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The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Liam Byrne): I am today announcing that the Government have decided to maintain the restrictions on the labour market access of migrants coming to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria (the A2) until at least the end of 2008.
These arrangements have been reviewed and a balance struck between the needs of the UK labour market, the wider impact of the migration of accession
state nationals on the UK and the positions adopted by other EU countries (as that affects access to the UK labour market).
We have looked therefore at the evidence of the benefits and the impacts of migration from the A2 and from the A8 (eight countries which joined the EU in 2004), which we have used to inform this decision.
While initial evidence shows that there is a clear positive contribution to the economy from migration, there are some reports of pressures in other areas, including public services. The prudent balance is therefore to maintain restrictions as we monitor the medium to long term effects of accession migration.
From 2008, applications to the existing Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme will be accepted only from Romania and Bulgaria as was announced last year. The overall number of migrants coming to the UK through SAWS is unchanged.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I wish to make the following statement to the House about the inquests of servicemen and women who have died overseas. All casualties suffered by the UK armed forces are a source of profound regret. UK service personnel have put their lives on the line to help build strong, stable and democratic nations and protect the interests of the United Kingdom, and we cannot pay high enough tribute to the job they are doing, or the sacrifice some of them have made. We are committed to assisting the families of UK Service personnel who have died on operations overseas when their loved ones are returned to the UK.
We made statements to the House on 5 June 2006, Official Report, col. 4WS, 12 October 2006, Official Report, col. 26WS, 18 December 2006 Official Report, col. 112WS, 29 March 2007, Official Report, col. 121WS and 20 June 2007, Official Report, 97WS, with information about the conduct of inquests by the Oxfordshire and Wiltshire and Swindon coroners and today we are announcing progress which has been made since the written ministerial statement in June. This statement shows the position as at 22 October.
Each death of a serviceman or woman killed in an operation overseas whose body is repatriated to England and Wales is subject to an inquest. The inquestboth the investigation into the death and the holding of the public hearing into the death is
conducted by the coroner with jurisdiction which derives from where the body lies.
In the case of deaths of servicemen and women whose bodies were flown into RAF Brize Norton until it ceased to be used for repatriations on 31 March 2007, the Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, has had initial jurisdiction. In the case of deaths of servicemen and women whose bodies have been flown into RAF Lyneham since 1 April 2007, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, David Masters, has initial jurisdiction.
The coroner has powers under the Coroners Act 1988 to transfer jurisdiction to another coroner whilst the body is still lying within his district and with the consent of the other coroner. Since late December 2006 the Oxfordshire coroners practice was to transfer jurisdiction to coroners closer to the next of kin wherever possible; this practice has been continued by the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner since 1 April 2007. Some inquests of deaths of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan before December 2006 have also been transferred to other coroners.
At the time of the June 2007 written ministerial statement, we reported that since additional funding had been provided by the Government to assist the Oxfordshire coroner, 72 inquests had been held: 62 into the deaths of servicemen and 10 into the deaths of civilians in Iraq whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Brize Norton.
Since June, a further 28 inquests have been held into the deaths of servicemen who died in operations and exercises overseas whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Brize Norton. This includes the deaths of six servicemen in the Czech Republic and one who died in California. This makes a total of 90 inquests for service personnel held since June 2006. Since June inquests into the remaining four civilians who died in Iraq whose bodies were returned via RAF Brize Norton have been held bringing the total to 14 civilian inquests and 104 inquests overall.
Prior to June 2006, the Oxfordshire coroner had heard 33 inquests into deaths of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Prior to 1 April 2007, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner had heard five inquests into the deaths of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seven other inquests into the deaths of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan which had been transferred to other coroners have also been held. These inquests are now included in the overall figures of inquests which have been held.
There has been in addition the inquest into the death of a serviceman Private Johnathon Dany Wysoczan, who arrived home Iraq from injured but subsequently died from his injuries. The inquest was held by the Birmingham and Solihull coroner, Aidan Cotter.
Overall, since the operations began there have been a total of 125 inquests into the deaths of service personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, or died in the UK following injuries in those operations.
There are 50 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Brize Norton prior to 31 March 2007. The Oxfordshire coroner has retained jurisdiction in 41 of these cases; nine of these inquests have been transferred to coroners closer to the next of kin.
Two of the open inquests predate the announcement of additional resources for the Oxfordshire Coroner. The oldest outstanding military inquest in his jurisdiction is the inquest into the death of Fusilier Gentle on 28 June 2004 which is due to start on 29 October 2007. When this inquest has been held, the oldest outstanding military inquest will be into the death of Lieutenant Palmer who died on 15 April 2006. The Coroner has decided to await the completion of a Board of Inquiry covering Lieutenant Palmers death and the inquest will not be heard until 2008.
Of the other 48 inquests, inquest hearing dates have been set in 12 cases and pre-inquest hearing dates have been set in four cases. In 32 cases investigations are ongoing but it has not yet been possible for a pre-inquest date to be set.
The Wiltshire and Swindon Coroner, David Masters, does not have a backlog of overseas military inquests in his jurisdiction. Additional resources have, however, recently been provided by the Government to ensure that a backlog will not build up in his jurisdiction now that fatalities are being repatriated via RAF Lyneham. Mr Masters will now be able to engage an additional assistant deputy coroner and coroner's officer and administrative support. He will also be able to provide appropriate accommodation to hold military inquests. These extra resources will help to ensure that bereaved families are responded to sensitively and speedily following conclusions of the investigations. Mr Masters intends to continue his practice of transferring military inquests to a coroner closer to the bereaved family, where possible.
There is one open inquest hearing relating to fatalities which were repatriated via RAF Lyneham prior to the first ministerial statement in June 2006. These relate to the deaths of 10 crew members who died together in the crash of Hercules XV179 on 30 January 2005. The coroner held a pre inquest hearing in February 2007 and plans to hold a further pre inquest hearing shortly now that he has received a specialists report into the crash.
There are 62 open inquests of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan whose bodies were repatriated via RAF Lyneham after 1 April 2007. The Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has transferred 27 inquests to coroners closer to the next of kin, has two further transfers pending, and has retained 33 inquests.
We shall continue to keep the House informed on a quarterly basis about progress through the remaining inquests. I have placed a table in the libraries of both Houses which outlines the status of all cases, the date of death of each case and details of the coroner who conducted the inquest. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
We have been working on better supporting bereaved military families. The written ministerial statement issued on 7 June by the then Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Adam Ingram), gives details of the support which is now being provided and we continue to look for opportunities to improve our procedures.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly): I am today publishing a Command PaperTowards a Sustainable Transport System: Supporting Economic Growth in a Low Carbon World (Cm 7226)setting out the Governments approach to transport policy in light of the Eddington Study and the Stern Review. Copies of the Paper have been made available in the Vote Office, the Libraries of both Houses and are also available on the Departments website.
The Paper first describes how the Government are responding to the recommendations made in the Eddington study to improve transports contribution to economic growth and productivity, and how we are ensuring that transport will play its part in delivering the overall level of reductions in carbon emissions recommended by the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change.
Second, it sets out the Department for Transports ambitious policy and investment plans for transport in the period to 2013-14. Third, it proposes a new approach to longer term transport strategy, building on the model recommended by Sir Rod Eddington, and explains how we will engage with passengers, users, the transport industry and other stakeholders as we develop and implement that process.
Alongside the Paper, and as part of the response to Sir Rods study, I am also today publishing a consultation documentNATA Refresh: Reviewing the New Approach to Appraisalwhich seeks views on how improvements should be made to the Departments transport appraisal framework. The consultation document is available on the Department's website and a paper copy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.