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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 10 December 2003

NORTHERN IRELAND

Police Oversight Commissioner

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): I have today laid before this House a copy of the Oversight Commissioner's third statutory report for the year 2003 which is being published today, in accordance with Section 68(4)(a) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

I announced by way of a press release issued on 13 February 2003 the extension of the life of the office of the Police Oversight Commission for two years to 31 May 2005.

I also announced at the same time Tom Constantine's agreement to extend his original three year commitment as Oversight Commissioner until December 2003. Mr Constantine will be succeeded in the New Year by present Chief of Staff Al Hutchinson.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay a sincere tribute to Tom Constantine, particularly his tremendous commitment and professionalism during his time as Oversight Commissioner.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Libyan Visa Policy

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): Changes in the way visas are issued to Libyan nationals came into effect on 1 December 2003. Libyan nationals coming to the UK in any capacity other than for marriage were previously granted a maximum of six months leave to enter. This restriction has now been lifted. There will no longer be a distinction between Libyan nationals and the nationals of other countries who require a visa to come here.

Restrictions on visas were the last of a range of immigration measures taken in relation to Libya to remain in force. They have been lifted as a reflection of the improved bilateral relationship between the United Kingdom and Libya, which has seen the recent agreement on Lockerbie. The Government continue to support the Metropolitan Police in seeking Libyan assistance with their investigation into the murder of WPC Fletcher.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Building Regulations (Sound Insulation Testing)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Phil Hope): I have today laid an amendment to the building regulations deferring introduction of pre-completion testing of the sound

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insulation between new houses and flats to 1 July 2004. This will allow more time for consideration of the results of a consultation into the construction industry's proposals for the robust standard details alternative to testing.

In the interim, consumers will remain protected by new standards introduced in July this year, which will continue to be enforced by building control bodies.

Noise is one of the issues that people really care about. We remain committed to improving quality of life and will continue to work with industry to build better, safer and more environmentally friendly homes.

The revised Part E (resistance to the passage of sound) of the building regulations came into force on 1 July 2003 and introduced requirements for pre-completion testing of sound insulation between dwellings. For dwellings created by conversion work and new or converted accommodation that is not self-contained, the requirements for testing came into force on 1 July 2003. For new houses and flats it was due to come into force on 1 January 2004.

This later date was to give the House Builders Federation (HBF) time to develop robust standard details—constructions that perform consistently well and so do not need regular testing. The HBF have now done this, and their proposals were subjected to a public consultation which ended on 10 November 2003.

I will also be taking advice from the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, and will then decide whether or not to amend the building regulations and approved inspectors regulations to allow robust standard details to be used as an alternative to testing.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Fishing Vessels (Satellite Monitoring)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): In December 2002 the Council of Ministers decided that satellite monitoring for Community fishing vessels over 24 metres should be extended, first to vessels over 18 metres from 1 January 2004 and then to vessels over 15 metres from 1 January 2005. Detailed rules subsequently adopted by the European Commission in October 2003 require Member States to take measures to ensure that satellite tracking devices fitted to fishing vessels do not permit the input or output of false positions and are not capable of being over-ridden.

To secure the maximum enforcement benefit from vessel monitoring systems it has been decided that tracking devices fitted to UK fishing vessels should be fully "tamper proof" and dedicated to position reporting.

Since such terminals may not be used by vessel owners or masters for business purposes, and subject to Parliamentary approval, DEFRA has decided to meet the costs of fitting tamper proof terminals to those UK registered vessels for which it is the licensing authority. The arrangements will be time limited. They will apply to existing vessels and those that join the fleet before 31 December 2004. It is expected that around 280 vessels will be equipped with tamper proof terminals by the end of 2004 at an overall cost of less than £1 million.

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CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

Draft Single European Currency (Referendum) Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): I have today published, as Cm 6081, a draft Single European Currency (Referendum) Bill. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave a commitment to Parliament in June 2003 that a draft Bill would be published later this year.

This draft Bill sets out the Government's thinking on the terms on which any referendum on the European single currency would be held, subject to the five economic tests being met. This shows the Government's commitment to openness and transparency. Both the question and who would be able to vote in any referendum, if the five economic tests had been met, are set out in the draft Bill.

The Government will report on progress of its reform agenda in the Budget next year. The Government can then consider the extent of progress and determine whether on the basis of it the Government makes a further Treasury assessment of the five tests, which—if positive next year—would allow it at that time to put the issue before the electorate in a referendum.

DEFENCE

War Pensions Uprating

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): The rates of War Pensions and Allowances are uprated annually in April, based on the Retail Prices Index (RPI) in the previous September. The RPI at September 2003 was 2.8 per cent. and this is the amount by which War Pensions and Allowances will be increased.

The uprating of War Pensions and Allowances for 2004 will take place from the week beginning 12 April 2004.

The new rates are shown in the following table.

War Pensions Rates

(Weekly rates unless otherwise shown)Rates 2003£ Rates 2004£
WAR PENSIONS
Disablement Pension (100% rates)
Officer (£ per annum)6,465.006,648.00
Other ranks123.90127.40
Age allowances
40%-50%8.30 8.55
Over 50% but not over 70% 12.7513.10
Over 70% but not over 90%18.1518.65
Over 90%25.5026.20
Disablement gratuity
Specified minor injury (min.)788.00810.00
Specified minor injury (max.)5,890.006,055.00
Unspecified minor injury (min.)326.00335.00
Unspecified minor injury (max.)7,660.007,874.00
Unemployability allowance
Personal76.5578.70
Adult dependency increase43.1544.35
Increase for first child10.0010.30
Increase for subsequent children11.7512.10
Invalidity allowance
Higher rate15.15 15.55
Middle rate9.7010.00
Lower rate4.855.00
Constant attendance allowance
Exceptional rate93.6096.20
Intermediate rate70.2072.15
Full day rate46.8048.10
Part-day rate23.4024.05
Comforts allowance
Higher rate20.0020.60
Lower rate10.00 10.30
Mobility supplement44.6045.85
Allowance for lowered standard of Occupation (maximum)46.7248.04
Therapeutic earnings limit3,510.003,744.00
Exceptionally severe disablement allowance46.8048.10
Severe disablement occupational allowance23.4024.05
Clothing allowance (£ per annum)160.00164.00
Education allowance (£ per annum) (max)120.00120.00
War widow(er)s' pension (further details in schedule WWP)
Widow(er)s—private93.8596.50
Widow(er)s' (other ranks)93.8596.50
Widow(er)—Officer (£ pa max)5,786.005,948.00
Childless widow(er)s' u-40 (other ranks)22.5023.13
Childless widow(er)s' u-40 (Officer £ pa max)   5,786.005,948.00
Supplementary Pension60.9762.68
Age allowance
(a) age 65 to 6910.7511.05
(b) age 70 to 7920.5521.15
(c) age 80 and over 30.55 31.40
Children's allowance
Increase for first child14.8015.20
Increase for subsequent children16.5016.95
Orphan's pension
Increase for first child16.8017.25
Increase for subsequent children 18.4518.95
Unmarried dependant living as spouse (max) 91.5094.15
Rent allowance (maximum)35.4036.40
Adult orphan's pension (maximum)72.1574.15

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