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Yarl's Wood

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): On 8 December, the Daily Mirror published allegations about the management of Yarl's Wood removal centre including allegations that staff employed by Global Solutions Limited (GSL) at the centre had made racially derogatory remarks about detainees.

I take these allegations very seriously. It is of the utmost importance that all staff at immigration removal centres should carry out their duties professionally and sensitively.

GSL have mounted an internal investigation of the allegations by a senior manager, and I have asked for a report of the outcome of that investigation. In addition, the issues raised are such that I have concluded that it would be right to have a separate independent investigation, to establish whether there is any truth in the allegations and to assess the implications for the management of Yarl's Wood. Stephen Shaw, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, who is already inquiring into the events at Yarl's Wood on 14/15 February 2002, has agreed to undertake such an investigation, to report to me through the Director General of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. I have asked Mr Shaw to complete this investigation as early as possible in the New Year.

Ian Huntley

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): Ian Huntley has been found guilty of the horrific murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells. Maxine Carr has been found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

No one can imagine the pain which the children's families must have endured. I hope they will find some comfort in the murderer's conviction.

I have concerns, however, about the way in which the police handled intelligence about Huntley's past and about the vetting process when he took employment in a local school. I am determined, speedily, to get to the bottom of this.

I have asked Sir Michael Bichard, Rector of The London Institute and a former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and Employment, to lead an independent inquiry with the following terms of reference:

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Sir Michael shares with me the view that what is needed here is an independent inquiry which gets quickly to the issues without putting the families and other parties through the stress which something long and drawn out could entail. He will expect full cooperation from all the parties. If he reports to me that this is unforthcoming I will not hesitate to use powers under section 49 of the Police Act 1996 which will allow the inquiry to summon and question witnesses.

Additionally I have asked Sir Keith Povey, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to look at an inquiry that the Metropolitan Police conducted into the police investigation and then to work with Cambridgeshire constabulary to implement the recommendations made. I will also want him to look at any lessons that could be learned by other forces facing a similar investigation.

I will consider what further action may be appropriate when I have all the answers to the questions I have asked.

Also my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills has informed me that the North East Lincolnshire Area Child Protection Committee will be commissioning a serious case review under the Government's guidance "Working Together to Safeguard Children".

The aim of such a review would be to:

I would hope that the Bichard Inquiry and the serious case review would together address the foil range of issues around safeguarding and protecting children that have arisen from this case.


Overseas Territories Consultative Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell): The fifth annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council, held in London on 8–10 December, provided an opportunity to review, with representatives of the UK overseas territories, progress in implementing the commitments made in the 1999 White Paper, "Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the overseas territories" (Cm 4264).

Several overseas territory representatives argued, in the context of constitutional reviews currently under way, for a greater devolution of responsibility and reduction in the powers of governors, in some cases amounting to full internal self-government and total abolition of the UK Government's reserved powers. Territory representatives also sought clarification of their rights of self-determination and free association under the terms of the United Nations General Assembly resolution 1541 of 1960.

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I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs emphasised that the security and good governance of the overseas territories remains a key foreign policy objective for the UK Government, as indicated in the White Paper "UK International Priorities: A Strategy for the FCO" Cm 6052, published on 2 December. Territories have the right to seek independence, where this is an option, but, whilst the link with the United Kingdom remains, the UK Government will have to retain sufficient powers to protect its overall responsibility for ensuring good governance and compliance with international obligations and to minimise its contingent liabilities arising from its relationship with the territories. The UK Government consider it important to protect key values, particularly the independence of the judiciary, the political impartiality and integrity of the public service, and sound financial management in the territories. Governors have a key role to play in this.


World Trade Organisation General Council

The Minister for Trade and Investment (Mr. Mike O'Brien): At the Fifth World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference in Cancun (10–14 September 2003), WTO Members agreed to discuss issues further on the 15 December in Geneva.

Since Cancun, all WTO members have reiterated their commitment to a successful conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda but it has not been possible for WTO members to bridge their differences. At the meeting in Geneva on 15 December officials from WTO Members agreed to further negotiations in the new year to discuss how to proceed with the Doha Development Agenda.

This Government remain fully committed to securing a successful conclusion to the Doha Development Agenda. We will continue to work with our EU partners, the European Commission, and others, taking particular account of the views of developing countries. We are committed to ensuring free and fair trade rules which provide developing countries with the opportunity to trade themselves out of poverty and deliver on our commitments to reduce global poverty and remove trade distortions.

Milk Marque

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I am pleased to confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Competition Commission on the one hand and Milk Marque and the National Farmers Union on the other, have resolved the litigation between them concerning the recommendations of the Competition Commission and the decisions of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry relating to the supply of milk in the United Kingdom, which preceded the break up of Milk Marque in 1999.

The recent ruling by the European Court of Justice in this litigation (Case C 137/00) has clarified the law as regards the relationship between the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the application of English

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law, in particular the Fair Trading Act 1973 and competition law more generally, in the agricultural sector.

The European Court of Justice judgment makes clear the freedom of Member States to apply competition law in the agriculture sector. However, the Court explained that, when they do, Member States must respect the objectives of the CAP, reconciling any conflicts, in such a way that none of the objectives is rendered impossible by any decision taken pursuant to domestic law. As the agricultural and dairy industries seek to come to terms with the effects of CAP reform on future business structures, I believe that all parties consider that the judgment will provide useful guidance for both industry and the UK authorities.

Taking into account both this judgment and development in the milk market since 1999, I understand that Milk Marque and the National Farmers Union will not be pursuing their claims further.

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