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Statutory Levy Bodies

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): In responding to Lord Haskins' report, the Government stated that they would commission an independent, fundamental review of the GB and UK statutory levy-funded agriculture and horticulture organisations.

We have, with colleagues in the devolved Administrations, now agreed the terms of reference for the review and a copy of them has been placed in the House today. The review will encompass the British Potato Council, the Home Grown Cereals Authority, the Horticultural Development Council, the Meat and Livestock Commission, and the Milk Development Council, taking as given the devolution of agricultural policy and the federal bodies created post-devolution under the umbrella of the Meat and Livestock Commission.

I am pleased to announce that Rosemary Radcliffe, formerly chief economist at PricewaterhouseCoopers and until recently independent complaints commissioner for the Financial Services Authority, has agreed to conduct the review. Rosemary will formally start her work on 4 April, and she will submit her report, to UK and devolved Administration Ministers, by the end of October.

Further details and information on how people may submit their views to the review have been placed in the Library of the House and are available on Defra's website.


Iran (Body Armour)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Chris Mullin): In March 2005, after consultation with the Ministry of Defence and the export control organisations, DTI, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office donated armoured vests and body armour plates to the Iranian Anti-Narcotics Police (ANP). This gift was to provide an element of protection for the ANP in their work of countering drugs smuggling from Afghanistan. We are satisfied that these goods would only be used for anti-narcotics operations and are therefore prepared to make an exception to the UK national embargo announced in 1993, as amended in 1998.

We are fully committed to implementing the UK embargo on Iran. However, we are, in limited circumstances, prepared to make exceptions where denying an export or a gift would be contrary to the intention of the embargo. As the UK has been active in encouraging and assisting Iran with combating the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan, I am confident that granting this exception is fully consistent with this responsible approach of supporting the ANP whilst respecting the aims of the embargo.

A departmental minute announcing the intention to make the gift was laid before Parliament on 22 February.
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All export licences, F680s and Crown immunity gifts are considered on a case by case basis judged against the consolidated and national arms export licensing criteria.


Health (Patient and Public Involvement)

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): The Government have today published its response to the recent consultation exercise on the future support arrangements for patient and public involvement in health.

The main features of the response include:

Copies have been placed in the Library.

Copies of the consultation findings as well as the Government's response are also available on the Department's website.


Bichard Inquiry

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): Today I have received further comments from Sir Michael Bichard regarding progress made in implementing the recommendations of his inquiry. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. A progress report was made to Sir Michael in December last year, and copies placed in the Library in January. I should like to thank Sir Michael for his commitment and hard work both in the conduct of the inquiry and in his recent review of progress.

I welcome Sir Michael's comment that he has been impressed by the positive and energetic response to his recommendations. He accepts that significant progress has been made and is pleased at the positive response to his report, particularly from the police service.

In recognising this progress, Sir Michael goes on to make a number of further recommendations, aimed primarily at ensuring the effective implementation of his report findings, particularly those which give rise to long term and complex new arrangements for the management and sharing of information. These include the development of national IT infrastructure to support the handling of police information, a code of practice and detailed supporting guidance for the management and sharing of police information, and a registration scheme relating to persons wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults.

In these areas I am pleased to accept in principle Sir Michael's recommendations that careful monitoring should be in place to check on progress, that the necessary links must be made between different aspects
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of the programme, and that appropriate budget allocations must be made to ensure effective implementation. I also accept the need for closer working between the United Kingdom jurisdictions to ensure that there are no loopholes to be exploited between the systems operating in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This co-operation has featured as an important element of the implementation work so far. I will also look to strengthen the work being undertaken with foreign jurisdictions from which large numbers of staff come to the United Kingdom to work with children and vulnerable adults.

I shall be considering the detail of Sir Michael's comments with ministerial colleagues, and a full response will be sent to Sir Michael shortly. This will be placed in the Library of the House. I am happy to accept Sir Michael's recommendation that further progress reports should be made available to Parliament and to the public in six and 12 months' time.


Departments (Cash Requirement)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Angela Smith): As a consequence of additional allocations made to the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety since Parliament's approval of estimates in July 2004, the Department has an additional cash requirement in respect of health and social services boards and trusts.

Parliamentary approval for additional cash to finance these services is currently being sought in a supplementary estimate for DHSSPS. Pending that approval urgent cash needs, estimated at £143 million, will be met by repayable advances from the NI Consolidated Fund.


Pathways to Work

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Alan Johnson): On the 30 November 2004 we published an early summary of administrative data from the pathways to work pilots in helping people claiming incapacity benefits to get back to work. Today I would like to provide a further update on the pilots' performance.

The pathways to work pilots are a major step forward in the reform of incapacity benefits and in the way people with a health condition or disability are helped back to work. Under the pathways pilots Jobcentre Plus and the NHS work positively together to re-focus people on their remaining abilities and their own aspirations for a return to work. The pilots offer all claimants access to:
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The pathways pilots have targeted new IB claimants and existing claimants who volunteer. From last month the mandatory elements of the pathways approach have been tested with some existing claimants.

The latest figures from the pathways to work pilots (including data up to the end of December) continue to be very encouraging. I am placing a copy of the findings in the Library. In particular they show that:

These continuing, positive findings have formed the backdrop to the announcement made on 2 December 2004 by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the pre-Budget report he announced a plan to expand pathways to work to cover the Jobcentre Plus districts that contained the 30 local authority districts with the greatest proportions of the working age population on incapacity benefits.

The positive response of claimants and advisers and NHS staff to this radical initiative have also firmly shaped the detail of the DWP's five-year strategy and our plans to abolish incapacity benefit for new claimants and replace it with payments that more actively incentivise and support all those with the potential to get back to work to realise their own aspirations for doing so. I aim to publish a Green Paper setting out more details on these proposals in July.