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G20 countries and emerging economies to do more to fight global poverty by adopting the global poverty targets agreed by the G8 at Gleneagles in 2005, including financial contribution to the global fund for HIV, TB and Malaria.
Southern and Eastern African countries: to put human rights and the need to reach marginalised groups and those most at risk at the heart of country-led efforts to tackle HIV and AIDS.
Pharmaceutical industry: to help avert a treatment crisis by signing up to the UNITAID patent pool to make effective drugs affordable for developing countries.
I will place a copy of the "Shared Principles" in the Library. I am grateful to the all-party parliamentary group on AIDS for their support to this event.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): Today my department has published the annual review of DFID's works with the World Bank "The UK and the World Bank 2009".
This report reviews the UK's work with the World Bank from December 2008 to 2009. During that period we saw the effects of the financial crisis spread to the developing world. The report looks at how the World Bank was able to assist developing countries facing the impact of the financial crisis, as well as other major issues on which DFID has worked with the World Bank:
the bank's response to the financial crisis;
progress on World Bank reform;
a review of the performance of the bank's work in the poorest countries;
an assessment of progress against the Government's high-level objectives for the bank; and
priorities for engaging with the bank in 2010.
The report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and an electronically accessible version is available on the DFID website at: www.dfid.gov.uk
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): On 16 July 2009, I announced to this House the Government's intention to consult directly academy schools, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) with a view to including them within the Freedom of Information Act ("the Act") by bringing forward a section 5 order under that Act.
Since this Government introduced the Act in 2005, it has given the public access to information held by over 100,000 public authorities. Section 5 of the Act gives the Secretary of State the power to make an order designating new bodies as public authorities for the purposes of the Act where those bodies appear to him to perform functions of a public nature. In accordance with our continuing commitment to openness and accountability in public life, I wish to announce to the House today the decision to extend the Act to all of the bodies consulted, insofar as they perform public functions.
Having carefully considered all the evidence it is clear that all of the bodies listed above perform functions of a public nature. I have written to each of the bodies to explain the decision in detail, and to identify the functions to which the Act will apply. However the reasons in brief are as follows:
ACPO's functions are concerned with providing leadership for the police force, improving policing, acting as a voice for the force, encouraging high standards of performance and development, providing the strategic police response in times of national need and other ancillary and related functions. Policing is clearly recognised as a function of a public nature. For these reasons it is appropriate to include ACPO in a section 5 order for all of its functions.
The Financial Ombudsman Service resolves disputes between consumers and providers of financial services. It was established under a statutory scheme in order to provide consumers with a quick and informal alternative to the courts. We consider that the functions of FOS appear to be functions of a public nature and that it would be appropriate to include its in a section 5 order.
UCAS provides its member university and colleges with admissions services. Without such services, those institutions-which are bodies listed as public authorities in either the Freedom of Information Act or the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act-would need to perform these functions for themselves, and the information would be captured by those Acts. As UCAS provides these services on behalf of its members, it is clear that UCAS does perform a function of a public nature.
Finally, although independent of local authority control, academies are publicly funded schools and a part of the state education system. Provision of state education is clearly a public function and parents and local residents should be able to access the same kind of information about academy schools as for any other state-funded school. The Academy Trust, is the body responsible for the running of the academy school. In our view, the public functions of academies are those set out in the funding agreement signed between the Academy Trust and the Department for Children, Schools and Families: in short, the establishment, maintenance and carrying on of an academy. We propose to include Academy Trusts in a section 5 order for these purposes from the point at which they enter into funding agreements.
The order will be laid and debated at the earliest possible opportunity in the next parliamentary session, with the intention that it will commence in October 2011.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I am today pleased to announce the appointment of Louise Casey as Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses.
The Victims Commissioner's key objectives, as defined in Coroners and Justice Act 2009, are to:
promote the interests of victims and witnesses;
encourage good practice in the treatment of victims and witnesses; and
keep under review the operation of the code of practice for victims.
Additionally, the Victims' Commissioner will chair the Victims' Advisory Panel.
The Victims' Commissioner is an independent role appointed through an open recruitment exercise. Although this was not formally an Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments (OCPA) process, the appointment was made in accordance with OCPA principles. The Commissioner will make an annual report to the three Criminal Justice Ministers and will be accountable to parliament as chair of the Victims' Advisory Panel-victims of crime who advise ministers on how we can do things better.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Maria Eagle): I wish to inform the House that from 1 April 2010, there will be established 29 further probation trusts operating in England and Wales. This brings to 35 the total number of probation trusts and means the dissolution of the last remaining local probation boards.
The trusts programme has presented a challenge to the probation service to demonstrate that it can deliver locally tailored services efficiently and effectively. I am pleased that all of the remaining probation areas have successfully met this challenge and I am confident that they will all be successful in realising the benefits they have identified in moving to trust status.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): At the request of Sir Hayden Phillips, and on his behalf, I am today placing in the Library of the House the agendas, papers and minutes for the five meetings which he chaired and which were attended by representatives of the three main parties in 2007 on the Funding of Political Parties. These items are also being placed on the Ministry of Justice website, at: www.justice.gov.uk.
Sir Hayden has asked me to say that, as far as the minutes of the meetings are concerned, only those of the first meeting were agreed by the parties. The other four were drafts from the secretariat to the talks, authorised for circulation and comment to the parties by Sir Hayden. The agendas, papers and minutes are released in their entirety. There is one substantive exception to this: a paper produced following the fourth session of the talks which contained legal advice from Ministry of Justice
officials on donation caps. The advice was given in confidence and Sir Hayden judges he should respect that. However Sir Hayden wishes to make it clear that the content of the advice relates to the lawfulness of a proposal to impose a cap on political donations, and the advice given was that a cap was capable of being compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, provided that it was prescribed by law and sought to achieve a legitimate aim in a proportionate way. The CVs of two advisers to the talks have also been removed as they do not relate to the substantive discussions.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I am announcing today the Government's intention to establish an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 to investigate the death of Azelle Rodney in April 2005. The inquiry will be established by the Ministry of Justice
It is intended that this inquiry will be chaired by a retired judge and that, subject to his or her views, it will determine the matters which an Article 2 compliant inquest would have determined had it been able to take place. These are: how, when and where Mr. Rodney died, and the broad circumstances which led to his death.
The inquest into the death has been adjourned by the north London coroner since August 2007. The coroner and, most importantly, the bereaved relatives of Mr. Rodney have been given advance notice of this decision.
During debate on the Coroners and Justice Bill, I said that any inquiry established because an inquest cannot be held would be subject to a protocol between Ministers and the senior judiciary. This protocol is intended to cover the procedure from the point the inquest cannot continue until when the inquiry is established.
I have been working with colleagues across Government on the terms of the protocol but it has raised some complex issues and is not yet ready for use. As the inquest into Mr. Rodney's death is already adjourned and cannot continue, I have decided that an inquiry should be established to avoid further delay for Mr. Rodney's family. A further announcement on the inquiry chair and its terms of reference will be made as soon as possible.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): The Government are publishing today two reports on important aspects of constitutional reform. The first is a summary of responses to the Green Paper, "Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework". The second is an independent analysis of the programme of deliberation that was carried out between October 2009 and February 2010 on identity, values (including a statement of values), a Bill of rights and responsibilities and a written constitution.
The reports bring to a conclusion key aspects of the first stage of public debate initiated by "The Governance of Britain" Green Paper in July 2007. They also meet
the commitment in "Building Britain's Future" to complete a national consultation on a Bill of rights and responsibilities during 2009-10.
The responses to the Green Paper, combined with the programme of deliberative research, reflect the views of around 2,500 people. They demonstrate an appetite for further debate about a Bill of rights and responsibilities, as well as a broader range of constitutional issues such as statement of values and for making progress on them.
The programme placed public deliberation at the heart of decision making. The research was carried out independently-ensuring that the public were given the opportunity to debate issues in a balanced way, exposing them to views from across the political spectrum to inform their deliberations; and providing a space to enable views to influence policy. As the independent analysis says:
"The study can be viewed as a constitutional experiment in deliberative democracy-with the deliberative method helping to inform representative systems of government and promote democratic legitimacy. This approach was not intended to replace representative democracy but to complement it-enabling participants to come to an informed view on policy; which in turn, and alongside other evidence, will inform the views of decision makers in Government.
As part of the process the Government made an explicit commitment to participants that any constitutional reform would only progress if there was sufficient public appetite.
The independent report shows that such deliberative approaches were valued by what were demographically-representative groups of participants as a means of building public views into policy making. It shows there is a clear appetite to take further these aspects of the debate on constitutional reform: stating the values that bind us together as a nation, building on the existing protections for individual rights and clarifying our responsibilities.
The Government believe that work taken forward in this area must reflect the approach adopted so far, putting the public at the heart of policy formation.
In taking forward work on a new Bill of rights and responsibilities, the Government remain committed to the Human Rights Act and the protections and remedies provided by it. It is encouraging to see the responses to the Green Paper support the Government's view on this point. The Government are proud of the Human Rights Act and will not resile from it.
Copies of "Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework-Summary of responses" have been laid before Parliament. Copies of "People and power: shaping democracy, rights and responsibilities" have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Mole): The Highways Agency's business plan target for the programme of national schemes in the development phase, contained in the Highways Agency business plan 2009-10, has been revised so as to remove the following target at Annexe B:
Major Projects-Development: For the programme of national schemes in the Development Phase, progress these projects by an average of at least 37 percentage points through this phase.
This has been replaced with the following target:
Major Projects-Development: For the programme of national schemes in the Development Phase, progress these projects by an average of at least 35.7 percentage points through this phase.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Lord Adonis, has made the following ministerial statement:
I am announcing today an independent review of the transport sector's response to the severe weather experienced this winter 2009-10 and lessons for the future.
The winter of 2009-10 has seen the most prolonged period of sub-zero temperatures for 30 years, creating extremely challenging conditions for the travelling public. For the most part, our transport networks coped well in the circumstances. However, there are lessons that can be learned in order to improve our resilience for future winters.
This winter, the Salt Cell successfully achieved its objective of prioritising salt deliveries to highway authorities across the country to minimise disruption to transport networks. The Salt Cell held its final meeting on 16 March. Since it was first convened on 6 January, the Salt Cell met 20 times and advised salt suppliers on the distribution of approximately 530,000 tonnes of salt.
Now that the severe weather has receded, we must focus our attention on learning the lessons presented by this winter. The aim of this exercise will be to identify practical measures to improve the response of transport systems to severe winter weather. The work will review and build upon the recommendations of the UK Roads Liaison Group "Lessons from the Severe Weather February 2009" and present a series of practical measures that authorities must consider for implementation better to prepare themselves for winter 2010-11 and beyond.
The review is part of a Government drive to ensure that local authorities are prepared for future severe weather. Last week the Government announced an additional £100 million for local authorities to help pay for repairs to potholes. This builds on the trebling of funding to local authorities over the last 10 years for road maintenance from £265 million in 2000-01 to £809 million in 2010-11.
The review will be led by a small panel of independent experts comprising:
David Quarmby CBE (chair), currently chair of the RAC Foundation and former chief executive of the Strategic Rail Authority;
Brian Smith, retiring as assistant chief executive of Cambridgeshire county council on 31 March; and
Chris Green, a non-executive director of Network Rail, former chief executive of Virgin Trains and English Heritage.
During the review, the panel will be seeking evidence and views from a range of stakeholders in order to develop the detailed scope and identify examples of best practice.
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