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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In some rare but very important cases there may be highly sensitive information directly relevant to the circumstances of the death but which cannot be made public in any way. To meet this problem the Coroners and Justice Bill contains provisions to dispense with a jury inquest in certain tightly defined circumstances. These provisions have greatly been improved during their Commons' scrutiny. Now the decisions as to whether to hold a non-jury inquest would be made within the criteria by a High Court judge, sitting as a coroner. The main provisions on this are in Clause 11. By Clause 12 the blanket ban on the admission of intercept evidence was modified for the purposes of these special inquests.
The Government felt these changes struck a fair and proportionate balance between the interests of bereaved families, the need to protect sensitive material and judicial oversight of the whole process.
However, following further discussions in the House and with interested parties it is clear the provisions still do not command the necessary cross-party support and in these circumstances the Government will table amendments to remove Clauses 11 and 12 (and the equivalent Northern Ireland provisions) from the Bill.
Where it is not possible to proceed with an inquest under the current arrangements, the Government will consider establishing an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 to ascertain the circumstances the deceased came by his or her death. Each case will be looked at on its own individual merits. As with the provisions in respect of the certification of coroners investigations, we would expect to resort to such a procedure only in very exceptional and rare circumstances.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I am announcing publication of the Ministry of Justices reportResearch into Enforcement of Employment Tribunal Awards in England and Wales, which details the extent of non-payment of employment tribunal awards, and measures that the Government are developing, aimed at improving the enforcement of employment tribunal awards and Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) negotiated settlements.
The Government have begun discussions with the High Court Enforcement Officers Association to develop a service whereby creditors will be able to commission a High Court enforcement officer to enforce their award or settlement as soon as the respondent fails to pay the sum due. The costs of enforcement will be recoverable from the respondent with limited cost liability for the creditor.
In addition, the Government have recently increased the level of public information available to individuals through the creation of new leaflets that make the enforcement process clearer and explain the importance of compliance with the award and the consequences of failure to make a payment.
Claimants will also benefit from the extension of the customer service general inquiries line, operated by Her Majestys Court Service, which has been extended to give creditors clear instructions on how and where they can enforce their employment tribunal award or ACAS settlement.
The Government are determined to ensure that individuals who are entitled to their employment tribunal awards or ACAS settlements are not denied access to justice by a small minority of unscrupulous individuals or companies who refuse to respect the award or settlement. These changes will ensure that all recipients can pursue the payment of their award or settlement with ease.
Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available on the Ministry of Justice website at www.justice.gov.uk.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The House Committee agreed at its meeting on 19 May to commission an independent external review of the financial support available to Members of the House. It is intended that the review will commence as soon as possible and the Clerk of the Parliaments will bring detailed proposals relating to the terms of reference and conduct of the review to the committees next meeting.
Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 makes provision for the constitution of the four boundary commissions, including the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland. Under paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Act, each commission must consist of a chairman, deputy chairman and two other members appointed by the Secretary of State.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Policing, Crime and Security (Vernon Coaker) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government response to the Joint Committee on Human Rights reports on the Policing and Crime Bill (published on 16 April and 5 May 2009), has today been published and laid before Parliament. Copies are available in the Vote Office.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Iain Wright) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The agencys principal financial target for 2009-10 is to achieve a minimum dividend payment to the Department for Communities and Local Government equal to the total of 6 per cent of average capital employed and a sum equal to the capital charge that applies to the building for the year concerned. The agency is currently forecasting that 2009-10 will be a year of significant challenge and that the dividend payment will be £1,000,000a shortfall of £200,000.
An operational target has been set to achieve room occupancy within the centre of 60 per cent of capacity. If this target is exceeded, all revenues received up to a maximum of £200,000 will be added to the dividend payment of £1,000,000, thus reducing, or if trading conditions allow, eradicating the shortfall.
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.
On 19 May, the Sri Lankan president formally announced that on 18 May military forces had retaken all the territory once held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and that they had captured or killed the senior leadership of that organisation. Many Sri Lankans of all communities, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim, will be relieved that the long and brutal conflict may at last be over. Sri Lanka has before it an historic opportunity to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict and ensure a lasting peace. We must continue to work with Sri Lankas Government and all its communities to ensure that this opportunity is taken and that it leads to a sustainable end to the conflict.
Our concern has never been whether it was right to defeat the LTTE. The issue has been the price in lives and the future in terms of reconciliation. We may never know exact numbers but thousands of innocent civilians have died, hundreds of thousands made homeless and confined to camps, caught up in a system which continues to restrict access to the international humanitarian agencies. For many, many people, the misery continues.
Our primary concern remains the immediate humanitarian crisis and the long-term political and economic peace and stability of Sri Lanka. We have continued to work with international partners in the EU, UN, and G8 to urge the Government of Sri Lanka to do all that it could to protect their citizens, minimise the risk of casualties and allow the UN and other international agencies access to the conflict area to oversee the possible surrender of the LTTE and the evacuation of the civilians. We also called on the LTTE to lay down their weapons and release the civilians. Tragically, these calls did not prevent the loss of many lives.
I welcome the assurance given to me by foreign minister Bogollogama yesterday that the UN and non-governmental organisations will now be able to enter the former conflict zone to provide whatever support is still needed. I would like to pay tribute to the courage of the staff of the International Committee of the Red Cross and others who continued to try and deliver food, water and medical supplies into the conflict zone at enormous risk to themselves. Undoubtedly, their bravery in the face of great danger saved the death toll from being higher.
Although the territorial conflict seems to be over, the grave humanitarian crisis continues to unfold. Some 250,000 civilians who have fled the fighting are either being processed by the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure that they are not escaping LTTE members, or are being held in camps. The Government do not have the resources to cope, but they have not yet
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We and others in the international community stand ready to assist the Government of Sri Lanka to meet these humanitarian challenges. The Department for International Development has recently announced an additional £5 million of humanitarian funding for Sri Lanka, bringing our total contribution to the humanitarian relief effort to £12.5 million since September 2008. We will channel this funding through the UN and other humanitarian agencies. We urge the Government of Sri Lanka to use the opportunity of the visits by the UN Secretary Generals Chief of Staff Vijay Nambiar and the UN Secretary General himself later this week, to recognise that the UN has a central role to play, both in the delivery of humanitarian aid and in encouraging the process of political reconciliation that must be an integral part of rebuilding Sri Lankas civil society.
Lasting peace can only come when all communities in Sri Lanka believe that they are accepted and valued members of society. We recognise that the process of political reconciliation will not be easy. There are many entrenched attitudes and resentments. Sri Lankan people from all communities, working on the basis of mutual respect and equality, need to agree the way forward. On 18 May my right honourable friend the Prime Minister urged President Rajapakse to be magnanimous in victory. I repeated the message to the Sri Lankan foreign minister the same day, saying that whatever process emerged, it needed to be inclusive and based on equality. We welcome the presidents statement to the Sri Lankan parliament on 19 May that he will embark on an inclusive political process involving all communities on the basis of equality and absence of fear.
I endorse the conclusions reached at the European Council on 18 May calling for alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights law to be investigated through an independent inquiry and for those accountable to be brought to justice. This could play an important role in the post-conflict reconciliation process.
The continuing focus of this Governments activity over the coming days and weeks, will be to work with international partners in encouraging the Sri Lankan Government to devote as much energy to winning the peace as they did to winning the war.
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
National statistics published today demonstrate the substantial contribution tax credits are making to deliver guaranteed minimum incomes for working families and families with children, reducing child poverty, and improving work incentives.
The Government remain committed to the current responsive system of tax credits, which provide additional financial support to families experiencing a fall in income. In the current economic climate, this support is benefiting an even larger number of households. Figures published at the Budget show that around 355,000 households living on a lower income are receiving on average £35 more per week in tax credits.
The figures also show that efforts to reduce overpayments of tax credits continue to be effective. The level of overpayments is now £1 billion, less than half the level in 2003-04 and 5 per cent of finalised entitlement paid by HMRC. The average size of overpayments is £705, which has fallen by nearly a third since 2003-04. This is against a backdrop of increasing entitlement with total awards increasing again, by 6 per cent compared to 2006-07.
The number of families entitled to end-of-year top-ups has increased as we anticipated last May to 1.29 million (£798 million). This is a result of one of the components of the package of measures announced in the Pre-Budget Report 2005 to reduce overpayments.
The take-up of tax credits is a significant success. Other recent published statistics have shown that in 2006-07 take-up of the child tax credit is 81 per cent, with 88 per cent of the money available being claimed. Take-up among those on incomes below £10,000 is 92 per cent; and take-up among lone parents is 95 per cent. This is higher than for any previous system of income-related financial support for in-work families.
In a Written Ministerial Statement on 10 October 2006, the then Economic Secretary undertook to report to Parliament on a quarterly basis on the operation of the UKs counterterrorism asset freezing regime. This is the tenth of these reports and covers the period January to March 2009.1
The Treasury gave two directions under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2006. The Treasury revoked two directions given under this order, one of which related to a person designated on a restricted basis.
In accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1452 (2002), the Treasury operates a licensing system whereby designated persons and others are able to apply to make or receive payments under specific and, if necessary, monitored conditions. In this quarter, the following licences were issued to listed persons:seven listed persons were granted legal expenses licences; 13 listed persons were granted a basic expenses (including licences for benefits payments); andno licences were granted for extraordinary expenses.
2 This figure reflects account balances at time of freezing and includes approximately $58,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 31.03.09. Future fluctuations in the exchange rate may impact on the contribution this sum makes to future totals of suspected terrorist funds frozen.
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