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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

United Nations General Assembly (Sustainable Fisheries Resoltuion)

The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The House will be aware that the United Nations General Assembly discussed a sustainable fisheries resolution in New York from 16 to 23 November. Of particular interest was the section of the draft resolution relating to bottom fisheries, notably bottom trawling, and their impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems. For too long the international community has turned a blind eye to the devastation which can be caused by this practice, but an improved scientific understanding of its impact on sensitive ecosystems in our deepest oceans, and proven evidence of the damage it causes, gave me hope that the international community would take the opportunity offered by the UNGA discussions to agree truly significant and effective measures to stop this destructive activity and protect seamounts, cold water corals, hydrothermal vents and similar vulnerable ecosystems.

I visited the UN last month to seek to persuade others of the importance of UN leadership in taking far-reaching measures. With the help of Commissioner Borg and other EU allies we developed an EU position based firmly on the precautionary approach including reversing the burden of proof. This means that countries would need to show that their fishing operations were not damaging vulnerable ecosystems, or the sustainability of fish stocks before they allowed them to operate.

The outcome of the meeting was a significant improvement on where we were in October. The resolution agreed a programme of actions required of regional fisheries management organisations including a requirement that they adopt the reverse burden of proof before authorising their members to fish in the deep seas, this formulation is repeated for situations where regional fisheries management organisations—RFMOs—are being established. Flag states operating in non-regulated waters have a clear deadline of 31 December 2008 either to apply the RFMO process to their own vessels or choose to prohibit fishing.

While there is now a framework in place to end destructive bottom fisheries over the next two years, I am bitterly disappointed that we were not able to go
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further and agree a more accelerated and stronger package of measures to end this destructive, unregulated deep-sea fishing which is wrecking so many marine creatures and habitats. I am, however, grateful for the support of many countries who have helped to achieve a significant shift in how the oceans are governed, but time is running out for the sensitive and vulnerable ecosystems threatened by this practice.

We will continue to press for effective worldwide action and, with the European Union, we will ensure that everybody meets their responsibilities to prevent this kind of fishing destroying in minutes what has taken thousands of years to develop, and that high seas fisheries are founded on a clear sustainable basis.


Phase 1 Clinical Trials (Expert Scientific Group)

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): On 24 July I informed the House that the Department of Health had published an interim report from the expert scientific group on phase1 clinical trials. The expert scientific group was established atthe request of the Secretary of State for Health, under the chairmanship of Professor Gordon Duff, with the following terms of reference:

To consider what may be necessary in the transition from pre-clinical to first-in-man phase1 studies, and in the design of these trials, with specific reference to:

To provide advice in the form of a report to the Secretary of State for Health for the future authorisation of such trials with an interim report to be provided within three months.

The expert scientific group submitted their final report to the Secretary of State on 30 November and it is being published today.

The report contains twenty two recommendations, which fall into a number of key areas:

The Government welcome the recommendations made by the expert scientific group and will givethem full consideration. Those recommendations that introduce precautionary measures in the approval and conduct of trials have already been implemented inthe UK on an interim basis by the Medicines And Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). These interim arrangements will remain until they are
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replaced by European guidance. We will make every effort to ensure that implementation of these, and other recommendations that require European-level implementation, are given priority.

The MHRA has also put in place procedures for accessing independent scientific advice, and an expert advisory group that will review applications for trials of high risk substances will be established in the new year. Recognising the need for better communication between the main organisations responsible for approval of clinical trials, the MHRA and the UK Ethics Committee Authority (UKECA) jointly published a “Memorandum of Understanding” on30 October 2006, setting out what information should, in the future, be shared between MHRA and research Ethics Committees.

We will be discussing with the relevant stakeholders, including the pharmaceutical industry and academia, how we can best ensure that the necessary changes are made to training programmes for staff involved in designing and conducting clinical trials, and how to ensure that trial units are appropriately located and equipped.

Some of the expert scientific group’s recommendations, such as those proposing greater sharing of information about trials and adverse reactions, have international implications. We will identify appropriate ways of taking these recommendations forward, and ensure that action to implement them is appropriately prioritised.

It is important not to lose sight of the fact that phase1 studies have an extremely good safety record. The events associated with the TGN 1412 study are extremely rare and were wholly unexpected. The Government are, however, aware of the continuing impact this tragic incident is having on the lives of the volunteers who were involved in this trial, and on their families. The volunteers have received, and will continue to receive, all appropriate NHS care, and we believe that implementing the wide ranging and comprehensive recommendations made in this report will make a significant contribution to the safety of clinical trials of high risk substances in the future.

Finally, I would like to express the Government’s grateful thanks to the expert scientific group on phase1 clinical trials and in particular to its chairman, Professor Gordon Duff, for the work it has undertaken in producing an impressive, authoritative and thorough review of the issues raised by the TGN 1412 clinical trial and in providing a range of soundly based recommendations for the future safety of such trials.

Home Department

Antisocial Behaviour Orders

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): I am announcing today statistics relating to Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).

Data on the number of ASBOs issued are updated quarterly. New figures for the period up to December
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2005 are now available. These figures show that forthe period between April 1999 and December 2005 the total number of ASBOs issued (as reported to the Home Office by HMCS) was 9,853. Of those ASBOs issued, 56 per cent. were to adults and 41 per cent. to juveniles (3 per cent. of ASBOs are age unknown). Some 42 per cent. were orders on application and58 per cent. were orders on conviction.

The Home Office is notified by all courts of ASBOs issued. As indicated in the statement on 3 November 2005, Official Report, columns 52-53 WS, a joint exercise between Her Majesty’s Courts Service andthe Home Office has been undertaken to refine and improve further the collection of these data. We contacted local agencies such as Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, the British Transport Police, social housing providers, and the courts themselves to cross reference and reconcile the differing sources of data. This exercise showed a degree of under-reporting of some 18 per cent.

The data published today have been amended to reflect the results of the data improvement exercise. It is clear, however that these figures are an estimate, and although we believe they are very close to the true figures, we cannot eliminate the possibility of a continued degree of under-reporting using the current data collection system. For this reason, we have worked closely with HMCS to develop an action plan to improve the data collection process, which means that data published from next year will be quality assured to the required level.

These data are available on the crime reduction website at:

I am also publishing data about the breach rate for ASBOs. The previous publication, for the period up to December 2003, showed a breach rate of 42 per cent. overall (40 per cent. for juveniles and 47 per cent. for adults). However, re-calculating these figures to make them consistent with current data gives a breach rate of 47 per cent. for juveniles and 38 per cent. for adults(42 per cent. overall). This has itself now changed, for the period to Dec 2005, to 47 per cent. overall (57 per cent. for juveniles and 41 per cent. for adults).

I have also placed in the Library an account of the data reconciliation exercise, and actions in hand to improve the data collection system. The new data collection system will come on stream next year, possibly as early as the spring. We are looking at moving to national statistics standard with this data.

Home Office Autumn Performance Report 2006

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): The Home Office autumn performance report 2006 will be published tomorrow by command of Her Majesty. Copies of the report will be placed in the House Library. The report will also available on the Home Office website.

The report sets out the progress we have made towards achieving our public service agreement targets.

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Northern Ireland

Second Annual Report (Section 11(1) of the Northern Ireland (Monitoring Commission etc.) Act 2003)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I have today published and laid before Parliament my second annual report on the operation of the agreement between the British and Irish Governments which established the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report covers the period 18 September 2004 to 17 September 2005.

In line with a commitment made by my predecessor, this report also contains the audited accounts of the IMC for the 15-month period ending 31 March 2005.

I remain grateful to the Commissioners of the IMC for their valuable contributions over this period, and for their contribution to promoting the transition to a peaceful society and a stable and inclusive devolved Government in Northern Ireland.

Trade and Industry

Public Appointments

The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge): I have decided to appoint the new board members listed at annex A and to reappoint the board member listed at annex B. The new appointments will all be for a period of three years. The reappointment will be for a period of two years.

The new appointments will begin on 14 December 2006 and will expire on 13 December 2009. The reappointment will begin on 14 December 2006 and will expire on 13 December 2008.

I have placed further details of the new appointments in the Library of both Houses. All of them were made in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

New Appointments: Annex A

One North East

Ruth Thompson, OBE

Paul Callaghan

New Appointments: Annex B

East Midlands Development Agency

Valerie Dwyer

EU Competitiveness Council

The Minister for Science and Innovation (Malcolm Wicks): I attended the Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 4 December. Mauri Pekkarinen, Finnish Minister for Trade and Industry, chaired the Council.

There was a policy debate on the modernised customs code on the basis of the discussion paper produced by the presidency. The discussion focused on the proposals for a single window, centralised customs clearance, and the liberalisation of the customs agent
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market. I gave broad support for all three proposals and noted in particular the need to ensure that the customs agent market was not bound by new restrictions.

There followed a policy debate on the Lisbon strategy and innovation policy on the basis of the Commission communication on “Putting knowledge into practice: a broad-based innovation strategy for Europe” for which Council conclusions had been prepared. The presidency asked delegates to consider in particular joint technology initiatives, intellectual property rights, and the European Institute of Technology. I supported the text of the Council conclusions, noting in particular the importance of rapidly ensuring a patent regime that had the support of industry. The Council conclusions were adopted.

At the lunch, I gave a short presentation on the UK Government's response to the Stern review on climate change, focusing on the competitiveness elements, which was then picked up in discussion. It was agreed that the Competitiveness Council would remain active in this area.

There followed a presentation by the presidencyon its better regulation progress report, followed bya presentation and exchange of views on the Commission's communication on “A Strategic Review of Better Regulation in the European Union.” I spoke to offer strong UK support for the communication and in particular for the overall target for reducing administrative burdens.

The Council noted the presidency's progress report on the proposal for a revised consumer credit directive, on which substantial disagreement still remained. Delegates spoke to give their assessment of how the proposal should go forward. I expressed my concern over the added value of the directive and urged a thorough evaluation of the benefits of the proposal.

Under Any Other Business, the Commission gave presentations on the pharmaceutical forum, the European competitiveness report, joint technology initiatives and implementation of article 169, the review of the consumer acquis, the common frame of reference, the review of the timeshare directive, and the state of play on suspension of import duties on primary aluminium. There were presentations fromthe presidency on the Commission communication on external aspects of competitiveness, and the EU-US informal economic ministerial meeting.

Employment Dispute Resolution

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): I am today announcing an expanded Government review of the framework for settling disputes between employers and employees.

The review will be led by Michael Gibbons, a member of the Better Regulation Commission, acting in a personal capacity. It will involve businesses and employee representatives in considering all the options and working out how the Government can best deliver our common aim of faster and better dispute resolution. I have asked Mr. Gibbons to make recommendations to me in the spring of 2007.

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In March 2006 the Government published “Success at Work”, an employment law policy statement for this Parliament, in which it undertook to review the scope to reduce the number of cases going to employment tribunals, including a review of the dispute resolution regulations 2004. The initial stages of that work have indicated that it is now appropriate to carry out a wider-ranging assessment of the ways in which the Government can help employers and individuals to resolve employment disputes as quickly as possible. There is evidence that changes to the various components of the current system could produce real benefits for businesses and individuals, by reducing the time, cost and stress involved in settling disputes.

I shall make a further statement to Parliament, reporting on the progress of this review, in due course.

I am also announcing today that Michael Gibbons will chair a new practitioners' panel, to help us ensure that the employment law simplification review's outcomes are rigorous and make a real difference for employers and employees. I shall confirm the other members of the panel shortly.

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