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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Shahid Malik) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government have today published their first annual report on Gypsy and Traveller policies, as set out in the response to the Task Group on Site Provision and Enforcement for Gypsies and Travellers.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

The Government are committed to a fairer, stronger society, in which disadvantage faced by all members of society is tackled. Fairness means ensuring that those Gypsies and Travellers who have no authorised place to stay have the same opportunities as others to a place they can call home, together with the same access to education, health and other services. It means also that residents in local communities should not have to cope with the unauthorised developments and encampments that can be the consequence of a shortfall in authorised sites.

The report confirms that the framework put in place by the Government provides the tools to enable local authorities to tackle both the shortfall in site provision, and instances of unauthorised developments and encampments where they occur. The Government have published clear guidance to enable local authorities and other agencies to make effective use of the wide range of enforcement powers available to them. We now look to local authorities to be proactive in taking the lead in addressing the shortfall by identifying, in consultation with local communities, appropriate locations for sites which will have the twin benefits of creating homes for Gypsies and Travellers, and reducing the number of unauthorised developments which can be the cause of local community tensions.

The identification of authorised sites will also enable local authorities to reduce the costs of enforcement action related to unauthorised encampments, as well as providing access to even stronger enforcement powers

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when there are available pitches to which unauthorised campers can be moved. The savings from the reduction in enforcement action can then be deployed to other services to the benefit of the broader community, or reduced levels of council tax.

Highways Agency


The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): A new framework document which sets out the relationship and the revised governance and sponsorship arrangements between the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency has been published.

Copies of the document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available on the department's website and the Highways Agency website

Houses of Parliament: State Opening


The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): Her Majesty the Queen will open the new Session of this Parliament on Wednesday 18 November.

Housing: Proportionate Dispute Resolution


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing the Government's response to the Law Commission's report on Housing: Proportionate Dispute Resolution.

The Law Commission published its report on 13 May 2008. This follows a major programme of work on the reform of housing law. Unlike most other Law Commission reports, this report does not focus solely on reform of substantive law but rather looks at the broader social issues of how housing problems arise and how they might be better addressed.

The report makes recommendations in three broad areas: (i) better advice and assistance (ii) non-formal (ie not involving a court or tribunal) dispute resolution and (iii) formal dispute resolution.

The Government broadly accept all of the commission's recommendations on the provision of better advice and assistance. Substantial progress has already been made in improving advice provision and encouraging early engagement; for example, by promoting and signposting court users to the Community Legal Advice helpline and the Community Legal Advice website.

The report recommends that promotion of mediation and alternative dispute resolution is an important component of non-formal dispute resolution. The Government are committed to promoting mediation and using alternative dispute resolution as a tool to ensure court action is a last resort.

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The Law Commission also recommends the transfer of jurisdiction for a number of different types of cases, including stand-alone disrepair cases, from county courts to tribunals. The Government have already, separately, confirmed that they will transfer dispute resolution and other proceedings arising out of the provisions of the Mobile Homes Act 1983 to residential property tribunals. However, they are not satisfied that a case has been made for any other transfers.

The Government also reject the Law Commission's recommendation that the county court should have powers to grant interim relief pending the outcome of a local authority internal review in homelessness cases. It is usual for parties to have to exhaust all alternative remedies before coming to court. This is a key feature of our policy of encouraging early resolution of disputes/problems, with the court being used only in the last resort. Local authorities are empowered to take decisions on homelessness applications and there are statutory procedures that are in place to ensure that this is done fairly. The Government consider that there is a significant risk that any changes in this area would be exploited to circumvent these procedures to the detriment of those who are genuinely homeless and in priority need.

A copy of the response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

ICL Plastics


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State (Yvette Cooper) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 11 May 2004, a tragic factory explosion occurred at the ICL Plastics premises in Glasgow. Nine people were killed and 33 were seriously injured. Proceedings were subsequently taken against ICL Tech Ltd and ICL Plastics Ltd under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and in August 2007 the companies pled guilty to the charges. I should like to express my sympathy to the bereaved families and to the injured survivors.

In October 2007, the Government and the Lord Advocate of Scotland announced a joint investigation into the explosion. Lord Gill, Lord Justice Clerk, was appointed chair of the joint independent inquiry in December 2007. Today, I am pleased to announce the publication of Lord Gill's report.

I should like to thank Lord Gill and his team for the way in which they handled the inquiry and for fulfilling the terms of reference so efficiently.

The key message from this report is that this was an avoidable disaster and that its causes are clear. While the inquiry has established that the primary responsibility for safety lay with the site user, it has identified that there were failings across the system.

In the case of the site user, the report sets out serious failings in risk assessment, inspection and maintenance, among others. It refers to both certain

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inadequacies in the liquid petroleum gas (LPG) safety regime in which it operated in the mid-1970s and late 1980s and the urgency of HSE's response since the explosion.

The Government welcome the report and we fully accept Lord Gill's recommendation that a sharper, clearer safety regime is needed for LPG bulk installations.

Lord Gill's report proposes that this should be achieved through a four-phase action plan:

the replacement of metallic pipework and steel risers on a systematic and prioritised basis; and early inspection of all buildings that have a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) supply to identify any hazardous features from the design or layout;the establishment of a permanent and uniform safety regime to govern the installation, maintenance, monitoring and replacement of all LPG systems, including clear guidance on responsibilities of supplier and user;the development of a continuing and planned safety regime, particularly in relation to the use of polyethylene pipes; andthe improvement of communications between suppliers, users and HSE and also within HSE.

In responding to Lord Gill's report, the immediate priority is the replacement of buried LPG pipework.

The HSE has already announced a joint programme of work with UKLPG for the systematic replacement of buried LPG metallic pipework. This will be a prioritised programme starting in October.

The Government also agree that further improvements are needed to the safety regime in this area and we expect to provide a full response to Lord Gill's report in January next year. I have therefore today asked the chair of HSE and its board to consider the report's findings and to report back to me on progress by the end of September, addressing both Lord Gill's criticisms of its actions since the explosion and how the report's recommendations can be taken forward. I have asked HSE to explore with the LPG suppliers, users and with trade unions how improvements to the LPG safety regime can be made.

I will report back to Parliament in the autumn on the progress that has been made and I will ensure that honourable Members have the opportunity to feed in their views before the Government's full response to Lord Gill's report is issued.

Copies of the report are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

Immigration: Charging for Services


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

The biggest shake-up to our border protection and immigration system for over 45 years is well under way. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill, which will fundamentally overhaul the laws regarding

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obtaining British citizenship, is currently progressing through Parliament. We will also look to simplify our immigration laws further through legislation to be published later this year in Parliament.

The UK Border Agency was established in April 2008 to create a strong new force at the border by bringing together immigration, customs and visa checks to strengthen the UK border. We want the UK to stay open and attractive for both business and visitors, but at the same time we are determined to deliver a system of border control which is among the strongest in the world.

Inward investment and tourism benefit Britain greatly. The Government are committed to boosting Britain's economy by bringing the right skills from around the world and ensuring that it is easy to visit legally. We want to continue to welcome the holidaymakers, visitors, business people and genuine students who come here, recognising the valuable contribution they make to economic growth and the way they enrich our society through cultural exchange.

For the immigration system to command public support, among both the British public and legitimate migrants, we need an immigration system that is fair and effective. The integrity of the immigration system depends on robust borders, with effective security overseas and in the UK ensuring and enforcing compliance with our immigration laws. To help achieve this, those who benefit directly from our immigration system (migrants, employers and educational institutions) should contribute to the costs of the system and enable us to meet our strategic objectives.

Later this summer the Government will publish a consultation document on charging for certain services we provide. To maintain our world class immigration system currently costs over £2.2bn per annum. UK Border Agency currently recovers approximately 30 per cent of this spend through fees for applications and services we offer.

We believe it is right that users of that system make an appropriate contribution to meeting those costs, to help manage the burden on the UK taxpayer. The purpose of consulting is to ensure that we are getting that balance right in the broader interests of the UK.

The consultation document will set out some options on how we can charge for our services. We want a genuine debate on the most appropriate way to charge. We will be engaging with stakeholders throughout the consultation period in order to get the views and ideas from as many people as possible. Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of the House and will be available for download from the UK Border Agency website at

Independent Police Complaints Commission


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing, David Hanson, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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I am pleased to announce that today my right honourable friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and I are laying before Parliament the annual report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which will be published today.

This is the fifth annual report from the IPCC. The report covers the work of the IPCC during 2008-09 and includes a discrete chapter on the discharge of its responsibilities in respect of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs. The report also includes a chapter on deaths during or following police contact, which shows continued year-on-year decreases in the number of deaths.

During this year the IPCC has continued to make significant improvements in its performance, having set some ambitious targets. The IPCC has a key role in increasing confidence in the police complaints system which will, in turn, impact positively on public confidence in the police. In a recent survey conducted by the British Market Research Bureau, 88 per cent of those surveyed said they thought the IPCC would treat a complaint against the police fairly. I am satisfied that the IPCC is ready to meet the challenges. We will continue to work with the IPCC to ensure it continues to meet its statutory remit.

Independent Safeguarding Authority


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (David Hanson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the annual report 2008-09 and accounts of the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will be laid before Parliament today. Copies of the report will be available in the Vote Office.

Intercept Evidence


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Secretary of State for the Home Department, Alan Johnson, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In her Written Ministerial Statement to the House on 12 February (Official Report, cols 87-88WS), the then Home Secretary (right honourable Jacqui Smith) provided a progress report on the work being undertaken following the publication of the Privy Council review of intercept as evidence in January 2008. I am pleased to be able to provide a further update, and to explain why I have concluded it is right to provide the House with a full report after the Summer Recess.

Since February, detailed work has focused on testing the practical impact and effect of the model developed. This work has been undertaken in concert with experienced independent legal practitioners. The programme is now complete, and work is now in hand to draw the emerging conclusions and test their validity.

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The Advisory Group of Privy Counsellors-the right honourable Sir John Chilcot, my noble friend the right honourable Lord Archer of Sandwell, the right honourable Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith) and the right honourable Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Michael Howard)-is following this closely. Indeed they also see merit in seeking further advice on key points for, as they noted in their interim report in February, the issues are complex. I know they share my determination to get this right. I should like to thank them for their continuing commitment and invaluable contribution.

I look forward to discussing with them the final conclusions of the programme. I shall then provide a formal report to Parliament on the full findings of the work programme, and the Government's decision in the light of them, soon after the return following the Summer Recess.

Legal Aid


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Ministry of Justice has today published proposals to refocus limited civil and criminal legal aid resources on priority cases.

Proposals in the first part of the paper are the product of joint working between the Legal Services Commission and the Ministry of Justice and suggest a range of changes to the funding rules to ensure legal aid funds are being directed to meritorious cases. Proposals include:

reforming the way that the public interest is considered in deciding whether to grant legal aid by establishing a new committee to include non-lawyers, and creating a ring-fenced budget for these cases;removing certain low priority cases, such as low value damages claims, from scope for civil funding, where issues can be resolved instead through complaints procedures or ombudsman schemes;tightening the existing rules for granting legal aid for judicial review, following a significant decline in the number of successful permission applications; and notifying the other side when civil legal aid is applied for to discourage fraudulent applications from those outside the financial eligibility limits.

Proposals in the second part of the paper have been developed by the Ministry of Justice and are also aimed at focusing resources on priority cases. The first proposal concerns the removal of advice and assistance on prisoner treatment issues from the scope of the Criminal Defence Service. Funding will be available to prisoners with serious concerns about their treatment under the civil scheme, subject to passing the relevant civil funding code criteria. This includes the need to exhaust the prison internal complaints procedure in most cases in advance of seeking legal advice. This proposal builds on the reforms to prison law funding which were published by the Legal Services Commission yesterday.

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The second proposal concerns the removal of the delegated powers for solicitors to self-grant legal aid in judicial review cases. This follows the rise in failed judicial review applications, many of which are funded through legal aid. With the exception of housing judicial review, civil and criminal legal aid providers will no longer be able to self-grant emergency representation in judicial review and will need to seek approval in advance from the Legal Services Commission.

The third proposal concerns restricting routine access to the civil legal aid scheme in England and Wales for those who are not residents in the UK. Funding for serious matters such as mental health detention, childcare or child abduction proceedings, domestic violence protection or emergency housing matters would remain available. Funding would also continue for overseas British citizens, European citizens involved in cross- border disputes, and those whose country is a party to a bilateral agreement providing access to legal aid in the UK.

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