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The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Desmond Browne):
I am pleased to announce the publication of the independent Complaints Audit Committee (CAC) annual report on the Immigration
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and Nationality Directorate of the Home Office, for the year 200304. Copies are available in the Library of the House and on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate's website.
This is the CAC's 10th report. Their role is to monitor the effectiveness of IND's procedures for investigating complaints about the conduct and efficiency of staff in IND. Their findings are valuable to the organisation.
As with previous reports this annual report highlights a number of areas where IND could improve its customer service, supported by a number of recommendations. IND will use these recommendations to help inform their wider change and reform programme.
The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Mr. Desmond Browne): I am today publishing, and placing in the Libraries of both Houses, a draft for consultation of our new national refugee integration strategy, "Integration Matters". The purpose of the strategy, which applies to England and will replace that set out in 2000 in "Full and Equal Citizens", is to help refugees build new lives in the United Kingdom and integrate to the full: the actions it proposes will enable refugees to achieve their full potential, to contribute to the communities in which they live, and to access the public services they need. It sets out how we will use our investment in refugee services, particularly through the European refugee fund and the challenge fund, to promote these ends. The draft strategy proposes for the first time a set of indicators which, in conjunction with a major study of the experiences of new migrants, will enable us to monitor its effectiveness and make changes where necessary. In this task we will rely on the expertise of the National Refugee Integration Forum, whose role in drawing up the draft strategy has been invaluable.
In accordance with best practice, we are allowing three months for comment, and we would welcome the widest possible range of contributions: from the public, voluntary, and private sectors, and of course from refugees themselves. Further online copies of the strategy can be obtained from Priscilla.Pegg@ homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk to whom any comments should be sent. We are publishing simultaneously with the draft strategy the results of a skills audit of refugees, which has also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses and forms part of the evidence base underlying the strategy, demonstrating both the wide range of skills brought to the United Kingdom by refugees and the extent of the help which many of them need in order to contribute fully to British society.
I am also announcing today the grants we are making for 200405 from the European refugee fund and the refugee challenge fund. Both funds exist to channel much-needed resources to innovative projects designed to deliver services tailored to the specific needs of refugees. We have been able this year to fund 38 projects for a total of £2.5 million under the European refugee
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fund, and 79 projects for a total of £3 million under the challenge fund. A list of the successful projects has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): I am today placing in the Library of the House copies of the report of the fifth annual meeting, held on 5 May 2004, to review the compact on relations between Government and the voluntary and community sector.
The meeting reviewed the significant achievements made across Government and the voluntary and community sector to implement and develop the compact. The compact is the blueprint for improving partnership working between Government, at all levels, and the sector.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): On 11 December 2003, I announced the first phase of BBC Charter review with the launch of a major public consultation. The consultation was supported by a programme of survey research, visits to different parts of the country to hear the views of people in the media industry and the public first hand, and a series of events for children and young people to hear what they had to say.
By the time the consultation closed on 31 March 2004 we had received over 5,000 written responses and there had been over 25,000 unique visitors to the charter review website. We published the responses on the internet as the consultation proceeded. The research fieldwork we commissioned was completed in June this year.
Today, I am publishing the results of this consultation and research. The report we are publishing "What You Said About the BBC" summarises the main points that were put to us. It does not capture every single one of the many hundreds of issues raised, which is why I am also publishing in full the reports of research and consultation on which "What You Said About the BBC" is based. These documents, together with the consultation responses I have already published, should be seen as a complementary package and taken together give a comprehensive picture of the views received.
"What You Said About the BBC" contains both praise and criticism. Most people indicated that they value the BBC and hold it in high esteem, but a significant minority disagreed. To those who like the BBC it was generally seen as the best broadcaster for news, documentaries and features about personal
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interests. But even to many supporters it is seen as being by no means perfect. Although satisfaction levels are high, most people want to see changes. However, there is a clear view that the BBC should continue to remain independent of Government, parliamentary and commercial pressures.
People believe the BBC should keep up with developments in new technology and should be a leading partner in new markets-this will be particularly relevant as we make the journey towards full switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting.
On the question of how we should pay for the BBC, the licence fee was widely considered to be the bestor rather the "least worst"method for the time being, although other options were put forward and questions were raised about how the licence fee is set, collected and distributed.
The findings contained in this report will feed directly into the review of the BBC's charter. As I have said on numerous occasions, the only certain outcome of charter review will be a strong BBC, independent of Government.
I have placed copies of "What You Said About the BBC" and the supporting research in the Libraries of both Houses. Further copies are available from the charter review website: http://www.bbccharterreview. org.uk.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I am pleased to announce the new chapter to the strategic defence review setting out the potential for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) significantly to improve operational effectiveness. UAVs will be a key contributor to network enabled capability and their ability to provide persistent surveillance of the battlefield or theatre of operations, without putting lives at risk has been demonstrated recently by US operations in Afghanistan and coalition operations in Iraq.
The central element of the UK's current plans for acquiring UAVs is the Watchkeeper programme, which will provide UK commanders with accurate, timely and high quality imagery. Watchkeeper will be an advanced system integrating air vehicles, sensor payloads and ground control facilities. It will be joined to the wider command and control network through communication systems such as Bowman, allowing information to be passed quickly, providing commanders with an improved understanding of the battle space and shortening sensor to shooter times.
The competition for entry into the final stage of the Watchkeeper programme has been run between two industrial teams led by Northrop Grumman and Thales Defence Ltd. Both submitted bids reflecting an understanding of the programme requirements, the technical complexities, the project management requirements and UK industrial participation.
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Following detailed consideration of the proposals, on the basis of value for money and demonstration of the best potential to deliver the required capability, the selection of the team led by Thales Defence Ltd will be announced as the preferred bidder for the Watchkeeper demonstration and manufacturing phase by the Secretary of State for Defence at the Farnborough international airshow today. Further negotiations will be required before the project is ready to pass its main investment decision. It is planned to start these negotiations immediately. Depending on the outcome of that work, we aim to make the main gate decision on Watchkeeper later this year. The intention remains to bring Watchkeeper into service as soon as possible with capability beginning around the end of 2006.
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