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The report charts the progress that has been made including the delivery of significant improvements in a number of areas. For example we have doubled the compensation paid for the most serious injuries; extended eligibility to affordable housing schemes; opened up access to free further education for service leavers; improved the immigration arrangements for families of Foreign and Commonwealth personnel; and taken steps to ensure that service families retain their places on NHS waiting lists when they move. Other measures will be delivered in the coming months, such as the MOD's affordable home ownership pilot scheme. The report
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also highlights areas where we may need to do more, such as ensuring that veterans receive priority treatment under the NHS when entitled to it, and that childcare arrangements meet the requirements of service families. The Government will be following up the valuable points made in the report, for example by taking further steps to raise awareness of veterans' needs among GPs, and pressing on generally with implementation of the measures announced last year. Our commitment continues undiminished.

The ERG brings together representatives from a wide range of Government Departments and the Devolved Administrations, with leading charities and the service families federations. It offers a unique perspective on how well we are doing, and I am very grateful to its members. This report shows how the dialogue between Government and the third sector on how best to support the armed forces community has grown and developed over the past year. That relationship, and its continued improvement, is very important to us. I look forward to the ERG's future reports as further progress is made in this vital work.

I commend to the House this annual report on the nation's commitment to the armed forces community.

Reserves Call-Out Order

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Bill Rammell): With the expiry of the call-out Order made on 11 November 2008, a new Order has been made under Section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into service to support operations in Afghanistan. The new Order is effective until 10 November 2010. Reservists continue to make a valuable contribution to operations in that country and some 1200 reservists are currently called-out and serving, of whom 650 are deployed in theatre. The remainder are preparing for, or recovering from, operations.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Flood and Water Management Bill

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): I would like to inform the House that today I have introduced to Parliament a revised Flood and Water Management Bill, laid regulations under the European Communities Act to implement the EU floods directive and published a command paper setting out the Government's response to pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation on the draft Bill.

The floods in 2007 claimed 13 lives and cost our economy £3 billion.

Sir Michael Pitt undertook a comprehensive review of the lessons to be learned from the floods. He called for urgent and fundamental changes in the way the country is adapting to the increased risk of flooding. To ensure that the 5 million people living in flood risk areas around the country are better protected we are also
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investing more than ever in maintaining traditional flood defences-£2.15 billion in the current spending round.

Since the 2007 floods the Environment Agency has completed and maintained 102 flood defence schemes, protecting over 63,000 additional homes in England. Operating authorities are currently on course to exceed delivery targets and provide better protection to 160,000 homes over the three years to March 2011.

In this time, Government have also, among other measures, provided £15 million funding to local authorities to help them manage local flood risk, and set up a flood forecasting centre that will improve the way we predict potential flooding and the exchange of information between emergency services.

We also promised legislation as a central part of this programme of action.

In April this year, the UK Government and Welsh Assembly Government published the draft Flood and Water Management Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny and public consultation.

The public consultation on the draft Bill in England and Wales generated over 650 responses. A summary of the responses is also being published today on the DEFRA website at:

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee published its report on its pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill on 23 September. The Department is grateful to the Committee, and to those who gave evidence, for their vigour and commitment in developing the report. The Government have considered it very carefully.

We believe the consultation responses indicate broad support for our overarching proposals. Both they and the EFRA Select Committee's report gave valuable and useful feedback that has informed the way forward, which is now set out in the command paper published today. That command paper sets out the Department's response to each of the recommendations made by the Select Committee.

In line with one of the Committee's recommendations I have also today arranged for copies of a statement from Ofwat to be placed in the House Library. This statement sets out Ofwat's assessment of the risks to water industry investors of the Bill's proposed changes to the regulatory regime.

Some have argued that it is preferable to wait until it is possible to bring forward a single Bill which makes all the necessary changes to both flood and water legislation and brings them together with the current statute book. However, the Government are clear that it should legislate as soon as possible for the new clear roles and powers necessary to improve the protection of people from the risk of floods.

The Bill also meets our commitment to safeguard community groups, such as churches and scouts, from the unaffordable increases in surface water drainage charges they face now.

Furthermore, the EU floods directive is due to be transposed this month. This has led us to lay regulations now, to avoid unreasonable delays and the increased risks of infraction.

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Climate projections suggest that extreme weather will happen more frequently in future. Members will be aware of the many flood warnings issued this week and the work being carried out at this moment by the Environment Agency, local authorities, emergency services and the voluntary sector to help protect homes, businesses and people against the risk of flooding. Our thanks go to those many people and organisations on the front-line, tackling flooding, and our thoughts are with those directly affected.

Serious flooding can happen any time. This Bill is central to reducing that risk.

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): My hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies), will represent the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Brussels on 19 and 20 November.

There are a number of items on the agenda relating to agriculture and fisheries which are of significant interest to the United Kingdom, including the adoption of the recent dairy proposals, on which the UK will abstain. Discussions will take place on the following:

There are currently two items under any other business-a statement on community action reducing incidental catches of seabirds; and general conclusions from the 26th conference of EU paying agencies.

There is also a ministerial lunch scheduled to discuss the reform of the common fisheries policy.


Report of Exercise Peak Practice

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): A report of Exercise Peak Practice has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Exercise Peak Practice consisted of 10 strategic, "tabletop" exercises, one led by each strategic health authority in England to help prepare for a possible second wave of swine flu this winter.

The events achieved the intended aim of exercising the management of the NHS and social care systems against the backdrop of normal seasonal activity and the rising threat posed by swine flu. The report also summarises the NHS board statements of readiness for responding to swine flu, which show that there are robust leadership and governance arrangements in place.

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We must not underestimate the threat that swine flu still poses but all our pandemic planning means that both NHS and social care are well placed to respond.

Improving Health, Supporting Justice - A National Delivery Plan

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope): On 29 October, I reported progress to Parliament on the progress achieved further to my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Bradley's review of people with mental health problems or learning disabilities in the criminal justice system. The Government accepted the direction of travel set out by Lord Bradley, and committed to developing a national delivery plan incorporating a full response to the report's recommendations.

I am pleased to report that "Improving Health, Supporting Justice", the Government's national delivery plan, was published and launched at a cross-departmental health and criminal justice conference in York on Tuesday 17 November. This delivery plan will contribute to key Government initiatives around protecting the public, reducing health inequalities, reducing reoffending and health improvement and protection. In particular, it aims to:

On 29 October, I also reported that Keith Pearson (chair of NHS East of England), has been appointed as the chair of the health and criminal justice national advisory group. I am now pleased to inform you that the following organisations have been appointed as members of this group to date:

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"Improving Health, Supporting Justice - a National Delivery Plan" is now available on the Department of Health website at:

A copy has been placed in the Library and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Home Department

Identity Cards

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): I am pleased to announce that a further Identity Cards Act commencement order has been made to extend the availability of voluntary identity cards to members of the public in Greater Manchester, starting from Monday 30 November 2009.

From that date, applications for voluntary identity cards may be made by airside workers at Manchester and London City airports and by British citizens who hold a passport or whose passport has recently expired and who live or work in the Greater Manchester area. Identity cards may also be applied for by people working in the Home Office in the Greater London area or who work in the Identity and Passport Service.

G6 Meeting

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): The informal G6 group of Interior Ministers from France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and the UK held their most recent meeting in London on 5 November. The UK currently holds the presidency of the G6 group and the meeting was chaired by the Home Secretary.

The meeting was divided into three working sessions, the first two of which were attended by the core G6 Ministers. This group sat again for the final working session, with the additional guest attendance of the United States Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano.

The first working session considered the issue of organised crime, where the Home Secretary presented the results of the UK's recent domestic review: "Extending Our Reach: A Comprehensive Approach to Tackling Serious Organised Crime", published in July, and asked what more the G6 countries could do together to tackle
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the threats posed. The group exchanged experiences of what had been found to work in each country in tackling organised crime. There was broad agreement to the need for organised crime to be raised up the agenda. Ministers recognised the value of working together to tackle organised crime, and agreed to more sharing of best practice where relevant.

During the second session the Ministers considered what benefits data sharing could bring to strengthen borders, improve identity management and facilitate the prevention and detection of serious organised crime but also the challenges faced to ensure data were secure and protected. There was less of a consensus on this issue due to the incompatibility between legal systems in each state.

The afternoon session opened with a presentation by the UK of the current terrorist threat assessment. Ministers offered information on the threats posed in their respective countries. This was followed by a discussion of how to counter radicalisation through community engagement, which focused mainly on the role of Mosques in radicalisation of young people. Conversation centred on difficulties of Mosques preaching in a non EU language (for early stage interventions), and considerations of how to better regulate Imams.

The Interior Minister of Spain, Alfredo Rubalcaba, also took the opportunity to offer a factual presentation on his plans for the Spanish presidency of the EU, which will start on 1 January 2010. There was no discussion.

The next meeting of the G6 is expected to be held in Italy in the first half of next year.

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