

59

57

Cambridgeshire

56

71

60

60

50

46

Cheshire

81

89

75

76

73

80

Cleveland

85

80

95

100

100

105

City Of London

73

72

86

89

86

45

Cumbria

92

87

89

90

89

90

Derbyshire

80

69

70

74

75

69

Devon and Cornwall

108

115

132

123

122

132

Dorset

57

59

60

64

62

67

Durham

86

102

97

103

100

102

Essex

180

184

186

202

205

220

Gloucestershire

71

80

82

93

92

94

Gtr Manchester

219

202

205

187

245

217

Hampshire

87

94

94

92

97

83

Hertfordshire

46

47

50

53

52

49

Humberside

96

96

96

101

92

83

Kent

113

93

90

94

94

98

Lancashire

138

129

122

115

123

103

Leicestershire

69

68

51

53

59

67

Lincolnshire

91

87

78

86

87

75

Merseyside

78

84

94

93

129

139

Metropolitan

1,805

1,823

2,060

2,134

2,331

2,584

Norfolk

104

109

114

125

119

127

Northamptonshire

51

56

52

50

56

59

Northumbria

125

99

90

93

98

92

North Yorkshire

66

64

60

56

78

67

Nottinghamshire

136

131

138

138

149

146

South Yorkshire

92

100

98

122

116

118

Staffordshire

71

63

67

76

70

82

Suffolk

90

80

96

88

84

78

Surrey

62

48

53

49

51

45

Sussex

120

141

134

130

129

129

Thames Valley

156

180

172

176

180

186

Warwickshire

50

51

46

53

55

59

West Mercia

125

131

139

141

152

133

West Midlands

111

110

124

134

145

175

West Yorkshire

116

132

140

130

150

148

Wiltshire

71

78

80

74

72

69

Dyfed Powys

77

62

58

79

68

72

Gwent

57

60

71

74

86

64

North Wales

83

75

73

65

57

56

South Wales

138

125

139

134

130

115

Number of Operations Involving Armed Response Vehicles (ARVs)

2001-02

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

2005-06

2006-07

Total

11,574

11,848

13,218

13,137

14,355

14,530

Avon and Somerset

173

215

249

312

167

192

Bedfordshire

172

269

414

419

534

654

Cambridgeshire

43

45

155

172

160

172

Cheshire

523

337

356

773

807

793

Cleveland

13

63

86

154

285

290

City Of London

39

131

364

275

234

183

Cumbria

53

45

65

134

90

72

Derbyshire

253

363

312

254

257

183

Devon and Cornwall

76

32

94

54

54

76

Dorset

182

180

215

195

246

322

Durham

57

66

96

91

256

204

Essex

165

176

138

138

155

224

Gloucestershire

140

166

109

121

145

213

Gtr Manchester

528

406

440

364

306

214

Hampshire

116

108

128

167

178

270

Hertfordshire

81

129

157

155

160

226

Humberside

273

170

158

184

335

232

Kent

89

132

193

124

183

373

Lancashire

192

185

273

228

232

383

Leicestershire

292

232

269

232

328

313

Lincolnshire

470

367

355

276

210

147

Merseyside

974

547

687

677

611

644

Metropolitan

1,667

2,447

2,423

2,322

2,572

2,770

Norfolk

157

186

169

163

149

133

Northamptonshire

25

90

99

89

101

119

Northumbria

1,349

1,204

1,063

893

585

299

North Yorkshire

60

67

110

144

208

268

Nottinghamshire

333

397

404

336

342

256

South Yorkshire

221

280

322

438

632

522

Staffordshire

208

241

212

183

154

222

Suffolk

116

160

194

119

149

204

Surrey

225

240

190

140

204

209

Sussex

189

171

250

163

162

165

Thames Valley

174

167

179

265

355

227

Warwickshire

104

31

138

102

144

121

West Mercia

100

111

241

152

94

120

West Midlands

563

592

975

952

745

518

West Yorkshire

609

565

543

656

1,040

1,048

Wiltshire

43

39

28

54

124

190

Dyfed Powys

28

29

28

48

55

72

Gwent

16

16

23

74

85

109

North Wales

265

198

153

180

299

295

South Wales

218

253

161

165

223

283

Immigration: Children

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Earlier this month I set out the 10 key changes to Britain's border security and immigration system that we will deliver in 2008. As part of these reforms I said that it was important that we act more sensitively to the children in our care and to the victims of human trafficking. I would like therefore to update the House on measures being taken forward by the Border and Immigration Agency in relation to children.

First, I am pleased to announce to the House today the commencement of the public consultation exercise on the draft code of practice for keeping children safe from harm. The consultation will last for 12 weeks and copies of the consultation paper and the draft code of practice have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. As part of this consultation we will be talking to children to get their views.

The code will guide the BIA in fulfilling its new legal duty to keep children safe from harm. In drafting it the Border and Immigration Agency has already consulted widely. During the period of the consultation Border and Immigration Agency officials will hold a series of conferences so that interest groups can express their concerns to us in detail and in their own words. These conferences will be devoted to the themes that have been put to us so far as important, such as children in detention, referrals to statutory agencies, and other key areas where children come into contact with our immigration system; as well as seeking to identify what can be learnt from others. In particular there will be conferences on children's issues in each of the devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Secondly, I am also today publishing the responses to the public consultation exercise Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children. We have considered carefully the responses to this document and taken account of the clear consensus that central government and local authorities need to work together to improve the way in which these children are referred to, cared for and supported by local authorities. Our main areas of reform in this area are:

placing unaccompanied asylum seeking children with a network of specialist local authorities to ensure they receive the expert services they need;

better procedures to assess age in order to ensure that children and adults are not accommodated together. We will establish a working group with key stakeholders to gain consensus on how we move forward in this complex area of public policy;

ensuring that we resolve a child's immigration status more quickly and therefore enable care planning to focus on integration or safe early return to the country of origin for unaccompanied young people; and

putting in place better procedures for identifying and supporting asylum seeking children who are the victims of trafficking paying particular attention to those who are at risk of going missing or at risk of further harm or exploitation. We will ensure that proposals around reform are developed in accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.

Thirdly, the Home Secretary announced a review of the UK's reservation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on 14 January. I know this review has been widely welcomed. I am therefore launching a consultation today to run in parallel with that on the code of practice. I wish to take full account of the views of others in deciding whether the time is now right to withdraw the reservation.

Ministry of Defence: Defence Training

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

This Statement updates the House on the Defence Training Review (DTR) Rationalisation Programme and BORONA Programme following announcements made last year on DTR on 25 October 2007 (Official Report, col. 15WS) and BORONA on 12 September 2007 (Official Report, col. 122WS). The BORONA Programme will establish HQ ARRC, 1 Signal Brigade and 102 Logistic Brigade in enduring bases in the UK.

Work continues on DTR Package 1, which aims to deliver training for engineering and communications and information systems at a new site at St Athan in South Wales. It is still anticipated that the department will be in a position to consider the main investment decision in the spring of this year. As part of this work to secure contract signature as soon as possible for Package 1, a programme of risk reduction work to the value of £9.5 million has been proposed with the Metrix Consortium. A departmental minute outlining this activity was laid in the House on 29 January. The proposed activities will be focused on the property and the estate, in particular securing planning consent, and development of the training solution. The cost of this work is included in Metrix's overall bid and is at no additional cost to the department.

After reviewing further options for Package 2, which aims to provide training for logistics and personnel administration, police and guarding, security, languages, intelligence and photography, it has become apparent that the Metrix Consortium is not able to offer an affordable and acceptable Package 2 solution and, as a consequence, the competition has been brought to a close. The decision has therefore been taken to remove provisional preferred bidder status from Metrix. This does not have any impact on the department's commitment to the DTR programme, and particularly in pursuing a Package 1 Metrix solution with vigour, but it does allow the department to focus its efforts on alternative approaches for Package 2, which are not legally constrained by the original terms of the procurement. These alternatives may continue to be open to Metrix and other potential industry partners. Options will continue to aim to rationalise and improve the estate, maintain the department's commitment to its supervisory care responsibilities under the Blake agenda, and match the scale of investment in training modernisation to what is affordable. A further DTR update on both packages will be provided later this year after the appropriate investment decisions are made.

In addition, I wish to advise the House on defence estate solutions related to both the DTR and BORONA Programmes. Following the announcement to release Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut, for disposal on 8 January 2008 (Official Report, col. 7WS), and further work on the defence estate, an agreement has been reached that, in principle, the Defence College of Logistics and Personnel Administration (DCLPA) and the Director Royal Logistics Corps (DRLC) will relocate to Worthy Down and Southwick Park. This move, which will consolidate elements of DCLPA and logistics training already on these sites, will allow the closure of the Deepcut site, currently anticipated to be not before 2013.

A decision has also been taken that, under the BORONA Programme, both 1 Signal Brigade and 102 Logistics Brigade returning from Germany will move to Cosford. This will maintain a significant long-term defence presence on this site and continue to provide the associated benefits that this brings to the local community and to the West Midlands following the relocation of the DTR Package 1 units currently based there. Furthermore, Metrix proposes to establish a learning centre and design facility at the Cosford site which may also generate other business and employment opportunities for the local area.

The BORONA Programme Team (BPT) will now develop proposals to deliver construction and service requirements at Cosford. In addition, the BPT will also draw up detailed plans and undertake wide consultation with all interested parties, including local authorities, health, education and welfare providers as well as the trades unions. A key piece of this consultation work will involve communication and discussion with the German authorities and with our locally engaged workforce in Germany and their representatives.

This detailed planning and consultation will review all possible options and will result in recommendations, including the actual timings of the moves, being made for a final investment decision in spring 2009.

The implications of these moves for our people will continue to be handled sensitively and in full consultation with trade unions and staff. However, both of these estate solutions are still subject to the appropriate final investment decision being made, after which further updates will be announced.

Prisons

My right honourable friend, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Following the Government’s response to the report by Lord Carter of Coles into the long-term supply and demand of prison places in December, (5 December 2007, Official Report, col. 827) I would like to provide the House with an update on progress to date. Prison Policy UpdateBriefing Paper, outlining further detail on today’s announcements and an update on the supply measures which we are putting in place following the report of Lord Carter of Coles is published on the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

The briefing paper sets out progress so far on the prison building programme announced in December. We announced then that we would provide a further 10,500 prison places on top of the 9,500 place programme previously announced. This will lead to a net increase in prison places of 15,000 by 2014. This year alone 2,500 new prison places will be delivered, of which more than 1,000 will be operational before the end of April. A further 1,600 are planned for 2009.

The paper also sets out details on how “Titan” prisons will work. We plan to build up to three Titan prisons by 2014 and a consultation on the design of such complexes will begin in April. This will build on the success of clustering small prisons together; for example, at the Isle of Sheppey. We are starting to identify suitable sites for Titans, housing 2,500 prisoners each, in the south-east, West Midlands and the north-west. We are also launching a competition for a new prison ship and have begun a consultation for a new prison at the former RAF Coltishall airfield.

The announcements I am making today signal a major drive to overcome some of the barriers to the rehabilitation of offenders. Our primary aim in doing so is further to aid the work we are already doing on cutting reoffending. These measures are focused on tackling drug use among offenders and providing opportunities for offenders to learn the new skills which might help them to a life away from crime outside prison.

These announcements are framed by a sense of what the community can expect from those who break the law. We will provide opportunities for offenders to learn the skills which will present the hope of a new life on release, but in return we will set out what the community expects from those offenders who take up these opportunities. I have asked my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Prisons (David Hanson) to bring forward proposals for a clearer “contract” between offenders and the community.

In the mean time, I am announcing today a range of new measures on prison work and industries, on tackling drugs and on community justice. These build on the announcements we made in response to Lord Carter of Coles’ review of prisons, including Lord Bradley’s review of mental health issues.

First, we will increase the range of constructive work available to offenders inside prison, and in turn their job opportunities on the outside. We have an existing corporate alliance with more than 70 employers, in addition to those working in individual prisons and probation areas, but the Government are now committed to expanding this programme significantly. With ministerial colleagues from the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Prisons will shortly host a forum with leading figures from the private and third sectors to bring in more partners to provide prison training workshops.

Today we are also announcing the launch of a major new scheme at HMP Wandsworth, (with Cisco, Bovis Lend Lease and Panduit) to train prisoners in installing voice and data cabling. Providing enhanced vocational training to prisoners is instrumental in helping offenders turn away from crime, and giving them back a sense of stability, discipline and responsibility.

Secondly, we are taking further steps to tackle drug use in prison and in the community against a background over the past few years of a tenfold increase in investment in drugs work in prisons and a two-thirds fall in the number of prisoners testing positive for drugs in prison (from 24 per cent in 1996-97 to 8.8 per cent in 2006-07). But we are clear that we have to go further. This drive against drugs will cover both drug treatment programmes in prisons and the control of drugs in prisons, and will be jointly headed by two senior figures with relevant experience in each area, who will be announced shortly.

Ministers are urgently considering what further measures we need to take over controlling the supply of drugs into prisons, such as reviewing the criteria for open/closed visits across the prison estate, with a particular focus on local prisons. This will also look at introducing more rigorous searches, including the provision of more sniffer/search dogs.

As well as stamping out the supply of drugs, we are helping offenders kick the habit in prison. By April,  29 prisons will have introduced the integrated drug treatment system (IDTS), and I am pleased to announce that with the Department of Health we will be extending this scheme to a further 20 prisons over the next 12 months. IDTS provides better clinical services (funded by the Department of Health), such as improved detoxification programmes and greater continuity of care between the community and prisons, between prisons, and on release into the community, as well as helping offenders to address some of the deeper roots of their drug abuse.  Alongside this, we will also consider extending the number of drug-free wings where prisoners can access increased rehabilitation and support separate from known drug users.

In the community, we are increasing the provision of current community sentences that specifically target and intensively supervise offenders with a drug misuse problem by 1,000 next year. These are known as drug rehabilitation requirements (DRR). The aim of the DRR, which involves treatment, regular testing and court reviews of progress and rigorous enforcement, is to get offenders to stop offending, with the longer-term aim of getting them off drugs for good.

Thirdly, many offenders come from chaotic backgrounds, their lives ruined by the pernicious cycle of crime and drug abuse. Subject to the current evaluation of the Leeds and West London pilots, we will extend our successful dedicated drug courts to four further areas, in which courts look to address the causes of offending along with the offence.

We will also bring forward pilots of models for court diversion and reviewable community orders for those with mental health issues. These will be based on models in the American and Australian jurisdictions. Problem-solving approaches applied to mental health builds on experience developed within HMCS relating to community justice, domestic violence courts and drugs court pilots, all aimed at ensuring that the courts respond effectively to problems in the criminal justice system.

For many offenders on sentences of less than 12 months community-based punishments are proven to be more effective at reducing reoffending than short prison terms. Therefore, we will fund at least six intensive alternatives to custody projects with new investment of £13.9 million over the next three years. The first such project will begin in Derbyshire in March, and will include a combination of unpaid work, electronic monitoring, behaviour programmes, mentoring, and help with resettlement, all under intensive supervision. More than 6 million hours of unpaid work are already carried out in the community each year. With the Department of Communities and Local Government we will further build on community payback, such as through options like citizens’ panels to decide on which projects offenders should undertake in their local area.

Today’s announcements should be set in the context of an impressive criminal justice record. This is the first post-war administration to preside over a sustained and substantial reduction in crime. The latest British Crime Survey/Recorded Crime Statistics demonstrated that overall crime has fallen a third since 1997, while the chances of being a victim of crime are the lowest since accurate recording began 27 years ago.

During the past decade more than 20,000 prison places have been provided due to more offenders being brought to justice, including 60 per cent more violent and dangerous offenders, and being sentenced for longer. We are fully committed to providing a net further 15,000 places by 2014. Meanwhile, prisons and the prison regime are almost unrecognisable from the institutions of 10 to 15 years ago. In spite of the pressures the prisons are under, they continue to be much more decent, humane and constructive places.

Schools: Funding

My honourable friend the Minister for State for Schools and 14-19 Learners (Jim Knight) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today the launch of a review of the distribution formula for dedicated schools grant (DSG).

In my Statement to the House on 25 June 2007 I announced that although the DSG for 2008-11 would be distributed using the spend plus method, there would be a review of the formula for distributing school and early years funding with the aim of developing a single, transparent formula that would be available for use from 2011-12. A consultation on the terms of reference for the review was launched in August 2007. I am today publishing a summary of the responses to the consultation and placing a copy of that summary in the Library of the House. I am grateful to all those who responded to the consultation.

The overwhelming majority of respondents to the consultation (88 per cent) supported the aims of the review and the need to introduce a formula for the distribution of DSG. Their view was that it would be unsustainable to continue with the spend plus methodology for the longer term.

The overarching aim of the review will be to produce a funding system that should support schools and local authorities to raise the educational achievement of all children and young people and to narrow the gap in educational achievement between all children, including those from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds. The resultant distribution formula for DSG should be based on the principles of transparency, simplicity and stability.

A number of respondents to the consultation suggested that consideration should be given to removing the ring-fence on the DSG and to the payment of school funding through general formula grant, with decisions on the level of schools expenditure taken locally. Over the past 10 years the Government have invested record amounts in education. Overall per pupil funding, including capital funding, will reach £6,600 by 2011—nearly a threefold cash increase since 1997 and more than double in real terms. This demonstrates our continuing commitment to raising standards for all young people, and we are determined that further increases in school funding should be spent in schools, so that we can meet our long-term aim that per pupil funding for schools should match the level of support available to children in independent day schools. Consequently the review will start from the premise that the ring-fence on DSG will remain. However, the review will examine the scope for greater flexibility in the use of DSG to support the delivery of Every Child Matters outcomes and the implementation of the Children’s Plan.

There will be a number of key themes to the review. We will carry out a needs-led analysis to assess the feasibility of using this method to set the basic entitlement to funding that local authorities will receive for each of the pupils in their schools. We will look at the additional costs that should be taken into account in high wage areas and high housing cost areas, in co-ordination with the review of area costs recently announced by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and with the review of teachers’ pay bands recommended by the School Teachers’ Review Body. We will commission work to review the costs of educating pupils with additional educational needs (AEN). With the introduction of diplomas and the raising of the age of compulsory participation in education and training to 18, we will review the scope for working towards a common 14 to 19 funding system. Finally, we will also consider the scope for introducing incentives into the funding system, for example, to improve pupil progression.

I am writing to a range of partner organisations today to invite them to become members of a new DSG formula review group. The group will steer the work of the review and report its recommendations to Ministers. Special interest groups of stakeholders will be invited to attend meetings and submit papers on particular issues. The development phase of the review will continue until December 2009, followed by a consultation period from January to March 2009. The broad decisions from the review will be announced in July 2010, in preparation for the school funding settlement in autumn 2010 for 2011-12 onwards.

Schools: Rural Schools

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Schools and 14 to 19 Learners (Jim Knight) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today written to local authorities to remind them of our policy and guidance on rural schools.  A copy of the letter has been placed in the Library of the House.

Security Industry Authority

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Crime Reduction (Vernon Coaker) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Following the Home Secretary's Statement of 13 December 2007, I should like to update the House on the latest position regarding the revocation of Security Industry Authority licences following immigration checks.

As the Home Secretary said in the Statement on 13 December, the SIA contacted some 10,500 individuals to inform them they were minded to revoke their licences as a consequence of checks which indicated no right to work or where the BIA was not satisfied that the individual had the right to work. Licence holders had up to 21 days to respond to the SIA with further information challenging the intention to revoke, and a further 21 days in which to appeal to the magistrates’ or sheriff courts. Both of the 21-day periods have now elapsed.

Information is today being made available on the SIA's register of licence holders on some 7,000 individuals who have had their licences revoked. SIA will update its advice to employers. Some 3,000 challenges to the minded-to-revoke letter are currently being processed.

As the Home Secretary informed the House on 13 December, the BIA has been carrying out targeted enforcement activity in relation to illegal working in the security industry, focusing on visits to employers and workplaces where SIA checks suggest there may be a repeated use or significant presence of illegal migrant workers.

The BIA is screening and prioritising cases for investigation where employers have blatantly failed to comply with the law on the prevention of illegal working, and where individuals have committed criminal offences, including where this includes the use of false identities or forged documents. Individuals with adverse immigration records or who may pose a risk to the public are being prioritised for removal.

Taxation: Aviation

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

I am announcing today the publication of a consultation document on reforming the taxation of aviation. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) made the announcement at Pre-Budget Report 2007 that air passenger duty was to be replaced by a duty paid per plane. This reform will send better environmental signals, encourage the more efficient use of aircraft and ensure aviation makes a greater contribution to both environmental costs and the public finances.

This consultation document sets out options for the detailed design of the new per plane duty, puts forward a number of proposals for how it would operate, and seeks the views of stakeholders on these proposed options. The formal consultation period will run for 12 weeks from today and close on 24 April 2008. Design issues to be considered include the basis of the duty, exemptions, general aviation, impact on the freight and transit/transfer industry and administrative details.

The consultation document has been deposited in the Libraries of the House and is available in the Vote Office and on the Treasury website at www.hm-treasury.gov.uk.

Taxation: Avoidance Schemes

My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Recent disclosures to HM Revenue and Customs indicate that individuals are claiming relief against income tax for manufactured payments that are paid using tax avoidance schemes and that substantial sums of tax are at risk.

Tax avoidance is unfair on the majority of taxpayers and can undermine the funding of public services. The Government are determined to take appropriate and prompt action to counter avoidance. Therefore the Government propose to introduce appropriate legislation in the Finance Bill 2008 that will be effective from today, 31 January 2008.

A draft of the material that will be contained in the Finance Bill 2008, together with draft Explanatory Notes and background material, will be published today on HMRC's website at www.hmrc.gov.uk.

Terrorism: Finance

My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Jane Kennedy) has made the following Written Statement.

In a Written Ministerial Statement of 10 October 2006, the previous Economic Secretary undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK's counterterrorism asset-freezing regime. This is the fifth of these reports and covers the period October-December 2007.1

Dedicated Asset-Freezing Unit

In The Financial Challenge to Crime and Terrorism (February 2007), the Treasury announced that it would be setting up a dedicated asset-freezing unit which, acting in response to advice from law enforcement and security agencies, will increase the resources and operational focus that the Government are able to bring to bear on asset-freezing. The Treasury's asset-freezing unit became operational on 24 October 2007.

Asset-freezing designations

In the quarter October-December 2007, the Treasury made six domestic designations under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006.

None of these were persons already designated under earlier 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.

No persons were designated on this basis in this quarter.

No persons were designated on the basis of closed source material provided by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

There were no financial sanctions listings at the EU or the UN in relation to terrorism or al-Qaeda and the Taliban of persons with links to the UK.

A total of 288 separate accounts containing approximately £1.4 million2 of suspected terrorist funds are currently frozen in the UK.

Reviews

The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review. A number of formal reviews have been initiated in this quarter and the review of five cases was completed. In four cases a decision was taken to delist the designated person and in one case the designation was continued.

Licensing

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:

11 listed persons were granted legal expenses licences;

17 listed persons were granted basic expenses licences; two of which were for benefits payments; and

no listed persons were granted extraordinary expenses licences.

In addition, the households of four listed persons were granted benefits licences in accordance with the policy set out in the previous Economic Secretary's Statement of 3 July 2006 to Parliament.

1 The detail that 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.

2 This figure represents the balance of the accounts at the time they were frozen and includes approximately $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using current exchange rates. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.