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Written Statements

Friday 24 April 2009

Armed Forces: Gurkha Pensions

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration (Phil Woolas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In 2004, the right to settle in the United Kingdom was given to Gurkhas who had been discharged from the British Army on or after 1 July 1997. This was the date of the handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China and the point at which the Brigade of Gurkhas moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

Guidance was issued to immigration caseworkers on how to consider applications from Gurkhas who had been discharged before 1 July 1997.

In September 2008 the High Court ruled that the policy of using 1 July 1997 as a cut-off date was fair, but also found that the guidance used by caseworkers when making decisions on those discharged before 1997 needed to be much clearer in setting out the factors which were to be given weight in assessing which individuals should be offered settlement in the UK.

The Government fully accepted this judgment. The guidance has now been revised and is available on the UK Border Agency website. In considering changes to the guidance, we have taken on board not only the letter of what the judge said in this case but also the spirit of his judgment. The new guidance will ensure that those who have given outstanding service will be entitled to settle in the UK. In summary, under the terms of the guidance, Gurkhas and their families will be able to come to the UK to settle where they meet one of the following criteria:

three years’ continuous lawful residence in the UK during or after service; close family settled in the UK with whom they enjoy family life within the meaning of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR);a level 1-3 award for gallantry, leadership or bravery for service in the brigade; 20 or more years’ service in the brigade; anda chronic/long-term medical condition which is attributable to, or was aggravated by, service in the brigade.

Additionally, discretion will normally be exercised and settlement in the UK granted if two or more of the following criteria are met:

claimants were previously awarded a UK Ministry of Defence disability pension but no longer have a chronic/long-term medical condition attributable to, or aggravated by, service in the brigade; claimants received a mention in dispatches (level 4 award) for service in the brigade; and

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claimants completed 10 years’ service in the brigade or served less than 10 years but received a campaign medal for active service in the brigade.

We estimate that this guidance will mean that over 4,000 ex-Gurkhas and around 6,000 spouses and children will qualify for settlement rights in the UK. We will be proud to welcome those individuals to the UK in recognition of the outstanding service that they gave. We will work with the Ministry of Defence to ensure that those who might be eligible in Nepal are fully aware of these changes and of the opportunity for settlement.

The Government both recognise and honour the huge contribution that the Brigade of Gurkhas has made, and continues to make, to the Armed Forces. This contribution is chiefly recognised through the arrangements made to support Gurkhas following their discharge. Prior to 2007 the Gurkhas completed their service at the age of 33, and from that time and the rest of their lives they received a pension which allows for a very good standard of living in Nepal. The pension is generous and has been significantly increased over the last decade.

I hope that former Gurkhas and their supporters will work with us to raise awareness of the new guidance and ensure that those eligible to settle in the UK under its terms are aware of that choice.

In line with our commitment to the High Court, we will now reconsider all outstanding appeals by 11 June 2009.

I intend to initiate a review of the impact of the guidance in 12 months’ time

Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency: Business Plan

Statement

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.

I have received the business plan for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which has been in the Library.

The agency has an important role to protect public health in the UK by ensuring that all medicines and medical devices are acceptably safe. The business plan for 2009-10 sets out specific key and high-level targets for the agency for the coming year.

Police: Injury Benefits

Statement

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

Today I am publishing a report which summarises the responses to the public consultation exercise on the review of police injury benefits. A full account of the individual responses is attached as an annexe to the report.



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My right honourable friend the Member for Harrow East, the then Minister of State for Security, Counterterrorism, Crime and Policing, issued a consultation document in August 2008, Review of Police Injury BenefitsGovernment Proposals. The aim of the review has been to ensure that the financial support currently given to police officers and their families for injury or death in the line of duty meets modern requirements, is properly targeted and is efficiently administered.

The consultation exercise invited comments on 51 proposals, and closed on 18 November 2008. In total, 41 responses were received, including 30 from police forces, police authorities and police staff associations. I am grateful to all those who took the time to send in their comments. Overall the responses demonstrate a high level of support for the majority of changes proposed. Some of the 51 proposals, such as the proposal to extend survivor pensions to the nominated unmarried partners of officers killed in the line of duty, received strong support from all respondents. A number of proposals received comments which, while supportive, require further work to be done on the detail to ensure that we achieve our intended objectives.

Although the public consultation has been completed, five proposals will be the subject of further consultation with the police staff associations and other representatives on the Police Negotiating Board, in order to ensure that their implementation would not undermine the reassurance that officers are entitled to expect when they are exposed to danger in the course of confrontational and other operational duties, and also in order to discuss practical ways in which to improve the safety of officers while on journeys to and from their place of work.

I intend any amendments to the present injury benefit regulations to be in place by the end of this year, but this timetable is subject to the further consultation with the Police Negotiating Board and agreement on a complete package of changes that meets the aim of the review. The changes would apply to officers serving on or after the date they come into force, and would not apply retrospectively to those who have ceased to serve by that date.

I am placing a copy of the report, Review of Police Injury BenefitsSummary andAnalysis of Consultation Responses, in the Library.

Private Military and Security Companies

Statement

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.

TheForeign and Commonwealth Office is today launching a public consultation on our proposed policy to promote high standards of the private military and security company industry internationally. The aims of the policy are to promote high standards of conduct by PMSCs internationally, and to reduce the risk that the activities of PMSCs might give rise to human

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rights or humanitarian law concerns, assist internal repression, or provoke or prolong internal or regional tension.

We will be consulting on our preferred option, which consists of a three-part package of:

working with the UK industry to promote high standards through a code of conduct agreed with and monitored by the Government;using our status as a buyer to contract only those companies that demonstrate that they operate to high standards; andan international approach to promote higher global standards, based on key elements of the UK approach.

We will work with the relevant UK trade association to devise a code of conduct to which all its members would adhere. The association would implement the code. We believe that security companies will find it in their commercial interests to adhere to the code, which will be agreed with and monitored by the Government. We will be asking that all companies bidding for government contracts must undertake to follow regulatory, humanitarian and ethical standards consistent with the trade association’s code of conduct, or can show adherence to other equivalent standards. PMSCs operate in a global environment and international co-operation is necessary to promote high standards. To this end, we will:

build on the initiative by the Swiss Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross to create internationally agreed industry standards within two years; andbuild a convention of states and key buyers that will be able to insist that PMSCs wishing to bid for future contracts will be required to adhere to the internationally agreed standards. This will set a benchmark for private security procurement and practice, and help drive up standards globally.

Women: Black, Asian and Minority-ethnic Councillors

Statement

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Government Equalities Office (Maria Eagle), has made the following Statement.

In May 2008 the Government Equalities Office established a cross-party task force chaired by Baroness Uddin to take practical action to make local councils more representative.

Black, Asian and minority-ethnic women account for less than 1 per cent of England’s 20,000 councillors. To be more representative of society as a whole, the number of black, Asian and ethnic-minority women councillors needs to be increased from around 149 of all councillors in England to nearer 1,000.

The task force has been leading a national outreach programme to raise awareness of the role of councillors, provide practical advice and encourage more women to engage in public life.



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Today I am announcing a councillor mentoring/shadowing scheme as part of the task force’s work programme. It will be delivered by Operation Black Vote and will allow 50 women to shadow councillors

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from participating local authorities around Britain and receive training. The scheme will commence in the autumn and will provide women with support in taking their next steps to becoming a local councillor.


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