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 second of these reports and covers the period January-March 2007.(1)
As my statement to Parliament of the same date explained, the strategy outlines the Government's key priorities for the future, along with measures to deliver these. New measures include further steps to promote the proactive use of asset-freezing powers; notably, the creation of a dedicated Treasury asset-freezing unit that will increase the expertise and operational focus brought to bear on asset freezing, in response to advice from law enforcement and security agencies.
In the quarter January-March 2007, the Treasury made 19 domestic designations under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006 and the Al-Qaeda and Taliban (United Nations Measures) Order 2006.
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. No persons were designated on this basis in this quarter.
The Court of Appeal judgment of 6 March 2007 in the case of M, A, and MM v. Her Majesty's Treasury
 EWCH 2328 (Admin), confirmed the High Court judgment of 22 September 2006 upholding the Treasury's actions regarding benefits payments to the households of listed individuals.
The Treasury keeps domestic asset-freezing cases under review. A number of formal reviews have been initiated in this quarter and the reviews of 12 cases have been completed. In all 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:
four listed persons were granted basic expenses licences;
three of which were for benefits payments
four listed persons were granted extraordinary expenses licences; and
twenty-three listed persons were granted legal expenses licences.
(1) The detail that 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.
(2 )This figure includes $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using current exchange rates. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): I deplore the activities of so-called vulture funds that seek to profit from debts owed by the poorest countries in the world. I am determined to limit the damage done by such funds. The UK will therefore:
call on the World Bank to make the IDA Debt Reduction Facility available to HIPC countries before they reach decision point, in order to help countries to eliminate their commercial debts at the earliest possible opportunity and thereby reduce the likelihood of debts being sold on to aggressive creditors;
stand ready to scale up our contribution to the Debt Reduction Facility in support of this policy change;
take forward talks with leading commercial creditors on a voluntary code of conduct that will set out the actions that responsible creditors should take to help reduce the risk of litigation, including the requirement to participate in collective action to reduce unsustainable debts;
work with our G8 partners to develop a Charter on Responsible Lending that includes a commitment to protect developing countries from vulture fund activity;
work to ensure that HIPCs have access to the legal assistance they need to defend themselves against litigation, including by supporting proposals at the African Development Bank to develop a Legal Assistance Facility to help countries facing legal action gain access to technical and legal support;
continue to strengthen debt management capacity amongst HIPCs.
The Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation was established to lead a step change in Thurrock, harnessing the opportunities presented by growth and regeneration to encourage new businesses and jobs, to develop new homes, schools and leisure activities, and to encourage good quality accessible services and a robust social infrastructure in support of a prosperous community. This lifespan extension will provide the Corporation with the necessary time to overcome barriers and challenges to the achievement of these aspirations, allowing them to build on their significant progress to date. Through continued joint working with Thurrock Council and other partner organisations, the TTGDC will be able to make the most of Thurrock for all members of the community.
Thurrock is a key part of the Thames Gateway and the lifespan extension will help the Development Corporation to deliver effectively its proposed business plan and regeneration strategy and to promote key projects in the borough.
To inform the decision, a public consultation was undertaken from 2 October to the end of December 2006, seeking views from those consulted originally when the Thurrock Development Corporation was established. The vast majority of the responses were positive, recognising the challenges faced by the Development Corporation in Thurrock. A summary of responses to the consultation will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation was established by Parliamentary Order in October 2003. The Order designating the urban development area and establishing the Thurrock Development Corporation (SI 2003 No. 2896) was laid before the House on 2 July 2003 and was debated on 15 October, coming into force on 29 October 2003. More information about the TTGDC is available at www.thurrocktgdc.org.uk.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): The supplement to the 2007 report of the Armed Forces Pay Review Body (AFPRB) making recommendations on the pay of service medical and dental officers has been published today. Copies of the report are available in the Library of the House.
The AFPRB has recommended an increase in basic military salary of 2 per cent. for all regular and reserve Defence Medical Services consultants, general medical
practitioners and general dental practitioners. The review body also recommends a pay increase of 2 per cent. for junior doctors and cadets. In addition, the review body recommends that there should be an increase of 2 per cent. in the value of trainer pay, but no increase in the value of distinction and clinical excellence awards.
The Government have agreed to accept the AFPRBs recommendations in full, with implementation effective from 1 April 2007. The additional cost to the defence budget will be met within existing departmental expenditure limits.
The Government have also accepted the AFPRBs recommendations to introduce a targeted financial retention incentive for emergency, intensive therapy and operation theatre nurses and an increase in the sum offered under the golden hello scheme for the same three nurse specialties.
The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): On 7 May European Union (EU) Ministers agreed a Directive which for the first time establishes rules governing the conditions under which meat chickens are kept. The package of new measures includes detailed requirements for holdings where meat chickens are kept, the introduction of a maximum stocking density limit, data collection and scientific monitoring of impacts on chicken welfare, training for the industry and a possible new welfare labelling regime following a report from the European Commission. The Directive will come into force in 2010.
The welfare of meat chickens is a major concern to people in the United Kingdom and throughout the EU. This is a major sector of livestock production with some 850 million meat chickens produced in the UK every year and 4 billion across the EU. It is therefore only right that we set harmonised welfare rules for these animals.
It has taken nearly two years of negotiations to reach this point and Germany must be congratulated on concluding the Directive during their Presidency of the Council of Ministers. Some member states would have liked to further water down the proposals in respect of the maximum stocking density limit but the UK successfully fought off this challenge with support from other strongly minded welfare countries.
The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt):
Today, the Department is publishing a report from the chief nursing officer on progress with mixed-sex accommodation in hospitals. This report highlights the actions the national health service
should take to improve the provision of single-sex accommodation, and includes practical advice for trusts.
The chief executive of the NHS, David Nicholson, has reiterated our commitment to single-sex accommodation by including it in the operating framework for the NHS for 2007-08. In addition, strategic health authorities (SHAs) have been asked to review performance in this area, and have been working with a number of trusts to agree plans for improvement. SHAs are also publishing statements today on the position in their region.
Patients expect the NHS to deliver high standards of privacy and dignity that include, but are not restricted to, single-sex accommodation. Single-sex accommodation should be the norm in elective care, and remains the ideal for emergency treatment. However, we recognise that sometimes the need to treat and admit must take prioritythe NHS will not turn a patient away just because a right-sex bed is not immediately available.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 14 and 15 May in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and I will represent the UK. The Minister of State with responsibility for defence equipment and support, Lord Drayson, will also attend the Defence Ministers discussions on 14 May, while Sir John Grant (UK permanent representative to the EU) will take the chair for the Development Ministers discussions on 15 May.
The Council will discuss the presidencys draft annotated agenda for the 21-22 June European Council. The main topic for the European Council will be the constitutional treaty. But we expect it also to cover a number of justice and home affairs and economic and social issues, including strengthening police co-operation and climate change. There is also likely to be discussion of topical foreign policy issues.
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