The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): The following statement has been made by my right hon. Friend, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, in the other place today.
"The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs has today laid before Parliament, in accordance with section 45(5) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, a revised code of practice on the discharge of public authorities' functions under part 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This code of practice has been revised after close consultation with the information commissioner's office.
The previous section 45 code of practice was issued in November 2002, and quite rightly incorporated a great deal of best practice information. This information is now contained in the suite of guidance recently issued by the DCA, and in the series of awareness guides issued by the information commissioners' office. This revised code of practice relates to those areas specified by section 45(2)(a)(e). It provides clear guidance on providing advice and assistance to applicants, transferring requests to other authorities, consulting third parties, the use of confidentiality clauses relating to information disclosure in contracts and the provision of internal complaints procedures in public authorities.
I will keep the section 45 code of practice under review once the Freedom of Information Act has been fully implemented, and shall work closely with the information commissioner to identify those areas where any further guidance is necessary."
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): The following statement has been made by my right hon. and noble learned Friend, the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton.
"In May 2004 I told the House that I had asked the legal professions in England & Wales and in Northern Ireland to devise an improved scheme for appointing Queen's Counsel. I am pleased to be able to say the Bar Council and the Law Society in England & Wales have reached agreement on a set of competences against which applicants for the QC rank should be assessed, and on an outline of the process for doing so. I have placed copies of both the competency framework and the outline process in the Library.
Considerable work still needs to be done to refine some of the details and to develop the mechanics of the assessment process. Nonetheless, this is a very encouraging development. I congratulate the professional bodies on what they have achieved so far, and look forward to the introduction of a new and better system.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Following the announcement on the 16 September of my preferred option for future military aircraft support and the end of the trade unions consultation period, I am announcing my decision to implement the preferred option.
This will mean that the support for the tornado GR4 aircraft will be concentrated forward to the main operating base (MOB) at RAF Marham; with the work on Tornado F3 aircraft remaining "as is" with support being carried out at both the MOB and DARA St Athan until the aircraft's out-of-service date. Depth support for Lynx, Chinook and Sea King will be concentrated backwards to DARA Fleetlands.
This decision is based on comprehensive analysis which was carried out on an objective and impartial basis, and offers the best outcome for defence in terms of operational effectiveness and value for money. It does, however, have implications for our military and civilian workforce, as well as for our partners in industry who undertake depth support of military aircraft.
At the time of the announcement, it was made clear that the Ministry of Defence would explore with other Government Departments, including the Welsh Assembly and the Wales Office, alternative options for the viable and economic use of St. Athan after 2009, based on its transformation into an aerospace centre of excellence. Officials from my Department, along with DARA senior management, have already had meetings with Welsh Assembly and Wales Office staff to explore possible options, and have agreed a strategic approach for taking this forward as a matter of urgency.
Implementation of the decision will be taken forward by the chief of defence logisticsas the process owner for defence logisticsand responsible for the programme to deliver the changes to air depth support. Detailed consultation with the trade unions on the implementation of the decision will also begin.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): The British Council, although not a Government Department, receives a substantial grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The council regularly organises or sponsors exhibitions overseas of works of art loaned from national galleries and private collections in the United Kingdom. It provides certain assurances or guarantees in respect of loss or damage while these works are on loan.
In the six months ending on 30 September 2004, the British Council provided such assurances to four national lenders and undertakings to 85 private lenders. The value of the contingent liabilities outstanding on 30 September in respect of private lenders was £6,120,870. No liabilities to national galleries existed at that date.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Bill Rammell ): Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved an open individual export licence for a media company to export non-lethal military list goods for the personnel protection of its staff worldwide.
Her Majesty's Government considers it appropriate to grant licences, on a case-by-case basis, for the export of non-lethal military list goods, including protective clothing and armoured vehicles, for the use by media companies and non-governmental organisations working in hostile environments, including embargoed destinations. Future applications will continue to be assessed on a case-by-case basis against this policy decision and the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria, taking into account the circumstances prevailing at the time.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): The 200304 annual report of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority was laid before the House today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): A £17 billion improvement programme is being undertaken to improve the NHS estate. As a result of this investment the amount of the estate dating from before 1948 has halved since 1995. However, because of flaws in the current methodology, backlog maintenance figures do not reflect these improvements. A validation exercise has been undertaken on the 200203 backlog maintenance figures, prompted by concerns expressed by the NHS that these figures were both unrealistically high and not being consistently calculated and collected across the NHS.
We have decided to revise the way we measure backlog maintenance to give a more accurate picture of the condition of the NHS estate, to give the NHS a clearer idea of its priorities in improving its buildings, and to allow managers to continue making the improvements that will build even better environments for both patients and staff. It will help the Healthcare Commission more accurately measure NHS performance on the new national standards.
To ensure the estate continues to be maintained and improved, a much more constructive and consistent revised backlog measure, risk adjusted backlog maintenance, has been developed with the NHS. This places greater emphasis on identifying and measuring
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risk to business continuity and safety to patients, visitors and staff and has a greater focus on the quality of the estate and the remaining life of the building.
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