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Electoral Registration

The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): I am pleased to announce the publication of the Government's response to the Constitutional Affairs and Office of the Deputy Prime Minister Select Committees' report on Electoral Registration.

As the Committees' report recognises, there is a challenge to be met in achieving the objectives of security, participation and full registration of all those who are entitled to the franchise. The Committees provide a thoughtful analysis of these issues, and a range of possible solutions.

Work in this area is ongoing and many of the Committees' suggestions are under active consideration. The Government will inform the Committees and the House when this work has concluded.

Copies of the Government response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Court Service

The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): The magistrates courts business returns annual report 2004–05 has been laid before Parliament today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Digital Switchover

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): In the statement I made to this House on 22 July 2004, I said that I would report further material developments in the move towards digital switchover. I am pleased to say that good progress continues to be made.

By the end of March 2005, digital television was being enjoyed by over 62 per cent. of the UK households.

A growing number of retailers and manufacturers, as well as other parts of the industry, are using the digital switchover logo and committing to give reliable information to consumers. Over 250 retail organisations (representing over 2,300 retail outlets, covering both nationwide chains and small independent stores), 20 manufacturers (covering most major brands) and seven manufacturers of aerials and/or coaxial cables had registered to use the logo by June 2005.

A not-for-profit company, Switchco, has been set up by the public service broadcasters and the digital terrestrial television multiplex operators, with the support of manufacturers, and retailers, to co-ordinate
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the technical roll out of digital terrestrial television across the UK, region by region, to a timetable agreed by Government.

While the Government will continue to inform the public of the benefits of digital switchover, Switchco will lead a major communication campaign to educate the public and ensure everyone knows what is happening, what they need to do, and when. They will also liaise with TV manufacturers, retailers, aerial installers, digital platform operators and consumer groups to ensure the switchover programme is properly implemented.

The new digital replacement licences for the commercial public service broadcasters (ITV, Channel 4, Five and Teletext) require the extension of the digital terrestrial network so that digital coverage can reach the same level as analogue. By this means we should be confident that the 98.5 per cent. of households who today are able to receive all the nationally available analogue public services will be able to receive the digital equivalents of these services. We are also considering with OFCOM how people who cannot receive analogue television could receive digital television through satellite, cable, ADSL or another emerging technology.

We are publishing today the report of the digital switchover technical trial in Ferryside and Llansteffan and the associated research on Vulnerable Households. This trial investigated the technical issues for broadcasters and consumers associated with the switch from analogue to digital terrestrial television transmission. It has received overwhelming support from the community involved which was the first one to undergo the switchover process.

We acknowledge that landlords who own or manage communal TV systems need to start taking steps to prepare for digital switchover. In association with the Chartered Institute of Housing, we are developing comprehensive new guidance for private and social sector landlords who have properties with analogue communal systems which need to be upgraded. The guidance will be published during the summer.

As stated in our Manifesto, we are committed to achieving digital switchover between 2008 and 2012 ensuring universal access to high-quality, free-to-view and subscription digital TV.

However, we need to ensure that the interests of elderly people and other vulnerable groups are protected. We know there will be some people who need assistance to understand, install and use digital television equipment.

We will be running a pilot in Bolton this autumn. This will help us to understand how best to provide this assistance whether it is by using leaflets, dedicated phone lines, support from social workers and charities or installation by professional engineers.

We are now close to the point where we will have the information which we require to confirm the region by region timetable for switchover. I expect to make a further announcement this autumn, and will report further progress to the House as appropriate.

Copies of the report have been placed in both Libraries of the House and are available at
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Defence Storage and Distribution Agency

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): Key targets have been set for the chief executive of DSDA for financial year 2005–06 1 . The targets are as follows:

a. Key Target 1. To meet the customers' requirements as negotiated and agreed in business agreements (BAs). This key target is broken down into the following sub-targets (each sub-target is reported separately):

b. Key Target 2. KT2 is an efficiency measure for continuous performance improvement to achieve a 2.5 per cent. (net of 2.5 per cent. inflation factor) reduction in the unit cost of output (UCO) in FY05–06 (based on FY04–05) while maintaining an effective level of services to the customers in accordance with the BAs.

c. Key Target 3. The value of inventory written off as a result of DSDA's actions to be less than the levels agreed within each business agreement BA. This key target is broken down into two sub-targets:

Army Training and Recruiting Agency

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): The chief executive of the Army Training and Recruiting Agency (ATRA) has been set the following key targets for 2005–06:

Key Target 1

To meet the Army's requirement from the ATRA for 666 trained mainstream officers available to take up their first appointment within a permissible variance of 3 per cent. (below only).

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Key Target 2

To meet the Defence requirement from the ATRA for 1,807 Army recruits who have completed common initial training and are available to Defence Training Agencies for their specialist training with a permissible variance of +5 per cent. to -5 per cent.

Key Target 3

To meet the Defence requirement from the ATRA for 8,863 ratings, soldiers and airmen (7,649 from ATRA schools and 1,447 to the other services) trained as specialists and available to take up their first appointment within a permissible variance of+5 to -5 per cent. in any career employment group or capbadge.

Key Target 4

To achieve a 96 per cent. first time pass for all officers and other ranks made available to undergo career or professional development training and meeting entry standards.

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