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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 8 January 2003


Fixed Odds Betting Machines

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The Government have noted with concern the increasing installation in licensed betting offices of machines, described as fixed odds betting machines, which enable customers to play virtual casino games for prizes up to #50,000.

The present law allows only two gaming machines in any betting office, offering maximum prizes of #25. Under the Government's proposals for reform of the laws on gambling in Great Britain, published in XA safe bet for success" (Cm 5397), betting offices would be able to install up to four gaming machines with a maximum prize of #500. Cm 5397 also noted the appearance of betting machines, pointing out that they have many of the characteristics which justify controls over gaming machines.

The Government understand that the Gaming Board for Great Britain and the Association of British Bookmakers have agreed to the bringing of a test case to clarify the status of fixed odds betting machines under the existing law. While it would not be appropriate to comment on the merits or possible outcome of such legal proceedings, we welcome any action which will bring certainty to this issue so far as the present law is concerned.

In order to make the position on future legislation clear for interested parties, I wish to confirm that the statement set out in XA safe bet for success" remains the Government's current policy. Therefore, our current plan is to introduce new legislation which will be drafted in such a way that those betting machines which in reality involve gaming will be brought within the relevant controls for gaming machines. We take the view that the uncontrolled proliferation of high-prize machine gaming on the high street risks seriously increasing problem gambling.


Service Museums

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): A business process review of the six principal service personnel museums is to be carried out by the Ministry of Defence. These organisations have non-departmental public bodies designation and receive Grants in Aid from the MOD. They are the Royal Naval Museum, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the Royal Marines Museum, the National Army Museum

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and the Royal Air Force Museum. The previous review termed a Quinquennial review was completed in March 1997.

Preliminary work has defined the scope of the study. The second phase will begin shortly and is expected to be completed within six months. The aim of the review is to examine the function, role, operation, funding and organisation of the museums, seek to identify key objectives and performance and to determine whether their current status is most appropriate to future needs.

The review team will consult with a range of stakeholders during the course of the review including the museum directors, staff and trustees, MOD and single service sponsors, TUs, local government, other government Departments and other museums. The Ministry of Defence is interested also to hear the views of other organisations or individuals who would like to make a contribution to the review. Those wishing to do so should send their contributions by 28 February 2003 to:


The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am pleased to inform the House that the contract for the Meteor air-to-air missile for the RAFs Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft was placed with MBDA on 23 December 2002. This followed the signature of the Meteor MOU by Germany, the last of the six partner nations (France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK) to sign, which permitted the UK, as lead nation, to sign the contract with MBDA.

Meteor is a key element of the Government's commitment to provide the best possible equipment for the Armed Forces. It will ensure Typhoon has the capability to combat predicted air-to-air threats thereby meeting our requirement to maintain air superiority well into the future.

This is extremely good news for British and European industry, sustaining high quality jobs in new technology and in system and software design. Furthermore, it puts MBDA at the forefront of a strengthened European missile defence industry and enhances export prospects for Typhoon.

When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced on 16 May 2000, Official Report, columns 149–51 the decision to select Meteor as the beyond visual range air-to-air missile to arm Typhoon, he agreed to publish the details of the breakpoints and

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determination of when theseassessments will be made, once the Memorandum of Understanding was established. Now that this has been achieved, I can confirm that the contract includes four breakpoints as follows:

The process for the independent assessment of the achievement of the milestones, and for securing partner nation agreement that they have been either achieved or failed, is set out in the MOU, copies of which will shortly be placed in the Library of the House. If MBDA fail to achieve any of the milestones, partner nations will be able to terminate the contract and recover all monies paid.


Commons Commissioners

The Minister for Rural Affairs (Alun Michael): The Department is undertaking a financial management and policy review of the Commons Commissioners.

The Commissioners are an independent tribunal, sponsored jointly by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government. They were established under the provisions of the Commons Registration Act 1965 to deal with disputed registrations of common land.

The review will comprise an investigation of the functions carried out by the Commissioners, whether these functions still need to be undertaken and, if so, whether they should continue to be carried out by the Commissioners or whether another body in the public, private or voluntary sector could undertake the work.

If it is considered that the Commissioners should be retained the review will consider issues such as cost effectiveness, staffing, finance and their relationship with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Lord Chancellor's Department. The full terms of reference are:

Stage 1.

To consider whether there is a continuing need for the functions carried out by the Commons Commissioners and, if so, whether the Commissioners provide the best means of doing so or whether the work could more effectively be carried out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) or another body in the public, voluntary or private sectors.

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Stage 2.

If the conclusion from Stage 1 is that the Commissioners should be retained, the review will then look at all aspects of their financial management, accountability and relationship with Defra, WAG and the Lord Chancellor's Department. The review will consider and make recommendations on:

The review will also consider and take account of the work of related reviews, such as the Leggatt review of tribunals and the policy and legislative review of common land being undertaken by Defra and WAG.

The review will be undertaken in accordance with Cabinet Office guidelines, and we expect it to be completed in April 2003.


Immigration Control

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): The Government are firmly committed to maintaining effective immigration controls and ensuring that genuine passengers are able to pass through our ports with the least possible delay.

For some years the number of Jamaican passengers being refused entry on arrival in the United Kingdom has been increasing, nearly 3,500 or 6 per cent of arrivals last year. The number of Jamaicans who abscond having been given temporary admission is also unacceptably high, more than 150 a month during the first half of this year. These problems create enormous pressures for the Immigration Service but also lead to unacceptable delays and inconvenience for the great majority of genuine travellers from Jamaica. The situation can best be demonstrated by looking at the period leading up to Christmas. During the six weeks to 17 December 2002, 1,233 Jamaican nationals were refused entry at the UK's 12 busiest ports. This represented nearly 20 per cent. of all refusals at those ports during that period.

The only effective way of easing these problems is to ensure that Jamaican passengers have demonstrated that they qualify to enter the United Kingdom before they embark for this country. In the circumstances I have decided to impose a visa regime on all Jamaican nationals wishing to visit the United Kingdom.

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I would want to provide reassurance that the presence of a visa regime should not be a bar to those Jamaican nationals who genuinely wish to visit the United Kingdom. The rules under which decisions are made are the same whether that decision is made on arrival or before. This visa regime simply allows officials to consider the application before the passenger embarks for the United Kingdom. Providing greater certainty that a person has satisfied the Immigration Rules will also smooth the passage of genuine visitors through the immigration controls, giving advantage to all concerned.

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