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Written Ministerial Statements

Wednesday 6 July 2005


"Future Capabilities" Command Paper

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): The "Future Capabilities" Command Paper published in July 2004 sets out the Ministry of Defence's proposals for modernising the force structure and capabilities of the armed forces to ensure that they are able to meet the security challenges on the 21st century. I am today publishing the Government's formal response to a report by the previous Defence Select Committee on the "Future Capabilities" proposals, issued in March 2005. Copies of the response will be placed in the Library of the House.

The Ministry of Defence welcomes the report and the Committee's support for our programme of modernisation. The Ministry of Defence's response provides detailed answers to all of the report's specific conclusions and recommendations. Our emphasis as we implement the "Future Capabilities" proposals across the Department continues to be on enhancing the flexibility, resilience and capabilities of the armed forces in order that they are well-prepared to face up to the most likely operational demands of the future.


Zimbabwe (Immigration Removals)

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): On 27 June I made a statement on the return of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe and I would now like to update the House on returns to Zimbabwe and on the situation of those who are currently refusing food.

As I set out in my previous statement, the Home Office assesses cases on their individual merits, providing protection to those who need it and seeking to remove from the UK those who do not. Each case is considered thoroughly before removal proceeds and any new information or representations are examined accordingly.

There have also been reports in the media of alleged ill-treatment of those who have been returned to Zimbabwe. We do not routinely monitor the treatment of individuals once removed from the UK as I made clear in my earlier statement. But our assessment of the situation on the ground is constantly monitored from a wide variety of sources, including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, media reports and UK Government contacts with NGOs on the ground.

On 5 July there were 106 Zimbabweans being detained across the removal estate, 33 of whom have refused four or more consecutive meals. Food is
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available to all hunger strikers and they are seen daily by a medical practitioner to check their condition. None of them has been hospitalised at this stage.

As I stated before we shall also continue our efforts, bilaterally and with our international partners, to press the Government of Zimbabwe to end human rights abuses and restore democracy and the rule of law, so that all Zimbabweans can return safely to help build a prosperous and stable country.

Proceeds of Crime Act

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Paul Goggins): I am pleased to announce that the third annual report of the appointed person under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been laid before Parliament. The appointed person is an independent person who scrutinises the use of the new search power introduced to support the law enforcement agencies to seize and forfeit criminal cash.

The report gives the appointed person's opinion as to the circumstances and manner in which the search powers conferred by the Act are being exercised. I am pleased that the appointed person, Andrew Clarke, has expressed satisfaction at the operation of the search power in its third year.

Over £36 million was seized under these powers last year. The power continues to be a welcome addition in the fight against crime and the report shows that its operation has been, and will continue to be, closely monitored.


Polio Eradication

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am today announcing that the UK will provide £60 million to eradicate polio by end 2005/early 2006, and to boost the effort to ensure the world stays polio free thereafter. The UK will immediately and unilaterally plug the remaining funding gap of £20 million ($36 million) so that polio can be eradicated. The UK will also give another £40 million in 2006–08 towards the cost of vaccinating over 500 million children to ensure polio can never break out again.

The money will go towards: providing vaccines and immunisation; paying health workers to carry out the immunisation programme; investing in laboratories to ensure the right vaccine is available for the different strains of the virus; and putting in place systems to identify new cases and provide help as soon as possible.

The international community's fight against polio has been one of the real success stories in the global campaign to combat poverty. In 1982, polio was eradicated in the UK, but was still a major cause of death and paralysis amongst children in developing countries. In 1988, the World Health Assembly announced the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI)—a worldwide programme of action to fight the disease. Seventeen years ago, there were 350,000 cases reported. Last year there were 1,255 cases—a fall of over 99 per cent. The funding I have announced today will,
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together with other contributions already made, fulfil a longstanding G8 pledge to fully fund the final effort to eradicate the disease.

But it is important that the international community does not stop at eradication. Ensuring polio never breaks out again will cost over £400 million between 2006 and 2008. That is why today I have also announced that we will contribute £40 million to this post-eradication effort. I am calling on others to do the same.


Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I have today placed before this House a copy of the third annual report of the Royal Ulster
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Constabulary GC Foundation which was sent to me under Article 8(2) of the Royal Ulster Constabulary GC Foundation Regulations 2002.

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


Senior Salaries Report

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I have today laid before both Houses the report by the Review Body on Senior Salaries on Pay for Standing Committee Chairmen in the House of Commons (Cm6566). Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House. I am grateful to John Baker and the members of the Review Body for their work. The Government have noted their recommendations. Implementation of these recommendations will be a matter for decision by Parliament.