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Bichard Inquiry

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): Copies of the Government’s third progress report on implementing the recommendations of the Bichard Inquiry have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses today. Our last report was made in November 2005 and there have been many positive developments over the last six months. Twenty one of
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Sir Michael’s 31 recommendations have been substantially delivered and clear work plans are being taken forward in relation to those which remain outstanding.

The IMPACT programme is at the heart of achieving fundamental improvements in police information management. It is delivering against Sir Michael’s recommendations in this area as one aspect of ensuring the police have the facilities, procedures and skills to make best use of information to safeguard the vulnerable and combat all forms of crime. This latest reporting period has seen the introduction of the Impact Nominal Index, which is facilitating the sharing of information across all forces. A statutory code of practice on police information management has come into force, together with extensive operational guidance and a programme of training and support to ensure improved national standards are embedded in day-to-day policing.

Sir Michael rightly emphasised the importance of sharing information between the relevant delivery agencies and once again there is much positive progress to report. In particular, the recent publication of the revised “Working Together to Safeguard Children” provides the national guidance recommended by Sir Michael on notifying the police and children’s social care, and sharing information among agencies, where there are suspected criminal offences against children.

Our intensive programme of work to develop a central vetting and barring scheme covering all those wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults is continuing. The introduction of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill at the end of February was a very important milestone. In parallel with the legislative process, we are pressing on with a set of interim changes to systems to help ensure those unsuitable to work with vulnerable persons are prevented from doing so. The Criminal Records Bureau has made a key contribution to this work by putting in place a number of specific changes which Sir Michael highlighted as necessary.

We are giving increasing emphasis to the new online training for head teachers and school governors which focuses on the critical importance of being aware of safeguarding issues when recruiting staff. We are also exploring ways to extend the safer recruitment training more widely in schools and other sectors of education, the wider children’s workforce, the voluntary sector, and other work sectors such as healthcare.

Finally, and in addition to all the work to implement its specific recommendations, the Bichard Inquiry continues to provide all of us with a strengthened focus on protecting children and those adult members of our society who are especially vulnerable. The safeguarding agenda is becoming increasingly coherent and prominent and that is a process which must and will continue.

Foreign Nationals (Deportation and Removal)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): I would like to correct an error contained in my written statement of 23 May, Official Report, column 77WS and to apologise for inadvertently misleading the House.

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In my statement I reported that four murderers and 23 other “most serious” offenders, including rapists and child sex offenders (who were among the 1,019 cases who were not considered for deportation before their release from prison) were detained in prison. I was subsequently informed that of these one murderer, one rapist and one child sex offender who had been detained have in fact since been released on bail by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. In addition, I have been informed of eight other cases where the individual has been bailed, including four in the “more serious” category. I have been told that these bail applications were heard over the past two weeks and that more hearings are due to take place in the coming days.

I have asked the Department to recheck all the figures provided to the House in my statement.

Northern Ireland

Community-based Restorative Justice

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. David Hanson): On 5 December 2005 I initiated a consultation on draft guidelines which were aimed at putting in place important safeguards recommended by the Criminal Justice Review as prerequisites for community-based restorative justice schemes playing a part in dealing with low-level crime. The consultation period closed in March. There were 56 responses from a range of organisations and individuals.

The issues raised in the consultation merit careful consideration. Any guidelines which eventually emerge must deal effectively with the concerns many have reflected to me in their submissions and in meetings on this issue. It is important that any relationship which the schemes may develop with the criminal justice system helps to promote and not undermine public confidence in the system. I regard it as essential that the guidelines should set the necessary high standards expected of any organisations seeking to play a role within the criminal justice system.

I am now considering the issues and concerns raised in the consultation and will make a further statement on the way ahead when that process has been completed shortly.


Iraq Legal Advice (Freedom of Information)

The Solicitor-General (Mr. Mike O'Brien): The information Commissioner has today published an enforcement notice under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in relation to requests for information relating to the advice given on the legality of military intervention in Iraq in 2003.

The Cabinet Office and the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers have issued a disclosure statement which the information commissioner is satisfied meets the
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requirements of his enforcement notice. The disclosure statement draws very heavily on material already in the public domain.

Copies of the enforcement notice and disclosure statement are annexed to this statement and have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Prime Minister

Ministerial Committees of the Cabinet

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I have today placed a copy of the current list of Cabinet Committees, their full membership and terms of reference in the Libraries of both Houses. Details have also been updated on the Cabinet Office website.

Trade and Industry

European Union Competitiveness Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Jim Fitzpatrick): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation has made the following ministerial statement:

I will be attending the Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 29—30 May 2006.

Monday 29 May

In the morning, there will be a policy debate on the EU sustainable development strategy, centred around questions set by the presidency.

There will be an update on the current work programme on better regulation, followed by an exchange of views.

There will be a policy debate on the Commission's proposal for a directive on consumer credit, centred on questions set by the presidency.

Over lunch and in the afternoon there will be discussion of the services directive, which the presidency has put on the agenda for political agreement.

Tuesday 30 May

There will be a discussion on the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development, including the rules of participation, on which the presidency is seeking agreement on a general approach.

There will also be a progress report by the Commission on the development of the European space policy and road map, followed by a report from the presidency of a recent conference on GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security).

In addition to the items listed above, there will be eleven items which will be taken under “Any Other Business”. There is not likely to be any debate on these items:

a) Competitiveness clusters to promote industrial growth and to strengthen the regions in Europe (Information from the Commission).

b) Conference on REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) (Vienna, 30-31 March 2006) (Information from the presidency).

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c) Conferences related to consumer protection held during the Austrian presidency (Information from the presidency).

d) Proposal for a programme of community action in the field of Health and Consumer Protection 2007 (Progress report).

e) Information on EU import duties on primary aluminium (Information from the Polish delegation).

f) Public Procurement Directives (Information by German, French and Austrian delegations).

g) Tourism policy (Presentation by the Commission).

h) Tourism Ministers Conference (Vienna, 20-21 March 2006). (Information from the presidency),

i) Delivering on the modernisation agenda for universities: Education, Research and Innovation. (Information from the Commission).

j) International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) (Information from the Commission),

k) Type approval of motor vehicles (information from the French delegation)

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 1 June in Luxembourg. My hon. Friend the Minister for Disabled People (Anne McGuire) will be representing the UK except for the item on the Working Time Directive where the UK will be represented by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my hon. Friend, the Minister for Employment Relations and Minister for London (Jim Fitzpatrick). Health and Consumer Affairs issues are being taken on 2 June.

The first item is a policy debate on the review of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy. Member states were invited to submit a written response to three questions which have been tabled at all Councils. Additional questions have been posed about social inclusion to Employment and Social Policy Ministers. The Minister will contribute to the debate by stating that the most relevant link between the work of this Council and the Sustainable Development Strategy is through its focus on generating economic prosperity, more and better jobs and increasing social inclusion.

The second item is on Social Services of General Interest. The Commission will give a presentation on its recent Communication which addresses the area of the legal uncertainty arising from the situation whereby the European Court of Justice is developing the law on social services on a case-by-case basis. The Social Protection Committee has drafted an Opinion on the Communication and the revised draft Services Directive. It generally welcomes both documents.

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The Council will reach partial general approach on both the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council implementing Regulation (EC) No 883/04 on the co-ordination of social security schemes and the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 on the co-ordination of social security systems, and determining the content of Annex XI.

Ministers will be expected to endorse political agreement on the amended proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Institute for Gender Equality. The proposal provides for the creation of a European Gender Institute to produce objective, reliable and comparative information on gender equality and data at national and European levels and to give visibility to gender equality. Its aim is to increase the opportunities for sharing knowledge, data and information on best practice, and facilitate networking.

There will be Council conclusions on the Review of the implementation by the Member States and the EU institutions of the Beijing Platform for Action. Following the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995, the Council asked Member States to undertake an annual review of the implementation of the resulting Platform for Action. Each Presidency concentrates on different areas. The Austrian Presidency is looking at ‘Women and Health’ and has produced a report and a set of indicators.

There will be an endorsement of the joint contribution of the Employment Committee and the Social Protection Committee on Flexicurity.

There will be a Progress Report from the Presidency on the proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on improving the portability of supplementary pension rights. This is intended to make it easier for workers with occupational pensions to move around the EU.

The Council is being asked to reach political agreement on the amended proposal for a Decision of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a Community
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Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity — PROGRESS. This is the EU-level spending programme for the period 2007-13, which will provide financial support for the implementation of the Community’s objectives for employment and social affairs and the achievement of the Lisbon goals.

The Council is being asked to reach political agreement on the annual Employment Guidelines on the proposal for a Council Decision on Guidelines for the Employment Policies of the Member States. The Guidelines set out the framework of common priorities for Member States’ employment policies. In 2005 the Council agreed that the Guidelines should run for three years under the refocused Lisbon Strategy for Jobs and Growth. Member States will report on their employment policies in relation to the Guidelines as part of the new National Reform Programmes, to be published in October.

The Council is also seeking political agreement on the amended proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time. The Working Time Directive, adopted in 1993, regulates maximum working hours and entitlements to rest breaks for workers. It sets out a maximum average working week of 48 hours although the UK retains an individual opt out from this provision.

Under Any Other Business the Presidency will give a report on Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the European Globalisation adjustment Fund. There are six written items on Presidency conferences and information from the Portuguese delegation on the Council of Europe Ministers Conference on Family Matters: “Changes in Parenting”. The Commission is providing information on its recent Communications on “Guidance on the posting of workers in the framework of the provision of services”, “Implementing the partnership for growth and jobs: Making European a ‘pole of excellence’ on corporate social responsibility”, and “Decent Work” and “European Year of Equal Opportunities for all 2007”. I do not expect any debate on these items.

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