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In a letter to the Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee on 29 September 2004 (a copy of which was deposited in the Library of the House), I reported that the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was conducting an investigationOperation Gestaltinto Customs and Excise's handling of a series of excise diversion frauds on the London City Bond in the mid-1990s. I can today update the House on significant developments in the police investigation.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) yesterday received confirmation that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has considered a report from the MPS relating to allegations of non-disclosure to the Butterfield review involving two very senior then serving officers, Terry Byrne and David Pickup, and also Sir Richard Broadbent, former chairman of Customs and Excise. The CPS has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to charge any of these individuals with a criminal offence and that further work on this matter would not be justified.
The chairman of HMRC, David Varney, has confirmed that the department will now discuss with David Pickup a return to work in accordance with the department's procedures. Terry Byrne retired from HMRC in November 2004 on reaching the age of 60.
I made clear in my letter of 29 September 2004, and HMRC has also consistently stated, that it would be wrong and unjust to prejudge the outcome of investigations, and that the term "under investigation" should not be taken to mean that charges would follow. This has been an extremely difficult and unpleasant period for the individuals concerned. It is, however, necessary that reports of serious alleged wrongdoing are properly and independently investigated.
The MPS's Operation Gestalt investigation continues. A total of 12 current and former HMRC officials at present remain under investigation. The department has in place established contact and welfare arrangements to support the officers affected.
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The priority of the department continues to be to ensure that: the MPS receives HMRC's full and active co-operation with the investigation; the rights of all individuals involved are protected; and the department's ongoing law enforcement operations are maintained while the investigation is ongoing.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The National Probation Service has today published its annual report for 200405. The Prison Service and the Office for Contracted Prisons published their annual reports and financial accounts for 2004-05 on 19 July. Copies of all the annual reports have been placed in the Library.
Performance against all the National Offender Management targets for 2004-05 is indicated in the table below. A full breakdown of the performance of both public and contracted prison establishments, in relation to applicable key performance indicators (KPIs), will be placed in the Library. The breakdown includes updated figures for those establishments managed by the Office for Contracted Prisons.
|Public Protection Targets|
|Category A Escapes||0||0|
|Total Escapes from Prisons and Prison Escorts|
|Contracted Escorts (NOMS)|
|1:20,000||1:38,894 Reducing Re-Offending Targets|
|Education Awards (Probation Service)||Basic Skills starts|
|Basic Skills Awards achieved|
|Education Awards (Prisons)||Basic skills awards achieved||56,080||63,628|
|Key Work Skills awards achieved|
|Drug Treatment and Testing Orders||13,000||10,322|
|Of which lower intensity orders||1,000||329|
|Drug Treatment and Testing Order successful completions||35%||36%|
|Intensive Control and Change Programmes started||1,790||841|
|Intensive Control and Change Programmes completed||1,100||125|
|Enhanced Community Punishment completions||30,000||38,473|
|Offending Behaviour Programmes completions (Probation Service)||15,000||15,595|
|Offending Behaviour Programmes (Prisons)||7,000||8,364|
|Of which Sex Offender Treatment programmes||1,180||1,232|
|Of which Living Skills Programmes||5,820||7,132|
|Drug Treatment Programmes Completions (prisons)||3,900||4,902|
|Employment, Training and Education (ETE) place on release||38,000||41,146|
|Breach proceedings initiated within 10 days||90%||87%|
|Proportion of orders and licences in which the offender complies||70%||79%|
|Justice and Reparation Targets|
|Timely Arrival at Court (NOMS)||75%||79%|
|Pre-Sentence Reports to the Magistrates courts within 15 days||90%||73%|
|Mandatory Drug Tests||Less than10%||11.8%|
|Self-inflicted Deaths||Less than112.8 per100,000||113.7 per100,000|
|Serious Assault||Less than1.56%||1.56%|
|Overcrowding (public prisons)||Less than24%||23.7%|
|Overcrowding (contracted prisons)||Less than34.5%||26.1|
|Staff Sickness (public prisons only)||Less than12.5 days/person||12.7|
|Staff Sickness (Probation Service)||Less than9 days/person||12.3|
|Ethnic Minority Staff (public prisons only)||At least6%||5.7%|
|Regionally set employment targets for ethnic minority staff||8.4%||10.91 (Apr-Dec 2004)|
|Clear proposals in court reports for minority ethnic offenders||95%||97%|
I have decided to reduce UK budget support this year to Uganda by £20 million. £15 million of this money will be used to provide humanitarian relief in northern Uganda, and £5 million will be held back until after the elections in February (when a decision will be taken on whether to disburse it). Overall this
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will cut UK poverty reduction budget support (PRBS) to Uganda to £30 million, below the 200405 figure of £35 million.
The UK and Ugandan Governments signed a new poverty reduction budget support (PRBS) arrangement in December 2004 for a grant of up to £145 million over three years. This arrangement links budget support to reforms detailed in Uganda's poverty eradication action plan (PEAP), including macro-economic management and governance. The criteria which guide our disbursement are drawn directly from the PEAP and include both the "prior actions" agreed for the World Bank's Poverty Reduction Support Credit (PRSC) and specific indicators on governance.
We disbursed £35 million out of our £40 million allocation in 200405, but cut £5 million due to concerns about the progress of Uganda's political transition leading up to multi-party elections in 2006.
The disbursement decision for 200506, which has just been made, follows a further assessment of Uganda's performance. In a number of respects this is still strong. Growth in 2004-05 was 6 per cent and Uganda is on track to meet almost half of the MDG targets, although additional efforts will be required to achieve them all. Negotiations on the PRSC with the World Bank have now concluded. Ten of the eleven "prior actions" have been successfully completed, but worryingly a "prior action" on the execution of the budget has only been partially met because expenditure on public administration significantly overran. Our governance assessment has highlighted concerns about: delays in putting in place the legal basis for multi-party elections; the continuation of state financing for the movement system in a new era of multi-party politics; and more recently, and particularly worryingly, about issues associated with the arrest and trial of the leader of the Forum for Democratic Change, one of the main parties that plans to contest the election.
The decision to reduce the PRBS commitment to £30 million in 200506 takes into account the need to ensure that Uganda's budget is still able to finance key expenditures that are crucial to improve the lives of poor people.
The decision to reallocate £15 million to humanitarian assistance provided through the UN reflects our concern about the serious humanitarian situation in northern Uganda. This is not being fully addressed by the Ugandan Government or the finance that has so far been committed to humanitarian agencies. Our additional assistance will be focused on providing food and improving access to basic services, especially healthcare.
A decision on the remaining £5 million will be made after the elections in February. We will continue to monitor Uganda's performance closely. I will make a decision on our PRBS commitment to Uganda in 200607 in the light of our assessment of Uganda's continuing commitment to the partnership objectives set out in Partnerships for Poverty Reduction: Rethinking Conditionality.
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