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Written Statements

Volume 712: debated on Monday 6 July 2009

Written Statements

Monday 6 July 2009

Correction to Commons Oral Question

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In my response to the right honourable Member for Wells (David Heathcoat-Amory) during Oral Questions on 30 June 2009, I said (Official Report col. 159):

“In respect of India, he will know that British aid now amounts to about £240 million over this spending review period, but it is on a declining trend, and by 2011 will have stopped, not because of the Indian nuclear programme but because India is becoming a richer country. It is clear from international development legislation since 1997 that development aid should be directed according to poverty, and that is the basis on which India is pulling itself away from aid, according to its own wealth-generating potential”.

It has been brought to my attention that the information I gave in my response was incorrect. We have no plans to scale down the provision of aid to India or to stop the provision of aid by 2011. Our aid expenditure under current spending plans amounts to £285 million in 2008-09, £275 million in 2009-10 and £280 million in 2010-11. These figures reflect India’s continuing levels of poverty, with over 450 million Indians living on less than $1.25 a day, but also its own achievements in generating wealth.

ECOFIN

Statement

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 7 July 2009. The following items are on the agenda:

Presentation of the presidency work programme

The new Swedish presidency will present its ECOFIN work programme for the second half of 2009, which Ministers are invited to debate in line with Article 8(4) of the council’s rules of procedure.

Follow-up to the 18 and 19 June European Council

Financial supervisory framework

Following conclusions adopted at the June ECOFIN and by heads at the June European Council, the presidency is expected to outline its strategy for taking forward work on European financial supervision and regulation. The UK is content with the outcomes of both meetings, having secured, among other safeguards, commitment in both sets of conclusions that any new powers granted to existing or proposed bodies would not impinge in any way on member states’ fiscal responsibilities.

Climate change financing

Heads at the June European Council agreed conclusions on the financing of climate change. The presidency will outline its strategy for member states to reach agreement on a negotiating mandate at the October European Council. The UK believes that work should continue to ensure that the EU reaches agreement on the key issues suitably in advance of the Copenhagen conference in December.

Preparation for the G20 meetings

Ministers will exchange views after a meeting of G20 deputies to be held in Basel on 27 and 28 June. This will begin preparation of further meetings in London of G20 deputies on 3 and 4 September and G20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors on 4 and 5 September. The Government look forward to working with the presidency and member states to ensure that work taken forward at G20 complements work at EU level.

Procyclicality

Following on from progress made at the informal ECOFIN in April, Ministers will be asked to adopt council conclusions on procyclicality. The Government agree that banks will need to build counter-cyclical buffers in good times and strongly support ongoing technical work through the Basel committee to examine the forces that contribute to pro-cyclicality in the financial system and possible mitigating options, as well as the efforts by the EU which complement work by the G20.

Implementation of the stability and growth pact

Adoption of legal acts in the excessive deficit procedure

ECOFIN will be expected to adopt council decisions for member states having breached the 3 per cent budget deficit criterion, formally entering these countries into the excessive deficit procedure. Council recommendations will also be issued for the correction of these excessive deficits.

Adoption of council opinions on updated stability and convergence programmes

The council will be asked to adopt council opinions on the updated stability and convergence programmes of Slovenia, Slovakia, Austria, Belgium and Romania.

Any other business

Medium-term budgetary objectives (MTOs) and implicit liabilities

Following on from ongoing work at committee level, Ministers will exchange views on the incorporation of implicit liabilities into medium-term budgetary objectives (MTOs). As a country that is neither in the euro area nor a member of the exchange rate mechanism (ERM II), the UK is not obliged to set a numerically defined MTO. Any changes to the methodology of incorporating implicit liabilities into MTOs should not change countries’ obligations under the stability and growth pact.

Embryology

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The new edition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority’s code of practice for infertility clinics and embryo research centres has been laid before Parliament today. The code has been placed in the Library and copies are available for honourable Members from the Vote Office.

MG Rover

Statement

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is announcing today that the Serious Fraud Office has been asked to consider whether there should be a criminal investigation following completion of an inquiry into the collapse of the MG Rover Group.

The decision was taken after the department studied a report produced by independent inspectors appointed by the then Secretary of State for Trade and Industry after MG Rover Group went into administration on 8 April 2005 owing creditors nearly £1.3 billion.

The inspectors were appointed under Section 432 of the Companies Act and had wide powers to require documents and the attendance of witnesses, including directors, officers and agents of the company. They investigated the affairs of MGRG, its parent company Phoenix Venture Holdings and MGR Capital Limited and 32 related companies between the purchase of MGRG from BMW in May 2000 and the date of it entering administration.

The inspectors delivered their report on 11 June 2009. Following legal advice this report will not be published at this time in order to ensure that any potential prosecution is not prejudiced. The position will be reviewed following the outcome of the SFO’s considerations.

NHS: Pay Review Body

Statement

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

I am responding on behalf of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the 24th report of the NHS Pay Review Body (NHSPRB) (Cm 7646), which has been laid before Parliament. Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office. I am grateful to the chair and members of the NHSPRB for their report.

We welcome the NHSPRB’s 24th report and accept most of its conclusions and actions, which we will take forward.

The NHSPRB made one recommendation of a short-term national recruitment and retention premium (RRP) for pharmacists working in the NHS, paid at Agenda for Change (AfC) pay bands 6 and 7.

After careful consideration, I have decided to reject this recommendation because:

the recruitment and retention difficulties vary widely in England but are not significant in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so a national RRP, which would be applied UK-wide, is inappropriate;

in England, local recruitment and retention difficulties will be best addressed by increasing supply and using local recruitment and retention premia where needed alongside other local initiatives to support the training and development of junior pharmacists; and

the additional expenditure that would be required to implement the national RRP is unreasonable at a time when resources available to the NHS and the wider economy are being tightened and efficiency savings required from the NHS increased.

I am grateful, however, that the NHSPRB has highlighted difficulties retaining junior pharmacists in the NHS in England and, to address those concerns, the following actions are being taken forward:

the Modernising Pharmacy Careers Programme Board, chaired by Dr Keith Ridge, the Chief Pharmacist for England, and responsible for the development of the pharmacy workforce in England, is working with the strategic health authorities to increase the number of pre-registration pharmacy training places in the NHS from 2010;

updated guidance about the use and application of local recruitment and retention premia has been given to the NHS Staff Council, which will consider it as part of its wider review of RRPs. The NHS Staff Council, made up of NHS employers and unions, is responsible for overseeing the Agenda for Change pay system;

we will draw local employers’ attention to the recommendations and deliberations of the NHSPRB about use of remuneration to resolve local pharmacy vacancy challenges, thereby informing their decision about whether paying a local RRP is appropriate; and

the NHS will continue to make use of specific local initiatives to support the training and development of junior pharmacists—for example, flexible working, protected study time and funding to support study for postgraduate diplomas.

NHS: Top-up Fees

Statement

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

Following the publication of a House of Commons Health Committee report on top-up fees on 12 May 2009, I am today laying the Government’s response before Parliament (Cm 7649). The response is in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office.

Planning: Commercial Leases

Statement

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

I am today publishing a report by the University of Reading on the dissemination and use of the 2007 code for leasing business premises.

The property industry introduced the present version of this voluntary code in response to continuing government concern about the degree of flexibility in the commercial property leasing market and the lack of information and advice available to small businesses about the implications of property leasing. The new code is an excellent document, which, if implemented, would make a big difference. Besides a code of practice for landlords, the code provides step-by-step guidance for tenants taking out leases and a “heads of terms” document enabling them to see at a glance the commitments they would be taking on.

We undertook to monitor the implementation of the code. As a first step, we commissioned Reading University to study the dissemination and use of the code once it had been in place for a year.

This report about dissemination and use of the 2007 code paints a very disappointing picture. It suggests that small business tenants are not receiving any substantive information on the code from any source. Except for some well advised major tenants, the code is not a primary tool for the negotiation of new leases.

If parties do not know about the code and do not use it, it will have no impact. The property industry has asked us not to legislate in this area and we have held back to give the 2007 code a chance to work. But if the more substantive research shows that the market has not responded, legislation is bound to come back on to the agenda.

I call on the property industry, while there is still time, to redouble efforts to disseminate and use the code—every tenant negotiating a lease should have a copy and be encouraged to use it. In particular, the professions—surveyors and solicitors—have a special responsibility for making it available. A professional, modern industry will surely have an interest in ensuring that its customers are fully and properly informed about the leasing choices they are making. The UK commercial property industry should be a world leader, not just in its level of sophistication but also in the fairness with which it operates.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

Prisoners: Licence Recalls

Statement

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

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department and I are today announcing the publication for the first time of information relating to those offenders who have been released from prison on licence, subsequently recalled for whatever reason and who have not yet been returned to custody.

That information is published today and a copy of the information release has been placed on the Home Office and Ministry of Justice websites. It is also available in the Libraries of both Houses and in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. It covers the period 1984 to 31 March 2009.

Context

This information is being published following an audit of the work of police, probation areas and the United Kingdom Border Agency. It was carried out by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which has responsibility for licence revocation policy.

In seeking to protect the public from known offenders after their release from custody, the police and probation services deal with some of the most highly unpredictable people in our society, many of whom lead chaotic lives. We have ensured that these services have the powers that they need to manage such offenders.

Many offenders return to the community on licence following a period in prison and complete a successful rehabilitation. But others are prone to breaking the conditions of their licence and therefore become subject to recall to custody.

All offenders serving a sentence of 12 months or over are released from prison under licensed supervision to the probation service. They are all subject to a set of standard licence conditions, requiring them to report regularly to the probation service, live at an address approved by the probation service and to be of good behaviour. In many cases, they will also be subject to additional licence conditions, which are designed to help the probation service to manage the offenders effectively in the community. These licence conditions can place a wide range of restrictions or requirements on the offender—for example, to undertake offending behaviour work, not to enter an exclusion zone, to abide by a curfew or to live in a specific hostel.

Offenders are told at the outset of their period on licence that they may be recalled to custody if they breach any of the conditions of their licence. Reasons for recall range from a deterioration in an offender’s behaviour that leads the probation service to conclude that there is an increased risk of the offender committing further offences, to a failure to maintain contact with their offender manager. The probation service does not have to wait until a further offence has been committed before an offender is recalled.

The Government have taken a number of steps over the past 12 years to strengthen this recall system. In 1999, the use of executive recall powers was extended, a step that has proved to be both swift and effective. Previously, prisoners serving sentences of four years or less could be recalled only through the courts—and, as this was a slow and bureaucratic process, it was rarely used.

In the Criminal Justice Act 2003, we extended the period of the licence applied to determinate sentence prisoners serving sentences of 12 months and over, so that the licence does not expire until the end of the sentence. Previously, such licences expired at the three-quarters point of the sentence. The number of prisoners recalled was 13,467 in 2008-09.

This Government have also overseen a significant improvement in the probation service’s enforcement of licences. In 1997, enforcement audits showed that appropriate enforcement action was being taken in only a third of cases where prisoners were serving sentences in the community. By 2008, over 95 per cent of licence breaches were being effectively enforced.

In April 2007, we introduced an end-to-end target for recalling offenders, covering the period from the decision to recall the offender to the offender being returned to custody. The target is for 75 per cent of offenders to be returned to custody within 74 hours, where they are subject to emergency recall, and within 144 hours, where they are subject to standard recall. Performance against these end-to-end targets has improved to 70 per cent being returned in target timescales in October 2008 to March 2009 from 60 per cent in the same period a year earlier.

Recall process

The recall process is as follows. On behalf of the Secretary of State for Justice, NOMS considers whether to approve a recommendation for recall. The recommendation is submitted by the probation area with responsibility for supervising the offender on licence. Where a recall is approved, NOMS revokes the offender’s licence on behalf of the Secretary of State and issues a revocation notice to the police. NOMS sends the revocation notice both to New Scotland Yard’s Police National Computer Bureau and to the police basic command unit that covers the area in which the offender’s last known address is recorded. At this point, it becomes the responsibility of the police, with input and intelligence from other agencies, to apprehend the offender and return him to custody. All agencies involved in the process give priority to recalling and apprehending those offenders who have previously been convicted of serious sexual and violent offences and who are assessed as potentially presenting a high risk of harm to the public.

The audit covered all offenders in England and Wales whose licences had been revoked between 1984 and 30 June 2008. It enables NOMS to determine the precise number of those who have been returned to custody and, for those who have not, the action that has been taken, and is being taken now, to apprehend them. For the future, we have decided, working with the National Statistician, regularly to publish information on offenders who have had their licence revoked.

Audited data for those who were recalled between 1984 and June 2008 and provisional data for those recalled between July 2008 and March 2009 show that, of all those offenders whose licences have been revoked, 954 had not been returned to custody. Between January 1999 and March 2009, 91,965 offenders had their licences revoked. On the basis of partial data, and using assumptions where necessary, we estimate the number of licence recalls between 1984 and 1999 to be around 10,000. (Paragraph 8 above explains why there were many fewer recalls before 1999.)

The audited data show that, between January 1999 and 30 June 2008, 81,757 offenders are recorded as having their licences revoked, of whom, as at 26 June 2009, 81,164 had been successfully returned to custody; the remaining 593 (or 0.7 per cent) have not yet been apprehended. A further 19 offenders who had been recalled prior to 1 January 1999 were also recorded as not having been returned to custody, thus giving an audited total of 612. The provisional data held by NOMS, which have not been reconciled with data held by police and probation, shows that in the period from 1 July 2008 to 31 March 2009 a further 10,208 offenders had their licences revoked, of whom, as of 26 June, 9,866 have been successfully apprehended and returned to custody and 342 (or 3.4 per cent) have not yet been apprehended, though experience suggests that most of these offenders will in due course be returned to prison.

The breakdown of the number of offenders whose licences have been revoked and who have not been returned to custody for each of the 42 local criminal justice board areas in England and Wales is given (table 3) in the information release, together with a breakdown of the offenders’ index offences (table 2).

Follow-up action

As part of the process of completing the audit, NOMS wrote to each police force and probation area in England and Wales, enclosing a list for each area of all offenders who have been recalled and have yet to be returned to custody. They were asked to check the list for accuracy and to determine whether some offenders might be removed from the list—because, for example, they had been returned to custody under a different name or had died. They were also asked to renew efforts to return to custody those who remained in the community. Following the audit, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) wrote to all police forces in England and Wales, asking them to take priority action to arrest and return to custody all those offenders on the list who had previously been convicted of sexual or violent offences, while also reviewing and renewing their efforts to apprehend the remainder. Intensive reviews of the priority cases are under way and are driving appropriate action.

More generally, ACPO will work with forces, and with other agencies and the Home Office, to ensure that the police continue to do all that they can to make the recall system effective. They will identify and disseminate information on what works and how to tackle the main obstacles to speedy arrests in these cases. For example, the Metropolitan Police has established a unit in each London borough dedicated to arresting wanted offenders, including those subject to recall. Other forces have instigated dedicated days of action for apprehending wanted offenders. All forces are also working with all the criminal justice agencies to integrate the management of offenders so that, when it is proposed to revoke an offender’s licence, the police have the intelligence that they need and are best placed to deal with the request and protect the public from the risk posed by the individual.

NOMS, the probation service and the police are working closely together to share information and improve working practices. For example, NOMS and the police are working to put in place a new “early warning system” for recall, whereby the probation service shares intelligence with the police on the likely whereabouts of the offender at the point at which recall is requested. Better information sharing and a clear and consistent identification of these offenders will greatly assist in ensuring their timely arrest.

The Government are committed to improving performance further and all agencies are working to ensure that they make the optimal contribution separately and together.

NOMS has established a network of “recall liaison officers”, covering every probation area and police force to share information and improve performance. Performance data are issued and monitored monthly through local criminal justice boards (LCJBs). A best practice guide has been produced and is shortly to be issued to all LCJBs, designed to improve further multi-agency performance in respect of recall.

The performance for each area against the licence recall target for the periods April 2007 to March 2009 is given in the information release. The performance has been broken down by agency and by LCJB area. LCJBs monitor performance against the target. Over the past two years since the target was introduced, there has been a steady improvement in performance across all the agencies. We are committed to working with LCJBs to improve further performance.

I am advised by our statisticians that the first release of data in this manner is not a basis for ongoing release. I have therefore asked Ministry of Justice statisticians to work with the National Statistician to put a full range of data relating to licence recalls and placements back in custody into the public domain on a regular basis in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. A statistical notice has been released today on the Ministry of Justice website setting out the issues and timetable for consultation.

Treasury: Vote on Account

Statement

My honourable friend the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarthy-Fry) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

This Statement gives notice of a resource commitment in advance of the authorisation by Parliament of supply provision for HM Treasury in 2009-10. There are no implications for cash spending.

In the 2009-10 vote on account (HC 1039) presented in November 2008, HM Treasury was voted resource provision of £142 million to cover spending on continuing services until the 2009-10 main estimates are voted by Parliament in July. The amount on account excluded any provision for financial stability-related resource consumption as, at the time, this was expected to be zero.

However, it has since been decided that a cost of capital charge should be applied to the Government’s financial stability-related loans and investments. Cost of capital charge is a non-cash resource charge, accruing on a daily basis, designed to improve transparency under resource accounting and encourage the efficient use of assets. For 2009-10, the charge is forecast to be £450 million, which will not be available until the provision in the Treasury’s 2009-10 main estimate, presented as HC 514, is voted by Parliament in July. This means that the proportion of the £450 million resources that will be consumed before the end of July (ie £135 million) will take resource spending over and above the £142 million authorised in the vote on account causing a resource commitment in advance of supply.