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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 4 February 2010


Terrorist Asset Freezing

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Sarah McCarthy-Fry): The Supreme Court has today ruled that it will not grant a stay of its 27 January 2010 judgment on the legality of the Orders in Council HM Treasury uses to freeze terrorist assets. The effect of this judgment is to quash with immediate effect the Terrorism Order 2006 and all designations made under it. The court has not directly quashed the Terrorism Order 2001 and the Terrorism Order 2009, but the reason for its decision also makes those orders unsustainable.

Over £150,000 belonging to suspected terrorists is currently frozen in the UK under the Terrorism Orders. The UK takes its obligations under the UN charter very seriously and the Government believe that allowing this money to be unfrozen and returned to individuals designated under the orders and giving them access to the financial system would not be in the interests of national security.

In order to prevent assets frozen under the Terrorism Orders from being released, the Government will introduce primary legislation tomorrow to restore the validity of the Terrorism Orders and the designations made under them. The Government hope that this legislation should be passed by early next week. The legislation will include a provision backdated to today's judgment, providing legal authority to banks and other persons covered by the existing orders so as to allow the existing asset freezes to be maintained without a gap.

The legislation will extend the current Terrorism Orders only for a temporary period. This will give Parliament time in which to consider more fully how best to legislate to give effect to our UN terrorist asset-freezing commitments, while ensuring that national security is protected in the meantime.

Cabinet Office

Public Bodies 2009

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and for the Olympics, and Paymaster General (Tessa Jowell): The Cabinet Office has today published "Public Bodies 2009" which lists all non-departmental public bodies (NDPB) sponsored by the UK Government as at 31 March 2009. "Public Bodies 2009" also provides summary information on the size and expenditure of the NDPB sector and statistical information on public appointments.

Public Bodies 2009 can be downloaded from the civil service website at: www.civilservice.gov.uk/ndpb. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Energy and Climate Change

Offshore Oil and Gas Licensing Round

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Mr. David Kidney): My noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Hunt, today made the following statement:

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Commons Act (Part 1)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): Part 1 of the Commons Act 2006 seeks to achieve a comprehensive current record of common land and town or village greens. It enables commons registration authorities (county councils in two-tier areas; district councils in areas without a county council; London borough councils) to bring up-to-date their registers of commons and greens, established under the Commons Registration Act 1965. Individuals may apply to register past unrecorded events, and registration authorities can make proposals in the public interest to update the registers. People may also apply to deregister wrongly registered land, and to register new land as common land.

In England, implementation of Part 1 began with a pilot scheme, in October 2008. Seven authorities are participating in the pilot: Cornwall, Devon, Hertfordshire, Kent and Lancashire county councils, the County of Herefordshire district council, and Blackburn with Darwen borough council, representing about 18 per cent. of the registered common land in England. The pilot implementation was designed to test the efficacy of procedures, guidance, costs and benefits, with the intention to commence national implementation in England from October 2010 onwards.

Following slower progress by pilot authorities with implementation than expected, regulations were made in July 2009 to extend the period during which applications to bring their registers up-to-date could be made free of charge until September 2010. This was to ensure that those individuals who stood to benefit from the provisions in the Act would have sufficient time to make applications to update the registers free of charge before the initial pilot period came to an end.

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In order to ensure that we are able to learn fully all the lessons from the pilot, I have decided that the decision on whether, how and when to go ahead with national commencement should await the completion of the extended pilot period in September 2010. This means a delay in national implementation of at least a year from our original intention to commence from October 2010, but will help ensure that decisions on how best to proceed following the pilot are based on the best possible information.


Out-of-Hours Primary Care Services (Report)

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Mike O'Brien): A report on the current arrangements for the local commissioning and provision of out-of-hours primary care services has today been published by the Department of Health and placed in the Library.

Out-of-Hours Primary Care Services (Response)

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Mike O'Brien): Following concerns about delivery of out-of-hours primary care services being raised in summer 2009, I met primary care professionals in order to understand the issues in more detail and consider what action might be taken to improve out-of-hours services to patients. The broader context to this was that in June 2009, the Care Quality Commission began an investigation into the out-of-hours primary care services in five primary care trusts provided by the company Take Care Now. The inquiry was prompted by the tragic death of a patient in February 2008 after he was administered 100mg of diamorphine by a locum doctor from Germany.

CQC published an update on its independent inquiry in October 2009. This included a preliminary conclusion that all PCTs needed to improve their monitoring of out-of-hours services, particularly of the quality of the service patients receive. Dr. David Colin-Thomé, national clinical director for primary care, subsequently wrote to PCTs in support of the CQC's recommendation in their update report, and reminding them of their responsibilities around performance management of OOHs providers and ensuring general practitioners working in OOHs are fit to practise that role.

I also asked, Dr David Colin-Thomé, national clinical director for primary care at the Department of Health, and Professor Steve Field, chairman of council, Royal College of General Practitioners, as two respected and experienced general practitioners, to jointly lead a review of current arrangements for the local commissioning and provision of out-of-hours services. In so doing, they considered the commissioning and performance management of OOH services; the selection, induction, training and use of OOH clinicians; and the management and operation of medical performers lists

I have published Dr Colin-Thomé and Professor Field's subsequent report today and placed copies in the Library. The report sets out a number of recommendations including:

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The report's recommendations are an important reminder to PCTs and providers, of their obligations to ensure safe and effective out-of-hours services for patients and as such-in so far as they apply to the Department or the national health service-I have not only accepted them in full but I am announcing today further improvements to out-of-hours GP services. I will:

We will be consulting relevant stakeholders on these proposals including the British Medical Association, The Royal College of General Practitioners, the NHS Alliance and the National Association of Primary Care.

In the meantime, officials in the Department will continue working with the NHS to ensure they are implemented; in particular, to continue to implement the recommendations of the "Tackling Concerns Locally: the Performers List system, A review of current arrangements and recommendations for the future" published in March 2009.

The NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson will be writing to NHS organisations to bring this report to their attention and to seek assurances that they are meeting their obligations as set out in the report. At the same time, the Department will issue new interim guidance to PCTs to assist them in complying with their obligations to ensure all doctors admitted to their performers list have a satisfactory knowledge of English.

National Pandemic Flu Service

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Gillian Merron): With the global spread of the swine flu virus, the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic on 11 June 2009. In response to increasing pressures on
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front line national health service and social care services, the national pandemic flu service (NPFS) was activated on 23 July 2009. This was to provide a self-care service for people to assess their symptoms and, if necessary, to access antiviral medicines rapidly from antiviral collection points.

The Department is today announcing the decision to stand down the NPFS with effect from 1 am on 11 February 2010.

This is being done in response to the steady reduction in the estimated number of swine flu cases in the community, and is in line with our overall aim of ensuring the operational response is appropriate to the level of threat posed by the virus. General practitioners and primary care trusts have indicated that they can now manage the clinical caseload themselves. As we did with the launch of the NPFS, we are now standing it down with the full support of the key professional bodies (the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) the British Medical Association (BMA) and appropriate pharmacy organisations).

We will continue to monitor the spread of the swine flu virus, and, should it become necessary, the NPFS can be re-activated in seven days.

Anyone who suspects they have swine flu from 11 February will be advised to contact their doctor for assessment of their symptoms; the doctor will issue an antiviral authorisation voucher if needed. For the time being, antivirals will continue to be collected through antiviral collection points. People with swine flu should ask their flu friend to collect their antivirals on their behalf. Antivirals will continue to be issued to patients with swine flu symptoms, under this system, free of charge until at least the end March 2010, the end of the seasonal flu period.

Many people have felt reassured by the fall in disease incidence, and the relatively mild illness that has characterised most people's infections. Deaths, however small relative to previous pandemics, are tragedies for families and vaccination could help avoid them. The current vaccination programme is continuing and we must remain vigilant. We have therefore asked GPs to make further contact with people in the priority groups who are at higher risk from the disease and who have not yet had the vaccine. These include individuals aged over six months and in the seasonal at-risk groups; pregnant women; those who live with immunocompromised individuals; and children aged over six months and under five years and eligible front line health and social care workers. Good progress has been made in delivery of the vaccination programme to date but we must not be complacent. It is important that people in these groups continue to receive the vaccine as it offers the best protection against the virus.

I would like to record my thanks to all those involved in setting up and running the NPFS. It has broken new ground in healthcare delivery and has played an important role in our response to the swine flu pandemic. With the support of the RCGP, the BMA, and the pharmacy organisations, the NPFS has been very successful in easing pressure on primary care services during the busiest times of the pandemic, allowing GPs to focus on those most ill and ensuring high volumes of people get access to antiviral medicines, when they need them.

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