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There will be a presentation and debate on EU accession to the European convention of human rights. The Government fully support EU accession to the European convention on human rights, which will close the gap in judicial protection of fundamental rights in the EU by ensuring that the EU institutions, as well as the member states when implementing EU law, will clearly be subject to the convention.
The Council will be asked to agree a Council resolution proposing the creation of an updated model agreement to help in the establishment of, and participation in, joint investigation teams-JITs. The Government fully support this updated-model agreement which is based on practical experience and good practice.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): My hon. Friend the Minister for Europe and I wish to announce that following the treaty of Lisbon's entry into force on 1 December 2009, the Government intend that the extra seat in the European Parliament which is assigned to the UK under the treaty will be filled in accordance with the results at the June 2009 European Parliamentary elections. The treaty of Lisbon establishes an overall cap on the size of the European Parliament and an adjustment of the distribution of MEPs between 12 EU member states. The number of UK MEPs increases from 72 to 73.
An agreement of a transitional protocol is required to permit those member states who gain MEPs under the treaty to elect their additional MEPs during the current European Parliamentary term rather than wait until the next round of European Parliamentary elections in 2014. At EU level, unanimous agreement is needed for such a protocol, as it will mean a temporary increase in the number of MEPs allowed by the treaty. At UK level, a Bill will be required after the general election to ratify the treaty change in the UK. Legislation will also be required to provide for the seat to be filled.
Should the seat be awarded to a European Parliamentary electoral region of Great Britain, the results from that region at the 2009 election will be used to determine which party would have been awarded the next seat had an additional seat been available. The system used in Northern Ireland to elect its MEPs-the single transferable vote-is different from that used in Great Britain. If the extra seat is allocated to Northern Ireland therefore, the seat would go to the highest ranking candidate not to have reached the quota at the 2009 election following completion of the count.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw):
In April 2009 I established an independent advisory panel on judicial diversity. I asked the panel to identify the barriers to progress on judicial diversity, and to make recommendations on how to make speedier and sustained progress to a more diverse judiciary. I invited Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE to chair the
panel and Lord Justice Goldring, Professor Dame Hazel Germ, Andrew Holroyd CBE, Winston Hunter QC and Dr. Nicola Brewer CMG to serve as members of the panel.
The advisory panel were originally to have presented their final report to me by November 2009. However, at the panel's request, I agreed to a deferral of the publication date to enable the panel to continue engaging with a wide range of contributors and developing their findings. Overall, the panel met, corresponded with, or received evidence from, over 180 individuals and organisations-including members of the judiciary, the Judicial Appointments Commission, members and representatives of the legal professions, and diversity and equality experts-during the course of their investigation.
I welcome warmly the findings of the panel's report and its recommendations. Some of these will be for individual organisations to deliver. The majority though will require co-operative working between the Government, the judiciary, the Judicial Appointments Commission and the legal professions. Accordingly, I have written today to invite them to join a new judicial diversity taskforce, which will be responsible for driving forward the comprehensive programme of reform identified by the panel.
I am very grateful to Baroness Neuberger and the members of her advisory panel for the work they have done in producing this report, and the thorough approach that they have taken to identifying and analysing the issues involved.
We know that improving the diversity of the judiciary is a long-term challenge. I hope that this excellent report will spur all those across the system to respond to this challenge with renewed vigour.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The need for an additional human rights framework that reflects the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland was recognised in the Belfast agreement and given shape through the commitment to set up a Bill of Rights forum as part of the St. Andrews agreement. Flowing from these commitments, the Government launched a public consultation on the next steps towards a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland on 30 November 2009.
The Government believe that a Bill of Rights which has the support of the people of Northern Ireland could play an important role in underpinning the peace, prosperity and political progress of Northern Ireland, and we are committed to taking this work forward. The launch of the consultation marked another milestone on that path.
The Government have received a number of requests to extend the consultation deadline by organisations that are keen to participate. As we made clear in the consultation paper, we want a full debate on the issues involved, and it is important to hear the full range of
views. With that in mind, I have decided to extend the consultation deadline by four weeks until the end of March to allow those individuals and organisations who wish to contribute to do so.
The independent review looking into the collapse of Eurostar services before Christmas was published on Friday 12 February. This was a thorough review of the incident and I am pleased to say that all parties have committed to working on implementing the recommendations.
The incident occurred during some of the most prolonged adverse winter weather. Nevertheless, too many passengers were left to endure appalling conditions onboard trains and at stations with inadequate information and assistance. This did not reflect the level of service passengers had experienced over the last 15 years or had come to expect from Eurostar. The company now must win back the trust of the public by taking every step necessary to ensure that services return to their previous high levels of performance and reliability.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): I am today announcing the third tranche of performance-related payments from the Urban Congestion Performance Fund that will see the 10 largest urban areas in England receive a further £19.7 million to study and address the causes of urban congestion.
The Department for Transport has a public service agreement indicator regarding person journey time on main roads into urban areas. The indicator states that by 2010-11 the 10 largest urban areas in England will meet the congestion targets set in their local transport plan relating to movement on main roads into city centres. The indicator will be deemed to have been met if, on target routes in these areas, an average increase in travel of 4.4 per cent. is accommodated with an average increase of 3.6 per cent. in person journey time per mile.
On 4 February the Department published statistics for 2008-09 for each urban area to replace the provisional estimates that were published in November 2009. These data showed that the average person journey time across all the target routes has improved by 5.5 per cent. between the baseline (which uses a mix of 2004-05 and 2005-06 data) and 2008-09. At the same time the average level of travel fell by 0.8 per cent. across all the target routes.
|Urban Area||Tranche 3 Payments|
In relation to the 2007-08 performance fund payments announced on 23 February 2009, an error was identified in the way that "statistical confidence" is determined. This meant that when London was awarded full funding under tranche 2 (£3.9 million) they should have only been awarded 90 per cent. (£3.51 million). After taking in to consideration the fact that the error was due to the Department and not Transport for London, that London had still only marginally missed the full payment threshold and as the priority of the fund is to identify and tackle the causes of congestion, it has been decided to retain London's original performance fund allocation of £3.9 million under tranche 2. No other payments to the other urban areas were affected.
The performance fund is worth a total of £60 million over four years, and today's announcement will have seen a total of £42.6 million paid to the 10 areas. A further £15 million is available in the next financial year, and will also be awarded on a performance basis.