The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ed Balls): In my written ministerial statement of 10 October 2006, I undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UK's asset freezing regime. This is the first of these reports and covers the period October-December 2006(1).
The following changes have been made to asset-freezing legislation:
Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006, made in October; and
al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006, made in November
These two Orders updated the previous Orders, as I explained in statements to the House on 10 October and 7 November 2006.
The Treasury has also strengthened the asset-freezing regime by agreeing, on the advice of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, to use closed source evidence in cases where there are strong operational reasons to impose a freeze but insufficient open source evidence available. I notified Parliament of this decision in October.
In the quarter October-December 2006, the Treasury made seven domestic designations under the Terrorism Order and the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Order.
Of these, two persons already listed were re-designated under the new Orders.
The Terrorism Order and the Al-Qaeda and Taliban Order provide, where appropriate, for designations to be made confidentially and with restricted circulation of notice. Four persons were listed on this basis.
Two persons were listed on the basis of closed source evidence provided by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
In addition, the following financial sanctions listings of persons with links to the UK took place:
none at the EU; and
one person at the UN.
No designated persons have been delisted in this quarter.
Designations this quarter make a total of 195 separate accounts and approximately £525,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK since 2001.
There has been one case of domestic litigation regarding financial sanctions.
The recent High Court judgement of 22 September 2006 in the case of M.A. and MM v Her Majesty's Treasury  EWCH 2328 (Admin) upheld the Treasury's actions regarding benefits payments to the households of designated individuals. The case was heard by the Court of Appeal on 18 December 2006 and we are awaiting the judgement.
The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review. A number of formal reviews have been initiated in this quarter and the reviews of two cases have been completed. In both cases decisions were taken following the review to maintain the asset freeze.
In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1452 (2002), the Treasury operates a licensing system whereby designated persons and others are able to apply to make or receive payments under specific and, if necessary, monitored conditions. In this quarter, the following licences were issued:
two listed persons were granted basic expenses licences, one of which was for benefits payments
there were no extraordinary expenses licences granted; and
eleven listed persons were granted legal expenses licences.
In addition, the household of one listed person was granted a benefits licence in accordance with the policy I set out in my statement of 3 July 2006 to Parliament.
(1 )The detail which can be provided to the House on a quarterly basis is subject to the need to avoid the identification, directly or indirectly, of personal or operationally sensitive information.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Vera Baird): On 1 March the Legal Services Commission (LSC) published the following papers which take forward the Government's legal aid reform programme set out last November in Legal Aid Reform: the Way Ahead. The papers reflect comments and concerns raised during consultation on Legal Aid: A Sustainable Future published in July alongside Lord Carter's Report
The LSC's strategy for family legal aid: Making Legal Rights a Reality for Children and Families. This sets out the LSC's priorities for the delivery of family legal aid for the next five years.
A paper re-consulting for 6 weeks until 16 April 2007 on revised fee schemes for care proceedings and family helpprivate which will apply from October 2007. Changes include: retention of the uplift for panel membership for exceptional cases; lowering of the threshold for exceptional cases; and increasing the graduation of the fees in private law family cases.
A paper consulting for 12 weeks until 24 May 2007 on changes to the Funding Code in relation to public law children cases. This proposes to introduce a reasonableness' test for Special Children Act proceedings, and the removal of residential assessments from the scope legal aid. As this is a new measure rather than a re-consultation, LSC is consulting for the full period.
The revised immigration and asylum legal aid fee scheme to apply from October 2007. Changes include: the proposal to introduce the early resolution payment has been dropped; reduction of the exceptional case limit; and all disbursements will now be claimed separately, including interpreter fees. This is the final scheme and we are not consulting on this further.
A six-week consultation until 16 April 2007 on the category-specific sections of the unified contract, and on a separate specification for contracting for services within Immigration Removal Centres, to come into effect with the new fee schemes in October 2007.
The revised mental health fee scheme will be published in the next few weeks. Advocacy arrangements in family cases from April 2008 will be the subject of a separate consultation later this year. The Government value the input of practitioners and interested parties on the ongoing reform of civil and family legal aid. We encourage all those with an interest to contribute fully to the current consultations. Copies of the papers published on 1 March are available on the Legal Services Commission's website at www.legalservices.gov.uk and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has made the following written ministerial statement:
I wish to update you on the implementation of the UK Supreme Court. As you know, on 7 September 2006 the Westminster City Council Planning and City Development Committee resolved unanimously to grant planning and listed building consent to the proposed renovation of Middlesex Guildhall in preparation for use as the UK Supreme Court. English Heritage fully supported the renovation plans.
Consent was granted subject to the completion of a Section 106 agreement, which was then signed by both parties on 21 November 2006. Both the planning and the listed building consents were also issued on 21 November 2006.
On 26 January 2007 an application was made for the Judicial Review of the decision to grant listed building and planning consent for the renovation of Middlesex Guildhall. The application was made by SAVE Britain's Heritage against Westminster City Council.
The Judicial Review is about the way in which the issues were presented by Westminster planning officers to the Committee and as a result whether there was an error in law in the way that Westminster City Council reached its decision. It is about the process, it is not about the content of the application. I am named as an Interested Party in the case, and my Department and I are fully supportive of Westminster City Council. Westminster City Council lodged their defence on 16 February, which we supported, in which they defend the decision. The courts are now deciding whether or not there is a case to be heard.
In the interim, I have decided to re-submit the application for listed building and planning consent for the Middlesex Guildhall to Westminster City Council. This demonstrates our confidence in the original case and gives us a better control over timescales.
I believe that this step is the best way to meet the needs of all parties involved and gives the best chance to deliver the Supreme Court in October 2009. Our second application will be lodged on 9 March 2007. This will be followed by the usual statutory consultation.
The Crown Courts at Middlesex Guildhall will still close on 30 March 2007. as planned. New courtrooms are being built at Isleworth Crown Court and will be available in Autumn 2008.
In the meantime, transition plans are in place to maintain the number of sitting days across London Crown Courts.
As announced in my statement of 17 October 2006, I will update you on costs once we have reached financial close with our preferred bidders Kier Group Plc for the Guildhall renovation and Osborne's for the Isleworth development.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): In the Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) Fixed Wing Sector the Ministry of Defence committed to negotiating with BAE Systems the terms of a long-term partnering agreement (LTPA) to help sustain the key industrial skills and capabilities needed to support and upgrade the current and future aircraft fleet. The Ministry of Defence has today signed a foundation contract with BAE Systems as the first step towards delivering a full and legally binding LTPA by the end of 2007, subject to negotiations.
The foundation contract is intended to help establish the key elements of the LTPA and inform the detailed negotiations ahead. It also incentivises BAE Systems to further transform its air sector business to ensure the efficient delivery of the key through life defence industrial capabilities the armed forces require.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband): I and my hon. Friend the Minister for Climate Change and the Environment represented the UK at the Environment Council in Brussels on 20 February. Sarah Boyack, Scottish Deputy Minister for the Environment and Rural Development also attended.
The Council agreed a set of conclusions on climate change, aimed at further developing the medium and long-term EU strategy to combat global climate change. The Council conclusions affirmed an EU commitment to an independent greenhouse gas emissions reduction target of at least 20 per cent. by 2020 and a conditional 30 per cent. reduction target in the context of an international framework, all using 1990 as the base year. The UK welcomes this agreement as it sends a strong signal to business thereby encouraging the investment necessary to put the EU on track to a low carbon energy future. It also sends a strong message to our international partners that the EU is willing to take the lead on the development of a post-2012 framework to combat climate change.
The Environment Council also finalised its contribution to spring Council, drawing on the agreed climate change conclusions and linking the Commission Communication to the strategic energy review, eco-innovation and better regulation. The UK
very much welcomes the Council conclusions recognition that the EU needs mutually supportive climate change and energy strategies. On targets for biofuels and renewable energies, the conclusions confirmed the view taken earlier by EU Energy Ministers. The UK supports the importance of promoting eco-innovations if we are to move towards a low-carbon economy and the application of better regulation principles in order to ensure that we achieve our environmental goals in the most cost-efficient, transparent way.
Ministers agreed Council conclusions on the thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides. The UK supports the conclusions, which should pave the way for negotiation of a proportionate and balanced package of measures which strengthens protection of human health and the environment across the EU as a whole.
Ministers gave their initial views on the Commissions proposal to include aviation emissions into the EU ETS. The UK supported the inclusion of all flights arriving at and departing from the EU from the beginning of the scheme (and not according to the phased approach proposed by the Commission), calling for aviation to be included in the scheme promptlyeven before 2011 if practicable. The UK highlighted that, in a global industry a global solution must be the ultimate goal, but that the EU could not allow a situation where a failure to make progress globally prevented us from taking the positive action we know to be necessary. Given the international nature of aviation, the UK believes that a proportionate and workable scheme is not possible based on member state cap setting and we therefore supported a central EU-wide cap for aviation.
Ministers gave their initial views on the Commissions communication on a community strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from cars. The UK supported the Commissions intention to bring forward mandatory proposals, although we highlighted the need for these to be based on thorough impact assessment and in full consultation with stakeholders. The UK noted that binding legislation did not need to be more costly or less flexible than voluntary targets. What is important is how the targets are implemented. The UK welcomed the complementary measures to reduce emissions proposed by the Commission, as these are consistent with the integrated approach, but stressed that these must not distract from the need for substantial further progress on new car fuel efficiency.
Ministers also gave their initial views on the soils thematic strategy and proposed directive. The UK supported the objectives of the thematic strategy as it sends a powerful message about the critical importance of soil to all aspects of human activity and to the sustainability of the plants ecosystems, but stressed that the proposed directive should take account of existing legislation in the field and contribute to regulatory simplification. The UK also highlighted the possibility of significant compliance costs and urged member states and the Commission to learn from the lessons of implementing legislation in other areas.
The Council found a qualified majority opposing the proposed decision concerning the provisional prohibition of the use and sale of a genetically modified maize in Hungary. The safeguard action will,
therefore, stay in place. The UK voted in favour of the proposed Council decision based on the opinions of various scientific bodies (including the European Food Safety Authority and the UKs Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment) which have concluded that there is no new relevant scientific evidence in support of the safeguard action.
The Council could not find a qualified majority in favour or against a proposed decision concerning the placing on the market of a carnation that is genetically modified for flower colour. The UK voted in favour based on the available scientific evidence.
Under Any Other Business, the Commission presented a mandate to represent the Community at the International Whaling Commission, in order to safeguard the moratorium on commercial whaling. The UK supported the Commissions call for member states who had not done so to join the IWC but we doubted a formal mandate would help. The UK highlighted that the Commission was only an observer to the IWC and did not enjoy the same full speaking rights as individual member states.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): Today the chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts) announced that, in accordance with section 6 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, Monitor has decided to authorise South Devon Healthcare NHS trust as an NHS foundation trust from 1 March.
Monitors announcement brings the total number of NHS foundation trusts to 59. A copy of Monitors press notice has been placed in the Library.
The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to apply for foundation status as soon as practicable. Further waves of NHS foundation trusts are set to follow, with numbers expected to rise noticeably over the next financial year.
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