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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 25 April 2006


Personnel Deployment (Overseas)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): In a written answer of 19 December 2005, Official Report, column 2333W, I provided details of the number of personnel deployed overseas on operations. I regret that some of the information was incorrect; the table below corrects the original answer. The data collected is from manual records 1 and shows that on 7 December 2005 the following numbers of service personnel were deployed on operations overseas:
CountryService Personnel
Diego Garcia40
Democratic Republic of Congo10
Sierra Leone10
South Atlantic(3)1,460

(1) Data are based on personnel reports collated manually from operational deployments and may not include all current operations. Figures include UK regular forces and reserve forces.
(2) Includes personnel stationed on ships in the Gulf Region.
(3) Includes Ascension Island and the Falkland Islands.
When rounding to the nearest 10, numbers ending in five have been rounded to the nearest 20 to prevent systematic bias.
a Denotes less than five.

Location statistics for service personnel may also be compiled based on posted location rather than deployed location. Posted location is where an individual is permanently based.

The numbers of personnel posted to each location abroad are shown in Tri Service Publication 6, Global Location of UK Regular Forces (TSP 6).

TSP 6 is published quarterly; the most recent publication shows the numbers of service personnel at 1 October 2005.

Afghanistan (Harrier Deployment)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): The United Kingdom is committed to helping the Afghan people rebuild their country as a stable, prosperous and democratic nation free from terrorism. Our deployment of the Helmand Task Force, announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence
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on 26 January, is a major part of that commitment. So is our detachment of six Harrier GR7 aircraft based in Kandahar, which have made an invaluable contribution to the success of both the coalition and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) missions.

Following requests from both NATO and coalition commanders, we have agreed to extend their deployment initially from June 2006 to 31 March 2007. Working alongside allied aircraft, primarily from The Netherlands and the United States, they will continue to provide the ISAF with a reconnaissance capability, an air presence to reassure the Afghan people of their security and the capacity to strike against insurgents that may threaten the safety of our armed forces and those under their protection. They will also be available to support coalition forces. As now, the detachment will initially be drawn from No. 1 (Fighter) Squadron, Royal Air Force. In October 2006, however, the Royal Air Force will hand over the task to 800 Naval Air Squadron, in the first operational deployment of the Fleet Air Arm's Harrier GR7 squadrons.


Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The United Kingdom will be represented at this month's Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg by the Deputy Ambassador to the European Union and by the Director for Analysis and CAP Strategy in Defra.

The Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner will provide a written update to the Council on developments with regard to the spread of the avian influenza H5N1 virus.

The Council will then adopt a proposal to broaden the scope of the current provision for exceptional measures in the poultry meat and eggs sectors to help them through a drop in sales caused by consumer fears about avian influenza. The UK will support the proposals but make clear that such measures should only be used in exceptional circumstances and should not distort the normal competitive nature of the EU market.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development will update the Council on the WTO agricultural negotiations. The UK will press for every effort to be made to make progress in the negotiations.

The Council will hold an exchange of views on a Commission Communication on improving the economic situation in the fishing industry. The Communication highlights measures already available to the fishing industry to cope with higher fuel prices and other economic concerns, but also proposes a new measure to support the upgrading of engines in fishing vessels. The UK will express concern that the latter could lead to an increase in fishing capacity, contradicting the principle established in the 2002 reform of the common fisheries policy and out of line with a long term sustainable solution for fish stocks.
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The Council will also hold its first ministerial exchange of views on the Commission's draft action plan for simplifying the common fisheries policy. The UK will intervene to welcome the Commission's initiative and the work done so far and press for more detailed proposals.

The Council will hold a policy debate on the Commission's proposal for a management plan for North sea plaice and sole which would span a number of years. The UK will urge that the plan is consistent with the principle of long-term sustainable management and is achieved at a manageable rate for the fishing industry. We would also want to avoid proposals for plaice and sole which damage the potential for recovery of cod stocks, since the same vessels can be used to catch all three species.


Unduly Lenient Sentences Order 2006

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): On Friday 21 April the Government laid an Order before Parliament which will extend the Attorney General's powers with regard to unduly lenient sentences. Under part 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the Attorney General's powers apply to sentences imposed in the Crown Court for any offence triable only on indictment, and any either way offence which has been specified for the purpose in an Order. The present Order will enable a range of either way offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to be referred to the Court of Appeal where it is considered that an unduly lenient sentence has been imposed. The offences in question are specified in paragraph 3 of schedule 1 to the Order. The Order also consolidates the four previous Orders of its kind, which are repealed, and updates the application of the unduly lenient sentence powers to Northern Ireland. It comes into force on 16 May, and will apply to any sentence imposed on or after that date.

Deportation and Removal of Foreign Nationals

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I have today written to the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee to inform them that, to the best of my knowledge, between February 1999 and March 2006, 1,023 foreign national criminals, who should have been considered for deportation or removal, completed their prison sentences and were released without any consideration of deportation or removal action. This is deeply regrettable and I wish to outline in this statement how we intend to improve our performance.

Since June 1996 the foreign national prisoner population has risen from 4,259 to the figure of 10,265 at the end of February 2006. This includes those detainees held in the three Prison Service run removal centres of Dover, Haslar and Lindholme. But the arrangements for identifying them and considering removal from the UK have not kept pace with that growth. Our policy has always been to consider serious
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offenders for deportation before release—or if that is not possible to make a decision about immigration detention, electronic monitoring or restriction orders before release. Beyond some changes to appeal rights, the process for dealing with deportation of foreign national prisoners has not changed fundamentally in recent years. However, it is clear that the increasing numbers of cases being referred for consideration led to the process falling down.

Over the course of the last year we have been making significant improvements to the system for identifying, referring and caseworking foreign national prisoners to ensure that we have a robust system to handle this group effectively. We are increasing resources in this area which will provide, amongst other things, a significant increase in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's (IND) caseworking capacity. This increase will allow us to commence deportation proceedings twelve months before the prisoner is due for release, which is the earliest point at which case law currently allows for consideration to commence and will ensure that suitable prisoners are removed from the country at the appropriate point of their sentence.

IND is working with other relevant Government Departments to continue to strengthen the handling of these prisoners. This includes consideration of the sentencing options and improvements in identifying and processing of these prisoners to ensure that as many are removed from the United Kingdom as soon as possible.

I will also bring together the key players from the departments involved at least twice a year at ministerial level and quarterly at senior official level to create and take ownership of an effective strategy for dealing with these issues.

It is clear that there has been a failure on our part to deal with all the cases we should have. That failure has been identified in part due to the strengthening of the system for identifying foreign national prisoners and there is now a package of initiatives underway to strengthen this area of business.

My aim is to ensure that the foreign national population is managed effectively and proactively, ensuring that the number of people held in prisons under immigration powers is kept to the absolute minimum and that we have the sentencing powers and identification referral and caseworking systems in place to consider and action deportation procedures for every foreign national prisoner who has committed a serious crime, and that we are in a position to effect removal at the earliest point of release.

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