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Identity Cards

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Tony McNulty): The Home Office Identity Cards Programme will publish today "Procurement Strategy Market Sounding" documents.

These documents support an exercise for gaining input and views from the supply market to validate the emerging procurement strategy for Identity Cards. This is to help ensure that once legislation has been passed, an effective and competitive procurement can be conducted.

This activity is in no way prejudging the outcome of the Parliamentary process. It is however right to conduct this exercise now so that the Home Office is prepared for the process of implementing Identity Cards without undue delay once Royal Assent is granted.

Copies will be available in the Libraries of the House and in electronic format on the Identity Cards Programme website

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): The Government is laying the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime before Parliament today. The Code of Practice is part of the Government's programme of work to offer better support and advice to victims of crime and their families.

The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 gave the Home Secretary the power to issue a Code of Practice setting out the minimum services victims of crime can expect to receive from each criminal justice agency. Following a consultation exercise earlier this year, a final version of the Code of Practice has been produced.

The Code of Practice is being published today and it will come into force in April 2006. After April 2006, victims will be able to appeal, ultimately to the Parliamentary Ombudsman, if they feel that they have not received the level of service set out in the Code.

Copies of the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime have been placed in the House Library.


Independent Monitoring Commission

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I have received the Seventh Report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report has been made under Articles 4 and 7 of the International Agreement that established the Commission and it reports on levels of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.
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I have considered the content of the report and I am today bringing it before Parliament. I have placed copies in the Library of the House.

The report concludes that the PIRA statement, despite coming at a point when five sixths of the period under review had elapsed, is 'very significant'. The statement and the act of decommissioning reported by the IICD on 26 September have created a platform for future progress and 'initial signs following the PIRA statement are encouraging'. However, it is essential that the IMC, as they state, are able to observe 'cumulative changes in behaviour over a more sustained period of time . . . '. I await the next report of the Commission, due in January 2006.

In the meantime I have decided to restore Sinn Fein's Assembly allowances, with effect from 1 November, and will, in due course, recommend to the House that it lifts the suspension of allowances to Sinn Fein Members of Parliament, which took effect on 1 April this year.

The report also concludes that paramilitaries, especially Loyalists and dissident Republicans, continue to exert a malign influence over communities which has obstructed the development of a 'culture of lawfulness'. As I said in my Statement to Parliament on 14 October, it has taken a long time for the Republican movement to acknowledge that violence does not pay but it has now publicly done so. Loyalist paramilitaries must now also realise that exclusively peaceful and democratic means represent the sole way forward.

Once again, I am grateful to the Commission for their submission of this report and for its careful analysis.


Health Strategy (Working-age People)

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. David Blunkett): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and I have today published a paper "Health, Work and Wellbeing—Caring for our Future. A strategy for the health and wellbeing of
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working age people". The report has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members in the Vote Office.

With a 10 per cent. reduction in accidents at work since 1997, the UK today has one of the best health and safety records in the world. Yet 40 million working days are still lost every year to occupational ill health and injury, and a third of those coming onto incapacity benefit come from work.

In a modern world where rising dependency ratios and global market forces place an ever greater burden on those of working age in supporting others for the sake of the individual and their family, and for the well-being of our overall economy, we cannot afford to stand back and allow those with moderate health or disability challenges, to be written off.

This strategy is a crucial part of delivering on the Government's commitment to improving the health and well-being of the working age population. This is a central element of our wider welfare reform agenda and is set out in the White Paper: "Choosing Health: Making Healthier Choices Easier". It helps to make a reality of the Health and Safety Commission's Strategy for Workplace Health and Safety.

Underpinned by a ground-breaking partnership between my department (including the Health and Safety Commission/Executive) and the Department of Health—this strategy will enable us to work with all our partners across and outside Government to take the first steps in breaking the link between ill-health and inactivity. It will advance the prevention of ill-health and injury, encourage good management of occupational health, and transform opportunities for people to recover from illness while at work, maintaining their independence and their sense of worth.

This is an ambitious agenda—far more stretching than any commitments of previous Governments and more wide-ranging—placing responsibility not just in the hands of Government, but with employers, individuals, the healthcare profession and all our stakeholders. It will be led by a new national Director for Occupational Health and include the creation of a National Charter for Health, Work and Wellbeing, setting out the contribution of all stakeholders in delivering this transformation in occupational health.