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Met Office

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): The key targets have been set for the chief executive of the Met Office for the financial year 2005–06. The targets are designed to drive change to create an environment for growth, whilst delivering
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value for money. Further information can be found in the Met Office's annual report and accounts which will be published by September 2005.

Key Performance Target 1. Return on Capital Employed.

To achieve a Return on Capital Employed of at least 3.5 per cent.

Key Performance Target 2. Forecast Accuracy.

To demonstrate an improvement of 1 per cent. in the underpinning numerical weather prediction capability. And to achieve minimum levels of accuracy on next-day forecasts for a representative selection of UK cities as follows: maximum temperature (83 per cent.), minimum temperature (78 per cent.), and precipitation (85.5 per cent.).

Key Performance Target 3. Support to Wider Government Goals.

As a basis for delivering future efficiencies, to define in costed-output terms the services to be provided to key central Government Departments; and to agree formal customer-supplier agreements with each such Department. In addition, to pilot with MOD a new incentive pricing mechanism which allows the benefits of cost-reductions to be shared between both organisations.

Key Performance Target 4. Profitability.

To achieve a profit contribution of £2.8 million from the Met Office's work for commercial customers.

Key Performance Target 5. Our people.

As a baseline improving the management of people, to establish a benchmark for staff perception of the Met Office leadership, and the level of satisfaction with the implementation of the corporate plan.

Far East Prisoners of War

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): On 12 July, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration laid before Parliament her special report on the complaint of Professor Hayward in respect of the far east prisoner of war and civilian internee ex-gratia payment scheme. The report makes a number of criticisms of the Government's handling of the scheme, a number of which are accepted but some of which we reject.

The Commissioner's report is critical of the way the scheme was introduced and announced. This criticism is accepted. A considerable amount of work had been undertaken on scoping the scheme before its inception but, because all parties involved wished the payments to be made as quickly as possible due to the age of potential claimants, the scheme was announced before all the criteria governing eligibility had been fully developed.

The wording used in this House on 7 November 2000 in announcing which former civilian internees would be covered by the scheme was "British civilians who were interned". This was clarified in March 2001 to allow decisions to be made on claims where the applicability of the original criteria was unclear. However, no clear announcement was made at this time of the birthlink eligibility criterion for civilian internees. The words used in November 2000 led Professor Hayward to think that, as a former British civilian internee, he was covered by
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the scheme. This expectation was ended when his claim was subsequently rejected as he did not meet the birthlink criterion.

We accept that the way the scheme was introduced and announced led to distress for Professor Hayward himself and for some other people in a similar position. There was no intention to cause such distress but we accept that it is real. The fact that this occurred is profoundly regretted and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for it.

The people to whom this apology is made are those who:

I sincerely apologise to these people and will now be examining whether I should express this apology in a tangible form and how most quickly to identify and contact those affected.

The Parliamentary Commissioner made a number of criticisms and recommendations on other aspects of the Government's handling of the scheme, notably relating to the birthlink criterion itself, which we do not accept. This criterion, on which Professor Hayward's application was rejected, is the subject of judicial review in which judgment was handed down on 7 July. This judgment is now being considered and it would not be appropriate to make further comment until the final outcome of the case is known. However, pending this outcome, the ex-gratia payment scheme has been suspended in relation to former civilian internees and their surviving spouses: claims may continue to be submitted but none will be considered meanwhile.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The chief executive of the defence science and technology laboratory (Dstl) has been set the following key targets for the financial year 2005–06:

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Local Government Pension Scheme

The Minister for Local Government (Mr. Phil Woolas): In light of the statutory consultation exercise conducted between 1 April and 31 May, it has been concluded that it would be appropriate to revoke the Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2004. The Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2005 which make the revocation will have retrospective effect from 1 April 2005 and will come into force on 3 August 2005.

As required by the statutes which govern the scheme's provisions, a statutory consultation exercise has been undertaken with interested parties in England and Wales. Careful consideration has been given to the representations submitted in response to that consultation exercise. Many of those stakeholders who opposed revocation raised the question of costs and how taking such a step might impact on the scheme, and then create fresh pressures on local authorities' budgets if no suitable mitigating measures were put in place. That point is recognised and the Government fully intend to deal with it.

Representatives of the local government employers and trades unions have been invited by the Deputy Prime Minister to develop realistic and costed measures by the autumn to fully meet any costs arising from the decision to revoke the Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2004.

To assist in that process and, as a measure to ensure the continued stability of the Scheme, an amendment is also being made by the Local Government Pension Scheme (Amendment) Regulations 2005 to provide each LGPS administering authority the vires to request an interim valuation of their pension fund, as at 31 March 2005. In the meantime, and as part of that process, LGPS pension funds, funding strategy statements will be undergoing review, as currently required by the scheme's regulations, and appropriate changes made to their deficit recovery periods can be taken into account by their actuaries.

Taking account of these costing exercises, the Deputy Prime Minister intends to ensure that his statutory responsibilities for the on-going solvency of the scheme are fully met. New regulations will identify the way forward to ensure that the local government pension scheme funds remain solvent, without additional calls
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on employers' contributions, or on Government. Consultations on these necessary further regulations to address the costs of revocation will take place in time for them to take effect from 1 April 2006.

The framework now provided by the LGPS tri-partite committee will ensure effective and co-ordinated progress on the development of the scheme. It is imperative for its affordability and sustainability that the effect of revocation is managed prudently and with regard to the need to ensure on-going solvency and viability. All the stakeholders in England and Wales with an interest in the scheme will wish to work to that end.

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