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Written Ministerial Statements

Friday 24 April 2009

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Private Military and Security Companies

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is today launching a public consultation on our proposed policy to promote high standards of the private military and security company industry internationally. The aims of the policy are to promote high standards of conduct by PMSCs internationally, and to reduce the risk that the activities of PMSCs might give rise to human rights or humanitarian law concerns, assist internal repression, or provoke or prolong internal or regional tension.

We will be consulting on our preferred option, which consists of a three part package of:

We will work with the relevant UK trade association to devise a code of conduct to which all its members would adhere. The association would implement the code. We believe that security companies will find it in their commercial interests to adhere to the code, which will be agreed with and monitored by the Government. We will be asking that all companies bidding for Government contracts must undertake to follow regulatory, humanitarian and ethical standards consistent with the trade association’s code of conduct, or can show adherence to other equivalent standards. PMSCs operate in a global environment and international co-operation is necessary to promote high standards. To this end, we will:


Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo): I have received the Business Plan for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) which has been placed in the Library of the House.

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The agency has an important role to protect public health in the UK by ensuring that all medicines and medical devices are acceptably safe. The Business Plan for 2009-10 sets out specific key and high level targets for the agency for the coming year.

Home Department

Police Injury Benefits

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Vernon Coaker): Today I am publishing a report which summarises the responses to the public consultation exercise on the review of police injury benefits. A full account of the individual responses is attached as an annex to the report.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Mr. McNulty), the then Minister of State for Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing, issued a consultation document in August 2008, “Review of Police Injury Benefits - Government Proposals”. The aim of the review has been to ensure that the financial support currently given to police officers and their families for injury or death in the line of duty meets modern requirements, is properly targeted and is efficiently administered.

The consultation exercise invited comments on 51 proposals, and closed on 18 November 2008. In total, 41 responses were received, including 30 from police forces, police authorities and police staff associations. I am grateful to all those who took the time to send in their comments. Overall the responses demonstrate a high level of support for the majority of changes proposed. Some of the 51 proposals, such as the proposal to extend survivor pensions to the nominated unmarried partners of officers killed in the line of duty, received strong support from all respondents. A number of proposals received comments which, while supportive, require further work to be done on the detail to ensure that we achieve our intended objectives.

Although the public consultation has been completed, five proposals will be the subject of further consultation with the police staff associations and other representatives on the Police Negotiating Board, in order to ensure that their implementation would not undermine the reassurance that officers are entitled to expect when they are exposed to danger in the course of confrontational and other operational duties, and also in order to discuss practical ways in which to improve the safety of officers while on journeys to and from their place of work.

I intend any amendments to the present Injury Benefit regulations to be in place by the end of this year but this timetable is subject to the further consultation with the Police Negotiating Board and agreement on a complete package of changes that meets the aim of the review. The changes would apply to officers serving on or after the date they come into force, and would not apply retrospectively to those who have ceased to serve by that date.

I am placing a copy of the report, “Review of Police Injury Benefits - Summary and Analysis of Consultation Responses”, in the Library of the House.

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Gurkhas (Settlement)

The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Phil Woolas): In 2004, the right to settle in the United Kingdom was given to Gurkhas who had been discharged from the British Army on or after 1 July 1997. This was the date of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China and the point at which the Brigade of Gurkhas moved their headquarters from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

Guidance was issued to immigration case workers on how to consider applications from Gurkhas who had been discharged before 1 July 1997.

In September 2008 the High Court ruled that the policy of using 1 July 1997 as a cut-off date was fair but also found that the guidance used by case workers when making decisions on those discharged before 1997 needed to be much clearer in setting out the factors which were to be given weight in assessing which individuals should be offered settlement in the UK.

The Government fully accepted this judgment. The guidance has now been revised and is available on the UK Border Agency website. In considering changes to the guidance, we have taken on board not only the letter of what the judge said in this case but also the spirit of his judgment. The new guidance will ensure that those who have given outstanding service will be entitled to settle in the UK. In summary, under the terms of the guidance, Gurkhas and their families will be able to come to the UK to settle where they meet one of the following criteria:

Additionally, discretion will normally be exercised and settlement in the UK granted if two or more of the following criteria are met:

We estimate that this guidance will mean that over 4,000 ex-Gurkhas and around 6,000 spouses and children will qualify for settlement rights in the UK. We will be
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proud to welcome those individuals to the UK in recognition of the outstanding service that they gave. We will work with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that those who might be eligible in Nepal are fully aware of these changes and of the opportunity for settlement.

The Government both recognise and honour the huge contribution that the Brigade of Gurkhas has made, and continues to make, to the Armed Forces. This contribution is chiefly recognised through the arrangements made to support Gurkhas following their discharge. Prior to 2007 the Gurkhas completed their service at the age of 33 and from that time and the rest of their lives they received a pension which allows for a very good standard of living in Nepal. The pension is generous and has been significantly increased over the last decade.

I hope that former Gurkhas and their supporters will work with us to raise awareness of the new guidance and ensure that those eligible to settle in the UK under its terms are aware of that choice.

In line with our commitment to the High Court, we will now reconsider all outstanding appeals by 11 June 2009.

I intend to initiate a review of the impact of the guidance in 12 months’ time.

Women and Equality

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Councillors Taskforce

The Parliamentary Secretary, Government Equalities Office (Maria Eagle): In May 2008 the Government Equalities Office established a cross-party taskforce chaired by Baroness Uddin to take practical action to make local councils more representative.

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 from around 149 of all councillors in England to nearer 1,000.

The taskforce has been leading a national outreach programme to raise awareness of the role of councillors, provide practical advice and encourage more women to engage in public life.

Today I am announcing a councillor mentoring-shadowing scheme as part of the taskforce’s work programme. It will be delivered by Operation Black Vote and will allow 50 women to shadow councillors from participating local authorities around Britain and receive training. The scheme will commence in the autumn and will provide women with support in taking their next steps to becoming a local councillor.

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