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Robert Hamill Inquiry

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): The Chairman of the Robert Hamill Inquiry, Sir Edwin Jowitt wrote to the Permanent Secretary of the Northern Ireland Office on the 9 December to request formally that I convert the statutory basis of the Robert Hamill Inquiry to the Inquiries Act 2005, under section 15 of that Act.

I have very carefully considered the representations made by Sir Edwin Jowitt and the other representations I have received, and have sought to take all the relevant factors into account. My concern throughout has been to ensure that the Robert Hamill Inquiry should be able to carry out its work both as fully and as effectively as possible. In light of this, and taking into account the case made for conversion by Sir Edwin Jowitt and all the representations I have received, I have decided to grant the request of the Robert Hamill Inquiry to be converted to the Inquiries Act 2005.
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Through this statement I am formally giving notice under section 15 of the Inquiries Act to Sir Edwin Jowitt and the panel members that the Robert Hamill Inquiry will become an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. The date of conversion will be the date of this statement, 29 March 2006, and from this date the Robert Hamill Inquiry will be held under the Inquiries Act 2005. Sir Edwin Jowitt will remain the Chair of this Inquiry and there will be no change to its terms of reference as announced on 16 November 2004.

It remains the strong wish of both the Government and the Hamill Inquiry that the full facts in relation to the death of Robert Hamill should be established and I am confident that the Inquiries Act will provide an effective framework for achieving this. I can assure the House that the Government will continue to co-operate fully with this independent Inquiry.


Convicting Rapists and Protecting Victims

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Mike O'Brien): Today the Government are issuing a consultation paper—"Convicting Rapists and Protecting Victims—Justice for Victims of Rape", following a review of the law concerning rape.

This paper sets out a range of proposals which aim to improve the outcome of rape cases through further strengthening the existing legal framework and improving our care for victims and witnesses.

We want to ensure that stronger cases are presented to the courts, witnesses are given greater assistance in providing their evidence and courts hear evidence from experts that will better inform juries about the realities of rape and the psychological impact of sexual offences upon victims. Such evidence will address myths and stereotypes concerning how a victim might be expected to behave.

We believe these proposals have the potential to make a positive difference and welcome views on them. Copies of the consultation paper will be available in the Libraries of both Houses and can be downloaded from and


Bathside Bay Container Terminal

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Derek Twigg): My Department is announcing today that it is approving a proposal for ports development in the south-east—following a public inquiry in 2004—for the new Bathside Bay Container Terminal at Harwich. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is today issuing a parallel letter in respect of the planning applications which, together with the consents I have been asked to give, would allow the development to proceed. We believe that this scheme will provide much needed container capacity in the coming years.

Ports play a vital role in supporting the national economy. The Government are committed to maintaining and enhancing that role through our broad approach to ports policy and to the decisions we take on individual ports applications.
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We are committed to sustainable distribution and this new project would play a large part in securing that aim. We understand at the same time that the new terminal will have a significant impact on the environment. This is why we have imposed controls on the development to provide new road and rail infrastructure so that congestion does not increase, to provide compensatory habitats for wildlife displaced by the scheme, and to reduce other environmental impacts such as noise, pollution and the visual impact.

On and Off-Road Motor Events

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): I have today published a consultation paper which seeks views on proposed changes to the regulations governing on-road and off-road motor events, the Motor Vehicles (Competitions and Trials) Regulations 1969 (as amended) and the Motor Vehicles (Off Road Events) Regulations 1995.

We propose making a single new set of regulations, which would replace the existing 1969 on-road and 1995 off-road regulations and their subsequent amendments. Most provisions of the existing regulations would not be
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changed, including the conditions that apply to the authorisation and conduct of events. However, we are proposing to make some changes to the procedures for authorising events. The proposed changes will be in respect of England only. Existing regulations would continue to apply in Wales and Scotland until the devolved administrations make their own new regulations. Northern Ireland already has separate legislation for on-road and off-road motor events, which are the responsibility of the Department of the Environment, Northern Ireland.

It is also proposed the fees charged to authorise on road events should be raised to reflect current administration costs of providing the authorisation service. The fees were last changed in 1993 by the Motor Vehicles (Competition and Trials) (Amendment) regulations 1993 (S.I. 1993/2233).

The details of these proposals are mentioned in the consultation paper. A partial regulatory impact assessment with costs and benefits is attached to the consultation paper.

Copies of the consultation paper and the annexes have been placed in the House Libraries.