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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 8 January 2008

Communities and Local Government

Compulsory Purchase (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 2007

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr. Iain Wright): The Government have today laid in Parliament the Compulsory Purchase (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 2007. These rules replace the existing two sets of rules for inquiries into ministerial and non-ministerial compulsory purchase orders, which date from 1994 and 1990 respectively.

The main reason for the new rules is to take account of changes to the procedure and new terminology introduced by part 8 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. These include introducing a longer deadline at key points in the inquiries to ensure that appropriate time is given to those wishing to put forward objections to the compulsory purchase order.

The rules were also drafted to build on the Government’s commitment, given in 2002, to combine both sets of rules and also to reflect current practice as adopted in procedure rules prepared more recently for other types of inquiries, such as those for planning inquiries.

The Council on Tribunals, which was consulted on the draft rules as part of a public consultation exercise and specifically on the final draft, is content.


Bosnia and Northern Ireland (Commemoration Services)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): I am pleased to provide further details of events being organised by the Ministry of Defence later this year which will commemorate the contribution made by members of the armed forces in operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Northern Ireland over many years.

On Thursday 22 May 2008 a commemorative service is to be held at the new armed forces memorial located in the national memorial arboretum in Staffordshire. This service will honour the personnel who lost their lives or were injured and the many thousands who served throughout the 15-year deployment in Bosnia. It will also allow time for reflection on the United Kingdom’s contribution to a more stable and secure environment within Bosnia-Herzegovina which was made possible by the outstanding efforts and dedication of our armed forces.

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The second event that I would like to announce is a service to mark the end of Operation Banner in Northern Ireland. This event will take place on Wednesday 10 September 2008 at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London and will honour those personnel who lost their lives or were injured in Northern Ireland and the over 300,000 personnel who served in the province since 1969. The resilience they displayed over such a long period of time under extremely difficult circumstances greatly contributed to the peace that now exists.

We hope that both of these events will be attended by many veterans and families with a close association with them. Further details, including how to apply for tickets, will be announced via the media in the next few months.

Princess Royal Barracks (Deepcut)

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): This statement is to inform the House of our intention to release the Princess Royal Barracks (PRB), Deepcut for disposal as part of ongoing work to optimise the defence training estate. The adjacent training areas and service family accommodation will be retained for use by Ministry of Defence.

The PRB Deepcut site is the principal location for Army logistics training in the Defence College of Logistics and Personnel Administration (DCLPA), and is the home of director, the Royal Logistics Corps (DRLC).

In October, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), updated the House on the way forward for the defence training review (DTR). The statement announced that we were continuing to consider a range of options for package 2, which aims to provide training for logistics and personnel administration, police and guarding, security, languages, intelligence and photography. The conclusion of the part of that work related to the wider rationalisation of the estate, taking into account our focus on improving accommodation and training facilities, is that it would be in the best interests for defence to release the site for alternative civilian use and to re-provide the training facilities elsewhere. It has been judged that the site could be suitable for residential development and make a significant contribution to the Government’s housing strategy. It is, therefore, our intention to submit the Deepcut site for inclusion in Surrey Heath borough council’s core strategy.

The closure of Deepcut in the future will not lessen our commitment to maintaining the improvements already achieved to improve the care and welfare of trainees; and to continue to address the areas where performance can be improved. We will not forget the four young soldiers—Sean Benton, Cheryl James, Geoff Gray and James Collinson—who died at Deepcut. In seeking to improve the environment in which our people are trained we are continuing to meet the recommendations made by those such as the adult learning inspectorate and Nicholas Blake QC.

A key factor in informing our decisions will also be the impact on and our ability to manage sensitively the implications for our people. We continue to consult fully with trades unions and staff. While we have narrowed
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the range of options where future relocation may take place, this work will not be concluded until February. No moves are anticipated before 2013.

A further update will be provided later this year.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Gibraltar (Mixed Competence Conventions)

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): I wish to make a statement to the House on the issue of mixed competence conventions. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) the then Minister for Europe, reported to this House in April 2007, the outstanding issue blocking the ratification of a number of mixed competence conventions by the EU was the arrangements for communicating with competent authorities in Gibraltar which Spain had questioned.

I am delighted that, with the agreement of the Government of Gibraltar and in the spirit of ongoing co-operation, we have now concluded a set of arrangements with Spain which will allow the EU to move ahead and ratify all such instruments. Among the conventions covered are the 1996 Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and the 2001 Cape Town Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and its protocol on aircraft.

In future under the ‘Agreed arrangements relating to Gibraltar authorities in the context of mixed agreements’ a system of ‘post-boxing’ will apply for communications between Spanish and Gibraltar authorities but not for communications between the authorities of other states and Gibraltar. The same arrangements will also apply for communications between Gibraltar and Spain in the context of the ‘Agreed arrangements relating to Gibraltar authorities in the context of certain international treaties’.

I am placing copies of the two exchanges of letters in the Library of the House.


National Offender Management Service Information Technology

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): I wish to provide the House with an update on the findings of the strategic review process of the NOMIS programme that I commissioned in August.

The House will be aware that the NOMIS programme was suspended when it was identified that there was not sufficient funding for the programme to
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continue as specified. An immediate moratorium on further development work was imposed while the strategic review identified recommendations for the future direction of the programme and the Ministry of Justice internal auditors carried out a review of the programme. Their findings were taken into account as part of the review and will be integrated into the revised structure of the programme.

Following the comprehensive review, which included close consultation with representatives from the Prison Service and probation areas, I have now agreed the strategic direction of the programme.

My objectives for the programme remain to:

The recommendations of the review are that:

I have agreed these carefully costed measures on the recommendation of the governance boards of the National Offender Management Service and Ministry of Justice. We will continue to scrutinise the value for money provided by each business case as they develop.

This has been a successful review, delivering a reformed programme that is now set to provide real operational improvements for practitioners in managing offenders alongside other reforms across the Criminal Justice System.

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