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Lord Bassam of Brighton: The response to a consultation document issued in December 1999 was overwhelmingly supportive of Prison Service proposals to continue its predominantly geographic structure but to realign its boundaries so that they match those of police areas and planned probation areas, the English regions and Wales. From April 2000, 12 area managers will manage establishments grouped by police areas within the boundaries of the nine English regions. Three regions--the South East, the North West and the East Midland--will have two area managers each. There will be a further, thirteenth manager for Wales. Two functional managers will continue to manage the higher security estate and the women's estate.
These arrangements will improve alignment of criminal justice boundaries around the nine Government Offices for the Regions and Wales and provide the Prison Service with a platform for further joint working regionally and locally with other agencies. The move to a criminal justice focus on the 42 police areas is accelerating. The Crown Prosecution Service is organised on that basis already. Crown Courts Circuits are being reorganised on the basis of groups of police areas, and 42 criminal justice strategy committees and trial issues groups are being established this year. Forty-two magistrates' courts' committees and probation areas are planned from April 2001.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man have produced reports setting out the steps that they have taken and are continuing to take to give effect to the conclusions of the Edwards Report. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today placed copies of the Islands' reports in the Library.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is encouraged by the positive and constructive way in which the authorities in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have responded to the challenge of the Edwards report. Although the report placed them in the top division of offshore centres, the authorities in all three jurisdictions have been implementing programmes of further improvement in their systems of financial regulation which had begun even before the publication of the report in November 1998. These programmes are still being taken forward; the islands recognise that the process of improving financial regulation must be a continuing one that works for the benefit of their economies and will strengthen the integrity of offshore financial centres.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Sex Offences Review is due to make its report to Ministers shortly, and it should be published for public consultation in the early summer. The review is preparing a detailed report together with a volume of supporting papers. These will be available in hard copy and on the Home Office website. The review has been asked to recommend coherent and clear sex offences which protect individuals, especially children and the more vulnerable, from abuse and exploitation. The report will set out is proposals to increase the protection given to children.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In response to the severe flooding, the UK has relieved Mozambique of all its bilateral official debt obligations under the Chancellor's policy for countries qualifying for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. The Government look forward to a multilateral treatment of the bilateral official debt of Ecuador once a satisfactory programme has been agreed with the International Monetary Fund.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government recognise that some people may be faced with difficulties when banks close branches. The Treasury Policy Action Team (PAT 14) Access to Financial Services recommended the further development of new banking services and new ways to access them. The Government are contributing almost £500 million to the capital costs of computerising the Post Office network, to enable a wider range of services to be offered. The Post Office has recently announced plans to install more ATMs mainly in rural branches. A number of banks already have agreements with the Post Office to provide banking services through post offices.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The arrangements for funding the Scottish Parliament, including the application of population changes, are described in the Statement of Funding Policy published by the Treasury on 31 March 1999. This set out the population estimates for Scotland for 1996 and 1997. The estimates for 1998, which will be used in the 2000 Spending Review, are 10.34 per cent for the Scotland population as a proportion of England and 9.77 per cent as a proportion of England and Wales.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is not proposed to treat the sales of qualifying electricity generated from "Good Quality" CHP in the same way as electricity generated from renewable sources. As renewable energy sources are environmentally the most benign, it is appropriate for them to be treated more favourably than CHP for levy purposes.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We supported the conclusions reached by the 15 November 1999 General Affairs Council, which stressed the importance of European armaments co-operation and asked the Union's competent bodies to pursue their work, including the possibility of establishing a common position on European armaments policy in the light of future developments in the field of European Defence and Security policy. We considered that this was the right approach, given the pace of developments both in the restructuring of the European defence industry, and the progress being made in the Prime Minister's initiative to strengthen the European capability to undertake military crisis management.
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