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Levy Board Report

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): Rosemary Radcliffe has completed her independent review of UK agricultural and horticultural levy bodies, and her report is published today. Copies are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses. My ministerial colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and I wish to offer our thanks to the Reviewer for the thorough and inclusive way in which she has carried out her work.
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In summary, the Reviewer finds that there is still a case for statutory levies to address issues of market failure in the sectors in question, and she makes recommendations for a new structure to meet the sectors' needs in future. This includes proposed arrangements for improving governance, flexibility, focus inactivities undertaken, levy collection arrangements, and operations and service delivery, to increase overall value for money for, and accountability to the levy payer.

My noble Friend Lord Bach is today launching a full consultation on the report so that the views of stakeholders, and in particular levy payers, can be taken into account before formal policy proposals are developed. This consultation will run for 12 weeks, and a further statement will be made thereafter.


UK Presidency: General Affairs and External Relations Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Douglas Alexander): A General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) was held on 7 November in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary (Mr. Jack Straw) and I chaired the Council as Presidency. I also represented the UK on certain agenda items.

The agenda items were covered as follows:

Report on Informal Heads of State/Government meeting (Hampton Court, 27 October 2005)

World Trade Organisation (WTO)/Doha Development Agenda (DDA)

Financial Perspectives 2007–13

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UN World Summit follow-up

Avian Flu




Police Force Structures Review

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's (HMIC) report, "Closing the Gap", published in September 2005 concluded that the current 43 force structure in England and Wales was no longer "fit for purpose". The report recommended that the best business solution was for the police service to reconfigure based on strategic forces of sufficient size to provide both effective neighbourhood policing and protective services to combat serious organised crime and terrorism.

Following the publication of the HMIC report, the Home Secretary asked all police forces and authorities to consider the best options for their region and to submit them to him by 23 December 2005. The first stage in this process was for police forces and police authorities to develop by the end of October short listed options for each region. This stage has now been completed and feedback has been provided to all chief officers and chairs of police authorities indicating which proposals appear to be most favourable for each of the nine Government Office regions in England and for Wales. The options identified for further development are set out below, although authorities are still free to develop alternative options alongside these.

In recommending particular options, the arguments put forward by forces and authorities have been carefully considered along with the need to create a balanced and resilient policing landscape across the whole of England and Wales. Neighbourhood and Basic Command Unit (ECU) level policing remain the essential local face of the police service, and by ensuring greater resilience and capability in our police service we will help maintain this service, whilst at the same time
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strengthening the capacity to deal with serious and organised crimes, major incidents and counter-terrorism.

Forces and authorities are now being asked to complete a cost benefit analysis for all of their short listed options. They will then develop a business case and initial implementation plans for their recommended option to be submitted to the Home Secretary.

The Secretary of State for Transport announced in a written statement on 11 October that, in the context of this review, he would be reviewing separately the role of the British Transport Police (BTP) Proposals for the British Transport Police will be brought forward, if appropriate, once the outcome of that review is known.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears) has written to all Parliamentary colleagues on this matter inviting them to join the consultation process.
Options assessed at this stage as suitable for progression
South East1. Two strategic forces: Kent, Surrey and Sussex; Thames Valley and Hampshire
2. Three strategic forces: Kent; Thames Valley; Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire
3. Three strategic forces: Kent, Surrey and Sussex; Thames Valley; Hampshire
4. Three strategic forces: Kent and Sussex; Thames Valley; Hampshire and Surrey
5. Four strategic forces: Kent; Thames Valley; Surrey and Sussex; Hampshire
South West1. Regional South West force
2. Two strategic forces: Devon and Cornwall; Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Dorset
West1. Regional West Midlands force
Midlands2. Two strategic forces: Staffordshire and West Mercia; Warwickshire and West Midlands
East Midlands1. Regional East Midlands force
2. Two strategic forces: Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire; Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire
Eastern1. Regional Eastern force
2. Two strategic forces: Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex; Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire
3. Two strategic forces: Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex; Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire
Yorkshire and1. Regional Yorkshire and Humberside force
Humberside2. Two strategic forces: West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire; South Yorkshire and Humberside
North East1. Regional North East force
North West1. Three strategic forces: Lancashire and Cumbria; Cheshire and Merseyside; Greater Manchester Police
2. Two strategic forces: Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside; Cheshire and Greater Manchester Police
Wales1. National Wales force
London1. Strategic force: Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London
2. Collaboration between the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London
BTP1. Proposals for the British Transport Police will be brought forward, if appropriate, once the outcome of the current DfT review is known
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