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Machinery of Government: Defence Trade Promotion

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): The Government believe trade promotion for defence exports should be more effectively integrated with the Government’s general trade support activities, while recognising and accommodating the specific requirements of the defence sector.


The Cabinet Office will lead work across Government to develop an implementation plan which will be completed by the end of 2007. Institutional arrangements replacing the Defence Export Services Organisation will come into effect as quickly as possible thereafter.

Review of Intercept as Evidence

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I am today announcing the Review of Intercept as Evidence to advise the Government on whether a regime to allow the use of intercepted material in court can be devised that facilitates bringing cases to trial while meeting the overriding imperative to safeguard national security.

The review will be conducted by the right hon. the Lord Archer of Sandwell, the right hon. the Lord Hurd of Westwell, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Alan Beith) and the right hon. Sir John Chilcot, who will also act as the chair. It will consider:

I have invited the review team, if possible, to report their conclusions by the start of the next parliamentary session in November.

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Scott Review

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:


Barking to Gospel Oak Railway

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): The Department for Transport has today announced a contribution of £18.5 million from the Productivity section of the
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Transport Innovation Fund (TIP) to enhance the Gospel Oak to Barking line which is an important rail artery through east and north London. The improvements will deliver a number of benefits:

TIP was established by the Future of Transport White Paper (July 2004). Productivity TIP is one part of this fund. It supports packages and schemes which are expected to make a major contribution to the UK's economy.

Further Productivity TIP schemes are still under consideration for funding. Announcements will be made on these on a case by case basis.

Highways Agency (Annual Report and Accounts)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): The Highways Agency Annual Report and Accounts for 2006-07 are published today, under Section 7 of the Government Resources and Accounts Act 2000. Copies of the report are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Highways Agency (Traffic Officer Service Progress)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): In June 2003, the then Secretary of State for Transport committed the Government to establishing the Traffic Officer Service on England's motorways, reflecting the Highways Agency's change of focus to become a network operator. Since then, the Service has been rolled out in phases across the motorway network, supported by a strong partnership with the police. The Highways Agency has recently reported on the progress made during the period from April 2006 to March 2007. I am pleased to report that the Agency has now completed the full transfer of traffic management functions from the police and the Traffic Officer Service is now fully operational.

Starting in April 2004, the Traffic Officer Service has developed from the initial pilot in the West Midlands to a position where it is performing the full range of traffic management functions formerly undertaken exclusively by the police. The agreement with all 39 police forces that routine traffic management functions are now fully transferred to the Agency, leaving the police to focus on criminal activity, is the final milestone in establishing the Service.

The Traffic Officer Service is providing a valuable service to the public. Traffic Officers are now clearing incidents more quickly, reducing the impact of incident related congestion, and reducing the risk of secondary incidents. There is increasing recognition of the Service by road users and their experience of the Service is very positive.

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Information gathered from the police confirms that the Service is enabling the police to redeploy resources on to core policing activities, and they are attending fewer minor incidents.

Now that the Traffic Officer Service is fully established, the Agency will measure the effectiveness of the Service through a performance framework and will publish the results in its annual report. The performance framework will be kept under review to ensure that the measures used are appropriate and support the objectives of the Agency to provide a safe and reliable strategic road network.

MSC Napoli

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): This statement is to update the House on the progress of the salvage operation for the MSC Napoli. Since the ship was beached in Lyme Bay on 20 January, an effective salvage operation has removed almost all of the fuel oil and all of the containers from the ship. The final container was removed on 17 May 2007. Only very small amounts of fuel oil, located in hard to reach sections of the ship, remain.

The most significant remaining task is the disposal of the ship and work on this is already underway. We were aware that our options for disposing of the ship would be dependent upon the condition of the ship itself and this could not be assessed properly while the ship was beached. Accordingly, the MSC Napoli was refloated on 9 July. A subsequent dive survey revealed that the hull was in an extremely fragile state. To reduce the risk of the ship breaking up in an uncontrolled manner, the Secretary of State's Representative for Maritime Salvage and Intervention (SOSREP) took the decision to re-beach the ship.

A small amount of oil leaked from the ship during this operation. Clean up procedures were put into operation immediately and while a number of birds are reported to have been oiled, we believe that the environmental impact was not severe.

Once it was apparent that the entire ship could not be removed from Lyme Bay, SOSREP's advice was that the best course of action was to separate the ship into two parts. The bow section of the ship is relatively intact and retains buoyancy. On the other hand, the stern section, which contains the ship's engines, cannot be floated. By separating the two sections of the ship, we would have the opportunity to reduce the impact on Lyme Bay's natural environment that would result from dismantling the entire ship in its current position.

Accordingly, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, with assistance from the Ministry of Defence, carried out a series of controlled detonations, using cutting charges, on the ship on 17, 18 and 20 July, with the aim of cutting the ship in two as cleanly as possible. Following the final set of detonations, the ship was separated on 20 July.

The stern section of the ship will need to be dismantled in its current location. The ship owners are currently tendering a contract for this work and are drawing up a detailed time-line. Plans for this work will need to take into account the protection of the local environment of Lyme Bay.

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We believe that it should be possible to dismantle the bow section of the ship in line with the UK's strategy on ship recycling, with little or no adverse environmental impact. The bow-section of the ship will initially be held in deeper water in Lyme Bay, while the owners identify a suitable location for recycling.

I would like to express my thanks to SOSREP and the team of salvage, counter-pollution and environmental experts for their ongoing efforts in this situation.

Work and Pensions

Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Child Maintenance and Other Payments Bill currently before this House provides for a non-departmental public body, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission, to administer the statutory scheme of child maintenance in place of the Child Support Agency. Schedule 1 of the Bill states that the Commission will be headed by a chair and a chief executive.

The recruitment process for the chair has already begun. This is in anticipation of Royal Assent in spring 2008: by commencing the recruitment process at this stage, we intend that a chair will be in place when the Commission comes into being as a legal entity following Royal Assent. This will ensure that the Commission has the clear leadership, direction and accountability it requires in place from day one.

Parliamentary approval for additional resources of £300,000 for this new service will be sought in a Supplementary Estimate for the Department for Work and Pensions. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £300,000 will be met by repayable cash advances from the contingencies fund.

Deregulatory Review of Private Pensions

The Minister for Pensions Reform (Mr. Mike O'Brien): On 9 March this year, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde, (James Purnell) the former Minister for Pensions Reform, announced that Chris Lewin and Ed Sweeney, who had been appointed as external reviewers to the Deregulatory Review, had published their consultation paper. I am pleased to advise the House that I am today laying a copy of their report in the Library of the House.

I am grateful to Chris Lewin and Ed Sweeney for all their hard work over the last seven months and for their thorough and thoughtful report.

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The purpose of the Deregulatory Review is to simplify the private pensions regulatory framework and to reduce regulatory burdens, bearing in mind the need to strike a balance between protecting members’ benefits and encouraging employer provision of pensions. The review was initially announced in the May 2006 Pensions White Paper.

We will carefully consider the recommendations and look forward to discussing them with key stakeholders. We expect to produce a full response in the autumn outlining our decisions.

The report will be available on the Department’s pensions reform internet site later today.

Personal Accounts Delivery Authority

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Peter Hain): I am pleased to announce the appointment of Paul Myners as the Chair Designate of the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority. His appointment will take effect as from 1 August. Paul Myners brings extensive experience to this role from his time as a director of N M Rothschild and Sons Ltd. and National Westminster Bank, in addition to non-executive positions at Marks and Spencer and Orange. This knowledge will be invaluable to the Delivery Authority in its initial advisory role to the Government and later when, subject to parliamentary approval, it faces the challenging task of implementing the personal accounts scheme.

Subject to parliamentary approval, personal accounts will be set up as a trust based occupational pension scheme. The scheme will be set up in accordance with a framework set out in legislation and will be aimed at people on low to middle incomes. It will feature low charges and will use automatic enrolment, fulfilling one of the key recommendations of the Pension Commission report.

Implementing such a major occupational pension scheme, with the potential for up to 10 million members, is a sizeable task requiring particular skills and experience. Consultation with stakeholders across the financial services industry, employers, the Trade Union Congress and customer representatives highlighted the need to establish an independent body, staffed by professionals in the field, to be responsible for delivering personal accounts.

The Government are absolutely committed to making personal accounts a success. That is why we are setting up an independent body with the necessary skills and experience to get the policy design of personal accounts right, and to ensure that the interests of members remain at the heart of the scheme. As chair designate of the Delivery Authority, Paul will bring a proven track record and a wealth of experience in the financial sector. One of his first tasks will be to take part in the selection of the authority’s chief executive.

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