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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 16 July 2007

Treasury

Sub-National Economic Development and Regeneration

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Angela Eagle): In order to inform the second comprehensive spending review, an oral statement will be made to the House on Tuesday 17 July regarding the outcome of the policy review on sub-national economic development and regeneration, which has been led jointly by the Treasury, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and their predecessor Departments.

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

BNFL

The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr. John Hutton): Further to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry’s announcement on 24 October 2006, Official Report column 85WS, regarding the sale by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. (BNFL) of British Nuclear Group (BNG) and establishment of a National Nuclear Laboratory, I would like to announce that BNFL has commenced the process to sell the group’s one third stake in Atomic Weapons Establishment Management Ltd. (AWEML). AWEML is currently owned equally by BNFL, Serco and Lockheed Martin. In addition to seeking to maximise shareholder return through the sale process, the Government and BNFL will seek to ensure an AWEML consortium is in place to manage the enduring performance of AWEML’s subsidiary, AWE plc. in continuing to meet the requirements of its customer, the Ministry of Defence.

I will update Parliament on the progress of the sale at a later date.

Culture, Media and Sport

Casinos

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): In response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed) on 11 July, the Prime Minister said that during the summer we would look at whether regeneration may be
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a better way of meeting economic and social needs than the creation of regional casinos. I know that there is a great deal of interest in this issue across both Houses and beyond, and I am making this statement to provide further detail to enable those directly involved to plan accordingly.

The Gambling Act 2005 provides for the licensing of one regional, eight large and eight small casinos. The Government’s national policy statement on casinos published in December 2004 sought to accommodate the desire expressed by many local authorities to explore the potential economic and regenerative benefits of new casino developments within our overriding objective of keeping crime out of gambling, keeping it fair and protecting children and vulnerable people.

In October 2005, my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics and London, the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell), established the independent casino advisory panel to advise her on the authorities that should be given the power to issue the new casino licences. Some 68 local authorities applied to the panel, including 27 applications for the single regional casino. On 30 January, the panel recommended that Manchester should be permitted to issue the regional casino premises licence, and it recommended the 16 authorities that should be permitted to issue large and small casino licences.

Having carefully considered the independent panel’s report, and following consultation with colleagues in the devolved administrations, on 28 March the Government brought before the House an order giving effect to the recommendations. That order was passed in the House of Commons by a majority of 24. It was, however, narrowly rejected by the House of Lords.

The Government have reflected on the debates in both Houses. There are a number of important conclusions to be drawn.

The first is that there was a clear consensus across all parties that the eight large and eight small casinos—the “sixteen”—should be awarded to the authorities identified by the casino advisory panel.

Since Parliament debated this issue, there have been local elections in many of the areas concerned. Some have experienced a change of political control, and in the remaining authorities some of the individual councillors involved in relevant decisions may have changed.

Our reform of gambling policy has placed a great emphasis on the importance of local consultation and local accountability; we have given local people through their elected representatives a greater say in the licensing of gambling premises in their communities. This includes for the first time giving authorities the power to resolve not to license a new casino.

Against this backdrop, I have decided to write to the authorities concerned to ask them to confirm their continued desire to license a new casino. I am sure that both Houses will wish to take account of a renewed commitment from the areas concerned when the time comes to consider this matter again. If any of the authorities have had a change of heart, I will not include them in the new legislation. The Gambling Act requires only that up to eight authorities in each category are identified.


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While there may have been broad agreement on the 16, it was equally clear that—as the Prime Minister made plain last week—there is no such consensus over the regional casino. While much of the debate focused on the merits of the casino advisory panel’s recommendation of Manchester as compared to Blackpool, many Members on all sides of both Houses expressed serious doubts about whether we should have a regional casino at all. We have taken heed of those concerns.

The Gambling Act, which is due to come into force on 1 September this year, introduces one of the most rigorous regulatory regimes anywhere in the world. And it is why we enshrined at the heart of that legislation the three key objectives of keeping crime out of gambling, keeping it fair for the consumer and—our number one priority—protecting children and vulnerable people.

Later in the year, the independent Gambling Commission will publish a new study into the prevalence of gambling. This will provide updated information about the rate of gambling and problem gambling in this country. The gambling industry is on notice that if, despite the very stringent safeguards we have introduced, the incidence of problem gambling increases, we have taken the powers to introduce even tougher protections. I have also decided that it is right to pause, to wait for the results of the prevalence study to be published in September, before reaching a decision on how best to respond to the decision of the House of Lords to defeat the casino areas order.

The Government’s overriding priority has always been to minimise the potential for harm arising from such developments. At the same time, we have wanted to respond positively to the significant number of local authorities who have been keen to explore the potential of a regional casino to contribute to regeneration in their communities. That is why the new casino provisions were introduced in the first place. And it was the need for regeneration in East Manchester that was a significant factor in that city’s success in its application to the casino advisory panel.

In view of the very real concern surrounding the regional casino, it would be prudent to examine afresh whether deprived areas can be equally well served by other forms of regeneration. The Government are taking forward this issue.

In the meantime, we are proceeding with the urgent task of completing the implementation of the Gambling Act. Protecting children and consumers is our number one priority. I will ensure that our new system of regulation, as it covers every aspect of casinos and other gambling premises—from advertising to checks on entry to controls on games and machines—will place public protection first.

Defence

DMETA Key Targets

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): The following key targets have been set for the chief executive of the Defence Medical Education and Training Agency (DMETA) for the financial year 2007-08:


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Key Target 1

Deployable Personnel

Key Target 2

Individual Military Continuation Training

Key Target 3

Medical Professional and Career Training

Key Target 4

Efficiency

Key Target 5

Customer Focus

Key Target 6

Harmony/Separated Service

UK Gulf Veterans' Mortality Data

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): As part of the Government’s continuing commitment to investigate Gulf veterans’ illnesses openly and honestly, data on the mortality of veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf conflict are published regularly. The most recent figures for the period 1 April 1991 to 30 June 2007, were published on Friday 13 July 2007 as a national statistic on the Defence Analytical Services Agency website; copies were also placed in the Library of the House.

The data for Gulf veterans are compared to that of a control group known as the “Era cohort” consisting of armed forces personnel of a similar profile in terms of age, gender, service, regular/reservists status and rank, who were in service on 1 January 1991 but were not deployed to the Gulf. As in the previous release, the “Era” group has been adjusted for a small difference in the age-profile of those aged 40 years and over, to ensure appropriate comparisons.

Key points to note in the data are:


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These statistics continue to confirm that UK veterans of the 1990-91 Gulf Conflict do not suffer an excess of overall mortality compared with service personnel that did not deploy.

The full notice can be viewed at http://www.dasa.mod.uk

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Review of the Royal Commission on Environment Pollution

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Phil Woolas): On 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 80WS, my hon. Friend, the Minister for Science and Innovation, the Member for Dudley, South (Ian Pearson) announced the start of a review of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP). Today, I am publishing the report of this review.

The review was part of a Government recommendation that public bodies are subjected to periodic study to ensure that they are still delivering high quality services and are adequately resourced. It was carried out by independent consultants, on behalf of DEFRA, who gathered evidence from individuals and organisations with an interest in the work of the RCEP.

The report focused on the quality and impact of RCEP studies, its working methods, management and level of resources. It concluded that there is a continuing need for the functions of the RCEP and put forward a number of options for its modernisation.

The report does not constitute our policy position. DEFRA will now examine the options proposed in the report in more detail and explore their financial and organisational implications. DEFRA will consult with other Government Departments, the devolved Administrations and the RCEP to formulate a Government response later in the year.

Copies of the full report will be deposited in the Libraries of both Houses. A copy can also be accessed on the DEFRA website.

Health

Health Select Committee Report on Audiology Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Ivan Lewis): The Government have today laid before Parliament their response to the Health Select Committee report on Audiology Services (Cm 7140).

The Government are responding to the conclusions and recommendations raised by the Committee covering issues such as the waiting times challenge in audiology services; service delivery, patient pathways and good practice; the use of the independent sector; and capacity.

The Government’s response is available in the Library.


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Justice

End of Custody Licence Implementation

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): On 19 June 2007, Official Report, House of Lords, column 96 my right hon. and noble Friend, the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, announced a new scheme—the End of Custody Licence (ECL)—which introduced a presumption in favour of release on licence for prisoners serving between four weeks and four years for the final 18 days of their sentence subject to meeting strict eligibility criteria and providing a release address. Prisoners who would normally be subject to supervision on release (prisoners serving 12 months or more or under 22 years of age) are required to meet their probation officer after release and to have regular contact after that in line with their supervision plan. All prisoners released on ECL are liable to recall if they are reported to have misbehaved during the period of the licence.

The first releases under this scheme took place on 29 June 2007.

Tables with the full set data for this report have been made available in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office. The tables are being published on the Ministry of Justice website today at:

http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/endofcustodylicence.htm

The following information applies only to the releases and recalls in the first week of operation of the scheme. Future reports will be published on a monthly basis.

The number of releases on to ECL each day is shown in the table:

DateNumber of Releases

Friday 29 June 2007

884

Monday 2 July 2007

506

Tuesday 3 July 2007

124

Wednesday 4 July 2007

87

Thursday 5 July 2007

100


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