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Royal Ulster Constabulary

Ms Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he plans to publish Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's year 2000 report on the Royal Ulster Constabulary. [133347]

Mr. Ingram: Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) 1999-2000 Report will be published today Wednesday 26 July 2000. Copies of the report have been placed in the House of Commons Library. The report will also be available to the public from today.

Criminal Injuries Compensation

Ms Moran: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he will respond to the report made by Sir Kenneth Bloomfield following his review of criminal injuries compensation in Northern Ireland, published in July 1999. [133348]

Mr. Mandelson: After careful consideration of Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's detailed report on the fitness for purpose of criminal injuries compensation arrangements in Northern Ireland, I am today able to announce the Government's broad proposals for the future of the scheme. The detail will be published next year for consultation in the form of a draft Order in Council.

I must first place on record my gratitude and thanks to Sir Kenneth Bloomfield and his colleagues on the review for a most diligent and thorough investigation into the legislation and workings of the current criminal injuries compensation scheme. Their terms of reference asked them to advise the Government on:

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Before addressing the report I must stress this Government's commitment to the provision of fair and equitable compensation for innocent and deserving victims of violent crime, and their particular desire to ensure proper arrangements to recognise the additional suffering of victims of terrorist violence and civil unrest in Northern Ireland.

The major structural change proposed by the review team is the introduction of a tariff-based scheme with the tariff calculated on the average value of awards in Northern Ireland. This will provide a more transparent and straightforward system, and will allow claims to be settled more quickly. I have decided to accept this recommendation and extend it to apply to all claims and not just to those arising from less serious injuries, as recommended by the review. This will provide for consistency in the value of awards. The review also recommended that a tariff approach would largely make legal assistance in the making of claims unnecessary, and I have accepted this conclusion. Legal costs will therefore no longer be met by the scheme. Instead, Victim Support (NI) will be funded to provide assistance along the same lines as they currently do in GB. I have also decided that the right of appeal to the court should, in the future, no longer be necessary as part of a tariff-based scheme. The review recommended retention of court involvement for reasons which were persuasive at the time, but which should prove less so as progress is made across a range of issues on the wider political front. I therefore propose to replace it with an independent appeals tribunal, along the lines of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel. This will allow appeals to be processed more quickly, with less formality, and with less potential for retraumatising victims.

I have also agreed changes as recommended by the review in eligibility for awards, and in exclusion from or reduction in awards. More flexible arrangements will apply under the new scheme to those claiming as a result of psychiatric illness, there will be more generous bereavement support payments to a wider group of relatives, and the current statutory time limits for lodging a claim will be replaced by a flexible approach which will allow claims to be made, in certain circumstances, long after the incident. Future cases will also be capable of being reopened for a limited period on strict medical grounds. It is also proposed to introduce a penalty points system to regulate the effect of previous criminal convictions on awards. The same provisions will also apply to convictions for terrorist offences.

Finally, to address the concerns raised by Sir Kenneth in his report over inadequate financial assistance to past victims of the Troubles, I am also promising a further commitment of funds from next April to take forward the implementation of his report into victims of the Troubles "We Will Remember Them". In total this will represent a substantial package aimed at alleviating the financial

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hardships and other suffering inflicted on many by violence during the Troubles. Details of how this money will be dispersed will be announced in due course.

In conclusion, I have accepted some two thirds of the 64 recommendations made by Sir Kenneth and his team. I believe these decisions, which were arrived at only after lengthy consideration, represent the best way to ensure for the future a fair and equitable system of criminal injuries compensation which will recognise the suffering of innocent victims of violent crime.

Government Information

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what is (a) the longest, (b) the shortest and (c) the average number of days taken by his Department to acknowledge receipt of letters requesting information under the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information at its (a) London and (b) Belfast office. [131361]

Mr. Mandelson: Thirteen Open Government requests were received by the Belfast office in the period 1 January 1999 to 30 June 2000. The longest time taken to acknowledge these requests was three working days, the shortest was the day of receipt and the average was 1.3 working days.

In the same period, one request was received by the London office. There is no record of that being acknowledged. However, a review of documents, instigated as a result of that request, will be completed shortly and a substantive reply will be provided to my hon. Friend without further delay.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Stunell: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many parliamentary questions were tabled to his Department between 19 October 1999 and 20 April which requested information, pursuant to his previous answers. [132462]

Mr. Mandelson: Between 19 October 1999 and 20 April 2000, 14 parliamentary questions were tabled which were pursuant to previous answers.


Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency

Mr. Duncan Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the appointment of Mr. Bill Finch as Product Development Manager at Feuchter went before the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments following his retirement as Contracts Branch Director of the Defence Clothing and Textiles Agency. [129731]

Mr. Spellar [holding answer 7 July 2000]: Under the Cabinet Office rules on the acceptance of outside appointments by Crown servants, only applications from officials at 3-Star/Deputy Under Secretary level and above are considered by the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee. Mr. Finch's application to join Feuchter was approved under these rules by officials within the Ministry of Defence.

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Extraction/Insertion Pod

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the cost has been to his Department of the development of the Extraction Stroke Insertion Pod for UK use; and what the expected cost will be to bring this into service; and if he will make a statement. [130377]

Dr. Moonie: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from John Chisholm to Mr. Michael Hancock, dated 26 July 2000:

Royal Navy Vessels

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the existing procedures by which the names of new Royal Navy vessels are determined. [131565]

Dr. Moonie: The procedure for determining the names of Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels is well established. Proposals are initiated by the Ships' Names and Badges Committee (SNBC), comprising representatives from the principal naval command areas. Names, reflecting an appropriate theme across all vessels of a class, are addressed early in the procurement cycle. The Committee consider a number of criteria such as promoting links with communities, the geographical spread of names and opportunities to revive names with an honourable history of service. Selected names are then submitted through Controller of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Staff to the Under Secretary of State for Defence for approval. In the case of major vessels, final approval is sought from Her Majesty the Queen.

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