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Pay and Personnel Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): Extensive discussions aimed at setting clear key targets for the pay and personnel agency have been concluded. My objective was to focus on customer service and satisfaction, process and efficiency.

I have, therefore, agreed with the chief executive of the PPA the following key targets:

Customer Service and Satisfaction

Key Target 1:

Key Target 2:

Key Target 3:

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Key Target 4:

Key Target 5:


Key Target 6:

Mine Counter Measures Vessels

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Members would wish to be aware of changes to the base ports of the Royal Navy's mine counter measures squadrons.

Following on from announcements made in the July 2004 Defence White Paper, the Royal Navy has considered how best to reorganise mine counter measures squadrons to deliver the operational capabilities required in the future. Due to: the variations in the types of sonar on the two classes; the requirement for some Hunts, which can be used for fishery protection duties, to be co-located with the fishery protection squadron in Portsmouth; and because we wish to cause the minimum amount of disruption to individuals, it has been decided that the best long term option will be provided by the formation of two single class squadrons.

This means that, in the future, all eight Hunt class vessels will be based in Portsmouth while all eight Sandown class vessels will be based in Scotland (Faslane). The changes required to achieve this will be complete by March 2007.

Some 150 or so personnel are involved. For them and their families this change provides an opportunity to introduced long-term stability. No personnel will be made redundant as a result of the changes in basing arrangements.


National Spatial Address Infrastructure

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Phil Woolas): The Government are today announcing plans for a new national, high-quality spatial address infrastructure building on the work already undertaken by Ordnance Survey and local government. The aim is to provide a single national database that will be maintained through a partnership approach and a collaborative framework of address and property identifiers. This will be developed and operated by Ordnance Survey in partnership with local and central government. The joint prospectus launched today is available on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's website describes the proposal in more detail. The Government seek comments from interested parties by the end of June.
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The database, currently to be known as the national spatial address infrastructure (NSAI), will support a wide range of services delivered by central and local government and the private sector.

The infrastructure will build on local land and property gazetteers (LLPGs), the National Land and Property Gazetteer (NLPG), the National Street Gazetteer, the postcode address file (PAF) and Ordnance Survey AddressPoint. NSAI will draw on the expertise of stakeholders including local authorities, Royal Mail Group plc, Office for National Statistics and Valuation Office Agency.

The main partners, Ordnance Survey and Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA), have agreed heads of terms for the development process. A first cut of the NSAI will become available eight months after the full agreement is signed, paving the way towards a final structure after 18 months. The NSAI will initially relate to England and Wales. Longer term, the plan is to include information from Scotland and Northern Ireland to create a UK-wide infrastructure.

Stakeholders will have a continuing input to the process via a governance process that will encourage participation at a number of different levels. This group will be chaired by a senior official at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. £2.3 million is also being made available by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister from the local e-government programme to Surrey county council acting as lead authority for local government to enable the transfer of the NLPG database to the NSAI and to help facilitate local government's transition from one system to the other.


Government Response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Report

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The Government have today published their response to the EFRA Committee report, "The Government's Rural Strategy and the draft Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill", published on 26 March 2005.

The Government's response includes detailed replies to the Committee's recommendations following its pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Bill.

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill was introduced to the House of Commons on 19 May 2005. Second Reading is provisionally scheduled to take place on Monday, 6 June 2005.

A copy of the EFRA Committee report is available on the House of Commons website. The Government's response and further information on the Bill are available at:


Entry Clearance (Report)

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): Lord Triesman, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, today
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arranged for copies of the second annual report by Fiona Lindsley, the independent monitor for entry clearance refusals without the right of appeal, to be placed in the Library of the House. Decisions taken in the calendar year 2003 were the subject of this review. I join Lord Triesman in welcoming Ms Lindsley's report and thanking her for her work.


Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): The next meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be on 2–3 June. I will attend for the United Kingdom. Items on the agenda relating to health will be covered on 3 June. Items for discussion are: European Commission proposals for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on medicinal products for paediatric use; and the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on nutrition and health claims made on foods; the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the addition of vitamins, minerals and other substances to food; the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a programme of community action in health and consumer protection; obesity, nutrition and physical activity; combatting HIV/AIDS; and mental health.

Health Ministers will have an orientation debate on paediatric medicines. The UK can support the Commission's proposal for the articles under discussion.

There will be a public debate on the objectives of the European Commission's proposed programme of action in the field of health and consumer protection. The Presidency will ask the member states whether they support the health objectives in the proposal. The UK can support the general direction of the objectives.

Ministers will be asked to adopt draft council conclusions on obesity, nutrition and physical activity, calling on member states to develop initiatives aimed at promoting health diets and physical activity.

The Presidency will present draft council conclusions on HIV/AIDS, inviting member states to take further action in fighting HIV/AIDS.

Ministers will also be asked to adopt draft council conclusions on mental health, inviting member states to implement comprehensive mental health systems that cover promotion and prevention as well as treatment and care.

The UK can support the three sets of draft conclusions as drafted.

Under any other business, the Presidency and the Commission will provide information on the international health regulations and on the framework convention for tobacco control. The European Commission will provide information on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, environment and health and the work of the Commission-led high level group on health care in the European Union. There will also be a progress report on
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the proposed directive modifying directive 95/2/CE on food additives and directive 94/35/CE on colourings used in food.

Ministers will also discuss preparation for an influenza pandemic and the health response to the tsunami in South Asia.

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