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Written Statements

Thursday 29 November 2007

Abortion Act 1967

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today we have laid before Parliament the Government’s response to the Science and Technology Committee’s report on the scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967 (Cm 7278).

In June 2007, the committee undertook to conduct an inquiry into scientific developments relating to the Abortion Act 1967. The department participated in the inquiry and the Government are grateful for the committee’s report and have accepted several of the key recommendations.

The Command Paper sets out the Government’s response to all 32 conclusions and is available in the Library.

Armed Forces: Future Rapid Effect System

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The future rapid effect system (FRES) has a vital role to play in the future of the British Army. We stated that we would announce the outcome of the utility vehicle design trials by the end of November. I am delighted to announce today that these trials have been successfully completed on schedule, and that a recommendation has been produced based on technical design considerations. Further work with all three possible providers will be undertaken over the next few weeks in order to clarify the commercial implications of their proposals. Following this, a definitive announcement will be made on the preferred design to be taken through the remainder of assessment phase of this part of the FRES programme.

Armed Forces: Sea King

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am announcing today the award of a contract to Agusta Westland for implementation phase 2 of the Sea King integrated operational support (SKIOS IP2) programme. This programme will maintain availability

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levels and reduce costs for each of the five variants of Sea King helicopter operated by the RN and the RAF.

This is part of the wider defence logistics transformation programme to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of military logistics support to the front line. The contract builds on existing SKIOS arrangements and the support arrangements piloted on other MoD helicopters. It is worth around £470 million over the first five years, with a price review thereafter, and transfers to industry further responsibility for Sea King and component maintenance. The contract is forecast to deliver savings in the region of £90 million over 12 years against current support arrangements without any reduction of capability. These savings are in addition to the savings already achieved under implementation phase 1 of the programme, awarded in April 2005, which provides technical and spares support services. Implementation of phase 2 also transfers to industry approximately 300 of military and civilian posts that currently provide flight line engineering and logistics support at Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Search and Rescue (SAR) bases in the UK and Falkland Islands. The contract represents another deliverable of the helicopter plans set out in the defence industrial strategy, strengthens the partnered relationship with industry, and maintains aircraft availability levels but with reduced through-life costs. Overall, it provides better value for money for the taxpayer.

Courts: Leeds Magistrates' Court

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing that yesterday, on 28 November, I formally asked Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Courts Administration to work with the Chief Inspectors for the Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service to conduct a thorough inspection and prepare a report to Ministers into the resulting and warrant processes at Leeds magistrates’ court.

An experienced judge will also be appointed by the senior presiding judge to conduct an independent investigation of the judicial responsibilities of legal advisers at Leeds magistrates’ court.

The concerns about Leeds magistrates’ court relate to two issues: the recording of outcomes of cases principally between 1997 and 2003 and subsequently, in the case of recordable offences, updating the Police National Computer (PNC). This is a process known as resulting. The second related issue centres on a process used for withdrawing warrants issued by the court for the arrest of defendants who fail to appear. The withdrawal of a warrant is a judicial decision.

The investigations will verify the number of cases involved, the breakdown of offences and the position regarding the Police National Computer. The terms of reference are as follows:



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“Under Section 60(4) of the Courts Act 2003 and working with HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary and HM Chief Inspector of CPS; the Chief Inspector of Court Administration will report to the Secretary of State for Justice, the Home Secretary and the Attorney-General as necessary on:

5. The effectiveness and appropriateness of the systems enabling a record of every court adjudication to be entered in the magistrates’ court register at Leeds magistrates’ court. 6. The effectiveness and appropriateness of the systems enabling court registers to be conveyed to the police from Leeds magistrates’ court. 7. The effectiveness and appropriateness of the systems enabling court adjudications from Leeds magistrates’ court to be placed on the PNC. 8. The effectiveness and appropriateness of the interagency systems in place to manage warrant withdrawal in Leeds magistrates’ court.

The Chief Inspector of Court Administration will support the separate and independent judicial investigation of the judicial responsibilities of legal advisers at Leeds magistrates’ court, as appropriate”

In addition, the following actions are in place:

we have started investigating the national process and practice for withdrawing warrants, involving courts, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. This has identified differing practices across magistrates’ courts which will require further local investigation and may require us to clarify the procedures; and simultaneously we are writing to all Local Criminal Justice Boards as part of a national review into warrant withdrawal practice across England and Wales and will provide further detailed national guidance should that be required.

Following a proactive national review instigated by officials in January 2007 about the effectiveness of processes for resulting the 2.2 million cases dealt with in the magistrates’ court each year, my officials identified that there were some courts which needed to improve performance and take action to deal with any outstanding cases.

Ministers have been actively engaged in this ongoing work on improving performance in resulting since January.

The majority of outstanding cases were dealt with by the end of May and performance has been improving since. The courts keep performance under regular review to ensure the accuracy of the resulting process. I have however asked HMCS again to review comprehensively the information for any outstanding issues.

However, the national review identified a continuing issue at Leeds magistrates’ court where there was a problem with the process. Where any evidence of misconduct was found, disciplinary investigations have been undertaken. A further investigation is ongoing.

As part of the work that court staff were undertaking to look at these issues, this month they identified a further problem with an historical process

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dating back to 2003 to withdraw old failure-to-appear warrants which had been agreed by the court, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police. Although the withdrawal of warrants is entirely appropriate in certain circumstances, the process used in Leeds needs to be investigated.

In June 2006, the Government issued guidance for areas on withdrawing warrants, emphasising the issues that should be taken into account and stressing that the decision to withdraw a warrant is a judicial one. However, over the past few months it has become evident that the issues over the processes used in Leeds were of sufficient concern to merit a detailed inquiry. The issue over the withdrawal of warrants, which was reported to Ministers last week, is of particular concern.

It is for that reason I have asked the inspectors to review all of these matters to provide me with independent assurance that the issues have been dealt with appropriately and to say whether there are any national lessons that we should learn from the experience in Leeds. Together with the review of the process for the withdrawal of warrants and the judicial responsibilities review, I will then be able to assess whether further national actions need to be taken, including improvements to the resulting process.

The resulting of cases and enforcement of warrants are important areas of work. All criminal justice agencies work continually to improve processes and address performance issues where they arise.

HMCS has worked with the police to improve performance and, for the first time, the joint target of having 75 per cent of all case results entered on the PNC within 10 days of the court hearing was met in July 2007 and has been maintained.

We have also improved the enforcement of warrants. From August 2004 until June 2007 there was a 54 per cent reduction in the number of outstanding warrants. Latest data indicate that the number of warrants withdrawn per month has fallen by more than 30 per cent since the same period in 2005.

I will make a further Statement to the House on the findings and facts relating to all these matters, the action that has been taken and the actions that will be taken when the investigations have concluded. The inspectorate report will be published to Parliament.

Crime: Protective Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Tony McNulty) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing that three more initiatives are being added to the 10 already included as demonstrator sites for the protective capabilities programme. These initiatives are addressing the demands of major crime, serious organised crime and other threats to public safety by police forces and authorities working together on a range of different collaborative projects.



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The new initiatives that the Home Office will be supporting are:



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Police Forces and AuthoritiesInitiative

Staffordshire/Warwickshire/West Mercia/West Midlands

Regional intelligence project: to develop enhanced intelligence structures between the four regional forces

Derbyshire/Leicestershire/Lincolnshire/Northamptonshire/Nottinghamshire

Specialist operational capacity and capability: to identify and take forward opportunities to deliver joint specialist requirements for protective services across the region.

Humberside/North Yorkshire/South Yorkshire/West Yorkshire

Fast-time tasking, co-ordinating and resourcing arrangements: to provide capacity and capability coverage for all seven protective services across the forces of the region

The selection of these three initiatives, from 12 proposals submitted, will bring the number of forces participating in the programme to 34 across England and Wales.

The demonstrator sites are being established to examine and develop different models of collaboration between forces to enhance the delivery of a range of policing services focused on protecting the public. The lessons learnt will be used to strengthen the development of future police joint working, particularly in finding ways to improve the capability and capacity for protective services delivery.

Home Office funding of £4.1 million is being provided in total to the demonstrators to support the start-up costs of their projects.

EU: Competitiveness Council

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Competitiveness (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The following Statement provides information on the Competitiveness Council in Brussels on 22 November 2007, at which I represented the UK. The meeting was chaired in the morning by Manuel Pinho, Portuguese Minister for Economy and Innovation, and in the afternoon by State Secretary Joao Tiago Silveira of the Portuguese Justice Ministry.

The council held an exchange of views and reached agreement on integrated conclusions covering industry, SME, and e-skills policy, as well as on the Commission's recent communications on globalisation and competitiveness. The council agreed on the importance of sustainability and knowledge, as well as facilitating access to markets, both internal and external. I intervened to emphasise the importance of an integrated approach to competitiveness, and an open trade policy.

The council took note of a progress report and held an exchange of views on better regulation. I intervened to welcome progress, but to emphasise that further work is needed on impact assessment and the reduction of administrative burdens, including in the field of company law.

The council also took note of a progress report and held an exchange of views on the revision to the timeshare directive. I intervened to press for further progress on this proposal, but argued that the issue of the right of withdrawal for consumers should be addressed as part of the Commission's wider review of consumer legislation.

Conclusions on sustainable and competitive European tourism were also adopted, noting the contribution which sustainable tourism can make to regeneration and economic development.

The council adopted conclusions on a simplified business environment for EU companies in the areas of company law, accounting and auditing, emphasising the importance of creating an investment-friendly climate and improving European competitiveness.

The council took note of a progress report and held an exchange of views on the patent system in Europe, focusing on whether to split jurisdiction for infringement and validity disputes, and on whether to combine work on patent litigation and the community patent. The UK intervened to argue against split jurisdiction, and to avoid linking progress on patent litigation issues to the community patent.

Under other business, the Commission and presidency gave short progress reports on the single market review, the free movement of goods, the classification, labelling and packaging of substances, product safety, services of general interest, trade defence instruments (where the UK intervened to support a modernised regime which takes account of the interests of all players), the legal protection of designs, and a number of presidency conferences. The incoming Slovenian presidency gave a brief indication of its likely work programme.

Home Office: Autumn Performance Report

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Home Office autumn performance report 2007 will be published tomorrow by command of Her Majesty. Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office. The report will also be available on the Home Office website.



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The report sets out the progress that we have made towards achieving our public service agreement targets.

The report shows that we have made progress against our targets. We have continued to reduce the harm cause by drugs. We are cutting crime levels in high-crime areas faster than elsewhere. In the year to June 2007, we brought 1.434 million offences to justice. Police performance continues to improve in tackling crime and public confidence is continuing to increase.

Minimum Wage

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs (Pat McFadden) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the Government have submitted their economic evidence on the national minimum wage to the Low Pay Commission. The commission will take this and all the other evidence received into account when preparing its next report on the minimum wage, which will be submitted to the Government by the end of February 2008.

The economic evidence addresses recent trends in economic and labour market performance, as well as the impact of the national minimum wage on pay, employment and younger workers.

Copies of the Government's economic evidence have been placed in the Libraries of the House and will be posted on the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform website at www.berr.gov.uk.

The Government submitted their evidence on non-economic issues to the commission in October. A combined volume of the non-economic and economic evidence will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses at a later date.


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