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The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): The Government has received and welcomed the fourth report from the Justice Oversight Commissioner, the Rt. Hon. The Lord Clyde, on the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland. Consistent with his terms of reference, the report was submitted to the Attorney-General, Bridget Prentice, Minister for the Northern Ireland Court Service, and me in June.
Lord Clyde concludes that the overall picture in recent months is one of major advance. This included, amongst other things, the establishment of the new Public Prosecution Service, the creation of an independent Judicial Appointments Commission and the appointment of new lay magistrates. Lord Clyde commends the significant advances made during the last six months and states that this achievement is to the credit and congratulations of all the criminal justice agencies that have contributed to the progress. The Government warmly endorses these conclusions.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I am pleased to announce that the Government has today written to the Low Pay Commission setting out the terms of reference for their 2006 Report.
consider whether the October 2006 upratings of the adult and development rates recommended in their 2005 Report remain appropriate in the light of economic circumstances and the other factors identified as relevant in that Report, and if not make any recommendations for change;
The Government will review the position on the older workers' Development Rate and the way the exemption applies to older apprentices, working
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closely with the Commission, in good time for these issues to be addressedif appropriatein the forthcoming age discrimination regulations.
The Government has asked the Commission to report to the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry by the end of February 2006. Copies of the terms of reference have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
I am also pleased to announce that the Government has appointed Heather Wakefield of Unison as a new employee member of the Commission. I would like to welcome Heather to the Commission and also take this opportunity to pass on my thanks to Baroness Margaret Prosser for her contribution in this post over the last five years.
The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael): I am today launching a review of the Government's strategy for sustainable construction. The current strategy was developed in the late 1990s and published by the then Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions in 2000. Since then there have been significant policy developments relating to construction that are not reflected in this strategy. The purpose of reviewing the strategy is to provide a framework to guide future Government policies where they are relevant to construction. It will focus on the principle of Sustainable Development to which the Government as a whole is signed up.
Sustainable Development involves balancing and integrating the economic, social and environmental considerations that are relevant to any policy or decision. The review will indicate how, under this umbrella of sustainable development, Government and industry are responding to the challenges of sustainable construction through a sustainable, innovative and productive economy that delivers high levels of employment; and a just society that promotes social inclusion, sustainable communities and personal wellbeing. It will also set out how this is being done in ways that protect and enhance the physical and natural environment, and use resources and energy as efficiently as possible.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): On 23 May the Secretary of State announced that our invitation to the public of 22 February 2005 to comment on the Crossrail Environmental Statement was to be extended to 10 June.
In accordance with our commitment to present to the House and publish all comments received, we are publishing today a Command Paper Responses to the Government's Consultation on the Crossrail Bill Environmental Statement.
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A Supplementary Environmental Statement (SES) was published on 26 May. The Department for Transport have invited comments on the SES, and those should be submitted by 8 July 2005. Comments on the SES should be sent to Tim Neate, Consultation Manager, Major Projects Division 3, Zone 2/08, 76 Marsham Street, London, SWIP 4DR (e-mail: email@example.com). All comments received will be presented to Parliament and published.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire):
We are pleased to publish today the fifth report by the President of appeal tribunals on the standard of decisions made on behalf of
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the Secretary of State in cases which come before appeal tribunals. The major reasons given for appeal tribunals overturning or amending decisions were because new evidence was produced at the hearing or the tribunal took a different view of the same evidence. The President maintains the view that an improvement in the attendance of Presenting Officers at tribunal hearings would provide the Department with immediate feedback on the standards of decision making.
The President has acknowledged there has been an improvement in the way decision makers weigh and view the evidence available to them but the problem remains that that most decisions are overturned because additional evidence is produced at the hearing.
The President has identified three areas he thinks the agencies need to address; pre-empting the need for additional evidence, the weighing and manner in which medical evidence is used and the quality and content of medical reports. We welcome the President's report which provides an independent view of the standard of Secretary of State decision making in cases coming to the appeal tribunal.