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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 3 March 2003


Ruddy Duck Control

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): The North American ruddy duck is an introduced non-native species. A native of North America, where it has a secure conservation status, it was introduced to wildfowl collections in the UK in the 1940s, but a small number escaped from captivity and began to breed in the wild. As the UK population of wild ruddy ducks has risen, so has the number of ruddy ducks on the European mainland. The ruddy duck has been proven to hybridise with the globally threatened white-headed duck in Spain. The West European population of white-headed ducks is estimated at around 2,300 birds and hybridisation is recognised as the most significant threat to the species' long-term survival.

In July 2002, my Department published the results of the ruddy duck control trial, copies of which are available in the Library of the House. The report indicates that eradication of ruddy ducks from the United Kingdom was feasible within ten years, and that shooting was the most effective means of control tested in the trial.

Defra sought advice from its statutory scientific advisors and consulted with the devolved administrations on the outcome of the trial, and the next steps to protect the white-headed duck from the threat of hybridisation. It took the views of landowners and non-governmental organisations, and on 27 February I met representatives of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Wildlife Trusts.

On the basis of these discussions the Government agree in principle that eradication of the ruddy duck in United Kingdom is the preferred outcome. The UK holds by far the largest proportion of ruddy ducks in Europe, and without action in the UK, the survival of the white headed duck as a distinct species would be severely compromised. However, in confirming this decision, the Government have also concluded:

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Bermuda: Order in Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien): On 27 February, an Order in Council was made to amend the Constitution of Bermuda. This amendment, which has received widespread political support in Bermuda, will change the system of elections to Bermuda's House of Assembly from 20 dual-seat constituencies to 36 single-seat constituencies, as recommended by the Bermuda Constituency Boundaries Commission in its 2002 report.

The consultation process adopted in deciding upon this amendment has highlighted concerns in Bermuda that there should be a clear and generally acceptable procedure for considering future proposals for constitutional amendment. The Secretary of State wishes to ensure that, subject to the sovereign rights of Her Majesty, the process of considering such proposals is as transparent as possible, and that the citizens and political parties of Bermuda are consulted as widely as possible before changes are made. He has therefore asked the Governor to explore the issue locally to see whether interested parties in Bermuda can come forward with acceptable proposals for procedures to be followed in future, which can then be put to him for consideration. These proposals are to include the means by which the public is consulted over proposed constituency boundary changes when a future Constituency Boundaries Commission is undertaking its work. The Secretary of State understands that the Governor plans to canvass suggestions from individuals, political parties and organisations.


Terrorism (Civil Contingency Planning)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): The Government moved to strengthen arrangements for emergency planning and civil protection immediately after the 2001 general election. In July 2001 a new Civil Contingencies Secretariat (CCS) was created within the Cabinet Office, bringing together the Home Office's former responsibilities for emergency planning with a new capability at the centre of Government to assess and respond to emergencies as they arise. In August 2001 the CCS published a comprehensive review of emergency planning arrangements in England and Wales.

The September 11 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, however, changed our understanding of the terrorist threat.

In the aftermath of those attacks, the UK Government instigated a comprehensive review of the UK's preparedness and contingency plans to deal with terrorist threats. This led to new organisational arrangements with all relevant Departments working together, co-ordinated at the centre with the Home Secretary in overall charge, and to the passing of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security (ATCS) Act 2001.

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Today the House will debate the continuance of Sections 21–23 of the ATCS Act which are measures designed to pre-empt a terrorist attack. This statement, which will be referred to in the debate, deals with the other side of preparedness which is the ability to respond to an incident if it occurs. The statement sets out improvements in contingency planning that have taken place and announces the next steps in improving our resilience, including plans for legislation.

Improvements to contingency planning

Measures already put in place to improve preparedness to deal with terrorist attacks should they occur are:

The Home Office leads on dealing with CBRN threats. The first responders, the emergency services, whose capability to cope with these threats is the key to minimising loss of life, have had major investment in equipment and training:

Ambulance and A&E Services


Fire Service


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Civil Nuclear installations

Protocols and Guidance

National capability

The Government have in place a programme of work to enhance 11 key generic capabilities that will allow us to respond to the most demanding emergencies, however caused. The Civil Contingencies Secretariat manages this programme and drives the progress of Departments involved in delivering each of the capabilities, which are:

Local and regional capability

The local response capability is one of the key building blocks of the UK's resilience. The Government maintain close contact with local responders, including the Local Authorities and the emergency services, through formal and informal channels.

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London resilience

London has lived with the threat of terrorism for over 30 years. Operational responses are well co-ordinated, regularly practised and continually reviewed, Since September 11 2001, additional measures taken include:

Horizon Scanning

We are now better able to anticipate and prepare for the potential impact of terrorist threats through a new capability within the Cabinet Office to identify potential challenges to the smooth operation of Government or the life of the nation. This complements the work of the Joint Intelligence Committee which provides strategic assessments on domestic and overseas terrorist threats.

Organisational arrangements

Clear leads at Ministerial and Department level have been established and central resources provided to plan and coordinate contingency planning for terrorist threats:

The CCS placed a paper in the Library on 23 July 2002 setting out the role of the lead Government Departments in planning for and managing crises. All Departments have a responsibility to plan, prepare, train and exercise for handling major incidents and emergencies in their areas of responsibility. The Devolved Administrations are responsible for elements of emergency planning in their own jurisdictions and are invited to attend meetings of appropriate Cabinet Office committees to ensure co-ordination across the UK.

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We believe this arrangement of central co-ordination, accountable to Ministers, coupled with Departmental responsibility for delivery is the best resilience structure. It engages a wider pool of expertise, avoids the need for a huge new bureaucracy at the centre while at the same time has a clear chain of command.

Information for agencies and the public is available through www.ukresilience.info/ and http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk./

Next steps in improving our resilience

Strengthening Regional resilience

A co-ordinated exercise programme

Planned legislation

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The legislation will enhance the local response by providing clarity and certainty about roles and responsibilities. It will replace existing legislation, which in some cases dates back to the 1920s, with more modern equivalents. The justification for the legislation is the desirability of putting in place for the long term a solid administrative and legal structure within which emergency planning can develop. It is not driven by operational deficiencies in relation to the present counter-terrorist effort.


QinetiQ (Long-term Partnering Agreement)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Dr. Lewis Moonie): I am pleased to announce that, after 12 months negotiations and restructuring work, the MOD has successfully concluded a long term partnering agreement (LTPA) with QinetiQ for the

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delivery of the MOD's Test and Evaluation requirements. MOD customers examined a number of options for the delivery of future test and evaluation services and concluded that a long term partnering agreement with QinetiQ was the approach most likely to maximise value for money and ensure the continuing success of these key capabilities.

The new contract, which will take effect from 1 April 2003, will replace the current short-term Facilities Management Contract, which was put in place at QinetiQ vesting and which is due to expire on 31 March.

The LTPA contract, which is worth up to £5.6 billion to QinetiQ over its 25 year life, will progressively introduce efficiency measures and innovation in order to reduce overall Test and Evaluation costs. The contract, which will be the subject of periodic review at agreed intervals, is expected to deliver savings to MOD of around £700 million (at current prices) over its lifetime.

The LTPA establishes a framework within which the MoD's relationship with its contractor can grow. QinetiQ will be given opportunities to develop further innovation and make proposals to achieve better value for money and, based on performance, there will be opportunities for business growth.