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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): I have today placed in the Library of the House a copy of a consultation paper on draft regulations to be made under Part 5 of the Police Act 1997 aimed at strengthening the role of registered bodies in the disclosure process. Responses to the consultation are invited by 23 February 2004.
The draft regulations will be made under new powers conferred by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. These implement key recommendations of the independent review team appointed, in September 2002, by the Home Secretary to take a fundamental look at the operations of the Criminal Records Bureau. In particular, the review team recommended that the critical role of registered bodies in the disclosure process should be upgraded by making them unambiguously responsible for validating the identity of disclosure applicants and for ensuring that application forms are fully and accurately completed. The draft regulations achieve these objectives by attaching conditions to registration; where such conditions are breached the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act will enable a registered body's registration to be suspended or revoked.
The Criminal Records Bureau will put in place a registered body assurance team to improve the level of training and support to registered bodies to help them to meet the standards expected of them. To meet the cost of managing and supporting the registered body network, the draft regulations provide for registered bodies to pay an annual fee of £300. The consultation paper invites views on alternative means of funding the registered body assurance team.
By raising the professionalism of registered bodies in this way we can further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the disclosure process. The performance of the CRB has improved considerably over the past year. It now has the capacity to process over 50,000 disclosure applications per week, double the number of summer 2002, and is consistently meeting its service standards of issuing 90 per cent of standard and enhanced disclosures within two and four weeks respectively. Moreover, the CRB has now taken on the processing of some one quarter of a million applications from staff working in the care sector.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Home Office autumn performance report 2003 has been published today by command of Her Majesty. Copies of the report are available in the Library. The report is also available on the Home Office website.
The report sets out the progress the Home Office has achieved towards the key targets set out in the 2002 spending review. This includes those targets that the Home Office is solely responsible for delivering and those targets that it owns jointly with other departments such as the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The department's PSA targets were published in the SR2002 White Paper. How progress will be measured, and the success criteria for each target, are set out in the SR2002 Public Service Agreement Technical Notes, published by the Home Office in March 2003 and updated in July 2003.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): We are today placing a copy of the Service Children's Education (SCE) agency Quinquennial Review Report in the Library of the House. The review has examined the agency in detail and concluded that SCE is delivering a good service to parents and children and that, as a core component of military life overseas, the balance of
Lord Bach: As part of our strategy to modernise and improve defence mental health services, we can announce today that the Ministry of Defence has awarded a contract to the Priory Group for the provision of in-patient psychiatric services. This is the first time that we have awarded a mental healthcare contract to an independent service provider, although individual service patients have been referred to the Priory on a case-by-case basis when their condition was outside the treatment offered at the Duchess of Kent's Psychiatric Hospital (DKPH). Service patients can be admitted to selected Priory Group facilities from 8 December. The full transfer of in-patient care from the DKPH to the Priory Group will occur from 1 April 2004. This is in line with an Answer given in another place by my honourable friend the
The Priory Group can provide in-patient care locally. The awarding of this contract should be seen as part of our wider strategy to improve healthcare for service patients by reconfiguring mental health services to be community focused with the emphasis on local provision, as recommended in the medical quinquennial review. It also permits Defence Medical Service mental health staff to work within their local service community, which is more closely aligned with their operational role.
Lord Davies of Oldham: Part V of the Railways and Transport Safety Act will come into force as soon as existing police screening equipment is ready for use at the new low aviation limit. The necessary type approval process is nearing completion. Thereafter a period of approximately one month will be needed to carry out equipment modifications and to familiarise officers with its use in the aviation environment.
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