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I gave oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee on 4 March in relation to the Committee’s Inquiry into Domestic Violence. My letter to the Committee of 11 March set out the range of measures that this
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Department has already put in place and the further action we are planning to take in order to make children safer and to tackle all forms of abuse, including domestic violence and forced marriage. It also addressed the specific questions asked by the Select Committee on action to safeguard children and young people from forced marriage and how this relates to the local authority duty to make arrangements to establish the identities of children not receiving a suitable education. This was informed by data gathered from 14 local authority areas, via Government Offices. The Committee has placed my letter in full in the public domain.

This Department recognises the importance of doing more to raise awareness about these issues among children and young people and signpost them clearly to sources of advice and support. Working with the Forced Marriage Unit, we will develop materials on the issue of forced marriage specifically for use by schools and tailored to young people and we will actively encourage schools to use them. We will draw on our recent data gathering exercise which indicates that a range of different approaches can be effective.

Within the next few weeks, Ministers in my Department intend to write to all schools and local authorities reminding them of their responsibilities and of the existing guidance—both general safeguarding children guidance, which includes the issue of forced marriage, and the specific forced marriage guidance for education professionals, issued jointly with the Forced Marriage Unit. We will also set out our plans to consult on revised forced marriage guidance which will then be placed on a statutory footing this autumn.

In addition, I have written to Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector to ask Ofsted to provide their view of how well the duty on children not receiving a suitable education is being implemented. Following advice from Ofsted, the Department will work with local authorities to share best practice and lessons that can be learnt about putting in place more effective mechanisms.

My Department will continue to assist the Home Affairs Committee with its important inquiry. I look forward to seeing the Committee’s report and recommendations in due course.

Communities and Local Government


The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, the Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. McFadden), and I are today publishing a consultation paper: “Prosperous Places: Taking Forward the Review of Sub-national Economic Development and Regeneration”

We are consulting on three main issues—the implementation of new regional strategies; the creation of a duty on local authorities to carry out an economic assessment of their area; and options for a legal framework to encourage local authorities to collaborate on economic development.

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This develops the plans set out in the review of sub-national economic development and regeneration that I announced to the House on 17 July 2007.

The consultation papers are available in the Libraries of both Houses and can also be accessed online at:

The consultation will run until 17 June 2008. My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs and I, and regional Ministers, will hold wide-ranging discussions over the next few months as part of this consultation.


Chemical Weapons Convention

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): The UK’s chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In accordance with the Government’s commitment to openness. I am placing a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK’s chemical protection programme in 2007 in the Library of the House.

Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Bob Ainsworth): I am pleased to announce that the Ministry of Defence has signed a 27-year Private Finance Initiative contract with AirTanker Ltd, to provide a replacement air-to-air refuelling and strategic air transport capability for our armed forces. The Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) service will replace our VC10 and TriStar aircraft from 2011.

FSTA is an innovative PFI programme that will provide modern air-to-air refuelling and passenger air transport capability. Since June 2007, the Department has been working with AirTanker to raise the necessary private sector funds. This work has now been completed and I congratulate all those involved in securing the deal.

The contract will provide a comprehensive and integrated service solution, based on new Airbus A330 aircraft modified to provide air-to-air refuelling capability. It will include provision of purpose designed training and maintenance facilities at RAF Brize Norton, together with through life training and maintenance support services.

Air-to-air refuelling and strategic passenger air transport are key capabilities in this era of expeditionary operations. This announcement is excellent news for our armed forces, for the taxpayer, for AirTanker, and for UK industry.

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Land Registry Targets (2008-09)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): The following list sets out the key performance indicators and targets that have been set for Her Majesty’s Land Registry for 2008-09.

Customer Service



Overall Satisfaction:



Strategic Development Area Targets

Customer Service

Establish a customer contact centre to support portal and e-conveyancing users.

Land Registration

Through voluntary registration, add a further 325,000 hectares of land to the total areas of registered freehold land in England and Wales.

Electronic Service Delivery

Introduce a prototype e-charge registration service (Land Registry’s first e-deed—electronic charges in standard form (eCSF)).

Other Business Development

Achieve a contribution earned from commercial services sales, after taking account of direct costs and product development costs, of 8 per cent. of income.

Copies of the Land Registry’s business plan will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available on the internet at:

Cabinet Office

Power of Information Review (Government's Interim Progress Report)

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Tom Watson): On the 25 June 2007, the Government published their response to the Power of Information Review (Cm7157). The review was an independent study by Tom Steinberg, director of mySociety and Ed Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council to:

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The Government welcomed the findings of the review, agreeing to the majority of the reviewers’ recommendations and outlined how they would be taken forward.

I am pleased to announce the publication of the Government’s interim report into these recommendations.

This report takes stock of progress made by Government in the past six months and highlights the concrete actions departments are taking to implement the review.

Copies of this report have been placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland

Parliamentary Constituencies (Northern Ireland) Order 2008

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): The Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986, as amended by the Boundary Commissions Act 1992, requires that the Parliamentary Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland undertake periodical reviews of constituencies in Northern Ireland. The Commission are required to submit a report to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland not less than eight or more than 12 years from their last report. The report was submitted to the Secretary of State on 14 September 2007. The previous report was submitted in October 1995.

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I am pleased to announce that the Fifth Periodic Report on Parliamentary Constituencies has been laid before Parliament today with a copy of the draft Parliamentary Constituencies (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 to give effect to the recommendations of the report without modification. The recommendations of the Commission are that 18 constituencies should be retained for Northern Ireland with revisions made to the boundaries of the 12 Constituencies of Belfast East, Belfast North, Belfast South, Belfast West, East Antrim, East Londonderry, Foyle, Lagan Valley, North Antrim, South Antrim, South Down and Strangford.

Copies are available in the Library.

Work and Pensions

Discretionary Social Fund (Allocations 2008-09)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): I am pleased to announce that the gross discretionary social fund budget for 2008-09 will be £682 million. This includes a £40 million injection of net funding, being the third of three which in total comprise a substantial £210 million boost to support changes to the loans scheme.

With the net funding available, I have been able to allocate a gross national loans budget of £540 million and a national community care grants budget of £141 million from 1 April 2008. £1 million will be retained centrally as a contingency reserve. For example it is available to provide help to Jobcentre Plus budgets facing unexpected and unplanned expenditure.

Details of individual budget allocations will be placed in the Library.

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