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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 27 January 2003


Aerodromes and Navigation Facilities

The Minister for Transport (Mr. John Spellar): In order to update the longstanding land use planning arrangements for safeguarding aerodromes, technical sites and military explosives storage areas the existing Circular and Direction to local planning authorities have been revised. This follows the announcement on 27 July 2000, Official Report, columns 775–776W, by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) that we would be consulting local government and others concerned about the revision of the consultation process which local planning authorities are required to carry out on development proposals which may have consequences for the safe operation of certain aerodromes and navigation facilities. A public consultation took place during 2001 and discussions with local planning authority and airport representatives continued into last year. We are grateful for their assistance in refining our proposals.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Department for Transport and the National Assembly for Wales are today publishing the revised version of the

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Safeguarding Circular, for application in England and Wales. It incorporates a revised Direction to local planning authorities made by my right hon. Friend the First Secretary of State and the Welsh Minister for the Environment. The main change which the Direction makes is that where consultation is required the local planning authority must consult the aerodrome operator rather than the Civil Aviation Authority, with the Authority becoming involved only if the local planning authority does not wish to follow the aerodrome operator's advice. In addition, the Circular describes more fully than previously the importance of safeguarding and the hazards to aviation which can arise from particular types of development. The Direction comes into force on 10 February and the new Circular will replace DOE Circular 2/92 (Welsh Office Circular 5/92) on the same day.


Gulf Veterans

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): Figures for Gulf veterans' mortality from 1 April 1991 to 30 June 2002 were published on 23 July 2002, Official Report, columns 909–10W in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Gillian Merron). The latest data, as at 31 December 2002, are shown in Table 1 below. As before, the data for Gulf veterans are compared with that of a control group, known as the Era cohort, which is made up of Armed Forces personnel of a similar age, gender, Service and rank who were not deployed. Table 2 provides a detailed breakdown of deaths from cancer (malignant neoplasm) by anatomical site.

Table 1 Deaths to UK gulf veterans (Note: 1) 1 April 1991–31 December 2002 Causes (coded to ICD-9) (Note: 2)

ICD ChapterCause of deathGulfEra 3 >Mortality Rate Ratio 4
All deaths5715740.99
All cause coded deaths5635660.99
I–"VIDisease-related causes2252760.81
IInfectious and parasitic diseases421.99
IIIEndocrine and immune disorders140.25
VMental disorders12150.80
VIDiseases of the nervous system and sense organs (Note 5)1091.11
VIIDiseases of the circulatory system751020.73
VIIIDiseases of the respiratory system1061.66
I"Diseases of the digestive system14180.77
IV, "–"VIAll other disease-related causes (Note 6)2110.18
E"VIIExternal causes of injury and poisoning3382901.16
Railway accidents413.98
Motor vehicle accidents118971.21
Water transport accidents514.97
Air and space accidents25191.31
Other vehicle accidents010.00
Accidental poisoning12140.85
Accidental falls871.14
Accidents due to fire/flames020.00
Accidents due to natural environmental factors221.00
Accidents to submersion/suffocation/foreign bodies1772.42
Other accidents31291.06
Late effects of accident/injury020.00
Suicide and injury undetermined whether accidental1071001.07
Injury resulting from the operations of war340.75
Other deaths for which coded cause data are not yet available54
Overseas deaths for which cause data are not available34


1. Service and Ex-Service personnel only.

2. World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases 9th revision 1977.

3. The Era group comprises 53,143 personnel, randomly sampled from all UK Armed Forces personnel in service on 1 January 1991 and who did not deploy to the Gulf. This group is matched to the 53,409 Gulf veterans to reflect the socio-demographic and military composition of the Gulf cohort in terms of age, gender, Service (Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force), officer/other rank status, regular/reservist status, and a proxy measure for fitness.

4. Mortality rate ratios differ marginally from the crude deaths ratio owing to some small differences between the Gulf and Era cohorts.

5. These figures include 4 deaths from Motor Neurone Disease amongst the Gulf corhort and 3 in the Era group.

6. Includes cases with insufficient information on the death certificate to provide a known cause of death.

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Table 2 Deaths due to neoplasms among UK Gulf veterans: 1 April 1991–31 December 2002 (Major anatomical sites (coded to ICD-9)(1)

IDC 9SiteGulfEra
140–239All neoplasms97109
140–149Malignant neoplasm of lip, oral cavity Pharynx34
150–159Malignant neoplasm of digestive organs and peritoneum2125
160–165Malignant neoplasm of respiratory and intrathoracic organs1524
170–175Malignant nepolasm of bone,
170–176connective tissue, skin and breast1410
179–189Malignant neoplasm of genitourinary organs26
190–199Malignant neoplasm of other and unspecified site2027
200–208Malignant nepolasm of lymphatic and haematopoietic tissue1911
239Unspecified nature32

(1)World Health Organisation's International Classification of Diseases 9th revision, Geneva, 1977.


Magistrates Courts

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Yvette Cooper): The Government have received the independent report by PA Consulting on the extended court sitting hours pilots that took place last year in magistrates courts in London and Manchester between May and September. Ministers are very grateful for the hard and positive work put in by all the staff involved in the pilots from across the CIS agencies, as well as the judiciary—both magistrates and District Judges.

Lord Justice Auld recommended in his review of the criminal courts that there be a "thorough examination of the need for and the costs/benefits of extending court working hours . . . .". The sitting hours conventionally used in magistrates courts have remained essentially unchanged and set on a traditional basis for many years. The Government, therefore, decided to pilot alternative working hours in magistrates courts in order to test possible improvements on the courts' efficiency and effectiveness in the interests of the whole criminal justice system.

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Three distinct pilots were established with the local criminal justice agencies to test out variations of extended court sitting hours. The three aspects of extended hours that were tested specifically were:

In London Bow Street magistrates court: the extended hours courts ran on Friday and Saturday night from 6pm to midnight to deal with first appearances of defendants charged in Westminster earlier in the day.

In Manchester City magistrates court two schemes ran:

The five main offence types heard in London were theft, failure to surrender, begging, drunk and disorderly and possession of drugs. While in Manchester in the early remand courts the five main offence types were theft, breach of the peace, driving without insurance, failure to surrender, and breach of bail. In the Manchester evening court, the large majority of cases were motoring offences.

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During the pilots, 368 defendants appeared in Bow Street magistrates court London, 534 in Manchester magistrates court in the early morning courts and 88 in the evening trial court. It is worth noting that all defendants appearing before the courts had to be "fit to be charged" and not under the "influence" or otherwise incapable.

PA Consulting has produced a full evaluation report. The report's conclusion has been that whilst there has been some reduction in delays and some qualitative improvements for victims and witnesses, the extended court sitting hours piloted in magistrates courts proved to be disproportionately expensive and were not cost effective especially given the fact that there are only limited capacity pressures facing the magistrates courts during normal sitting hours

The findings indicated that the early morning sittings did assist the handling of cases and the earlier hearings of overnight remand cases had a beneficial effect on those cases already listed for hearing that day. In contrast there was less demand for the late night trials option, where the relatively low volume of cases led to disproportionate additional costs.

PA Consulting concluded that there were insufficient benefits in terms of increased throughput, reduced delay, improved attrition or overall quality of justice to justify the higher costs of extending court hours under current capacity conditions. However, they noted that useful lessons could be learnt from the pilots in dealing with increased pressures on court capacity due to increased workloads which might arise in the future, from such initiatives as street crime, increased numbers of police officers.

The cost of the pilots reflected the fact that most agencies in the criminal justice system currently have staff terms and conditions and working arrangements based on a 'normal' working day, except the police and prisons. Extending court business into the evening or weekends is more expensive due to the need to recompense staff for working unsociable hours and the additional costs of providing more staff to cover evening courts. The high fixed costs of secure transport and custody of prisoners also contributed significantly to the costs of the pilots.

Preliminary costings for the three pilots were in the order of £5.4m. In fact, partly as a result of reducing the length of the pilots to four months without prejudicing their evaluation, the final total cost was £2.04m, including national project costs. The additional direct cost of handling each defendant was: £3,257 in London; £589 for Manchester morning courts and £1,322 for Manchester evening trials. In particular, the relatively

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low number of cases in London affected that particular pilot's value for money, especially as this cost does not include the use of prisons for remanded defendants but the temporary, and certainly not long-term alternative, of police cells. The Manchester morning courts were the least costly due to the higher volumes involved, but the pilots identified important lessons about the actual mechanics of how such courts should be run.

The inter-agency pilots have greatly assisted the working relationships in two of the country's largest metropolitan areas and a significant number of cases have been dealt with, despite the unpredictable nature of the number of cases that would actually occur during the pilots. Early operational problems, such as prisoner delivery were largely resolved quickly.

This exercise has meant that the Government have learned valuable lessons that can be shared with all the local criminal justice agencies throughout the country and improvements made to existing arrangements, as well as establishing the ground-work for any future changes. The consultants were also charged to consider other alternatives and these have been taken into account in the Report and its recommendations. The report's findings will be circulated to criminal justice boards, magistrates courts committees and Crown courts so that where capacity problems arise any new arrangements being considered can take into account the lessons learned from this pilot exercise. Manchester magistrates courts committee has decided on the basis of the experience of the pilot to extend the use of early morning sessions at Trafford magistrates court to include early morning fines courts.

The report's recommendations have been agreed, which are being implemented, are set out below:

The Government will continue to explore ways to improve and update the working practices of the courts.