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The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Ms Patricia Hewitt): The Government are today publishing a response to the DTFs consultation document "Liberalising trade in servicesa new consultation on the World Trade Organisation GATS negotiations". Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and are being sent to all who sent us their comments. The response can also be accessed via the DTI website http://www.dti.gov.uk/ewt/. Our response addresses the many issues raised in nearly 800 submissions and explains how they have been and will continue to be taken into account when negotiations resume in the WTO in the New Year.
The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Alan Johnson): The Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education, Alan Johnson and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury of Turville are pleased to announce the establishment of our Higher Education Research Forum to be chaired by Sir Graeme Davies, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London. The membership has been drawn together through nominations from higher education representative bodies and key sector stakeholders and is set out as follows:
Professor Sir Kenneth Caiman, Vice-Chancellor, University of Durham
Professor David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor, University of East Anglia
Professor Diana Green, Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University
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Professor Elaine Thomas, Director, Surrey Institute of Art and Design
Liz Alien, National Association of Teachers in Further & Higher Education
Professor Roger Kain, Treasurer and Fellow, British Academy
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): In a Written Statement on 5 February 2003, Official Report, columns 1112WS, I informed the House that the Government had agreed to a US request to upgrade the early warning radar at RAF Fylingdales as part of the US missile defence programme. The Assistant Chief of the Air Staff, on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, has today signed an agreement setting out the management and financial arrangements and responsibilities for the radar upgrade. This agreement is made under the framework memorandum of understanding on missile defence that I announced to the House on 12 June 2003, Official Report, column 57WS, and comes into immediate effect. Design work for the upgrade is already in hand, and upgrade work on site is expected to start in spring 2004, lasting for some 30 months, including testing of the upgraded system and removal of old equipment. I am placing in the Library of the House a copy of this agreement, although one section relating to a technical point on the operation of the radar has been withheld at the request of the US authorities.
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columns WA17577, in another place, that the Government had reached an agreement with BAE SYSTEMS on the way ahead for the Astute Class Attack Submarine project. However, at that point, it was accepted that some additional time would be required to establish the underpinning commercial arrangements and we undertook to report back to the House at a suitable moment. I am very pleased to be able to announce that on 17 December, an amended contract implementing the February Agreement was signed by the Ministry of Defence and BAE SYSTEMS.
This amended contract, which covers the design and construction of the first three boats, is designed to reduce risk while incentivising the company to improve its performance in delivering the programme. It also covers a number of project management improvements and oversight.
Considerable progress has already been made in introducing these improvements and the MOD will be looking to the company to build on this as we jointly restore confidence in the programme. In February, we announced that the ISD for the first of class would be delayed. The company is now formally working to deliver HMS ASTUTE in 2008.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): In compliance with Section 5(1) of the Sustainable Energy Act 2003,1 am specifying a target to source at least 15 per cent. of electricity for Government use from good quality combined heat and power by 2010. My officials will work with departments in early 2004 to agree how they will implement the target, taking into account the extent to which they use electricity generated from renewable sources. By the end of 2005, we will review the validity of the target to ensure it reflects the market's ability to deliver the level of capacity at the right price
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar): at a document setting out the Purpose and Aims of the Northern Ireland Criminal Justice System (CJSNI) has been published today. Copies of the Purpose and Aims document have been placed in the Library.
The Purpose and Aims were first published in 2001, and the document has been refreshed to reflect the significant work carried out by all the criminal justice organisations in working towards those aims, and towards implementation of the Criminal Justice Review.
The publication of the Purpose and Aims demonstrates the commitment of the CJSNI towards delivering a criminal justice system which serves and protects the people of Northern Ireland and in which the whole community can have confidence.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Chris Pond): On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions I am announcing the publication of performance statistics for local authority administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit (HB and CTB) for the second quarter of 200304. A copy of the quarterly statistics for all local authorities in Great Britain has been placed in the Library and has been published on the Department for Work and Pensions web-site at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/other_stats.asp
Publishing these statistics is part of our strategy for reforming housing benefit and for ensuring that local authorities are accountable for their performance in administration of housing benefit and council tax benefit.
the average reported number of days to process new claims reduced from 58 days in the second quarter of 2002/3 to 50 days in the second quarter of 2003/4;
authorities in the worst quartile of performance reported processing times between 56 and 149 days;
156 (38 per cent.) authorities reported meeting the standard of processing changes in circumstances, on average within nine days, compared to 139 (34 per cent.) in the second quarter of 2002/3;
228 (56 per cent.) authorities reported an improved performance between quarters 1 and 2 at processing new claims.
The Government issued a consultation document in April 2002 to promote debate on how best to build on their existing indicators to measure child poverty in the long term. The document published today outlines a long-term measure of child poverty for the UK. Our conclusions are based on a thorough analysis of the responses to the consultation document and further methodological work. None of this affects any of our existing PSA's which we remain committed to.
Our new measure of child poverty will consist of: absolute low incometo measure whether the poorest families are seeing their incomes rise in real terms; relative low incometo measure whether the poorest families are keeping pace with the growth of incomes in the economy as a whole and material deprivation and low income combinedto provide a wider measure of
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people's living standards. Using this measure, poverty is falling when all three indicators are moving in the right direction.
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