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Pensions: Financial Assistance Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Pensions Reform (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Statement.

The general notification period for the financial assistance scheme ends on the 28 February. The notification period began on 1 September and is the period during which the scheme manager must be supplied with some basic details of potentially eligible pension schemes in order for them to be considered for qualification. The scheme manager may, at his discretion, accept notification of those details for any particular scheme after the 28 February.

Although FAS offers help to those pension schemes which began winding up between 1 January 1997 and 5 April 2005 where the principal employer became insolvent on or before 28 February, extending the notification period for any particular scheme also extends the period in which an insolvency event can occur. This means it may be possible for some pension schemes which would not otherwise qualify for FAS or for compensation offered under the pension protection fund to become qualifying schemes for FAS. I wish to make it clear that we may be able to extend help to some individual pension scheme members who have lost part or all of their occupational pensions but who may not have appeared eligible for help from either FAS or the PPF.

The Government will set a definitive cut-off date for insolvency events before the end of the calendar year. Until then the scheme manager will consider requests for an extension to the notification period from those pension schemes that undergo a qualifying insolvency event after the 28 February.
 
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Police: DNA Database

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today placing in the Libraries of both Houses recently issued guidance from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) to chief officers on the consideration of applications for the removal, in exceptional circumstances only, of DNA and fingerprints from the respective databases. There has been considerable recent interest in the policy and operation of the National DNA Database (NDNAD), particularly in relation to juveniles and those arrested but subsequently not proceeded against. This statement and accompanying guidance is intended to inform that debate.

Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, (PACE) as amended, the police may take without consent a non-intimate DNA sample and fingerprints from all persons arrested for, informed they will be reported for, or charged with a recordable offence and detained in a police station. Since May 2001, the police have been able to retain the DNA samples and fingerprints taken from persons who have not been convicted of such an offence. That change in legislation was itself challenged by judicial review and in July 2004 a judicial committee of the House of Lords found that the retention of DNA samples and fingerprints in these circumstances was proportionate and justified. The police may also take and retain DNA and fingerprints from persons convicted of a recordable offence. The amendment to PACE to allow the police to take and retain DNA and fingerprints from arrested persons is contained in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 which was considered carefully by Parliament.

Since the amendment to PACE in 2001, about 200,000 DNA samples have been retained that would previously have had to be destroyed and of these, over 8,000 have been matched with crime scene stains involving nearly 14,000 offences, including murder, rape and other sexual offences. Early research has also shown that sampling persons who have been arrested but not proceeded against has yielded a "match" with a crime scene stain in over 3,000 offences, again including murder, manslaughter and rape. These links may never have been made had the police not been given their current powers to take and retain DNA. In relation to the 24,168 under-18s who have been arrested but not charged, which include 23 arrests for murder and 288 for rape, 541 have been matched to crime scenes profiles for unsolved crimes.

I wish to draw Members' attention to two important points in relation to juveniles under 10. First, there are no under-10s on the NDNAD where the sample has been taken without the consent of a parent or legal guardian, and in fact there are no powers to do so without such consent. Secondly, it is possible for anyone to apply to their chief constable to have their
 
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or their child's DNA or fingerprints removed from the databases and the ACPO guidance sets out the process for doing that.

Tony Lake, chief constable of Lincolnshire Police Force and chairman of the National DNA Database Strategy Board has emphasised the value of DNA evidence and the importance of the database to the criminal justice service.

New governance arrangements for the NDNAD were introduced in December 2005 following the transformation of the Forensic Science Service to a government-owned company. A new delivery unit, which will initially be part of the Home Office, is responsible for the standard setting and oversight of the NDNAD, ensuring quality and integrity of the service. It will be overseen by the National DNA Database Strategic Board, a tripartite board composed of representatives from the Home Office, ACPO and the Association of Police Authorities. Representation at meetings of the board by the Human Genetics Commission is being increased from one to two persons in order to strengthen lay representation and the Government are additionally looking to establish a dedicated ethics group to provide independent oversight of board decision-making.

Inclusion on the NDNAD does not signify a criminal record and there is no personal cost or material disadvantage to the individual simply by being on it. Given this, and the clear evidence showing the substantial public benefit in relation to the detection of serious crime, it is the judgment of the Government that the existing policy is justified. However, they accept the need for ongoing accountability to the public and the NDNAD annual report, which publishes details of its activities and will be laid before Parliament, is an important part of the aim to increase transparency and maintain and improve public confidence in the oversight, management and operations of the NDNAD.

Private Security Industry

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 12 January, I announced that the Government had decided to introduce an approved contractor scheme (ACS) for the private security industry and that the detail of the scheme, including the fee structure, would be announced at a later date. The purpose of the scheme is to protect the public and to maintain and improve standards within the private security industry.

The detail of the ACS has now been decided. It will have the following key features.

The scheme will have three broad alternative routes to accreditation, relating to a combination of options 3 and 4 set out in the draft regulatory impact assessment (RIA) issued on 25 August 2005:
 
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(a) self-assessment against a Security Industry Authority (SIA)-provided workbook followed by verification from an SIA-approved assessing body;

(b) confirmation of ISO9001:2000 certification by a UKAS-accredited body combined with British Standards compliance, topped up with those elements of the SIA self-assessment workbook in (a) not already covered; and

(c) use of an existing SIA-approved accreditation, based on existing standards, to meet the same requirement as (a).

Companies approved under the scheme will be permitted to deploy up to 15 per cent of their security personnel who are not yet licensed but who have completed training and have an application pending. I have already announced that they will not be able to deploy unlicensed personnel on assignments that involve contact with children or vulnerable adults. This will ensure that those dealing with this particularly sensitive group have undergone, and satisfied any SIA requirements relating to, a Criminal Records Bureau check.

The fee structure has been set, following consultation on a partial regulatory impact assessment, to enable full cost recovery for each type of firm, and is in two parts:

The application fees are slightly lower than those consulted upon in the partial RIA.

The detail of the ACS will be subject to annual review.

Regulations will be made to bring the ACS into force from 20 March 2006. A full regulatory impact assessment will be published on the same date.

Full details of the scheme, including the workbook, are on the SIA website at www.the-sia.org.uk.


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