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I have today laid before the House a copy of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commissions annual report and accounts for the year 2007-08, which was published today, in accordance with paragraph 5(2) of Schedule 7 to the Northern Ireland Act 1998. This is the ninth annual report published by the commission.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Defence (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
My Statement to the House on 25 July 2007 (Official Report, Commons, col. 73WS) announced the cessation of Operation Banner. Since then we have continued to refine our military structures in Northern Ireland commensurate with normalisation and I now judge that we can remove the post of general officer commanding (GOC) in Northern Ireland.
The current GOC will complete his tour at the end of the year and we do not expect to replace him. The commander of 38 (Irish) Brigade and Northern Ireland Garrison will thereafter become the senior officer based in Northern Ireland. The change will result in a small reduction in military posts, which will be reabsorbed into other areas across defence. We aim to have command in Northern Ireland fully normalised by January 2009.
This step reflects our commitment towards security normalisation in Northern Ireland. The Armed Forces will continue to provide support to the PSNI and contribute to civil contingencies where required through the normal procedures for military aid to the civil authorities in the UK.
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.
In July 2008 I was privileged to be able to announce that the British Crime Survey had shown that the police service, working with its partners, had achieved an 18 per cent reduction in crime over the past three years. On the same day, I published From the Neighbourhood to the National, the Governments policing Green Paper, which set out a radical new vision for policing in the 21st century.
The Green Paper set out proposals for the Home Office to take a much more strategic role in policing by moving to a single top-down numerical target for police forces in England and Wales, with the removal of all others set for forces by central government. This target focuses every force on whether they have the publics confidence that they are identifying and addressing the crime and ASB issues that matter most to their local diverse communities. In addition, building on the reviews of Sir Ronnie Flanagan and Louise Casey, we outlined proposals for reducing bureaucracy and introducing a new policing pledge so that police officers could focus on the publics priorities and provide an accessible, transparent and consistent service that meets public needs and expectations.
It is in this context that I am today putting forward my strategic priorities to the police service for 2009-10. Under the provisions of the Police Reform Act 2002 I
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The move to a new approach has been highlighted in a number of national strategies (such as the National Community Safety Plan 2008-11, Cutting Crime: A New Partnership2008-11 and the National Security Strategy, as well as the PSA cross-government priorities for 2008-11, especially PSA23, PSA24, PSA25 and PSA26). In addition, a set of local priorities will underpin the new policing pledge, which will also set out a common national entitlement for what people can expect from the police. It should be emphasised that neither the pledge nor these national strategies contain additional specific top-down numerical targets for forces and are intended to support forces and authorities in responding to the local priorities that are agreed with local people.
Forces will work collaboratively with local partners (including through crime and disorder reduction partnerships and community safety partnerships) to meet shared local objectives. In England this includes those objectives that are agreed through local strategic partnerships within local area agreements.
I have laid great emphasis on the need to focus on local priorities in the Green Paper but, as its title, From the Neighbourhood to the National, suggests, it also delivers an equally vital message on the importance of delivering the national priorities. I have set out a vision that sees policing delivering a high-quality service to the public at all levels, from the local to the regional and on to the national.
For serious and organised crime, I believe that there is a continuous line stretching between these levels. This means that forces need a continuum of effective policing in response, which relies on effective collaboration and co-ordination among relevant partners. That means, in turn, forces and authorities working outside and across individual force boundaries.
Our expectation is that forces and authorities will work in the interests of regions and the country and to collaborate to achieve improvements. Collaboration takes various forms, from tackling serious and cross-border crime to the development of the national counterterrorism network in bringing together intelligence, investigative and operational activity against the terrorist threat. This relies heavily on confidence in policing. The success of a key component of our counterterrorism strategyPreventdepends, in part, on the confidence that local communities have in their police service.
There must be a priority on the cohesive view of all aspects of policing, through building confidence in the service and leading to a more effective police service at all levels. There is little benefit in increasing public confidence through local policing and ignoring protective services. These may be services with less of a public
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The Green Paper emphasises that greater collaboration across the police service is essential to mitigate this risk and to realise the necessary improvements in protective services. The same emphasis should apply for specialist crimes.
The Treasury has conducted its annual indexation exercise of the cost of Oral and Written Parliamentary Questions so as to ensure that these costs are increased in line with increases in underlying costs. The revised costs, which will apply from 3 December 2008, the first day of the 2008-09 Session, are:Oral Questions £410; and Written Questions £149.
DfID and Her Majestys Treasury are in continuing discussions about issues of concern regarding access to St Helena. As a result, there will be a pause in negotiations over the St Helena airport contract. The Government of St Helena and relevant commercial parties have been advised of the situation and will be kept updated.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Jim Fitzpatrick) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
Our analysis suggests that a significant number of additional road traffic accidents would be likely if MoT test frequency was reduced. This is primarily because the annual MoT failure rate is already high (around 35 per cent) and, if we were to reduce test frequency, there is a very real risk that the number of unroadworthy cars would increase significantly. In turn, the number of road casualties would inevitably increase.
Clearly any significant increase in road traffic accidents or in the number of road casualties would be a wholly unacceptable outcome and, for that reason, our view is that the MoT test frequency should remain unchanged.
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