ECOFIN will be invited to adopt conclusions on multilateral surveillance of the first progress reports on the Lisbon National Reform Programmes and on Global Factor Flows, in preparation for the European Council on 14-15 December.
The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement:
As announced in paper Delivering Simple, Summary, Speedy Justice published in July 2006, the Government wish to establish 10 further community justice initiatives. This is to build on the community justice initiatives already underway at the North Liverpool Community Justice Centre and the Salford Magistrates' Court. Community justice makes a key contribution to the Government's Respect Action Plan, which was published in January 2006. It aims to strengthen the links between the courts, the criminal justice system and the local community so that local people's confidence in the work of the courts and the wider criminal justice system increases. In particular we want to build on the work judges and magistrates already carry out to deliver community justice. Magistrates demonstrate a huge commitment to public service and to making their communities better and safer places to live.
I can announce today that we will be extending community justice to Birmingham, Bradford, Devon and Cornwall, Kingston upon Hull, Leicestershire, Merthyr Tydfil, Middlesbrough and Nottingham. Additionally, we will develop two initiatives in London. We will now work with the local agencies and the judiciary in those areas to establish details of how these initiatives will operate in practice and precisely where they will be located.
The aim of this next phase of community justice work will be to provide further learning and best practice so that in the long term the principles of community justice are applied in the courts and the criminal justice system throughout England and Wales. In doing this, we will give the local areas flexibility to adapt community justice to their needs and circumstances so that the needs of their community are met in the way that works best for them. These initiatives will be founded, however, on the following key principles:
Courts connecting to the community. There should be significant liaison between the courts and the local community so that local people should value the courts as a community resource. Examples of this include holding regular meetings with community representatives, working with local crime and disorder reduction partnerships or police consultative groups and attending community events. The community should also be able to put forward its view on the impact that the crime has had on it so that the court has a view of the wider context of the crime. We will look at how this might be achieved in this new phase of community justice work.
Justice seen to be done. Local people should be better informed about the work of the court and have an opportunity to put forward its views on the way offending is tackled.
Compliance with the court's orders or other penalties should be seen and recognised by the community with their problems are addressed. We will look in detail at the involvement of the community in the establishment of the court. Local magistrates, whose contribution to their local communities is already recognised as important, will volunteer to take part in the new schemes and the community already provides input to the advisory committees that make recommendations on the appointment of magistrates.
Cases handled robustly and speedily. Community justice should enable swift resolution of cases through rigorous and effective case management as well as harnessing the combined potential of a range of agencies working together. Increasing speed in listing cases, reducing delays created by unnecessary adjournments, ensuring offenders begin sentences promptly and acting swiftly on failures to turn up to court or comply with sentence will all contribute towards increasing community confidence in the effectiveness of the court. Much of this has been fed into the wider Delivering Simple, Summary, Speedy Justice paper.
Strong independent judiciary. The judiciary carry enormous authority over offenders and criminal justice agencies and thus have a potentially powerful role to play in promoting compliance with court orders and tackling offending behaviour. Community justice should enable the judiciary to direct hearings, lead the problem solving approach, and maintain oversight over offenders' progress post-sentence.
Solving problems and finding solutions. Problem solving is at the heart of the community justice approach in the Court. In essence, it means making use of a range of available service providers in order to address and tackle the underlying causes of offending. Problem solving can operate both at a community leveltackling safety concerns raised by local peopleand also when dealing with individual offenders at court.
Working together. This enables consistency, builds trust and promotes a team approach to decision making and dealing with offenders. Collaboration ensures that a range of agencies, necessary for problem solving, are available to the court. In sum it empowers the court to deliver an end-to-end service to offenders, victims and the community.
Repairing harm and raising confidence. Victims and witnesses must be kept fully informed and supported from their first contact with the system until after the case has concluded. The new schemes will seek the views of the community on what projects should be the subject of unpaid work requirements imposed as part of a community punishment order; for example, through newsletters, advertising or by canvassing views at public meetings. These unpaid work projects should then be badged once completed so the community can see what has been achieved.
Reintegrating offenders and building communities. Community justice can play a crucial role in improving social bonds and cohesion within the community. More specifically, this involves developing pathways to support the re-integration of offenders back into their community.
I believe these new community justice initiatives will build on the achievements of the North Liverpool and Salford projects. They will demonstrate further how the courts, the wider criminal justice system and the public can be brought Closer together to foster new relationships that work to make justice better for everyone.
The Minister for Climate Change and the Environment (Ian Pearson):
DEFRA is today launching a review of the Royal Commission on Environmental
Pollution (RCEP), which will focus on the following issues:
Effectiveness and impact of RCEP reports since the last review;
RCEP funding and performance since the last review;
Relationship with Government and other organisations, with an interest in the activities of the RCEP
The RCEP is an independent standing body established in 1970 to advise the Queen, the Government, Parliament and the public on environmental issues. Its primary role is to contribute to policy development by providing an authoritative factual basis for policy-making and debates, and setting new policy agendas and priorities. Although independent of Government Departments, it is funded by DEFRA, to which it is also accountable for its use of resources.
It is recommended that non-departmental public bodies undergo a review every few years to evaluate their performance. The last review of the RCEP was carried out in 1999. As the sponsoring Department, DEFRA, on behalf of Government, will lead on the new review. We aim to have completed the review by Spring 2007. A draft scope for the review has been set out in annexe 1. Further information about the Royal Commission, including its recent work, is set out in annexe 2.
Once the review has reported, DEFRA will examine its recommendations and see how they should be implemented, in particular, by reviewing the agreement setting out the framework within which the relationship between the two bodies operates. Should it prove necessary, DEFRA will then bring forward proposals to change the framework document and alter the way that the RCEP operates.
The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): Today I am publishing two publications which will take forward our commitment to place patients and the public at the heart of the way our health services are run: The future regulation of health and adult social care in England and,
Code of Practice for promotion of NHS services which covers promotional activity directed at both the public and commissioners.
The future regulation of health and adult social care in England takes forward our commitment to provide a clear and refocused approach to regulation and a framework for management of the health and adult social care systems. This document brings together our response to the wider review of regulation about which we notified Parliament on 19 October 2005, Official Report, column 56WS.
This document is the latest in a suite of publications providing more detail on my Department's proposals for health reform. In recent years, the National Health Service (NHS) and adult social care services in England have responded to profound challenges and change. There have been substantial improvements in services in both sectors, which have delivered significant benefits for patients and service users. But, demographic changes, peoples' rising expectations and advances in medical technology will place demands on both systems to go on improving services.
In all public services, we are making a radical shift from top-down, target-driven performance management to a more bottom-up, self-improving system built around the individual needs of service users and influenced by effective engagement with the public. Increasingly, improvement will be driven by the choices made by service users and healthy competition between different service providers. The NHS and adult social care services are no exception.
This document describes how independent regulation will support these changes in future, within the context of cross-Government objectives to reduce the burden of regulation. The overall aim is to give people the best and safest care possible, with the best possible value for public money. We want to see effective management of the system backed by regulation that gives patients and service users confidence that whichever provider they choose, whether public, private or third sector, they can be assured of a safe and high quality service.
It makes clear our commitment to merge the Healthcare Commission (HC), the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and the Mental Health Act Commission (MHAC) and sets out the rationale for the merger. The plans to merge form one of the key strands in the Government's strategy to reform public service inspection. The new organisation will enable greater flexibility in response to an evolving adult health and social care system.
Bringing together the regulation of NHS and adult social care services will have many benefits. It makes sense to patients and service users who want integrated services. It makes sense to service providers who want simple, less burdensome regulation. It makes sense to commissioners who want jointly to commission health and adult social care services. And, it makes sense to the taxpayer who wants regulation to offer value for money.
The proposed merger has provided an opportunity for us to review the functions required of the merged regulator in light of our health reforms and the Local Government White Paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities. We have undertaken a detailed assessment of what functionality will be appropriate to ensure that the new regulator will be fit for purpose.
The document outlines what particular regulatory functions will be needed to be undertaken from 2008 onwards, and by whomthe new regulator and other organisations in the wider health and adult social care systems. The change will be evolutionary not revolutionary, building on the excellent work to date by the HC, CSCI and MHAC, to move to a more risk based approach. They will remain in place during the transition period until the establishment of the new regulator.
In addition, the new regulator will inherit and continue the important role currently undertaken by the MHAC in England. In a separate process, we will review the necessary duties and powers required by the new regulator to keep under review the operation of mental health legislation; to ensure that mental health service users are as effectively protected by the new regulator as they are now and to emphasise the importance of equality and human rights in mental health care. This will learn lessons from the effective visiting programme that commissioners have undertaken.
Patients have always had a keen interest in their healthcare and patient choice is now a reality in the NHS. Coupled with access to clinical quality information, this will help drive up standards across the NHS. Providers will want to make more information about their services available to patients and referring clinicians in order to help them make choices and advise patients. Appropriate levels of promotional activity by providers are a way of making this information more easily available.
Through promotional activity, providers will develop a better understanding of the needs and wants of patients and GPs. This will enable them to respond and reshape services accordingly and deliver services that better meet those needs.
The Code of Practice for promotion of NHS services published today describes how a self-regulatory approach to promotional activity will support these changes, ensuring that information is accurate and reliable. These proposals have been developed by the Department following preliminary discussions with the NHS confederation and a number of stakeholders. This document launches a three-month consultation on the draft code of practice.
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