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Written Ministerial Statements

Monday 13 July 2009

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Environment Council (25 June)

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Joan Ruddock) and I, represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 25 June.

Member states agreed the Council conclusions on biodiversity and invasive alien species. The conclusions highlighted the urgent need to make further progress on protecting biodiversity and stressed the need for an EU framework to tackle invasive alien species. The UK welcomed the conclusions and stressed the need for any biodiversity targets post 2010 to be achievable and measurable. Furthermore, the UK agreed that a comprehensive approach to invasive alien species was needed but this should explore all options to ensure that targeted measures were taken at whatever levels would be most effective. The Commission said that it would submit a proposal on invasive alien species in 2010.

Ministers reached political agreement on the recast industrial emissions directive, which incorporates several pieces of existing EU legislation on industrial emissions, notably the integrated pollution prevention and control directive. The UK successfully made the case for further flexibility in the large combustion plant provisions in order to ensure increased protection of the environment without compromising moves to low carbon generation and security of supply. In addition, the UK successfully secured a higher threshold for anaerobic digesters to come within scope of the directive.

The presidency provided an update on progress on the soil framework directive. The Commission underlined the urgent need for an EU legislative framework for the protection of soil, as soil degradation did have significant cross border impacts and could affect the internal market. The UK stated that it still had significant concerns regarding the cost and complexity of implementing the proposed directive and called for a different approach which recognised the differences between member states.

Over lunch member states discussed international climate change, where the UK set out its priorities in the run-up to Copenhagen. The UK stated that the EU needed to maintain engagement bilaterally and multilaterally with key partners at the same time as continuing internal discussions on development of an EU negotiating position ahead of Copenhagen.

Ministers adopted conclusions on the management of bio-waste. The conclusions stressed the importance of bio-waste management and urged the Commission to complete its impact assessment with a view to preparing an EU legislative proposal if appropriate.

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Under "any other business" Ministers discussed a suggestion from Austria that authorisations for cultivation of genetically-modified crops should be taken at member state level; the UK stressed the need for early agreement on the proposal to address illegal timber entering the EU market; and finally, the UK welcomed the Commission communication on carbon capture and geological storage (CCS) in emerging and developing countries.

Home Department

Serious Organised Crime Strategy

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): I am laying before parliament the Government's new Serious Organised Crime Strategy-"Extending Our Reach: A Comprehensive Approach to Tackling Serious Organised Crime". Copies will be available in the Vote Office.

Serious organised crime is a large and growing problem. Trafficking in drugs and people, fraud and financial crime cost the UK Exchequer in the region of £30 billion a year. However, the impact of organised crime is not remote: its victims range from those whose lives are ruined by drug addiction to women who are trafficked for sexual exploitation. If it is allowed to take root, organised crime can create a vicious downward spiral of fear, intimidation and economic decline, which tends to harm the most vulnerable members of society in some of our most deprived communities. So as well as being a question of national security, organised crime is also a question of social justice.

Since publication of the 2004 White Paper "One Step Ahead" the police, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies have made significant progress in the fight against organised crime. It is no exaggeration to say that the UK is a world leader in this area. However five years on, serious organised crime continues to evolve. We are facing new high-tech crimes that did not exist five years ago and organised criminals are increasingly basing themselves in weak and failing states to avoid detection and traffic their drugs.

This means that now is the right time to update and strengthen our response. Today's strategy sets out the reforms we will make to ensure that Government, law enforcement, businesses and citizens are equipped with the necessary tools to reduce the harm caused by organised crime. We will go further than ever before in taking the fight to organised criminals through four key approaches.

First, we will ensure that all organised criminals are within our reach. Using new techniques to create a radically improved intelligence picture, we will take action against all organised criminals, making the principle of "lifetime management" a reality-from the traditionally "hard to touch" at the top end, through to the long tail operating at the lower end of the organised crime spectrum.

Secondly, we will consider all approaches to tackling organised crime. We will use whatever tools work best to have maximum impact. Whenever we can we will prosecute. But we will also go further in using non-criminal proceedings-administrative, immigration, regulatory or tax powers-to disrupt the activities of those involved in serious organised crime and do even more to recover their finances and assets.

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Thirdly, we will ensure that the whole of Government play their part in the fight against organised crime. We will strengthen the criminal justice system approach (from prevention through to imprisonment) and also bring to bear the powers of agencies working outside of law enforcement-like local authorities or bodies such as the DVLA, the Health and Safety Executive, or local housing offices-to combat organised crime together.

Finally, we will maximise collective efforts overseas-from capacity building in states at risk from organised crime through to strengthening multilateral institutions. Similarly, we will work closer with the private sector, for example, in preventing e-crime, and with the public to engage their help in the response.

Serious organised crime threatens our safety, damages our communities and subverts our economy. The magnitude, scope and sophistication of serious organised crime in the 21st century demands an equally sophisticated and ambitious response from Government to tackle it.

Both Government Departments and law enforcement agencies will have a key role to play in implementing this strategy. That is why I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Sir Ian Andrews as the new chairman of the Serious Organised Crime Agency. I believe that Sir Ian has the necessary skills and experience to help guide SOCA through the coming years, so that they can play a full part in delivering this strategy.


Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide (Custody Provisions)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Claire Ward): The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 received Royal Assent on 26 July 2007.

An organisation is guilty of the new offence if the way in which its activities are managed or organised causes a death and this amounts to a gross breach of a relevant duty of care to the deceased. A substantial part of the breach must have been in the way activities were managed by senior management.

The majority of the Act was implemented on 6 April 2008, with the exception of section 2(1)(d) which makes the duty of care a custody provider owes to a person who is detained a relevant duty of care, and section 10 on publicity orders where we await guidelines to be issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council.

Procedures for caring for some of society's most vulnerable or volatile people are highly complex. When the legislation was passed we explained that a period of three to five years would be needed for custody providers to prepare for implementation of section 2(l)(d).

We are publishing a second annual report today which should be read in conjunction with the 2008 report. Our second annual report discusses the progress made by the various custody providers since this time last year and what remains to be done. While implementing the Act provides a useful catalyst and driver, reducing deaths in custody is a core part of long-term work by the Government together with custody providers and this long-term agenda is reflected in the report.

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We have made significant progress in the last 12 months and we remain on course to commence the implementation of section 2(1)(d) by April 2011 as previously announced.

The report includes developments in Northern Ireland for which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, has responsibility under the Act.

Copies of the report can be found in the Libraries of both Houses. The report is also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper office and on the Ministry of Justice's website at: www.justice.gov.uk

David Blakey Report

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Maria Eagle): I am making this statement to update the House of the progress we have made in implementing the Blakey report: "Disrupting the Supply of Illicit Drugs into Prisons", which was published in July 2008.

David Blakey CBE QPM DL, a former inspector of constabulary and chief constable of West Mercia, was commissioned to conduct a review into the effectiveness of the Prison Service's measures for disrupting the supply of drugs into prisons, and to make recommendations for improvements. The Blakey report made 10 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Government.

Over the past 12 months we have made significant progress in implementing all the recommendations.

In addition, work continues to strengthen prison intelligence gathering, and to trial and roll-out mobile phone blockers, in line with David Blakey's recommendations.

Tackling the supply of drugs and mobile phones into prisons requires a multi-agency response, and we are working closely with the police and other key partners. I would also like to pay tribute to the continuing hard work of staff to reduce the supply and impact of drugs and phones.


"Building a Society for All Ages"

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Angela Eagle): I am pleased to announce that we are today publishing "Building a Society for All Ages": a strategy setting out a programme of action to respond to the challenges and opportunities presented as our society grows older.

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As a country, we are living through an enormous demographic shift with more of us living for longer than ever before. While this is not a new phenomenon, the UK has just passed a tipping point. In 2007, the number of adults below state pension age compared to those over it began to decline for the first time in 25 years. This is a result both of greater individual longevity and also of the baby boomer generations born after the second world war starting to reach state pension age.

Across society, we will all need to act to make the most of these opportunities. We need to ban unjustifiable age discrimination and end outdated attitudes which too often drive our expectations and treatment of older
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people. Achieving this will enable individuals to lead the later life that they want and allow society to harness the skills and experience of our older population to the benefit of all our communities and our economy.

"Building a Society for All Ages" sets out a programme of action to support change by individuals, in families, in the workplace and the economy and in public services and communities. It includes measures to support people to look forward and plan earlier and to encourage them to remain active and participate fully in society in their later lives. We also set out plans to improve the provision of information, help and support for those who need it.

Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

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