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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 25 January 2006


Historic Medals

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Don Touhig): I am announcing today that I have approved significant additional resources for the Ministry of Defence medal office in order that it may further improve the delivery of existing medals and reduce the existing backlog of applications for historic medals.

When the Ministry of Defence medal office was formed last February there were some 50,000 medal applications of all kinds awaiting action. This total has been reduced to 24,000 against a background of an enormous and unprecedented demand for medals arising from current operations such as Iraq and for historic campaigns such as Suez and World War II. There are currently some 9,000 World War II medal applications outstanding, with a further 780 applications on average a month.

The 60th anniversary celebrations to mark the end of World War II have led to a resurgence of interest in historic medals. In particular, applications received from second and subsequent generations, claiming on strength of their next of kin status, have increased significantly, and this has resulted in an average application taking up to 14 months to process because of the onerous nature of the research of historic files involved.

I have therefore decided to re-prioritise applications to give precedence to veterans and spouses ahead of second and subsequent generation applications. I understand that for some it may result in a slightly longer wait initially. However, in order to ensure both veterans and spouses receive the medals to which they are entitled, we must also consider their age, and this means they should not have to wait any longer than is absolutely necessary.

In addition I have directed that the team processing World War II medal applications should be expanded by an additional 21 staff—the maximum we can train in this specialist task without total diversion of our current experts. Six of these posts have already been filled and further recruitment action is already under way. With successful recruitment, I expect the backlog of applications for veterans and spouses to be cleared by the end of July 2006, and later generation applications by the end of October 2006.

Thereafter, I would expect to see all new applications for historic medals being processed within four months of receipt of the application.
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Entry Clearance Refusals

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): I have pleasure in announcing the appointment of Mrs. Linda Costelloe Baker as independent monitor for entry clearance refusals without the right of appeal. Mrs. Costelloe Baker succeeds Ms Fiona Lindsley whose appointment ended on 30 November 2005.

Mrs. Costelloe Baker is the fourth independent monitor. The position is full-time and the monitor will be expected to submit two reports a year to lay before the House.


NHS Finance

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): Further to my statement on 1 December 2005, Official Report, column 37WS, I am today publishing a report showing the action that my Department is taking to achieve financial turnaround in the national health service. The report has been placed in the Library.

On 1 December I published unaudited in-year financial forecasts for each NHS trust, primary care trust and strategic health authority. Those figures showed that halfway through the financial year NHS bodies were forecasting a net deficit by year-end of around £620 million.

Today Mr. Richard Douglas, finance director at the Department of Health, has produced a report on the organisations that are currently overspending and the conditions required to deliver a sustainable financial position for all organisations.

The majority of NHS organisations are successfully managing their finances, delivering balance or better, as well as cutting waiting times and generally improving services. A minority of organisations are overspending by significant amounts.

The focus is on the organisations with the largest financial challenges and the Department and the NHS are employing turnaround techniques that are more widely used in the private sector. These focus on delivering organisational turnaround covering both finance and patient care. We will never compromise patient care.

Initial analysis, supported by KPMG, of the 62 organisations with the largest financial problems suggests that 18 require urgent intervention. Where this is not already being provided it is being commissioned centrally. Although turnaround will not be achieved overnight, in most cases it will be delivered by getting the basic systems and controls in place and implementing known good practice, not through any single action. The Department also needs to provide the right focus on sustainable financial health across the NHS through the way it manages the system and the incentives offered in 2006–07.
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National Health Research Strategy

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Jane Kennedy): Over the course of the last six months, the Government have consulted formally and have had other extensive discussions with those directly concerned in industry, universities, the research councils, research charities and the national health service (NHS) about the NHS contribution to health research in England. Widespread agreement has been reached with these stakeholders on the means by which the NHS can best contribute to our aim to improve the nation's health and increase the nation's wealth as proposed in the Government's 10-year science and investment framework.

The new national health research strategy "Best Research for Best Health", published today, sets out how, working with our research partners, this aim will be achieved. The strategy is designed to place people at the centre of a system founded on quality, transparency and value for money; it recognises and responds to changes in society and the environment; and it responds to the challenges inherent in the current arrangements.

Over the last 15 years there have been significant developments in the contribution the NHS makes to applied research and to the evidence base on which advances in health care depend. The changes proposed in "Best Research for Best Health" build on that experience, and will ensure that we establish the NHS as an internationally recognised centre of research excellence. Further, they will ensure that we attract, develop and retain the best research professionals to conduct people-based research, that we commission research focused on improving health and care, that we strengthen and streamline systems for research management and governance, and that we act as sound custodians of public money for public good.

Separate implementation plans covering each of the main components of the strategy will be published today on the Department's website at: www.dh.gov.uk/researchstrategy. The plans will be reviewed and updated regularly during the course of the implementation process.

Copies of the strategy document have been placed in the Library.


Counter Terrorism Funding

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): The tragic events of July last year have demonstrated that the threat from international terrorism remains real and serious. The police service and our security and intelligence agencies are at the frontline of our efforts to counter these threats and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Last December my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, in his pre-Budget report, was able to announce an additional £85 million to advance the ongoing expansion of the security and intelligence agencies. The Government remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the police service has the necessary resources to meet its CT commitments. Alongside the additional money for the security and intelligence agencies we are now able to announce additional counter-terrorism funding for the police service.
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The total police specific counter terrorism funding is shown in the tables:
Resource, £ million2006–072007–08
Existing MPS Specific CT Grant6161
Existing Local and Regional Policing outside of London3535
New MPS Specific Grant3045
New Local and Regional Policing outside of London3365
Total Specific CT Grant159206

Capital, £ million2006–072007–08
Existing Police CT Capital Grant88
New Police CT Capital Grant3035
Total Police CT Capital Grant3843

This additional funding will strengthen the police service's intelligence and investigative capability both in the capital and across the rest of the service and will complement the additional funding provided for the intelligence and security agencies already announced. In total, over the two years, the police service will receive £446 million specifically for countering the international terrorist threat and domestic extremism.

We have also made available £213 million for the provision of dedicated security posts for the police service and which is in addition to the funding announced above.

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