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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am advised by the commission that to date the Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) has issued one compliance notice to a public body which has not met its statutory duty under the RR(A)A 2000 to promote race equality and good race relations.
The fingerprint records collected will be added to the fingerprint records already held on the Home Office Immigration and Asylum Fingerprint System (IAFS). The data will be stored in an electronic format. The fingerprint records collected in Colombo will be administered in the same way as all other fingerprint data collected in immigration and asylum applications. Any request by the police, or other authorised law enforcement agency, will involve them providing a set of fingerprints which will be checked by Home Office staff against the IAFS system. Such checks will be carried out in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Discussions are continuing within government on the legislative changes necessary to implement the Temporary Protection Directive. We are hoping to come to decisions on this soon and have kept the Commission updated on the position.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of the official consultation process report following the public consultation exercise on the implementation of Sections 134239 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. These provisions will enable the immigration authorities to require employers and financial institutions to provide information in respect of specified individuals who are reasonably suspected of committing certain immigration offences. Their purpose is to strengthen our ability to deal with illegal working and fraud against the national asylum support arrangements. The new powers are closely drawn and are modelled on existing powers in social security legislation. A consultation paper seeking views on practical questions concerning the operation of the new powers was published on 19 March. The consultation process report summarises the comments received and our response. The new powers will come into force on 30 July, together with Section 129 of the 2002 Act relating to the supply of information by local authorities.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Technical notes, for the remaining shared criminal justice system public service agreement (CJS PSA) targets for the 2002 spending review period, have been published today. Copies are available in the Library and online at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/inside/aims/index.html.
In common with those for other targets, the technical notes define the terms used in the PSA targets, their territorial scope, measurement systems which will be used, and criteria for success. The purpose of the technical notes is to enable Parliament, and the public, to judge progress against the PSA targets. The measurement systems will be used by the three CJS departments to manage delivery of the new, challenging targets.
The majority of the CJS technical notes were presented to Parliament, as part of the Home Office technical notes, on 25 March 2003. The remaining technical notes, published today, relate to the targets to improve public confidence in the CJS, and to increase value for money in the CJS. For convenience, the Home Office technical notes document has been republished to incorporate the revised public confidence technical note. The CJS value for money technical note has been published as a separate document.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: An independent review of the Forensic Science Service was announced on 23 July 2002 by the Minister of State for Policing and Crime Reduction. The review has been overseen by a steering group which all key stakeholders were invited to join. The review team reported at the beginning of July this year.
The main thrust of the report focuses on the emergence of a more competitive market for forensic science services and the ability of the FSS to compete effectively in the face of a significantly changing environment. The report makes a number of helpful observations and recommendations aimed at improving FSS performance, but the most fundamental is that it should be transformed from a trading fund into a government-owned company as a
The main risk if the FSS remains as a trading fund is that there would be a sustained and accelerating loss of business. Indeed, some forces are already outsourcing their forensic requirements to alternative suppliers. A cumulative loss of market share could reach a point at which poor trading forced cut-backs in investment, research and development and staffing. We see radical change as the only realistic option to ensure that FSS remains competitive and able to make best use of rapidly advancing science and technology to reduce crime and deliver safer communities.
The report identifies the inherent risks, but makes a clear case for accepting that PPP offers the best means of protecting the public interest and delivering major benefits to the criminal justice system (CJS) by enabling FSS to compete effectively.
We endorse this approach and the steering group's overall view that the FSS would prosper in a private sector environment, as it clearly reflects the realities of the situation. At a time when demand for forensic analysis in crime investigation is increasing significantly, FSS performance has been mixed. There have been some notable successes, but we need to take steps to improve the service to the wider CJS in terms of timeliness and cost-effectiveness. The emergence of a small but effective and dynamic private sector has resulted in an increasingly competitive market in forensic science services, the level and intensity of which is likely to gather pace.
We are confident that the proposed changes will stimulate and broaden the market, encouraging CJS customers to make even greater use of forensic science in the fight against crime, and generating momentum through improved investment to enable the increasingly effective use of forensic capabilities. This, in turn, will result in forensic science making a substantially greater contribution to crime reduction.
A number of significant logistical issues inevitably need to be addressed, but we believe that all of these challenges can be dealt with successfully in a transitional period as a government-owned company.