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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jonathan Shaw): Charges to cover the costs of local enforcing authorities in regulating processes which are subject to part I of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (Local Air Pollution Control (LAPC)) were introduced in April 1991. Charges for installations which are subject to the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 (Local Air Pollution Prevention and Control (LAPPC) and Local Authority- Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (LA-IPPC)) were introduced in August 2000. LAPPC and LA-IPPC will transfer into the new Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) framework from 6 April 2008.
With the approval of the Treasury, and following consultation with local authority associations and industry, I have made revised schemes in respect of the Pollution Prevention and Control Act. The schemes specify the scale of fees and charges to take effect from 6 April 2008.
For LAPPC and LA-IPPC fees and charges for 2008-09 there will be an across the board increase of 3 per cent. Additionally there will be an increase of £190 in the application and the subsistence charges for vehicle refinishers; a one-off additional fee amounting to £55 for each risk assessed facility and £16 for each reduced fee activity to cover the transitional costs of transferring from PPC to the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR); an additional fee of £285 for permit applications for combined LAPPC and waste sites; and fees of £95, £143 and £190 to cover subsistence of low, medium and high risk facilities where, under EPR, LAPPC and waste installations form part of the same installation and are regulated by a local authority under a direction; an additional fee of £95 for each LA-IPPC and relevant LAPPC installation to cover local authorities new reporting responsibilities under the European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register Regulations (E-PRTR); and a requirement for operators to reimburse any local authority costs incurred in advertising a permit application.
The basis of these increases is set out in the October 2007 consultation which is available on the DEFRA website at the following website address: http://www. defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/localauth-plantfees08-09/index.htm
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): The Prime Minister and I invited Dr. Iain Anderson to lead an independent review into the lessons learned from the response to the 2007 outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Dr. Andersons report has been laid before Parliament today and I am very grateful to him for agreeing to undertake the review and for the comprehensive nature of his report. Dr. Anderson led the lessons learned inquiry into the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak and has brought his considerable knowledge and expertise to the examination of whether the lessons learned from 2001 were implemented, as well as to identifying what new lessons might be drawn from the handling of the 2007 outbreak.
The World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) has now officially declared that the UK has regained freedom from FMD without vaccination following a three-month disease-free period. This is welcome news and is the result of the co-operation and partnership there has been between DEFRA, animal health, local authorities, all our delivery partners and the farming and food chain industries. But any FMD outbreak is devastating for those affected, and the 2001 crisis demonstrated this all too clearly. Even when confined to a small number of infected premises in a limited geographical area, as in
2007, the impact of an outbreak can be far-reaching on the livestock sector, the food chain and the wider community.
Dr. Andersons review commends the Governments overall handling of the outbreak. He states that many of the lessons identified in the 2002 report had been acted upon and performance, taken as a whole, was much improved. In analysing how the 2007 outbreak was handled, with its innumerable, interwoven decisions and actions, we found much to applaud, along with some deficiencies. On balance, the positive easily outweighs the negative.
Many of Dr. Andersons recommendations encourage us to build on the improvements that have already been made; for example in strengthening communications, assessing and managing risk and exercising and testing contingency plans. I agree that even when things have gone well, we can always do better in future.
In relation to Pirbright and IAH we have already taken action. The Government accepted all of the recommendations in Sir Bill Callaghans independent review of the regulatory framework for the handling of animal pathogens published in December 2007, including that responsibility for the regulation of animal pathogens should transfer to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
DEFRA is working closely with the HSE and other Departments, to implement all three phases of the work recommended by Sir Bill Callaghan. The formal legal transfer of SAPO enforcement and inspection responsibilities is well under way and is nearing completion.
In addition, following the review of biosecurity at Pirbright conducted by Professor Brian Spratt in August 2007, BBSRC asked Sir John Beringer to undertake a review of the governance, funding and risk management of the Institute for Animal Health. Sir John is due to report to the BBSRC in April 2008.
We now know that when the decision was taken to lift restrictions on 8 September 2007 the FMD outbreak was not over. As Dr. Andersons report states the decision was based on a risk assessment that took into account all available epidemiological and veterinary knowledge, and the requirements set down by the FMD directive had been met. The mandatory 30 days without any further outbreaks had occurred and based on previous experience, there was no reason to expect any further outbreaks of the disease. The decision was taken with the agreement and participation of the European Commission and other member states. I therefore believe that the decision taken at the time was appropriate in the light of what we then knew. We will however look carefully at how we communicate disease freedom, where there is always some degree of uncertainty, in future.
A further area of concern raised in Dr. Andersons report was the performance of the information and data management systems that are needed during a disease outbreak. We have not made the progress we would have liked in this area despite considerable efforts. However as part of Animal Healths Business Reform Programme a new information and data management system is being implemented. This will deliver improvements between now and 2011.
Dr. Anderson acknowledges that Government do not act alone in a disease outbreak. The improvements made since 2001 reflect efforts in a wide range of organisations. I would, therefore, like to pay tribute to all of those organisations who gave their time and experience and were an integral part of the response to the disease. Farmers, as well as Government, are well placed to take effective action to prevent the spread of disease, and that is why we are continuing to work closely with the farming sector and others on responsibility and cost sharing. The aim is to ensure that both Government and others have contingency plans in place to deal with disease outbreaks.
Dr. Anderson makes a number of recommendations in his report and Government will consider them all carefully. In consultation with our partner delivery bodies and external stakeholders, we will decide what now needs to be done to make sure we are all as prepared as possible to prevent and control animal disease outbreaks in future. The Government will respond in full later this year.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): The Government are committed to the swift establishment of a UK Border Agency (UKBA), which will bring together the work of the Border and Immigration Agency, UK Visas and parts of HM Revenue and Customs at the border. The new agency will work very closely with the police and other law enforcement agencies to improve border controls and security. We will shortly publish our detailed plans for the UKBAs first year of operation, but we are able today to announce key measures to ensure an immediate and seamless operation between the police and the new UKBA.
Thirdly, we will publish in April a new framework for inter-agency co-operation at the border. This can progress more quickly than further structural change either within the police service themselves or between the police and the UK Border Agency.
Fifthly, the Government will be discussing with police forces and authorities whether change is necessary in the current regime for special funding of special branch posts at ports and airports with a view to implementing a new regime from 2009-10. The Government are also considering how to implement the conclusions of the independent report into airport policing, with the aim of clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the police, airport operators and other agencies to deliver a high level of security at UK airports and we will set out proposals on this later in the year.
Finally, in response to a recommendation in the Cabinet Office report Security in a Global HubEstablishing the UKs New Border Arrangements published last November, the Home Office is working with the Association of Chief Police Officers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland to consider how policingwhich is currently delivered by the local force for each port and airportmay best be organised to deliver a fuller level of integration at the border, taking into consideration the drive for greater collaboration which is at the heart of the Governments programme for improving protective services. There are various models.
The Home Office will also be discussing with the Scottish devolved Administration and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland ways of strengthening working relationships between the Scottish police service and the new agency taking into account the devolved nature of policing in Scotland.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): On 29 November, Official Report, column WS172, I informed the House that I had formally commissioned Her Majestys Chief Inspector of Courts Administration (HMICA) to lead a thorough inspection and prepare a report to Ministers into the resulting and warrant processes at Leeds magistrates court.
I have today placed a copy of that report in the Libraries of both Houses and published it on the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk/news/announcements110308a.htm. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
The concerns about Leeds magistrates court relate to two issues: recording the results of cases within the courts system and subsequently, in the case of recordable offences, updating the police national computer (PNC). Resulting is the term used for this within the courts system. The second related issue centres on a process used for withdrawing warrants issued by the court for the arrest of defendants who failed to appear in court, which were identified during investigations into court resulting in Leeds.
As a result of these investigations disciplinary action has been initiated against members of staff at Leeds magistrates court who are implicated in these matters and in respect of those covered by a separate judicial report to the Lord Chief Justice.
At the time of these failings, these matters were the responsibility of West Yorkshire Magistrates Courts Committee (MCC). MCCs were independent local committees, formed almost entirely of magistrates, responsible for the effective and efficient administration of their courts. The Government abolished MCCs in April 2005 through the implementation of the Courts Act 2003, following a review of the criminal courts in England and Wales by Sir Robin Auld.
Following the creation of Her Majestys Courts Service (HMCS) in 2005, anxieties expressed by West Yorkshire police led HMCS to uncover evidence of historic failings at Leeds magistrates court. I commissioned the inspectorates to undertake their investigations to ensure that all of the historic issues had been identified and that systems were in place to ensure that any mistakes of the past would not be repeated. HMCS has co-operated fully with the inspection and has assisted them in uncovering the full scale of the historic problems at Leeds.
The inspectorates report paints a lamentable picture of the historic failure at Leeds magistrates court properly to record the results of court adjudication, dating back to 1980 with the vast majority occurring between 2001 and 2004.
A large number of adjudications not being recorded accurately at the time, or at all, meaning that the results for these cases may now have been lost:
the creation and use of a disk to store cases with missing adjudications (following the introduction of a new computer system);
the creation of artificial court registers on four occasions in 2002. This meant inputting in respect of large batches of cases as: entered in erroror audit cleardown as an administrative solution to remove unresulted cases from the court computer system (page 16 of the inspectorates report);
the manufacturing of fabricated court adjudications on at least one occasion in 2004 involving 12 defendants and 27 offences where legal advisers made up the results by guessing the result of the case where the true court adjudication could not be traced (page 17 of the inspectorates report);
A situation where a prolific offender could have been sentenced to imprisonment twice for the same offence. Investigations are continuing into whether this meant the offender served additional time in prison. If there has been an error the defendant will be informed.
The inspectorates conclude that there are now 2,206 defendants currently missing an adjudication, covering 3,260 offences of which 1,568 were recordable on the PNC. The report itself sets out the full number and nature of cases involved and describes a systematic covering up of errors.
A warrant is an order from a court for an individual to be arrested and brought back to the court, or to be bailed to attend a future court hearing. The warrant system is fundamental to the effective operation of the Criminal Justice System. In any court area a large number of warrants are issued. Some of these will be quite properly withdrawn (for example, where the defendant gives himself up voluntarily, is imprisoned by another court, has died, or the warrant has proved impossible to execute over a considerable period).
The inspectorates also confirm considerable irregularities in the process for the withdrawal of warrants. This process had been agreed in a protocol between Leeds
magistrates court, the West Yorkshire police and West Yorkshire CPS and was implemented between 2003-04 (see appendix 12). This was uncovered by HMCS in November 2007. Under this protocol, where there were no objections, warrants were to be withdrawn in bulk with no evidence that each case was given proper consideration by the court. This reduced the judicial warrant withdrawal process into an administrative act. This was intended to:
get rid of the significant number of outstanding warrants (see appendix 12).
This led to warrants being withdrawn in relation to 555 defendants representing 1709 offences. Many of these offences were for low level matters (for example, minor driving offences). However 67 defendants also had the record of their convictions withdrawn in relation to a total of 115 recordable offences (offences that need to be recorded on the PNC).
The inspectors have confirmed that HMCS at Leeds has now improved the controls in place to manage the number of unresulted court adjudications and all court adjudications are now included in the court register.
The inspectorates have also confirmed that there is no evidence of inappropriate warrant withdrawal or failures in the resulting process at Leeds since 2004. However they have identified weaknesses in the underlying processes at Leeds (in relation to the quality and assurance of in court record). HMCS has already begun to implement these improvements. The inspectorates commend:
the willingness of EM Courts Service to accept responsibility for the failings at Leeds magistrates court even though they happened before the creation of HMCS in 2005 and the commitment to: fully identify and rectify all of the failures learning lessons as appropriate and engaging openly with the process.
Work will continue to identify results for the outstanding cases and progress has already been made to resolve and result the most serious offences. The results of 62 of the most serious offences have already been found and verified (and I can confirm the outcome of cases were appropriately resulted in the Crown Court).
The criminal justice agencies in West Yorkshire are establishing processes to review all of the warrants and proceedings withdrawn, and where appropriate, bring them before a formally-constituted court. In line with the recommendations of the inspectorates a new inter-agency warrant withdrawal protocol is now in place in West Yorkshire. In addition we will revise the national guidance on warrant withdrawal, issued in 2006, to reinforce the key lessons learned from the report.
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