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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Home Office has today published the Government's response to the consultation on the new code of practice for alcohol retailers. The consultation ran from May to August 2009 and invited responses from the public, the licensed trade, enforcement agencies and health bodies. More than 7,000 responses were received from across a range of respondents and independently analysed.
The Government's response to this consultation has been published on the Home Office website, and can be read at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/crime-victims/reducing-crime/alcohol-related-crime/index .html. A copy will be placed in the Library of both Houses.
We are committed to reducing alcohol-related crime, violent crime and anti-social behaviour on a number of fronts, including educating young people, campaigns encouraging people to drink more responsibly, and tough enforcement when those who drink too much cause harm to themselves and others. We also need those who retail alcohol to work in partnership with government, the police and local authorities to reduce these risks. The majority of alcohol retailers behave responsibly, but a minority conduct irresponsible promotions or practices-the mandatory code will stop these where they take place.
In addition, we will also introduce a mandatory licensing condition to ensure that all those who sell or supply alcohol have an age verification policy in place requiring them to ask anyone who looks under 18 for proof of age by providing appropriate identification.
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Quentin Davies) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On the 18 December 2009 the Ministry of Defence signed the next programmed critical phase to its incremental contract to deliver the Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) Programme which is placed with its delivery partner, the ATLAS Consortium. The contract amendment to include DII increment 3a is worth around £540 million and the cost of ownership of the whole DII programme remains unchanged at £7.1 billion.
DII increment 3a will provide a further 42,000 computer terminals operating in the restricted and secret domains at the remaining MoD permanent sites, replacing outdated legacy IT systems with improved capability to meet the current and future threats to the UK and its allies. Increment 3a will provide enhanced capability to around 60,000 personnel, notably within the RAF, at Joint Helicopter Command and at other defence locations.
DII is the largest defence IT programme of its type in the world and is already delivering operational benefits to the UK's front-line troops and to the wider department. Once delivered in full DII will provide a single, secure and coherent IT infrastructure across the whole of defence, providing support to some 300,000 users, using around 140,000 computer terminals. Through delivery, DII will ensure essential IT operational capability is maintained and enhanced to meet the challenges defence must be prepared for. The overall DII contract currently runs to 2015.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I have today laid before the House the UK Foreign Bribery Strategy, CM 7791. Copies are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office, and on line at www.justice.gov.uk/publications/foreign-bribery-strategy.htm (This follows my Written Ministerial Statement of 15 October 2008 (Official Report, col. 44WS).
The overarching aim of the strategy is to reduce the involvement of UK nationals and companies in foreign bribery and the harm it causes. Our work is grouped under four strategic objectives: strengthening the law, supporting ethical business, enforcing the law, and international co-operation and capacity building. Throughout, the strategy draws on the wide range of responsibilities across departments, devolved Administrations, law enforcement, prosecution authorities and regulatory agencies which contribute to the overarching aim.
This strategy will be implemented and monitored through a Foreign Bribery Strategy Board, made up of officials from across Whitehall departments, devolved Administrations, law enforcement, prosecution authorities and regulatory agencies. We will measure success
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
Today I published a consultation paper entitled Controlling Costs in Defamation Proceedings-Reducing Conditional Fee Agreement Success Fees. The paper sets out the Government's interim proposal to reduce the maximum success fee currently permissible under a conditional fee agreement in defamation proceedings, while it considers Sir Rupert Jackson's Review of Civil Litigation Costs, published on 14 January, for longer term reform.
Conditional fee agreements (CFAs), a type of no-win no-fee agreements, were first made enforceable in 1995 to improve access to justice for consumers of legal services. Changes introduced in the Access to Justice Act 1999 further extended their use and attractiveness to claimants. However, in the light of experience over the past decade, it has become clear that-in publication proceedings in particular-the balance has swung too far in favour of the interests of claimants, and against the interests of defendants, for whom access to justice needs to be a reality too.
CFAs allow lawyers to take on a case on a no-win no-fee basis. This means that if the case is lost, the lawyer does not get paid. However if the case is successful, the lawyer can recover his costs as well as an additional uplift or success fee. The Conditional Fee Agreements Order 2000 currently prescribes the maximum success fee that lawyers can charge at 100 per cent in all categories of case including publication proceedings. That 100 per cent maximum was intended to allow lawyers to cover the costs of those cases which failed with a success fee from those which won. The consultation paper proposes that the maximum permitted success fee in defamation and some other publication proceedings in England and Wales be reduced to 10 per cent.
The Government have for some time been concerned about the impact of high legal costs in defamation proceedings, particularly the impact of 100 per cent success fees. The Government do not believe that the present maximum success fee for defamation proceedings is justifiable. Evidence shows that the success rate of defamation actions does not justify such a generous success fee. This view is supported by the conclusions of the Review of Civil Litigation Costs: Final Report, available at http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about_judiciary/
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Copies of the consultation paper will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses and on the department's website at www.justice.gov.uk.
Savings tax directive-ECOFIN will discuss proposed amendments to the savings tax directive to tackle cross-border tax evasion on savings income, by automatic exchange of information. This and the following items have strong links to the international transparency agenda, including work by the G20 on tax havens and non-co-operative jurisdictions under the UK's G20 presidency in 2009.
Recovery directive-the recovery directive is aimed at improving existing procedures for recovery of direct and indirect tax debts, including on income tax, VAT, excise duties and EU agricultural levies. The Government support the extended provisions, which will reduce the opportunities for businesses and individuals to escape paying tax which is legally due in one member state, by moving to another member state.
Administrative co-operation directive-ECOFIN will seek a general approach on this directive, which will improve exchange of information and bring the EU into line with OECD standards by removing the right to refuse information on grounds of bank secrecy. The Government support these goals.
ECOFIN will discuss the draft anti-fraud agreement with Liechtenstein, and a negotiating mandate for anti-fraud agreements with Andorra, Monaco, Switzerland and San Marino. The proposed agreements provide for exchange of information to international standards in administrative and criminal matters in the tax field and related areas.
ECOFIN will agree a set of conclusions on a report by the Commission's statistics agency into the quality of official statistics in Greece. This follows a request from the November 2009 ECOFIN for the Commission to examine the issues regarding the Greek Government deficit and debt statistics. The Government support the taking of prompt action to rectify the situation in Greece.
The Treasury has today published a revised draft of the code for fiscal stability, updated to reflect the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Bill. Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and have been deposited in the Libraries of the House.
An earthquake of magnitude 7.0 struck Haiti, near the capital Port-au-Prince at 16:53 local time on the 12 January. Numerous significant aftershocks followed the initial quake. This is a major international humanitarian disaster and a tragedy for the people of Haiti. In Port-au-Prince, the tremors destroyed more than 20 per cent of buildings. At the epicentre 10 miles away, 80 to 90 per cent of buildings were damaged. It is clear that the scale of the human tragedy is enormous. UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said that the Haitian emergency was the most serious humanitarian crisis faced by the United Nations in decades, surpassing those caused by the Asian tsunami, the recent Pakistan earthquake and cyclone Nargis in Burma.
The Haitian Interior Minister has estimated that the death toll could reach 200,000 with many more injured and an estimated 3 million people affected. The United Nations estimates that at least 2 million of these people will require immediate relief assistance for the next six months. So far, we know of one British citizen who has lost his life in the earthquake, Frederick Wooldridge, who worked for the UN Mission in Haiti. We pay tribute to the important work of Mr Wooldridge and others like him in the UN Stabilisation Mission, working for the security and stability of Haiti. We have received reports that other British nationals are missing but do not have any further information to give at this stage.
The Department for International Development's response began within an hour of the earthquake and we had an assessment team in the air within 10 hours. Relief agencies are having to overcome enormous challenges to get help into the affected areas and we
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DfID announced an initial contribution of £6.2 million on 14 January. These funds are already providing immediate relief in the form of the 64 person UK search and rescue team,; £1 million to help the UN's humanitarian agency provide 30 or more staff to help with co-ordination; £2 million for the World Food Programme for logistical support, including trucks and other vehicles, and humanitarian base camps, to get assistance to those in need in Port-au-Prince and remote areas; £1 million for the Red Cross to support urgent medical care; and £300,000 to the World Health Organisation for disease surveillance work.
DfID announced a tripling of funding to £20 million on 18 January and we will make further funding decisions based on the ongoing assessment of needs and discussion with the United Nations and Government of Haiti. We have agreed to help the Red Cross fly supplies from Panama into Haiti over the coming days. We are considering options for how the UK could deliver further relief supplies to Haiti.
A shortage of trucks and fuel, exacerbated by the airport's limited capacity to receive, warehouse, and dispatch relief supplies, continues to hamper relief efforts in and around Port-au-Prince, although road access from the Dominican Republic is possible and the port at Cap Haitian in the north of Haiti is operating. Getting food in through shattered infrastructure is an enormous problem. This is why we have made an early contribution to the World Food Programme for logistical support.
Needs are huge with food shortages in many areas. But food distribution is accelerating, with the World Food Programme distributing emergency rations to over 70,000 people yesterday (Monday), up from 20,000 on Friday. Large numbers of doctors and other health staff are arriving. There are at least nine field hospitals operational in Haiti as well as a 1,000-bed hospital ship. DfID has provided £200,000 funding for a specialised surgical team from Merlin to operate for the next two weeks in Haiti. The team of 11 medical staff should be on the ground in Haiti later today.
International co-ordination in such disasters rests with the United Nations. However, given the extensive damage to UN headquarters and their loss of staff, they are struggling to meet demands, and the US is bringing vital resources to bear. Our £1 million funding allocation to OCHA is being used to bolster capacity and we have sent a humanitarian adviser to support
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Together with the United Nations, we are working with the US humanitarian teams and military. We have an adviser working in the USAID Operations Room in Washington liaising with American counterparts. The EU humanitarian working group met to discuss the situation in Haiti on Friday, and PUSS Foster attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting yesterday to discuss the immediate humanitarian response and also longer term recovery and reconstruction. We will support that process and press for strong EU co-ordination and commitment to Haiti.
We are following the security situation very closely, both for our teams and for the wider operation. Ban-Ki- Moon yesterday called for an additional 2,000 troops and 1,500 police for the peacekeeping mission. We hope that the UN Security Council will approve this and that these personnel will be mobilised as a matter of urgency.
The challenges that lie ahead are formidable. Access to food, water, shelter and medicines are the immediate concern for the people of Haiti and those involved in the disaster response. Haitians will also need law and order, electricity, and a return to something approximating normality if people are to begin the grieving process and start to rebuild their lives. We did not have a bilateral development programme with Haiti before the earthquake, and our focus will be on ensuring a substantial effort from the EU, World Bank and other multilaterals to provide the long-term reconstruction support that Haiti will need.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
During the passage of the Planning Act in November 2008, the Government committed to carry out a review to establish the nature and extent of development on garden land. We said that if the evidence confirmed a problem we would look at how best to remedy the situation, provided that any changes should not have the effect of undermining our policy objectives on housing.
I am today publishing the independent research and review carried out by Kingston University, and I can also announce changes I am making today to strengthen national policy advice, making it clearer that the powers to take the decisions on whether to grant applications for development on gardens rest firmly in the hands of local authorities.
The research finds that problems with inappropriate building on back gardens is not a widespread, national or growing problem, and that local authorities can
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Based on the conclusions of this independent report, I believe a blanket ban on back garden development-which no local authority advocated-would be wrong, as these are precisely the types of decisions that are best taken locally within an effective planning system that is responsive to the specifics of an area.
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