9 July 2008 : Column 77WS

9 July 2008 : Column 77WS

Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 9 July 2008


Pleural Plaques

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): The Government have today published a consultation paper “Pleural Plaques”.

The consultation paper considers what the most appropriate way of supporting people diagnosed with pleural plaques would be, following the Law Lords’ decision on 17 October 2007 that pleural plaques are not actionable or compensatable damage.

The paper proposes action to improve understanding of pleural plaques and to provide support and reassurance to those diagnosed with pleural plaques to help allay their concerns. It considers the issues that arise in relation to changing the law of negligence and invites views on whether this would or would not be appropriate. It also seeks views on the merits of offering no fault financial support to people diagnosed with pleural plaques, and on two possible ways of doing this.

We would welcome responses to the paper from hon. Members and from all those with an interest in this important issue.

Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and have also been made available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. They can also be obtained free on the Ministry’s website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/index.htm.

The closing date for consultation is 1 October 2008.

National Framework for Greater Citizen Engagement

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): The “Governance of Britain” Green Paper, which was published in July 2007, set out the Government’s proposals for the next stages of constitutional renewal. A major theme running through the Green Paper is the importance of reinvigorating democracy. Active participation by as many people as possible is essential for a healthy democracy as it encourages a shared understanding, builds cohesion and instils confidence in the institutions and the people who are elected to represent us.

The Government recognise that the demands on our democracy are evolving. People are less engaged with the formal democratic process. Some, particularly disadvantaged groups and younger people, are increasingly unlikely to vote at elections. Others are channelling their political activity beyond voting and party politics to protest groups and single-issue campaigns. The Government want to address these challenges by increasing opportunities for people to participate in the decision-making process between elections and in ways that also encourage participation by those whose voices are not often heard.

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Today I am publishing a discussion paper which sets out a proposed framework for the use of innovative engagement mechanisms by national government. The paper includes a range of proposals for the application of deliberative engagement methods—citizens’ summits and juries—to inform the process of national policy making. Finally, there are proposals for a strengthened petitioning process for the House of Commons.

Involving the public in debates and decision-making on national issues can serve to reinforce and strengthen our democracy. But the Government are not suggesting that people should be asked to take the decisions they elect their MPs to make—Parliament should always have the final say on major national issues. We believe that, over time, these proposals will encourage greater involvement, provide people with opportunities to participate in collective debate on issues and lead to a greater understanding of the value of parliamentary democracy.

Both the “Empowerment” White Paper, which is also published today, and this proposed National Framework for Greater Citizen Engagement will increase opportunities for people to take part in decision-making—in their local communities and by influencing national Government. The Government are keen to gather views from Parliament and the public on the content of this discussion paper. Copies of the discussion paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. The paper is also available on the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk/publications/citizen-engagement.htm

Cabinet Office

Civil Service Fast Stream

The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr. Tom Watson): The 2007 “Fast Stream Recruitment Report” is published online at: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk. Copies have been placed in the Library and are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office.

Northern Ireland

Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (Annual Report and Accounts)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland’s annual report and accounts for the year ended 31 March 2008 is published today.

Copies will be available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Work and Pensions

Financial Assistance Scheme

The Minister for Pensions Reform (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I lay today before Parliament the third annual report of the financial assistance scheme. This report covers the administration of the fund from 1 April 2007 to 31 March 2008.

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