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The new agency will deliver new powers to front line officers. I can announce that by the summer we will have cross conferred customs and immigration powers on over 1,000 front line staff. In addition, staff in England and Wales will be equipped with police-like powers as set out in the UK Borders Act. Passengers and goods will now be checked at a single primary line. Uniformed UK Border Agency officers will protect the
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UK searching for signs of smuggled goods or immigration abuse and will have new powers to improve their ability to detain suspected law breakers. Legislation to provide for full integration of customs staff will be presented to the House shortly. Wider powers demand tough accountability. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has therefore taken over investigation of individual cases from 25 February and we intend to appoint an independent inspector of the UKBA shortly.

Further, the new agency will unlock a new relationship with 1,600 uniformed police officers at ports and airports and the UK’s 1,400 Special Branch officers for whom funding has been increased to around £75 million. Today I am placing in the Library of the House a new framework of co-operation between the police in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The framework establishes strategic direction for intelligence sharing and delivery of frontline operations.

In a response to a recommendation in the Cabinet Office report “Security in a Global Hub—Establishing the UK’s New Border Agency 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 policing—which is currently delivered by the local force for each port and airport—may be best 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.

We are 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.

By working in partnership with HMRC and the FCO, the UK Border Agency will contribute to the collection of £22 billion in tax revenue and the facilitation of international trade worth £600 billion per annum.

The agency will be more powerful than today’s separate forces and will therefore deliver on tougher targets. It will:

Lin Homer as chief executive will be supported by a board including an HMRC Commissioner, Mike Eland, a senior FCO representative, James Bevan and a senior police representative, Roger Baker, the Chief Constable of Essex.

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I am also placing in the Library of the House a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Home Office and the FCO which underpins the move of UKVisas into the new global agency.

The MOU sets out the respective commitments of the Home Office and the FCO. It details the financial, resource and management framework within which the UK Border Agency’s overseas operations will function. From today UK Border Agency’s overseas staff, drawn from the FCO, the Home Office and from external organisations will work as an integrated team to achieve the Government’s objectives for immigration and border security.

Finally on 1 April my hon. Friends the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, and the Minister for the Middle East wrote to the Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Select Committees outlining the new procedures for dealing with correspondence on visa-related matters. On the same day my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury wrote to the Treasury Select Committee about procedures for dealing with correspondence relating to frontier detection. I am placing a copy of these letters in the Library of the House today.

Prime Minister

Council of Europe/Western European Union

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): My right hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clywd) has been appointed as a full member of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union in place of my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Geraldine Smith), my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Jim Hood) has been appointed as a full member in place of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow East (Mr. David Marshall) and my hon. Friend Baroness Gale has been appointed a full member in place of my right hon. Friend Baroness Taylor of Bolton.


Plea Negotiation (Fraud Cases)

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:

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EU Transport Council

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): I will attend the first Transport Council of the Slovenian Presidency which takes place in Luxembourg on 7 April.

There will be a progress report and policy debate on three proposals in road transport: a recast regulation on common rules for access to the international road haulage market; a regulation on common rules concerning the conditions to be complied with in order to pursue the occupation of road transport operator; and a recast regulation on common rules for access to the market for coach and bus services. The Government welcome the intention to clarify and simplify the existing provisions. The proposed changes in the legislation should maintain and improve road safety while minimising the burdens on industry and they should help to reduce distortion of competition through greater levelling of enforcement and compliance between the UK and other EU road haulage and coach operators. However, we have some reservations, particularly in relation to the proposed definition of cabotage, the responsibilities of transport managers and the information to be included in the interoperable national enforcement registers. I will be raising these issues at the Council.

On rail freight, the Council will be asked to adopt conclusions on the Commission Communication “'Towards a rail network giving priority to freight”. The conclusions broadly welcome the Communication and invite the Commission to devise measures to achieve the efficient operation of international rail freight services along cross-border corridors, mainly through improved co-operation between national infrastructure managers. Key UK concerns with the communication have been addressed satisfactorily in the conclusions: the Commission’s suggestion of giving “priority to international freight” over domestic rail traffic (a problem for the UK and many other member states with mixed, passenger and freight, traffic) has been substituted with a more general objective of “facilitating efficient flows of international rail freight”; the Commission’s apparent preference for new legislation to achieve its objective has been mitigated by an invitation to consider also the consistent implementation and rigorous enforcement of existing EC legislation, alongside new legislation where this may be required; and the Commission has been invited to develop relevant alternative proposals on the basis of an appropriate analysis of their impact and their relative costs and benefits and in accordance with the principles of Better Regulation. The UK can be satisfied with this successful outcome which will enable it to support these Conclusions in Council.

In November, Ministers agreed conclusions on the Galileo satellite navigation programme defining the general principles for a public sector governance and procurement strategy for the programme. This Council will be asked to reach a general approach on the text of a regulation to implement the agreement reached in November. The Government have sought to ensure the current text of the regulation provides for the implementation of sound project management principles where the risks can be effectively managed, a fair and competitive playing field
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for suppliers at all levels, including SMEs, and robust measures for the control of costs. I believe the current text meets the UK’s objectives. A number of issues remain under negotiation including the role and responsibilities of the European Parliament and ensuring a clear division of tasks between the Commission and the Galileo supervisory authority in the programme. It is possible that some of these will have to be resolved in discussions at Council itself. The Government are keen to ensure an efficient decision-making process, project management and governance structure.

The Council will be asked to reach a political agreement on a directive on airport charges, which aims to establish a framework of common principles as to how airports determine their charges for aircraft landing, take-off and handling of passengers. As well as setting standards for transparency and consultation, the directive requires an independent supervisory body to intervene in the case of disagreement over a decision on charges. As part of a political agreement, the UK supports the adoption of certain amendments proposed by the European Parliament where they strike a balance between the interests of airlines and airports without imposing unnecessary or disproportionate regulation.

The Council will also be asked to reach a general approach on a regulation on a code of conduct for computerised reservation systems, to replace the existing Regulation 2299/89. The UK supports the proposed general approach that aims to update and simplify the existing code and bring it into line with other European legislation, while maintaining safeguards against anti-competitive behaviour.

The Council will be asked to adopt conclusions relating to a Commission Communication entitled “An agenda for a Sustainable Future in General and Business Aviation”. The draft conclusions welcome the Commission’s overview of the sector and its coherent position on the future development of general and business aviation. We welcome recognition of the need for proportionality in any future European regulation, given the diverse nature of general and business aviation activities. We support the conclusions, which recognise that general and business aviation provides important social and economic benefits, and that there should be a common set of data on this sector, in order to contribute to safety improvements and a better understanding of the sector.

There will be progress reports and policy debates on two current legislative proposals in maritime transport. These are a directive on compliance with flag state requirements and a directive on the civil liability and financial guarantees of ship owners. The Government have consistently argued that the Commission has yet to establish either a compelling need or a robust better regulation case for these proposals. We recognise that the Slovenian Presidency has made a significant effort to reach an agreed compromise on these proposals. Despite this effort, however, the majority of the member states, including the UK, are continuing to voice their strong concerns on both proposals and agreement is unlikely in the near future. There are five other maritime safety measures (ship classification, accident investigation, port-state control, vessel-traffic monitoring and carrier liability) which risk being
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delayed due to the ongoing discussion on flag state and civil liability. The Government consider that it is more important to finalise these five other proposals rather than to continue to pursue agreement on flag state and civil liability at the present time.


Safety, Service Delivery and Logistics Group

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has set a range of high-level targets for the 2008-09 year on behalf of the agencies within the Safety, Service Delivery and Logistics Group; the Driving Standards Agency, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, the Vehicle Certification Agency, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency and the Government Car Despatch Agency. They are included in the Agencies’ Business Plans together with their associated measures. The plans also include a range of management targets, performance indicators and key tasks which are appropriate to the agencies’ businesses. Copies of the business plans will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses shortly.

The Key Targets for the Driving Standards Agency are:
Secretary of State Targets (target measures are italicised)

To achieve customer satisfaction with the overall service received at 90% for candidates and 73% for business customers.

To deliver 6,000 Arrive Alive presentations to include 10% or more targeted at special needs groups such as young offenders, older drivers and people with disabilities.

Initiate 5 pilot projects aimed at improving driver education and training and raising the driving standards of high risk groups such as young novice drivers.

Introduce new EU compliant CPC qualification for bus and coach drivers by 10 September 2008.

In order to deliver the new EU motorcycle test:

Develop a network of off-road manoeuvring areas for motorcyclists

By 29 September 2008 ensure that 51% or more of the population of Great Britain is within 45 minutes or 20 miles of such a facility

To reduce the level of impersonations we will progress to conclusion, by 31 March 2009, 750 investigations in relation to impersonation or identity fraud, and seek prosecutions where applicable.

Achieve online bookings of 65% for all existing services by 31 March 2009.

Deliver the first year of the Comprehensive Spending Review by achieving £6 million of efficiency savings. Maximise productivity by improved attendance management to reduce sick absence to an average of no more than 10 days per employee.

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Secretary of State Targets (target measures are italicised)

The Key Targets for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency are:

Maintain or improve customer satisfaction by private motorists to 90% and commercial customers to 90%.

Maintain or improve on the standard of services to the customer.

To achieve at least 16 out of the 18 customer service measures.

Accuracy (traceability)—increase the accuracy of the vehicle and driver register by being able to trace registered keepers from the record in 95% of cases.

Launch 24/7 electronic access to vehicle and driver details for approved enquiries by Police Force or Court partners from September 2008.

Collect around £5 billion of VED and through enforcement action collect £30 million.

By restraining transaction unit costs and through other initiatives deliver financial savings of £19.5 million.

Increase customer take-up of electronic transaction channels by March 2009 to 42%.

Reduce average number of days absence for 2008-09 to 10.2.

Secretary of State Targets (target measures are italicised)

The Key Targets for the Vehicle Certification Agency are:

To provide a class-leading service in type approval and certification.

90% turnaround of system and component type approval certificates within 9 working days.

98% of appraisal reports on technical performance from independent panel members deemed to have no critical defects

Maintain or improve customer satisfaction.

Achieve an average of 85% of customer satisfaction ratings across all measures.

Delivery of services under the terms of the Recast Framework Directive

To have the systems and processes in place to deliver ECWVTA and National Small Series Type Approval under the Recast Framework Directive by March 2009.

To ensure the continued consistency and quality of VCA's type approvals.

Carry out a programme of Conformity of Production verifications in accordanc -with the provisions of Directive 70/156.

Development of a mechanism so that a risk-based approach to Conformity of Production verifications can be implemented in 2009/10

To carry out a programme of conformity of production inspections for dangerous goods packaging

To monitor compliance of safety critical vehicle systems and components in the UK marketplace to meet EU standards.

To deliver the agreed 08/09 DfT test and enforcement programme..

To carry out and enforce an annual programme of in-service emissions testing.

Complete agreed 08/09 DfT in-service emissions test programme

To achieve efficiency savings consistent with the CSR07 settlement, whilst investing in VCA infrastructure and skills.

Delivery of the first year of the CSR 07 Efficiency plan of a reduction in DEL cover over 2007-08 of£300k by:

Increase utilisation to 62% or above in line with VCA's 10/11 end state of 65%

Invest £150,000 in professional skills and capability development.

Achieving a surplus on full cost basis in excess of £50,000.

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