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Yesterday, the European Court of Human Rights informed the Government that late on Tuesday evening, Abu Qatada applied for a referral of the judgment in his case to the Court's Grand Chamber. He did so on the grounds that he would be at risk of torture if he returned to Jordan. The British courts and the European Court itself have already found that, because of the assurances we have received from the Jordanian Government, there is no such risk.
The Government are clear that Abu Qatada has no right to refer the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, since the three-month deadline to do so lapsed at midnight on Monday.
Article 43 of the European Convention on Human Rights explains that a request for referral to the Grand Chamber must be made "within a period of three months from the date of the judgement of the Chamber". The letter that communicated the European Court's judgement, dated 17 January, confirmed this, saying "any request for the referral of this judgement to the Grand Chamber must be duly reasoned and reach the Registry within three months of today's date". Therefore the deadline was midnight, Monday 16 April.
Because the European Court has no automatic mechanism to rule out an application for a referral based on the deadline, Abu Qatada's application will be considered by a panel of five judges from the Grand Chamber. They will take into account the deadline, as set out in Article 43 of the convention, as part of their consideration. The Government have written to the European Court to make clear our case that the application should be rejected because it is out of time.
Instead, the Government believe that the case should be heard in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) court, as I outlined in the House of Commons on Tuesday. Until the panel of the Grand Chamber makes its decision, however, a Rule 39 injunction preventing the deportation of Abu Qatada remains in place. This means that the deportation process and any potential SIAC appeal is put on hold, but we will resume the process as soon as the injunction is lifted. In the meantime, we will continue to build our case, based on the assurances and information we have received from the Jordanian Government. Abu Qatada remains in detention, and the Government will resist vigorously any application he might make to be released on bail.
As I said in the House of Commons on Tuesday, despite the progress we have made, the process of deporting Abu Qatada is likely to take many months.
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On 21 March last year, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and I updated the House on proposals and next steps for establishing a big society bank that would act as the central initiative for growing the social investment market in the UK, helping to provide a third pillar of finance for the social sector, alongside philanthropy and the state. This is an important element of our strategy to help the sector to become more resilient and effective.
The big society bank formally opened its doors to the public on 4 April as Big Society Capital. The new institution has been capitalised with the first tranche of dormant bank accounts and Merlin bank money, and we will thus have met a coalition priority "to use funds from dormant bank accounts to establish a 'Big Society Bank', which will provide new finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other non-governmental bodies". Today I would like to update the House on how Big Society Capital will work and progress made over the last year.
Big Society Capital (BSC) is the first social investment institution of its kind anywhere in the world. We are keen to support more social enterprise, whether it be new mutuals, social organisations delivering public services or community groups taking over assets. The purpose of BSC is to make it easier for these social entrepreneurs to access the capital they need. A new initiative is needed because the mainstream financial institutions are not yet providing that capital. BSC will build a bridge between mainstream finance and the social sector. It will do this by helping to grow the embryonic market of social investment-money that is prepared to blend financial return with social impact.
BSC will be capitalised using the estimated £400 million in unclaimed assets left in dormant bank accounts for more than 15 years, alongside £200 million equity investment from HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds TSB and RBS.
BSC will not be making grants. It will always invest because it needs to cover its costs and the mission is to prove and develop the concept of social investment. The wholesale function means that it will only invest
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Ahead of BSC opening we made early proof of concept investments to build the pipeline for the new organisation. To date, seven in-principle investments totalling £7 million have been agreed, including: money to help the long-term unemployed set up their own businesses; two schemes supporting vulnerable young people to get into employment; an affordable housing fund; two community energy projects; and the development of the world's first ever social stock exchange.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Nick Harvey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The UK's chemical protection programme is designed to protect against the use of chemical weapons. Such a programme is permitted by the Chemical Weapons Convention, with which the United Kingdom is fully compliant. Under the terms of the convention, we are required to provide information annually to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In accordance with the Government's commitment to openness, I am placing in the Library of the House a copy of the summary that has been provided to the organisation outlining the UK's chemical protection programme in 2011.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): My honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People (Maria Miller MP) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Following the Government's review of non-departmental public bodies and the passage of the Public Bodies Act 2011, and using powers contained within this Act, I will be laying an order later today to
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The public consultation on the transfer of CMEC was held from 10 October 2011 to 3 January 2012 and the Government's response was published on 8 March 2012. I will place copies of both the consultation document and the government response in the House Library later today.
CMEC has responsibilities relating to child maintenance, an issue that affects many families, and the Government feel it is right that Ministers should be directly responsible and accountable for this important work.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (William Hague) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I wish to inform the House of developments concerning the death of a British national, Mr Neil Heywood, in Chongqing in the People's Republic of China on 14 November 2011. Mr Heywood's body was found in a Chongqing hotel room on 15 November 2011.
On 16 November 2011, consular officials from the British consulate-general in Chongqing were notified of Mr Heywood's death by fax from the Public Security Bureau of the Chongqing municipality of China. Chinese officials informed our staff that the cause of his death was overconsumption of alcohol.
In line with FCO consular procedure, consular officials provided immediate and full consular support to Mr Heywood's family in China as well as to his family in the United Kingdom. On 18 November, the family informed consular staff of their decision to have Mr Heywood's body cremated and confirmed this to us both in China and from the UK. An FCO official duly attended the cremation ceremony. We continue to provide full consular support to Mr Heywood's family in China and the UK, including to Mrs Heywood, who is a Chinese national holding a valid UK visa.
Foreign Office Minister, Jeremy Browne, was in Chongqing on 15 and 16 November. He met Mr Bo Xilai on the morning of 16 November. Ministers are not routinely told about the death of British nationals or other consular cases as they are so numerous. However, we need to make sure that they are told in relevant cases and we will review our procedures.
The Chinese police findings as to the cause of Mr Heywood's death were called into question subsequently. Foreign Office officials were first made aware of rumours within the British expatriate community in China that there may have been suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr Heywood's death from 18 January.
Prompted by these increasing concerns, FCO officials informed me on 7 February of the case and the circumstances surrounding it. I immediately instructed them to make urgent representations to the Chinese authorities and to seek an investigation into Mr Heywood's death.
On 15 February, after establishing as much information as possible and contacting the family, the deputy head of mission of the British embassy in Beijing met officials from the consular department of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to convey this message. He informed them of our concerns about Mr Heywood's death and the suspicion that he had been murdered, and conveyed our formal request that the Chinese authorities investigate.
Our ambassador repeated the request a week later to the Director-General for Europe. In the absence of a formal Chinese response, on 22 March the FCO's consular director raised the case in the same terms with a visiting senior Chinese consular official in London.
On 10 April, before their official public announcement, the Chinese authorities informed HM ambassador to China that an investigation into Neil Heywood's death had begun and that proper judicial process would be followed.
I welcome the fact that the Chinese authorities have now committed themselves to undertake the investigation into Mr Heywood's death that we sought. We now wish to see the conclusion of a full investigation that observes due process, is free from political interference, exposes the truth behind this tragic case and ensures that justice is done.
We will continue to engage with the Chinese authorities on the progress of the investigation and we stand ready to provide any assistance necessary. FCO officials will remain in close touch with Mr Heywood's family as this investigation proceeds.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): I regret to inform the House that incomplete information was provided in the Answer I gave to Lords Parliamentary Question 15908 on 6 March 2012, Lords Official Report, col. WA416, about which were the tidal combined sewer overflows that released over 900,000 tonnes of storm sewage into the River Thames on 5 and 6 June 2011, as noted in paragraph 2.6.18 of the National Policy Statement for Waste Water; and the estimates of the tonnage attributable to each tidal combined sewer overflow were incorrect. This was due to out of date figures provided by a private company.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My right honourable friend the Minister for Food and Farming has today made the following Statement.
In the past few years there has been a sharp rise in the problems associated with irresponsible dog ownership. The number of adults sentenced for offences relating to dangerous dogs has increased by 39 per cent from 855 in 2009 to 1,192 in 2010. The number of dog-related admissions to hospital has also risen significantly, from 2,915 in 1997 to 6,118 in 2010. In 2009 alone, dog attacks cost the NHS £3.3 million in treating the most serious cases where victims had to be admitted for treatment. Every year there are numerous reported attacks on Royal Mail, Parcelforce and British Telecom staff. Most of these attacks take place on private property. Between 2007 and 2010, five people were killed following a dog attack in the home; four of the victims were children under the age of four years. Concerns have also been raised with Defra about dog attacks on health visitors and social workers during home visits.
Irresponsible dog ownership is a complex problem and there is no single solution. The primary responsibility for ensuring that dogs are kept under proper control must rest with individual owners, who should acquire a dog only if they are prepared to look after it properly and make sure that it does not become a nuisance or a danger to others.
Given growing concern about the number of dog attacks, the previous Government consulted the public in 2010 to find out whether the law needed to be
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The responses showed that there was no support for adding other breeds or types to the list of prohibited dogs. However the police specifically made the point that removing the ban on the four specific prohibited types, Pit Bull Terrier, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro, would significantly increase the risk of dog attacks because these four prohibited types were originally specifically bred for fighting, are renowned for their aggressive behaviour and are known to be disproportionately dangerous when in the hands of an irresponsible individual or when dangerously out of control.
Having considered the replies to the consultation and further consulted the police, local authorities and other organisations that are in the front line in dealing with irresponsible dog ownership, the Government have decided that it would be appropriate to extend existing dangerous dogs law in England to cover all private property. Extending the current law would make it enforceable in homes, private gardens and private land where people and dogs are entitled to be, better protecting the thousands of service workers such as medical staff and postmen whose jobs take them on to private property. However, the proposed extension to the criminal law will not extend to protect trespassers who have entered the private property with unlawful intentions.
In addition, to ensure the welfare of dogs that have become the subject of court proceedings and to ease the costs to the police service, the Government have also decided that it should no longer be necessary for the police to seize and kennel dogs pending the outcome of court proceedings where the police do not consider the dog presents a risk to the public. The requirement to seize the dog will not be waived unless the police are satisfied that it is in the care of a responsible owner. In addition, interim conditions can be placed on the owner, eg requiring the dog to be muzzled and on lead when in public (this would apply in England).
We consider that allowing dogs to be exempted from seizure in these circumstances strikes the right balance between protecting the public from dangerous dogs and ensuring that safe and properly looked-after dogs are not unnecessarily removed from their homes. We propose to raise the fee of £24 (first set in 1991) payable by the owner for placing prohibited dogs on the index of exempted dogs to better reflect the costs involved in administering these dogs for their lifetime and thereby reduce the burden on the taxpayer (this would apply throughout Great Britain). Further funding is also being given to the Association of Chief Police Officers to support the training that it provides for dog legislation officers in order to ensure that there is a hub of dog law expertise in every police force.
It is also our intention to introduce regulations under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 on microchipping to promote animal welfare by making it easier for local authorities and rescue centres to quickly reunite stray dogs with their owners. It would also help the police and local authorities to enforce dog and animal welfare legislation. Our preferred approach is to make breeders responsible for microchipping the puppy before sale.
Therefore, a further consultation is being held to give the public an opportunity to give their views on these proposed legislative changes. In relation to microchipping, the options are: (i) requiring all dogs to be microchipped on transfer of ownership, (ii) requiring all dogs to be microchipped from a certain date, (iii) implementing a phased-in process, such as starting with compulsory microchipping on transfer of ownership and after five years moving to mandatory microchipping of all dogs, or (iv) making breeders responsible for microchipping newly born dogs before (first) sale. This is the responsibility of the breeder or seller and not the purchaser. The preferred option is the fourth one.
We consider that education also has a significant role to play in reducing the problems associated with irresponsible dog ownership. Government are providing funding of £50,000 to be shared between the RSPCA, Battersea Cats and Dogs Home and the Dogs Trust to foster innovative local community projects to encourage responsible dog ownership in areas where there are high incidences of dog-related problems. The funding is being provided on the basis that the interventions will be carefully evaluated and the learning disseminated to help others engaged in working with local communities.
In drawing up these measures, Defra has worked with the Home Office to ensure that the new anti-social behaviour measures they are preparing reflect the needs of enforcement agencies and enhance their ability to prevent irresponsible dog owners presenting a risk to the general public.
Local authorities already have powers to designate areas of public space as "dog-free zones", while social landlords are able to lay down rules for their tenants regarding the keeping of dogs or other animals. Many local initiatives build on these powers and today's announcement compliments them to address the small minority of dog owners who cause such distress to those whom their dogs attack or intimidate.
The Government have decided to opt in to the European Commission's proposals for the acceptance by the member states, in the interests of the EU, of the accession of Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Gabon, Morocco, the Russian Federation, Seychelles and Singapore to the 1980 Hague convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction.
All EU member states are party to the successful 1980 Hague convention, the primary civil law international instrument which provides a mechanism to seek the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained children to their country of habitual residence.
When a country wishes to accede to the convention, it is necessary for an existing contracting state to accept that country's accession before the convention can apply between them. It is the European Commission's view that there is exclusive competence on the EU for all matters relating to the 1980 convention and that therefore member states must now be authorised by the EU to accept accessions by third countries and must do so collectively through Council decisions.
Although not anticipated in the proposals, the Government believe that the UK opt-in under the Protocol to Title V of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union applies and it has therefore asserted its right to choose whether to opt in and has decided that it is in the UK's best interests to do so.
The Government have taken this decision notwithstanding the fact that they dispute the Commission's claim to exclusive competence and they are still determining whether each of the countries seeking to accede to the convention will be able to operate the convention effectively.
The Government believe that the wider significance of these proposals for external competence mean that it is in the UK's interests to participate fully in these negotiations, including having the ability to vote. These proposals must be agreed by unanimity within the Council.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend, the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 23 April. I will attend the General Affairs Council on 24 April. Both meetings will be held in Luxembourg.
We expect conclusions that recognise positive progress in Burma against the EU benchmarks agreed at the Foreign Affairs Council of 23 January. These benchmarks include the release of political prisoners, a number of initial ceasefire agreements with some ethnic groups, and the generally positive conduct of by-elections on 1 April. We will also push for the suspension of EU sanctions except those relating to export of military equipment. The Prime Minister set out our approach during his visit to Burma of 13 April.
The conclusions may make reference to remaining issues, such as the lack of humanitarian access to conflict areas and a number of remaining political prisoners. We would also like the conclusions to stress that any commercial engagement by EU companies should promote the highest standards of integrity and corporate social responsibility.
We are working for conclusions that give the EU's full support to the UN advance monitoring mission to Syria and to UN Security Council Resolution 2042. Agreed on 14 April, the resolution authorises an advance monitoring mission and calls on the Syrian Government to implement urgently and comprehensively Kofi Annan's six-point plan. We may also work for a further round of EU sanctions on the regime to be adopted at the FAC should we decide further pressure on the regime is appropriate.
We expect Ministers to discuss EU support for Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) ahead of the NATO Chicago summit and the Tokyo conference on development in Afghanistan. We want the EU to make a significant contribution to the ANSF and Afghanistan's development needs.
We expect Ministers to be presented with conclusions reiterating the EU's support for the Economic Community of West African States-led (ECOWAS) response to last month's coup d'état in Mali. The conclusions should also reiterate the importance of implementing the EU's Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel, including the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) mission to Niger. We want the EU to reaffirm its support for the prompt regional response to the coup that led to the inauguration of an interim civilian President on 12 April. We also want to record our concerns about the deteriorating security situation in the north of the country where, in the absence of state control, Tuareg insurgents, some with links to al-Qaeda, have taken control of key cities.
We expect a substantive discussion on the Middle East peace process, with a particular focus on the settlements and Area C. Baroness Ashton is likely to brief on the recent quartet principals' meeting.
Baroness Ashton will brief Ministers following E3+3 (UK, France, Germany, US, China and Russia) talks with Iran in Istanbul on 14 April. We will underline that we welcome this new round of engagement and that Iran must urgently take concrete and practical steps to restore international confidence in the nature of their nuclear programme.
There are two main items on the GAC agenda in April: the multiannual financial framework (MFF) and cohesion policy. The first will be a discussion on resources for structural and cohesion funds and the common agricultural policy (CAP), and text for the negotiating box in headings 1 and 2 of the budget.
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My overriding objective for the discussions on the MFF will be for the negotiating box to reflect the UK's objective of delivering a restrained EU budget, limited to a real-terms freeze. Within a restrained budget, a greater share should be seen in priority areas (such as external action, research and climate change).
On structural and cohesion funds, we have a principled position that supports targeting of funds to poorer member states and regions where they are needed most and can offer the most value for money. We oppose any extension of macroeconomic conditionality (the proposal for which allows the Commission to suspend all or part of structural and cohesion fund payment if effective action to meet macroeconomic goals is not taken). There should also be a very substantial reduction in the size of the CAP budget with a higher proportion of CAP for projects which offer benefits to the wider society, such as climate change reduction, and away from market-distorting subsidies.
On cohesion policy, the partial general approach should cover aspects of how the funds are used, including ex-ante conditionality, which establish requirements to be met before member states can receive structural and cohesion funds, and monitoring and evaluation, which ensure that the funds have been used as intended.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary and I wish to update the House on the Government's efforts to reform the European Court of Human Rights as part of the UK's chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The Brighton declaration, the package of reforms to the court which has been the priority for the UK's chairmanship, was formally adopted on Friday. This was the culmination of the Brighton conference, where Justice Ministers, Foreign Ministers and senior officials from across the 47 Council of Europe member states met to discuss the UK chairmanship's package of reforms.
The declaration itself is the result of a process that the UK took over when it assumed the chairmanship in November. The Prime Minister outlined his ambitions for reform of the court in a speech to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in January. Through the Brighton declaration, we have succeeded in agreeing substantial reforms in each of the areas he set out.
First, we have strengthened subsidiarity and the margin of appreciation by securing agreement to insert these key principles into the convention itself. The member states will amend the admissibility criteria of the convention. And we have sent an unequivocal message from all 47 states to the court that it should from now on use the existing criteria to ensure that it consistently does not reconsider cases that have already been properly handled by national courts, unless they raise a serious question of interpretation or application of the convention.
Secondly, we have agreed measures to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the court by cutting the time limit for making applications to the court from six months to four; giving the court tools to improve the efficiency with which it processes cases; and amending the convention so that the court can routinely get rid of trivial cases.
Thirdly, we have secured measures that will ensure that the court and its judgments are of the highest possible quality by making sure that the main development of case law is only by the Grand Chamber, comprising the court's most senior judges; improving procedures to ensure that the judges of the court are experienced and well qualified for the job; and making sure that the rules of office allow every judge to serve a full nine-year term on the court.
These represent significant changes to the convention system, which now need to be implemented fully, and the necessary convention amendments drafted and agreed. Gaining the unanimous agreement of 47 countries is no easy task and we are grateful for the constructive negotiations we have held with our European partners.
We expect the effect of the measures in the declaration to be that fewer cases are considered by the court. Where cases do go to Strasbourg, the court should be able to focus more on the important cases and do so more quickly. The result is a strengthening of the human rights protection for the 800 million citizens across the Council of Europe.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Dr Vince Cable) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Further to my Written Ministerial Statement of 7 February on strategic export control, I would like to update the House on progress towards increasing the transparency of the export licensing process. My officials have held meetings with representatives of the exporters and non-governmental organisations-these have been constructive and indicated that there is broad support for the proposals, although exporters understandably have some concerns about the burdens of making
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The closing date for responses is 20 April and I would encourage all interested parties to contribute their views. I will provide a further update as appropriate, at the very latest before the House rises for the Summer Recess.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. William Hague) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
We have temporarily withdrawn diplomatic staff from our embassy in Bamako and suspended all in-country services given the instability in Mali and the possibility of a swift deterioration in security. Consular assistance is being provided by the British embassy in Senegal. British nationals requiring urgent consular assistance can also contact the embassy of any EU member state in Bamako. We are keeping the decision under review and will reopen the embassy when the situation stabilises.
The UK is deeply concerned by recent political instability in Mali. We condemn any actions that undermine democratic rule and welcome ECOWAS-led efforts which are returning the country to constitutional, civilian rule. We continue to work with our international partners in the UN and in other multilateral fora to ensure that recent progress is maintained, including the holding of elections.
As I said to the House on 11 May 2011, there will be no strategic shrinkage of Britain's overseas network. I am committed to extending the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's global reach and strengthening its influence. The temporary withdrawal of diplomatic staff and the suspension of services at our embassy in Bamako do not signify a move away from this commitment. They in no way reduce the UK's commitment to active diplomacy in Mali and the wider Sahel region.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Universities and Science (David Willetts) has today made the following Statement.
I have tasked the National Measurement Office to provide policy support to Ministers on measurement issues and a measurement infrastructure which enables innovation and growth, promotes trade and facilitates fair competition and the protection of consumers, health and the environment.
The agency will also be expected to ensure that professional, value-for-money corporate services are provided to support delivery of the above objectives, inform good decision-making and enhance its reputation in a robust control environment.
Baroness Garden of Frognal: On Monday 16 April 2012, my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson) made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In December 2010 the Government set out their plans for the legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games in the document Plans for the Legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which I published under cover of a Written Ministerial Statement. I undertook to provide updates. My department has recently published Beyond 2012-London 2012 Legacy Story, which tells the emerging story of the legacy from the 2012 Games. I have placed copies in the Libraries of both Houses.
This document sets out some legacy achievements in a number of areas. These reflect the depth and breadth of the legacy reaching across the country, which Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, refers to in Beyond 2012 as a "legacy blueprint for future Games hosts". Some of the legacy achievements are listed below.
Up to 1,000 local sports venues are to be upgraded under the £135 million Places People Play programme, which also includes £30 million to support a regional network of major sport and leisure centres.
200,000 Londoners are expected to benefit from the London Mayor's Participation Programme, with more than 10 per cent of these previously inactive. Mayoral programmes are also upgrading facilities and encouraging more people to become coaches.
Beyond 2012, the UK will continue to reap the benefits that come from hosting major events, including the Rugby League World Cup (2013), Commonwealth Games (2014), Rugby Union World Cup (2015), World Athletics Championships at the Olympic Stadium (2017), and Cricket World Cup (2019).
Across the world the UK's international sports legacy programme, International Inspiration, has reached more than 12 million young people in 20 countries through sport activities and engagement with partner Governments and their agencies.
90 million people will see the GREAT campaign adverts across 14 key cities worldwide: Beijing, Berlin, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Mumbai, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto.
200 disabled athletes will compete across eight disability sports at the National School Games finals, with all participating schools including opportunities for disabled people in their competitions.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has today launched a public consultation on his interim guidelines for prosecutors on assessing the public interest in cases affecting the media. The DPP undertook to produce the guidelines when he gave evidence on 8 February 2012 to the inquiry being conducted by Lord Justice Leveson into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. The guidelines set out the additional considerations which are relevant when prosecutors assess whether a prosecution is required in accordance with the code for Crown prosecutors. Each case will be considered on its own facts and on its own merits before a decision is made on prosecution. Such decisions are also likely to be finely balanced, as prosecutors must carefully consider the public interest served by the journalist when set against the overall criminality.
The guidelines have been issued on an interim basis as they are the subject of a public consultation exercise that will last for three months. The DPP will publish his final guidelines later this year, once he has considered the responses to the consultation, and any cases that have fallen to be considered by prosecutors during the period in which the interim guidelines have been in place will be reviewed in light of the final guidelines if changes have been made. Copies of the interim guidelines will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Hanham): The Government have reviewed the decision to market and dispose of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre taken by the previous Government in April 2009. It has concluded that the Department for Communities and Local Government should retain its freehold interest in the building in line with current Government Property Unit policy to retain freeholds in the Whitehall area as they offer maximum flexibility.
A business case developed last year considered alternative delivery options for the conference business. To inform their view of the options, the Government will be undertaking pre-market engagement to test the market appetite and their viability, beginning in May 2012. Subject to the outcome of that engagement, the Government will then decide whether the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre conference business, currently operating as a government trading fund, should continue under the existing arrangements or be marketed to external providers. However, any disposal or privatisation should maximise value for money for taxpayers.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Schools (Mr Michael Gove) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The poor attendance or lateness of a number of pupils can disrupt their own education and that of other pupils. Quickly these children begin to fall behind their peers and often they never fully catch up with gaps in their skills or knowledge. Over time these pupils become disillusioned with education and by years 10 and 11 they are lost to the system. These pupils are the most likely to become NEET when they leave school and easily fall into anti-social behaviour and crime.
On 4 April last year I announced the appointment of Charlie Taylor, a head teacher with a track record in radically improving behaviour in some of the most troubled schools, as the Government's expert adviser on behaviour. I am pleased to inform the House that he has agreed to serve in this role for another year.
On 1 September I asked Charlie Taylor to review and report on school attendance and alternative provision. He has now published his report on school attendance, which I would like to bring to the attention of the House. I have responded and welcomed his recommendations.
The recommendations should lead to attendance problems being addressed at an earlier stage before bad habits become ingrained. Starting early with the attendance of younger children at primary school should reduce the number who develop truancy problems when older. The range of school absence data will be improved to help teachers to pick up and deal with poor attendance patterns across the age range.
Having sent a strong message that attendance is important, we must equip schools to tackle the minority of parents who do not heed that message. I agree that the current penalty notice scheme should be simplified. Today, the Government have made changes to the Education (Penalty Notices) (England) Regulations 2007 to increase the amounts stated on the notices from this September. The Government will explore ways to make payment of penalty notices swift and certain.
The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Wallace of Tankerness): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland (Michael Moore) made the following Ministerial Statement on 17 April 2012.
The consultation document seeks views on two topics: first, the proposal to attribute legal personality to non-profit-making unincorporated associations where they meet certain statutory criteria; and, secondly, reform of the law on criminal liability of dissolved Scottish partnerships and their partners, with the principal intention to address a loophole in Scots law that allows Scottish partnerships to escape prosecution for potentially serious offences by dissolving.
The main proposals for unincorporated associations are that becoming a Scottish association with legal personality (SALP) should not be dependent on any registration requirement and that office bearers and members will not incur any personal liability by acting as an office bearer or member. Accordingly, SALPs will have limited liability.
The proposals are based on work by the Scottish Law Commission which led to a report and draft Bill in 2009 on reforming the law on unincorporated associations in Scotland and a report and draft Bill in 2011 on reforming the law on criminal liability of dissolved Scottish partnerships.
The commission has indicated that it supports the consultation process and will continue to work with the UK Government to finalise a Bill that it is hoped will come before Parliament within its current term.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Crispin Blunt) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am announcing today (Monday 16 April) the launch of an ex gratia scheme to make payments to victims of terrorism who were injured overseas on or after 1 January 2002 and who continue to have an ongoing disability as a direct result of the injuries they sustained. From today victims will be able to apply for a payment under this scheme.
The aim of the ex gratia scheme is to demonstrate solidarity with those in our community who have been affected by terrorist incidents overseas, taking into account the nature of terrorist attacks as a political statement and attack on our society.
We believe it is proportionate and necessary for the scheme to focus limited resources on those who have a clear and sufficient connection to the UK. Therefore, payments will be made to British, EU and EEA victims with a minimum of three years residence in the UK immediately prior to a terrorist attack that is designated for the purposes of the ex gratia scheme.
Later this year we intend to lay before Parliament a separate statutory scheme for compensating future victims of overseas terrorism, made under the Crime and Security Act 2010. That scheme will commence shortly after parliamentary approval has been received.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Mr Andrew Lansley) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government have today published Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products. The consultation is being undertaken, with the agreement of the devolved Administrations, on a UK-wide basis.
In March 2011, the Government published Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England, which set out how our comprehensive, evidence-based programme of tobacco control will be delivered, within the context of the new public health system, over the next five years. The tobacco control plan included a commitment to consult on options to reduce the promotional impact of tobacco packaging, including standardised packaging.
Smoking remains one of the most significant challenges to public health across the United Kingdom and is the primary cause of preventable death, accounting each year for over 100,000 deaths in the United Kingdom. One in two long-term smokers will die prematurely from a smoking disease. Smoking harms those around smokers too. The Royal College of Physicians estimates that about 2 million children currently live in a household where they are exposed to cigarette smoke.
Reducing the uptake of smoking by children and young people is a key public health goal. Most smokers take up smoking regularly before they turn 18 years old. In England alone, an estimated 330,000 young people under the age of 16 try smoking for the first time each year.
The United Kingdom is recognised across the world for having comprehensive, evidence-based tobacco control policies. But we need to do more to stop young people taking up smoking and to help those smokers who want to quit.
Health and wellbeing in our communities would be significantly improved in the long term if smoking rates were substantially reduced. Between 2007 and 2010, the rates of smoking in England remained static. While smoking rates have more recently started to decline again, we need to secure significant further reductions if we are to meet the national ambitions we set out in Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A Tobacco Control Plan for England.
Standardised packaging for tobacco refers to measures that may be taken to restrict or prohibit the use of logos, colours, brand images or promotional information on packaging other than brand names and product names that are displayed in a standard colour and font style. Standardised packaging is sometimes referred to as "plain packaging".
The Government have an open mind at this stage about introducing standardised packaging. Through the consultation, we want to understand whether there is evidence to demonstrate that the standardised packaging of tobacco products would have an additional public health benefit, over and above existing tobacco control initiatives. The consultation asks whether standardised packaging could improve public health by:reducing the appeal of tobacco products to consumers;increasing the effectiveness of health warnings on the packaging of tobacco products;reducing the ability of tobacco packaging to mislead consumers about the harmful effects of smoking; andhaving a positive effect on smoking-related attitudes, beliefs, intentions and behaviours, particularly among children and young people.
Through the consultation, we are also interested in exploring whether there might be other implications if standardised packaging requirements were introduced, including any potential effect on the illicit tobacco market.
Consultation on the Standardised Packaging of Tobacco Products has been placed in the Library. Copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office and noble Lords from the Printed Paper Office. The consultation document is available from and consultation responses can be submitted online at:
The Government have set out their plan to significantly reduce the structural current budget deficit over the course of this Parliament. While good progress has been made, the scale of the challenge calls for a more robust and consistent approach to managing public spending.
The Improving Spending Control document has been worked up with finance directors across Whitehall. It sets out a new framework for improving financial management across the public sector and how that framework will be supported by incentives and penalties.
All organisations spending public money will be required to collect and share better information on public spending, improve the skills needed to deliver their spending plans and identify areas of their budget that can be reprioritised in case unforeseen spending pressures emerge.
The new framework provides the necessary incentives and penalties to reform financial management. Departments that can demonstrate a good track record of spending control will be rewarded with greater freedom within their budgets. Others will be subject to greater central Treasury control.
Over the past 12 months, the Government have worked with industry to put in place the mechanisms through which real reductions in the costs of constructing economic infrastructure can be achieved and sustained-to enable taxpayers and utility bill payers to get more for less. The programme is on track and the report gives examples of good practice, consistent with the recommendations of the cost review, where individual savings of over £2 billion have been identified.
A key measure of success is the application of cost review principles to reduce delivery costs on the UK's priority infrastructure projects and programmes identified in the National Infrastructure Plan 2011.
Copies of the document have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available on the Treasury website at: www.hm-treasury.gov.uk.
Following my Statement of 27 March I have today made available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office advanced copies of the UK's convergence programme ahead of next week's debates under Section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993. This requires the Government to report to Parliament for their approval an assessment of the UK's medium-term economic and budgetary position. This assessment comprises the Budget report and the Office for Budget Responsibility's (OBR's) economic and fiscal outlook. This then forms the basis of the UK's convergence programme, which is therefore based entirely on information already presented to Parliament. The UK
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