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Law of Murder

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): On 28 October 2004, my predecessor—now the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett)—announced a review of murder. There has been a long-standing debate over many years about the need to review the
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laws on murder. The Law Commission has produced a report on partial defences to murder and this review will build on the analysis of the law set out in that work.

The terms of reference for the review, to be led by the Home Office have today been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. There will be a full public consultation as part of the review and hon. Members will have the opportunity to comment at any stage.

I am pleased to announce that the Law Commission has agreed to join the Home Office in this work. The review will be in two stages. The Law Commission will first conduct an analysis of the laws relating to murder, taking into account its earlier work on the partial defences but looking at them in this wider context. Following consultation, it will provide the Home Office with its conclusions, which the Home Office will take into account in conducting a review of the wider public policy issues and producing recommendations, as appropriate, for new legislation.

The review is expected to take between 18 months and two years.

Commission for Racial Equality

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): The Commission for Racial Equality's Annual Report 2004 is published today.

Copies will be available in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be sent to the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly for Wales.

Immigration (Pre-entry Health Screening)

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. McNulty): As part of the five-year asylum and immigration strategy announced in February, the government announced its intention to apply targeted screening for TB overseas and at the entry clearance stage, rather than the current practice of screening at UK ports of entry.

While some screening is already carried out routinely in certain countries, our approach will be to prioritise screening of entry clearance applicants wishing to come to the UK for more than six months and coming from countries which combine the highest levels of incidence of TB, as measured by the World Health Organisation, with the highest numbers of potentially infectious travellers to the UK.

We will begin an initial phase by the end of the summer in posts in four overseas countries, to test the screening system. The initial countries are Bangladesh, Thailand (which also processes entry clearance applications from Cambodia and Laos), Tanzania and Sudan. These all have high rates of TB, represent the various kinds of entry clearance operation the UK runs globally (outsourced, personal applications and postal/remote applications), and includes those where the medical infrastructure allows the testing phase to be set up quickly. A further announcement will be made early next year regarding the countries to be included in the next phase of the rollout.

Screening overseas at the entry clearance stage will bring many benefits. It will identify infectious travellers who will be asked to complete treatment before applying for entry clearance. It will generate data on infection among travellers to the UK which will enable us to
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understand better the role of migration on TB infections rates in the UK, and respond with effective health policies. Entry clearance applicants themselves will benefit from health screening which will be conducted to high standards that are quality assured. Host countries will benefit from the earlier identification of individuals with infectious TB. We also aim to share data on infection rates with host countries so as to inform their own public health programmes. We are however mindful that pre-entry screening is only part of dealing effectively with TB globally. We will continue to work with the World Health Organisation to help developing countries diagnose and treat patients. We will evaluate the effect of this policy on our wider development objectives and messages.

We believe the impact on migration will be minimal. But we will examine the experience of other countries already implementing such schemes, such as the US, Australia and Canada. And we will carefully monitor any impact on entry clearance application rates.

Office for Contracted Prisons

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): The Prison Service Annual Report and Accounts were laid on the 19 July. Today, the Office for Contracted Prisons has published its Statement of Performance and Financial Information indicating its performance during 2004–05. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.



The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): DFID has completed a review of its support programme in Nepal. The review was prompted by political events in the early part of the year.

DFID plans to continue a substantial programme in the country and the overall purpose of our country assistance plan (CAP) remains unchanged: to reduce poverty and social exclusion, establishing a basis for lasting peace.

However, the conflict and political context have made it more difficult to deliver development assistance effectively, and DFID has scaled back the plans in the CAP to increase significantly our levels of assistance. Instead, we plan to keep these at about £32 million—close to the amount spent in the previous UK financial year.

The published CAP had five objectives covering peace-building, improving rural livelihoods, expanding basic services, supporting the social inclusion of women and excluded caste and ethnic groups, and improving governance. We have not radically changed those objectives, but we have adjusted priorities to give more attention to the possible humanitarian operations and the protection of vulnerable groups, such as internally displaced people, and working with pro-democracy groups, including the political parties, to help ensure that an eventual return to democracy is sustained.
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DFID will strengthen further its risk management systems to ensure that we continue to protect staff and respond in a timely way to further changes in the context in which we are working. We will also build further our skills to manage the programme within a conflict setting.

We will continue to work closely with other Whitehall Departments, helping to ensure that best use is made of the global conflict prevention pool (GCPP) and that DFID's activities make a positive contribution to the wider UK objective of a sustainable peace based on democratic government.

Post-Conflict Reconstruction Unit

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): Following my written statement to the House on 16 September 2004, and together with the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for Defence, I wish to inform Parliament of the establishment and current capabilities of the post-conflict reconstruction unit (PCRU). The PCRU is an interdepartmental unit, which has been set up by our three Departments to improve the United Kingdom's capacity to contribute to the creation of a stable environment in countries emerging from conflict. The unit's work is overseen by the Defence and Overseas Policy (Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction) Committee, chaired by the Foreign Secretary.

The PCRU has been established to carry out two main tasks: first, to develop Government strategy for post-conflict stabilisation, which includes linking military and civilian planning, as well as working with the wider international community for the spread of best practice, capacity building and burden sharing; and, secondly, to plan and direct activities designed to create stability in post-conflict environments in the period immediately following the cessation of hostilities.

The PCRU is nearly fully staffed and has reached an initial capacity to plan for, and support, stabilisation activities. The unit is building up a database of civilian experts who can be deployed. It is also developing methods to help the Government reach an understanding of, and plan responses to, individual conflicts. In addition, the unit is writing a series of guidance papers on a range of specific issues that may need to be tackled in post-conflict situations, such as security sector reform and governance. The PCRU is also developing links with international organisations and other Governments to ensure that the UK's efforts are part of a co-ordinated contribution to the international response to conflict. I expect the PCRU to be able, if necessary, to plan and organise a large-scale deployment of up to several hundred civilians, including police, as part of a post-conflict stabilisation operation by mid-2006.
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