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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.
In January this year, a man killed his mother-in-law before taking his own life. At the time, he was on bail awaiting trial for the alleged murder of his wife. On 16 January 2008 my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, answering a Question about the case (Official Report, Commons, col. 925) said that the Government would be looking at the law on bail.
Bail decisions in murder cases will never be easy; the vital thing is to ensure that the courts strike the right balance between respecting individuals right to liberty and protecting the public. The Governments aim is to target custody as precisely as possible upon those cases where there is a risk of harm to the public. We are today publishing a consultation paper that sets out possible ways of helping the courts to achieve that aim. We shall take account of views expressed in response to it in deciding whether to pursue these ideas. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. Copies are also available on the internet at: www.justice.gov.uk/publications/consultations.htm.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister said that if any changes in the law are necessary, we will make them. The Government do not take it for granted that it will be necessary to amend legislation, but we shall not hesitate to bring forward whatever changes in guidance, rules or the law may be needed.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held in Luxembourg on 5 and 6 June 2008. My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw), my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General (Baroness Scotland), my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office (Meg Hillier) and the Scottish Solicitor-General (Frank Mulholland) attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following issues were discussed at the council:
The Commission gave an update on the revised timetable for delivery of the second generation of the Schengen information system (SIS II). Member states reaffirmed their commitment to the project but stressed the importance of the Commission delivering on time.
The council secretariat reported some minor delays in the implementation of the SIS communication network and stated that better preparation from member states would ensure that there were no further delays.
The council agreed a compromise text on the returns directive which could enable a first reading agreement providing it is approved by the European Parliament later this month. The UK has not opted in to this directive.
Discussion continued on the directive for beneficiaries of international protection. Member states could not reach consensus on the scope of the directive and the qualifying period for long-term residence. The presidency concluded that there would be no further attempts to secure agreement under the Slovenian presidency.
The Commission supported calls for EU action to resettle refugees from Iraq in principle although it wanted involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as it was concerned about resettling people directly from Iraqi territory. The UK noted its own efforts in this area and supported the involvement of more member states in resettlement, but stated it must be a permanent solution, not just a temporary humanitarian evacuation. The incoming French presidency said that it would consider pursuing further EU resettlement activity.
The council reached a general approach on the package of PrĂ1/4m related legal instruments, which provide an improved mechanism for the sharing of DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data for the purposes of preventing, investigating and prosecuting serious crime. The Commission underlined its support.
The EU counterterrorism co-ordinator introduced his reports on the implementation of the EU counterterrorism strategy and action plan emphasising the importance of technical assistance to third countries and of information exchange. He stated that radicalisation and recruitment was the main priority in the next six months and urged the Commission to issue its communication on this subject as quickly as possible. The Commission confirmed that it would do so. Member states welcomed the work of the co-ordinator and supported his recommendations. The UK particularly welcomed the focus on radicalisation and recruitment and prioritisation of work with Sahel/North Africa and Pakistan. The UK had launched its national strategy on Prevent the previous week, and would share its experience in leading the workstream on communications. The presidency noted that the new ad hoc council group on information exchange would contribute to work on counterterrorism.
The council reached a general approach on the framework decision on the enforcement of decisions renderedin absentia. Many delegations intervened fully to support the compromise agreement. The Commission stressed that the instrument must come
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The UK welcomed the progress made on the draft Eurojust council decision and supported the overall package proposed on Articles 5a, 9a to 9g, 12 and 13 concerning: on-call co-ordination within Eurojust; the powers of national members; the establishment of a Eurojust national co-ordination system; and the exchange of information, noting that it struck the right balance. With the exception of one member state, which retained a reserve on Article 9, all could accept the compromise text and the presidency therefore concluded that a general approach had been reached. The presidency also concluded that the outstanding reserve could be dealt with in a recital to be discussed at a later date.
The council agreed a compromise package on a number of aspects of the proposed maintenance regulation. In particular, to accommodate UK concerns, it was agreed that the applicable law rules should be removed from the regulation and that those member states that wish to apply such rules will use the optional protocol to the recently agreed Hague Convention on maintenance. The UK confirmed that this solution removed the main obstacle to future UK participation in the adopted regulation.
It has been accepted that it will not be possible to agree Rome III (choice of law in divorce) in its current form as there is no unanimity in the council. It was agreed that there should be a period of reflection to explore how work in this area can be taken forward. One option that will be considered will be the use of enhanced co-operation.
The presidency provided a report on the progress that had been made on e-justice and the priorities for future work. This was followed by a presentation from the Commission of a recent communication which sets out a strategy for e-justice work including proposals for how this will be financed.
The presidency reported on the implementation of the JHA external relations strategy. The Commission said there would be a review of the external strategy under the French presidency. The third report, due out in 2009, would be the basis for a new strategy. The incoming French presidency confirmed that implementation of this strategy would be a priority over the next 18 months. The presidency also reported on the EU-Russia JHA ministerial troika and EU-Ukraine ministerial troika.
Greece outlined the challenges posed by high levels of asylum applications and illegal immigration. It welcomed EU financial assistance but would prefer increased burden sharing. Priorities also included more work in countries of origin; information on legal migration opportunities; and more work on readmission agreements. Some member states offered practical assistance but emphasised the need to uphold the integrity of the Dublin system and opposed any form of intra-EU resettlement. Further discussion on migration challenges at the EU border states will take place under the French presidency.
The Rome I regulation on choice of law in contracts was formally adopted without discussion. The UK did not opt in to this proposal but the Government are consulting with a view to accepting the measure post-adoption.
Over lunch, there was a discussion of the proposal for an EU PNR agreement, with the presidency seeking views on what member states would wish to achieve under the incoming French presidency. All agreed that adoption of the measure would not be possible this year, leaving the possibility that it would have to happen under the Lisbon treaty if that were to enter into force in 2009. The UK urged progress during the French presidency. The Commission wanted to press ahead with discussion at both a technical level as well as politically.
Member states also congratulated the presidency on the work of the Interior Future Group, considering ideas for inclusion in the new JHA work programme when the current programme expires at the end of 2009. Migration was stressed by many as the top priority for future work in JHA.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 10 July 2007, I announced that Sir Peter Williams had agreed to undertake a review of the teaching of mathematics in early years settings and primary schools in England (Official Report, cols. 1319-20). Today the reviews final report has been published and I have written to Sir Peter Williams to confirm that we will implement the recommendations the review panel has made.
The review, over the course of almost a year, has explored the important areas of: effective pedagogy of mathematics teaching; the range of provision required for pupils of all ability levels; the Every Child Counts programme (announced by the Prime Minister in May 2007); the conceptual and subject knowledge which should be expected of primary school teachers and early years practitioners; the most effective sequencing and design of the mathematics curriculum; and how parents should be helped to support young childrens mathematical development.
All children should receive the quality of mathematical teaching during their primary school years that ensures they reach their potential and have the opportunity to enjoy mathematics. We must build on the progress made since the introduction of the national numeracy strategy in 1998 and ensure that we address the problem set out in the report that it is culturally acceptable to admit to being poor at mathematics. Raising the profile of mathematics and attainment in all schools will begin to do this. I believe we will achieve this through implementing the key recommendations as follows:there should be at least one mathematics specialist in each primary school, in post within 10 years, with deep subject and pedagogical knowledge,
The 30th report of the review body on Senior Salaries is being published today. This makes recommendations about the pay of the senior Civil Service (SCS), senior military personnel, the judiciary and very senior NHS managers. Copies have been laid in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. I am grateful to the chairman and members of the review body for their work.
The Government have decided to accept all of the main recommendations of the review body as they are affordable and consistent with public sector pay policy. They will be implemented with effect from 1 April 2008. The cost of the awards will be met from within existing departmental expenditure limits.
For the SCS, the review body has recommended that for the three-year period 2008-11 there should be an indicative envelope of 7 per cent pay bill available for normal base pay increases and additions to the pot for non-consolidated bonuses. This multi-year pay arrangement will provide certainty and stability for departments and the workforce. The Government have decided to accept the recommended 7 per cent envelope but believe that the appropriate metric is pay bill per head rather than pay bill. This ensures that in the event of any changes in workforce size individual pay awards remain consistent with public sector pay policy. The envelope for SCS pay increases and bonuses over the next three years will therefore be 7 per cent of pay bill per head.
The review body has recommended that progression target rates for pay bands 1 and 1A should be retained. The Government have decided to replace them with reference points which will serve a similar purpose but no longer have any limiting point on pay increases for serving staff.
Ministers' pay is automatically linked to the average increase in the midpoint of SCS pay, which moves in line with SSRB recommendations. However, given the importance of public sector pay restraint at a time of economic uncertainty, Ministers will not be accepting any pay rise in 2008-09.
There is no longer a link between the SSRB's recommendations and the pay of Members of Parliament as there has been in previous years. My right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons is making a Statement today on the report into Parliamentary Pay and Allowances conducted by Sir John Baker, CBE.
The Government have accepted the main recommendations of the SSRB. The three-year pay award for the senior Civil Service will help to deliver economic stability and brings the total of public servants covered by these three-year deals to over 1.5 million.
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