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Removed the provision for schemes to report offences to the Police Service of Northern Ireland through a third party. The protocol now requires that schemes engage, and have a direct relationship, with police on all matters governed by the protocol. The centrality of the police to the way in which schemes operate is non-negotiable.
Agreed arrangements for a panel, comprising representatives of relevant statutory bodies, to determine the suitability of individuals to work in posts governed by the protocol. The panel will consider criminal records and other pertinent information provided by statutory agencies, including the police, in determining the suitability of any individual in accordance with published criteria contained in the protocol.
Agreed with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland that they will establish an independent complaints mechanism for victims and offenders who may have cause to raise concerns about how a scheme has handled their case.
Ensured that the new protocol sets exacting standards which schemes must meet to achieve accreditation, with continued compliance tested by a rigorous, regular and unannounced inspection regime undertaken by the Criminal Justice Inspectorate who shall publish their inspection reports.
The protocol would establish the relationship between schemes and the criminal justice system in dealing with low-level criminal offences and offenders and, by definition, govern cases which have both achieved the criminal threshold and been deemed suitable by the Public Prosecution Service for referral for a restorative disposal. While the protocol cannot therefore formally extend to schemes other activities, as part of the inspection regime records on non-criminal cases handled by schemes will be examined to help ensure that all cases attaining the criminal threshold have been referred to the police. Schemes which achieve accreditation will, as organisations, have demonstrated the attainment of the high standards required in the protocol which I expect to see reflected in all aspects of their activities.
Due to the significant nature of the changes I want to allow for a further period of consultation on the new protocol, which will run in parallel with an Equality Impact Assessment to explore the potential for any of its measures to adversely impact on equality of opportunity for any of the nine categories set out in section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This will be launched shortly and will involve a 12-week public consultation period.
It has never been a direct corollary that schemes which sigh up to the protocol will receive NIO funding. However I expect that accredited schemes meeting the exacting standards set out in the protocol should be in the best position, where they meet the appropriate grant criteria, to apply for funding from whatever statutory or charitable sources are currently available to them. Conversely any scheme which does not sign up to them will not receive any funding whatsoever from Government for community-based restorative justice.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I am pleased to announce that I have reappointed Professor David Greenaway as chairman of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body for a second three-year term, commencing March 2007. The reappointment has been conducted in accordance with the office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments guidance on appointments to public bodies.
The final report of the fraud review was published yesterday and I have placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses. The Government are issuing it for consultation and seeks responses by 27 October 2006.
The report outlines current arrangements for dealing with fraud, identifies gaps and shortcomings in the system, and makes recommendations for dealing with them. The recommendations are wide ranging and are aimed at improving fraud deterrence, prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution, and penalties. Benefits will include reduction of fraud losses to taxpayers, consumers and businesses and a reduction in the harm that fraud causes to individuals and communities.
The Government accept the analysis of the report and is sympathetic to the broad conclusions and recommendations; but we believe the report would benefit from a wider public consultation. Implementation of the recommendations will be considered in the light of consultation responses and after further evaluation of the funding and legislative implications.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Jim Fitzpatrick): My noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation (Lord Sainsbury of Turville) has made the following ministerial statement:
The Government announced on 22 March 2006 a consultation on a proposal to create a Large Facilities Council. The consultation was announced in the document Science and Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014: Next Steps, and the Government asked for responses on two principal questions as follows:
The Government would welcome views on whether all large facilities operations should be integrated under a new Large Facilities Council, or whether there is a case for some facilities to remain under the management of other Research Councils.
Furthermore, in the event of a merger, should the grant-giving functions of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) be moved to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)?
Following this consultation, which closed on 16 June, the Government have decided to create a new Large Facilities Council by merging the current responsibilities of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC), and the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC). PPARC's grant-giving functions will not be transferred to the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Responsibility for nuclear physics will be transferred from EPSRC to the new Council. The Government aim to set up the new Council so that it can take on its new functions by 1 April 2007.
The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I have today published a consultation document on the Governments proposals to implement the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive (the WEEE Directive).
The Government are firmly committed to sustainable development and recognises that effective implementation of the WEEE directive has a key role to play in achieving this goal. Electrical and electronic equipment is the fastest growing category of waste across the European Union, with an estimated 17 to 20 kg per person produced every year. The UK alone generated around 1 million tonnes of WEEE last year. By ensuring that WEEE is treated, recycled and disposed of to high environmental standards as required by the directive, we protect the environment and human health from the risk of hazardous contamination.
The proposals published today follow on from the implementation review announced last December, and have been developed through extensive consultation with companies and other interested parties who will be directly affected by the new regulations. They represent a balance of controls needed to identify and discourage free-riders and give companies the freedom to find the most cost-effective routes to meet their obligations.
The consultation document will be placed on the DTI website so that it is available to the wider public. The consultation period will run for 12 weeks, with a closing date for comments of 17 October 2006. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. Ian McCartney): The Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission published a report on unfair terms in contracts in February 2005 (Law Com No. 292; Scots Law Com no. 199). It set out detailed recommendations, together with a draft Bill designed to produce a unified regime replacing the Unfair Contracts Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 for the whole of the UK in a way that is much clearer and easier to follow, and also addressed some gaps in protection that the Commissions identified. I am grateful for the Law Commissions detailed and comprehensive report and for their extensive consultations on the issues involved, and appreciate their commitment to this project.
This project was undertaken jointly by the Law Commissions at the request of both the Department of Trade and Industry and the then Lord Chancellors Departmentnow the Department for Constitutional Affairs. The Government have carefully considered the Law Commissions report and are content in principle to accept the recommendations for reform. This acceptance is subject to further consideration of the detail of the issues, and to further work to identify potential cost impacts. The proposed legislation will be subject to full public consultation.