The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ed Balls): The United Kingdom signed the joint Council of Europe/OECD Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters on 24 May 2007. The text of the convention is published on the websites of both organisations. An Order in Council incorporating the provisions of the convention into domestic law will be laid before the House of Commons for approval in due course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Meg Munn): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government intends to publish on 29 May, for consultation, her proposed changes to the draft revision of the Regional Spatial Strategy for the North-East.
The current Regional Spatial Strategy, initially published as regional planning guidance (RPG1), became the Regional Spatial Strategy in September 2004 with the enactment of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. The Regional Spatial Strategy is part of the statutory development plan, and sets the framework for the production of local development frameworks and local transport plans.
A draft revision of the Regional Spatial Strategy was submitted to Government in June 2005 by the North-East Assembly, and tested in an Examination in Public during March and April 2006. The report of the Examination in Public was published by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in August 2006. The next step is to publish the Secretary of States proposed changes for consultation, prior to finalisation and publication of the Regional Spatial Strategy by the Secretary of State. On final publication it will supersede the current Regional Spatial Strategy.
In proposing these changes the Secretary of State has considered the recommendations of the independent panel who conducted the Examination in Public and has also taken into account all the representations made on the draft revision, and changes in Government policy since the draft revision was submitted.
The Regional Spatial Strategy will set a framework for the development of the North-East region to 2021. It supports a continuing level of economic growth, and a broad strategy for the location of new development. It includes proposals for the location of the main areas of housing and employment growth, and for improvements to the quality and management of transport infrastructure. It has policies to address climate change, waste management and environmental issues.
Also being published are the reports of a Sustainability Appraisal of The Proposed Changes, and a draft Appropriate Assessment of the Regional Spatial Strategy revision, in accordance with the European habitats directive.
At the start of the consultation, I will be writing to the North-East Assembly with the proposed changes. Because a number of these changes involve new proposals by Government, or the gathering of new information from the North-East Assembly and other stakeholders, we have set in progress a two-stage consultation. During a first ten-week period, we are requesting the North-East Assembly and other stakeholders to provide additional information to help to finalise policies. After ministerial consideration of this, and all other representations, a further set of proposed changes will be published, for a further consultation lasting eight weeks. While this will extend the overall timetable, we believe that this is justified in order to give all stakeholders a full opportunity to consider all the relevant material, and the Secretary of States final proposals.
Copies of the relevant documents, together with the reports of the Sustainability Appraisal and Appropriate Assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses at the end of May and will be provided to all of the regions MPs, MEPs and local authorities.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): The Royal School of Military Engineering Public Private Partnership (PPP) project has for some time been assessing a range of options for the relocation of two units that fall within the scope of the project, the Defence Explosive Ordnance Disposal School (DEODS) and the National Search Centre (NSC) currently located at Lodge Hill/Chattenden in the Medway Towns, Kent.
These units were to have been relocated to the Defence Munitions Centre at Kineton, Warwickshire, as part of the PPP solution. However, in late 2005 this move proved impracticable. In 2006 alternative sites, that were technically viable, were identified and costed by the contractor. These proposals have since been assessed by the MOD and following the conclusion of this work the MOD can confirm its intent to relocate the DEODS and NSC to Bicester thereby releasing land at Lodge Hill/Chattenden in the Medway Towns in Kent for the development of a new, sustainable mixed-use community.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Caroline Flint): The new edition of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority's code of practice for infertility clinics has been approved and laid before Parliament today. The code has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members in the Vote Office.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker): The Assets Recovery Agencys annual report 2006-07 and annual plan 2007-8 have been laid before Parliament today.
The agency has continued to build on its earlier successes in disrupting criminal groups and seizing their assets. In 2006-07, the total amount of realised receipts from assets recovered by the agency was a record £15.9 million. The agency disrupted a total of 114 criminal enterprises, 92 in England and Wales and 22 in Northern Ireland, exceeding the total minimum target of 90. It did so by the early restraint of assets to the value of £73.6 million which exceeded the stretch target of £65 million. The agency obtained civil recovery orders and tax assessments in 40 cases with a value of £16.6 million. It also adopted 45 cases for criminal confiscation investigation against a target of 15 cases.
The agencys annual plan 2007-08 has been prepared by the director of the agency and has been approved by Home Office and Northern Ireland Office Ministers. The plan focuses on the agencys aims, priorities and targets for the year ahead and sets out how it intends to exercise its functions in Northern Ireland.
The agency will continue to exercise its powers of investigation and asset recovery against criminals in support of the Governments commitment to taking the profit out of crime. The agency is committed to maintaining its efforts in the recovery of criminal assets during the transition period leading to the proposed merger with the Serious Organised Crime Agency, as provided for in the Serious Crime Bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Vernon Coaker):
Seizing criminal assets delivers a wide range of benefits, from depriving criminals of capital to reducing the incentives for crime and the harm caused by crime, as well as promoting fairness and confidence in the criminal justice system. In 2006-07 the total amount recouped by all agencies
involved in asset recovery in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was £125 million. This is a five-fold increase over five years. We want to build on this success. The Government are therefore publishing today an Asset Recovery Action Plan. The Action Plan has two purposes. Firstly it sets out robust proposals on how we are to reach our challenging target of recovering £250 million of the proceeds of crime by 2009-10. The Plan goes on to outline, for consultation, policy proposals for taking things further, including some radical ideas to move towards the Government's long term vision of detecting up to £1 billion of criminal assets.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): I am today informing Parliament of an ongoing police operation to locate three British citizens who are believed to have absconded from Control Orders on Monday night.
It is believed that these individuals wanted to travel abroad for terrorism-related purposes. They are not considered at this time to represent a direct threat to the public in the UK. The control orders were therefore designed to prevent travel.
Their control orders included obligations requiring them to surrender any travel documents and report each day to a local police station, and two of the individuals were required to phone a monitoring company each night. On the evening of 21 May, these two individuals failed to call the monitoring company. All three individuals failed to report to their local police station on 22 May.
Public safety is the top priority for the Government and the police. Locating these individuals is an operational matter for the police, and an active investigation is underway. On police operational advice, and to assist the investigation, I approached the High Court to lift the anonymity orders for these three individuals and this was agreed late yesterday afternoon. As a result, the police were able to make a public appeal as part of their ongoing investigation.
Unfortunately, within these limits, it is very difficult to prevent determined individuals from absconding. Nevertheless, I am already appealing to the House of Lords in several other control order cases about the interpretation of Article 5 ECHR (deprivation of liberty). We will consider other optionsincluding derogationif we have exhausted ways of overturning previous judgements on this issue.
The Minister for Security, Counter Terrorism and Police (Mr. Tony McNulty):
On 19 February 2007 I announced the allocation to police authorities in
England and Wales of an additional £25 million of capital for 2006-07, which came from money originally held back for restructuring.
The capital allocations to police authorities for 2007-08 which were announced January 2006 had also been adjusted to take account of money which had been retained centrally for the capital costs associated with police force mergers.
I am pleased to be able to announce today that, as with last year, a further £25 million of capital is now available for distribution to police authorities for 2007-08. A breakdown of the allocation of this additional money is shown in the table attached. The money has been distributed in order to achieve the same outcome as would have been the case if it had been included in the original distribution.
|Police Capital Allocations 2007-08
|Original Allocation £m
1.In line with the revenue grant increase in 2006-07, the capital grant announced in early 2006 was calculated as a flat rate reduction for all (the 2005/06 total was £210 million). The £25 million uplift has been applied similarly.
2. Allocations include Supported Capital Expenditure (Revenue). The £25 million grant Increases have been applied to Police Grant (as they would if full allocation had been possible early in 2006) not to Supported Capital Expenditure Revenue).