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The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): The Government believe trade promotion for defence exports should be more effectively integrated with the Governments general trade support activities, while recognising and accommodating the specific requirements of the defence sector.
the Government will look to move responsibility for defence trade promotion from the Defence Export Services Organisation to UK Trade and Investment. This will provide much greater institutional alignment across Government and build on the success of UK Trade and Investment;
within this new framework, account will need to be taken of the specific features of defence exports, including the continuing role of the Ministry of Defence. No change is envisaged to existing and planned agreements between the Ministry of Defence and other Governments which will continue to be administered by the Ministry of Defence. Also, those functions of the Defence Export Services Organisation which support UK defence policy and the Armed Forces will be allocated elsewhere within the Ministry of Defence.
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.
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:
the benefits that might reasonably be expected to result from such use (in terms, for example, of increases in the number of successful prosecutions in serious organised crime and terrorism cases);
the risks, including from exposure of interception capabilities and techniques;
the resource implications of any change in the law;
the implications of new communications technology; and
the experiences of other countries and their relevance to the UK.
In January 2006 Mrs. Brenda Downes commenced judicial review proceedings in the High Court in Belfast relating to the Secretary of State for Northern Irelands appointment of Mrs. Bertha McDougall as Interim Victims Commissioner. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the trial judge, Girvan J, raised a number of issues relating to the way in which Government have complied with their duty of candour in the proceedings and listed 68 questions that he considered needed investigating. He referred the matter to my predecessor in office, Lord Goldsmith.
Lord Goldsmith told this House on 23 November 2006 that he had decided to appoint an independent reviewer to investigate the concerns raised by Girvan J and to report to him. On 4 December 2006 he announced that he had appointed a very experienced counsel, Peter Scott QC, to carry out the review. His terms of reference were:
Further to the referral of papers to the Attorney-General by Girvan J and in the light of his judgments of 9 November and 20 November 2006:
to examine the concerns raised by the judge;
to examine in particular the way in which the Government carried out its obligation of candour in the judicial review proceedings relating to the appointment of an interim Commissioner for Victims and Survivors;
to report to the Attorney General with recommendations to prevent a recurrence of any shortcomings identified.
Mr. Scott completed his review and reported to the Attorney-General on 25 June 2007.
In the course of carrying out a thorough investigation, Mr. Scott has said that he received prompt and helpful responses from all those involved and that he believed that he had access to all the material he required. He found no evidence that warranted police investigation. Nor was there any intention on the part of the individuals involved to mislead or obstruct the court.
He has however concluded that there were serious shortcomings in the handling of a request under the Freedom of Information Act that preceded the litigation and, in some respects, in the litigation that followed, and Mr. Scott concludes his report by making a number of recommendations aimed at preventing a repetition of the issues that have arisen in this case. The recommendations are in three key areasthe handling of freedom of information requests, the handling of judicial review applications and, finally, on Northern Ireland court procedures. He recommends that while FoI requests and judicial review proceedings create handling difficulties, both would benefit from greater strategic control and more effective controls over processing, these to be strengthened by regular review to identify and address problems arising. In respect of court procedure, Mr. Scott suggests consideration is given to the adoption of a pre-action protocol, similar to that in use in England and Wales.
I have placed copies of report in the Library. In order to protect the identity of civil servants cleared of any intention to mislead or obstruct the court, with the exception of the most senior officers, the report has been anonymised.
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
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:
they will enable the line to carry more goods and larger containers from the important and growing ports in the south east, including the new development at London Gateway (Shell Haven), to other parts of the rail network including the West Coast Main Line; and
they will provide rail freight customers with an alternative route during future maintenance works on the North London Line.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 authoritys chief executive.