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Written Ministerial StatementsThursday 22 January 2004


Justice Oversight Commissioner

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): The Government has received and welcomed the first report from the Justice Oversight Commissioner, the right hon. the the Lord Clyde, on the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review in Northern Ireland. Consistent with his terms of reference, the report was submitted to the Attorney-General, Lord Filkin, Minister for the Northern Ireland Court Service, and myself in December.

Lord Clyde concludes that the degree of progress achieved so far in the process of implementation has been significant and impressive. He also acknowledges the real commitment of the criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland to taking the recommendations forward. The Government warmly endorses these conclusions.

Copies of the Commissioner's report have been placed in the Library.


Medication Safety

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): The Department's document "Building a safer NHS for patients: improving medication safety" has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.


Power Failures (London and Birmingham)

The Minister for Energy, E-Commerce and Postal Services (Mr. Stephen Timms): On 10 September I announced that DTI's engineering inspectorate would be launching an investigation into the power cuts that affected large areas of south London and parts of Kent on 28 August, and the West Midlands on 5 September. In particular, investigators were to check for compliance with the Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002. With the agreement of the Secretary of State for Transport, the investigation also

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looked into the security of electricity supplies to Network Rail (Southern and Midlands Regions) and London Underground.

I also referred to the separate and independent Ofgem investigation, which is focusing on whether any of the companies involved have breached, are breaching or are likely to breach their statutory duties and/or licence conditions, and what if any enforcement action should be taken or penalty applied should a breach be found.

The engineering inspectorate investigation has now been concluded, and it has highlighted a number of issues in connection with the power cuts. The inspectors' conclusions and recommendations are being passed to the electricity companies concerned, so that they can take the necessary action to enhance the robustness of their networks, and so make such occurrences less likely. The engineering inspectorate will be holding discussions with the companies concerned and monitoring the action they take. It has powers to ensure compliance with any recommendations made.

The material the engineering inspectorate has gathered in connection with this investigation is commercially sensitive and its disclosure is restricted by the provisions of the Utilities Act 2000. Therefore the report will not be published. The recommendations and conclusions are being passed to the companies concerned on a confidential basis so that they can take the necessary action.

Once the Ofgem investigation has been concluded, it will be for the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority to make a decision as to whether there have been statutory or licence breaches, and what if any enforcement action should be taken or penalty should be imposed.


Rural White Paper

The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael): Following the publication of the review of the Rural White Paper, hard copies are now available in the House of Commons and House of Lords Libraries. Further copies are available from DEFRA Publications, Admail 6000, London, SW1A 2XX Tel: 08459 556000 Email: defra@iforcegroup.com


Scientific Response to Terrorism

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): I am today publishing the Government's reply to the Eighth Report from the Science and Technology Select Committee, Session 2002–03, on the scientific response to terrorism. The Government thank the Committee for their report of 6 November 2003. We have considered in detail the recommendations put forward. Copies of the Government's response are available in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be viewed on the Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/terrorism