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Mutual Defence Agreement

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): The Amendment to the 1958 Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of the United States of America for Co-operation on the Uses of Atomic Energy for Mutual Defence Purposes (Cm 6261), which was laid before the House on 21 June 2004, entered into force on 9 December 2004. The Amendment extends the application of Article III (bis) of the Agreement for a further 10 years, until 2014.


Autumn Performance Report

The Secretary of State for Health (Dr. John Reid): Today I announce the publication of the Department of Health's 2004 autumn performance report (Cm 6417). Copies have been placed in the Library. It shows the progress my Department has made towards achieving its public service agreement targets.

The autumn performance report shows that there have been significant further improvements in access to services. The number of national health service patients waiting longer than 13 weeks for an outpatient appointment has fallen from 160,745 to 77,503 over the past year. In addition, the number of people waiting more than six months for an inpatient appointment fell from 163,230 to 69,638. During October 2004, 96.4 per cent. of all accident and emergency attenders were admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours of arrival. It is now possible to offer over 99 per cent. of patients a general practitioner appointment within two working days or a primary care professional appointment within one working day.

Patient satisfaction is increasing; the 2003–04 patient survey results showed that 98 per cent. of patients rated the care they received from ambulance trusts as excellent, very good or good, and the number of adult inpatients rating their care as excellent has increased by four percentage points since 2001–02.
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Premature death rates from heart disease amongst people under 75 have fallen by 27.1 per cent. since the baseline of 1995–97; premature deaths from cancer have fallen by 12.2 per cent. over the same period. Suicide rates in England are now at their lowest level on record.

These are just some of the recent achievements of the NHS. These improvements have been made in a demanding year through the hard work, skills and passion of hundreds of thousands of staff in the NHS and its partner organisations, and the increased funding the Government are investing in the NHS.


Designated Register Offices

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Des Browne): The measures designed to stop "sham marriages" contained in sections 19–25 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Act 2004 will be introduced on 1 February 2005.

We will be designating 76 register offices in England and Wales under section 19(2) of the Act. These will be the register offices that everyone subject to immigration control will have to attend with their prospective spouse to give notice of marriage. A list of the offices can be found below.

Every registration office in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be a designated register office for this purpose.

From the same date, any person subject to immigration control will not be able to give notice of intention to marry unless:

Further details about the certificate of approval and the class of persons who will be exempt from these provisions will be available shortly.

List of designated offices in England and Wales

North East

North West

Yorkshire and Humber

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East Midlands

West Midlands

East England

Greater London—Inner

Greater London—Outer

South East

South West

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Oversight Commissioner's Report

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ian Pearson): I have today laid before the House a copy of the oversight commissioner's Third Statutory Report for the year 2004 which is being published today, in accordance with Section 68(4)(a) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

This is the third report compiled by Al Hutchinson as oversight commissioner and the twelfth in the series of oversight reports published since 2001.

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