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Murder: Miss Naomi Bryant

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
 
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I should like to make a Statement about the management of dangerous offenders in the light of the murder of Naomi Bryant by Anthony Rice, a prisoner serving a discretionary life sentence who was on life licence at the time he committed the murder. I have today placed in the Library a copy of a report produced by HM Chief Inspector of Probation of the circumstances surrounding this case and, in particular, of the management of Rice throughout his previous sentence.

I would first offer my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Naomi Bryant. I deeply regret that she should have been murdered in these circumstances. While nothing can compensate for her loss, we have a duty to ensure that lessons are learned and that the chances of another family having to suffer such loss again are as low as we can make them.

I am grateful to the Chief Inspector of Probation for his report, which is a thorough and serious piece of work which merits careful consideration. It makes a number of criticisms about failures in the criminal justice system at various stages in the management of Anthony Rice. While individual members of staff did their best to discharge the very onerous responsibilities involved in managing dangerous offenders, there was, he finds, a series of errors and misjudgments that contributed to a case that was not managed to the standard that the public have a right to expect. The chief inspector concludes that,

The chief inspector makes four principal findings and accompanies each with a key recommendation. These are supported by further practice recommendations. Given that he finds shortcomings at the various stages of the management of Rice, the chief inspector makes a final recommendation that,

I take this report extremely seriously. The Government's first duty is to protect the citizens of this country, and I am determined that we should make our systems and procedures as effective and efficient as possible in order to do this. My right honourable friend the Member for Norwich South announced to the House on 20 April a series of measures the Government would be taking in response to the report by the Chief Inspector of Probation on the Monckton case. That work will be broadened out to include the recommendations in this report.

I can assure that House that I will move quickly to improve our processes and systems, including through legislation if necessary. We will consider the chief inspector's report extremely carefully and expeditiously. We need to move fast but, equally, these are weighty recommendations and we need to give them full consideration. I do not therefore propose to announce new measures today. I shall, however, return to this House as soon as I am able to do so.
 
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NHS: Hospital Referrals

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The NHS improvement plan gave a commitment that by December 2008 no one will have to wait more than 18 weeks from referral to hospital treatment.

The 18-week pathway is one of the most important reforms in the history of the NHS. It will significantly improve the patient experience, with most patients being treated even more quickly than 18 weeks. For the first time, the way we measure waiting times for all patients is changing and the entire patient journey will be measured. This will include waiting times for diagnostic tests and out-patient appointments beyond the first consultation, which are currently not measured. The 18-week pathway will therefore more accurately reflect the patient experience.

A listening exercise on the proposed principles and definitions that will underpin the 18-week pathway commitment was held last autumn. We received over 180 responses from the NHS and other interested organisations. I am grateful to all who have responded during this exercise.

Analysis of the responses has helped form the basis of the principles and definitions. These principles will help to ensure that the 18-week pathway commitment is fair, achievable and affordable.

Today, we announce publication of Tackling Hospital Waiting: The 18 week patient pathway. An Implementation Framework, setting out plans for achieving the 18-week pathway and including the principles and definitions. The implementation framework explains the nature of the 18-week pathway challenge, sets out a high-level implementation plan and timetable to achieve it, clarifying the contributions of all those involved. We are committed to delivering a maximum 18-week pathway which will transform the NHS, putting it at the forefront of international best practice. Copies have been placed in the Library.

NHS: Pharmacists

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Rooker): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement today.

The Health and Social Care Act 2001 introduced powers to enable NHS primary care trusts to assure patient and public safety by requiring primary care health professionals to be included on a list maintained by the primary care trust. These provisions also enable trusts to take appropriate action where necessary to protect the public because of a health professional's poor or inadequate performance.
 
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We have consulted professional and representative bodies on introducing these proposals for individual community pharmacists. Consultation on a draft regulatory impact assessment, available on the department's website, took place last autumn.

Since then, we launched in March a major consultation on reforming the regulation of the pharmacy profession as a whole and to strengthen the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's role in protecting patients and promoting high standards of clinical practice. This ends on 19 June.

We shall also be considering the future requirements for the adequate regulation of health professionals as a whole and have received Andrew Foster's report on non-medical regulation.

In view of these developments, we have decided to defer the introduction of NHS supplementary list provisions for community pharmacists, pending the outcome of the current consultation and consideration of future requirements for professional regulation as a whole. I will make a further announcement when we have completed this work.

Northern Ireland: Future Garrison Structure

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Adam Ingram) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

On 30 January this year, the then Secretary of State for Defence announced to the House that 19 Brigade, currently stationed at Catterick, would be re-roling to a light brigade and relocating to Scotland and Northern Ireland. I announced on 28 March the structured plan for the phased reduction of troops in Northern Ireland to peacetime levels, assuming the continued maintenance of an enabling environment. We have since been considering the future requirement for defence estate and for civilian support staff in Northern Ireland for the new peacetime garrison, which will reflect the Government's global defence commitments.

The updated security annexe to the joint declaration, published by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 1 August last year, envisaged a peacetime garrison of no more than 5,000 service personnel in no more than 14 core sites. Now that the composition of the peacetime garrison has been defined, we have concluded that we can meet its needs in the most effective and efficient manner by retaining the following locations once normalisation is complete: Aldergrove, Antrim, Ballykinler, Ballykinler Training Camp, Coleraine (subject to a review of adventurous training provision), Divis Key Point (on Divis Mountain), Duke of Connaught Unit, Holywood, Kinnegar, Lisburn and Magilligan.

We intend to close: Shackleton Barracks, Ballykelly in April 2008 when the current infantry battalion, 2nd Battalion, the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment, is scheduled to move; St Lucia Barracks, Omagh by 31 July
 
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2007, when the Royal Irish Regiment (Home Service) battalions disband; and St Patrick's Barracks, Ballymena by no later than 31 March 2008, when the last Royal Irish (Home Service) soldiers will have transferred or been discharged. In considering which locations should be retained, I have been concerned to ensure that we fully meet the needs of the future long-term garrison based in Northern Ireland, that we can continue to provide the residual level of support needed by the Police Service of Northern Ireland for as long as it is required and that we structure the garrison as efficiently as possible so as to achieve value for money for the defence budget.

As a result of the security normalisation programme, we have also been considering the future requirement for Ministry of Defence civilian support staff in Northern Ireland as the garrison reduces from some 10,000 service personnel in August 2005 to its planned peacetime level of no more than 5,000. We assess that from a current strength of some 3,400 civilian staff today, there is likely to be a reduction of some 1,500 as all the normalisation changes take effect, but this will be partially offset by the creation of some 340 new civilian posts. We will seek to manage this change as sensitively as possible and in close collaboration with the trades unions, with which we are starting formal consultation today on our future requirement. We will, of course, seek to avoid the need for compulsory redundancy as far as possible through transfer and voluntary early release or retirement, and through the pre-redundancy measures that have been in force since August last year. The department fully recognises the magnificent support given to the military over the past 37 years by its civilian staff. It is committed to engaging and supporting them at every stage of this period of change and is in correspondence with the trades unions on a possible additional package of support measures tailored to the particular circumstances of this programme.

In addition to the HQ and other units of 19 Light Brigade that we expect to relocate to Northern Ireland in 2007 and 2008, a new and non-deployable regional brigade headquarters will form at Thiepval Barracks, Lisburn. The current HQ 107 Ulster Brigade, based at Ballymena, will merge on 15 December this year into HQ 39 Infantry Brigade, which will itself be replaced by the new regional brigade headquarters on 1 August 2007.

The security normalisation programme is based on the continuing maintenance of an enabling security environment in Northern Ireland. Service personnel in the new peacetime garrison will be available for worldwide operations, but the Armed Forces are committed to continue to provide the support that the Police Service of Northern Ireland needs for as long as this remains necessary.


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