|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): Publication of the report of the Bloody Sunday inquiry has been long-awaited and it promises to be a hugely significant event in Northern Ireland's history. But this is also an occasion that will have an enormous impact on the private lives of ordinary people. I am determined to ensure that arrangements for publication are fair and reasonable, and at all times, I intend to act reasonably in recognition of the interests of the families, soldiers and others involved in the inquiry, and of my obligations to Parliament.
I am responsible for publication of the tribunal's report, once it is delivered to me. I am advised that I have a duty, as a public authority under the Human Rights Act, to act in a way that is compatible with the European convention on human rights (ECHR). To fulfil this duty, I need to take steps to satisfy myself that publication of the report will not breach article 2 of the convention by putting the lives or safety of individuals at risk. I am advised that these obligations must be met by me personally, in my capacity as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Although the inquiry is also a public authority under the Human Rights Act, I am not entitled to rely on the inquiry to satisfy my article 2 obligations and I have a duty to assess this myself. I also have a duty to satisfy myself that publication will not put national security at risk, for example by disclosing details of sources of confidential information.
During the course of the inquiry, the Government submitted to the tribunal some material that was relevant to its work but which was too sensitive to be disclosed publicly, usually because it contained information which had been provided to the security forces by individuals. If these individuals could be identified from the details they provided it would endanger their lives. This was explained to the tribunal in public interest immunity certificates signed by Ministers, which the tribunal accepted. I understand that the tribunal does not intend to refer to any material covered by public interest immunity certificates, but I have a duty to satisfy myself before
publication that none of this material has inadvertently been revealed in the report. The tribunal also agreed that the identities of a small number of individuals who were engaged on highly sensitive duties should not be disclosed and I need to be assured that these individuals have not been identified.
I intend to establish a very small team of officials and legal advisers to assist me in carrying out this necessary exercise. The team will need to include members drawn from the Ministry of Defence and the Security Service, who are familiar with the material covered by the public interest immunity certificates, but they will be granted access to the report under strict terms of confidentiality and for the sole purpose of carrying out the necessary checks, and they will report directly to me alone. For the avoidance of doubt, and contrary to some press reports, I want to make absolutely clear that this team will not include any legal representatives of the soldiers who were interested parties at the inquiry. In response to a proposal made by some of the families of those killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday, Lord Saville has agreed that this team can carry out the necessary checks on the inquiry's premises while the report remains in his custody, before it is submitted to me. I have confirmed to Lord Saville that I am content with this proposal. I understand that the report will be made available for checking some time this week.
I believe that these checks are absolutely necessary in order to meet the legal obligations on me. I have listened to the concerns raised with me by representatives of the families of those killed or injured on Bloody Sunday and I have sought to find ways to address those concerns. With this in mind, in addition to supporting the proposal made by the families that the checks take place while the report remains in the custody of Lord Saville, I have also sought Lord Saville's permission to allow counsel to the inquiry to be present during the checking process. He has agreed to this in principle, making it clear that they will be acting as representatives of the inquiry and not as advisers to me, or those who are reporting to me.
I want to publish the report in its entirety. Should any concerns about the safety of any individual arise, my first course of action would be to consider whether these can be addressed through alternative means. Were I to reach the conclusion, on advice, that a redaction to the text might be necessary, I would consult Lord Saville. In the very unlikely event that any redaction were deemed necessary, my intention would be to make this clear on the face of the report.
Once the checking process is complete, a publication date can be set and the report can be printed. The report will be published for this House, in response to an Order for a Return which I will invite the House to make. It is, of course, possible that a general election might be called in the meantime. Lord Saville has informed me that if it becomes clear that it will not be possible for the report to be published in advance of the Dissolution of Parliament, the tribunal will agree to retain custody of the report until after the general election.
The report must be published first for this House, but I acknowledge the importance of this inquiry's findings in the lives of a large number of individuals and I have received the consent of the Speaker to facilitate a period of advance sight on the day of publication to those most directly affected by the report's contents. I will
seek to offer advance sight on the day of publication to one representative of each of the families designated as full interested parties to the inquiry and to their legal representatives, without distinction between the families of those killed and of those wounded. Equal arrangements for advance sight will be offered to those soldiers most centrally involved in the subject matter of the inquiry. In keeping with practice for other public inquiries, some Members of this House will also be granted a period of advance sight on the day of publication to enable them to respond to the oral statement which I propose to make to this House on the day the report is published.
I am grateful to the Speaker for his acceptance of the proposals which I have made in relation to advance sight. I will write to Lord Saville, legal representatives of interested parties, the leaders of political parties and others as necessary to confirm arrangements as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): The safety and security of our citizens is the most important duty of Government. In March 2008, I announced the publication of the UK's first ever national security strategy (NSS) and today, two years on, I am pleased to deliver a progress report, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House. This report outlines the range of work that has been done since March 2008 to ensure that we are best placed to respond to the broad range of national security risks identified in the first NSS, from terrorism, nuclear proliferation, conflict and stabilisation, organised crime, domestic emergencies, to new challenges including piracy and cyber security.
The report explains how the comprehensive framework provided by the NSS, and the first annual update in 2009, has mobilised Government to work together to strengthen our response across a range of fast-moving and interconnected security issues, and to meet rising public expectations about what Government should be doing to protect citizens, while also increasing transparency and accountability on security issues. The new framework ensures that our response is co-ordinated and flexible and that we are able not only to tackle threats as they arise, but also to act early to deal with the drivers of threats and the environments in which they arise.
This work is overseen by the new Cabinet Committee on National Security which was established in 2007, which includes all the relevant Ministers, police chiefs, as well as the heads of the agencies, the Chief of Defence Staff, and others. It has met very frequently on Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as a wide range of other issues. It is supported by the new national security secretariat in the Cabinet Office. The secretariat also co-ordinates national security policy work across Government, including contributing to the Defence Green Paper published in February, and the International Development White Paper "Building our Common Future", published in 2009. The national security forum established in 2009 ensures that Government work on national security is informed by independent expertise,
and the new Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, which will take evidence from Ministers later today, has improved parliamentary oversight.
As a result of this comprehensive whole-of-Government approach, we are better equipped to respond effectively to the immediate threats we face, including terrorism, conflict, serious organised crime and civil emergencies. Today, the Government have published the "CONTEST annual report" (Cm 7833) which sets out progress against our counter-terrorism strategy, updated a year ago and recognised as one of the most sophisticated in the world. We have continued to increase investment-from £1 billion a year on domestic counter-terrorism in 2001 to over £3 billion now, doubling the size of the Security Service and recruiting thousands more counter-terrorism police. We have set up a single border agency with police-level powers, and the new electronic border controls will be covering 95 per cent. of travel by the end of 2010. Watch list arrangements and aviation security more widely are subject to continuous review. But we are committed to combining strong defences at home with decisive action abroad with allies to tackle terrorism and extremism, including building up other countries' capacity to deal with terrorism themselves. Our priority remains the Afghan-Pakistan border areas-still the largest source of terrorist threat to the UK-but we have also had to respond to the diversifying threat from other countries such as Yemen and Somalia, which are covered in the progress report.
We have developed a comprehensive approach to stabilisation and development in failed and fragile states. In Afghanistan we were the first country to set up in 2008 a joint military-civilian headquarters to integrate the security and stabilisation aspects of our strategy-this team is now leading the stabilisation efforts following on from Operation Moshtarak in Helmand. In February this year we launched the new group of 1,150 skilled and experienced civilians constituting the civilian stabilisation group from which up to 200 can be deployed at any one time. After the recent tragedy in Haiti, a team from the stabilisation group was in the air just 12 hours after receiving a request from the UN.
Building on the successful work of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, established in 2006, we published an updated strategy for tackling organised crime in July 2009, strengthening the shared assessment of harm and risk across SOCA, the police and other agencies, and set up a new strategic centre for organised crime in the Home Office to drive activity across Government. A new Ministerial Committee devoted specifically to organised crime will meet for the first time this month.
In relation to work to improve our resilience against domestic emergencies, the preparations put in place by the Government, National Health Service and local responders allowed the UK to respond quickly and minimise the disruption caused by the H1N1 pandemic, and the World Health Organisation has described the UK as
"in the vanguard of countries worldwide in preparing for a pandemic".
Work continues on our critical infrastructure resilience programme as a response to Sir Michael Pitt's review of the floods in the summer of 2007. We publish today the first products of that work: "A Strategic Framework and Policy Statement"; "The Sector Resilience Plan for Critical Infrastructure 2010"; and "Interim Guidance
to the Economic Regulated Sectors". This work forms part of our wider efforts to reduce the vulnerability of national infrastructure and essential services to disruption from natural hazards. Copies of these documents have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
One of the fundamental principles underlying the NSS is the commitment to tackling long-term challenges early by paying attention to the drivers of insecurity, such as poverty, inequality and poor governance, climate change, and competition for energy and other natural resources. The 2009 International Development White Paper identified the need to focus more of our development efforts in conflict-affected and fragile states, and on state-building and peace-building objectives in these countries. The Department for Energy and Climate Change, established in October 2008, plays a critical role in leading our response to climate change and in developing a strategic approach to energy security. The Government's response to Malcolm Wicks' review of international energy security will be published shortly.
The NSS also covers work to secure the UK's interests in a range of environments where security challenges may arise, including the cyber, maritime and space domains. Last summer, we published the first ever cyber security strategy and, in September, established the office for cyber security and the cyber security operations centre. These new structures co-ordinate efforts across Government to ensure both that public sector systems are fully protected, and that citizens and businesses can take full advantage of the huge opportunities presented by cyberspace while reducing the risks that it poses to the UK, including from foreign actors or criminal, negligent or reckless activity. We are also developing a new national partnership to inspire talented young people to take up careers in information security to meet the need for highly skilled cyber security specialists.
As announced in the 2009 NSS update, we have been reviewing the security of the maritime domain, including piracy and counter-terrorism. A key area where we can strengthen our response to potential maritime incidents is through the integration and central co-ordination of maritime surveillance systems. I can announce today that work is beginning to establish a new multi-agency National Maritime Information Centre (NMIC) based at the Ministry of Defence's joint headquarters in Northwood. The Cabinet Office is also currently leading a review of the security of the UK's strategic interests in space.
In relation to nuclear security, the "Road to 2010" White Paper, published in July 2009, set out our response to the full range of nuclear challenges the UK faces, in preparation for President Obama's nuclear security summit in April, and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) review conference in May. The Government are putting in place a package of enhanced nuclear security measures to demonstrate the UK's commitment to tackling the threat of nuclear terrorism, and to encourage other nations to follow suit. These include confirming our commitment to renew the G8 global partnership beyond 2012, with a renewed focus on nuclear and biological security; inviting an IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission to Sellafield; providing further funding to the IAEA nuclear security fund, to address the most urgent nuclear security needs overseas; and ratifying the two key international instruments for nuclear security (the International Convention on the
Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism; the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material). We have also just launched the UK's National Nuclear Centre of Excellence.
As the first NSS explained, the global security context is dynamic, interconnected, and unpredictable, and we are committed to strengthening our capacity to monitor risks, anticipate future threats, and respond accordingly. We have increased our horizon scanning capacity and better co-ordinated its use across Government to help us anticipate and prepare for future threats. We are publishing today the 2010 edition of the National Risk Register (first published in 2008), copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House. It reflects our latest assessment of the risks of terrorism, natural hazards, and man-made accidents which may significantly affect human welfare in the UK. Alongside this, we are publishing updated Crisis Response Arrangements (copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of the House) and beginning a public consultation on community resilience.
In the two years since the publication of the first NSS, we have made important progress, working together across Government and backed up by the hard work and dedication of the armed forces, security services, police and others. The nature of the threats we face, from piracy and cyber crime to terrorism and nuclear proliferation, is varied and ever changing, but we will continue in our endeavours to secure the UK, its values, its interests and its people.
The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr. Sadiq Khan): The Department for Transport has today published a consultation document containing proposals to ensure that the Blue Badge Scheme is more consistently administered, to clamp down on badge abuse and to help more people with severe mobility problems to access services more easily.
Improving scheme enforcement through amendments to primary and secondary legislation.
Widening eligibility criteria through secondary legislation.
Improving funding to local authorities to help them deliver improved eligibility assessments.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw):
I am setting out today how my Department can play a key role in the Government's plan to halve the budget deficit within four years. Through our employment programmes the Government have invested £5 billion to ensure that we can help people back into work as quickly as possible and this investment has helped to keep unemployment much lower than was previously expected. This, in turn, has helped to reduce the cost of out-of-work benefits: the claimant count planning assumption, published in the 2009 pre-Budget report would lead to a reduction
in benefit expenditure of some £10 billion over five years, when compared with the assumptions used in Budget 2009.
My Department has a key role in helping to reduce Government borrowing. By helping more people back into work, DWP can help individuals as well as reduce expenditure on out-of-work benefits. It is important that this can be done as efficiently as possible, and I have today published a document-"Delivering more for less: the efficiency programme of the DWP"-showing how my Department has consistently delivered value for money by reducing back-office costs, sharing costs across Government and increasing the productivity of its staff. Due to these efficiency programmes, it has been possible to increase the quality of the services that we offer to customers, at the same time as reducing the cost to the taxpayer.