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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The fifth annual Overseas Territories Consultative Council, held in London on 8 to 10 December, provided an opportunity to review, with representatives of the UK Overseas Territories, progress in implementing the commitments made in the 1999 White Paper Partnership for Progress and Prosperity: Britain and the Overseas Territories (Cm 4264).
Several Overseas Territory representatives argued, in the context of constitutional reviews currently under way, for a greater devolution of responsibility and reduction in the powers of governors, in some cases amounting to full internal self-government and total abolition of the UK Government's reserved powers. Territory representatives also sought clarification of their rights of self-determination and free association under the terms of the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 of 1960.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (Mr Jack Straw) and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Bill Rammell) emphasised that the security and good governance of the Overseas Territories remains a key foreign policy objective for the UK Government, as indicated in the White Paper UK International Priorities: A Strategy for the FCO, Cm 6052, published on 2 December. Territories have the right to seek independence, where this is an option, but, while the link with the United Kingdom remains, the UK Government will have to retain sufficient powers to protect its overall responsibility for ensuring good governance and compliance with international obligations and to minimise its contingent liabilities arising from its relationship with the Territories. The UK Government consider it important to protect key values, particularly the independence of the judiciary, the political impartiality and integrity of the public service, and sound financial management in the territories. Governors have a key role to play in this.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Omagh Victims Legal Action Group wrote to the Home Secretary on 29 November 2001 asking the Government to criminalise the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and similar organisations.
The position now is as it was then. The Government believe that the Real IRA and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement are inextricably linked. However, on the basis of evidence available, the Government assess that the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is not concerned in terrorism, as defined in statute. However, the Real IRA is proscribed under the Terrorism Act 2000.
In this country it is a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act 2000 to raise funds for an organisation concerned in terrorism. These provisions apply to any organisation, whether proscribed or not, in order to stop funds flowing to terrorists.
The Minister of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): Ministers have no powers to instruct fire authorities as to what constitutes lawful action on the part of employees or their unions.
The Government believe that the costs and savings of modernisation should balance over the spending review 2002 period (200304 to 200506). Fire and rescue authorities, through the Local Government Association, have said that this is achievable. The Independent Review of the Fire and Rescue Service said: "We are confident that, within the foreseeable future, benefits will more than exceed additional costs, including those of the pay increase we propose".
However, the Government recognise that there may be a lag between costs and savings of modernisation. An additional £30 million transitional funding is available for England and Wales, which will be released subject to satisfactory progress on ongoing pay negotiations and modernisation. It will be recouped over the SR2002 period.
In addition, the Government have committed £56 million on phase one of the New Dimension programme, which seeks to ensure that fire and rescue authorities are sufficiently trained and equipped to deal safely and effectively with major chemical, nuclear, biological and conventional terrorist incidents on a national scale. The Government are also providing a further £132 million for phase two of the New Dimension programme, which includes purchase of modern search and rescue equipment which will improve authorities' capacity to respond to incidents involving, for example, collapsed buildings.
Lord Rooker: The Government have increased core grant to fire and rescue authorities by 28 per cent increase since 1997, from £1,237 million to £1,583 million in 200304; a year-on-year increase of over 4 per cent. In 200405 authorities will receive an average increase of 4.2 per cent and no authority will receive less than 3.5 per cent. The Government will also distribute £61.68 million in supported capital expenditure in 200405.
As part of the pay and modernisation agreement, government are making £30 million transitional funding availablewhich will be released subject to satisfactory progress on modernisation and ongoing pay negotiationsto help with up-front costs. This transitional funding is to be repaid by fire and rescue authorities within the spending review 2002 period.
In addition we are making over £100 million available in notional credit approvals to support local private finance initiative (PFI) projects, which help fire and rescue authorities meet their objectives, in line with the White Paper and the National Framework.
Also, the Government are providing substantial direct investment in fire and rescue services. In 200304 we announced additional funding for the Fire Service College: £5 million on refurbishment of its unique fireground and support facilities; £2.5 million for urban search and rescue training facility; and £2.5 million in the Integrated Personal Development System "Hub" and its development. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has announced investment of £56 million on phase 1 of the New Dimension programme and will be spending £132 million on phase 2. We are providing a new radio communications systemFirelinkto improve the service's resilience and inter-operability between brigades and other emergency services. The Government will also procure and finance a new call handling and mobilisation system for the service.
Lord Rooker: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has agreed to make a small financial contribution to some events on the planning and compulsory purchase system reforms to enable groups to attend who might otherwise have not been able to do so. The events form part of the processes for consultation on, and explanation of, these reforms.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach): I will write to the noble Countess and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.
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