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The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): The Chief Electoral Officer for Northern Ireland, Denis Stanley is responsible for all aspects of electoral administration in Northern Ireland, including the conduct of all elections and referendums, as well as electoral registration. In accordance with section 14 of the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962, the Chief Electoral Officer is required to submit an annual report to the Secretary of State.
Legislation is currently before Parliament to introduce a single offence of fraud; and I announced in June that the Government intend to implement Section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which would allow a limited number of very serious and complex fraud trials to be tried without a jury if both the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice concur. The Order to implement section 43 will be laid today before both Houses.
But in addition to these worthwhile changes the Government have decided that our response to fraud must be strengthened further. To facilitate that an inter departmental review of fraud has been established which will report jointly to me and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, by late spring 2006. The review will consider the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution/punishment of fraud. It will consider the scope for improving the current arrangements with the objective of reducing the amount of fraud and minimising the harm it causes to the economy and wider society. The terms of reference are attached to this statement. The Review Team will consult widely with stakeholders in the public and private sectors before delivering its report, and representatives of the Fraud Advisory Panel and Financial Services Authority have agreed to join the Steering Group which will be chaired by one of my officials".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): I am pleased to announce that, following advice from the Meteorological Office, the annual review of the Cold Weather Payments scheme has now been completed. Amending regulations were laid on 7 October and will come into force on 1 November, in time for the beginning of the winter period.
One of the weather stations used in the scheme last winter, Newcastle, is closing and two new weather stations are being introduced at Albemarle and Loftus to provide data for the scheme. Two postcode to weather station linkages have been changed on the advice of the Meteorological Office following representations made by hon. Members and others.