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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 25 November 2002

HEALTH

Human Genetics and Embryology

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ms. Hazel Blears): The Government's response to the Fourth Report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, on developments in human genetics and embryology, Cm 5693, has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.

DEFENCE

Defence Training Review Rationalisation Programme

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Further to my written answer of 19 July 2001, Official Report, column 334–35W scoping studies have confirmed that operational benefits, and significant savings, could be achieved by rationalising a number of specialist training streams along defence, rather than single-service lines. The studies identified benchmark options for providing the different types of training at existing MOD sites to serve as public sector comparators, against which a wider range of options can be considered. These will include partnering with the private sector, where potential private sector providers will be encouraged to propose innovative solutions, which might include proposals to establish training establishments on completely new sites. The selection, therefore, by a study of a benchmark site does not imply that the MOD has taken a firm decision to continue training on that site.

The sites being examined for these benchmarks or public sector comparators are HMS Sultan for electro-mechanical engineering training; RAF Cosford for aeronautical engineering training; the Defence School of Transport at Leconfield for logistic training; the Defence Intelligence and Security Centre at Chicksands for security, intelligence, language and photography training; the Royal School of Signals at Blandford for communications and information systems training; and RAF Halton for joint personnel administration and police training.

There are implications for other MOD sites at which elements of this training are currently being carried out. Sites where training may cease, and for which no alternative military use is currently envisaged, are: Bordon, Arborfield, Deepcut, Lodge Hill & Chattenden, St Omer, Chichester, Worthy Down and Beaconsfield. Sites where some of the current training activity may be relocated are: Chatham, Marchwood, St Athan, RAF Cranwell, Shrivenham, HMS Collingwood (Gosport), RAF Digby, RAF Benson, RAF Brize Norton, Chatham, Grantham, Lympstone, Plymouth (including HMS Raleigh), Stafford, West Moors, Portsmouth and Wethersfield.

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The next stage of this work is to engage with industry to explore procurement options and to determine the most appropriate and cost-effective means of delivering this rationalised specialist training. Once this work is completed we will have a clearer picture of the likely locations of the various Defence Schools, and will be able to offer a more detailed assessment of the implications for other sites.

Firm decisions on the future use of the sites will be made in the light of the evaluation of the options that emerge from our engagement with industry, and following the normal consultative process.

I have written to right hon. and hon. Members whose constituencies may be affected by these proposals.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Modernisation

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ian Pearson): I intend to announce modernisation proposals for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development on Monday 25 November. The announcement will provide details of the Government's response to the O'Hare report on the arrangements for the provision of agri-food education and R&D in Northern Ireland. I will also announce management changes which are designed to improve the Department's customer interface. I intend to simultaneously release the vision action plan, containing a long-term strategy for the agri-food industry, developed in response to a report compiled by a steering group containing industry and departmental representatives.

Copies of the Government's response to the O'Hare report and the vision action plan have been placed in the Libraries of the House today.

Policing

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): My predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton North and Bellshill (Dr Reid), announced on 30 April this year the arrangements for the review promised in the revised implementation plan of August 2001. (Official Report, Volume 384, Column 659W). This statement sets out the progress to date on the review and advises hon. Members of the next steps that the Government intends to take.

Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, Dan Crompton, has conducted his annual inspection of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the focus of which was the impact of the new arrangements on police effectiveness and was therefore an important part of the Review. His report was published on 6 November, and a copy was placed in the House Libraries.

My hon. Friend the Minister of State has been looking at detailed administrative and legislative issues and has completed a preliminary round of meetings with interested parties. The next step is to share draft clauses with the parties and to hold a further round of meetings. My hon. Friend is today writing to the parties and enclosing examples of how we intend to deal with the various commitments made in the implementation plan

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of August 2001 and other issues that have arisen during discussions on her strand of the review. In addition to these, she is enclosing, for consultation, text setting out how the Government might deal with two further issues which, in the implementation plan, we undertook to consider further. Her letter—a copy of which will be will be placed in the Library of the House—explains that the Government consider that the time is not yet right to legislate on these matters.

And finally, the Oversight Commissioner, Tom Constantine, has, under his terms of reference, been reviewing the progress made in implementing Patten on the basis of experience during the first year of the board's operation. I expect his report in early December.

It is my intention to introduce legislation to Parliament before the Christmas Recess.

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HOME DEPARTMENT

Race Relations Act 1976

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): I have today made a new authorisation enabling immigration officers to prioritise arriving passengers for examination on the grounds of nationality. This replaces an interim authorisation made on 18 October this year and extended on 2 November, which has now been revoked.

I undertook a full review of the authorisation following a recent ruling by the High Court that the original authorisation (of 27 March 2001) was unlawful. I am satisfied that the new arrangements fully comply with the Court's findings.

A copy of the new authorisation has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.