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On 19 August PA Consulting formally notified the Home Office of the loss of a data stick containing sensitive information relating to the JTrack system which
PA manage under contract to the Home Office. I was informed the same day and immediately initiated an inquiry into this incident, undertaken by the Home Office Security Unit with advice and support from the Metropolitan Police. The incident inquiry has now been completed. The Information Commissioner and Cabinet Office have been kept fully informed. I have also today sent a full report to the Information Commissioner and have placed a copy in the House Library.
JTrack is the operational system used by the police and Crown Prosecution Service as part of the Governments Prolific and other Priority Offender (PPO) programme. The data on JTrack relate to prisoners and other offenders in England and Wales.
The inquiry found that data were transferred to PA from the Home Office in a secure manner. These data were not handled securely by a PA employee on their premises. Data were downloaded to a data stick. The data stick was used to transfer data between computers on the PA premises and was not encrypted or managed appropriately. The data stick went missing and, despite extensive searches, has not been found. This was a clear breach of the robust terms of the contract covering security and data handling.
Based on the findings of the inquiry, the Home Office have decided to terminate this contract. My officials are currently working with PA to take this work back in house without affecting the operation of JTrack or the PPO programme. Data transfers to PA for JTrack were suspended immediately following the incident, data handling has now been transferred to the Home Office, and the system is fully operational. Other PA activity such as system maintenance and user training will be transferred by December.
We are reviewing our other contracts with PA, specifically from a data handling and security perspective. Lessons learned from this incident more generally will be applied to working with suppliers on contracts involving sensitive data.
Together with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Ministry of Justice, we have undertaken careful assessments of the potential risks to individuals of this incident. The risk to public safety is assessed as low. The risk to individuals whose data were lost is also assessed as low. Appropriate measures are in place for individuals seeking information about the data held on them.
The Home Office has been very active in implementing the findings of the Hannigan Data Handling Review but as with other incidents of data loss the Government are reviewing the circumstances of this incident and will ensure that any lessons, including in relation to strengthening the delivery chain, are incorporated in the ongoing programme of work to provide support and guidance to Departments on information assurance.
Given the seriousness of this incident, I believe it is important both to provide external assurance to the public on our response to the incident and also to enable others to benefit from the lessons learned. Hence I have commissioned Dr. Stephen Hickey to undertake an external scrutiny of our response. I will be placing a report of his findings in the House Library in due course.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): On 6 December 2007, I published Sir Clive Booths report Determining Pay in the Police Service. Sir Clive Booth recommended that a pay review body for police officers should be created. I indicated that the Government accepted his recommendations and we would consult on proposals for implementing the necessary changes to the police officer pay machinery.
On 8 January 2008, I wrote to the Police Negotiating Board (PNB) asking them to consider a multi-year deal for police officers based on the index used by the Police Arbitration Tribunal (PAT) in 2007. I made clear that if the PNB agreed such a deal then it could be implemented in full, and the issue of implementing a pay review body for police officers would become less pressing. We therefore deferred consultation on the implementation of a pay review body while negotiations on a multi-year deal were taking place. The Governments approach on this was also set out in From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together (Cm 7448) published on 17 July 2008.
The official Side of the PNB made an offer of a three-year pay deal which was one of the most generous in the public sector. Regrettably, there was a failure to agree with the staff side on this basis. In the event that the PNB had agreed a multi-year deal there would have been no role for a pay review body for some time, but disappointingly for the third consecutive year a deal was not agreed.
The Government are therefore today beginning consultation on proposals for implementing a pay review body for police officers. Sir Clive Booth already consulted widely with policing stakeholders when undertaking his review. So this second consultation will be an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on the detail of the proposed changes to the police officer pay machinery, including : the scope and purpose of the new body; its remit; membership and coverage.
The consultation will close on Wednesday 5 November 2008.
I have today placed a copy of the consultation document in the Library of the House.
The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): On 25 August I published a consultation document, Review of Police Injury Benefits: Government Proposals, which sets out proposals for a revised police injury awards scheme in the UK. We intend that the new scheme should be in place as early as is possible in 2009, following agreement of the key issues in the Police Negotiating Board by December this year.
The review of the current police injury awards scheme has given us the opportunity to ensure that we have a system of benefits with criteria suitable for modern-day conditions and which ensures that the financial support currently given to police officers and their families for injury or death in the line of duty is properly targeted and is effectively and consistently administered by police
forces. The proposals in the consultation document cover a range of issues, including the eligibility criteria for receiving an award, the structure of benefits under the scheme for both former officers and their survivors, and the role of police authorities and medical practitioners involved in considering claims for awards.
Key proposals set out in the consultation document include:
The introduction, as announced by the Home Secretary to the Police Federation conference in May this year, of life-long adult survivor benefits and the extension of survivor benefits to nominated unmarried and unregistered partners in cases where an officer dies in the line of duty. At present survivor benefits for death in the line of duty are restricted to bereaved spouses and civil partners and are stopped on remarriage or cohabitation.
Simplifying injury and survivor awards so they are easier to understand and apply. For instance, if an officer dies or is totally disabled within one year of an injury in the line of duty, the lump sum payment made will as a matter of course be five times the officers pensionable salary. Currently financial support is set at four times the officers actual total salary if that works out to be the lesser amount.
Making injury and death payments fairer. The pensionable salary on which lump sum awards are based will be changed so that it is based on average pensionable pay. This will take account of a persons working hours averaged over his or her police career rather than simply the pensionable pay at the time the officer ceased to serve. This will protect those who may have just reduced their hours before being injured.
Revising the eligibility criteria and clarifying the definition for injuries received in the line of duty. This clarification will mean officers will be specifically covered for injury benefits as a result of a terrorist attack and will focus benefits on those injuries received in the line of duty. Proposals will also include withdrawing cover for injury or death sustained on a journey to or from work where the cause was not related to police dutyto bring injury benefits for the police service in line with injury benefits for other public servants.
A clearer link between injury awards and police duty, by introducing a five-year time limit for new post-retirement claims, except in the case of specified progressive illnesses and specified conditions with a long incubation period.
A clearer link between injury awards and compensation for loss of earnings, by introducing an absolute cut-off for new claims at age 65 or state pension age at the time if over 65.
Replacing injury pension reviews at age 65 (or the state pension age at the time if over 65) by introducing a new minimum retirement income guarantee. Under the current system officers injured early in their career can suffer a large reduction in financial support in their retirement if the review takes them to the lowest pay banding. The new retirement income guarantee will protect against this.
No longer paying injury pensions in cases where a former officer has suffered only a very slight loss of earning capacity as a result of the injury. In cases where the loss of earning capacity is 10 per cent. or less the former officer will receive a lump sum payment in recognition of the injury. This will allow benefits to be targeted where they are needed most.
Any changes made as a result of the review will apply to officers serving at the time of implementation, regardless of whether they have already sustained an injury. They will not apply retrospectively however, that is, to officers who have already retired when the changes come into forcethey will still be dealt with under the system as it currently stands, even if they have not yet applied for an award.
Our aim is to create a transparent, fair and effective system that provides police officers reassurance to deal with the difficulties that 21st century policing brings. I hope that a constructive and active debate ensues on the proposals we have announced.
The consultation exercise is being conducted on a UK-wide basis in co-operation with the Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Office. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library. Further copies can be downloaded from: www.homeoffice.gov.uk/about-us/haveyoursay/current-consultations/. Comments have been requested by 18 November 2008.
The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): Following debates in July, I published a consultation document, Audit and Assurance of MPs Allowances (Cm7460) on 5 August, 2008. It outlines proposals for further action to improve the financial control and audit of the system of allowances claimed by MPs. Copies of the document are available at: www.commonsleader.gov.uk. I have requested that MPs submit their responses by Monday, 29 September 2008.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Between 8 and 12 August, Russian and Georgian troops clashed in Georgias separatist region of South Ossetia. The resulting conflict led to a tragic loss of civilian life, and the displacement of over 100,000 people.
From the start of the conflict, the UK and its international partners have been involved in intensive discussions, including through the UN, EU, NATO, G7 and OSCE, to agree a ceasefire and to find a durable and peaceful way forward. I spoke to Russian President Medvedev and to other Heads of State, including Presidents Bush and Sarkozy, to try to find a way forward. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary visited Georgia where he met President Saakashvili and Members of his Government.
On 12 August, the EU and OSCE were able to broker a ceasefire between the parties and agreement to a way forward. This agreement included six key principles:
the parties not to resort to the use of force;
the parties to stop all military actions for good;
the parties to allow free access for humanitarian aid;
Georgian armed forces to return to their places of usual permanent deployment;
Russian armed forces to withdraw to the line they occupied before the start of military actions. Until such time as an international mechanism is created, Russian peacekeeping forces to implement additional security measures;
the parties to engage in international discussions on the modalities of security and stability in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Despite this plan, on 26 August, Russia unilaterally recognised the independence of South Ossetia and of Georgias other separatist region, Abkhazia. Russia also refused to withdraw its forces from Georgia and in some cases moved to reinforce them.
It was in this context that I and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary attended the Extraordinary European Council on 1 September, convened by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in his capacity as current presidency of the EU, to discuss the current crisis in Georgia.
At this meeting the European Council unanimously condemned Russias decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; and expressed its grave concern about the consequences of the conflict and Russias disproportionate military action. Russias actions were in clear breach of international law and of successive UN Security Council Resolutions.
In response to Russian actions, the Council decided to conduct a comprehensive review of EU-Russia relations. This evaluation has begun and will continue in the run up to the next EU-Russia summit scheduled to take place in Nice on 14 November 2008. The EU has decided to suspend negotiations with Russia on the new EU Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA) until Russian troops withdraw from Georgia to their pre-conflict line. We strongly support this decision. As I made clear during Council discussions, although the EU should continue discussions with Russia on areas of interest and concern to the EU, it cannot be business as usual. This review will allow us to take a considered decision about the future of EU-Russia relations.
Russias actions in Georgia illustrate the need for Europe to intensify efforts to ensure its long-term energy security. The European Council tasked the EU with examining initiatives to be taken to this end. We should explore all options for the diversification of energy supply in the EU, including increased support for infrastructure that diversifies energy sources, an increased commitment to renewable energy, measures to improve energy efficiency and measures to improve the internal market.
The international community must support Georgia in rebuilding the damage caused by the conflict. The European Council made clear the EUs commitment to supply humanitarian aid and support for Georgias long-term reconstruction efforts, including in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Council and the Commission have been tasked to start preparations for an international conference to bring focus to reconstruction efforts. The UK will play its part. We have already committed £2 million to Georgia in humanitarian aid. The EU has pledged to step up its relations with Georgia, including through visa facilitation measures, appointing an EU special envoy and the possible establishment of a full and comprehensive free trade area as soon as the conditions are met.
At the European Council, the EU unanimously called on the parties to implement the EU/OSCE peace plan in full. On 8 September, President Sarkozy, EU Commission President Barroso and EU High Representative Solana travelled to Moscow to press Russia to abide by its commitments. I welcome the agreement reached during this meeting that Russia will withdraw its troops from Georgian territory outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia
and that Russia will commit to international discussions on future security modalities. This is a good first step towards peace and security. But it is only the start; Russia must now implement these commitments and must engage fully in finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
The international community will support efforts to ensure lasting peace and security in the region, including through the presence of observers on the ground. In line with the EU Council conclusions and the 8 September Moscow agreement, the European Union will contribute to these efforts. EU Foreign Ministers will discuss the deployment of EU monitors at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on Monday, 15 September. It is vital that international monitors are given free and unfettered access by all sides to carry out their mandate.
The EUs response to this crisis must also consider the implications for the EUs common neighbourhood. On 27 August my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary travelled to Kiev where he made a speech on the need for closer ties between the EU and the region. I am pleased that the Council agreed that the EU should strengthen its relations with the region, including Ukraine. I welcome the successful EUUkraine summit which took place yesterday (9 September). I look forward to the Commissions proposals for enhancing EU relations with the region, due in December this year.
The UK will continue to work with international partners to ensure that effective support is given to Georgia and that a lasting, peaceful solution is reached as soon as possible.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I will continue to keep the House informed of developments.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): I have today published a list of receptions hosted by Department for Work and Pensions Ministers in the 2007-08 financial year.
The total cost of receptions held for the financial year 2007-08 was £368.00.
Introductory reception with key Pensions and Disability stakeholders