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Race Monitor

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): I have now received a copy of the first interim report prepared by the Race Monitor, Mary Coussey who was appointed this year to the post created under Section 19E of the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended by the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000.

The report is based on Ms Coussey's short time as Race Monitor and describes the visits to ports she has made so far and also gives an indication of her work programme for the rest of this financial year. She has not on this occasion made any recommendations.

Under the terms of her appointment, the Race Monitor will be submitting a full annual report to Parliament in March next year.

A copy of the interim report has been placed in the Library.

Prisons (Hostage Incidents)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I have considered the current arrangements on the use of intrusive surveillance of prison cells during hostage incidents and have concluded that the current arrangements do not assist the Prison Service in bringing a hostage incident to a safe conclusion. As things stand, the Prison Service Incident Commander is required to obtain my authorisation of any hostage incident where he considers it necessary to use surveillance in the management of the incident. This can take an hour or more, which could be a dangerous delay.

It makes no sense that the Prison Service is hampered in its safe management of the incident through concerns about the hostage-taker's privacy. The Prison Service has taken advice of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, who concluded that a hostage-taker forfeits his right to privacy by engaging in this activity. I agree with this approach and I have instructed the Prison Service to alter procedures accordingly.

This will mean that in future the Director General or Deputy Director General will authorise applications for covert surveillance in hostage incidents. The Prison Service will however be required to maintain an audit trail of each authorisation demonstrating that the use of

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surveillance was necessary, proportionate and consistent set out in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

Should the Prison Service require the use of intrusive surveillance of a prisoner's cell for any other purpose, those applications will still come to me, as they are likely to raise issues of privacy.

Independent Police Complaints Commission

The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham): Nicholas Hardwick has been appointed by Her Majesty as Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, which will replace the Police Complaints Authority on 1 April 2004 under the provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002. The Commission will exist in shadow form from 1 April 2003.

The appointment will be for five years in the first instance, and Mr Hardwick is expected to take up post on 1 February 2003.

Nicholas Hardwick has been Chief Executive of the Refugee Council for the past eight years. Prior to this, he was Chief Executive of Centrepoint, the charity and Housing Association, from 1986 to 1995.

EDUCATION AND SKILLS

National Professional Qualification for Headship

The Minister for School Standards (Mr. David Miliband): The Department for Education and Skills, in conjunction with the National College for School Leadership, carried out a wide-ranging consultation exercise earlier this year on our proposals to make the NPQH mandatory for first time headteachers. Over 650 responses were received from individuals, LEAs and the main teachers' professional associations. Respondents were in favour of the NPQH being made mandatory for first time headteachers. Following this consultation, I have taken the decision that from 1 April 2004, all those appointed to their first headship post in the maintained sector, including nursery schools, and in non-maintained special schools, will be required to hold, or be working towards, the NPQH.

Working towards NPQH means that appointees must have at least successfully applied for a place on the course prior to their first headship appointment. The working towards arrangement is a transitional measure that will be in place for five years until 31 March 2009. After this date, the requirement to hold the NPQH will be a pre-appointment requirement for those appointed to their first headship post.

Those currently serving as headteachers will not be required to gain the qualification.

The NPQH provides aspiring headteachers with practical, professional training and the introduction of the mandatory requirement will give governing bodies a choice of qualified, well prepared new candidates for headship, in addition to any applications from experienced headteachers. We have carried out

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extensive modelling work and we are confident that there will be enough holders of the NPQH by April 2004 to meet demand.

DEFENCE

Project Aquatrine Package A

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): The Ministry of Defence has appointed Brey Utilities as the Preferred Bidder for Package A of Project Aquatrine, the MOD contract to provide water and wastewater services for the first package of work in the Midlands, Wales, and South West England. Project Aquatrine, one of the leading Public Private Partnership projects in the MOD, will transfer the responsibility for the maintenance and operation of all the Department's water and wastewater assets and infrastructure in Great Britain to private sector providers.

This project will enable the transfer of environmental risk to those in the private sector who are best placed to manage it.

It is anticipated that Contract signature for the first package of work will be achieved in March 2003, following a three-month Preferred Bidder negotiation period. On this basis, it is expected the Contract will go live in December 2003. The Reserve Bidder for Package A is C2C.

Training Estate

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): The competition announced in May 2000 has resulted in the selection of a preferred partner, Landmarc Support Services. Detailed negotiations will now take place to secure a contract to provide support services to the Army Training Estate with effect from 1 April 2003.

This will result in the transfer of approximately 1,400 Ministry of Defence civilian personnel to the private sector. The full protection of the Transfer of Undertaking (Protection of Employment) will apply. The departmental trades unions will be fully consulted in the normal way.

This contract will maintain existing command and control arrangements together with safety and public relations under MOD whilst introducing best commercial practice in all areas of non-core business. It will also lead to a more cost-effective professional and relevant means of service delivery.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Standard Board for England

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Christopher Leslie): I have today placed in the Library of the House the Standards Board for England's Annual Report and Accounts for 2001–02.

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The Report and Accounts cover the period when the Standards Board for England was being established and was putting in place its basic procedures. Since May 2002—shortly after the period covered in this report—all local authorities in England have been required to adopt a new Code of Conduct and it has been open to anyone to make an allegation of misconduct to the Standards Board.

The Annual Report sets out very clearly the role of the Standards Board and describes the approach which the Board is seeking to take to handling complaints and to working with other regulators. Importantly, the report emphasises very strongly that the Standards Board will seek to work in partnership with councils, offering support and advice in a joint effort to promote high standards and confidence in local democracy.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Radiocommunications Agency

The Minister for E-Commerce and Competitiveness (Stephen Timms): The Agency currently charges #50 per hour plus VAT to provide advice and undertake remedial work at the request of business users where problems are identified in the own radio systems. The charge, which has not been increased since 1997, will be increased to #57 per hour plus VAT and the charge for the use of the Agency's specialist mobile laboratory which is accredited to the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (ACAS) will be increased from #1140 to #1293 plus VAT per day with effect from 1 January 2003. The Agency does not charge business users for enforcement work which is carried out as part of its regulatory duties. The charge only applies for remedying problems which can be dealt with by filters and improvements to site and equipment.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Ambient Noise Strategy

The Minister for Rural Affairs (Alun Michael): I am pleased to announce that today we have published a summary of the results of the consultation, Towards a National Ambient Noise Strategy.

There was very clear support for the Government's proposals for the development of an ambient noise strategy and I am pleased to confirm that we are taking the next steps to develop the strategy. These include: continuing the mapping already underway across England, the establishment of an expert working group to address the effects of noise and to establish cost-effective techniques to take action to improve or preserve noise levels, as appropriate.

A significant number of respondents indicated a need for a more strategic approach to neighbour noise. I agree that there is a need for a separate Neighbour Noise Strategy and as a first steps towards developing this I am pleased to launch a study to examine neighbour noise, both from the point of view of the noise makers and their victims. The research will generate appropriate and realistic options for action both to raise awareness and

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to influence behaviour and, with many of the proposals identified during the consultation, should provide us with a solid basis to also develop a more strategic approach to the control of neighbourhood noise.


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