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The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am pleased to announce progress on the complex weapons sector of the Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS). This sector provides key missile development capabilities to our armed forces.
The DIS identified that it represented a substantial challenge to maintain the industrial capability we wished to retain onshore given that we expect investment in new systems to decrease in the next five
years from the current level due to a sharp decline in market size. We undertook to work with UK industry to meet this challenge, and can now announce that we are forming a Team Complex Weapons (CW). Team CW is led by MBDA and is centred around, QinetiQ, Thales Air Defence Ltd., Thales Missile Electronics and Roxel. Team CW will enable the UK to maintain key skills and technologies through a mixture of directed procurements and open competition, enabling controlled restructuring to take place whilst maintaining on-shore access to the capabilities our armed forces require.
Together we will develop Team CW during the second half of this year. We intend to agree a Strategic Partnering Agreement in 2006. This will require contractually binding measures focused on business transformation both within the Ministry of Defence and within industry allowing better-informed-through-life decisions to be made, and a more incremental approach to technology insertion to be adopted.
We intend to use a range of programmes to incentivise the restructuring process. Most significantly, we have changed our procurement strategy for the Loitering Munition Demonstration and Manufacture programme, potentially worth more than £500 million. It will be single-sourced to the MBDA-led Team CW, subject to an enduring requirement for this technology, to affordability and to the ability to clearly demonstrate value for money.
We are also announcing four contracts for the development of technologies to contribute to the enhancement of Storm Shadow, and the Future Anti-Surface and Future Rapid Effects programmes, which will offer significant opportunities for collaboration. In the support area, we have placed a Contract for Availability known as PROJECT RevISE that covers air-launched weapons designed by MBDA.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Tom Watson): Late last year, it emerged that inconsistent criteria had been used for deciding payments over the history of the ex-gratia payment scheme for former Far East prisoners of war and civilian internees. In response to this, my predecessor, the then Minister with responsibilities for veterans, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Touhig), agreed that there should be an independent investigation to examine how the use of inconsistent criteria had arisen and why this had not been exposed earlier. Mr. David Watkins, a retired senior civil servant from the Northern Ireland Office was appointed to undertake this work and his findings were presented to me on 7 July. A copy of his report has been placed in the Library of the House.
The report finds no evidence of culpable behaviour by individuals but identifies a number of shortcomings
with the schemes development and administration and also makes recommendations designed to avoid any recurrence.
I am grateful to Mr. Watkins for an investigation which has been thorough and far reaching, and has included consultation with the key representatives of those who were adversely affected by the errors. I welcome his report and can say now that we accept the overall thrust of its recommendations. We will analyse it in more detail, in consultation with other interested Departments, and I intend to give a more detailed response in a further statement after the recess.
While the errors in administering the scheme were deeply regrettable, I would echo the reports recognition of the admirable work undertaken by the then War Pensions Agency and others that allowed the scheme to be introduced in a remarkably short timescale, with some 14,000 payments made within three months of the schemes introduction, and a total of over 25,000 payments now made.
Finally, I know that there has been a residual concern that a number of those who do not qualify under the scheme may be experiencing hardship. To respond to this concern, my officials have been in discussion with the charity which provides support in such cases amongst those from the UK who were once prisoners of war or civilian internees in the Far East. I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Defence will shortly be providing financial assistance to support the charitys work in dealing with such cases and to help publicise the recently announced changes to the criteria, as a result of which eligibility under the scheme has been extended to those who can show a close link to the UK since the second world war.
Dental Practice Board
Dental Vocational Training Authority
Mental Health Act Commission
National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse
NHS Appointments Commission
NHS Blood and Transplant
NHS Business Services Authority
NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement
NHS Logistics Authority
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
Human Tissue Authority +
Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health
Council for Health care Regulatory Excellence
NHS Pensions Agency
NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service
Prescription Pricing Authority
The report covers the main points of the 2005 scheme and the delivery of the 7 per cent. price cut; the management and operation of the 1999 scheme including the delivery of the 4.5 per cent. price cut and consolidated information on company annual financial returns. The report sets out the contribution made to the economy by the UK based pharmaceutical industry and gives an update on international price comparisons.
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Liam Byrne): I would like to update the House on progress in deporting foreign national prisoners, following the Home Secretarys statement on 23 May 2006, Official Report, column 77WS, volume 446.
Our objective is that foreign national prisoners should face deportation and deportation should happen as early as possible in their sentence. As an immediate step, we now have an Imminent Release Team in IND, working with HM Prison Service to ensure that foreign national prisoners who meet the existing criteria are not being released from prison without being considered for deportation. My review of the last few weeks confirms that, in order fully to achieve our objective, there is a need for legislation, as well as fundamental reforms in the eight areas identified.
First, the Home Secretary identified that there is today no unique identifier to link individuals who come in contact with the asylum and immigration and criminal justice systems. We have therefore commenced development of a comprehensive approach to identity management across all Home Office areas and will finalise a strategic action plan by the end of September 2006
Secondly, we have identified that the police, Crown Prosecution Service, courts and prisons depend on self-declaration of nationality and that there is no requirement for the police to record nationality of people brought into custody. There is no requirement
in law for a detainee to furnish details of their identity or nationality. The immigration and nationality directorate and the criminal justice agencies have now designed and tested proposals for new ways of working, alongside options for new legal requirements to address this. We will conduct detailed field tests with frontline staff over the summer and produce recommendations in October.
Thirdly, work has to be done to ensure that all future instructions are given to all agencies of the criminal justice, asylum and immigration systems and are both consistent and fully implemented. IND needs to work much more closely with the criminal justice agencies. Lin Homer has therefore joined the National Criminal Justice Board to ensure that this is done. Since 23 May, new guidance has been issued to IND and the prison service. Over the summer we will audit related guidance of six key agencies, benchmark implementation and develop recommendations for change, including training provision, by October. This will be followed up by training and awareness events for staff working in the 20 key prisons, which process largest numbers of foreign national prisoners at the earliest stages of their sentences, by the end of 2006.
Fourthly, the Home Secretary asked for an audit of policy criteria and processes; and fifthly that steps should be taken to ensure that all deportation decisions are made according to the most robust interpretation of the requirements of our international obligations. Guidance in May to IND and prisons identified interim criteria, so that all non-European economic area nationals sentenced to 12 months imprisonment or more, either in one sentence or in two or three sentences over five years; and all EEA nationals sentenced to 24 months or more, should be considered for deportation. We are today changing the immigration rules with effect from midnight tonight to confirm the presumption that all such prisoners should be deported. The guidance sets out also that only rarely will factors other than international obligations weigh against deportation.
But the current law does not go far enough to link criminality with deportation in the way that we would want and the public would expect. We need to change the law to make deportation the norm for foreign national prisoners, to remove some in-country rights of appeal; to streamline procedures; and otherwise to remove barriers to deportation and removal, including existing exemptions for some Commonwealth nationals. We shall announce further steps in the wider IND review, to be published before recess.
Sixthly, new formal arrangements are now in place to refer cases for consideration of deportation where the foreign national prisoner is in custody in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Prison authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland have confirmed that these processes are working well. These arrangements involve IND officials and officials in the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Prison Service, the Northern Ireland Office and the Northern Ireland Prison Service. Agencies are now developing proposals to extend these formal arrangements for referral across the justice systems in these jurisdictions: for example with the police, Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) and Scottish courts; and at each stage in the system in
Northern Ireland, as approved by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
The seventh priority area for action is the sensitive issue of mentally disordered offenders, where there has hitherto been no established system of referral, and nationality has not routinely been recorded. As with Scotland and Northern Ireland, arrangements have now been put in place to ensure that cases are referred for consideration of deportation for this particular group, when their formal restriction is due to end. Home Office officials are considering with the Department of Health what other actions we might take to ensure mentally disordered offenders can be considered for deportation at the earliest appropriate opportunity.
Finally, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is conducting targeted interviews with foreign national prisoners who qualify to transfer to serve their sentence in their home country. An urgent amendment is being sought to legislation currently before Parliament to remove the need for prisoner consent in these cases; and prisoner transfer agreements are being negotiated with more foreign Governments. We have agreements with 96 countries and territories. NOMS, IND and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are assembling a package of measures to accelerate this work further.
The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Liam Byrne): As a result of intelligence received in 2001 and July 2004 suggesting systematic fraud in applications for UK ancestry from Zimbabwean nationals, consideration of such applications was suspended last year pending further investigation.
In the light of continued evidence of fraudulent Zimbabwean applications for indefinite leave to remain in the UK on grounds of UK ancestry lodged prior to 25 October 2004, my predecessor made an authorisation on 16 January of six months duration under section 19D of the Race Relations Act 1976. This authorisation enabled staff in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate to subject these applications to more rigorous investigation than applications from persons of other nationalities, for the purpose of detecting fraudulent applications.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain):
The Police Ombudsman for Northern
Ireland's annual report and accounts for the year ended 31 March 2006 is published today.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Douglas Alexander): In July 2003 the then Secretary of State for Transport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South-West (Mr. Darling), in response to the ORBIT multi-modal study, confirmed his intention to add an extra lane of capacity to bring most of the remaining three lane sections of the M25 up to four lanes in each direction. Construction work on this major investment project costing over £2 billion is expected to start in 2008 and run through until 2016 with the widening being undertaken in stages.
At the time of the decision to increase the capacity of the M25, it was made clear that widening would be pursued alongside measures to improve the management of traffic flow in order to lock in the benefits that the additional capacity would provide.
The Department has been exploring how traffic management technology already being used on the motorway network might be used to control congestion on the orbital motorway and its junctions. But traffic using the motorway also uses surrounding local roads and not just the motorway. The modelling that has been completed shows that there is potentially considerable benefit to be gained in the Department applying and operating traffic management techniques jointly with local authorities. The benefits would be reflected in better overall journey times for the majority of road users, across both the national and the local networks
It is vital that we harness local authorities' local knowledge at the planning stage, as well as developing a joint approach in applying that knowledge. I am therefore writing today to all the local authorities around the M25 to start this dialogue, focusing initially on those in the north west segment, where the first section of widening will take place, with the aim of developing an approach that will ensure long-distance traffic and local residents all benefit from this huge national investment.
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