Under the current CPS structure there are 42 areas aligned to individual police force boundaries. These areas are presently organised as 13 regional groups. In the new structure the 13 groups will become 13 new larger areas, with a chief Crown prosecutor (CCP) supported by a number of deputy chief Crown prosecutors to provide leadership across the new areas.
This change builds on the experience and success that the CPS group structure has provided over recent years. It establishes a solid foundation for the future and provides the CPS with greater capacity, capability and flexibility to respond to the challenges that lie ahead.
The CPS has carefully considered the changes taking place in the criminal justice system (CJS) and believes that the new structure will provide a better strategic fit with its partners and places the CPS in the best possible position to deal with the modernisation of the CJS including digital working. The new structure will also provide an improved service for serious and sensitive casework, especially work received from regional intelligence units and regional asset recovery teams.
Under these new arrangements there will continue to be a strong presence in each police force area with dedicated teams working with local police forces and senior CPS leaders to provide a strong focus on local liaison, partnership and accountability.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Justine Greening): The Government have today announced the climate change levy [CCL] exemption for supplies of gas in Northern Ireland will be replaced with a lower rate from 1 April 2011.
Following discussion and agreement with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment in Northern Ireland, legislation will be introduced in the Finance Bill 2011 to remove the exemption and replace it with a lower rate for a transitional period of 1 April 2011 to 31 October 2013, after which the main CCL rate for gas will apply in Northern Ireland. During the transitional period such supplies will become subject to the levy at a rate of £0.00059 per kilowatt hour, which is 65% lower than the full rate of CCL on gas for business and public sector consumers. Domestic consumers do not pay CCL.
Following consultation with the European Commission, the Government consider it is unlikely that they would be able to secure re-approval for the exemption. The measure is therefore necessary to ensure compliance with European tax law and state-aid rules.
To give gas suppliers and business gas consumers certainty over their tax affairs, this announcement is being made early to allow energy suppliers and businesses in Northern Ireland time to start to prepare for the introduction of the lower rate on 1 April 2011.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Robert Neill): I have today laid before the House the "Local Government Finance Report (England) 2011-12 (HC 748)". This report establishes the amounts of revenue support grant and non-domestic rates to be paid to local authorities in 2011-12, and the basis of their distribution. A draft of this report was issued for consultation on 13 December 2010.
We received a total of 330 written responses from 283 individual authorities, formal and informal groupings of authorities and others during the consultation, and Ministers met delegations from the Local Government Association, London Councils and a large number of individual local authorities.
Having considered the views of all those who have commented on the provisional settlement, I have decided to broadly confirm the proposals for the distribution of formula grant for 2011-12 as announced in December, after correcting a number of minor errors and inconsistencies that came to our attention during consultation.
We received many representations on concessionary travel. This is a prime example of how the last Government introduced a policy with no idea of how it would be
funded fairly. It has left us with a challenging legacy. I have decided to help compensate shire district councils for the loss of what they used to spend on concessionary travel. To address this, a further £10 million has been added to formula grant-for 2011-12 only-in order to mitigate the impact of the transfer on shire districts.
We have also improved the minimum guarantee so that now no council will receive a "revenue spending power" reduction of more than 8.8% in either 2011-12 or 2012-13. Details on "spending power" are set out in an explanatory note which is being placed in the Library of the House. In finalising our methodology, we have accepted a number of representations including the exclusion of parish precepts from our spending power calculations.
The need to reduce public spending means that this is a unique settlement-we are looking for councils to show how efficient they can be, and to root out the wasteful spending that still exists while ensuring that money goes to the front-line public services.
We have taken a progressive and fair approach to calculating how the £29 billion of central taxpayer funding for local government grants this year will be allocated. More money is being channelled to those areas of the country that have the highest levels of need.
We are also helping to protect the public from excessive council tax rises with our £650 million fund so town halls can freeze council tax this April. This will offer real help to families and pensioners. We will provide each authority that does not increase its basic level of council tax with a grant equivalent to the revenue it would have generated had it increased it by 2.5%. I would like to impress upon authorities that under the terms of the scheme they will not receive any grant if they increase their council tax at all.
The Government anticipate that authorities will choose to take up the freeze. However, where authorities opt to increase their council tax instead the Government are prepared to take capping action against excessive increases. The Secretary of State will set out the capping principles that he intends to use to compare authorities' budgets in the next few days, leaving ample time for authorities to consider their budgeting before the deadlines for setting their council tax.
I have also today laid before the House the "Limitation of Council Tax and Precepts (Alternative Notional Amounts) Report (England) 2011-12 (HC 774)". This report takes account of changes to authorities' functions and grants during 2010-11, and contains details of the figures that will be used to compare authorities' budgets between years, should capping be necessary.
I shall be sending copies of the Local Government Finance Report to all local authorities in England, and making available full supporting information on the Communities and Local Government website at: http://www.local.communities.gov.uk/finance/1112/grant.htm.
Copies of the report and related tables showing each authority's allocation of formula grant and other supporting material, and the "Limitation of Council Tax and
Precepts (Alternative Notional Amounts) Report (England) 2011-12", have been placed in the Vote Office and the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (John Penrose): The Government announced in a written ministerial statement, 15 September 2010, Official Report, column 39WS that preparations were under way to launch an open market process to resolve the future of the Tote. This followed the announcement in the Budget of 22 June 2010 that the future of the Tote would be resolved within 12 months in a way that secures value for the taxpayer and which recognises the support the Tote currently provides to the racing industry.
The Government can now inform the House that the first stage of that open market process has been successful. The Government are pleased with the level of interest shown in the process. Eighteen indicative proposals were received, each of which has been assessed against the Government's objectives.
Following this review, a selected number of parties has now been invited to advance to the next stage of the process where they will receive more detailed information. The Government expect to be in a position to provide the House with a further update in the spring.
Given the commercially sensitive nature of the process the Government will not be making public the details of the individual proposals received as part of the open market process nor the identity of those parties that have been invited to participate in the next stage.
The Government can also confirm that in the event that the Tote is sold on the open market it will honour the commitment of the previous Government to share 50% of the net cash proceeds of sale with racing. The proceeds will be made available over the spending review period (or longer if the sale proceeds are particularly high) because of the broader fiscal position and the need to spend the funds consistent with EU state aid rules, but the Government will pay interest on the outstanding balance in the normal way. The Government look forward to working closely with racing in the event of an open market sale to design appropriate arrangements.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr William Hague): I wish to inform the House that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development, is today publishing the second progress report on developments in Afghanistan. It follows the first report covering November published on 14 December 2010.
ISAF operations continue to put pressure on the insurgency. More areas have been cleared of insurgent influence and, importantly, those areas are now being held. Increased ISAF and Afghan national security force operations are restricting the insurgents' ability to launch complex attacks. These gains are an important sign of progress, but they are not irreversible.
The Afghan national security forces continue to grow. By late December the Afghan national army had reached a total size of 146,000, and the Afghan national police 116,000. Further work is necessary on reducing attrition rates and increasing leadership quality. Training, mentoring and coaching programmes continue to improve overall Afghan national security force capability.
British forces, partnered by forces from the Afghan national army, have temporarily extended their operations to secure greater freedom of movement along highway one. This is to link the economic and population hubs of Helmand and Kandahar. Improved freedom of movement will enable ISAF and the Afghan national security forces to increase security in both provinces.
The Afghan high peace council convened further road shows to publicise the Afghan peace and reintegration programme and to give guidance to provincial governors in Kandahar, Herat and Jalalabad. These followed an earlier road show held in Mazar-e-Sharif
Elders and community representatives for the Marjah district in Helmand have agreed that elections for a district community council should be held in February 2011. This is an important reflection of growing confidence in Marjah.
The Helmand police training centre, opened in December 2009 with UK support, is now enrolling 150 new recruits every three weeks for eight-week courses. In the last week of December, the 2000th recruit since its inauguration graduated from the centre. Two UK-funded buildings were opened in December: a new detention centre and a temporary facility for juvenile prisoners. The UK supported training for Helmand's statutory justice officials on criminal law and on judicial ethics. The UK-funded Helmand legal aid office hired the province's first female paralegal.
Regional economic cooperation was strengthened further with the 11 December signing of an agreement for the construction of the Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI) gas pipeline. The Presidents of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Turkey met in Istanbul on 24 December 2010 to discuss security, infrastructure, trade and culture. We welcome this continued commitment to promoting peace and stability in the region.
I am placing the report in the Library of the House. It will also be published on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (www.fco.gov.uk) and the HMG UK and Afghanistan website (http://afghanistan.hmg.gov.uk/).
The Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley):
I have today laid before Parliament the Government's responses (Cm 8007 and Cm 8009) to the House of
Commons Health Select Committee reports "Public Expenditure: Second Report of Session 2010-11", which was published on 14 December 2010 and "Commissioning: Third Report of Session 2010-11", which was published on 18 January 2011.
We accept the level of challenge presented in our modernisation of health and social care but we are clear that these changes are necessary and that the funding announced during the 2010 spending review, coupled with more efficient delivery systems, will allow the required change to take place across the health and social care sectors. These changes will bring about closer working across the sectors creating services that will be more responsive, more personalised and more preventative with better outcomes for those who use them.
The starting point for the Committee's inquiry into commissioning has been the previous Committee's findings on the significant shortcomings of the current arrangements for commissioning in the NHS. We welcome the Committee's conclusion that more effective commissioning is the key to delivery of efficiency gains. The White Paper, "Liberating the NHS", sets out a new direction for the future of commissioning, intending to put commissioning decisions in the hands of those who are closest to patients themselves-GPs.
The Health and Social Care Bill introduced into Parliament on 19 January takes forward the changes to the NHS set out in the White Paper and further developed in December's "Legislative framework and next steps".
The programme of modernisation we have set out is essential both to drive efficiency in the short-term, and help ensure that the NHS meets the ambition to achieve outcomes for patients that are among the best in the world.
The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice (Nick Herbert): My right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary, has today laid before the House the "Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 2011/12 (HC 771)". The report sets out my right hon. Friend, the Home Secretary's, determination for 2011-12 of the aggregate amount of grant that she proposes to pay under section 46(2) of the Police Act 1996, and the amount to be paid to the Greater London Authority for the Metropolitan Police Authority.
This statement also includes amounts that the Home Office, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Welsh Assembly Government intend to provide in 2012-13. Indicative overall amounts of Home Office grant are also provided for the years 2013-14 and 2014-15.
|Table 1: Provisional and Indicative revenue allocations for English and Welsh Police Authorities for 2011-12 and 2012-13|
|HO Core||NPF||Welsh Top up||WAG||CLG||HOCore||NPF||Welsh Top up||WAG||CLG|
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Kenneth Clarke): The Government are committed to ensuring that assistance is available for those victims and witnesses of crime most in need of support. I have now announced grant funding of up to £9.8 million per year, for three years, for voluntary sector groups providing specialist support to many of the most serious, most vulnerable and persistently targeted victims and witnesses of crime.
The remainder of the fund will be open to a wider range of voluntary sector organisations that provide support better targeted on the most vulnerable victims and witnesses of crime, including groups that offer specialist support to those bereaved by murder and manslaughter.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Jonathan Djanogly): My hon. Friend the Minister for the Armed Forces and I wish to make the latest of our quarterly statements to the House with details of the inquests of service personnel who have died overseas. We remain deeply grateful to all of our service personnel who are serving, or who have served, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our most sincere condolences go, as ever, to the families of those service personnel who have lost their lives in the service of their country, and in particular to the nine who have died since our last statement. All of the families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, or who have otherwise lost their lives in connection with the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, remain very much in our thoughts.
I have placed tables in the Libraries of both Houses, which outline the status of all cases and the date of death in each case. These tables include information about cases where a board of inquiry or a service inquiry has been held.
Our Departments remain committed to working closely together to improve our processes and to continue the Government's support for coroners conducting inquests into operational deaths. As a result of these improvements, the dedication of coroners and the support from both Departments, 130 inquests were completed in 2010, compared with 58 inquests being completed in 2009. There are no outstanding inquests into deaths prior to 4 December 2008.
We would again like to thank all of the coroners who are involved in conducting these inquests, as well as those people who provide support and information before, during and after the inquest process.
Since October 2007 additional resources have been provided by both Departments for operational inquests. These resources have been provided to the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, Mr David Ridley, due to the repatriation of service personnel at RAF Lyneham and the formation of the MOD Defence Inquests Unit in 2008. These measures have been provided to ensure that there is not a backlog of operational inquests.
There have been a total of 435 inquests into the deaths of service personnel who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, including 11 service personnel who died in the UK of their injuries. In two further cases, no formal inquest was held, but the deaths were taken into consideration during inquest proceedings for those who died in the same incident.
At present there are 80 open inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, (25 involving deaths in the last six months). Of the remaining open inquests, the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner has retained 33, while 47 are being conducted by coroners closer to the next of kin. Hearing dates have been set in five cases. One recent fatality awaits repatriation and inquest opening
There remain 11 inquests to be held of service personnel who returned home injured and subsequently died of their injuries. These will be listed for hearing when the continuing investigations are completed.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr Owen Paterson): The House will be aware of the announcement made by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) on 21 December 2010. In that statement, the PPS confirmed that, following a review of all the available evidence including that given to the Hamill tribunal, it concluded that the test for prosecution is met in respect of two persons for an offence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and one person for an offence of doing an act with intent to pervert the course of justice.
As I informed the House in my written statement of 16 December 2010, Official Report, 131WS, the Hamill inquiry intends to complete its report by the end of February. It remains my intention to publish the report as soon as practicable, but in light of the legal proceedings against these three individuals, I have decided not to publish the inquiry's report until the legal proceedings have concluded; to do so would certainly jeopardise these individuals' right to a fair trial. I understand from the inquiry that it is also the family's wish that the legal proceedings are not prejudiced by the publication of the report. In the meantime, I am exploring ways of ensuring that the report is safely and securely stored between its completion and its publication.
Once the legal proceedings have concluded and the inquiry's report is delivered to me, I am responsible for its publication. In anticipation of this, I have asked a small team of officials to commence the checking of the inquiry's report in relation to human rights and national security matters, as outlined below. I intend to adopt the same approach as was used for the checking of the reports of the Bloody Sunday inquiry and the Billy Wright inquiry.
I am advised that I have a duty, as a public authority under the Human Rights Act, to act in a way that is compatible with the European convention on human rights (ECHR). To fulfil this duty, I need to take steps to satisfy myself that publication of the report will not breach article 2 of the convention by putting lives or
safety of individuals at risk. I am advised that these obligations must be met by me personally, in my capacity as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
Although the inquiry is also a public authority under the Human Rights Act, I am not entitled to rely on the inquiry to satisfy my article 2 obligations and I have a duty to assess this myself. I also have a duty to satisfy myself that publication will not put national security at risk, for example by disclosing details of sources of protected information.
I have established a small team to assist me in carrying out this necessary exercise. The team will be formed of the Northern Ireland Office's principal legal adviser and an adviser from the Police Service of Northern Ireland. This team will be granted access to the report under strict terms of confidentiality and for the sole purpose of carrying out the necessary checks, and they will report directly to me alone. Sir Edwin Jowitt has agreed that this team can carry out the checks on the inquiry's premises while the report remains in the custody of the inquiry. I understand that the report will be made available for checking today.
I want to publish the report in its entirety. Should any concerns about the safety of any individual arise, my first course of action would be to consider whether these can be addressed through alternative means. Were I to reach the conclusion, on advice, that a redaction to the text might be necessary, I would consult Sir Edwin Jowitt. In the very unlikely event that any redaction was deemed necessary, my intention would be to make this clear on the face of the report.
It is not possible to estimate how long the legal proceedings against the three individuals will take. I assure the House that once they have concluded, I intend to publish the report as soon as possible. Once a timetable for publication becomes clear, I will update the House accordingly.
The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Steve Webb): Today the Government will publish their call for evidence on regulatory differences between trust-based occupational pension schemes and contract-based workplace personal pension schemes. We want to hear about areas where the existing rules or requirements appear to be at odds with our aim of getting people saving in a workplace pension. We do not want to see instances of regulatory differences being exploited.
In particular we are interested in views and evidence concerning the use of short service refunds and disclosure of information, which provide a valuable administrative easement for many occupational schemes but need to be considered carefully against the potential risk to the success of the workplace pension reforms.
Automatic enrolment will play a major part in reinvigorating the pensions landscape, bringing millions of individuals into pension saving. We need to make sure that the legislative framework for workplace pension
schemes is straightforward and supports our goals of increasing individuals' retirement savings.
A copy of the call for evidence document will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and is available on the Department's website at: www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations.