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Service (MTAS) and meets the eligibility criteria for their relevant specialty will be invited for an interview. Under this guaranteed interview scheme, candidates will be able to choose which of their preferences to be interviewed for in light of geographic specialty-specific and specialty training level-specific competition ratios which will be available on the MTAS website. We are in discussion about the implications of this for the timetable.The recruitment system has worked satisfactorily for general practice and this will continue. In other specialities, there is evidence that the short-listing process was weak and we will therefore eliminate this part of the process immediately. In contrast, the interview process has been working and therefore the revised approach will ensure that all long-listable candidates will be interviewed. The review group believes that this new approach is the most equitable and practical solution available. The group also recognises the enormous effort by the consultants, service and deans that has already taken place to ensure that the interview process has worked. The time and effort required for further interviews is recognised by the service and the time required will be made available. Therefore first choice interviews that have already taken place should not need to be repeated.In accordance with the advice already issued, we reiterate that all interviews will be informed by the use of CVs and portfolios and probing questions.In broad terms, this means that all eligible applicants at every stage of their training, whether or not they have already had interviews or interview offers, will be able to review their stated first choice preference and have the opportunity to select the one for which they want to be interviewed. We will be discussing operational details over the next week and these may differ between specialties and between different parts of the UK dependent on local circumstances. We will also consult widely. Exact details of how applicants will be able to do this will be available week commencing 2 April on the MMC website at www.mmc.nhs.uk. In the mean time, interviews will continue and applicants should attend unless they are confident that this will not be their preferred choice.No job offers will be made until all these interviews have taken place. Discussions are taking place on the implications of this for the filling of general practice training places. We expect that the majority of training places will be filled through these interviews. Unfilled vacancies will be filled through further interviews.The review group has recommended the development of a programme of career support for applicants at all stages of the process. Further details to support applicants, deans and selectors through this process will be available next week on the MMC website. Future work will explore what the possibilities might be for doctors to change specialties.

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This represents a reasonable way forward to meet both the aspirations of junior doctors and the timetable for making appointments for August. I therefore regret the fact that the British Medical Association representatives have withdrawn from the group. Despite this, the important work of the review group will continue and I encourage the British Medical Association representatives to come back to the table to ensure that all stakeholders can work together to take forward a workable solution to these issues.

I am glad to note that the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges supports this revised approach. It believes that with the work of the review group it offers the most equitable and practical solution available.

The timetable for the group's work is very tight and the next two weeks will see important progress. Applicants, consultants, employers and all those with a stake in the process will be anxious to be kept informed of progress. I trust that the House will understand if we continue to issue updates on important developments during the recess.

As ever, I am very grateful to Professor Douglas and his colleagues for their continuing work on the review group. We will publish the group's final report once it is completed.

Highways Agency: Business Plan

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (Stephen Ladyman) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Highways Agency’s business plan for 2007-08 is published today and contains eight key performance indicators for the agency to deliver against by 31 March 2008. The indicators and associated targets are:



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Indicator07-08 Target

Deliver the PSA target to make journeys more reliable on the strategic road network by 2007-08.

Make journeys more reliable on the strategic road network by ensuring that the average vehicle delay on the 10 per cent slowest journeys is less in 2007-08 than the baseline period

Deliver the programme of improvements to the strategic road network.

Open at least 23 major national and regional schemes between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2008

Develop a target by 30 September 2007 to measure progress in developing and delivering major schemes, and in the mean time continue to work towards achieving by 31 March 2008, at least 2,666 of 2,806 progress points for delivery of the strategic roads programme

Complete a cumulative total of at least 85 priority action sites at junctions

Deliver improvements to journeys by making information available to influence travel behaviour and inform decisions.

Implement the new driver information services in line with the timetable agreed in the business cases approved by Ministers in 2006-07, and develop further services for Ministerial consideration during 2007-08.

Evaluate the benefits of the voluntary travel plans introduced in 2006-07 and introduce at least 18 travel plans (making a cumulative total of least 26)

Implement high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane at the junction of the M606 and M62.

Deliver the agency’s agreed proportion of the national road casualty reduction target.

By 2010 reduce by a third (ie to 2244) the number of people killed or seriously injured on the core network compared with the 1994-98 average of 3366. Reduce by at least 841 to 2,525 by 31 March 2008.

Maintain the network in a safe and serviceable condition.

Maintain road surface condition index of 100 ± 1 within the renewal of roads budget, and develop a value for money indicator by September 2007

Mitigate the potentially adverse impact of strategic roads and take the opportunities to enhance the environment taking into account value for money.

Achieve an average score of no less than 95 per cent across the five sub-targets:

Deliver the Highways Agency's contribution to the department's joint PSA target for air quality

Air Quality: implement measures to improve the air quality in at least two prioritised air quality management areas—AQMAs (making a cumulative total of six completed improvements in the 32 priority areas)

Biodiversity: achieve at least 7 per cent of the published HA biodiversity action plan, which extends across 15 targets (making a cumulative total of 48 per cent of the HA BAP completed)

Landscape: introduce at least nine planting schemes to enhance the landscape

Noise: treat at least 900 lane km of road surface with lower noise surfacing of which 20 lane km are on concrete roads

Water Quality: treat at least four of the high priority pollution risk water outfall sites

Improve the environmental performance of major schemes by improving the average score for the environmental sub-criteria in the appraisal summary table, in at least five out of the 10 sub-criteria.

Deliver a high level of road user satisfaction.

Improve road user satisfaction by reducing the gap between the 2006-07 targets and total road user satisfaction by 5 per cent across core objectives:

Journey reliability and congestion;

Safety; and

Environment

Deliver the Highways Agency's contribution to the department's efficiency target.

Deliver efficiency improvements in roads procurement through adding value to service delivery of £200 million in 2007-08

Deliver our programme within the allocated administration budget, which requires an efficiency improvement of at least £1 million.

Explanatory notes against each of these indicators are provided in the business plan, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House.



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Housing Benefit: Anti-social Behaviour

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 (James Plaskitt) has made the following Statement.

I am pleased to announce the local authorities that have been chosen to pilot a sanction of housing benefit linked to anti-social behaviour. The sanction, contained in the Welfare Reform Bill (Clause 31), is part of the Respect programme and would apply where a household has been evicted for anti-social behaviour and subsequently refuses to engage with rehabilitation services offered. It will give local authorities an additional tool for tackling anti-social behaviour in order to achieve a culture of self-respect, respect for others and respect for community.

The intention is to pilot the scheme for two years (subject to the Bill receiving Royal Assent) in the following local authorities:

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council;Blackpool Borough Council;Dover District Council;Manchester City Council;New Forest District Council;Newham London Borough Council;South Gloucestershire Council; and

Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council

Iraq: Correction to Oral Answer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): On 22 February, during the debate on Iraq, in response to a question by my noble friend Lady Gould of Potternewton, I said: “The review of the constitution is due to end on 15 May 2007, and I assure my noble friend that the removal of Article 41 indeed remains one of our objectives” (Official Report, col. 1260).

I should have said that the Constitutional Review Committee, which was formed on 15 November 2006, is due to present its proposed amendments for the Council of Representatives’ consideration by mid- May 2007, and that while there is no stipulated time frame for the whole review process, Iraq's political party leaders have committed to completing the constitutional review process, including the required referendum, within a year of the review committee forming. We are making clear to the Government of Iraq that Article 41 must be implemented in a way that does not contravene the various human rights provisions in the Iraqi constitution. I apologise to my noble friend and to the House for this inadvertent error.

We are also supporting Iraqi women’s groups with concerns about the impact of the constitution—helping them make their voices heard. We will continue to press the Government of Iraq about the important role of women in society and to develop

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policies and laws in line with the constitution which states that all people should be treated equally irrespective of gender, race or ethnicity.

Local Government: Future Unitary Structures

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

On 30 January I announced that in response to our invitation to councils we had received 26 proposals from local authorities for the creation of unitary local government in their areas.

We have now completed our assessment of these proposals against the five criteria set out in the invitation. These criteria are that change to future unitary structures must be affordable, and be supported by a broad cross-section of partners and stakeholders; and the future structures must provide strong, effective and accountable strategic leadership, deliver genuine opportunities for neighbourhood flexibility and empowerment, and deliver value for money and equity on public services.

On the basis of this assessment, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has decided that the following unitary proposals will proceed to stakeholder consultation.

Councils Submitting ProposalsProposed Unitary Structure

Bedford Borough Council

A unitary authority for Bedford

Bedfordshire County Council

A unitary authority for Bedfordshire

Cheshire County Council

A unitary authority for Cheshire

Chester City Council

Two unitary authorities for Cheshire

Cornwall County Council

A unitary authority for Cornwall

Cumbria County Council

A unitary authority for Cumbria

Durham County Council

A unitary authority for Durham

Exeter City Council

A unitary authority for Exeter

Ipswich Borough Council

A unitary authority for Ipswich

Northumberland County Council

A unitary authority for Northumberland

The Northumberland District Councils

Two unitary authorities for Northumberland

Norwich City Council

A unitary authority for Norwich on existing boundaries

North Yorkshire County Council

A unitary authority for North Yorkshire

Shropshire County Council

A unitary authority for Shropshire

Somerset County Council

A unitary authority for Somerset

Wiltshire County Council

A unitary authority for Wiltshire


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