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Written Statements

Volume 704: debated on Tuesday 7 October 2008

Written Statements

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Armed Forces

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

I am today announcing that the timescale for implementation of the Armed Forces Act 2006 is being extended.

When it is implemented, the Armed Forces Act 2006 will allow us to replace the three current service discipline Acts and other Armed Forces legislation with a single system of service law.  The service discipline Acts, which have provided the legal basis for discipline in the Armed Forces since the 1950s, will be repealed in due course.

The transitional provisions that will provide the essential bridge between the three service discipline Acts and the Armed Forces Act 2006 have proved more difficult and complex than was envisaged in our original planning.  The main reason for this is that the provisions contained in the older legislation have all been amended, often piecemeal, over a period of several decades.  The result is a complex web of legislation that applies, sometimes in different ways, to each of the Armed Forces. 

The legislation will be brought into effect in October 2009.  We do, however, plan to maintain momentum by making the necessary legislative changes to enable the Director of Service Prosecutions, created under the Armed Forces Act 2006, to prosecute all cases under the existing service discipline Acts from 1 January 2009.  We will bring before Parliament in the autumn the necessary secondary legislation to achieve this.

Children: UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Today my right honourable friend the Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 3 October 2008, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child published its concluding observations on the United Kingdom’s report on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Publication of the concluding observations follows the submission of the UK Government’s written report to the committee in July 2007 and an oral hearing with the committee on 23 and 24 September 2008.

The United Kingdom’s delegation entered into a frank and open discussion with the committee. This was recognised both in the committee’s closing remarks at the oral hearing and in the concluding observations. I am pleased that the committee has also recognised the significant progress we have made in the implementation of the convention and the emphasis we have placed on improving the well-being of children and young people.

I broadly welcome the concluding observations and, while areas of difference with the committee remain, we will give the committee’s recommendations the careful consideration they deserve. This process will include a dialogue with non-governmental organisations and the four United Kingdom Children’s Commissioners. Our Children’s Plan, published in December 2007, sets out our ambitions and strategies to tackle many of the issues the UN committee has highlighted. Later this year we will report on progress against the commitments made in the Children’s Plan.

Food: Welsh Meat Industry

My right honourable friend the Secretary of Sate for Wales has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to inform the House that the proposed National Assembly for Wales (Legislative Competence) (Agriculture and Rural Development) Order dealing with the Welsh red meat industry has been laid today as Command Paper Cm 7474. Copies of this can be found in the Printed Paper Office and will be placed in the Library from 11 am. I have written to the House of Lords Constitutional Committee and to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Select Committee to request they undertake pre-legislative scrutiny.

Local Government

My honourable friend the Minister for Local Government (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

As I told the House on 20 May 2008, we have published a consultation document, inviting views on whether or not we should, subject to parliamentary approval, move the date of the English local elections from Thursday 7 May 2009 to Thursday 4 June 2009, the same day as the European parliamentary election. That consultation closed on 11 August, and we have received 278 representations, including from the Electoral Commission, the Association of Electoral Administrators, the Local Government Association, many of the councils that would be affected and a number of the political parties.

There was a large measure of support among consultees, including the Electoral Commission, for moving the date of the English local elections in 2009. A number of consultees also made representations about various practical measures they believe we should take if the date of the local elections is to be moved.

I am today placing in the Library of the House a document summarising the representations we have received and setting out the Government’s response. This document is also available on the departmental website.

Having carefully considered all the representations received, I am also today laying a draft Local Elections (Ordinary Day of Elections in 2009) Order 2008 which, if approved by Parliament and made no later than 7 November 2008, would move the local election day in England, in 2009, to the date of the European parliamentary election, planned for Thursday 4 June. The order also makes incidental, supplementary and consequential provisions as a consequence of that change of date, including provision for the European elections in England in 2009 to be administered on local government boundaries.

The local elections which would be affected by this change of date are the elections to all county councils in two-tier areas, the unitary Isle of Wight County Council, Bristol City Council and the new unitary councils of Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Cornwall, Shropshire and Wiltshire; a limited number of parish councils and the mayoral elections in Doncaster, Hartlepool, North Tyneside and Stoke.

We believe that avoiding elections on two separate occasions within a month will be more convenient for voters, less costly for the taxpayer and more efficient for electoral administrators. As in 2004, holding the local elections alongside the European elections in 2009 could help boost voter turnout and improve the democratic process.

Ministry of Defence: Estate

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

The Stewardship Report on the Defence Estate 2007-08 will be published today.  The publication of the report implements the commitment in the defence estate strategy 2006, In Trust & On Trust, to report annually performance across a range of estate-related strategic aims, and to demonstrate that the department is discharging its obligations properly and acting responsibly in meeting the needs of the Armed Forces.  The report attempts to balance:

describing the substantial investment made in the estate, the successes over the year, the steps being taken to improve the effectiveness of management and the achievement of value for money, with

the commitment to provide an account of our stewardship to external stakeholders.

The report continues to set out the progress against the aims and objectives in the defence estate strategy 2006 and demonstrates how the estate is changing as a result.  Copies will be placed in the Library of the House and on the internet.

NHS: Dentistry

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The House of Commons Health Select Committee published its report on dental services on 2 July 2008. We are today laying before Parliament the Command Paper setting out the interim government response to the conclusions and recommendations in the report.

We have carefully considered the committee’s recommendations. The new contractual arrangements introduced in 2006 placed a legal duty on primary care trusts (PCTs) to commission dental services to meet local needs. We are confident that the new arrangements provide a better basis for the NHS to commission dental services. New services are opening all over the country and, according to the latest figures, there were 655 more dentists working in the NHS in 2007-08 than in the previous year.

We acknowledge that there remains work to be done. As well as an existing programme of work with PCTs to drive maximum benefits from the new arrangements in terms of access and quality of services, the department has begun work with strategic health authorities to agree the changes that will most rapidly improve access to NHS dentistry.

This work will be complete later this autumn and we will then be in a position to make a fuller response setting out further actions.

NHS: Patient Care

My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Ben Bradshaw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 10 September 2008, the Government launched a consultation exercise on the regime for unsustainable National Health Service providers.

The consultation sets out details for tackling poor performance in NHS hospitals and trusts while protecting services for patients. It follows the publication in June this year of Developing the NHS Performance Regime, which outlined the steps that would be taken if an organisation underperformed, and picks up at the point where an organisation has failed to turn its performance around.

The regime aims to:

underpin the NHS performance regime;

ensure the public receive high-quality services by supporting quality regulation;

reinforce the NHS foundation trust regime; and

protect patients and staff from failing services.

The regime is the last step for providers who are subject to previous recovery actions by Monitor or under the NHS performance regime. The consultation proposes that a trust special administrator would be appointed to take control of the trust to ensure that it continues to provide safe and effective services for patients. The trust special administrator would also be required to produce a report and to consult swiftly on proposals for the future of the trust.

The consultation will run until 3 December 2008. A copy of the consultation document has been placed in the Library, and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office.

Northern Ireland: Independent Monitoring Commission

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Shaun Woodward) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have today published and laid before Parliament my fourth annual report on the operation of the agreement between the British and Irish Governments which established the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report covers the period 18 September 2006 to 17 September 2007.

In line with a commitment made by my predecessor, this report also contains the audited accounts of the IMC for the 12-month period ending 31 March 2007.

The report covers the final report on normalisation published on 17 September 2007, which concluded that the normalisation programme as a whole has been complied with.

I remain grateful to the commissioners of the IMC for their valuable contributions over this period, and for their contribution to promoting the transition to a peaceful society and a stable and inclusive devolved Government in Northern Ireland.

Public Guardian Board: Annual Report

My honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Public Guardian Board has provided the Lord Chancellor with a copy of its first annual report on the Public Guardian. A copy of the report is available in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.