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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 12 July 2006

Communities and Local Government

Planning Decisions

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Meg Munn): The provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2 of schedule 2 to the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires the Secretary of State to set and meet a timetable for the majority of planning cases decided by the Secretary of State where the inquiry closed on or after 1 April 2005; and to make a report to Parliament each year on performance. This is intended both to ensure that such cases are dealt with expeditiously and to enable the parties to any particular case to know when they can expect to receive a decision.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has accordingly today laid before Parliament an Act Paper reporting on all decisions where the inquiry, hearing or site visit ended on or after 1 April 2005 and the decision was made on or before 31 March 2006. During this period, 100 per cent. of the 200 decisions made by the Secretary of State on cases other than appeals under tree preservation orders were made within their statutory timetables, as were 532 out of 545 decisions (98 per cent.) on tree preservation order appeals.

These provisions relate to decisions on called-in planning applications; planning appeals recovered for the Secretary of State's decision; other cases "linked" to such decisions, including listed building consent, conservation area consent, advertisement consent and enforcement notice appeals; and tree preservation order appeals. They do not apply to cases decided by Inspectors or to those decided by the Secretary of State jointly with a Minister of another Department.

Health

Diagnostics Waiting Times Data

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): The Government are committed to ensuring that by 2008 no one will wait for more than 18 weeks from GP referral to hospital treatment. Reducing waiting times for diagnostics is central to delivering the 18-week pathway. The first step in eliminating diagnostic waits is to be able to measure them.

The following statistics are released today by the Department of Health:


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This first publication of diagnostic waiting times figures will become a regular monthly release. This information can be found on the Department's website at:

http://www.performance.doh.gov.uk/diagnostics/index.htm.

Measurement of diagnostic waiting times will enable the NHS and the Department to identify bottlenecks in the system and solutions to deliver the 18-week pathway.

Home Department

Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I am today laying before Parliament, with the Comptroller and Auditor General, the annual report and accounts for 2004-05 for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. It is being laid before the Scottish Parliament by the Scottish Ministers jointly. The annual report and accounts will be published by 21 July.

The annual report and accounts describes the activities of the authority in paying financial compensation to victims of violent crime, under the terms of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act 1995.

Publication of the annual report and accounts is later than usual because of the need to bring the accounting for the tariff scheme cases fully in line with the requirements of Financial Reporting Standard 12 (provisions, contingent liabilities and contingent assets). The accounts estimate the final settlement value of cases in progress and the predicted value of applications which have not yet been received in respect of crimes that have already occurred. As a result, the balance sheet at 31 March 2005 shows net liabilities of £1,257 million and an operating deficit of £46.5 million.

In 2004-05 the authority received 66,290 applications for compensation and resolved 66,898. The number of cases outstanding at 31 March 2005 was 84,581. The proportion of cases decided within 12 months was 73.4 per cent.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Diplomatic Immunity

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Margaret Beckett): Following the written ministerial statement of the former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), about serious offences allegedly committed by persons entitled to diplomatic
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immunity during 2004, 12 December, Official Report, column 127WS, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has reviewed its policy relating to disclosure of the names of the missions whose diplomats have allegedly committed serious offences. I have today placed in the Library of the House a list of foreign missions whose diplomats allegedly committed serious offences and a list of the offences, between 1999 and 2004. I shall place a further list in the Library of the House updating this information to cover 2005 in the autumn this year. From 2007, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office shall present this information to Parliament annually, by means of a written ministerial statement, laid by the end of June each year, covering the previous five-year period.

Trade and Industry

Pipe Organs (Restriction of Hazardous Substances)

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive has the laudable aim of minimising the environmental
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impact of waste electrical and electronic equipment by restricting the amount of hazardous substances in any new equipment placed on the market from 1 July 2006.

The RoHS directive draws its scope or coverage from the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive, which was negotiated and adopted at the same time.

The scope of both directives is very broad and was primarily intended to include consumer electronic and IT equipment, large and small domestic appliances and mobile phones.

It was certainly never envisaged that the directives would apply to church and other pipe organs, although there was some legal uncertainty in the final text.

At the UK's instigation the matter was raised at a meeting of EU member states (the Technical Adaptation Committee) that is chaired by the European Commission, on 26 June.

Following this meeting, the Commission has clarified that pipe organs are outside the scope of the new rules.

I am, therefore, very pleased to confirm that the legal uncertainties have now been resolved and pipe organs are considered to be clearly outside the scope of the RoHS and WEEE directives.


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