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Written Statements

Thursday 15 March 2007

Disability: Independent Living Funds

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Anne McGuire) has made the following Statement.

On 3 May 2006 in a Written Ministerial Statement, I announced details of a strategic review of the Independent Living Funds which concluded in January 2007.

I welcome the thorough review of the Independent Living Funds that has been conducted by Melanie Henwood and Bob Hudson. Their report comes at an important point in the evolution of social care and it is critical that the funds’ customers do not lose the valuable support that the funds currently provide.

I recognise the ground breaking role which the ILFs have played in developing a model of cash for care over the past 19 years and how important their services are to the disabled people who use the funds to enable them to live independently.

The reviewers have recommended that through to 2009-10 the funds should remain in their present form while making considerable improvements. In the longer term, however, they recommend that there should be a smooth transition towards full integration within a system of personalised budgets because it is anomalous to retain a separate public body operating in parallel to the mainstream of independent living.

The Government will consider these recommendations and their implications for severely disabled people and for the social care system across the UK, and we aim to publish our initial response to the report before the Summer Recess.

A copy of the report has been placed in the Library.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Justice and Home Affairs Council was held on 15 February 2007 in Brussels. Joan Ryan and I attended on behalf of the UK.

The German presidency opened the council with adoption of the “A” points list, which was approved apart from point 9, a mandate to open negotiations on the exchange of passenger name records. The items adopted included a regulation establishing an EU agency for fundamental rights, and a report on the extent of trafficking of human beings during the 2006 World Cup in Germany and the measures taken by Germany to deal with this.

The presidency hosted an informal dinner for Ministers the evening before the Council, at which Ministers discussed how best to prepare the post-2009 JHA programme. The discussion built on the ideas

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put forward by the German presidency at the informal JHA Council in Dresden; notably, the idea of setting up an informal group of the next six presidencies and the Commission to co-ordinate this work. Member states generally welcomed the idea of preliminary work by such a group to assist in the thorough preparation of any future work programme, while recognising that this would be without prejudice to any formal discussions and decisions in the Council at the appropriate time. The UK secured agreement that the group should include a common law expert, that it should adopt transparent working methods to allow contributions from those outside the group, and should report regularly.

One of the principal items considered by JHA Ministers last week was the exchange of policing information between member states in the context of incorporating the PrĂ1/4m Treaty into the EU legal order. This will facilitate the identification and subsequent exchange of information on fingerprints, vehicle registration and DNA. The Council mandated experts to prepare a Council decision for adoption in the coming months which will transfer the third pillar (police co-operation and data sharing) elements of that treaty into the EU, subject to deletion of a provision on measures in the event of immediate danger. The UK welcomed this approach and the importance of effective exchange of information more generally. The UK noted, however, that in taking forward this work, further consideration needed to be given to the detail of the data protection regime and that sufficient time would be required for national Parliaments to scrutinise the proposal.

The Council also secured a general approach on a framework decision which will provide for the exchange of prisoners between member states so that custodial sentences can be served in the prisoner's home state, close to family and friends. Once finalised and implemented we believe that this will benefit both member states and our citizens in aiding the re-integration into societies of our prisoners. Whilst participating in this general approach the UK maintained its parliamentary scrutiny reserve. Once adopted the Government expect this to reduce numbers of foreign prisoners in UK jails.

On migration, there was discussion on a common approach to partnership agreements with countries of origin and transit. It was suggested that these agreements should include information on legal migration channels, national quotas, circular migration and capacity building, in exchange for readmission, safeguarding human rights and a commitment to manage migration. There was general agreement from member states on this approach, although a majority were against the inclusion of quotas. The UK stressed the need for a flexible approach, highlighting a points-based system as an alternative to quotas. The Council noted that the first of the Commission’s proposals on legal migration would be expected in May.

There was a lunch time discussion on the framework decision on racism and xenophobia. It is clear that there is a commitment to reaching agreement on this measure and member states supported the text as a

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basis for further work. However, the UK, along with a number of other member states, could not accept Article 8(2) on mutual legal assistance, which we argued had been superseded by the European evidence warrant. One member state argued for the retention of this article. The presidency indicated that it would seek agreement to the text at the April JHA Council.

In the mixed committee, the Council took note that the SISone4All project was running on time. The global rescheduling of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) was also noted. The focus on SISone4all has meant that there will be a six-month delay to the SIS II programme; the SIS II operational date for those member states already connected to the SIS 1+ will be mid-December 2008.

There was support for reaching an early agreement on the regulation establishing rapid border intervention teams, with the presidency hoping to agree it at the April JHA Council. I stressed our support for Frontex, despite our exclusion from the regulation and offered to make available some equipment and expertise.

The increasing numbers of Moldovan applications for Romanian nationality was discussed under AOB, the Commission asking member states to participate in the Common Consular Centre initiatives. This question will be discussed further at senior official level.

Finally, as another AOB item, the Commission presented its proposal for a directive setting criminal sanctions for environmental crimes. This would oblige member states to treat serious offences against the environment as criminal acts and set minimum sanctions for environmental crimes. Negotiations on this proposal will commence at a working group in March.

EU: Transport Council

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I will attend the first Transport Council of the German presidency which takes place in Brussels on 22 March.

The Commission will report on the current difficulties on the PPP concession contract negotiations for the Galileo satellite navigation programme and their impact on the overall development of the programme. There has been no recent progress on the negotiations because of internal problems among the partners in the consortium. Ministers will discuss the issue and aim to form an opinion on how preparations should proceed for a decision to be taken at the June Council. We remain concerned about the lack of clear and transparent governance in the management of the development programme and will continue to examine the emerging deal very carefully for its justification in terms of value for money, affordability, and risk to the public sector.

The Council will be asked to adopt a mandate authorising the Commission to open negotiations with non-EU countries on their participation in the

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Galileo Supervisory Authority as associated members. The UK is content for the Council to do so.

The presidency will report on the contribution of the transport sector to the Lisbon strategy for economic development, with particular emphasis on the interplay of policy on economic growth and climate protection. An exchange of views is envisaged on the Council conclusions of 19 February on this topic. Ministers will be asked to indicate how the energy efficiency of transport may be improved and what measures might be taken to deal with emissions in rail and maritime transport. This will enable me to reaffirm to the Council the Government’s commitment to environmental aims in transport policy.

Linked to this debate on the Lisbon strategy will be a discussion during lunch of the inclusion of aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. We welcome and support the Commission’s legislative proposal and will respond in broad terms to two questions posed by the presidency which cover the application of the emissions cap to aviation and how to deal with third-country airlines.

The Commission will present to the Council the outcome of the latest rounds of negotiations on a proposed EU-US aviation agreement. The Council will be asked to agree on whether the Community should sign the draft agreement.

Following negotiations with Russia on an agreement to end charges for Siberian overflights for EU airlines, the Council will be asked to adopt a decision on the signature and provisional application of the agreement. The UK strongly welcomes this agreement and will support the draft decision.

AOB items include Commission presentations on the extension of the major trans-European transport axes to neighbouring countries and on the implementation of the SESAR programme for the modernisation of the European air traffic management system.

Fraud Review

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): I have today published the Government's formal response to the consultation on the recommendations of the Fraud Review. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Government's response to the Fraud Review is a key element of our overall strategy for handling fraud, which is estimated to cost the economy £14 billion per annum. Fraud presents a serious threat to the economy, and does real harm to victims and businesses.

The Government are committed to tackling fraud, and together with industry, the public sector and regulators will be taking forward a wide-ranging programme to create the buildings blocks for a truly strategic response to this growing threat.

In doing so, the Government accept the thrust of most of the recommendations of the Fraud Review. A detailed programme of work is now being established to take this to the next stage.

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A priority will be to establish a National Fraud Strategic Authority, which will be the forum for public and private sectors to develop a national strategy for tackling fraud. This will include establishing a mechanism for accurate and regular measurement of the extent of fraud, which is crucial to establishing a long-term solution.

Detailed work will also be taken forward on how best to establish a National Fraud Reporting Centre recommended by the review as a means of taking crime reports from victims and developing intelligence to tackle fraud and organised crime related to fraud. The Commissioner of the City of London Police will chair a working group to make detailed proposals on the establishment of a national lead force, which will aim to complement existing police force capacity and provide a centre of excellence for complex and serious cases.

The Government will also be taking forward a number of the recommendations made to improve the way the criminal justice system handles fraud-related cases. This will include a study to assess the costs of fraud to the courts and any benefits which can be derived from dealing with more aspects of complex frauds in one jurisdiction.

Finally, the Government will explore the review's recommendation of encouraging early guilty pleas through a safe legal framework which protects defendants' rights but also improves the experience of victims.

Immigration: Campsfield House Removal Centre

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The House will be aware that an incident occurred in the early hours of yesterday morning at Campsfield House immigration removal centre in Oxfordshire.

I would like, first, to praise the outstanding response of the emergency services and staff from the IND and the Prison Service who reacted with great speed and professionalism to quell this disturbance. As a result of their decisive, rapid action the centre is now fully under control and the majority of the centre is still fully operational.

An assessment of the impact of this incident is ongoing, but the director-general of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate has reported the following events to me.

At 6.30 am on Wednesday 14 March, an attempted removal of an immigration detainee in Campsfield House was forcibly resisted. Several other detainees then sought to intervene and obstruct this removal and began then to threaten staff and start fires in the centre.

The emergency services were called and all staff and detainees were moved to the exterior grounds within the centre at around 1 am. All of the fires were extinguished swiftly by the emergency services. Prison

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Service tornado units were then deployed to the centre to help restore full control.

There was no risk to public safety during the course of this incident. Throughout the day the perimeter fence remained secure. No detainee was able to abscond from the centre.

No serious injuries occurred to staff or detainees within the centre, but seven members of staff and two detainees were taken to hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation. All were subsequently discharged.

Robert Whalley CB, a retired senior civil servant, will extend his investigation into the recent disturbance at Harmondsworth removal centre to cover this incident.

Campsfield House holds up to 200 detainees and was operating at near full capacity at the time of the disturbance.

Sixty of the detainees at Campsfield House have been transferred under escort to other parts of the IND detention estate, but the other detainees have remained at the centre. No detainee will be released from either this centre or any other part of the IND estate as a result of the incident.

We cannot and will not tolerate such attempts deliberately to prevent the removal of those who have no legal rights to be in this country.

The director-general of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate has therefore been instructed to ensure that removal from the country will continue to be pursued actively in all cases.

Nuclear Security: Health and Safety Executive

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Truscott): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

With effect from 1 April 2007, the security activities of the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS) will be performed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on behalf of the Health and Safety Commission. The operational nuclear safeguards work of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will also be carried out by the HSE with effect from the same date. The staff in both areas will transfer to the HSE with their work.

The aim of these arrangements is to consolidate the safety, security and safeguards activities of the Government in a single organisation, consistent with the thrust of the recommendations of the 2005 Hampton report, so as to enable more effective and better co-ordinated regulation of the industry, and to enable the more effective deployment of resources. The DTI will remain responsible for nuclear safety, security and safeguards policy. The HSE will operate under memoranda of understanding agreed with the DTI, one for safeguards and one for security.

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Planning: Outdoor Advertisements

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Secretary of State has today laid regulations to control outdoor advertisements in England. A circular is being published to accompany the regulations and a regulatory impact assessment has been prepared.

This coincides with the launch of a database on unlawful advertisements and fly-posting, which will help local planning authorities to take enforcement action against those who flout the law.

The new regulations update and improve the current arrangements for controlling outdoor advertisements and make the legislation more responsive to rapidly changing forms of advertising. The circular explains the legislation and provides guidance for local planning authorities and businesses to help ensure that the system operates effectively.

Copies of the regulations, the circular and the regulatory impact assessment will be placed in the House Libraries or may be obtained via the Department for Communities and Local Government website at: =1506099 and the Office of Public Sector Information website at

The unlawful advertisements and fly-posting database is launched today. The database will enable enforcement officers within local planning authorities to input and extract details of prosecutions and formal cautions against companies and individuals who have unlawfully displayed advertisements alongside motorways and trunk roads. The database will also include this information about those guilty of fly-posting.

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