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Baroness Walmsley: I thank those who have supported the amendment and the Minister for his response. It is very difficult to table an appropriate and watertight amendment to cover this issue. My noble friend Lady Sharp and I looked at three or four different alternatives for the opportunity to discuss the matter, before eventually tabling this amendment. If the Government felt that legislation were the right approach, they could bring all their legal brains to bear on producing the right amendment. However, the Government clearly do not. Iand, I am sure, other Members of the Committeelook forward to hearing the ongoing story of the Government's efforts to address the issue, albeit that it is a perception, not a reality. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: I have a short but perfectly formed speaking note on the amendment. We had a full debate on three-year budgets earlier and a number of detailed questions were raised, but there was general support for the principle. The amendments are consequential on the introduction of three-year budgets. They will allow us to adapt the existing requirements on LEAs relating to the provision of information on school funding to fit the new three-year regime. For example, they will allow us to require LEAs, once they have fixed their overall school budgets for three years ahead, to include the relevant figures in their annual budget statement. That budget is sent to all schools, as well as to the Secretary of State. The details of the requirements will be set out in
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regulations, as some minor amendments are needed to the primary legislation to ensure that we have the necessary flexibility. I beg to move.
"(2A) After subsection (1) insert
"(1A) The periods prescribed for the purposes of subsection (1)
(a) must consist of one or more funding periods, and
(b) may include funding periods in respect of which (by virtue of their inclusion in one or more earlier periods prescribed for the purposes of that subsection) information relating to planned expenditure has previously been required under that subsection.""
Page 143, line 10, leave out "funding" and insert "prescribed"
Page 143, line 11, at end insert
"(4) After subsection (2A) insert
"(2B) The periods prescribed for the purposes of subsection (2) must consist of one or more funding periods.""
House adjourned at fourteen minutes past ten o'clock.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): As we have made clear before, it is a priority for the Government to ensure that effective arrangements are in place to support the families of people missing following the tsunami. We are conscious that, despite the efforts of the local authorities in the countries affected and the on-going work of my officials and the police both here and in the region, many bodies may never be recovered. This would cause unacceptable uncertainty for the families concerned.
We have therefore agreed, as a response to the exceptional circumstances we face, that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will register the death overseas and issue a certified copy of the register entry for missing British nationals where no body has been found. This will be done at the request of the family, and based on advice from the police, and will be provided free of charge.
We have agreed with the police, who are investigating all reports of missing British nationals, that they will provide my officials with advice as their inquiries conclude as to whether the missing person was in fact killed by the tsunami. We will then decide, in the light of the evidence, whether to register the death. In order to arrive at the judgment, we and the police will be applying four criteria, all of which must be met:
These inquiries will inevitably take time to complete, although the police are confident that they will be able to complete the overwhelming majority of investigations for those people most likely to have been caught up in the tsunami within 12 monthsin many cases, much sooner.
Throughout this difficult period the police will continue to make family liaison officers available to support the families of those thought highly likely to have been involved in the tsunami. The family liaison officers will ensure that they are kept fully informed
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during what we recognise is likely to be a harrowing process. They will also help them gain access to emotional care and other advice and welfare services, including any financial assistance available to them through the state benefit system.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): On 4 April 2005 the majority of the new sentences introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 will come into force. The key provisions are: public protection sentences for dangerous offenders; the new community order; custody minus; and the new release and recall arrangements for all custodial sentences of 12 months and over.
These new sentences are a key part of the Government's tough and effective sentencing framework which targets resources where they are needed. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 is the most significant piece of legislation in this area for over a decade. It introduces wide changes to sentencing principles and the sentencing powers of the courts.
The public must be protected from dangerous criminals. That is why the Criminal Justice Act created new public protection sentences aimed specifically at sexual and violent offenders. Offenders convicted of specific sexual and violent offences will be assessed by the court as to whether or not they pose a serious risk to the public. Those who are considered to be such a risk will be subject to the provisions for dangerous offenders.
These new sentences will ensure that dangerous sexual and violent offenders are subject to assessment by the Parole Board. They will not be released from prison until and unless their level of risk to the public is assessed by the Parole Board as manageable in the community. If the risk is not reduced to a safe level, they may never be released.
For other sentences of 12 months and over, if prisoners have not been classed as dangerous by the courts, they will be released into the community under licence conditions halfway through their sentence but supervision in the community will continue to the end of the entire sentence, rather than to the three-quarters point as now. Recalls to prison following breach of licence conditions will take place under the new scheme outlined in the Act and will no longer need to be authorised by the Parole Board.
The new community order will allow sentencers a much greater degree of flexibility in putting together tough community sentences that will be tailored to the needs of offenders and the seriousness of their offence. The full range of community punishments will be available for all offenders whose offence is serious enough to merit them and not just for imprisonable offences as is the case now. Powers to deal with offenders who breach are also stronger: courts will have the option of making the requirements more onerous, revoking the order and re-sentencing the offender, or if the breach is wilful and persistent, imposing a custodial sentence even if the original offence was not imprisonable.
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Custody minus is a new suspended sentence, which allows the court to impose community requirements together with a suspended custodial sentence which is activated if the offender breaches the community period. This new suspended sentence will be much more demanding than current suspended sentences. Not only will an offender be required to refrain from committing another offence during the period of suspension; he or she will have requirements to fulfil in the community, as with a community sentence.
Offenders can be brought back to court during a custody minus sentence for a review hearing. The new power of review will allow sentencers to play a more active role in determining what is needed, not just at the point of sentence but also during its course. As the review process for the drug treatment and testing order has shown, better information about the outcome of their decisions will improve sentencers' decision-making, as well as benefit the offender's rehabilitation.
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