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Some possible new measures under consideration

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Rural Payments Agency

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I have set the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) the following performance targets for 2009-10.

Service delivery quality

To administer common agricultural policy and other schemes to meet the following requirements:

To demonstrate a continued commitment to customers by achieving a minimum annual average customer satisfaction score of 7.0 out of 10.0, as measured through surveys of external customers, and by reducing the number of complaints received compared with 2008-09.

Value for public money

Capacity and capability

Further details are given in the RPA business plan for 2009-10, copies of which will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): I wish to update the House on recent developments related to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG, Kew).

I am pleased to announce that on 1 August 2009 Sir Neil Chalmers, Warden of Wadham College, Oxford and a former Director of the Natural History Museum, will commence an independent review of RBG, Kew. Sir Neil will be supported by a small team of independent consultants. The last review was carried out in 2001, although there was a separate independent audit of Kew's scientific activities in 2006.

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Non-departmental public bodies such as RBG, Kew benefit significantly from regular and objective reviews, which examine their role, performance and priorities. To carry out such a review now gives us a timely and valuable opportunity to examine how RBG, Kew can continue to deliver its statutory functions effectively and maintain the quality and value of its scientific contribution in critical areas such as the conservation of global biodiversity.

The following terms of reference have been drawn up to guide the review:

The review will be carried out openly and transparently and users, customers and stakeholders of RBG, Kew will be consulted. Sir Neil's recommendations will be published along with the Government's response.

I will update the House as necessary.

Animal Products (Imports)

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jim Fitzpatrick): As required under the Animal Health Act 1981 (as amended by the Animal Health Act 2002) the Government will publish today a review of controls on the import of animal products for the financial year 2008-09. I welcome the opportunity to review and report on efforts during the past year to reduce the risk of disease entering the country via imports of animal products.

The control of imports of animal products remains a major concern for the Government as we fully appreciate the devastating effect that disease outbreaks can have on our farming of livestock and crops and on the environment and, in trying to protect animal health, we know how important it is to take a variety of measures at the border and inland. It has once again been a challenging year in monitoring the constantly changing disease situation around the world and evaluating and responding to threats. We continue to ensure that veterinary checks are carried out on legally imported animal products from non-European Union (EU) countries and work closely with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC)/United Kingdom Border Agency (UKBA) and other
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relevant Government Departments to combat the risk of major diseases entering the country through illegal imports from outside the EU.

UKBA continues to deliver an enforcement strategy that targets anti-smuggling activity on the highest risk traffic to combat illegal imports of animal products into Great Britain (GB) and to review deployment of resources and react flexibly in response to changes in the pattern of risk.

There continues to be a joined-up approach across Government Departments on an overall communications strategy to raise awareness among international travellers of the personal import rules for food, with a great deal of publicity continuing to be undertaken inland within GB, at the border and also overseas.

These are some of the highlights of our working during the year:

We will continue to monitor and assess the changing threats from around the world, and work with HMRC/UKBA and other enforcement partners to make sure that our enforcement activity at UK borders is targeted at the current risks.

Copies of the Review are available on the DEFRA 'personal food imports' website:, and will be sent to stakeholders for information seeking their feedback. Hard copies will also be available on request.

Single Payment Scheme

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): As at 30 June, the end of the regulatory payment window for the 2008 single payment scheme, a total of £1.625 billion, representing some 99.69 per cent. of the estimated total fund had been paid in full payments to 104,199 claimants.

These figures confirm that the agency has helped to ensure that the UK as a whole has met the EU requirement that 96.154 per cent. of 2008 scheme payments be made by 30 June. This follows earlier confirmation that the agency had met its formal performance targets for this scheme year.

Reaching these targets continues to demonstrate improvements in RPA's performance and levels of service to its customers and provide another important step forward for the agency.

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Of the outstanding 2008 claims on which processing is not complete, approximately 400 are expected to result in a payment in due course. Work continues to complete the necessary validation of those claims as soon as possible. Interest will be paid to claimants on sums paid after 30 June on the same basis as for previous scheme years. The agency will continue to address any cases of individual hardship as sympathetically as possible.

Alongside that work, RPA has already begun processing the 107,000 or so claims that have been submitted under the 2009 SPS. Formal payment targets will be announced separately, but I know the agency Chief Executive is expecting to at least match RPA performance under the 2008 scheme when nearly £1 billion was paid out by the end of December.

Home Department

Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): I am pleased to announce Her Majesty the Queen's appointment of Timothy Godwin OBE, QPM as the next Deputy Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

I made my recommendation to Her Majesty following an open competition for the selection of a new Deputy Commissioner and having regard to the recommendations made to me by the Metropolitan police authority and representations from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis.

I am confident that Timothy Godwin will be an excellent Deputy Commissioner and will help the Commissioner to lead the Metropolitan police service in delivering for the public both in London and nationally.

Consultation (Charges)

The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Phil Woolas): The biggest shake-up to our border protection and immigration system for over 45 years is well underway. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, which will fundamentally overhaul the laws regarding obtaining British citizenship is currently progressing through Parliament. We will also look to simplify our immigration laws further through legislation to be published later this year in Parliament.

The UK Border Agency was established in April 2008 to create a strong new force at the border by bringing together immigration, customs and visa checks to strengthen the UK border. We want the UK to stay open and attractive for both business and visitors, but at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border control which is among the strongest in the world.

Inward investment and tourism benefit Britain greatly. The Government are committed to boosting Britain's economy by bringing the right skills from around the world and ensuring that it is easy to visit legally. We want to continue to welcome the holidaymakers, visitors,
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business people and genuine students who come here, recognising the valuable contribution they make to economic growth and the way they enrich our society through cultural exchange.

For the immigration system to command public support, both among the British public and legitimate migrants, we need an immigration system that is fair and effective. The integrity of the immigration system depends on robust borders, with effective security overseas and in the UK ensuring and enforcing compliance with our immigration laws. To help achieve this, those who benefit directly from our immigration system (migrants, employers and educational institutions) should contribute to the costs of the system and enable us to meet our strategic objectives.

Later this summer the Government will publish a consultation document on charging for certain services we provide. To maintain our world class immigration system currently costs over £2.2 billion per annum. UK Border Agency currently recovers approximately 30 per cent. of this spend through fees for applications and services we offer. We believe it is right that users of that system make an appropriate contribution to meeting those costs, to help manage the burden on the UK taxpayer. The purpose of consulting is to ensure that we are getting that balance right in the broader interests of the UK.

The consultation document will set out some options on how we can charge for our services. We want a genuine debate on the most appropriate way to charge. We will be engaging with stakeholders throughout the consultation period in order to get the views and ideas from as many people as possible. Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and will be available for downloading from the UK Border Agency website:

Identity and Passport Service Annual Report and Accounts

The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Phil Woolas): The Identity and Passport Service Annual Report and Accounts 2008-09 have been laid before the House today and copies placed in the Vote Office. Publication will take place shortly.

Independent Police Complaints Commission Annual Report

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): I am pleased to announce that today my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I are laying before Parliament the Annual Report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which will be published today.

This is the fifth annual report from the IPCC. The report covers the work of the IPCC during 2008-09 and includes a discrete chapter on the discharge of their responsibilities in respect of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. The report also includes a chapter on
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deaths during or following police contact, which shows continued year-on-year decreases in the number of deaths.

During this year the IPCC has continued to make significant improvements in their performance having set some ambitious targets. The IPCC has a key role in increasing confidence in the police complaints system which will, in turn, impact positively on public confidence in the police. In a recent survey conducted by the British Market Research Bureau, 88 per cent. of those surveyed said they thought the IPCC would treat a complaint against the police fairly. I am satisfied that the IPCC is ready to meet the challenges. We will continue to work with the IPCC to ensure it continues to meet its statutory remit.

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