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Written Statements

Volume 703: debated on Monday 14 July 2008

Written Statements

Monday 14 July 2008


My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

During the earlier public stages of scrutiny of the Crossrail Bill and more recently during the House of Lords Grand Committee stage on Thursday 26 June 2008, amendments were proposed which would have placed specific obligations on the Secretary of State, the mayor and Cross London Rail Links (CLRL) to publish information on an annual basis about the project’s funding and finances.

The Government are committed to ensuring that there is a high level of transparency as to the progress and cost of the Crossrail project and we have already set out our intention in this area in the heads of terms which were signed last November by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport and Transport for London (TfL). We are currently working with parties to turn the heads of terms into binding legal documents with the intention of including a requirement on CLRL to publish financial information on an annual basis, subject to protecting commercial interests. However, in recognition of the fact that these agreements are still being developed, I am prepared to give an additional assurance that information will be made available.

Therefore, I offer the assurance to Parliament that a Statement will be published at least every 12 months until the completion of the construction of Crossrail, setting out information as to:

total funding amounts provided to CLRL by the Department for Transport and TfL in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period covered by the Statement;

expenditure incurred by CLRL in relation to the construction of Crossrail in the period covered by the Statement;

total expenditure incurred by CLRL in relation to the construction of Crossrail to the end of the period covered by the Statement;

whether the costs of the construction of Crossrail are likely to fall within the agreed budget and, if not, whether any measures are being taken in consequence; and

the amounts realised by the disposal of any land or property for the purposes of the construction of Crossrail by the Secretary of State, TfL or CLRL in the period covered by the Statement.

The first Statement will be published within 12 months from when the Act comes into force. In disclosing such information, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State or the nominated undertaker will need to take account of any commercial interests. This assurance will be placed on the Crossrail Register of Undertakings and Assurances.

Immigration and Citizenship Bill (Draft)

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have laid before Parliament today a draft (partial) Immigration and Citizenship Bill to replace almost all of our current immigration laws with a single piece of legislation, together with plans to reform radically the path to citizenship for newcomers to Britain.

At the heart of the Bill are radical changes to nationality law to ensure that newcomers earn their way to citizenship with full access to benefits and social housing reserved for citizens and permanent residents. Full details of our policy are set out in The Path to Citizenship: Next Steps in Reforming the Immigration System—Government Response to Consultation which I am placing in the Library.

Economic migrants will need to speak English and prove they can hold down a job paying taxes to qualify for citizenship.

Committing even minor crimes will slow down citizenship. Serious crimes will trigger automatic deportation.

Citizenship will also be slowed down for those who do not make an effort to become an active citizen.

We will take powers to ask migrants to pay a little extra towards local public services.

In addition, our draft Bill sets out how we propose to ensure that the sweeping changes that we are making this year to our border security and immigration system stick.

Ten measures will sit centre stage in the Bill and the Immigration Rules made under it:

Strong borders

new powers for front-line UKBA officers at foreign ports and airports to cancel visas; and

bringing customs and immigration powers at the border into the 21st century, consolidating and strengthening civil penalties for bringing passengers without the right papers and clandestine entrants to the UK.

Selective migration

the Bill proposes a clear legal duty on migrants to ensure they have permission to be in the UK, for example under our new points system; and

the Bill introduces a single, streamlined power of expulsion for those without permission.

Earning the right to stay

migrants will now have to earn their right to stay in the UK; and

automatic bans on returns with new powers to exclude offenders and powers to require those who are expelled to repay costs to taxpayers if we allow them to come back.

Playing by the rules

the Bill gives a new power to require large bail bonds for those awaiting decisions or expulsion, part of a tough menu of conditions for immigration bail as an alternative to detention;

confirming tough measures to prevent organised illegal immigration by attacking illegal working with civil penalties for employers who do not make the necessary checks; and

simplifying our appeals system to cut red tape; ensuring that the system is properly sensitive to the needs of vulnerable groups; honouring our international obligations to refugees; and ensuring the UKBA safeguards and promotes the welfare of children.

Managing any local impacts

full access to benefits for citizens and permanent residents, with migrants contributing a little extra to the cost of local services.

Our earlier consultations show widespread support for our ambition to reform and strengthen the law. Polling which I am publishing today confirms that:

70 per cent of the public think that newcomers should earn the right to stay in Britain;

83 per cent think that immigrants in Britain should be made to learn English; and

69 per cent agree that newcomers should be penalised on the path to citizenship if they do not obey the UK's laws.

However, many want to see the detail to understand what we propose in practice. Today's draft Bill will help that debate.

The draft (partial) Bill is accompanied by a narrative document Making Change Stick which explains the Government's plans for further clauses which are not included in it at this stage.

The Government have also published today Explanatory Notes on the draft (partial) Bill, illustrative rules on protection and a partial impact assessment.

We have consulted widely in preparation for this Bill, including consultations published in June 2007 and February 2008. We want to proceed in the same spirit of openness. We invite views from Parliament and the wider public before finalising the full Bill for introduction.

Prisoners: Length of Sentence

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

The Ministry of Justice is today publishing an internal review led by Kevin Lockyer, the then regional offender manager for the south-west region into indeterminate sentenced prisoners, including indeterminate sentences of imprisonment for public protection (IPP).

This review was a study into operational matters relating to the management and progress of indeterminate sentence prisoners through offender services. It was commissioned by Helen Edwards, then chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service in April 2007. The review reported to the NOMS board in August 2007.

The review identifies various areas for improvements and proposed recommendations on how these improvements could be achieved. These recommendations were accepted in full by the NOMS board, which commissioned an implementation plan that was agreed in September 2007.

The report identified five core principles for the better management of these prisoners. These principles are:

the offender assessment should be front-loaded in order to facilitate sentence progression. An OASys assessment and an outline sentence plan should, wherever possible, be available at the point of sentence;

case management arrangements must be streamlined;

targeted intervention pathways should be developed to enable sentence progression;

services should be tailored regionally to meet needs within nationally agreed arrangements; and

resources should follow risk and not the sentence.

In response to this report, NOMS established better case management arrangements through new, streamlined procedures for the management of indeterminate sentenced prisoners. This was to be achieved through the roll-out of phase three of the offender management model and through targeted work on IPP prisoners at or approaching their tariff date. It set out recommendations aimed at ensuring IPP prisoners have an assessment of need completed which leads to a sentence plan. It also sets out the need for improved access to the interventions contained in those plans. Good progress has been made, in particular in delivering assessments to those nearest their tariff expiry date and in moving IPP prisoners through the prison system.

NOMS also recognises that in the medium to long term there would be a requirement to consider local needs further, and to develop plans to meet those needs against a background of budgetary constraints which may require a significant reassessment of resource allocations.

This review is an important piece of work, providing clear, evidence-led recommendations to improve existing practice. The review team was made up of officials from NOMS, Her Majesty’s Prison Service and a number of other bodies, and drew heavily on their experience and knowledge. I wish to take this opportunity to thank them all for their diligent work in producing this report.

I have deposited a copy in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The review can also be accessed at:

Tax Credits

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

Tax credits today provide support to 20 million people including around 6 million families and 10 million children. Take-up of tax credits is a significant success. Tax credits have played a key role in tackling child poverty: since 1998-99, 600,000 children have been lifted out of relative poverty, compared to a doubling of child poverty in the previous 20 years. Tax credits also play a major role in moving people into work and helping people move up the employment ladder, ensuring that work pays over welfare.

Over the past 12 months, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has significantly accelerated its work programme for measuring error and fraud in the tax credits system and has today published its estimates for both 2005-06 and 2006-07. A copy of these statistics has been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and is available on the HMRC website.

The figures show that HMRC has reduced the level of error favouring the customer from 9.2 per cent of all tax credit entitlement in 2003-04 to 7.6 per cent in 2006-07, and the levels of fraud from 0.6 per cent in 2003-04 to 0.2 per cent in 2006-07.

I have today set HMRC a target to further reduce levels of error and fraud to no more than 5 per cent of finalised entitlement by the end of March 2011. HMRC is committed to achieving this challenging target.

HMRC has strengthened its strategy for reducing error and fraud, building on the tax credits transformation programme. This programme has improved HMRC's understanding of tax credit customers, enabling the department to better support customers to get their claim right.

HMRC will deliver targeted assistance to customers making a new claim, to help them claim more easily. This could range from straightforward advice when a customer requests a claim form to intensive help over the phone or face-to-face.

Existing customers will receive support in areas in which they have difficulty to ensure that they are providing the correct information on which to base their awards, and help with the renewals process. For example, during this year’s renewal window HMRC is proactively contacting vulnerable customers to offer them additional assistance to renew their claims. From September, HMRC is also rolling out new services to proactively seek information from customers and make better use of information already held, to help mitigate against errors relating to an individual’s award.

HMRC is also embedding this deeper understanding of customer behaviour into its compliance programme, deploying resources to areas of greatest risk with the aim of identifying incorrect claims and supporting customers to prevent errors in the future.

HMRC also remains vigilant to fraud. Previously published information on organised fraud shows that HMRC is successfully stopping the majority of claims identified as being submitted by organised fraudsters. The department has implemented a range of measures designed to restrict the opportunity for fraudsters to abuse the system, including tighter control on the issue of claim forms, fraud awareness training for staff, and deploying compliance officers in tax credit call centres.

These measures, combined with the closure of the e-portal, have significantly reduced the level of identified losses due to organised fraud from the levels in 2005-06. In 2006-07, HMRC identified attempts to defraud the tax credit system of around £252 million. Of this, the vast majority—some £212 million—was detected by HMRC before any money was paid out.

World War II: PoWs and Internees

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

On 26 January 2007, I announced that the Ministry of Defence would consider claims for compensation for injury to feelings resulting from discrimination on grounds of national origins from persons of non-UK national origins whose claim under the UK's ex gratia payment scheme for former Far East prisoner of war and civilian internees was rejected under the birthlink criterion. I am now announcing the cut-off date and arrangements for those compensation claims.

Claimants who think that they are entitled to compensation should write to the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency setting out the basis on which they consider themselves to be entitled to make a claim for indirect discrimination under the Race Relations Act 1976. The cut-off date for receipt of applications will be 31 December 2008.

We have consulted the Association of British Civilian Internees—Far East Region (ABCIFER) about these arrangements and will be seeking their support in publicising the cut-off date.