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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 15 December 2004


Clementi Report

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy): The Government warmly welcomes Sir David Clementi's report on the future regulation of legal services in England and Wales. Sir David and his team deserve our thanks for all their work over the past 18 months.

I established Sir David's review to consider the regulation of legal services with the clear objective of improving the service to the consumer. The provision of legal services must include safeguarding the public's right to independent legal advice, and ensuring the quality and professionalism of the legal professions. Reform will be judged by the benefits it delivers for the consumer.

People expect value for money and services that are delivered in ways which better suit their needs. They also expect proper redress if something goes wrong as a result of poor service. The legal professions are no exception. Whether we are buying a house or getting advice about our rights, the way in which lawyers, legal executives and those who advise on legal issues work, how they are regulated and what the processes are for complaining about their work potentially affects us all.

The Government broadly accept the main recommendations of Sir David's important report and the arguments for change which he sets out. We want to ensure proportionate and appropriate regulation and separate handling of consumer redress. We will want to work closely on the details of his report with all of those involved, especially those representing the legal professions and consumer interests, to take forward this report and deliver reform quickly. We will be careful to ensure as small a bureaucracy as possible.

We strongly support the objectives set out in Sir David's report: maintaining the rule of law, providing access to justice, ensuring protection for consumers, promoting competition, encouraging a strong and effective legal profession and increasing public understanding. To achieve those objectives, Sir David's principal recommendations are the creation of a new oversight regulator with significant powers, the separation of the representative and regulatory functions of the professional bodies, the creation of a single new complaints body and steps to enable the creation of legal disciplinary practices (LDPs). These changes could see non-lawyers for the first time not only as managers of legal practices, but also as owners of and investors in LDPs.

I am sure that the legal professional bodies will engage positively with us. The Government's overriding aim is to preserve the best of the current system while moving forward for the benefit of consumers. While
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there are challenges in the report, we have worked together successfully on a number of issues, including the establishment of a new interim system for the appointment of Queen's Counsel. I am confident that we will continue to do so on the issues arising from Sir David's report.

The Government will publish a White Paper on Sir David's proposals as soon as possible next year, to be followed by legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Today, in response to Sir David's report we can affirm our commitment to putting in place a regulatory framework that ensures a better deal for consumers through increased competition, innovation and transparency, and safeguards the independence of the legal professions—including independence from Government—in providing high quality advice. Sir David's report provides a clear basis for achieving these aims and the Government are committed to taking this forward as a matter of paramount importance.

British-Irish Council Summit

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister led the UK delegation to the sixth summit of the British-Irish Council and was accompanied by the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Lord Falconer; the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland; and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The Council noted the ongoing engagement between the British and Irish Governments and the parties in Northern Ireland and looked forward to the restoration of the devolved institutions, established under the Good Friday agreement, as soon as possible.

The main issue for discussion was Tourism, and the Council has agreed a programme to take forward joint working in this area. I have placed a copy of the communiqué in the Commons Library.


Deaths at Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut (Independent Review)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The deaths of four soldiers at Princess Royal Barracks, Deepcut between 1995 and 2002 have been the subject of detailed scrutiny and much public comment for some time. Recent press reporting has further raised public interest in these distressing events.

I told the House on 30 November 2004 that I was satisfied that the Ministry of Defence's response to public concern over the four deaths at Princess Royal Barracks was adequate and comprehensive but that I nevertheless accepted the case for a further review by a fully independent figure. I am now in a position to set out the details of that review.

The review will be conducted by Nicholas Blake QC and will begin shortly. I expect Mr Blake to complete his report in the first half of next year. Mr. Blake is a distinguished human rights lawyer with
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wide experience of civil liberties and criminal justice. His report will be published in full, along with my response to it.

The terms of reference for the review are as follows:

In commissioning this review I am well aware that its scope and nature may not satisfy all those, members of this House included, who have been calling for a formal public inquiry into some or all non-combat deaths in the armed forces or for a public inquiry into the deaths at Deepcut. These are very different demands. By concentrating on the circumstances of the four deaths at the army base at Deepcut this review will focus on the issue at the heart of current public concern. The review will have the full co-operation of the Ministry of Defence and, I am pleased to say, Surrey police. A review can analyse issues much more quickly than a public inquiry and would not interfere with other current investigations or proceedings. My expectation is that the rigour and independence of the review will produce value to all parties concerned. It is the right way to proceed and I would urge all those who may be sceptical of what the review can achieve to suspend their criticism and to lend it their full support.

It is of the highest importance that a balanced and authoritative account of the circumstances surrounding the deaths should be put into the public domain, to sustain public confidence in military training. The consistently outstanding performance of the young men and women of the armed forces, often only recently out of initial training, is testament to the quality of that training system.

Typhoon Tranche 2 Contract

The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I am delighted to announce that the contracts for the second Tranche of Typhoon multi-role combat aircraft have now been signed by the general manager of the NATO Eurofighter and Tornado management agency, on behalf of the four partner nations, and by the chief executives of the project's co-ordinating industrial consortia, Eurofighter GmbH and Eurojet Turbo GmbH. This is excellent news for both the Royal Air Force and for United Kingdom industry and represents the achievement of another major milestone for the Typhoon project.

This order builds upon the success of the introduction into service of Tranche 1 Typhoon aircraft, which are demonstrating outstanding performance in operation with the RAF. The Tranche 2 contracts will provide the RAF with an additional 89 aircraft at a value in cash terms of around £4.3 billion. The contracts form part of what is thought to be the largest defence order ever placed in Europe, reflecting the successful and continuing co-operation between the four partner nations and European industry.
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Typhoon will be an outstandingly capable, state-of-the-art aircraft which will form a cornerstone of the RAF's future capability. The aircraft will have the flexibility to contribute across a wide range of operations delivering air superiority and precision ground attack capabilities.

The order will provide major benefits across the United Kingdom and, at the peak of manufacture, industry expect it to create or sustain some 16,000 jobs with defence manufacturers, many in areas of high-technology, and a significant number in supporting industries across the economy more widely.

Typhoon will be a world-beating aircraft and this major investment will provide the RAF with the capability to respond to the challenges and threats we face now and in the future.

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