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Of the 2,159 DNA profiles received from crimes scenes in the Netherlands, 22 full matches were established against individuals on the UK DNA database. Ten of the individuals identified have committed offences in the UK since January 2007 and represent a total of 13 convictions. The individuals were convicted of a range of offences, the most serious being one case of aggravated
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burglary. Cases are pending against four individuals in respect of six other alleged offences with the most serious being attempted robbery.

The UK authorities have been in close liaison with the Dutch authorities since February this year, providing information to progress inquiries in the Netherlands. All relevant additional DNA work and inquiries in the UK have been completed. We have not yet received any requests for action under a European arrest warrant but stand ready to assist as quickly as possible.

This exercise has shown the value of this sort of information exchange in taking forward criminal investigations across borders. I am grateful for the joint working undertaken by the police and prosecuting authorities both here and in the Netherlands. For the future, the UK has agreed the European Council decision on the stepping up of cross-border cooperation, particularly in combating terrorism and cross-border crime (known as the PrĂ1/4m Council decision) which will provide a mechanism for member states’ law enforcement authorities to search quickly across the EU for matches against DNA and fingerprint data, where a successful “hit” could be followed with a request for detailed information. It will also provide such authorities with direct access to vehicle registration data. All member states must implement this measure within the next three years. It should enable a much quicker and more efficient sharing of data in order to prevent, detect and investigate serious and terrorist-related crime while maintaining appropriate data protection safeguards.


Publication of Rail Accident Investigation Branch Investigation

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I would like to inform the House that the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) has today published its final report on the rail accident that occurred near Grayrigg in Cumbria on 23 February 2007. A copy of the report is available in the House Libraries. Copies of the report are also available on the RAIB website at:

In summary, the report concludes that the immediate cause of the derailment was the deterioration of Lambrigg 2B points through a combination of failures of the three stretcher bars, the lock stretcher bar, and their fastenings. The unsafe condition arose as a result of a combination of three factors, which were the mechanical failure of a bolted joint, the incorrect set up of the points and a track inspection that was missed on 18 February 2007. It makes a number of important recommendations to the rail industry aimed at ensuring that the lessons are learned from this accident.

I know that right hon. and hon. Members, and the travelling public, will want to be assured that the rail network is safe. The RAIB have already issued urgent safety advice to the rail industry—in June and November 2007—as their investigation progressed. The independent rail safety regulator, the Office of Rail Regulation, has assured me that no further immediate actions to ensure the safety of passengers and staff using Network Rail’s infrastructure are necessary as a result of the report, beyond those that have already been taken.

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All RAIB investigations include a review of previous similar occurrences and the action taken in response to any related recommendations. In this context the RAIB reviewed the investigation into the accident at Potters Bar on May 2002.

I will consider the detail of the report carefully and take a decision on the most appropriate way forward, both with regard to the accident at Grayrigg and the derailment at Potters Bar, the inquest for which was adjourned in February 2007 pending the outcome of the investigations into Grayrigg. I will also write to the affected parties shortly to seek their views and anticipate announcing my decision to the House early in the new year.

I appreciate that this will mean a short further delay for the relatives of the bereaved, and I regret this. However, I consider it essential to ensure that the way forward is one that will deliver closure to those who were affected, as soon as possible. I am sure that the House will agree that it is important that full consideration is given to the RAIB report, and that the right decisions are made on how to proceed.

Work and Pensions

Cold Weather Payments

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Kitty Ussher): I am pleased to announce that, following advice from the Meteorological Office, the annual review of the Cold Weather Payments scheme has now been completed. Amending regulations were laid on 6 October and will come into force on 27 October, in part, and on 1 November—remaining part— in time for the beginning of the winter period.

Two of the weather stations used to provide data for the scheme last winter, Great Malvern and Fylingdales, are being removed from the scheme and two alternative weather stations, Hereford-Credenhill and Leconfield, are being introduced. Great Malvern, a manned station, is closing as part of a network rationalisation that will place more reliance on automatic weather stations. The Fylingdales station is due to be automated. There is uncertainty over the supply of temperature data during the transition from manual to automatic observations. The alternative weather stations have been chosen to provide a neutral or indeed a more accurate assessment for those eligible.

I have written to each of the hon. Members affected by these changes.

The amending regulations also provide for an increase in the rate of a Cold Weather Payment from £8.50 to £25 for winter of 2008-09 as announced on 11 September.

In order to maintain the policy intention of making Cold Weather Payments to vulnerable groups, people in receipt of income-related employment and support allowance in the main phase have been added to the list of eligible customers, as have those in the assessment phase who have a pensioner or disability premium, or have a child who is disabled or under the age of five.

Cold Weather Payments are separate from, and in addition to, winter fuel payments which are paid to eligible people from age 60.

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