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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 16 December 2003


Metropolitan Police Fund

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears): I have today placed in the Libraries of both Houses copies of the Metropolitan Police Fund Accounts for 1998–99 and 1999–2000.


Radio Interference

The Minister for Energy, E-Commerce and Postal Services (Mr. Stephen Timms): My right hon. Friend, now the Secretary of State, announced on 9 November 2000, Official Report, columns 327–28, various measures to deal with interference from ADSL and similar systems, including interference regulations based on a standard, MPT 1570, to be implemented by regulations in due course. Since then, there has been only one reported and confirmed case of interference to medium wave broadcast reception and none to any other radio service. In view of this, I believe it would now be disproportionate to give statutory force to the standard. The operators of ADSL have made a voluntary commitment to take all reasonable steps to resolve any interference problems that do arise and I believe that is the pragmatic way forward for the time being. I expect that Ofcom, when it assumes responsibility for spectrum management matters on 29 December, will keep this matter under review.

The UK continues to contribute to work in Europe towards producing a harmonised approach to interference.


Regulatory Impact Assessments

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Alexander): An updated measurement of the level of compliance with the regulatory impact assessment process is today being placed on the website of the Cabinet Office regulatory impact unit. An exercise in November 2003 to establish a snapshot of the level of compliance provided a figure of 100 per cent. We will keep this under regular review.


Prison Service

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Jane Kennedy): On 8 September 2003, the Secretary of State formally accepted the recommendations of the Steele

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Review of Safety at Maghaberry Prison. The review recommended that prisoners with paramilitary affiliations should be accommodated separately from each other, and from the rest of the prison population, on a voluntary basis.

This major unforeseen change makes it now necessary to amend the Northern Ireland Prison Service Corporate and Business Plan 2003–06 to reflect the changing circumstances and priorities within the Service.

I have approved the following amendments to the Corporate and Business Plan.

The planning assumptions will now include reference to the requirement to hold some prisoners with paramilitary affiliations in separated conditions.

Amendments will also be made to reflect the extent to which the Service contributes generally to the NIO's objectives and PSA targets.

Three of the Service's twelve Key Targets for 2003–04 are adjusted as follows:


Council of Europe and Western European Union

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): The United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union is as follows: Tony Lloyd MP (Leader)

Full RepresentativesSubstitute Representatives
Mr David Atkinson MPMr Malcolm Bruce MPSir Sydney Chapman MPMr Tom Cox MPRight hon. Terry Davis MPMr Bill Etherington MPMr Paul Flynn MPLord JuddBaroness Knight of CollingtreeChristine McCafferty MPMr Kevin McNamara MPMr Jim Marshall MPMr Edward O'Hara MPLord Russell-JohnstonSir Teddy Taylor MPMr John Wilkinson MPMr Jimmy Wray MP Mr Tony Banks MPBaroness BillinghamMr Peter Bottomley MPLord BurlisonRight hon. George Foulkes MPMs Jane Griffiths MPMr Michael Hancock CBE MPBaroness HooperRight hon. Lord KilclooneyMr Khalid Mahmood MPMr Humfrey Malins CBE MPMr David Marshall MPMr Alan Meale MPMr Gordon Prentice MPMiss Geraldine Smith MPLord TomlinsonDr Rudolf Vis MPMr Robert Walter MP

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Public Service Pensions

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Paul Boateng): Legislation governing public service pensions requires public service pensions to be increased annually by the same percentage as state earnings related pensions (additional pensions). My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions announced on 11 December 2003, Official Report, columns 108–118WS, that benefits such as additional pensions will be increased by 2.8 per cent. in line with the annual increase in the Retail Prices Index up to September 2003. Public service pensions will therefore be increased by 2.8 per cent. from 12 April 2004, except those which have been in payment for less than a year, which will receive a pro-rata increase.


Longitudinal Study

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Andrew Smith): From January 2004, the Work and Pensions longitudinal study will link benefit and programme information held by the DWP on its customers, with employment records from the Inland Revenue.

This follows the Employment Act 2002 which introduced new data sharing provisions. This opened the way for the DWP to receive more data on employment from Inland Revenue and use the information for more purposes. The DWP and Inland Revenue have been working together to enable this data sharing to take place and to develop safeguards for the initiative.

The Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study will be used to perform a range of statistical and research analyses, as well as being used for some limited operational purposes, to give the Department further opportunities to evaluate the effectiveness of its businesses. It will, for example:

The DWP have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that the Work and Pensions longitudinal study is used appropriately. We have, therefore, developed a set of safeguards around access rights, system monitoring, storage/retention of the information and vetting new uses. Information on this and a full range of the study's uses, has been placed in the Library and on the DWP website at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/longitudinal—study/ic—longitudinal—study.asp

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Biological Weapons Convention

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): Members will wish to be aware of the outcome of the recent discussions in Geneva on national measures to reinforce the implementation of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). On the concluding day of the meeting of States Parties to the BWC, which took place from 10–14 November, there was agreement by consensus on a politically binding final document which enjoins all States Parties to the following actions:

There was also agreement that these measures are essential effort in facilitating more effective implementation and enforcement of the Convention, as well as providing the basis for an assessment of progress at the 2006 Review Conference.

As with the earlier meeting of BWC Experts in August, which had prepared the way for political decision-making, there was an impressive level of participation. Some 92 States Parties were represented and a total of 32 national statements were delivered, including one notably from Iraq which for the first time showed an open and positive engagement with its obligations under the Convention.

The United Kingdom was grateful to the Chair, Ambassador Toth of Hungary, for the efforts he made to achieve consensus on a Final Document that reflects the commonality of views and approaches that were demonstrated throughout. The commitment to assess progress at the Sixth Review Conference in 2006 on the extent to which States Parties have put in place the necessary legislation is, in our view, particularly important.

The outcome of the November meeting represents a very positive start to the work programme that lies ahead of us. Success was particularly important this year, as it is to be hoped that a precedent has now been set for agreement on effective action to emerge from the further meetings under the Biological Weapons Convention, scheduled to take place in 2004 and 2005.

The United Kingdom believes that the success of the meetings in 2003 has also helped to prove to the wider arms control community that this new process can be made to work. It has delivered a shared international analysis and a readiness to adopt practical measures. Most importantly, a co-operative spirit continued to prevail throughout the discussions in Geneva, which also augurs well for the future.

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South Africa will chair the meetings next year on suspicious outbreaks of disease and the need for improved international surveillance. The UK takes over in 2005 with the task of examining a possible Code of Conduct for Scientists. Work has already begun on our preparations for both of these meetings. I will keep the House informed of developments and outcomes in 2004.

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