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Northern Ireland

Justice and Security (Northern Ireland ) Act 2007 (Independent Reviewer's Report)

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Paul Goggins): Robert Whalley CB has submitted his first report as independent reviewer of the Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (the “2007 Act”). I have today arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The report of the independent reviewer covers the operation of section 21 to 32 of the 2007 act and also the procedures adopted by the General Officer Commanding Northern Ireland for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints. The report covers the period 1 August 2007 to 31 May 2008.

The report provides a positive assessment of the use of the powers under the 2007 Act and makes clear the need for their continued requirement. The report provides a valuable reassurance to both the public and Government on the use of these powers ensuring that they are exercised appropriately and proportionately.

The report paints a positive assessment of the procedures adopted by the GOC for dealing with military complaints. I welcome Mr. Whalley’s undertaking to explore this issue in more detail in his next report.

I welcome the recommendations made by Robert Whalley and I will consider them carefully.


Private Hire Vehicles (Bus Provisions)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark): Section 53 of the Local Transport Act 2008 allows the owners of private hire vehicles (PHVs or minicabs) to provide local bus services in the way that taxis (hackney carriages) are already able to do. This will bring benefits in extending the range of transport services available, particularly to those in rural areas

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I have today published a consultation paper seeking views on the draft regulations which are necessary to enable PHV owners to use their vehicles in this way.

The draft regulations will apply in England (outside London), Wales and Scotland. Transport for London are responsible for making any regulations governing PHV-buses in London.

Copies of the consultation—including the draft regulations and a consultation-stage impact assessment—have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The documents are also available on the Department for Transport’s website.

Those wishing to comment on the proposals have until 13 March 2009 to do so.

Work and Pensions

Child Dependency Increases

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): I would like to announce measures to ensure that people who have dependent children will continue to receive the benefit they are entitled to through child dependency increases, payable with incapacity benefit, state pension, widows benefit, bereavement benefit, and carer’s allowance.

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The Child Benefit Act 2005 introduced a new definition of “qualifying young person” used to decide whether or not child benefit is payable for people aged 16 to 19. However, the Act did not make corresponding amendments to provisions for child dependency increases made under the Tax Credits Act 2002.

As a result, payments of child dependency increases, where the child is aged 16 years or over are not covered by primary legislation from 10 April 2006. This omission in primary legislation was an oversight and did not reflect Parliament’s intentions. Consequently these payments are considered irregular.

We estimate that 28,800 increases are affected in 2006-07 and 24,500 in 2007-08, with the level of overpayment amounting to approximately £15.1 million in 2006-07 and £12.6 million in 2007-08.

To enable payments of child dependency increases to continue as normal, we will reverse the unintentional effects of the Child Benefit Act 2005, by including a measure in the forthcoming Welfare Reform Bill. We expect this to be introduced in early 2009.

In the meantime I am issuing this statement to provide transparency and an assurance that no-one will lose any benefit entitlement or be asked to make any repayment as a result of this oversight in legislation.

This statement has been approved by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

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