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Written Ministerial StatementsMonday 12 January 2004


Investors Scheme

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): The investor category of the immigration rules was introduced on 1 October 1994 for investors who wish to come to the UK to invest £1 million. This must include a £750,000 investment in UK Government bonds, or in share or loan capital in active and trading UK registered companies as set out within the immigration rules. At present the UK attracts around 26 investors to the UK a year, providing around £26 million of investment in the UK a year.

As part of the Government's approach to sensible, managed migration where it is in the UK's economic interest, we are revising this category in the light of the experience of other countries who have similar investment routes. The Government recognises that it is important to have effective opportunities for major investors and that the category could be improved to attract more high net worth migrants to come to the UK.

We have decided to allow overseas investors in future to use loaned money from an authorised financial institution (those regulated by the Financial Services Authority) where the potential investor has a personal net worth of £2 million. In Canada, similar changes were made to their investors category resulting in an increase in investors moving to Canada. The UK hopes to emulate this success.

Investors whose funds are tied up in illiquid assets and investors who prefer to invest their own money in higher interest investment products will now be able to apply to enter the UK as a result of these changes.

The revised arrangements for the investors route will be reflected in the immigration rules on 13 January 2004.

Crime Victims (Compensation and Support)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I am today publishing a consultation paper entitled "Compensation and Support for Victims of Crime". This sets out proposals to provide a wider range of support for victims of crime and to amend the criminal injuries compensation scheme.

We are determined to deliver a better deal for victims and witnesses and to provide a wider package of support. The consultation paper proposes the establishment of a new victims fund in England and Wales to provide a broader and more effective range of services for victims and witnesses. Part of the Fund will be used for voluntary sector support to victims.

Money for the fund will come principally from making offenders pay more towards compensation and support for victims through placing a surcharge on

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criminal convictions and fixed penalty notices for criminal offences. It will also come from resources released from changes to the criminal injuries compensation scheme.

The paper also asks for views on how best to compensate workers who are injured in the course of duty more fairly and more efficiently.

These changes are expected to release some £25 million to provide a wider range of services for victims of crime.

We want compensation to victims to be targeted in the right way, and to come from the most appropriate sources. We believe that the proposals set out in the consultation paper should help us achieve that. They will build on the measures set out in the National Strategy for Victims and Witnesses, published last year.

We are also committed to ensuring that the criminal injuries compensation scheme is administered as efficiently and cost-effective as it possibly can be and are taking forward measures to achieve this.

We welcome comments on all the proposals and ideas set out in the consultation paper. We will consider all responses carefully. Subject to the outcome of the consultation exercise, we propose to legislate to make the changes, where necessary, through amendments to the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill currently before Parliament.


Civil Contingency Reaction Forces

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Civil contingency reaction forces (CCRFs) achieved full operating capability by 31 December 2003 as planned. Fourteen CCRFs are now available to support the civil authorities if they ask for military assistance.

The emergency services would lead on the response to any incident and can call on a range of support, which includes the specially trained CCRFs as required. A programme of exercises between local CCRFs and emergency services began in 2003 to test how they would work together in an emergency. CCRFs will provide general duties support consistent with the established military aid framework, and the normal Ministry of Defence command structure.

It is important to remember that CCRFs are just one of the ways in which the armed forces can provide support, and that support itself would be part of a much wider response.

Veterans Initiative Education Programme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): I am pleased to announce the launch today of a new collaborative education programme called "Their Past Your Future" across the United Kingdom. I am grateful to my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Skills and for Culture, Media and Sport for their enthusiastic support for this project, all the funding for which is being provided by the national lottery new opportunities fund. The programme will enable young people at school the opportunity to research and understand the

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role played by service veterans and civilian groups in ensuring our national security and survival. It will focus on the important Second World War commemorative events taking place in 2004–05, but is intended to develop into a long-term project recognising the importance of peace and reconciliation as well as conflict. A website will provide information about the programme and ways of linking up veterans and eye-witnesses with schools so that children can draw on those memories and experiences for their own understanding. There will be resources for schools to use in the citizenship and history curricula and this will also stretch out into other subject areas such as English and Geography. Opportunities for young people to participate in commemorations at home and abroad are also central to this programme. As part of this last element, there will be an initial research-based competition available with a prize of participation in the D-Day commemorations in June 2004.

This programme is a good example of collaboration on veterans-related issues across the official and voluntary sectors. It was developed as part of the veterans initiative but the Imperial War Museum will lead this project. Key partners include the Department for Education and Skills, the Confederation of British Service and Ex-Service Organisations, the Royal British Legion, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and Service Museums as well as the Ministry of Defence.

As I said before, I am particularly pleased that the national lottery new opportunities fund has undertaken to provide funding and that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is also closely involved in the collaborative effort that is necessary for a project of this nature. This is an excellent example of lottery money being used for a good cause.

I hope that projects of this kind will help future generations to remember and understand the experiences and sacrifices of veterans of all types and their role in our nation's history. I also urge right hon. and hon. Members to make schools and colleges in their constituencies aware of this project.


Pension Credit

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith): I can now provide the third monthly progress report on the take-up of pension credit, which became payable on 6 October 2003.

There are now 2.12 million pensioner households (2.53 million individuals) being paid pension credit, including 60,000 new pension credit households (79,000 individuals) in December 2003. As at 31 December 2003, there are 1.44 million households (1.71 million individuals) now receiving more money as a result of the introduction of pension credit. The pension credit application line, at our four sites across the country, has received 1.84 million calls since it became operational on 7 April 2003 and 96 per cent. of calls have been answered within 30 seconds. The average Pension Credit award is £44.20 per week.

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Our direct mail campaign is continuing, supported by a major advertising campaign on TV and in the press which began in September last year. We are continuing to work with organisations such as Help The Aged, Age Concern and Citizens Advice, amongst others, both at a national and local level, to encourage eligible people to take up their entitlement.

There is plenty of time for pensioners to apply for pension credit. To ensure that pensioners do not lose out, there is a twelve-month backdating provision until October of this year. This will allow applications to be backdated to October 2003, where entitlement exists, or to the date entitlement begins if this is later.

I am placing in the Library a report showing progress so far, including regional breakdowns of the number of pension credit households and numbers of pension credit awards in Parliamentary constituencies in Great Britain. Copies of the report are also available for hon. Members in the Vote Office.

I am also placing in the Library a summary of recent independent research which found high levels of customer satisfaction with the pension credit application line and with the application process overall.

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