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NORTHERN IRELAND

Independent Monitoring Commission (Eighth Report)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I have received the eighth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report has been made under articles 4 and 7 of the international agreement that established the Commission and it reports on levels of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. I have considered the content of the report and I am today bringing it before Parliament. I have placed copies in the Library of the House.

The IMC has confirmed that PIRA paramilitary activity has ceased since 28 July.

The Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) today confirmed its position on the decommissioning of PIRA arms.

In its report, the IMC say that "We are of the firm view that the present Provisional IRA (PIRA) leadership has taken the strategic decision to end the armed campaign and pursue the political course which it has publicly articulated.

We see a number of definite signs of the organisation moving in the direction indicated in the statement" of 28 July 2005.

Compared to where PIRA stood only a few years ago, there has been a sea-change.

This is a positive report which shows that the IRA is moving in the right direction and is closing down: no murders, no recruitment and no bank robberies.

Of course the report does not paint a picture of perfection and the Government did not expect it to.
 
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While the report shows that there have been significant changes in IRA criminal activity with some criminal operations being closed down, any on-going criminal activity is unacceptable and the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Assets Recovery Agency will continue to bear down on it.

In addition, the IMC draws attention to the activities by loyalists. The Commissioners acknowledge the work of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) and the Ulster Political Research Group (UPRG) to move things in a better direction and in efforts to influence the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

Loyalist paramilitary activity and criminality as described in this report must come to an end.

The IMC concludes that the financial sanctions against Sinn Fein and the PUP should not continue.

More can and should be done to speed up the process of bringing loyalist paramilitary activity and criminality to an end and remaining PIRA activities should cease.

The Government believe that after this report of significant progress by the IRA, there is every basis for proceeding with political discussions on re-establishing the Assembly. Once again, I am grateful to the Commission for their submission of this report and for its careful analysis.

TRANSPORT

Felixstowe South (Port Reconfiguration)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): I am today issuing a decision on the proposals submitted by Hutchison Ports for reconfiguration of Felixstowe South, "The Landguard Terminal" as a deep-sea container port terminal. The inspector's report of the public inquiry held into the proposals is also being published today.

My decision and the reasons for it are set out in my Department's decision letter. After carefully considering the inspector's report and taking into account all relevant considerations, I have decided to authorise the port development, in line with the inspector's recommendation.
 
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My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister has accepted the inspector's recommendation in favour of those parts of the reconfiguration proposals which fall to him to determine and has today issued a decision granting planning permission.

WORK AND PENSIONS

Disabled People's Housing (Common Parts Review)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): The Review Group on Common Parts was set up, during the passage of the Disability Discrimination Bill, which gained Royal Assent in April 2005, because of concerns expressed by Members of the other place that some disabled people could become confined to their homes if the common parts of the premises could not be adapted to meet their needs.

The Review Group was asked to investigate the need and evidence for change in relation to alterations to the common parts of let residential premises and to make recommendations to me and the Minister for Housing and Planning. Yvette Cooper.

The Review Group has considered a wide range of evidence including: a review of landlord and tenant and housing legislation, information on the experience of disabled people, research concerning the attitudes of tenants, lessees and landlords to adjustments to common parts and a range of surveys and statistical reports.

It has come to the conclusion that while there is evidence of good practice by some landlords, there is also evidence of unmet need for adjustments to common parts to assist disabled people. Therefore, it has concluded that a problem does exist and has made a series of detailed recommendations in its report, entitled "A review of the current position in relation to adjustments to the common parts of let residential premises, and recommendation for change", 23 December 2005. The Government are now considering the detail of the report and its recommendations. The report has been placed in the Library.