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Given the ongoing threat faced by our forces and the local Afghan population, this information is critical, and in some cases 96 hours will not be long enough to gain that information from the detainee. Indeed, many insurgents are aware of the 96 hours policy and simply say nothing for that entire period. In these circumstances, the Government have concluded that Ministers should be able to authorise detention beyond 96 hours, in British detention facilities to which the ICRC has access. Each case will be thoroughly scrutinised against the relevant legal and policy considerations; we will only do this where it is legal to do so and when it is necessary to support the operation and protect our troops.

Following a ministerial decision to authorise extended detention, each case will be thoroughly and regularly monitored by in-theatre military commanders and civilian advisers. Individuals will not remain in UK detention if there is no further intelligence to be gained. We will then either release the detainee or transfer the detainee to the Afghan authorities. We have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Afghanistan, requiring that individuals detained by UK forces and transferred to the Afghan authorities are treated properly. Following transfer, we continue to work with the Afghans in support of their judicial processes, maintaining close links and monitoring the application of the MOU, including through regular visits by Royal Military Police and British embassy staff to transferred detainees. The ICRC also has access to the Afghan system.

We ask our armed forces to operate in highly dangerous environments. In Afghanistan the capacity of the local agencies to enforce security and the rule of law is growing by the day, but it is vital that our forces have the authority and the capability to deal effectively with the serious threat to troops and those they are there to protect. I recognise the sensitivity of detention operations, but they are fundamental to the success of our military operations in Afghanistan, as has been proven in other operational areas.

UK forces in Afghanistan operate, and will continue to operate, in accordance with international law and with the highest standards of conduct that we rightly expect of them.

Energy and Climate Change

Environment Council

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, and Andy Lebrecht, UKRep, represented the UK at the Environment Council on 21 October in Luxembourg.

Member states reached agreement on the Council conclusions concerning the EU position for the forthcoming Copenhagen climate conference. Dinner discussions on 20 October saw early positioning of member states for the following day's debate and the UK was among those arguing for ambitious conclusions to send a clear signal of intent prior to the international negotiations in December. The Council agreed on a text containing three compromises relating to the long-term EU emissions-reduction target, bunker fuels and assigned amount units (AAUs). At lunch, the discussion centred on the need to engage with business and expertise as well as co-ordinating EU messaging and maintaining contact in the run-up to Copenhagen.

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Ministers also adopted Council conclusions relating to the role of a low-carbon, resource-efficient economy in the post-2010 Lisbon strategy. The UK welcomed the aims of the conclusions.

On the subject of ship dismantling, the Council also approved conclusions calling for the early ratification and implementation of the Hong Kong international convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships and inviting the Commission to consider EU legislation in this area.

A policy debate reviewing the restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS) and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) directives highlighted different views among member states regarding the scope of the directives. The UK raised concerns about moving to an "open" scope for both directives without proper assessment of the impacts of such a move and this was supported by several other member states. The presidency concluded that most delegations were open to separate scopes for RoHS but that the scope of WEEE need further reflection.

Ministers also discussed several AOB items. A number of member states highlighted the problem of forest fires. In response to concerns about the "cocktail" effect of mixtures of chemicals, the presidency confirmed they would present conclusions to the December Environment Council. Several delegations shared their concerns about "plastic soup"-plastic marine debris floating in the oceans.

Home Department

Communications Data Consultation

The Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism (Mr. David Hanson): On April 27 the Home Office published a consultation, "Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment", which set out the importance of communications data in helping to protect and safeguard the public; how the rapidly changing communications environment means the existing capability of the police, the security and intelligence agencies and other public authorities is declining and why change is necessary. Today I am publishing the Summary and Responses submitted as part of this consultation exercise.

Communications data are information about a communication but do not include the content of a communication.

Used in the right way, and subject to important safeguards to protect individuals' right to privacy, communications data can play a critical role in keeping all of us safe. It enables investigators to identify suspects and their associates; provides vital clues in solving life-threatening situations such as kidnaps, and evidence supporting alibis and prosecutions; supports lawful interception of communications; and assists the emergency services to help or locate vulnerable people. It is also critical to safeguarding our national security, and in particular to countering the terrorist threat.

The consultation paper sought views on options for maintaining our vital communications data capabilities to protect the public against a background of rapid
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technological change. It rejected options for both a single database holding all communications data and a "do nothing" option. Instead it proposed a "middle way" approach involving two main elements for which new legislation would be required. These elements were:

The Home Office received 221 responses to the consultation exercise. As explained in the Summary and Responses, the Government's rejection of a central database for all communications data was welcomed. There was also recognition of the importance of communications data and agreement that the capability of communications data to protect the public should be maintained.

As we develop the approach proposed in the consultation in the light of the responses received, we will continue to work closely with communications service providers in order to minimise as far as possible any impact on them. We will also ensure that any new proposals will include strong safeguards to minimise the potential for abuse and to ensure the security and integrity of the data.

A copy of the Summary of Responses will be placed in the House Library.


Data Protection

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): I am today publishing a consultation paper entitled "Civil Monetary Penalties, Setting the Maximum Penalty". The paper explains the Government's proposal to set the maximum penalty for civil monetary penalties at £500,000. Civil monetary penalties, as set out under sections 55A-E of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) would be imposed by the Information Commissioner for serious breaches of the data protection principles.

The Government are particularly seeking views from data controllers on the level of the proposed penalty, but responses to the consultation are welcome from anyone with an interest. The Government's proposal to introduce civil monetary penalties reflects the importance that Government place on safeguarding personal data effectively and processing them responsibly and lawfully. The proposals will potentially affect data controllers in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, so this consultation is UK-wide.

Before imposing any civil monetary penalties the Information Commissioner has a statutory obligation to publish detailed guidance setting out the criteria it will use when imposing a civil monetary penalty, and circumstances it will take into consideration.

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The Information Commissioner's Office has published on its website the latest draft of its guidance on civil monetary penalties and would welcome comments on it.

The introduction of civil monetary penalties should contribute to increased compliance with the data protection principles and greater confidence for data subjects that their information is being handled correctly.

Copies of the consultation paper and associated impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Department's website at: www.justice.

Body Orifice Security Scanners

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Maria Eagle): I am making this statement to update the House about the roll-out of Body Orifice Security Scanners (BOSS) chairs.

In my written ministerial statement of 13 July 2009, Official Report, column 4WS stated that we had equipped all prisons with a Body Orifice Security Scanner (BOSS) chair and that the roll-out was completed in May. It has now been brought to my attention that five out the 128 BOSS chairs were not delivered on time and I wish to update the House. All chairs have now been delivered; one in June, three in July and one in September. The relevant Prison Service Instruction (PSI) mandates that governors must ensure that use of the BOSS is incorporated into local security strategies in the light of local operational priorities.


National Policy Statement for Ports

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Department for Transport, Lord Adonis, has made the following ministerial statement:

Work and Pensions

Pension Protection System

The Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society (Angela Eagle): As hon. Members are aware some of the administrative resource costs of the pensions regulator (tPR), the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), the Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) and the pensions ombudsman (PO) are recovered through levies raised on pension schemes. The rates for these levies are set in regulations.

The PPF administration levy recovers the administration costs of the board of the PPF only in relation to its PPF activities. Any administration costs in relation to PPF's financial assistance scheme responsibilities are funded separately and there is no cross-subsidy from the PPF levy.

The general levy provides for some of the administration costs of tPR and those of TPAS and the PO. Activities the regulator is undertaking in relation to the employer compliance regime are not met from the general levy and are funded separately. There is no cross-subsidy between the two funding sources.

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I am pleased to announce that for 2010-11 we will continue to freeze the rates for both the PPF administration levy and the general levy at the same levels set for 2008-09.

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This will be the third year that we have kept rates stable and delivers on the Government's intention to provide levy cost stability for pension schemes.

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