The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Timms): The UK Debt Management Office (DMO) has published its business plan for the year 200506, together with an updated executive agency framework document. Copies of both documents are available in the Libraries of both Houses and are accessible from the DMO's website: www.dmo.gov.uk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. David Lammy): Her Majesty's Government ratified protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms on 28 January 2005.
Protocol 14 is designed to maintain and improve the efficiency of the European Court of Human Rights for the long term, mainly in the light of the continuing increase in the workload of the Court, to ensure that the Court can continue to play its pre-eminent role in protecting human rights in Europe.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Mr. Christopher Leslie): My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has made the following written ministerial statement in the other place.
"I am pleased to announce that, with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, I have invited Sir Nigel Wicks to chair the panel to be appointed under the Constitutional Reform Act to select the members of the Judicial Appointments Commission. Sir Nigel, who has a distinguished record of public service including as a former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has kindly agreed to do so".
To achieve at least a "Satisfactory" rating in the provision of planning and delivery of transport and movements support to emerging operations, an increase in the tempo of existing operations or other requirements.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): A new call-out order has been made under section 56 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 so that reservists may continue to be called-out into permanent service to support military operations in the Balkans. The order will take effect from 4 April 2005.
At present, over 80 reservists are serving in the Balkans. They are providing a wide range of individual skills. We are most grateful for their continuing support to an important stabilisation operation.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon):
The Strategic Defence Review (SDR) New Chapter published in July 2002 stated that we planned to enhance and build upon the capabilities of UK special forces. As part of this programme, the "Special Reconnaissance Regiment" (SRR) will stand up on 6 April 2005. This regiment has been formed to meet a growing worldwide demand for special reconnaissance capability. Consistent with the SDR New Chapter, this regiment will provide improved support to expeditionary operations overseas and form part of the defence contribution to the Government's comprehensive strategy to counter international terrorism. The SRR will bring together personnel from existing capabilities and become the means of the further development of the capability. Due to the specialist nature of the unit, it will come under the command of the director special forces and be a part of the UK special forces group.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): Following ministerial approval of the business plan, the following performance targets have been set for Ordnance Survey in 200506:
The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am pleased to announce the approval of additional DFID funding of up to £23.8 million to the Microbicide Development Programme (MDP). The MDP is co-ordinated by the UK Medical Research Council's clinical trials unit and Imperial College, London. This funding will enable the completion of a phase III clinical trial of one of the leading candidates for a microbicide protecting against HIV infection.
The potential benefits of an effective microbicide are very significant. Research has shown that an effective microbicide could prevent up to 2.5 million infections worldwide over three years. Microbicides, prepared in the form of a gel, provide a potential means for women to protective themselves against infection.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ian Pearson):
In December 2002, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State, announced a review of security vetting arrangements in Northern Ireland, with the aim of ensuring that these were
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effective; proportionate; compliant with human rights and other statutory requirements; and in line with UK-wide best practice.
The review, which has involved representatives from Government Departments, the police and security agencies, and Government legal services, has now completed its detailed work. I have accepted its recommendations, which have improved security vetting procedures through the following significant changes:
an increased focus on risks and improved safeguards in vulnerable areas, enabling a major reduction in the number of posts requiring vetting on grounds of national security across government while improving, through better use of resources, the protective security of key areas; and
the introduction, now underway, of internal appeal processes for existing employees against the refusal or withdrawal of national security vetting clearances, to provide better transparency and fairness.
I believe that these are positive steps which will both promote confidence in the equality of opportunity afforded by Government employment, and improve the protections for and integrity of important Government activities and public services.
The Government attach particular importance to addressing all aspects of protective security. Work to drive the changes forward will continue. It is essential that in Northern Ireland, as in the UK as a whole, sound protective security regimes are in place to protect vulnerable and critically important public functions and activities from the whole range of threats, including domestic and international terrorism.
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