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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 2 December 2003


Autumn Performance Report

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): The Home Office Autumn Performance Report 2003 has been published today by Command of Her Majesty. Copies of the Report are available in the Vote Office and in the Library. The Report is also available on the Home Office website.

The Report sets out the progress the Home Office has achieved towards the key targets set out in the 2002 Spending Review. This includes those targets that the Home Office is solely responsible for delivering and those targets that it owns jointly with other departments such as the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Department's PSA targets were published in the SR2002 White Paper (column 5571) which was presented to Parliament by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 15 July 2002. How progress will be measured, and the success criteria for each target, are set out in the SR2002 Public Service Agreement Technical Notes, published by the Home Office in March 2003 and updated in July 2003.

The Report sets out the latest outturn data against each of the contributory measures from the Technical Note.

The results show: crime is falling; the justice gap is narrowing; asylum is increasingly under control; we have a coherent drug strategy and our correctional services are operating effectively.


Boundary Commission for England

The Minister for Local Government, Regional Governance and Fire (Mr. Nick Raynsford): I have today appointed, for a third term, Mr Michael Lewer QC as a member of the Boundary Commission for England. His appointment is effective until 31 December 2006.


Departmental Expenditure Limit

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Subject to Parliamentary approval of any necessary Supplementary Estimate, the Forestry Commission's DEL will be increased by £1,681,000

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from £82,939,000 to £84,620,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:

Depreciation* -1,070--1,070
*Depreciation, which forms part of resource DEL, is excluded from the total DEL since capital DEL includes capital spending and to include depreciation of those assets would lead to double counting.

The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from the take up of end of year flexibility for the Forestry Commission including £385,000 under the Invest to Save Budget. The change also includes a transfer of £148,000 to the office of the Deputy Prime Minister towards funding of the Pan Government Agreement for the supply of mapping data.

The increase in the capital element of the DEL arises from the take up of end of year flexibility on both the Capital Modernisation Fund and the Invest to Save Budget of £357,000 and £13,000 respectively.

The increases will be charged to the DEL Reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.


Service Children's Education Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): I am today placing a copy of the Service Children's Education (SCE) agency Quinquennial Review Report in the Library of the House. The Review has examined the Agency in detail and concluded that SCE is delivering a good service to parents and children and that, as a core component of military life overseas, the balance of advantage lies with it remaining part of the MOD. Agency status was judged to have delivered benefits and have the scope to continue doing so through the ongoing target-setting regime. The Review identified a number of issues for further study and these will be taken forward by Chief Executive SCE who has the responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the Review's recommendations, most of which are specialist education issues.

Mental Health Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): As part of the Ministry of Defence strategy to modernise and improve Defence mental health services, I can announce today that we have awarded a contract to the Priory Group for the provision of in-patient psychiatric services. This is the first time that we have awarded a mental healthcare contract to an independent service provider, although individual service patients have been referred to the Priory on a case by case basis when their condition was outside the treatment offered at the Duchess of Kent's

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Psychiatric Hospital (DKPH). Service patients can be admitted to selected Priory Group facilities from 8 December. The full transfer of in-patient care from the DKPH to the Priory Group will occur from 1 April 2004. This is in line with my previous statement to the House of 16 October, Official Report, column 324W that the DKPH is expected to close by 31 March 2004 when alternative facilities are in place.

The Priory Group can provide in-patient care locally. The awarding of this contract should be seen as part of our wider strategy to improve healthcare for Service patients by re-configuring mental health services to be community focused with the emphasis on local provision, as recommended in the Medical Quinquennial Review. It also permits Defence Medical Service mental health staff to work within their local Service community, which is more closely aligned with their operational role.


Winter Supplementary Estimate

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): Subject to Parliamentary approval of any necessary Supplementary Estimate, the Privy Council Office DEL will be increased by £501,000 from £3,523,000 to £4,024,000 and the gross administration costs limit will be increased by £501,000 from £3,461,000 to £3,962,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources is as set out in the following table:


The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from Machinery of Government change which transferred the post of the Leader of the House of Lords from the Cabinet Office to the Privy Council Office.


FCO Strategy White Paper: UK International Priorities

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I am today laying before Parliament Government White Paper Command 6052, "UK International Priorities: A Strategy for the FCO".

This Strategy Paper sets priorities for UK international policy over the next five to 10 years. These have been discussed and agreed between Departments and endorsed by the Prime Minister. The paper also describes in greater detail how the FCO intends to work, with others and through its network of over 200 diplomatic posts abroad, to help the Government meet these aims, This is the first time that the FCO has published a document of this sort.

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This is a time of significant change in international relations. Domestic and international policy are becoming ever more intertwined as a result of globalisation, travel and technological advance. As a consequence, what happens abroad is of more immediate concern to all of us. The FCO will need to work systematically with other Government Departments and with people outside Government including Parliamentarians, businesses, Trade Unions, NGOs and the media.

The issues are also changing. We have made great progress since the end of the cold war in achieving stability and democracy in Europe. But 11 September 2001 underlined in the starkest way that we needed to pay close attention to new problems and threats elsewhere in the world, which affect the security and prosperity of the UK and other countries. That message was most recently reinforced by the tragic events in Istanbul on 15 and 20 November 2003.

The FCO Strategy analyses the ways in which we expect the world to change in the years ahead. I shall welcome public debate of this analysis. It concludes, among other things, that our foreign policy should focus on a broad agenda of issues with global impact: they include countering terrorism and weapons proliferation, acting to prevent state failure and climate change, and dealing effectively with poverty, corruption and conflict.

We shall need to build a wider, shared international understanding of how best to deal with these problems. They affect us all. We cannot afford to stand back from them. The UK must remain diplomatically active and engaged, and be able to exert global influence through diplomacy, advice, persuasion, aid and other economic assistance—and if necessary military force.

The eight international strategic policy priorities we have identified for the UK are:

No country can address these issues alone. We shall need strong international institutions, and a wide network of partnerships, to achieve effective, collective action.

We will work through the UN, the EU, the G8, NATO, the Commonwealth and other groups. We shall also aim to build stronger strategic partnerships with Russia, China, Japan and India, bilaterally and through the EU. One of our top priorities will be to engage constructively with Islamic countries.

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Our most significant partnerships will be within the EU and with the United States. We will work to build UK influence in the EU, which will progressively become more important for the delivery of a wide range of UK domestic and international policy priorities. We will also work to make the EU a stronger and more capable international actor.

As the world's only superpower the US will continue to set much of the international agenda. Our close alliance will remain indispensable for our security. We will use this vital relationship to serve and protect UK interests.

Above all, a strong partnership between Europe and the United States remains essential for the UK's and the world's security and prosperity. This partnership has come under strain as a result of different approaches to some areas of domestic and international policy and the erosion of a clearly understood sense of common purpose. The strategy sets the objective of working to build commitment to partnership on both sides of the Atlantic.

The public services, which the FCO provides to UK citizens abroad are an increasingly important part of our work. Through our consular services we help UK citizens abroad, issue passports and offer travel advice. Our visa services, shared with the Home Office, issue visas to people visiting the UK. Through UK Trade and Investment, shared with DTI, the FCO helps UK companies to do business abroad and attracts

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investment to the UK. I am determined to see consistent, high standards of public service across in all these areas.

To achieve all this, we need to maintain a highly effective diplomatic service, I pay tribute to the professionalism, dedication and expertise of FCO staff, and the contribution they make all around the world—sometimes, as we have seen, in dangerous circumstances.

The strategy is a basis for future decisions on FCO organisation and management. The FCO's network of diplomatic posts is a key asset for the nation, through which we help the Government pursue a wide range of policy priorities and build UK influence around the world. Maintaining a well targeted, adequately resourced and secure diplomatic network is the FCO's highest management priority for the years ahead.

We have also established a departmental change programme, derived from the strategy, which sets out the actions we intend to take to focus our resources on high priorities, become more flexible and responsive, improve the diversity of our people, skills and experience, and target all our activity to meet the needs of our customers—across Government and UK public.

The purpose of this strategy therefore is to clarify our priorities so we can concentrate our efforts where they are most needed and respond flexibly to unexpected events. I shall welcome parliamentary and public debate on the document. We will review it every two years inviting external contributions.