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A copy of a joint statement agreed by all three parties has been made available in the Libraries of both Houses. Further details of the agreement will be available shortly on the website of the Legal Services Commission at www.legalservices.gov.uk.
The legal aid reform programme will continue. The Government remains fully committed to its objectives of improving client access to quality services and providing value for money for the taxpayer.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): On Wednesday, 9 April, I will publish a consultation document about the introduction of a Best Value system into probation. The consultation period will run until 2 July 2008.
During the passage of the Offender Management Bill last year, the Government signalled a move away from a target-based regime in which probation areas had to outsource a proportion of their work to a model based on the principles of best value. In discussion with interested parties, we have drawn up a proposed model for how Best Value would work and we are now consulting publicly on this.
The proposed Best Value model would apply to all services funded by probation boards and trusts. It would enable boards and trusts to demonstrate, in a transparent way, the value for money of their services, and to drive improvements in the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of their service delivery. Best Value reviews would be based around five areasconsult, compare, challenge, collaborate and, where appropriate, compete. The reviews may result in the competition of services, but only if they have shown that that would be the most efficient and effective delivery option; the Best Value process is neutral as to the final result. By delivering efficiency savings, Best Value will provide value for money to the taxpayer and, by improving the effectiveness of service delivery to offenders, it will contribute towards our aim of reducing reoffending.
Copies of the consultation document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office and on the internet at: www.justice.gov.uk/publications/consultations.htm
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): Today I am delighted to announce that the appointment of Anne Owers CBE as HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales has been extended until 31 March 2010.
Ms Owers expertise and knowledge will continue to play a key role in enabling the prisons inspectorate to deliver a credible and effective inspection programme for prisons and immigration removal centres.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): In July 2005, in a written statement to the House, local authorities were invited to bid for £18 million of pump-priming development funding to bring forward packages of measures that combined better local public transport with hard demand management measures, such as road pricing. We also announced that we were prepared to ensure that up to £200 million a year would be available from the Transport Innovation Fund to support such packages.
So far 10 areas have benefited from this pump-priming funding, enabling them to analyse their current and emerging congestion issues and consider how demand management could form part of the solution. In March 2008, we announced that we were extending the commitment to make available up to £200 million a year up to 2018-19, in line with our long term funding profile for transport, and inviting authorities to bid for further pump-priming development funding for 2008 and 2009.
I am today announcing the first successful area to benefit from this additional funding. We are making up to £500,000 available to the West of England Partnership (covering Bristol City council, Bath and North East Somerset Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council) to take forward the development of their proposals for improved public transport and demand management.
I should be clear that receipt of this pump-priming funding is no guarantee that an authority will be successful in bidding for the main Transport Innovation Fund. We are, however, committed to working closely with the successful authorities to deliver the work programmes set out in their pump-priming bids and to support future decisions on the main Transport Innovation Fund.
Local authorities have until 30 May to submit bids for this additional pump-priming and I shall announce further successful authorities after that date. We will
also work with other local authorities developing proposals for improved local transport and demand management and this decision does not affect their ability to bid for substantive TIF funding in the future.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Tom Harris): I have today published a new policy for roadside facilities on Englands strategic road network, Policy on service areas and other roadside facilities on motorways and all-purpose trunk roads in England.
the location of motorway service areas (MSAs)determining the need for such sites and the spacing interval between them;
facilities at MSAsthe type of facilities, how they are signed and their standards;
service areas on trunk roads;
lorry parking and;
the provision and use of lay-bys.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): On 17 December, the Secretary of State for Transport announced to Parliament a number of immediate measures to improve the security of personal data handled by the Department for Transport and its Agencies. This included the precautionary requirement that any bulk transfer of personal data not by electronic transmission should take place through point-to-point transfer by a secure courier.
We have kept all security arrangements under active review, and continue to improve them as needed. We have also kept closely in touch with our customers, and with the Cabinet Secretary's ongoing review of data handling in Government.
In the light of this feedback, and the need for high standards of data security combined with greater operational flexibility to meet some customer needs, I have now agreed that the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, and other Department for Transport Agencies where necessary, may use secure distribution services which are not restricted solely to point-to-point networks, providing that the security arrangements are high, including identification and tracking of each individual package at each stage of the journey, as well as the use of secure premises where necessary. This is a significantly higher standard than the position prior to December.