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A small minority of visitors deliberately seek to enter the UK, legally or illegally, in order to access NHS services without payment, some returning on a number of occasions for additional treatment while their previous debt remains unpaid. We therefore believe that there is a strong justification for practical working level co-operation between the NHS and UK Border Agency to apply immigration sanctions to those seeking leave to enter or remain when they have substantial uncleared debts to the NHS. It is only fair that these individuals are prevented from returning to the United Kingdom, or extending their stay here, until they have cleared their
debt. The Government therefore propose to amend the immigration rules to provide that non-EEA nationals will normally be refused permission to enter or remain in the United Kingdom if they have significant debts to the NHS.
The Government are also attracted to the principle of visitors (who are not covered by EEA or other reciprocal health agreements), being required to have personal health insurance provision, as is already the case in some other countries. We intend initially to seek views on the merits and feasibility of such a scheme that will inform further work to evaluate possible options.
The proposals apply to England only. The Government will however consult with devolved Administrations, particularly with regard to the proposals on health tourism and health insurance where they may be benefits in a United Kingdom wide approach.
The proposed policy changes in this statement will be put to public consultation in the autumn and full supporting information will be provided at that time. Subject to a positive consultation outcome, revised regulations will then be laid as required to enable changes to take effect.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): Today, 20 July, the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) changed the UK threat level from international terrorism from severe to substantial. This means that a terrorist attack is a strong possibility.
The change in the threat level to substantial does not mean the overall threat has gone away-there remains a real and serious threat against the United Kingdom and I would ask the public remain vigilant.
The decision to change the threat level is taken by JTAC independently of Ministers and is based on the very latest intelligence, considering factors such as capability, intent and timescale. Substantial continues to indicate a high level of threat; and that an attack might well occur without further warning. The threat level is kept under constant review.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): Today the Forced Marriage Unit (a joint Home Office/Foreign and Commonwealth Office unit) launches its Forced Marriage Case Handling Guide for MPs and Constituency Offices.
The guide aims to help Members of Parliament and their staff when they are faced with issues related to forced marriage. It offers background on the issue and gives suggestions of best practice for supporting victims and dealing with their families. It gives details of the Forced Marriage Unit and of non-Government organisations who can offer help and advice and also gives contact details of UK embassies/ High Commissions overseas.
The new guide is available from the House Library. The guide can also be accessed on the Forced Marriage Unit's website at: www.fco.gov.uk/forcedmarriage, and further hard copies can be obtained directly from the unit at the following address:
Forced Marriage Unit
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Old Admiralty Building
London SW1A 2PA
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Alan Campbell): I am pleased to be able to provide a schedule of costs, which has been prepared exceptionally for 2008-09, following the merger of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and the Assets Recovery Agency (ARA) on 1 April 2008.
The figures in the schedule show the sum of assets recovered by SOCA in 2008-09 to be in the region of £3.9 million more than the cost of their recovery activities using the powers inherited from ARA. SOCA is tasked with reducing the harm caused to the UK by organised crime, and numbers alone do not tell the full story, but in the first year of SOCA's use of these new powers it exceeded the Government's target for civil recovery on its own. The Government believe that SOCA's performance in this area of activity fully vindicates its decision to merge both agencies.
The figures provide, as far as it is possible to do, an assessment of the costs incurred by the Serious Organised Crime Agency in recovering assets using powers inherited from ARA during the first year following the merger. Assessing the costs associated to a single work stream within SOCA has proved challenging and significantly more complex than the calculations that could be made for ARA, which was focused on a single area of activity. Given that former ARA work is now only part of a larger organisation with much wider aims and objectives and significantly larger and more varied overhead costs, a like-for-like comparison is difficult.
SOCA's remit is to reduce the harm caused to the UK by serious organised crime. To achieve this SOCA deploys a range of tools. These include: criminal justice interventions (arrests and prosecutions); action to deny criminals access to assets through the use of proceeds of crime legislation and other measures; the disruption of criminal markets and organisations; and the use of ancillary orders such as Serious Crime Prevention Orders. The use of these tools is mainstreamed into the operational activity of the agency. Most operations deploy a number of these tools. It is not possible to identify, in a manner which could be audited, the costs associated with the use of specific tools within any given operation. The identification of costs for powers inherited from ARA is less problematic as civil recovery operations were run as a discrete area of the business in 2008-09.
|Summary Analysis of ARA/SOCA Expenditure on Asset Recovery (2003-04 to 2008-09)|
1. Overview-This statement compares costs in SOCA of taking forward proceeds of crime activities previously undertaken by ARA. It includes an accumulated cost at the request of NAO as the original remit for ARA was that this work would in the longer-term be self-funding. The 2008-09 outturn shows a surplus for the first time, mainly because overhead costs in SOCA are much lower than those in ARA.
2. Centre of Excellence Overheads for 2003-04 to 2005-06 are calculated at 84 per cent. of direct costs based on the average of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 actual costs reported by ARA.
3. Overhead costs in SOCA are c 40 per cent.based on full recovery of all SOCA's infrastructure costs (that is, accommodation; security; IT systems etc) across operational activity areas including former ARA services.
4. The overhead savings are represented in practice by the fact that SOCA has been able to reduce accommodation costs in London and also by the ability to release c 50 FTE staff into other SOCA operational activities following the merger.
5. SOCA costs include VAT which ARA was able to recover-VAT is cost neutral in total public purse terms and deducted from SOCA costs to facilitate direct comparison with ARA costs. Even without this adjustment, a surplus would be shown in 2008-09.
The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): The new White Paper "Eliminating World Poverty: Building our Common Future" sets out the Government's vision of a more focused and effective UN that plans, manages and delivers 'as one' for the world's most vulnerable people. The Government's intention is to put more of our funding through system-wide mechanisms that encourage a joined up, efficient and effective UN effort.
Today I am confirming a pledge I made at the 2008 MDG High-level Event to provide £40 million (over 2009 to 2011) through the new UN MDG "Delivering as One" fund. This new facility, developed jointly with Spain, Norway and the Netherlands, will fund UN-led development work in countries where UN agencies have agreed one programme, one budget, shared back-office services and one strong leader. Experience over recent years indicates that this approach leads to a stronger, more effective and efficient UN at country level, better able to support developing countries' national programmes to meet the MDGs. So far 12 developing countries have adopted this 'one UN' approach and others are expected to follow. UK funding will be closely linked to performance to ensure that the new fund contributes to improved efficiency and effectiveness in the UN's work.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): Today we are announcing the Government's response to the Civil Justice Council's report on "Collective Actions: Improving Access to Justice through Collective Actions".
The Civil Justice Council published its report on collective actions on 12 December 2008. The report proposed that a general legal right for representative bodies to bring collective actions should be created, and that this should be possible either in respect of an identified group of claimants or on behalf of an entire class, that is, for both named and unnamed claimants. Whether to allow a particular collective action to proceed, and whether on an identified group or class basis, would be a matter left to judicial discretion.
Increasing the types of representative bodies that can bring claims.
Making the judiciary the gatekeeper of the procedure.
Permitting claims to be brought on an opt-out basis where it is in the best interests of justice.
Changing the law to permit the award of aggregate damages.
The Government are grateful to the Civil Justice Council for carrying out this review, and welcome the report and its analysis, identifying where further work
or reforms are needed and setting out the case for change. The report has been carefully considered and the Government have concluded that collective actions would be best taken forward on a sector by sector basis. We do not believe that the creation of a generic right to collective action would be appropriate.
There are a number of reasons why we have reached these conclusions. A generic right would introduce the possibility of collective actions for any and all types of civil claim in every sector of society and the economy. It would be very difficult to assess impacts across the entire economy and if the overall benefit was positive that might fail to highlight individual areas where the impact might be adverse.
In addition there may be substantive law issues relating to damages. The potential for a shortfall or surplus cuts across the compensatory principle underpinning (most) civil damages and the appropriate approach may vary according to the type of claim involved and in particular the type of representative body bringing the action.
Nevertheless, collective actions are potentially a useful way to manage mass legal claims in a number of areas where a large number of people are likely to have related grievances. However, there may be strong arguments both for and against the introduction of collective action in any particular sector and the Government do not think it would make sense to impose a one size fits all policy across the whole economy.
Each sector will be responsible for deciding whether to introduce a right of action and for developing the required legislation, where there is evidence of need and following an assessment of economic and other impacts. For example, if the consumer sector, having considered alternative approaches and taken account of stakeholder views and economic impacts into account, decided that collective court actions offered a way forward then they would be able to ask Parliament to give representative bodies the right to bring actions on behalf of consumers.
The Government will work to develop a framework document which will in essence consist of a "toolkit" for legislators. It will identify the key features that legislation granting new rights of action will need to contain. In conjunction with this the Ministry of Justice will develop rules of court. These will be designed to interface with new rights of action and will be sufficiently flexible to deal with any different approaches taken by sectors in respect of such issues as authorisation of bodies, allocation of damages and whether claims are to be brought on an opt-in or an opt-out basis.
Subject to any sector-specific exceptions, the rules will also include provisions for mandatory use of alternative dispute procedures, certification, security for costs, case management and fairness hearings.
Copies of the Government response have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and it is available on the Ministry of Justice website at: www.justice.gov.uk. The Civil Justice Council's report is available on the Civil Justice Council website at: www.civiljusticecouncil.gov.uk.
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