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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 21 November 2005

CABINET OFFICE

Public Bodies Database

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Cabinet Office (Mr. Jim Murphy): In a written ministerial statement of Thursday 10 February 2005, Official Report, col. 85WS, it was announced that the previous annual Cabinet Office publication "Public Bodies" had been replaced by an on-line searchable database. I am pleased to announce that the 2005 update of the database has now been completed. Data on individual public bodies as at 31 March 2005 were made available on-line during the summer, and the package has now been completed with the provision of summary reports and a printable (.pdf) file of all the 2005 data. The database is accessible at: http://www.knowledgenetwork.gov.uk/ndpb/ndpb.nsf.

The database lists the public bodies sponsored by central Government, with contact details, information about their remit and about the membership of their boards. The figures are broken down between male and female members for individual bodies, and summaries are provided at departmental level for the proportions of board members who are women, have declared they have a disability or come from a minority ethnic background.

Comparisons with 2004 database returns show that diversity levels have remained broadly similar. There has been a small increase in the proportion of appointees who have declared they have a disability, but a slight decrease in the percentage of appointments held by women and by people from minority ethnic backgrounds. This reinforces the Government's commitment to continue to pursue its diversity objectives and to promote outreach activity and plans.

The database also includes information about the Government's Task Forces, Ad-hoc Advisory Groups and Reviews, giving a more complete picture of the bodies and groups working to deliver the Government's objectives.

Copies of a printed version of the .pdf file are available in the Library.

CONSTITUTIONAL AFFAIRS

European Court of Human Rights (B and L v United Kingdom)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): My noble and learned Friend, the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, has made the following statement in the other place today.


 
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ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Agriculture and Fisheries Council 22–24 November 2005

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The European Union Agriculture and Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels from 22 to 24 November 2005.

I will chair the agriculture items with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, in the UK seat.

Ben Bradshaw will chair the fisheries items with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Jim Knight, in the UK seat.

The main item of agriculture business is to try to reach a general approach (in effect a political conclusion) on the proposal to reform the Common Agricultural Policy sugar regime.

The Council will also consider the proposal for EU Strategic Guidelines on Rural Development, where again, we hope to reach a general approach.

The fisheries items on the agenda include Baltic Sea technical conservation measures, where we hope to reach political agreement. There will also be political debates on Baltic Sea total allowable catches and the effort control measures associated with total allowable catches and quotas for 2006.

Under any other business, the Fisheries Commissioner will update the Council on EU/ Norway fisheries agreement.

There will be an update on avian influenza by the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

Poland will inform the Council about a ban by Russia on the import of Polish meat and plants.

The Agriculture Commissioner will update the Council on developments in the WTO agricultural negotiations.

Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania will draw the Council's attention to problems in their transition from the Single Area Payment Scheme (the temporary system of farm payments in place for the new Member States) to the Single Payment Scheme (the system which applies in the rest of the EU).

Cyprus will notify the Commission of a state aid scheme designed to compensate farmers for land lost after the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus.
 
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HOME DEPARTMENT

Inspectorate for Justice, Community Safety and Custody

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): Today the Government will publish a policy statement announcing its intention to create a single inspectorate for Justice, Community Safety and Custody. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The Government are committed to creating an independent and robust inspection regime for the justice system. In March a consultation exercise was launched that sought views on the purpose, function and future structure of inspection in this sector. The consultation period ended in June and after careful consideration of views the Government believe the best way to realise that ambition is to create a single inspectorate for Justice, Community Safety and Custody.

The policy statement outlines proposals for the design of the new inspectorate. Building on the excellent work done by the five existing inspectorates for the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, court administration, prisons and probation, the new inspectorate will be a modern organisation that provides a strong, expert and independent public voice and gives authoritative assurance and constructive criticism on how the system is working for the people who rely on it: victims, witnesses, defendants, jurors, convicted offenders, professionals and the wider public as its ultimate funder and beneficiary.

The new inspectorate will have a general duty to inspect and report on the functioning of the justice system and the delivery by the bodies within it of their duties relating to wider community safety. Inspection of and reporting on the treatment and conditions of those in prison and other specified forms of custody will be a special duty of the inspectorate.

The Government look forward to working with those concerned with the future of the justice system to implement a unified and strongly led inspectorate that is forward-looking and focused on improving services so as to reduce crime and re-offending and promote confidence in the system as a whole.

Animal (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): I am pleased to inform the House that I have today placed in the Library the annual report of the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate for the year 2004. This is the first annual report published by the Inspectorate.

Publication of the report honours a commitment given by the Government in response to a recommendation of the House of Lords Select Committee on Animals in Scientific Procedures in July 2002 that more information should be made available about the work of Inspectorate.

In the Government's response, published in January 2003, we welcomed the Select Committee's endorsement of the integrity of the Inspectorate and of the important contribution that it has made to the welfare of animals in designated establishments. We also recognised that public awareness of the valuable job done by the
 
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Inspectorate needed to be improved and concluded that this could be remedied, at least in part, by the publication of an annual report on its work.

The Inspectorate's first annual report published today explains what the inspectors do and how they do it, and provides details of the Inspectorate's staffing and structure, ways of working, professional background and skills, and training and development. There are currently 30 inspectors and our long term target is to have 33.

The report explains the Inspectorate's role in assessing and advising Home Office Ministers and officials on applications for personal and project licences and certificates of designation under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. It also provides details of the inspection system, through which compliance with licence authorities granted under the 1986 Act is monitored and provides information about visiting patterns and practice and the number of visits carried out during the year.

The report also explains the important role of inspectors in gathering and transmitting information on good practice and provides examples of the many events and initiatives to which the Inspectorate made significant contributions during the year.

I commend the report to the attention of Members.


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