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Baroness Noakes: I thank the Minister for his comprehensive introduction of the civil partnership order. We have no problems with it. Perhaps I can draw the Minister's attention to a possible efficiency saving in the public sector. He may have noticed throughout the afternoon that approximately half the Department for Work and Pensions has been supporting the Minister on the various orders, with at least four in the box behind him and sometimes more in the seats at the other end. Of course, the Treasury has produced only two, which is very economical. Perhaps the Minister would like to discuss with Sir Peter Gershon a new way of achieving efficiency in the public sector. That is offered in the spirit of generosity and constructiveness.
As I said, we have no fundamental problem with the order but I should like to return to the issue of the reform of marriage. The order is in the form it is because the Government have failed to achieve their ambitions to reform marriage law as they desired. When the Financial Secretary issued a Written Statement on 1 March he said:
"I am actively looking for ways of delivering the key elements of civil registration modernisation and will be working with stakeholders over the coming months to agree a way forward. I will seek parliamentary approval at appropriate times".[Official Report, Commons, 1/3/05; col. WS77.]
I think I heard the Minister say that there was absolutely no prospect of legislative change. Perhaps he will comment on the current position of the Government's reform programme.
Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay: I have a confession to make. There has been a possible serious failure of parliamentary scrutiny on these Benches. When I was, literally, burning the midnight oil last night, studying the ninth of the orders with which I am dealing, my attention flagged a little and I am not sure whether I have fully understood all the implications of the detailed points made. I obviously returned to the charge this morning with a fresher mind but I am not sure that I am much the wiser. None the less, we support the order in principle.
In response to the noble Baroness's unfair comments about the DWP, I believe that the issues which arose on some of the earlier orders on the PPF and the FAS were considerably more substantial and it is perfectly reasonable that the full DWP team was deployed.
There are two idiot questions, if you like, that I should like to ask on the order. First, why is the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer involved at all? The Chancellor of the Exchequer ruling on these matters does not appear to have much to do with the Treasury. Can someone explain to me why this is a Treasury matter? Not wishing to spoil a good party or a good civil
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ceremony, my second question is why, in the new liberal age, do we have the restriction of eight o'clock until six o'clock?
Lord McKenzie of Luton: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, and the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, for their support for the order. As to the suggestion about efficiency savings, I know we live in an era of specialisation but DTI officials rather than Treasury people are in the Box.
Baroness Noakes: I thought I could tell a Treasury man at 100 paces.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: The noble Baroness asked about the reform of marriage legislation. She was right to recall that in my presentation I said that that was not immediately in prospect, and that is the situation. As I explained, the hope was that it could be done by secondary legislation, but that legislation proved to be defective and therefore it will need primary legislation when time can be found.
The noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott, asked about the involvement of the Chancellor. It is a question I asked myself when the file landed on my desk. However, some of the provisions in the order require the
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Chancellor to take action in relation to the authorisation of premises and the setting of fees, and that is why it is with us today.
As to the restriction between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm, this is simply to bring the proposals back in line with those which operate for civil marriage. As I said, the hope was that the civil marriage provisions could be amended to become more liberal, in a sense, but because that has not been possible in the time, we have had to go in the reverse direction. That is the reason for that.
I thank noble Lords for their support. The making of this order will finalise the detailed arrangements performed in a civil partnership in England and Wales and allow registration authorities to plan with some certainty for the implementation of civil partnerships. It will allow the DTI to issue more detailed final guidance to the public on how to form a civil partnership and allow further secondary legislation to be made for and in connection with the approval of premises. In summary, the making of this order is a significant step towards the implementation of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
The Committee adjourned at twenty minutes before five o'clock.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The chief executive of ABRO has been set the following key targets for financial year 200506.
Key Target 1: Financial Performance. To achieve at least a 3.5 per cent return on capital employed (ROCE).
Key Target 2: Turnover. To achieve a turnover figure of at least £128 million in financial year 200506.
Key Target 3: Schedule Adherence. To meet customer agreed targets for delivery schedules on critical programme lines.
Key Target 4: Efficiency. To achieve a value added per employee target of at least £38,000.
Key Target 5: Winning Work. To achieve a total closing order book of at least £141 million for financial year 200506.
Lord Drayson: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The United Kingdom is committed to helping the Afghan people to rebuild their country as a stable, prosperous and democratic nation free from the twin threats of terrorism and the opium industry. We deliver a significant part of that help through the contribution made by our Armed Forces to both the US-led coalition and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Since October 2004 that contribution has included a detachment of six Harrier GR7 aircraft based in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. Currently drawn from No. 4 Squadron, Royal Air Force, the detachment provides a rapid and flexible reconnaissance capability, an air presence to reassure the Afghan people of their security and the capacity to strike against the Taliban and the remnants of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Throughout its deployment, the detachment has carried out all these tasks with distinction, has produced a disproportionately high operational effect and has deservedly won praise from both the NATO and coalition authorities.
The detachment was due to withdraw at the end of June. However, we are currently refining, with our allies and partners, the requirements of the international military forces in Afghanistan, including that for air support. I have concluded that it would be premature to withdraw the Harrier detachment at this stage. I have therefore extended the deployment of the Harrier GR7 detachment for a further two months until the end of August 2005.
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The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Peter Hain) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
The Government have received and welcomed the fourth report from the Justice Oversight Commissioner, the right honourable Lord Clyde, on the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the review of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. Consistent with his terms of reference, the report was submitted to the Attorney-General, Bridget Prentice Minister for the Northern Ireland Court Service, and me in June.
Lord Clyde concludes that the overall picture in recent months is one of major advance. This included, among other things, the establishment of the new Public Prosecution Service, the creation of an independent Judicial Appointments Commission and the appointment of new lay magistrates. Lord Clyde commends the significant advances made during the past six months and states that this achievement is to the credit and congratulations of all the criminal justice agencies that have contributed to the progress. The Government warmly endorse these conclusions.
Copies of the commissioner's report have been placed in the Library.
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