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Imprisonment of Juveniles

Mrs. Brooke: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to end and to reduce imprisonment of juveniles. [75345]

Hilary Benn: The Government strongly believe that custody for juveniles should very much be a last resort, and we have provided the courts with a wide range of community-based penalties which are specifically targeted at young people. Sadly, however, we recognise that there is a small minority of young people—just 4 per cent. of those juveniles dealt with by police and courts each year—whose offending is so serious or so persistent, that custody may be the only immediate answer. In those cases, we must ensure that such a sentence is as constructive an experience for them as possible, and to this end we have introduced the new Detention and Training Order for juveniles and improved the custodial regimes with supervision and support after release.

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Mr. Connarty: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the outcome was of the Justice and Home Affairs and Civil Protection Council held in Brussels on 14 and 15 October; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [76018]

Mr. Blunkett: Together with my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Filkin and my noble Friend Baroness Scotland, I represented the United Kingdom at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 14 and 15 October.

The A points were approved as in document PTS A 48 (12810/02) (a copy of which has been placed in the Library) with the exception of item 9. The Council also reached political agreement on the Directive on legal aid and the Framework Decision on combating sexual exploitation of children and child pornography.

The Framework Decision on combating corruption in the private sector and the Framework Decision laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of drug

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trafficking remained subject to reservations on the scope of the offence and the penalties for trafficking in small quantities of drugs respectively.

The Council discussed whether the Framework Decision on confiscation of crime-related proceeds, instrumentalities and property should create an obligation on member states to provide for confiscation of property beyond that arising directly from the offence. Lord Filkin argued that it should and that the burden should be on the offender to prove that the property was acquired legitimately. The majority of member states agreed but argued that this obligation should arise only in circumstances involving a limited number of offences and that the burden should be on the court to establish the origin of the property. Member states shared the view that there should not be an automatic assumption that the property of a spouse or

co-habitee was also acquired from criminal proceeds.

The Council examined some of the outstanding reservations on the Framework Decision on the application of the principle of mutual recognition to financial penalties. There was agreement to include a provision recognising the application of fundamental human rights, subject to negotiation of an accompanying Recital. Member states were, however, divided on the level of the financial threshold below which member states could refuse to execute a financial penalty. Four member states were also unable to accept the absence of a dual criminality requirement in the instrument.

The Council reached a general approach on the Council Decision on the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity subject to parliamentary scrutiny reserves from five member states, including the UK, and pending the opinion of the European Parliament.

The Presidency sought agreement to the Council Decision establishing a mechanism for evaluating the legal systems and their implementation at national level in the fight against terrorism. Lord Filkin expressed the Government's broad support for the measure but said that it could not enter into a political agreement since the text remained subject to parliamentary scrutiny in the UK. He reserved the right to return to the substance. Two other member states also maintained parliamentary scrutiny reserves.

The Council agreed the principles for determining the selection procedure for the appointment of the Europol Directorate as part of the proposal for amending the Europol Staff Regulations. Lord Filkin said that it was essential to establish a fair and open procedure which led to appointment on merit.

Justice and Home Affairs Ministers of the member states and of candidate countries met in the margins of the Council and discussed the timetable for the removal of internal frontier controls in the Schengen area post-enlargement. There was also a discussion of the obligations and responsibilities created by new instruments applying the principle of mutual recognition. Lord Filkin emphasised that the successful application of these instruments required trust in each other's judicial systems. He welcomed the Commission's new proposals for monitoring arrangements to be

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included in the accession treaties. A Declaration was agreed condemning violence against commercial lorry drivers. The candidate countries were informed of the Council's intention to agree, the following day, a declaration concerning applications for asylum from citizens of the candidate countries.

The Commission presented its two proposals for a Council Directive on minimum standards on procedures in member states for granting and withdrawing refugee status and a Council Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of studies or other purposes. The Commission also reported on its progress in negotiating readmission agreements with third countries. The Presidency presented a draft programme on EU returns to Afghanistan.

The Presidency provided information on member states' planned projects to follow up the plan for the management of the external borders and the plan for fighting illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings. The Council agreed conclusions on action to be taken as a matter of urgency to further prevent and combat illegal migration and trafficking in human beings.

The Council discussed the criteria for assigning responsibility for an asylum claim and the deadlines for transfers in the Regulation establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the member states responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the member states by a third-country national (Dublin II). Lord Filkin supported the existing qualifying period for the application of the illegal presence criterion and called for the deletion of the requirement to prove illegal entry before applying this criterion.

The Council discussed the definitions of a refugee and the concept of Xserious and unjustified harm" in the Council Directive on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third-country nationals and stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection. The UK and the Presidency welcomed a proposal from Commissioner Vitorino reformulating the definition of Xserious and unjustified harm" to clarify its scope of application in conflict situations, responding to UK concerns.

The Presidency sought adoption of the Directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers in member states. One member state maintained the view that the provision on access to labour markets should be deleted. The Presidency agreed that the Council should work with a view to incorporating an addition to the Directive, proposed by the UK, to allow a member state to refuse support in cases where the applicant does not submit his claim as soon as reasonably practicable. The Council would seek to approve the Directive at its November meeting.

The Council agreed conclusions on the integration of third country nationals and discussed the outstanding issues on the Council Directive concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents. The majority of member states were able to accept the inclusion of refugees within the scope of the text and favoured a five year residence requirement. There was

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also general support for the measures regarding rights of mobility for third country nationals. The UK has not opted in to the adoption of this measure.

Ministers agreed a Declaration asserting that from the point of signature of the Accession Treaties applications for asylum from citizens from the EU candidate countries should be treated as manifestly unfounded.

The Council also invited COREPER to report on the possibility of agreeing a list of safe third countries and the Schengen Mixed Committee to consider possible amendments to the Schengen manual with a view to strengthening the procedures for passport control at the Schengen area entry points.

Local Government Funding Settlement

Mr. Viggers: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with chief constables on the effect on police forces of the proposed local government funding settlement. [75343]

Mr. Denham: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary regularly meets chief constables. Matters of police funding and the local government funding settlement are discussed periodically.

Money Laundering

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department which Government agencies are responsible for tackling money laundering in the UK. [75076]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: A number of Government agencies have responsibility for combating money laundering in the United Kingdom.

In England and Wales, the Economic Crime Branch of the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) is responsible for the receipt, analysis and dissemination of all reports made in the United Kingdom which are indicative of a suspicion of money laundering. Subsequent investigations of a suspected money laundering offence are undertaken primarily by police forces, the National Crime Squad or Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (HMCE), but can also fall within the investigative remit of other agencies such as the Serious Fraud Office or Inland Revenue. Prosecutions for money laundering offences are conducted by the Crown Prosecution Service and HMCE.

In relation to Scotland, investigations of a suspected money laundering offence are carried out by the police and Customs and Excise under the direction of the procurator fiscal. Prosecutions are conducted by the Lord Advocate or his representative, the procurator fiscal.

In addition, the Financial Services Authority has the power to make rules on money laundering, and impose civil penalties for breaches of those rules. It also has the power to prosecute breaches of the Money Laundering Regulations. HMCE has responsibility for the oversight of Money Service Operators and has powers to prosecute for a range of money laundering offences.

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In November 2001, the Government published its National Asset Recovery Strategy drawn up by the Asset Recovery Committee. One of the central aims of the strategy is to prevent criminals and their associates from laundering the proceeds of criminal conduct, and to detect and prosecute such laundering where it occurs. The strategy has the support of the Departments and agencies involved in the fight against money laundering activity who have committed themselves to acting in accordance with its principles.

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