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Forensic Science Service

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the future of the Forensic Science Service; [216824]

(2) what representations he has received on the future of the Forensic Science Service. [216825]

Caroline Flint: As my statement of 11 January made clear, it is the Government's intention to transform the Forensic Science Service (FSS) into a wholly owned Government company (GovCo) during the course of this year. It is intended that GovCo should be a success, but we recognise that, in future, it may need access to private sector capital and skills in order to meet its full potential.

I recognise that there have been a range of representations expressing concern about our proposals for the FSS, but my statement made clear the need for change in the face of increased competition, the emergence of new technology and the action of the police service to achieve strategic market management.
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Identity Cards

Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what arrangements he plans to put in place for Swedish citizens resident in the UK in relation to identity cards and access to public services; [218023]

(2) whether the Danish biometric passport will be an accepted form of identification for Danish citizens in the UK to access public services; [218024]

(3) whether EU citizens will be required to (a) register for and (b) use a UK identity card to access public services in England and Wales. [218025]

Mr. Browne: In accordance with EU law, all EU nationals who come to stay in the UK from a specified date for more than three months will be required to enrol on the National Identity Register. The specified date will be set by Parliament in regulations. For those EU nationals who are already resident, the scheme would become compulsory if it became compulsory for British citizens to register, though EU nationals could choose to register voluntarily. Any EU nationals who are not required to register may, as now, use their national passport or identity card as proof of identity. EU legislation will require the incorporation of digital facial image and fingerprint biometrics from 2008. It is for each public service to decide how it will require its users to demonstrate their identity, irrespective of nationality. The Identity Cards Bill provides powers for Parliament to approve regulations specifying how individual non-devolved public services may use the Identity Cards Scheme to verify identity.

Inland Revenue

Mr. Gray: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his Department conducted an assessment of the impact that the measures in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill would have upon the activities of the Inland Revenue, including its use of third party members of the public assisting it in investigating taxpayers' compliance with Revenue law. [215657]

Caroline Flint: The inclusion of the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, in Schedule 1 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill, as relevant authorities for the purposes of section 28 (the authorisation of directed surveillance) and section 29 (the authorisation of covert human intelligence sources) was on the basis of the Inland Revenue having identified a necessary and proportionate requirement to authorise the conduct of directed surveillance and the use of covert human intelligence sources.

Inquests (Teesside)

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many inquests in the jurisdiction of the Teesside coroner were heard in (a) August, (b) September, (c) October, (d) November and (e) December 2004 by the (i) coroner, (ii) deputy coroner and (iii) assistant deputy coroner. [212063]

Paul Goggins: The information requested is given in the table.
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HM Coroner Teesside—Number of cases

Inquests heard by:
CoronerDeputy coronerAssistant deputy coroner
August 20041822
September 200425212
October 20041634
November 20042222
December 20041753
January 20051633

This table includes all inquests concluded in the relevant months (i.e. a verdict delivered, or the coroner has declared that the inquest is not to be resumed after an adjournment under Section 16 of the Coroners Act 1988).

International Organisations Bill

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether Europol informants would be protected by the provisions contained in the International Organisations Bill, with particular reference to clause 5 (3) (b) . [216467]

Caroline Flint: Europol is not operational and has no operational powers. It supports law-enforcement agencies in combating serious organised crime. Europol does not use informants, and so there are no issues of privileges and immunities as outlined in the International Organisations Bill.

Justice and Home Affairs Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the outcome was of the Justice and Home Affairs Council held on 25 and 26 October 2004; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [216665]

Caroline Flint: My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, Cathy Jamieson (Scottish Minister for Justice) and I represented the United Kingdom at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on the 25–26 October 2004.

A list of A" points approved (with the exception of items 11 and 32, which were withdrawn) at the Council has been placed in the Library (Document PTS A 50 13815/04). The UK tabled a Declaration on item 1 (European Border Agency), in relation to its participation and its position regarding Gibraltar.

The main discussion at the Council centred around the new multi-annual work programme, the Hague Programme, which follows on from the programme agreed at the Tampere European Council in 1999.

The Home Secretary and I welcomed the Presidency's emphasis on evaluation and implementation within the Programme and the importance of delivering work at an EU level which was of demonstrable benefit to the EU's citizens. There was also a useful focus on key areas of work which the UK had been pushing for: on closer police co-operation and more intelligence led policing; on mutual recognition of judicial decisions, respecting the diversity of member states' legal traditions; on
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biometrics and strengthening our external borders; and on working more closely together to combat terrorism and organised crime.

In areas where the draft text was less welcome, such as on asylum and parts of criminal justice, we intervened robustly to protect the United Kingdom's interests. The final draft of the Programme went to the European Council on 5 November for final agreement. The final draft accommodated our key priorities and provided a strong foundation for work at an EU level over the next five years which will be beneficial for the UK.

With regard to other issues on the agenda, the Presidency put forward a compromise solution on the time scale for including biometrics in passports. This would be 18 months from adoption of the Regulation for a first identifier (digital facial image) and 36 months from adoption for the second (fingerprint). I was able to support this as a means to ensure greater security for our borders. The text of the draft Regulation was agreed in principle.

The Counter-Terrorism Co-ordinator (De Vries) outlined to the Council the progress which had been made on peer evaluations". An interim report, covering the 15 old" member states, was discussed at the Council on 2–3 December. A similar report on the new" member states will be prepared during 2005.

The Council did not reach an agreement on the issue of proposed amendments to the Framework Decision on Ship Source Pollution. The Presidency concluded that the issue would be sent to the European Council for further discussion.

The Commission presented its initiative for a Council Decision on the exchange of information from criminal records. This was a first step in meeting the mandate from the March European Council for a register of convictions and disqualifications. The Presidency confirmed that the Commission proposal would be further discussed in the Working Group.

In considering other business, the Presidency confirmed its intention to adopt Council Conclusions on improving access to durable solutions and on the development of a common readmission policy, which were subsequently adopted at the General Affairs and External Relations Council on 2 November.

The Commission reported on the evaluation of the Drugs Action Plan for 2000–04. The evaluation assessed the impact of achievements to date and assessed the areas where more could be done. The Commission called for a future strategy to include clear aims, operational indicators and responsibilities, in order to meet these challenges.

Also during the Council, on behalf of the UK, I signed the agreement between Switzerland and the EU and EC, regarding their participation in the Schengen acquis. This means that they now join Norway and Iceland in attending Mixed Committees.

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