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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 20 July 2004

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

HIV/AIDS Strategy

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses copies of "Taking Action: The UK's Strategy for tackling HIV and AIDS in the Developing World" which I published today.

This paper is being published by the Department for International Development (DFID) but the following Government Departments worked with DFID to help produce it: the Department of Health, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, HM Treasury, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Patent Office, the Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

AIDS is one of the greatest threats to eradicating poverty and achieving the millennium development goals. Over the last 25 years the number of people affected by HIV has risen dramatically, from the first AIDS cases identified in the 1980s to the 38 million who are living with HIV and AIDS today. Over 20 million people have died. Sub-Saharan Africa has suffered the severest impact: over 25 million people are currently living with HIV and AIDS and 12 million children have been orphaned by AIDS. By 2010 the number of orphans who will have lost parents to AIDS may rise to 18 million. In Asia and eastern Europe, there is a serious risk of a generalised epidemic unless action is taken now. In all regions, women and young people are particularly vulnerable.

The UK Government are committed to fighting AIDS and reversing the spread of HIV. The challenges facing the world were set out in the "UK's Call for Action on HIV/AIDS" published on world AIDS day last year. "Taking Action: The UK's Strategy for Tackling HIV and AIDS in the Developing World" sets out how the UK will respond to the challenges by promoting a comprehensive response to tackle prevention, treatment and care as well as addressing the social impact of AIDS; prioritising the needs of women, young people, including orphans and other children; focusing on human rights, stigma and discrimination; and ensuring that action on AIDS is sustainable in the long term as well as responsive to immediate needs.

As announced in the spending review, the UK Government will commit at least £1.5 billion over the next three years to tackle AIDS in the developing world. Of this, at least £150 million will be dedicated to helping orphans and other children made vulnerable by AIDS, especially in Africa. We will also be doubling our contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria with an additional £77 million over the next
 
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three years. This is in addition to extra money for UNAIDS and UNFPA announced in my statement of 6 July.

ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): A progress report on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies in Great Britain was placed in the Library of the House today.

The report explains primarily how we have managed BSE during 2003. The encouraging reduction in BSE in cattle continues. This shows that the controls that have been put in place are continuing to have an important effect.

The report explains the background to our application to the European Commission to be classified as a Moderate BSE risk, which will help to re-open exports markets for UK beef; it also outlines the progress of the TSE surveillance programme. It provides an overview of TSE research and sets out progress on the national scrapie plan, as well as our continuing efforts to ensure compliance with the rules on specified risk material and animal feed.

The report is being published on DEFRA's website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/animalh/bse/index.html.

TREASURY

Tonnage Tax (Post-Implementation Review)

The Paymaster General (Dawn Primarolo): The tonnage tax was introduced in 2000 as part of a package of measures to revive the UK shipping industry. In July 2002, I announced that the Inland Revenue and the Department for Transport would commence a review of the way the regime is operating, and invited public contributions. A number of representations have been received. Individuals and groups wishing to make further representations are invited to do so by 30 September 2004. Details about how representations can be made are available on the Inland Revenue's website.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Forensic Science Annual Report

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar): I have today published the Forensic Science Northern Ireland annual report and accounts 2003–04. The annual report sets out performance of the agency against key targets. Copies of the report have today been laid before the House.

Independent Monitoring Commission (Second Report)

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Paul Murphy): On 20 April 2004 I formally requested the Independent Monitoring Commission to prepare a
 
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security normalisation report under article 5(2) of the international agreement between the British and Irish Governments.

Article 5(2) enables the British Government to commission the IMC to prepare a report on security normalisation activity undertaken over a specified period. I asked the IMC to report on all normalisation activities which have taken place since December 1999 up to the present time. The activities are set out in article 5(1)(a)(i) to (v) of the international agreement. The IMC report also takes account of views on the effects of normalisation on the ground and the programme of reform to deliver a community based policing environment in Northern Ireland. It is distinct from the monitoring of the programme of normalisation included in the joint declaration which is yet to be commenced.

I am most grateful to the commission for its thorough report. The report is helpful in identifying the extent of steps that have been taken to reduce the security profile in Northern Ireland. The report also recognises that further steps are being taken, but that these must be measured against the prevailing assessment of the security threat.

I have placed copies of the second report of the Independent Monitoring Commission in the Libraries of both Houses.

Youth Justice Agency (Annual Report and Accounts)

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. John Spellar): I have placed copies of the Youth Justice Agency's annual report and accounts for 2003–04 in the Libraries of both Houses.

This is the agency's first annual report since its inception on 1 April 2003. It achieved eight of its nine key performance targets and all 20 of its development objectives.

Prison Service (Annual Report and Accounts)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ian Pearson): I have placed copies of the Northern Ireland Prison Service's annual report and accounts for 2003–04 in the Libraries of both Houses.

The annual report details that the service met seven of its 12 key targets in full and partially met an eighth. Of the comprehensive programme of 24 development objectives set for the service, 12 were achieved, four were partially achieved and substantial progress was made towards meeting the remaining eight.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

Ordnance Survey (Framework Document)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): I am pleased to announce today that a new framework document for Ordnance Survey has been published and is also available in the Libraries of both Houses.

On 23 July 2002 the Government announced that following a quinquennial review, Ordnance Survey, a non-ministerial Government Department, should retain its status as a Trading Fund and executive agency. It was
 
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also agreed that further work should be undertaken on three issues: freedoms and flexibilities that should be made available to Ordnance Survey; the provision and location of policy advice to government on geographic information; and issues surrounding Ordnance Survey's relationship with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

The new framework document defines the role and responsibilities of, and delegations accorded to, Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey's delegations and freedoms are no different from all other trading funds. They have the ability to borrow funds, from the national loans fund, and have recruitment and retention flexibilities available that are consistent with those generally available to agencies acting at arms length from central Government, and operating within a commercial environment. A Treasury Minute was laid before the House setting a new financial target for Ordnance Survey on 15 January 2004.

The Government have considered options for the provision of policy advice on geographic information. They have concluded that it is appropriate that the director general and chief executive of Ordnance Survey should remain as official advisor to Ministers on all aspects of survey, mapping and geographic information, and continue to provide advice to meet specific requests. The Government also separately recognise that there is scope for the creation of a geographic information panel to consider medium and long term strategic and policy issues. A panel would also provide a channel, to complement advice to Ministers provided by the director general, on the wider, more effective and systematic use of geographic information. The panel will be chaired for the first year by the director general and chief executive of Ordnance Survey with the intention of rotating the chair on an annual or biennial basis. Panel members will review the chairmanship annually and put recommendations to Ministers. The terms of reference and membership of the panel will be announced shortly.

Ordnance Survey's relationship, as a non-ministerial government department and an executive agency, with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is set out in the Framework Document. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister acts in the capacity of protecting the Government's shareholding in Ordnance Survey, and as a customer for Ordnance Survey's data. It is important that at both ministerial and official levels, there is proper separation of responsibility between those who deal with the Government's investment in Ordnance Survey, and those taking decisions to purchase Ordnance Survey data. The Minister for Ordnance Survey will therefore play no part in any decisions or discussions relating to such commercially based transactions, primarily through the pan-government agreement for the supply of Ordnance Survey mapping data to Government. Arrangements will also be maintained to ensure that officials within this office are not in a position where they might be considered to hold conflicting responsibilities.

The Government consider that Ordnance Survey has a critically important role to play in ensuring that the UK economy fully benefits from the availability of quality, up-to-date and definitive geographic
 
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information databases. Full and effective use of geographic information can generate significant benefits, opportunities and efficiencies for all those who have a requirement within their businesses and operations to use information that can be geographically referenced.

The new framework document will enable Ordnance Survey to continue to develop and enhance their underpinning database, and ensure that products derived from the database are delivered in a manner that meets both customer and national requirements.


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