The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jane Kennedy): The 200506 business plan for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has today been presented to Parliament. The plan contains the agency's key targets for the year.
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): Today I am publishing the third "Accession Monitoring Report" showing provisional management information from the worker registration scheme and data from Government monitoring of benefits, housing and national insurance number applications for the period 1 May 2004 to 31 March 2005. The report is available electronically on the Home Office website at: www.ind.homeoffice.gov.uk/ind/en/home/0/reports/accessionmonitoring.html.
Also today, as part of the Government's commitment to monitor the impact of workers from eight of the new EU Member States on the UK labour market, the Department for Work and Pensions is publishing early evidence of the "Impact of the Free Movement of Workers from Central and Eastern Europe on the UK labour market". The report is available at: www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/wp18.pdf.
The evidence confirms earlier indications that the Government's decision to allow individuals from the new member states to work in the UK has been largely beneficial to the UK economy. We estimate that workers from the new EU member states contributed approximately £500 million to UK GDP between May 2004 and March 2005. New EU citizens continue to register employment throughout the UK, easing employer recruitment difficulties and helping to address labour shortages in key sectors. The number of people from the new member states seeking benefits remains exceptionally low. There appears to have been a significant reduction in illegal working amongst accession nationals, and an increase in employment and output in the sectors in which these workers are located, with minimal impact on resident workers.
In total 176,000 workers from the new member states applied to the worker registration scheme between 1 May and 31 March 2005, of who up to a third (59,000) were already in the UK before 1 May 2004. The level of applications has fallen since the peak in June and July 2004. Many workers only remain for short periods of time. A recent survey commissioned by the recruitment firm manpower found that of employers who had taken on workers from the new member states half had workers who had subsequently left their employment.
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On average, workers who had left were employed for between three and four months. In future the e-borders programme will allow us to monitor people leaving and entering the UK.
The accession monitoring report shows that workers from the new members states are continuing to find jobs in sectors where there are a high number of vacancies. For example, 8 per cent. of workers registered in the manufacturing sector, which according to the latest ONS vacancy survey had over 628,900 vacancies in the quarter ending April 2005. Significantly, there is evidence from the most recent labour force survey that demand for labour is still outstripping supply in certain sectors, despite the fact that high percentages of new EU nationals are registered as working in these industries.
Since enlargement of the European Union on 1 May 2004, macroeconomic conditions in the UK remain robust and the UK labour market continues to perform well. Individuals from the new member states make up just over 0.4 per cent. of the total working age population, and there is little evidence of widespread impacts on employment, unemployment or wages. UK employment currently stands at 74.9 per cent., unchanged from 12 months ago. In March 2005 the average earnings index, excluding bonuses, was up 4.6 per cent. on the year, unchanged from May 2004.
The early evidence from the "Impact of the Free Movement of Workers" study suggests that overall the effect of EU enlargement on the UK labour market has been broadly positive, reflecting the flexibility and speed of adjustment of the UK labour market. The employment rate of individuals from the eight new member states has increased substantiallyfrom under 60 per cent. in 2003 to over 75 per cent. by the end of 2004while employment has continued to rise to record levels for both the domestic population and other foreign born nationals. In particular, employment has grown significantly in the agriculture and fishing sector. There is some early, mixed evidence that wage inflation in this sector has been lower than in the rest of the economy; further analysis will be necessary to confirm this finding. There are some early suggestions from the analysis that employment of workers from the new member states has led to small localised increases in the claimant unemployment count. However these are preliminary findings, of small magnitude and are expected to be a short term effect. Further analysis will be undertaken to test these findings the effects will continue to be monitored closely over the coming months.
All the evidence from the accession monitoring report continues to reinforce earlier suggestions that individuals from the new member states are coming to the UK for the opportunity to work, not to claim benefits. Over 98 per cent. of applications for national insurance numbers made by individuals from the new member states between 1 May 2004 and 31 March 2005 were for employment purposes. Very few are receiving out of work support or housing and homelessness assistance. For example, between May 2004 and March 2005 there were 1,191 applications for income support, jobseeker's allowance and state pension credit, and of these fewer than 40 were allowed to go forward for further consideration. Over the same period there have
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been just 43 local authority lettings to tenants from the eight new member states and only 216 people were accepted for assistance under the homelessness legislation. The vast majority of recipients (70 per cent. and 80 per cent. respectively) were in the UK before 1 May 2004. Registered workers continue to be young (82 per cent. were aged 18 to 34) and only 2 per cent. of registered workers had dependants under the age of 17 living with them in the UK. This profile reinforces earlier evidence that the usage of hospital and education services by accession nationals is low.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): I have today placed in the Library copies of "Overarching Race Equality Scheme" for the Home Office and the associate schemes for the Core (non-Immigration and Nationality Directorate) Home Office, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, the National Probation Directorate, the Prison Service, the UK Passport, the Forensic Science Service and the Criminal Records Bureau.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I am pleased to say that Lord Carlile of Berriew QC has completed the report on the operation of the Act, which will be laid before the House today.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): At a donor conference in Addis Ababa for the African Union's monitoring mission in Darfur today, the UK announced that it was pledging a further £6.6 million worth of support to the mission. This is in addition to the £14 million of support made available to date. It is planned that the money be used to buy 4x4 vehicles, rapid deployment equipment including ration packs and shelters, and to support civilian policing.
At the conference the African Union announced that talks about a political settlement in Darfur would resume in Abuja, Nigeria on 10 June. The Foreign Secretary and I welcome this. The UK will be represented at the talks.
The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. David Hanson):
During 2004, on the basis of proposals for the reform of fraud law in England and
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Wales, my predecessor my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warley (Mr. Spellar), commissioned a public consultation exercise on similar reforms in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland legislation on fraud generally mirrors the legislation in England and Wales and Government took the view that there would be considerable benefit in maintaining a consistent approach across both jurisdictions. The consultations in both jurisdictions produced broadly similar responses.
Today, I am pleased to announce the publication of the Government's response to consultation in Northern Ireland on the reform of the law on fraud. I am also pleased to announce my decision that the draft Fraud Bill, as introduced yesterday in the House of Lords, will extend to Northern Ireland.
The Government's proposals reflect the widespread public support for the proposed draft legislation across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is vital that police and prosecutors have a modern legislative framework to deal with fraud which will make the prosecution process simpler and more efficient for both juries and defendants. The reforms proposed in the draft Bill will make the law more relevant and effective in tackling the wide range of fraudulent activity.