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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 16 January 2007


Gibraltar - Infrastructure Support

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): I am today informing the House of our intention to introduce new contractual arrangements for facilities management at Ministry of Defence sites in Gibraltar with effect from 20 April 2007. The decision has been based on an exhaustive evaluation of the preferred commercial bid against an in-house option submitted by the Gibraltar work force. I know that this decision will come as a disappointment to our work force in Gibraltar, but I am satisfied that the preferred commercial bidder will provide best value for money, with effective management of health and safety risk, more efficient working practices and subsequent improvements in the quality of service.

The new commercial contract is expected to generate significant savings over the next seven years. We anticipate that some seven posts currently filled by UK-based civilians and 275 locally employed civilians will transfer to the contractor. The Ministry of Defence will, of course, ensure that all transferring employees’ rights are protected under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, including redundancy and pension rights.

The approach we are adopting has been successfully applied in UK establishments and other bases overseas. Efficiency savings generated will make a significant contribution to re-investment in the capabilities and force structure that our armed forces need to counter the threats that we and our allies continue to face.

Home Department

Public Protection: Criminal Records Bureau

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): Further to my statement to Parliament on Wednesday 10 January 2007 I would like to provide an update to the House on work that is being undertaken to deal with the issue of overseas convictions of UK nationals.

At my request the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) have now checked whether any of the offenders named in the 540 most serious notifications had sought a disclosure from the CRB after their return to the UK and been offered employment.

In relation to the notifications for which there were sufficient personal details to enable an entry on the
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police national computer, ACPO and the CRB have now established that five individuals committed offences in the EU that should have been on the PNC at the time that they sought a disclosure. None of these offences were of a violent or sexual nature but they included four drugs-related offences and one of assisting illegal entry into a country. Of these five people, we now know that one was never offered employment and that two are no longer in employment with the employer who asked for the CRB check. In relation to the other two, each employer has now been provided with the new information on overseas convictions.

ACPO and the CRB have also checked for CRB requests relating to notifications where the identity of the offender is less certain. This search has yielded nine such individuals none of whom had overseas convictions of a violent or sexual nature. Contact has now been made with all nine employers involved. In four cases the individual was never offered employment by the employer who asked for the check. In two other cases the individuals are no longer employed by the employer who asked for the check. In relation to the remaining three, the CRB has contacted their current known employer and made them aware of the possible new information.

In addition to the measures outlined above, the police are activating powers to place on the sex offenders register all positively identified sex offenders on the list and will go to magistrates courts to apply for notification orders under the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in all applicable cases. At a local level, where necessary, risk assessments and multi-agency protection panel arrangements will be invoked.

The police are also looking urgently at individuals with overseas convictions for other violent offences. Where necessary the police will undertake risk assessments on these individuals and can include them in local multi-agency protection panel arrangements.

The events of last week have made clear to me the complexity of the issues we face across Government and beyond. This is not helped by the differences in systems, procedures and criteria for recording and using for public protection information about criminality in this country and outside the UK. I have therefore written to Cabinet colleagues proposing a thorough review of the way in which such information is shared and used.

I can tell the House that within the past 24 hours I have had extremely productive conversations with Vice- President Frattini of the European Commission and German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries. We have agreed to work closely together to accelerate a programme of work to improve both the speed and the quality of data exchange across Europe, and I have emphasised the importance of including biometric data. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) has raised these issues at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Dresden this morning.

The UK has been a strong supporter of exchanging information with member states and will continue to press for progress to be made in this area.

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Independent Race Monitor

The Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Mr. Liam Byrne): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has today laid before Parliament the fourth annual report produced under section 19E of the Race Relations Act 1976 by the Immigration and Nationality Race Monitor, and placed copies of the report and his response in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies of the summary report of the research project “Examining Immigration Decisions on Arriving Passengers”, referred to in the race monitor’s report, are also being deposited. The race monitor has a statutory duty to report to Parliament through the Home Secretary on ministerial authorisations made under section 19D of the Race Relations Act enabling immigration staff to discriminate on the basis of nationality or ethnic or national origin in the exercise of their functions. My right hon. Friend and I would like to place on record our thanks to Mary Coussey for her work as the race monitor.

Prevention of Terrorism Act

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): Further to the report laid on 11 December 2006 as required by section 14 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, I would like to provide a further update to Parliament in the light of recent developments.

There are currently 18 control orders in force. This includes the control order against the individual who absconded in September 2006. It does not include a further individual who absconded in August 2006 after a control order was made (that is, signed), but before the order had been served. This order is therefore not in force. The position on these two absconders remains as set out in the ministerial statement of 11 December 2006.

The report of 11 December 2006 referred to an individual charged with breach of control order obligations. He was convicted earlier this month of failure to comply with daily reporting requirements and failure to notify the Home Office of a change of residence. He was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment. This is the first conviction for an offence under the 2005 Act. Since the report of 11 December 2006, another individual has been charged with four counts of failure to comply with control order obligations, and is currently on remand in prison. These developments demonstrate that the police, prosecution authorities and the courts take breaches of control order obligations seriously.

The House will also want to be aware that an individual absconded earlier this month soon after being served with a control order. This individual is subject to one of the 18 control orders in force. The control order was designed to address the risk posed by an individual who had recently been radicalised and wanted to travel abroad for terrorism-related purposes. Obligations included a requirement to report daily to a police station, to surrender travel documents and to reside at a specified address. The individual is not believed to represent a direct threat to the public in the UK at this time.

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Public safety is the top priority for the Government and the police. Locating the individual is an operational matter for the police. Investigations are ongoing. An anonymity order is in place and, after consulting the police, the Government are currently not seeking to overturn it.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of the 2005 Act, is due to report within the next few weeks on the operation of the Act during the past year.

Prime Minister

Council of Europe and Western European Union

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): The hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) and the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) have been appointed as substitute members of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union in place of the hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) and the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. Fraser).

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): The Lord Bowness CBE DL has been appointed as a full member of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe in place of the Earl of Northesk.

Work and Pensions

External Review of Pensions Institutions

The Minister for Pensions Reform (James Purnell): The May 2006 Pensions White Paper announced the Government’s intention to undertake a review of the functions of pensions institutions, with further detail in the summary of responses to the consultation, published in October.

I am pleased to advise the House that Paul Thornton has been appointed today to lead the review as an independent external reviewer. It is important to consider the best configuration of organisational responsibilities for workplace pensions, in the light of our pensions policies and reform proposals, and wider developments in the pensions market. Paul Thornton has a wealth of experience in this field. The terms of reference for the review and arrangements for submitting contributions will be available on the Department’s pension reform internet site later today. The aim of the review is to encourage debate and build consensus on the most appropriate way to arrange institutional responsibilities to deliver Government policies. Paul Thornton will report to Ministers with recommendations by spring 2007.

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