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Written Statements

Monday 10 December 2007

Counterterrorism: G6 Symposium

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.

I met counterparts from Poland, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, along with experts from the seven countries for a two-day symposium at Schwielowsee, near Werder, on 30 November and 1 December 2007.

The symposium was intended to provide a chance to reflect, together with the help of legal and academic experts, on developments in international terrorism and to intensify dialogue on effective measures to take against this threat.

In May 2007, the interior Ministers of the G6 countries and the US met in Venice at Italy's invitation to discuss counterterrorism issues. They came to the conclusion that they needed to work together on legal issues around how states counter international terrorism in order to come up with effective responses to the wide variety of threats faced by the international community and its citizens. At that meeting, the participants agreed to intensify their dialogue.

The symposium discussed, inter alia:

whether there were problems and gaps in the legal environment in which states worked to counter terrorism, and how such issues could be addressed;some specific issues, such as: deportation of terrorist suspects; the creation of new criminal offences; and intelligence sharing; andother related issues such as the European Police Mission (EUPOL) in Afghanistan.

Germany has indicated an intention to convene further work to continue the fruitful dialogue of this symposium.

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 the Home Office will be increasing its contribution to the work of police forces and authorities dealing with serious and organised crime and other protective services. In 2008-09 and 2009-10, £11 million will be made available, rising to £13 million in 2010-11. This will help the police service to ensure that it meets the standards expected in the delivery of protective services throughout England and Wales by 2011.

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From these amounts, grants will be available up to £5 million in 2008-09 and £4 million a year in 2009-10 and 2010-11 to continue the work of the regional intelligence units addressing serious and organised crime. These have been developed, with Home Office financial support, by the Association of Chief Police Officers in collaboration with police forces and authorities throughout England and Wales. We shall be discussing with police forces and authorities the financial contribution that they will need to make in collaboration to ensure the success of these units.

We shall continue financial support to the East Midlands Special Operations Unit recognising its success in tackling serious and organised crime and the special needs of the region. We expect the five forces and authorities in the region to become increasingly self-sufficient in the collective provision of this capability and will therefore be discussing with them a tapering of financial support over the period.

These funds also include completion of grants towards the start-up costs of protective services demonstrator sites and the project to evaluate their development and disseminate best practice. Thirteen demonstrator sites are now being funded involving 34 police forces working in collaboration to deliver protective services.

Finally, we will be discussing with police forces and authorities the other opportunities there may be to make critical enhancements to their collaborative contribution to protective service improvements using the money the Home Office is making available.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel for Northern Ireland

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 has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 1 December 2007, responsibility for certain functions in respect of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel for Northern Ireland transferred from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to the Secretary of State for Justice. The transfer was effected by a machinery-of-government change.

The Criminal Injury Compensation Appeals Panel for Northern Ireland was established under the Criminal Injuries Compensation (Northern Ireland) Order 2002 and hears appeals from the final decision of the Compensation Agency for Northern Ireland on applications for compensation made by, or in respect of, persons who have sustained criminal injury.

Prior to the transfer on 1 December 2007, responsibility for the entire criminal injuries compensation scheme, which included the Compensation Agency for Northern Ireland and the Criminal Injury Compensation Appeals Panel for Northern Ireland, lay with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Responsibility for the Compensation Agency for Northern Ireland will remain with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

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From 1 December 2007, responsibility for appointing, removing and remunerating the adjudicators who hear the appeals and the reporting, accounting and auditing arrangements in respect of Criminal Injuries Compensation Appeals Panel for Northern Ireland rests with the Secretary of State for Justice. Full details in relation to the statutory functions which have been transferred can be found on the Northern Ireland Court Service website


The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade Policy (Gareth Thomas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I would like to bring the House up to date on a number of matters connected to the collapse of Farepak.

Investigation of the collapse

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform's companies investigation branch conducts investigations into companies where there is concern over the way a company's business has been conducted (usually a suspicion of fraud, misconduct or sharp practice). That is why an investigation was instigated into the collapse of Farepak within days of the appointment of administrators.

While the companies investigation branch completes 90 per cent of its investigations within six months, the investigation into Farepak has regrettably taken longer because of the huge number of documents that have had to be analysed, the inter-company relationships and the numerous parties to be interviewed. The investigators (CIB staff with long experience of these types of investigations) have compulsory powers—those facing questions must answer them or face court proceedings. These powers are certainly wide enough to embrace all those who have had dealings with Farepak, including its bankers and advisers. It is anticipated that the investigation will be completed early next year.

As a proportionate and acceptable balance against these compulsory powers, the Companies Act requires that these investigations be accorded a limited disclosure regime—information obtained can be disclosed only through legal gateways and the report cannot be directly published.

But if subsequent court proceedings are initiated as a result of the investigation—such as disqualification proceedings against a director, or any prosecution, the story will be revealed during those proceedings. The report can also be disclosed to other regulators so that any appropriate lessons can be learnt.

Liquidation of the company

It is the liquidator's central duty to secure as much of a return as possible for all the creditors, including the customers. We understand that they are expecting to be able to secure a return of about 5 pence in the pound.

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It is not yet possible to confirm when a payment will be made to customers as every agent and customer claim must be finalised before this can take place. As well as processing claims, the team has had a huge task in verifying claims and double checking that claims have not been duplicated by agents and customers. This work so far has reduced claims by approximately £2 million for the benefit of creditors.

Action to protect and inform consumers for the future

The Government have worked closely with the remaining companies to put in place effective measures to protect customers' payments, including oversight by a new body, the Christmas Prepayments Association, and a code of practice. The companies have put in place new independently-controlled trust accounts to protect customers' money. The OFT has carried out a preliminary assessment of the code against the criteria in its consumer codes approval scheme, and the association has amended the code with a view to making a formal application for approval under the scheme.

The Government have also given the OFT £1 million for a consumer education campaign so that consumers are better aware of their options for Christmas savings, and are empowered to make decisions that are right for their own circumstances. The Government's action plan for financial inclusion announces that the OFT will receive a further £2 million funding to continue the Save Xmas campaign into the next spending period.

We note the view of the Treasury Select Committee in its 13th report that, provided the operation of these arrangements proves to be satisfactory, formal regulation of this market is not likely to be appropriate or proportionate. But it remains our intention to reassess the regulatory framework once the outcome of the investigation is available, taking account of earlier advice from the OFT and FSA.

Health: Social Care Reform

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

Putting People First: a shared vision and commitment to the transformation of adult social care is published today. This concordat sets out the cross-sector commitment to personalising public services and the need for the state to empower citizens to shape their own lives and the services they receive.

The concordat has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members in the Vote Office.

Lebanon: Special Tribunal

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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The UK continues to be deeply concerned by the political instability resulting from the absence of a president in Lebanon. President Lahoud's term of office expired on 23 November. The ongoing political divisions over who should succeed him remain a source of instability. We have been urging all sides to come together in the spirit of compromise to choose a president who can lead the country forward. We support them in their efforts to do so and hope they will be able to resolve the political crisis as rapidly as possible.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, progress continues towards the establishment of the special tribunal for Lebanon. On 30 May 2007, the Security Council adopted Security Council Resolution 1757, establishing the tribunal. The tribunal will try those accused of killing the former Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, who was assassinated on 14 February 2005 along with 21 others in a car bomb in central Beirut. This attack was part of a campaign of targeted political attacks against anti-Syrian MPs and political activists in Lebanon. The most recent of these was the assassination of MP Antoine Ghanem on 19 September. Mr Ghanem was killed along with two bodyguards and four other civilians in a car bomb explosion in east Beirut which also injured more than 70 other innocent civilians.

The UK has been, and remains, firmly committed to the pursuit of justice for Rafiq Hariri's murder and the sequence of assassinations that followed it. The UK worked closely with UN partners to establish the UN Independent International Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) into Mr Hariri's assassination. We were also co-sponsors of UN Security Council Resolution 1757 establishing the special tribunal. As part of our continued commitment, and in response to the UN Secretary-General's call for contributions, I am pleased to announce that the UK will be contributing £500,000 ($l million) to the tribunal.

The success of the UN-led investigation process and of the tribunal remains vital for the stability of Lebanon. It is essential that justice is done to send a clear message that political assassinations will not be tolerated. The UK will continue to offer its strong support to the UN and the Lebanese Government as they take this important work forward.

Olympic Games 2012: Costs

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend the Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In March this year, I announced the overall public sector funding package for the Olympic and Paralympic Games totalling £9.325 billion. Of this total, £6.090 billion, including tax, and £500 million of initial contingency was identified as public sector funding for the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA). The remainder of the package covered security, sports and other non-ODA costs, together with a prudent contingency for ODA and security costs. A fuller breakdown is included at Table 1.

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As with any major project at this stage, further work was needed to ensure that the budget is fully aligned with scope, programme and risks. This work has now been completed allowing us to publish a more detailed ODA budget in line with the recommendations of the NAO report in July 2007 (The Budget for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games). I can now confirm that this has validated the ODA budget and overall funding package I announced in March.

Detailed Project and Programme Plan

The ODA has completed a detailed project-by-project analysis of its scope, costs, programme and risks, to assess the total projected cost of its programme of works for the Games and for legacy transformation. This has confirmed that the base cost, excluding general programme contingency, is £6.090 billion, the same as the ODA budget within the announcement in March 2007 of a total government funding package of £9.325 billion.

It is recognised that regenerating a 500-acre park to stage a great Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as providing the underlying infrastructure so that long-term legacy benefits can be achieved, involves managing significant risks. This is the reason why the Government included a prudent contingency in the March announcement.

Therefore, in addition to the project level analysis, programme-wide risks have also been assessed and quantified. The contingency available, within the funding package announced in March, has been confirmed as sufficient to cover the risks at both project and general programme levels.

Allocated Contingency

In June 2007, the Ministerial Funders’ Group—established to manage the allocation of contingency to the ODA within the overall budget—met and agreed a first allocation of contingency to the ODA, being £360 million out of the £500 million of initial contingency announced in March, to enable the ODA to manage early cost pressures.

Following its second meeting on 26 November 2007, the funders’ group has now agreed:

a baseline budget and scope proposed by the ODA. The total budgeted base cost to be met by the public sector funding package remains at £6.090 billion including tax and excluding general programme contingency as I announced in March; andthis includes the allocation to the ODA of the remaining £140 million from the initial £500 million contingency that I announced in March, covering as planned the cost pressures on early projects across the ODA programme.

Total contingency available

As a result of this further work and recent decisions, there still remains £2.009 billion of contingency. This contingency includes provision against known programme-wide risks, and against risks that are outside the ODA’s control. The programme-wide risks, and other risks outside the ODA’s control, have been assessed and quantified and the contingency available has been confirmed as sufficient to cover such risks.

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Access to any of the £2.009 contingency will be only on the basis of a case-by-case assessment of actual risks arising and any mitigation that can be taken. The ODA is also incentivised to limit requests for release of the contingency to the minimum consistent with securing good value in such a large and complex programme, and will manage its contracting strategy accordingly.

Table 2 summarises the funding position, including a detailed breakdown of the ODA budget as a result of these decisions, and Table 3 summarises the contingency released.

In addition, as previously identified, £238 million of the £2.247 billion contingency has been set aside to cover the risks in relation to security beyond the budget of £600 million I announced in March. The funding allocated to security will continue to be subject to oversight and scrutiny in the coming months and years by the relevant Cabinet committee, the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police.

Next Steps

In the new year, the ODA will issue a summary of the baseline scope, aligned budget, programme and risks. The budget and scope now agreed will provide a robust baseline for future reporting.

I will provide a detailed account of progress across the Olympic programme when the first Olympic annual report is produced in the new year. I will make further reports to Parliament on a six monthly basis, including information on further allocation of contingency.

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