The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): As part of the Government's continuing commitment to investigate Gulf veterans' illnesses openly and honestly, data on the mortality of veterans of the 199091 Gulf conflict are published regularly. The most recent figures for the period 1 April 1991 to 31 December 2005, are published today as a National Statistic on the Defence Analytical Services Agency website.
The data for Gulf veterans are compared to that of a control group known as the "Era cohort" which is made up of armed forces personnel of a similar profile in terms of gender, service, regular/reservists status and rank, who were not deployed to the Gulf. As in the previous release, the "Era" group has been adjusted for a small difference in the age-profile of those aged 40 years and over, to ensure appropriate comparisons.
The 755 deaths among Gulf veterans compare with approximately 1,206 deaths which would have been expected in a similar sized cohort taken from the general population of the UK with the same age and gender profile. This reflects the strong emphasis on fitness when recruiting and retaining service personnel.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Douglas Alexander): Copies of the reply to a freedom of information request relating to the decision to close the British Embassy in Nicaragua in 2003 have been placed in the Library of the House.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain):
I wish to announce that with effect from 23 January 2006, in accordance with the powers conferred on me by Rule 5(1) of the Prisons and Young Offenders Centre Rules (Northern Ireland) 1995, that the boundaries of Hydebank Wood Prison are hereby
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altered to include that part of Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre known as Beech House. The area to be included is indicated on the site map, which I have to-day placed in the Libraries of both Houses, by the words 'Beech House'.
The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Alun Michael): I am pleased to announce that today, with Edwina Hart AM MBE, the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Social Justice and Regeneration, I am publishing the analysis of our consultation, held last year, on "Improving Payment Practices in the Construction Industry".
The consultation proposed a number of amendments to Part II of the Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 and the Scheme for Construction Contracts (England and Wales) Regulations 1998. In the light of the consultation response I am proposing to:
take forward the Government's existing commitment to make contractual agreements on adjudication costs unenforceable and to provide a statutory framework for allocating them, including cases where adjudicators resign in response to a challenge to jurisdiction.
Our aim is to improve upon the existing legislative framework, which is generally recognised as making a valuable contribution to fairness in the way construction contracts are agreed and operated. The legislation is largely working as was intended, thanks to the willingness of the construction industry and its clients to develop their culture in the light of a changed legal framework. This is in the context of an ongoing process of change and improvement in the construction industry.
The consultation has demonstrated strong support for continued regulation of construction contracts and the current process improving the current framework. We have received 356 consultation responsesa startling demonstration of the level of interest in these issues in the construction industry and among its stakeholders. We are very grateful to all those who responded. They have had to consider some difficult and complex issues, which have required careful analysis and innovative solutions. Launching this consultation last year, my predecessor as construction Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South
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(Nigel Griffiths), observed that "Fair payment practice is something everyone agrees with and a fair payment culture underpins any progressive and modern industry". That is something all the responses have recognised.
The analysis also sets out the next steps we intend to take, working with the construction industry over the coming months, to ensure the package of amendments is based upon a clear and thorough understanding of all the issues, when it is published for further consultation. The DTI has already asked a sounding board of key figures in the industry to assist in the development of the proposals to ensure they match the needs of the construction industry and its clients, as well the strict requirements of the Regulatory Reform Order framework. The sounding board members are:
Richard BayfieldImmediate past chairman of the Society of Construction Law, a Chartered Civil Engineer and project management consultant on dispute avoidance and resolution. He is an adviser on the DTI sponsored Constructing Excellence programme.
Chris DancasterChairman of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' Dispute Resolution Faculty Board and an adjudicator, arbitrator and mediator. Both he and Richard Bayfield were members of the adjudication group during Sir Michael Latham's review of the Construction Act.
Richard HaryottChaired the payment working group during Sir Michael Latham's review of the Construction Act. He is chairman of the Ove Arup Foundation, having been a Director of Arup for over 20 years with extensive experience of the design and implementation of major projects.
His Honour Humphrey Lloyd QCBarrister and arbitrator specialising in construction law until he became a judge of the Technology and Construction Court in 1993. Having retired from the bench in 2005, he continues to act as an arbitrator.
Peter RogersDirector and Co-founder of Stanhope plc and Chairman of Constructing Excellence. He has recently stepped down as chairman of the Strategic Forum for Construction and is chairing the taskforce on the construction industry's contribution to the 2012 Olympics.
The sounding board will advise Ministers as the DTI develops the proposals in detail and improves its understanding of their potential impacts. The members are not intended to represent specific sectors within the construction industry.
I am looking forward to involving the sounding board in a process of dialogue over the coming months with the construction industry and its stakeholders. This will include a post-consultation event, which I will be hosting on 14 February. Assuming it is possible to implement these measures via a Regulatory Reform Order, the DTI then intends to issue a further consultation on a final package of amendments in the Spring.
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