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Corruption Bill

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I am pleased to announce the publication of the government response to the Joint Committee on the draft Corruption Bill.

The draft Corruption Bill, which was published for pre-legislative scrutiny on 24 March 2003, was based on proposals from the Law Commission, which were widely welcomed in consultations carried out both by the Law Commission and by the Government. It aims to consolidate and clarify the criminal law on corruption which currently consists of a patchwork of common and statute law, with the latter dating back to 1889.

The Government are grateful for the attention given to this draft Bill by the Joint Committee within demanding deadlines. The response which we are publishing today sets out our reactions to their comments. A revised Bill will be introduced when parliamentary time permits.

The proposed legislation forms part of our commitment to modernise and consolidate the criminal law and should be seen in the context of a multi-faceted strategy to combat corruption. The elements of this strategy were set out in a statement made in another place. Progress has been made since then, not only on domestic law but also as regards the international law on corruption. In particular on 9 December the UK ratified the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption and signed the UN Convention Against Corruption.

Yarl's Wood Removal Centre

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: On 8 December, the Daily Mirror published allegations about the management of Yarl's Wood removal centre including allegations that staff employed by Global Solutions Limited (GSL) at the centre had made racially derogatory remarks about detainees.

We take these allegations very seriously. It is of the utmost importance that all staff at immigration removal centres should carry out their duties professionally and sensitively.

GSL has mounted an internal investigation of the allegations by a senior manager, and we have asked for a report of the outcome of that investigation. In addition, the issues raised are such that I have concluded that it would be right to have a separate independent investigation, to establish whether there is any truth in the allegations and to assess the implications for the management of Yarl's Wood.

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Stephen Shaw, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, who is already inquiring into the events at Yarl's Wood on 14 and 15 February 2002, has agreed to undertake such an investigation, to report to us through the Director General of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. We have asked Mr Shaw to complete this investigation as early as possible in the new year.

Ian Huntley: Employment Vetting Inquiry

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to investigate the events surrounding Ian Huntley's employment in Soham.[HL582]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Ian Huntley has been found guilty of the horrific murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells. Maxine Carr has been found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

No one can imagine the pain which the children's families must have endured. We hope they will find some comfort in the murderer's conviction.

We have concerns, however, about the way in which the police handled intelligence about Huntley's past and about the vetting process when he took employment in a local school. We are determined, speedily, to get to the bottom of this.

We have asked Sir Michael Bichard, Rector of The London Institute and a former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and Employment, to lead an independent inquiry with the following terms of reference:

    "Urgently to enquire into child protection procedures in Humberside Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary in the light of the recent trial and conviction of Ian Huntley for the murder of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells. In particular, to assess the effectiveness of the relevant intelligence-based record keeping, the vetting practices in those forces since 1995 and information sharing with other agencies. Report to me on matters of local and national relevance and to make recommendations as appropriate".

Sir Michael shares with us the view that what is needed here is an independent inquiry which gets quickly to the issues without putting the families and other parties through the stress which something long and drawn out could entail. He will expect full co-operation from all the parties. If he reports to us that this is unforthcoming we will not hesitate to use powers under Section 49 of the Police Act 1996 which will allow the inquiry to summon and question witnesses.

Additionally, we have asked Sir Keith Povey, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, to look at an inquiry that the Metropolitan Police conducted into the police investigation and then to work with Cambridgeshire Constabulary to implement the recommendations made. We will also want him to

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look at any lessons that could be learned by other forces facing a similar investigation.

We will consider what further action may be appropriate when we have all the answers to the questions we have asked.

Also the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, has informed us that North East Lincolnshire Area Child Protection Committee will be commissioning a Serious Case Review under the Government's guidance Working Together to Safegaurd Children.

The aim of such a review would be to:

    establish whether there are lessons to be learned from the case about the way in which agencies in North East Lincolnshire worked together to safeguard childen;

    identify clearly what those lessons are, how they will be acted upon, and what is expected to change as a result; and as a consequence, to

    improve inter-agency working and better safeguard children.

We would hope that the Bichard inquiry and the Serious Case Review would together address the full range of issues around safeguarding and protecting children that have arisen from this case.

Literacy Rates for 10 Year-olds

Lord Harris of High Cross asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For each of the past five years for which figures are available, what are the literacy rates for 10 year olds in—(a) England; (b) Northern Ireland; (c) Scotland.[HL312]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): Information is not available in the form requested. The nearest equivalent for England and for Northern Ireland is shown in the table below and relates to pupils at the end of key stage 2 (most 11 year-olds will be at the end of key stage 2).

Percentage of pupils in England and in Northern Ireland achieving level 4 or above in the key stage 2 English tests (teacher assessment in Northern Ireland, where there are no key stage 2 tests).

EnglandNorthern Ireland
200375%not available

England took part in the 2001 PIRLS "Progress in International Reading Literacy Study" which compared "reading literacy" of 10 year-olds along with 34 other countries (including Scotland). England ranked third out of 35. Northern Ireland did not take part.

I refer the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to the Scottish Executive for attainment information about Scotland as this is a devolved matter.

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Astute Class Submarine: BAE Contract Negotiations

Lord Brooks of Tremorfa asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in finalising the contract negotiations with BAE Systems over the Astute Class Submarines.[HL577]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): I announced on 19 February 2003 (Official Report, cols. WA175-177) that the Government had reached an agreement with BAE Systems on the way ahead for the Astute Class Attack Submarine project. However, at that point, it was accepted that some additional time would be required to establish the underpinning commercial arrangements and I undertook to report back to the House at a suitable moment. I am very pleased to be able to announce that on 17 December, an amended contract implementing the February Agreement was signed by the Ministry of Defence and BAE systems.

This amended contract, which covers the design and construction of the first three boats, is designed to reduce risk while incentivising the company to improve its performance in delivering the programme. It also covers a number of project management improvements and oversight.

Considerable progress has already been made in introducing these improvements and the MoD will be looking to the company to build on this as we jointly restore confidence in the programme. In February, we announced that the ISD for the first of class would be delayed. The company is now formally working to deliver "HMS Astute" in 2008.

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