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Fraud Trials

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): Fraud has been estimated to cost the economy at least £14 billion a year and is an increasing threat to our economy and society. It facilitates other crime such as terrorism.

In our manifesto the Government said that "We will overhaul laws on fraud and the way that fraud trials are conducted to update them for the 21st century and to make them quicker and effective". Legislation is currently before Parliament to introduce a single offence of fraud; and I announced in June that the
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Government intended to implement Section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which would allow a limited number of very serious and complex fraud trials to be tried without a jury if both the trial judge and the Lord Chief Justice concur. The order to implement Section 43 will be laid today before both Houses.

But in addition to these worthwhile changes the Government have decided that our response to fraud must be strengthened further. To facilitate that an interdepartmental review of fraud has been established which will report jointly to me and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, by late spring 2006. The review will consider the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution/punishment of fraud. It will consider the scope for improving the current arrangements with the objective of reducing the amount of fraud and minimising the harm it causes to the economy and wider society. The terms of reference are attached to this Statement. The review team will consult widely with stakeholders in the public and private sectors before delivering its report, and representatives of the Fraud Advisory Panel and Financial Services Authority have agreed to join the steering group, which will be chaired by one of my officials.

NHS Improvement Plan: GP Referrals

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The NHS Improvement Plan gave a commitment that by December 2008 no one will have to wait longer than 18 weeks from general practitioner referral to hospital treatment.

Today I am launching a listening exercise on the proposed principles and definitions that will underpin the 18 week commitment.

Between January and July 2005, 24 NHS pilot sites worked with the Department of Health in a consultative exercise focusing on the patient, operational and information implications of the 18 week commitment, identifying the challenges in achieving this, and defining the delivery planning process. Clinical, managerial and technical specialists in the NHS all participated, providing valuable ideas on achieving the 18 week commitment.

Work has been identified for preparing a detailed delivery plan by early 2006. The next task is to obtain the views of the NHS and other stakeholders on the proposed principles and definitions around this delivery plan.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

Police Performance Assessments 2004–05

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Hazel Blears) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
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Today I have published Police Performance Assessments 2004–05 for individual forces in England and Wales. This publication has been brought together by the Police Standards Unit (PSU) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to improve and integrate their assessment regimes to make performance information understandable and accessible. The police performance assessments have replaced the previous police performance monitors, which were first published in February 2003. Copies will be placed in the House Library.

Tables have been introduced to provide an understandable summary of performance for a force across seven key performance areas. Forces are judged firstly against their peers using the clear judgments "excellent", "good", "fair" and "poor". A second judgment is made against their previous year's performance using the terms "improved", "stable" and "deteriorated". The publication is complemented by comprehensive information (including data and technical definitions) available via the Internet.

The police performance assessments use the set of national measures for policing performance published in the National Policing Plan 2004–07. The assessments will undoubtedly develop in the future, for example, as we develop better ways of assessing performance in tackling anti-social behaviour and investigating organised crime. However, as the first assessment of this kind, the publication sets a benchmark for future policing performance. It will enable local communities to understand the performance of their force thereby promoting accountability and responsiveness. It will also allow forces with their police authorities to identify strengths and weaknesses thereby reducing the need for external inspections, reviews or other interventions.

Satellite Dishes and Antennas

Baroness Andrews: My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today the Government are laying SI 2005/2935 to change the planning regulations for antennas, including satellite dishes.

In April 2003, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister issued a consultation document, Satellite Dishes and Other Antennas, on possible changes to the planning regulations for all domestic antennas except TV aerials. This document proposed a number of options for change to the permitted development rights for buildings in England. We received a wide variety of responses, which we have since been considering.

Householders have a general permission, known as permitted development rights, to make certain modifications to their property. We intend to amend these regulations to take account of the wide variety of antenna technology now available, so that all types of microwave antenna, whether they are satellite dishes, mesh antennas, wireless antennas, or any other type of antenna, will be subject to the same
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permitted development regulations. This will make planning regulations consistent with the requirements of technological neutrality in the Electronic Communications Act 2003.

The changes will also make it easier for householders and businesses to access both digital or satellite television and wireless broadband services. However, these changes to the planning regulations are balanced to ensure that any adverse environmental impact is kept to a minimum, particularly in designated areas. Accordingly, there are restrictions as to the number, the size, and the location of antennas.

It is a condition of installing an antenna under both the current and revised regulations that it be sited in such a way so that it minimises its impact on the external appearance of the building. Furthermore, antennas no longer needed for reception or transmission purposes should be removed as soon as practicable.

Dwelling Houses and Buildings under 15 metres

Under the revised planning regulations for dwelling houses and buildings under 15 metres:

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Buildings above 15 metres in height

We do not propose to modify the permitted development rights that apply to these buildings significantly. Under the revised planning regulations:

Designated Areas

The regulations for designated areas are more restrictive. Designated areas are those listed under Article 1(5) of Schedule 1 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) 1995 (the GPDO). These areas are: the National Parks; areas of outstanding natural beauty; conservation areas, and the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads. In these areas, as well as the number, size, and siting restrictions made according to the height of the building, antennas should not be both facing and visible from a road or a broad's waterway.

If a local planning authority considers an antenna is poorly sited and could reasonably be positioned less conspicuously, they can ask the owner to re-site the antenna at their own expense. If such a request is refused, the planning authority may then require an application for planning permission for which a charge is payable, or serve the householder with an enforcement notice requiring the siting of the antenna to be altered in a specified way.

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