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22 July 2008 : Column WS133

22 July 2008 : Column WS132

Written Statements

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Advisory Committee on Business Appointments

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown MP) has made the following Statement.

I have today published the ninth report of the independent Advisory Committee on Business Appointments. The report provides an account of the work of the committee in giving advice about appointments that Ministers and senior Crown servants wish to take up after leaving office. The report covers the period 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2008. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House. I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew of Twysden, who was the chairman over this period, and to all the other members, for giving their time and expertise so freely.

As the House has previously been informed, the business of this important committee has been managed by Sir John Blelloch since the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mayhew, stepped down as chairman on health grounds in March this year. I wish to thank him for generously agreeing to extend his service further for this purpose.

The Government intend to refresh the membership of the committee over the coming months. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, who is currently serving on the committee, has agreed to step into the role of chairman in this interim period.

British Council: Annual Report and Accounts

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Mr Jim Murphy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Copies of the British Council’s annual report and accounts for the 2007-08 financial year have been placed in the Library. During that period, the British Council received £189,462,000 grant in aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Council of Europe and Western European Union

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown) has made the following Statement in the House of Commons.

The United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of the Western European Union is as follows:

Leader: Rt. Hon John Prescott MP

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Full representativesSubstitute representatives

John Austin MP

Rt. Hon Lord Anderson of Swansea

Mr Christopher Chope OBE MP

Mr Tim Boswell MP

Bill Etherington MP

Mr James Clappison MP

Paul Flynn MP

Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP

Mr Mike Hancock CBE MP

Mrs Claire Curtis-Thomas MP

Baroness Hooper

Mr Nigel Dodds OBE MP

Baroness Knight of Collingtree OBE

Mr Nigel Evans MP

Chris McCafferty MP

Baroness Gale

Rt. Hon Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Mr John Greenway MP

Mr Humfrey Malins CBE MP

Mr Oliver Heald MP

Mr Alan Meale MP

Mr Doug Henderson MP

Mr Edward O'Hara MP

Mr Jim Hood MP

Lord Russell-Johnston

Mr Bob Laxton MP

Lord Tomlinson

Rt. Hon Denis MacShane MP

Dr Rudi Vis MP

Mr Khalid Mahmood MP

Mr Robert Walter MP

Mr Mark Oaten MP

Mr David Wilshire MP

Paul Rowen MP

Mrs Betty Williams MP


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In July 2007, the Prime Minister asked my right honourable friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Mr Ingram) to undertake a detailed study into the role of the Ministry of Defence in counterterrorism and resilience. Mr Ingram has now submitted his report.

His study provides a thorough analysis of the Ministry of Defence’s role and of the capabilities it brings to bear in support of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy—CONTEST—and domestic resilience. It reinforces a central theme of the national security strategy—that security threats and hazards are intertwined, with no simple distinctions between defence and wider security and between domestic and overseas considerations. It endorses the direction in which the Government are moving the security agenda, and it makes a number of recommendations as to how the Ministry of Defence could further refine its support in these important areas.

Given the sensitive nature of the study, its classification prevents its publication. The Government will respond to it once they have had the opportunity to consider the recommendations.

Courts Service: Key Performance Indicators

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Maria Eagle) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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The following list of key performance indicators has been set for Her Majesty's Courts Service for 2008-09:

To commence 78 per cent of cases within the following timescales in the Crown Court:

defendants' cases that are sent for trial within 26 weeks of sending;defendants' committal for trial cases within 16 weeks of committal;appeals within 14 weeks of the appeal; andcommittals for sentence within 10 weeks of committal.

To speed up criminal cases in the magistrates’ courts so that, for charged cases, the average time from charge to disposal—less than six weeks.

Time taken to produce and send court results to the police (historical KPI):

95 per cent court registers produced and dispatched within three working days; and100 per cent court registers produced and dispatched within six working days.

To achieve an 85 per cent payment rate for financial penalties in the magistrates’ courts.

For 60 per cent of all breached community penalties to be resolved within 25 working days of the relevant failure to comply.

To increase the proportion of defended small claims that are completed otherwise than by court hearing to 65 per cent.

To increase the proportion of defended small claims that are completed (from issue to final hearing) within 30 weeks to at least 70 per cent.

Increase the amount of civil work initiated online—55 per cent of eligible possession claims through PCOL and 70 per cent of specified money claims through MCOL.

To ensure that 48 per cent of care and supervision cases in the county court and 56 per cent in the magistrates' court are completed within 40 weeks.

To increase the proportion of residence and contact orders made by consent in the county courts (excluding cases involving allegations of harm) to at least 37 per cent in each HMCS area.

To increase the “very satisfied” element of the HMCS court user satisfaction survey from the 2007-08 baseline.

More information on these and other key supporting targets are published in the HM Courts Service business plan for 2008-09. Copies of the business plan for 2008-09 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Courts: Disclosure in Expert Evidence

The Attorney-General (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Solicitor-General (Vera Baird) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 20 February 2007 the then Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, announced a review of criminal cases in which Dr David Southall had been a prosecution

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witness. The General Medical Council (GMC) had started a hearing to examine allegations that Dr Southall had kept so-called special case (SC) files containing original medical records relating to his patients that were not also kept on the child’s official hospital file. These files relate to the period 1980-2000. Concerns had been expressed that in some of those cases criminal proceedings may have been brought but the existence of the files not revealed, resulting in their not being available for disclosure as part of the prosecution process.

It was not clear at that stage whether there had been any such failures to discharge disclosure obligations. Lord Goldsmith decided to assess cases in which Dr Southall had been instructed as a prosecution witness to determine whether he had kept a separate SC file, and if so to determine what further review might be required.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) undertook that assessment, establishing a project board and a review team under the leadership of a chief Crown prosecutor. The review team:

identified criminal prosecutions to which individual SC files could be linked;retrieved original prosecution files;reviewed the SC files against the contents of the associated prosecution files to assess whether there were any grounds for concern as to whether the obligations of disclosure to the defence had been fully discharged; andreported their findings to the Attorney-General.

Dr Southall provided all the SC files he held—a total of 4,344 files—in accordance with his undertaking to the GMC. Of the 4,344 SC files reviewed by the team, 82 were found to be linked to court proceedings of some kind. Of those, 40 were established to have been associated with a criminal prosecution conducted in this jurisdiction.

The review team then checked CPS records against these 40 SC files and identified a total of seven CPS prosecution files linked with a total of nine SC files. On reviewing these files in depth, the team found no grounds to suggest that there had been a failure to comply with the prosecution’s obligations of disclosure to the defence. Accordingly the review team has advised, and the Attorney-General and I accept, that there is no reason to indicate that any of these cases needs to be referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

The ability of the review team to identify whether an SC file was linked with a prosecution, and then to locate the original prosecution papers, was constrained by a number of wholly practical factors. The team had to rely on the contents of the SC file for information suggesting that there might be linked criminal proceedings. In some older cases where there was such a link, the prosecution file no longer existed because of the application of the normal procedures for file destruction within the CPS after set periods of time. Differences between the methods of identifying SC files (which were linked to the patient) and CPS prosecution files (recorded by the name of the defendant) also made linking SC files to prosecution files difficult.

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None the less this review has been a valuable and worthwhile exercise. The review team has approached its task conscientiously and with care and thoroughness, for which the Attorney-General and I thank them.

The report makes a number of recommendations designed to reinforce the message that expert witnesses must fully understand their responsibilities in relation to the disclosure of information in criminal cases. These are explained in the CPS/ACPO Guidance Booklet for Experts. The report’s recommendations have been accepted and are being taken forward.

Recommendation 7 is that the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) consider whether to conduct a similar review in relation to possible disclosure failings in family court proceedings. The DCSF has now considered this recommendation—it agrees that there should be such a review and that it is the appropriate department to conduct it. The review will focus on the 82 SC files which the review team found were linked to court proceedings of some kind. Thirty-six of these were definitely linked to family proceedings. It is to be noted that if a disclosure failure were detected, this may, or may not, have any impact on the case, bearing in mind the passage of time and the fact that the welfare of the child is paramount in family proceedings. However, the DCSF will follow the recommendation of the review team and conduct a review of the family cases.

The review team’s report and recommendations (edited to preserve the anonymity of individual patients) have today been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Debt: European Investment Bank Loans

Lord Tunnicliffe: I have instructed my department to ask the European Investment Bank (EIB) to return the relevant payments of the Lomé debt service directly to heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC). It is estimated that the benefits of this decision will be approximately £27 million for 18 heavily indebted poor countries. The payments relate to the UK share of future debt service payments on public sector loans signed by HIPCs before 2 December 2000 under the Lomé conventions.

The UK share of the Lomé debt service on loans of EDF money is received by DfID from the EIB. Part of this debt service relates to public sector loans signed before 2 December 2000 by HIPCs. DfID has made a decision to stop receiving this part of the debt service. All moneys previously received by DfID through the Lomé debt service have been used for international development.

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