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Written Statements

Volume 714: debated on Thursday 12 November 2009

Written Statements

Thursday 12 November 2009

Cyprus

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Chris Bryant) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The UK remains an active supporter of the negotiations between the two Cypriot leaders aimed at reaching a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem. The current round of talks offers the best opportunity yet to solve the Cyprus problem.

The UK has no role in the negotiations but, in order to support the efforts of the two leaders, the Government made a renewed land offer to the UN Good Offices Mission in Cyprus on 10 November 2009 to cede a portion of territory of the sovereign base areas (SBAs). The extent of the land offer is the same as the offer made in 2003 (modified in 2004). My right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced this on 11 November (see the text of his Statement below).

The Government have offered to cede 45 square miles of SBA territory, just under 50 per cent of the total, to a reunified Cyprus. This would make up 1.2 per cent of the area of the reunited island. The SBAs would be able to function as normal within a reduced land area.

As in 2003, the offer is dependent on a successful outcome to the settlement negotiations. It will be up to the two leaders to decide how the land will be allocated and how to incorporate it into a settlement. The offer will become null and void should a comprehensive settlement not be approved by both communities in Cyprus. Legislation would be required to bring the transfer of territory into operation in the event of a comprehensive settlement being agreed.

The UN will include the land offer in future negotiations between the two leaders on the territory issue. It would not be appropriate, therefore, to comment further on the details of the land offer at this stage.

The Government will continue to support the two leaders in their search for a solution. We believe a settlement in Cyprus is vital towards securing peace and stability in the east Mediterranean. We urge all parties to seize this unique opportunity.

The Prime Minister’s Statement

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister said on 11 November:

“I was very pleased to welcome President Christofias to London today and to have the opportunity to discuss the Cyprus problem with him. This is a critical time for the settlement talks.

President Christofias has shown enormous courage and determination in progressing discussions this far. I know that both Cypriot leaders are fully committed to finding a solution. And today I urged President Christofias to exploit this unique opportunity and move to resolve the issue to the benefit of all Cypriots.

I welcome the deeper co-operation between the UK and Cyprus, and reaffirm my commitment to work together on the basis of previous agreements.

It is important that the solution to the Cyprus problem is a Cypriot one—a solution by Cypriots for Cypriots.

Nevertheless, as a sign of support for the negotiations, I can confirm today that an offer has been made to the United Nations to make available just under 50 per cent of the territory of the UK's sovereign base areas to a unified Cyprus in the event of a solution. It will be up to the two leaders to negotiate what happens with this land. The sovereign base areas would be able to function as normal within a reduced land area.

Today, my message to Cyprus's leaders and to their people is: you can make history. Be bold, be courageous. The UK will support you”.

Drugs: Dementia

Statement

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

The Government have today published an independent clinical report by Professor Sube Banerjee, into the prescribing of anti-psychotic drugs to people with dementia, together with a government response to the report. The report was commissioned by the Government in recognition of widespread concern about the overprescription of these drugs, and as part of the priority being given to improving care for people with dementia.

The Government welcome the report prepared by Professor Banerjee, and accept the conclusions and recommendations he has reached. The report acknowledges that these drugs are currently being overprescribed, and contains a series of recommendations to the Government and others on action to address the current level of overprescription.

A number of the report’s recommendations are addressed to bodies outside the Department of Health. The report will therefore be widely disseminated by the department to those with an interest, and we expect the findings and recommendations to be taken into account by all relevant organisations. The Government support the best practice guidance identified in the report, with quality and safety being the overriding principles. There will be a need for primary care trusts, local authorities and other bodies to work together to take forward the report’s recommendations, particularly taking into account the interface between health and social care services.

The report from Professor Banerjee, and the Government’s response to it, have both been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office. It can also be found at www.dh.gov.uk.dementia.

ECOFIN

Statement

My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ian Pearson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my Written Ministerial Statement of 10 November, Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Budget ECOFIN), 19 November, I wish to inform the House that Budget ECOFIN has been rescheduled to 18 November, due to the announcement yesterday that an informal meeting of heads will now be held on 19 November. The council's agenda remains unchanged.

Immigration Bill (Draft)

Statement

My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration (Phil Woolas) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today published the draft Immigration Bill, copies of which are available in the Vote Office

The Bill consolidates and simplifies nearly 40 years of legislation and will ensure that Parliament and not case law determines immigration policy. This Government have created a dedicated UK Border Agency which combines customs and immigration powers in a strong new border force at the frontier. We now count migrants in and out of the country to ensure visa compliance. The points-based system allows us to raise or lower the bar for entry to ensure that migration continues to benefit the United Kingdom and avoid the negative impacts of sudden change.

We need to ensure that the law which underpins our work is in the best shape to support a fair and effective immigration system. Our legal framework needs to reflect the changes we have made and support continuing reform. It must enable the system to work more efficiently and effectively.

In taking forward our reforms we have already made specific changes to the law which were necessary to support the wide-ranging changes of policy, process and organisation we have put in place. We have also been clear that a wider reform and consolidation of the whole legal framework for immigration from the Immigration Act 1971 to the most recent Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, is now needed, to build on those changes and ensure that the law as a whole is clear, consistent and comprehensible.

Immigration law is very often subject to legal challenge. The current legislation needs to be considered together with the case law which interprets that legislation. We now have an important opportunity for Parliament to take stock of what the law is and decide the path forward, bringing clarity to an increasingly difficult area of law.

The draft Bill we are publishing today is the next step in a continuing process to meet the objective of a simpler legal framework—thereby providing a clear basis for the operation of our controls, and increasing our effectiveness in protecting our borders and removing those who do not have our permission to be here. As this document makes clear, we began that process two years ago as part of the reform of the then Immigration and Nationality Directorate and have consulted widely on our developing proposals. We are setting out now what we have achieved so far and what further work remains to be done.

The draft Immigration Bill introduces new and far-reaching concepts for the future immigration system strengthening our borders, simplifying immigration processes, and increasing our effectiveness at removing those who do not have permission to be in the UK:

Permission will become the basic authorisation given or refused by the UK Border Agency—in an embassy overseas, on arrival at a port, on application after entry. It replaces the outdated and overlapping concepts of leave to enter, leave to remain, entry clearance, the right to abode and exemption from control. It will be easier to use and understand—a migrant either has permission or does not.

Expulsion will replace the current separate procedures for deportation and administrative removal. All those expelled can be banned from returning—for a fixed period, or indefinitely. As now, expulsion will be the automatic consequence of specified prison sentences.

Immigration bail will replace separate provision for temporary admission, temporary release and current bail procedures and provide a strong alternative to detention. It brings with it a broad menu of conditions to ensure contact and control of those awaiting decisions or expulsion. Those on immigration bail will remain liable to detention at any time.

The immigration appeals system has been simplified to improve its clarity and speed for those who need to use it while reducing the number of cases where repeated challenges create obstructions to enforcement. The Bill limits the grounds of appeal to whether the decision in question is in accordance with the Immigration Rules and otherwise in accordance with the law. It will not be possible to win an appeal on the grounds that discretion should have been exercised by the Secretary of State.

The draft Bill is accompanied by the Command Paper Simplifying Immigration Law which explains the approach which has been taken in the draft Bill and what further work there is to be done. This document also sets out the Government’s intention to reform the route for those wishing to enter or stay in the UK on the basis of marriage or another long-term relationship. Decisions in the courts have weakened the current scheme for issuing certificates of approval before ceremonies take place; the courts have also found certain elements of the current scheme to be incompatible with human rights law. The scheme is no longer effective and it will be withdrawn: we will be bringing forward a remedial order to achieve this.

I am today also publishing a consultation on the future of the support provided while an application for protection is being concluded. The consultation focuses on how asylum support powers can be used to continue to ensure that genuine asylum seekers are not left destitute, while also enabling and encouraging those who are refused asylum and no longer have any right to be here to go home.

I have also made available today a consultation on the framework for the Immigration Rules which will be made under the new Bill. This consultation sets out proposals to make these rules simpler and easier to use.

Copies of both consultation documents have been placed in the House Library and in the Vote Office.

National Parks: South Downs

Statement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to my Written Ministerial Statement of 31 March 2009 (col. 53WS), I am pleased to announce that I am today confirming the South Downs National Park (Designation) Order 2002 and the South Downs National Park (Designation) Variation Order 2004, with modifications in both cases, thus creating the South Downs National Park, to take effect from 31 March 2010.

I will also be confirming the East Hampshire Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Revocation) Order 2002 and the Sussex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Revocation) Order 2002, which will take effect so as to coincide with the national park coming into being. The South Downs National Park as now indicated will cover over 99 per cent of the land formerly designated as areas of outstanding natural beauty, and it would be inappropriate to have concurrent national landscape designations.

I have carefully considered the inspector’s reports on the public inquiries and his latest report on the public hearing into the South Downs National Park (Designation) Order 2002, as varied, made by the Countryside Agency under the provisions of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

In line with the inspector’s recommendations, I have decided that the area now proposed for designation meets the criteria for a national park, taking account of the modifications made, and that it should be managed by a national park authority, to be established under the provisions of the Environment Act 1995.

Full details of the South Downs National Park boundary will be released in my decision letter today, a copy of which, together with an illustrative map, will appear on the Defra website. Copies of the illustrative map and my decision letter will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

I propose to bring forward an order under the provisions of the Environment Act 1995 to create a National Park authority. I expect the new authority to be established on 1 April 2010 and to take on its full range of statutory powers and functions from 1 April 2011.