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Departmental Annual Report

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I have today laid before Parliament the 2007-08 departmental annual report for the Ministry of Justice (CM 7397).

The Ministry of Justice was established on 9 May 2007. It brought together the former responsibilities of the Department for Constitutional Affairs with the National Offender Management Service from the Home Office and the trilateral Office of Criminal Justice Reform. The new Department has a wide-ranging remit with major responsibilities for prisons and probation, the courts and tribunals, legal aid and more, as well as important policy responsibilities ranging from constitutional reform and devolution, democracy and human rights to the justice system. When the Department was set up, the then permanent secretary commissioned a review to develop proposals for a new structure and ways of working to equip the Department better to deliver on its aims and objectives.

Two other pieces of work have further improved the Department’s focus on its aims and objectives: Lord Carter’s report on prisons and the partnership between the Lord Chief Justice and me in the operation of the courts. The new top structure of the Department came into place on 1 April with more detailed changes being implemented over the next few months to provide a coherent structure for managing the Department’s key challenges on public protection and reducing reoffending, constitutional reform and access to justice. This streamlined top structure and new ways of working will help the Department to implement Lord Carter’s recommendations on offender management services, to ensure the successful operation of new arrangements for the courts and to focus more clearly on its key policy and delivery challenges.

The new structure will allow the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to build on its success and take forward Lord Carter’s proposals for nationalising management structures and reducing overhead costs. It will also bring NOMS and the Prison Service together and streamline its headquarters so as to improve the focus on frontline delivery of prisons and probation and improve efficiency.

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This report highlights the achievements made by the Ministry of Justice and looks to the future at how the new structure aims to provide the department with a sharper focus on its key priorities. This includes public protection and reoffending and improving relations with the judiciary while streamlining leadership across the whole of the Department’s agenda. It will ensure a much more joined up approach to issues of justice and constitutional reform, with a clearer focus on efficiency through the removal of duplication and overlapping responsibilities.

The report is also available on the Ministry of Justice website at:


The Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly): I have today published my Department’s annual report for 2008 (CM 7395). Copies have been laid before Parliament and placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The report sets out the Department’s activities and achievements over the last year. It also describes the Department’s future expenditure plans for the period of the spending review 2007.

Work and Pensions

Government Equalities Office

The Minister for Women and Equality (Ms Harriet Harman): Last summer, we set out the Government’s priorities for women. These included increasing the number of black and Asian and minority ethnic women on local councils.

A report produced by Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, has today been published on the Government Equalities Office website, highlighting the scale of under-representation in our democracy.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic women account for less than 1 per cent. of England’s 20,000 councillors. To be more representative of society as a whole, the number of black, Asian and ethnic minority women councillors needs to be increased more than fivefold—from 168 of all councillors in England to nearer a thousand.

At Westminster, the under-representation is even more marked. Only 19.5 per cent. of Members of the House of Commons are women and of these only two come from minority ethnic communities. There has never been an Asian woman MP.

To make local councils more representative, we are today setting up a taskforce that will be chaired by Baroness Uddin of Bethnal Green. The taskforce will last for 12 months, with an option to review and extend this.

The taskforce members will include black and Asian and minority ethnic women councillors and former councillors from every region in England and from Scotland and Wales. The taskforce will identify and
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take practical action to increase awareness and build confidence and skills; reach out into communities to encourage women to step forward to become local councillors; identify and tackle barriers within political parties; and reduce disadvantage and stereotyping from within and outside the communities.

The taskforce will be supported in its work by the Ministers for Women and Equality and a secretariat will be provided by the Government Equalities Office. Full details of the taskforce, its membership and terms of reference are available on the Government Equalities Office website.

The Prime Minister has proposed to the Speaker that he call a Speaker’s conference to consider, against the backdrop of a decline in turnout, a number of important issues including the representation of women and ethnic minorities in the House of Commons. The Speaker’s conference and the taskforce we are announcing today will play a vital role in ensuring that we take steps to make progress.

The taskforce will be working closely with the Department of Communities and Local Government, who will soon be responding to the Councillors Commission report “Representing the Future” which
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made recommendations aimed at reducing barriers and increasing the incentives for people to stand and serve as councillors. The report looked at the wider issues of widening the pool of local councillors to increase representation from all under represented groups—women, people from black and minority ethnic communities, people of working age, young people and disabled people.

The Government do not consider that the time is right to take legislative measures to permit all-BAME election shortlists.

Departmental Annual Report

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell): I am today able to announce the publication of the Department for Work and Pensions departmental annual report. The report provides details of the Department’s performance in 2007-08 against its public service agreement targets and sets out the Department’s expenditure plans for 2008-09. Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

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