Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS49

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS49

Written Statements

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Bosnia and Herzegovina


The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 5 and 6 November, I visited Bosnia and Herzegovina. During my visit I met with the three member joint presidency, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Prime Minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska and leaders of seven political parties. I also met with representatives of civil society and visited the International Commission for Missing Persons.

The British Government are strongly committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina's security and stability. Our vision is of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a fully functioning state making real progress towards membership of the EU and NATO. In my meetings with Bosnia and Herzegovina's political leaders, I reconfirmed the UK's commitment to the processes of EU and NATO enlargement, and to Bosnia and Herzegovina's future membership of both organisations. I emphasised the need for compliance with the Dayton framework. I made clear UK concern about the prolonged slowing down of reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and stressed that without genuine action to unblock reforms there was a risk of Bosnia and Herzegovina falling behind the rest of the region on its path to membership of the EU and NATO.

I made clear that the UK wanted to see the transition of the international presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Office of the High Representative to a European Union Special Representative but only on the basis of full completion of the conditions and objectives set by the Peace Implementation Council in February 2008. I encouraged the party leaders to redouble their efforts to make progress on the outstanding conditionality.

In this context, I urged Bosnia and Herzegovina's political leaders to engage wholeheartedly and constructively in the EU/US initiative to reinvigorate the reform process. The initiative offers an important opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina's political leaders to engage together in order to find a way through some of the blockages. This initiative is evidence of the international community's strong engagement: it needs to be met with a corresponding political will on the part of Bosnia and Herzegovina's leaders.

In my meetings with the joint presidency and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I welcomed Bosnia and Herzegovina's election to non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2010-11. This will be an important opportunity for Bosnia and Herzegovina to contribute to addressing threats to international peace and security. The United Kingdom looks forward to

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS50

developing a close partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina on UN Security Council business including through intensified policy exchanges and the provision, by our embassy in Sarajevo, of capacity-building workshops.

I visited the headquarters of the International Commission for Missing Persons (ICMP) which is based in Sarajevo and saw at first hand the pioneering DNA-based work carried out by ICMP to identify the remains of missing persons. This work makes a vital contribution to peace and stability in the region and to regional and international judicial processes. The British Government are a strong supporter of ICMP's work.

I also had valuable meetings with representatives of civil society including with representatives of non-governmental organisations who have been partners of the UK in taking forward project work under our conflict prevention and strategic programme funds. I also met with British members of the EU military and policing missions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Business: Company Rescue


The Minister for Trade and Investment (Lord Davies of Abersoch): My honourable friend the Minister for Business and Regulatory Reform has today made the following Statement.

I am setting out today the Government's response to the recent Insolvency Service consultation on encouraging company rescue.

In launching the consultation, the Government identified the importance of maintaining an effective and fair corporate insolvency framework that enables viable businesses facing temporary difficulties to turn themselves round, helping to preserve jobs and livelihoods. The consultation document invited views on a number of possible measures to further enhance the existing regime, including moratoria for companies that need a breathing space in order to agree restructuring proposals with their creditors, and measures to promote increased access to rescue finance.

More than 50 businesses, individuals, and representative bodies responded to the consultation. The majority of respondents supported the Government's view that despite the challenges faced by business in the current difficult economic conditions, the existing statutory framework for company rescue is performing well, and continues to compare well internationally.

The moratoria proposals were broadly welcomed. Respondents made a number of helpful comments and suggestions as to how the potential benefits could be maximised, whilst minimising the risks to creditors. The Insolvency Service will be taking forward more detailed development of the relevant proposals over the coming months, building on feedback received from the consultation.

In relation to rescue finance, the views of respondents were more divided. A number suggested that in practice the availability of new finance for companies seeking to restructure was less of an issue than had been indicated, and that the need for legislative change was

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS51

not apparent. Stakeholders also recognised the need to balance the benefits of possible legislative changes against some of the risks, particularly if changes had a negative impact on the behaviour of lending institutions towards businesses in general. Having considered the consultation responses on this issue, the Government have decided that they will not for the moment be taking forward the finance-related proposals. We will however continue to work with stakeholders to monitor the position going forward.

Copies of the non-confidential responses to the consultation are being published today on the Insolvency Service website (, together with a summary of those responses.

Crime: DNA and Biometric Data


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

I am announcing today proposals on a new retention framework for DNA and fingerprints to be introduced though primary legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows. I am also today publishing on the Home Office website and placing in the Library of the House the responses to the consultation exercise on earlier proposals published in May 2009. I will also be placing on the Home Office website at a review of the research carried out in this area.

The UK has been at the forefront of using DNA in the detection of crime for many years, and it has played a key role in the conviction of numerous individuals for the most serious of crimes over the years; some 832 matches to the National DNA Database were made in cases of murder, manslaughter or rape in 2008-09 alone. The Government are determined that DNA and fingerprints should continue to play a key role in public protection and the prevention and detection of crime.

In December 2008 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment in the case of S and Marper found that the blanket retention of DNA profiles and fingerprints indefinitely where there had been no conviction represented a breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government undertook to give effect to the judgment and to amend domestic law accordingly. We published proposals in May 2009 in a consultation paper Keeping the Right People on the DNA Database. The consultation period ended in August and some 500 responses, the majority from individuals, were received. We have considered those responses carefully before bringing forward the proposals below.

The retention of biometric data remains a sensitive issue. Such data help in the detection and conviction of criminals and may also be used for identification purposes outside the criminal justice context. There is less argument about the retention of biometric information in respect of those who have been convicted of a

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS52

criminal offence than there is in respect of those who have been arrested and had their DNA and fingerprints taken but were not subsequently cautioned or convicted. Achieving the appropriate balance between privacy and public protection, in a way which satisfies the ECtHR judgment, has been our objective.

Since the publication of the consultation paper we have sought to further the evidence base through additional research. The research lends support to the public protection case for retaining the DNA of those who have been arrested for but not convicted of criminal offences. It suggests that we can go some way to reduce the retention periods originally proposed without compromising public protection, indicating that the chance of re-arrest, following an arrest with no further action, of individuals with no previous convictions remains higher than the chance of arrest in the general population for six years following the initial arrest.

DNA samples-the ECtHR judgment highlighted the particular sensitivity of retaining DNA samples as distinct from the profiles taken from them which are held on the National DNA Database (NDNAD). Although not required by the judgment, we continue to believe that there is scope for destroying samples not only of those arrested but not convicted, but also of those who have been convicted. We propose that samples should not be retained beyond a six-month maximum, which is needed to ensure satisfactory loading of the profile taken from the sample onto the NDNAD. We do, however, propose to bring forward a power for the police to take a further sample should the defence of an accused person challenge the authenticity of the results of the analysis of the destroyed sample.

Convicted adults-we propose the indefinite retention of DNA profiles of convicted adults in line with the consultation paper. This would also apply to people who are given a caution, warning or reprimand.

Unconvicted adults-in setting a proportionate retention period for the DNA profiles of unconvicted adults which does not compromise public protection, we have taken account of the improved evidence base and responses to the proposals in the original consultation paper. We propose a six-year retention period for the profiles of unconvicted adults, irrespective of the seriousness of the crime for which they were arrested. Although the ECtHR suggested that the seriousness of the alleged offence should be a factor in determining what length of retention was proportionate, the best available evidence indicates that the type of offence a person is first arrested for is not a good indicator of the seriousness of offence he might subsequently be arrested for or convicted of in future. As the retention of the DNA of innocent people is not punitive, but rather a measure to facilitate the detection of future offences, the Government therefore conclude it is appropriate to have a single retention period.

Juveniles-while the evidence base does not support shorter retention periods for juveniles, we have, in setting a proportionate retention regime for juveniles, whether convicted or unconvicted, given weight to the comments in the ECtHR judgment on juveniles, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the responses to the consultation paper.

Convicted juveniles-we propose that the DNA profiles of convicted juveniles should be retained

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS53

indefinitely for serious offences, and for five years for the first minor offence, with indefinite retention for a second conviction. This recognises that for many young people involvement in crime in their teenage years is often an isolated and minor incident. However, we also recognise that, for some young people, involvement in crime in their teenage years is a strong indicator of risk of further criminal activity into adulthood. We believe, therefore, that a limited retention period for a single conviction, with indefinite retention in the case of any further conviction, strikes the appropriate balance.

Unconvicted juveniles-we propose that, where 16 and 17 year-olds are arrested for but not subsequently convicted of a serious offence, their DNA profile would be retained for six years (as for adults), taking account of the ages at which peak offending occurs. For all other juveniles, we propose a three-year retention period for DNA of those who have been arrested but not convicted whatever the offence for which they were arrested, and at whatever pre-18 age they were arrested at. This corrects a possible anomaly with the original proposal, identified by consultation respondents, that an individual arrested at age 10 might have had their DNA retained for eight years, whereas someone arrested at age 17 might have had their DNA retained for only one year. It also provides an appropriately more lenient approach to juveniles who are arrested but not convicted, compared with those who do receive a conviction.

Fingerprints (adult and juveniles)-we propose that, in all cases, the same regime should apply to the retention of fingerprints as for DNA profiles. The ECtHR judgment implied that fingerprints were a lesser intrusion of privacy, but we are not aware of evidence which suggests we should propose a different retention policy.

Additional powers-in line with our aim to ensure that the right people are on the database our proposals in this area will, as we set out in the May consultation document, include giving the police the power to take fingerprints and non-intimate samples without consent from UK nationals or residents convicted of specified serious offences abroad at any time; to remove the existing statutory bar (in the Criminal Evidence (Amendment) Act 1997) on taking non-intimate samples from persons convicted of serious offences before 10 April 1995 who have been released from prison; and to give the police the power to take non-intimate samples and fingerprints post-arrest where the initial sample has proved inadequate for analysis even though a person is no longer in police detention.

Destruction of DNA and fingerprints profiles before the end of retention period-currently, chief officers may consider the exceptional destruction of DNA and fingerprints under the exceptional case procedure. We propose to introduce greater transparency by setting out in statute more clearly defined criteria where deletion would be appropriate. This should bring greater clarity to the public and also the police.

Governance-it is important that, in addition to putting in place the proportionate regime for the retention of DNA and fingerprints set out above, we are also able to promote public confidence in the operation of that regime. We therefore propose to strengthen

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS54

governance arrangements by placing the national DNA Database Strategy Board on a statutory footing and by introducing to it a wider independent membership.

Terrorism and national security-material taken under any regime (including the Terrorism Act 2000) would be able to be retained beyond the six-year point where there is a case for doing so on the basis of a case-by-case review on national security grounds. This would require a review by a senior police officer every two years-although data would be deleted if it became clear between reviews that their retention would no longer be necessary. The policy for juveniles would be similar but would take account of the differential treatment proposed for juveniles more generally.

Driving: Licences


The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Paul Clark) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The Department for Transport has today published a consultation document which outlines our proposals for implementing of the third EU Directive on Driving Licences (Directive 2006/126/EC), adopted in December 2006.

Most features of the directive must be transposed into national law by mid-January 2011 and come into practical effect by mid-January 2013. In general, the directive harmonises definitions of vehicle sub-categories and rules on the duration of the validity of a licence; it introduces minimum standards for driving examiners and aims to ensure that no one can at any one time possess more than one licence issued by an EU state. Most of its provisions are consistent with current UK practice or with measures the Government anyway intended to take.

The main changes required by the directive to current practice in Great Britain are:

changes to the size categories of motorcycles, including a new medium-sized category;an increase from 21 to 24 in the minimum age for motorcyclists gaining direct access to the most powerful motorbikes;a new test or a training programme for younger motorcyclists wishing to progress in stages to the larger and more powerful machines (currently, unlimited access to all motorcycles is gained automatically after two years' experience on less powerful machines);drivers of medium and large buses and lorries must renew their licences and demonstrate continuing medical fitness every five years (the present requirement in Britain is five-yearly renewal only after age 45); anda new category for car and light van drivers wishing to tow a medium-sized trailer, with qualification via a test or a training programme.

Major changes to entitlement, eg those applying to motorcyclists and drivers towing trailers outlined above, will apply only to people first acquiring driving licences on or after 19 January 2013. Drivers and riders will keep any entitlement they already have on that date.

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS55

The consultation document explains in detail the changes involved. We intend to introduce them in a way which involves the minimum amount of departure from current practice, at the least possible cost.

The estimated cost of implementing the directive is £10 million for developing the necessary systems and annual operating costs of £2.1 million thereafter. These figures would rise to £14.9 million and £3.1 million respectively if the training options for motorcyclists and drivers towing trailers were taken up (all figures in 2009 prices).

Some further changes will be required in the future. For instance, all paper licences must be withdrawn by 2033.

The consultation period will run until 11 February 2010. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library of the House. Further copies are available on the DfT website at

Depending upon comments received and the Government's response, implementing regulations will be laid before Parliament in order to transpose the directive into law in Great Britain by the due date of January 2011. Separate arrangements apply in Northern Ireland, where driver licensing is a devolved matter.

EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council


The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Chris Bryant) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 16/17 November in Brussels. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Development (Douglas Alexander MP), my noble friend the Minister of State for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor) and I will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the 10-11 December European Council

The GAERC will discuss the presidency's draft agenda for the December European Council. We expect the European Council to focus on the economic and financial situation, with a view to reaching agreement on the Commission's proposals for financial supervision and regulation. The December European Council will also adopt the EU's new work programme (the 'Stockholm programme') setting out priorities for EU cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs from 2010-14. There may also be discussions on a new Lisbon strategy post 2010, enlargement and external issues.

Post-2010 Lisbon Strategy

Ministers will discuss the post-2010 successor to the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth. The successor strategy should build on the economic and structural reform programme set out by the initial strategy. At

11 Nov 2009 : Column WS56

the October European Council, EU leaders agreed to draw up a European strategy for jobs and growth, to secure a strong and sustainable economic recovery. The October European Council stressed the importance of reforms to strengthen the internal market, deliver investment in the industries and jobs of the future, promote increased trade and strengthen the financial sector.

EU Sustainable Development Strategy

On the basis of a presidency report, Ministers are expected to discuss the priority areas for the EU sustainable development strategy (SDS) and how these should be delivered. We expect conclusions to be adopted by the December European Council, which will influence the decision on whether there should be a fundamental review of the strategy, due by 2011 at the latest. A recent review identified a number of areas where the EU is not on track to meet the targets in the SDS, and considered how its principles could influence policy-making more effectively. The Government support strengthening these aspects of the EU SDS and ensuring that it is well coordinated with other EU strategies such as the Lisbon strategy.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page