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Foreign and Commonwealth Office


The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The constitutional crisis in Zimbabwe continues as President Mugabe persists in his ambition to steal the election. It is over three weeks since the elections were held but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is yet to announce the presidential results. More worryingly President Mugabe and his ZANU(PF) party have unleashed a campaign of violence against those ordinary Zimbabweans, 60 per cent. of them, who in spite of everything voted against him. Political refugees from the rural areas that were once President Mugabe’s heartlands but have had the courage to express their opposition peacefully through the ballot box have been pouring into urban centres to receive medical treatment and support. Local and international NGOs are highlighting these abuses daily. Evidence that they are taking place is irrefutable. I believe all would join the Government in condemning absolutely these acts of violence which are cynically intended to punish people for the choices they have made and to intimidate them into submission should any second round of the presidential election be called.

Meanwhile in spite of numerous legal protests by the opposition, the Electoral Commission has begun a recount in 23 constituencies. No one can have any faith in this recount. The ballot boxes have been kept in uncertain conditions. The Electoral Commission has seen 13 of their number arrested in a clear effort to threaten and punish those who did their job independently. The count itself is proceeding at a ludicrously slow rate. This only serves to fuel suspicion that President Mugabe is seeking to reverse the results that have been published, to regain a majority in Parliament, and to amplify his own count in the presidential election. If that is the case, then what we are witnessing is a charade of democracy. We can have little confidence that whatever is ultimately announced as the presidential election results will not have been sullied and contaminated by rigging during this recount.

We continue to engage intensively to resolve this crisis and our action is focused in three areas. First, we continue to work to support all those working for democratic change in Zimbabwe. In spite of the challenges they face, civil society in Zimbabwe remains committed to democratic and peaceful change. We applaud and support their efforts.

Secondly, we continue to work with states in the region. We believe they are still best placed to apply pressure on President Mugabe and those who surround him, many of whom recognise that it is time for change. I welcome the statements of the African Union and of the Southern African Development Community calling for the presidential results to be released. That SADC states met in an extraordinary session in Lusaka and discussed Zimbabwe and its crisis for over 13 hours shows their concern at what is happening and the threat that it poses to the stability and security of their region. But, as the former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, it is important that African leaders do more to engage directly in this crisis to help resolve it. The reaction of South African dockers to the direction to unload arms they believed destined for Zimbabwe
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shows that ordinary Africans do not condone the way in which President Mugabe is clinging to power and beating his own people to death to ensure he retains it. If President Mugabe and those who keep him in office will listen to anyone, they will listen to their peers in the region and in Africa more widely. But if they will not, Africans and their organisations should be clear in their public condemnation of what is happening and should withhold their recognition of President Mugabe’s regime. His actions pose a threat to democracy and to the values that the SADC and the AU espouse. Democratic legitimacy throughout Africa is at stake.

Thirdly, we are working through the international community as it remains united in standing up for democracy, it reinforces the confidence of democratic forces, and speaks with a clear voice about the value not just to Zimbabwe but to the whole region of following the will of the people. At the UN Security Council session in New York last week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister joined other voices from Africa, Europe and Latin America, along with the UN Secretary-General in calling for the election results to be released and in condemning the delay and violence. The UN Secretary-General has called for international monitors to observe any second round in Zimbabwe. We support that call and underline, as SADC leaders themselves did when meeting in Lusaka, that SADC observers must return now to observe the recount. They should be present in Zimbabwe until the election results are announced, so they may witness and ideally prevent the violence that is now occurring.

The European Union, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and many other states have called both for restraint within Zimbabwe and for credible results now to be released. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown and I continue to engage in intensive private discussions with African leaders and others with influence within Zimbabwe and the region. Our message is simple. Zimbabwe is on a knife edge: inflation is incalculable, life expectancy the lowest in the world and human rights abuses commonplace. Those metrics will all deteriorate if President Mugabe is allowed to steal this election. But if a Government that reflects the will of the people is allowed to emerge, Zimbabwe can begin the painful journey to recovery and once again become a full part of the international community.

Britain has always supported the Zimbabwean people. We are the second largest bilateral donor. We spent £45 million last year on support for the poorest and most vulnerable Zimbabweans. Our support helped feed up to 3 million people and provided treatment for more than 30,000 HIV/AIDS patients. That support will continue. It has become even more necessary in this period when President Mugabe has unleashed his youth militia on the people. But when there is positive change on the ground in Zimbabwe and a Government who are prepared to introduce sound governance and respond to the needs of ordinary Zimbabweans, Britain will play a full part in supporting recovery and development. It will be a huge task. But the Zimbabwean people will have the full support of the UK and the wider international community. The UK and other donors are ready to give that support when there is a return to real democracy and good governance within Zimbabwe.

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I am sure the whole House will join the Government in committing themselves to working tirelessly for that day.


National Deep Clean Programme

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): Further to the written ministerial statements given on 21 November 2007, Official Report, column 134WS and 17 January 2008, Official Report, column 38WS strategic health authorities (SHAs) have confirmed that 97 per cent. of trusts have now completed a deep clean as part of the comprehensive national programme of deep cleaning.

Three hundred and twenty eight trusts agreed plans with SHAs as part of this national deep cleaning programme. As well as all 170 acute trusts, this included many primary care trusts with inpatient facilities, mental health trusts, learning disability trusts and ambulance trusts. All 328 trusts had started their deep clean programmes and 308 trusts, (94 per cent.) had completed their deep clean by the end of 31 March.

Since 31 March 2008, a further 11 trusts have now completed their deep clean programmes, bringing the total to 319 trusts. Nine trusts are still undertaking their deep clean and all are due to complete by the end of May 2008. There are valid reasons for trusts to complete after 31 March 2008, such as significant refurbishments or reasons relating to patient safety.

Information provided by SHAs shows that they have all made available the funding they promised for the programme, as set out in the written ministerial statement on 21 November 2007. In addition, SHA North West increased its planned expenditure by £5.1 million, as primary care trusts in the north-west provided additional funding to improve local services. The final total funding therefore made available for this programme at a regional level was £62.6 million.

Clean hospitals are essential for high quality, comfortable patient care. High standards of cleanliness also encourage a focus on infection control and provide a platform for consistent hand cleaning and thorough cleaning of beds between patients. Deep cleaning is part of a comprehensive range of measures to improve cleanliness and tackle infections set out in the strategy “Clean, Safe Care: Reducing Infections and Saving Lives”.

The NHS will maintain the high standards of cleanliness that the current programme has provided. This will be monitored and performance managed at a local level. Deep cleaning will be included in patient environment action team inspection programme from next year. Specialist Healthcare Commission inspections began this month against the code of practice for the prevention and control of healthcare associated infections so all acute trusts will be inspected every year on their clean environment. We will also publish best practice guidance on deep cleaning later on this year to help hospitals continue to achieve the best possible environment for patient care.

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A list of the trusts which have undertaken or are undertaking a deep clean as part of this national programme has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Health Pay Review Bodies

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): I am responding on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the thirty-seventh report of the review body on doctors’ and dentists’ remuneration (DDRB) (Cm 7327) and the twenty-third report of the NHS pay review body (NHSPRB) (Cm 7337) which were laid before Parliament on 7 April 2008(l). Copies of the reports are available in the Vote Office and the Library. I am grateful to the chairs and members of the review bodies for their hard work.

The DDRB has recommended that the national salary scales for all salaried doctors and dentists, and the top and bottom of the salary range for salaried general medical practitioners, should be increased by 2.2 per cent. for 2008-09. For general dental practitioners (GDPs), the DDRB has recommended a 3.4 per cent. increase in the gross earnings base. The DDRB intend this to result in an increase in GDPs’ net income of 2.2 per cent.

With regard to independent contractor general medical practitioners (GMPs), DDRB have recognised in their report that there are significant, unwarranted variations in GMP income caused solely by the operation of the minimum practice income guarantee (MPIG) regardless of the workload and patient care provided by individual GMPs and their practices. They note the evidence presented to them that GMP income varied from £54.72 per patient (where there was no MPIG) to £120 per patient (where there was MPIG). In making their recommendations, including the 2.7 per cent. uplift to a GMP’s global sum, the DDRB acknowledged, and therefore clearly intended, that the practical implication of their recommendations was that most practices would not receive any increase in their global sum. This is predicated on any increase in global sum being offset against the correction factor in MPIG. The Department estimates that implementing these recommendations means the 6 to 7 per cent. of GMS practices without any MPIG would receive an increase in their global sum payments of 2.7 per cent. in 2008-09. A further 2 per cent. of practices will receive some extra increase in payments as their current correction factor will be less than their increase in global sum.

In addition to any DDRB recommendations, we have guaranteed to the profession that once the costs of implementing the recommendations of the DDRB have been agreed with the British Medical Association, the Government will ensure up to 1.5 per cent. of new investment is available across all practices for providing more services or improving the quality of care and provision to existing patients.

The DDRB’s pay recommendations have been accepted in full by the Government, without staging. However, in taking forward the DDRB’s recommendations on GMP pay there remain issues that will require further consultation with the BMA before they can be implemented and that will delay payments to GMPs.

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The NHSPRB has recommended an increase in the ‘Agenda for Change’ pay rates of 2.75 per cent. from 1 April 2008. The NHSPRB has also recommended that the high cost area supplements and existing national recruitment and retention premia should be increased by 2.75 per cent.

On 7 April 2008, I announced that the Department has agreed with NHS employers, UNISON and the Royal College of Nursing a proposed three-year pay package for all NHS ‘Agenda for Change’ staff which incorporates the acceptance of the NHS pay review body recommendations for 2008-09 in full. The proposed three-year package is now subject to consultation by members of all the trade unions covered by ‘Agenda for Change’. It includes:

If trade union members reject the proposed three-year deal, we will need to review the NHSPRB’s recommendations and consider whether to accept, stage or abate them in the context of a one year settlement.

I apologise that we were unable to announce these decisions to Parliament in the normal way before making them more widely available. Unfortunately, it was not possible to do this before the Easter recess as pay negotiations had not concluded. I also felt that it would cause an unnecessary delay in the consultation process and thus the payment of the award to staff if we had waited until Parliament returned on 21 April before making these important announcements.

Home Department

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Third Annual Report)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): In accordance with section 14 (3), 14 (4) and 14 (5) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC prepared a report on the operation of the Act in 2007, which the Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing, laid before the House on 18 February 2008.

I am grateful to Lord Carlile for another considered review. Following consultation within my Department and with other relevant agencies, I am laying my response to Lord Carlile’s recommendations before Parliament today.

I am also laying my response to the report on the renewal of the control order legislation by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (published on 20 February 2008) before Parliament today.

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Public Law Family Proceedings (Court Fees)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): I am today announcing the outcome of the recent consultation on “Public Law Family Fees”. The consultation published on 19 December 2007 and the consultation closed on 11 March 2008. One hundred and eleven responses were received from local authorities, law professionals, the judiciary and other stakeholder bodies.

After careful consideration of these, my right hon. Friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has decided to proceed with the increases proposed. The Statutory Instruments were laid before Parliament on 9 April 2008.

During the course of consultation, the Government introduced an adjustment into the local government finance settlement figures to make visible the sums attributable to these proposals. The purpose of this adjustment was to ensure that a valid comparison could be made between 2007-08 and 2008-09 for each authority’s grant increase. The authorities generally now recognise that funding has been made available within the revenue support grant. Indeed, the total of £40 million is likely to exceed the total fees payable because it assumes that the maximum fee is paid in each case. In reality, some cases following the new ‘Public Law Outline’ procedure (implemented this month, introduces revised judicial case management procedures to be introduced in all family courts) will be resolved at earlier stages and pay a lower fee. I therefore believe that we have responded in full to those responses that objected to the proposals on the basis that it was not clear that authorities had been funded, or that they had been insufficiently funded, to pay these fees.

The second main theme of the responses was that authorities would be improperly influenced by financial considerations and would not always act in the best interests of children. Local authorities are under a statutory duty to protect children at risk of significant harm. Both the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, in their responses to the consultation, confirmed that local authorities are not influenced by cost considerations in their approach to initiating proceedings or in their decisions about appropriate pre-proceedings work. The practical effect of the statutory duty in this instance is to require authorities to ensure that adequate budgetary provision is made to pay the necessary court fees, and to ensure that individual decisions are not affected by budgetary considerations. In practice, most local authorities pay court fees from a legal department or similar central budget, rather than from a children’s services budget that is the responsibility of individual social workers making decisions on the ground, with the cost of court fees being a small proportion of the overall cost of child care proceedings. For these reasons, I am satisfied that the proposals do not in fact create a risk that local authorities will neglect their statutory duty causing children to be harmed.

These fee increases are necessary to ensure that the family courts are properly funded and are designed to
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fit with wider reforms on child protection proceedings. They are a further step in our strategy to ensure that the system of court fees is fair and sustainable, and they reflect the long-standing policy of Governments of all persuasions that statutory fees should generally be set at a level that recovers the cost of the service provided (but no more).

The current proposals will only affect fees paid by public bodies and not individuals. Fees for applications by parents in care and adoption proceedings will remain unchanged.

The response to the consultation paper will be published in full within the next two months.

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 - Publication of Q4 2007 Monitoring Statistics

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): Today I have deposited copies of “The Freedom of Information Act 2000—Statistics on Implementation in Central Government: Q4 October-December 2007” in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

This is the quarterly monitoring statistics report analysing the performance of central Government in the third full year of freedom of information.

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