Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Serious Fraud Trials: Pre-trial Procedures

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have directed my department to carry out a review of pre-trial procedures in serious fraud trials. The purpose of this review will be to conduct a detailed examination of trial procedures in these cases, from the decision to commit or transfer a case to the Crown Court right up to the commencement of the jury trial. The review will assess the extent of current compliance with existing rules and procedures, evaluating their effectiveness and considering whether changes to procedure and case management could aid the delivery of justice in serious fraud cases. The review will involve wide consultation with all bodies involved in serious fraud cases.

20 May 1998 : Column WA175

The terms of reference of the review are as follows:

    "To evaluate the existing procedures which follow a decision to commit or transfer for trial in serious fraud cases, in particular compliance with the rules concerning committal or transfer and preparatory hearings:

    To determine whether these procedures, when fully complied with, are the optimal mechanism for case management, or if they should be modified in any way:

    To assess whether more fundamental changes to such procedures could provide more effective delivery of justice in serious fraud cases; and

    To outline and consider any such changes."

The review will commence in May 1998. It is intended that provisional conclusions will be reported to me by September of this year.

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to the composition of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).[HL1989]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): Due to her ministerial appointment, Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale has resigned as a member of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE.

The Prime Minister has appointed Baroness Hilton of Eggardon as a replacement representative from the government benches.

NHS Estates Agency: Corporate Plan

Lord Davies of Oldham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the corporate plan and key tasks and targets for 1998-99 for the NHS Estates Agency.[HL2016]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): We have agreed the agency's corporate plan, and key tasks and targets for 1998-99 and have placed copies in the Library.

Severn Tunnel Closure

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What contingency plans are in place to provide a shuttle coach service to Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway railway stations from Newport and Cardiff stations, in readiness for the closure of the Severn Tunnel as a result of structural defects and serious drainage collapse.[HL1820]

20 May 1998 : Column WA176

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Severn Tunnel is likely to be closed for three weeks in July 1999 to allow the necessary engineering work to be carried out, although these arrangements have not yet been finalised. We understand that the contingency plans that the train operating companies have in place are that Wales & West's trains between Bristol Temple Meads and Cardiff will operate via Gloucester, adding an hour to the journey, with some replacement buses operating between Bristol Temple Meads and Newport and/or Cardiff. Great Western Trains will operate an hourly bus service between Bristol Parkway and Newport.

Harbour Porpoise: Habitat Research

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they propose to make, in the light of the Report Interpretation of the Habitats Directive in the case of the Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) prepared by Kelly Hughes for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, towards designating Special Areas of Conservation under the provisions of the European Union Habitats Directive (EC92/43/EEC).[HL1861]

Baroness Hayman: The Joint Nature Conservation Committee has considered this report to see whether it provides scientific evidence which can be used to identify sites which meet the requirements set out in Article 4(1) of the directive relating to aquatic species which range over wide areas. It has concluded that it does not. Therefore, it is not proposed to identify any SACs for their harbour porpoise interest in the light of this report.

Defence Bills Agency: Key Targets

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What key targets have been set for the Defence Bills Agency for 1998-99.[HL2014]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Targets have been set for the Chief Executive of the Defence Bills Agency for the financial year 1998-99 in accordance with the agency's aim of meeting the requirements of its service level agreement with the Ministry of Defence in a manner which offers best value for money.

The roles of the Defence Bills Agency as defined in its framework document are: the authorisation and payment of bills from MoD's suppliers and contractors; the invoicing and collection of MoD receipts; the maintenance of accounting records for the MoD central ledger; and the provision of financial management information to budget holders.

20 May 1998 : Column WA177

The chief executive's key targets for 1998-99 build on the high standards of service already achieved by the agency since its formation in January 1996 and are as follows:

    1. To pay 97 per cent. of correctly-presented bills within 11 working days of receipt and 100 per cent. within 30 calendar days.

    2. To raise 100 per cent. of invoices within five working days of receipt of correctly-presented instruction.

    3. To meet the criteria contracted for in the service level agreement covering debt recovery, management information systems, maintenance of contract records, reduction of overpayments and clearance of credit notes. To deliver these services within the agreed price of £15.587 million for the financial year 1998-99.

    4. To achieve a further efficiency improvement over that specified in the service level agreement for 1998-99 of 2½ per cent. in the bills processed to staffing ratio. For 1997-98 the ratio was 6,395 bills processed for each member of staff. The target for 1998-99 is 6,555 bills processed for each member of staff.

    5. To ensure that, by 1 January 1999, the agency's internal financial systems are fully compliant with the department's resource accounting and budgeting system.

Education Action Zones

Lord Hattersley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce details of the 60 applications to set up Education Action Zones.[HL1988]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): A total of 60 applications have been received. The areas covered are:

West MidlandsAston, Birmingham
Hodge Hill, Birmingham
Hereford, Herefordshire
South WestLands End, Cornwall
Camborne, Cornwall
Weston Super Mare, Somerset
Bridgwater, Somerset
S E Wiltshire6
East MidlandsN E Derbyshire
Leicester city
Gainsborough, Lincs
Corby, Northants
South EastBrighton & Hove
Aylesbury, Bucks
St Leonards, E Sussex
N Guildford4
North EastMiddlesbrough
Redcar & Cleveland
South Shields, S Tyneside
North WestBlackburn
Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
S Manchester
Wythenshawe, Manchester
E Manchester
EastBasildon, Essex
Thetford, Norfolk3
Yorkshire & the HumberRoyston, near Barnsley
N & E Barnsley
Manningham, Bradford
S E Bradford
Inner LondonHackney
Hammersmith & Fulham
Outer LondonBarking & Dagenham
N Croydon
New Addington (Croydon)

20 May 1998 : Column WA178

Education: NDS Grants

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide a breakdown of the allocation of the £1.2 billion for education announced in the July 1997 Budget.[HL1888]

Baroness Blackstone: The Chancellor announced an extra £1.3 billion for repairs and maintenance of school buildings across the UK in the July 1997 budget. In England, the New Deal for Schools (NDS) has enabled capital projects worth £115 million in 1997-98 and over £500 million in 1998-99 alone. The table below shows how the NDS grant breaks down among the four territorial departments.

£ million

Northern Ireland2.

By the end of this Parliament, the Government expects the NDS to generate more than £2 billion-worth of capital projects.

In addition, an extra £1 billion was made available for local authority recurrent funding across the UK in 1998-99.

20 May 1998 : Column WA179

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page