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The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): In 2000, the Government published figures on the area of land designated as green belt in England, based on figures in plans that had been adopted by 1997. I am pleased to announce today the publication of statistics that show changes to the amount of green belt since then. In future, such figures will be published on an annual basis, and will be used to monitor the Government's target to maintain or increase the amount of green belt in each region.
The statistics show that since 1997 there has been an increase of around 25,000 hectares in the amount of green belt identified in adopted local and unitary development plans in England. In addition, there are proposals for an additional 12,000 hectares of green belt that are currently being taken forward in plans that have not yet reached adoption. This figure does not include changes to the green belt proposed in the New Forest, where land will be re-designated from green belt to national park once the national park has been formally designated. This comprises some 46,000 hectares of land in the area covered by New Forest district council. In view of this re-designation, the Government does not intend that these figures should be included in monitoring progress towards its target of maintaining or increasing the amount of green belt in each region.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Yvette Cooper): We have today launched a public consultation on implementing Part 8 of the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 in England. This gives local authorities the powers to deal with complaints about high hedges that are having an adverse affect on a neighbour's amenity.
We are seeking views on draft regulations covering certain procedural details such as the fees that authorities should charge for this service and how appeals against their decisions should be dealt with. We are also seeking views on the draft guidance on how local authorities should administer the complaints system. This offers advice on how authorities should assess whether a hedge is having an adverse affect on a neighbour's amenity. Copies of the consultation paper and the draft guidance have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
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The consultation papers have been sent to local authorities in England, specialist and other interested organisations. They have also been published on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's web site www.odpm.gov.uk. The closing date for responses is 30 June 2004.
On 10 July 2003 the Government published the consultation paper "Civil Registration: Delivering Vital Change". This set out our proposals to reform civil registration in England and Wales using powers in the Regulatory Reform Act 2001. The proposed changes will make it easier both for citizens to deal with Government at key points in their lives and in the lives of their families and for the Government to modernise this public service by exploiting improved information and communication technology. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that there were almost 3,400 responses to the consultation document. This indicates the very real interest amongst a wide range of stakeholdersregistration practitioners and managers, the public and other interested organisationsin this area of reform.
Our intention was to introduce a regulatory reform order in this Session of Parliament. This remains the case in respect of provisions relating to registration of births and deaths and access to birth and death records. I have however decided to postpone the presentation of provisions relating to marriage till early in the next Session. The splitting of the proposals in this way will ensure that the momentum for reform is sustained whilst, at the same time, providing an opportunity for the second regulatory reform order to take account of Parliament's wishes on the civil partnership legislation.
This strategy will not hinder the Government's plans for implementation that will begin in 2005 with improved information technology to forward registration information to the Registrar General and the structural reform of the local registration service.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): Today my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I launched "Working TogetherCo-operation between Government and Faith Communities". The report is aimed at Government Departments and faith communities and includes recommendations on what each can do to engage more effectively in partnership working together.
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The report is the result of a wide-ranging cross-Government review, led by the Home Office, involving Ministers, officials and senior faith community representatives working in partnership together. To ensure the report's recommendations are being acted on and progressed, review members will reconvene in a year to evaluate the impact of the review.
The report is entitled "Working Together: Co-operation between Government and Faith Communities". Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and may be obtained from the Faith Communities Unit in my Department or through the Home Office website.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): Following a recommendation made by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary in his report on special branch and ports policing in January 2003, I am today publishing redrafted guidelines for special branch work in the United Kingdom.
They have been redrafted in partnership with the Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Office. We have consulted fully with all interested parties, including the Association of Chief Police Officers, the National Co-ordinator of Special Branch, the National Co-ordinator of Ports Policing and the Security Service.
The new guidelines reflect that the current operational priority for special branch is counter terrorism work. They also detail the role roles and responsibilities of officers and the local, regional and national structure of special branch. They provide clarity on the work of special branch and make special branch duties more understandable and transparent.
The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): The United Kingdom Passport Service Corporate and Business plan for 200409 will be published tomorrow. Copies of the plan will be placed in the Library of the House.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): On 19 July 2001, I informed the House that, after years of delay and forecast cost growth, we had selected a preferred supplier to take forward the BOWMAN programme. Although our approved in service date was December 2004, we set a demanding target to deliver by 30 March 2004. This target is just 30 months from the September 2001 contract awarded to General Dynamics United Kingdom Ltd, a challenge unprecedented on such a major and complex acquisition project. Our priority was to deliver a secure, reliable voice communications replacement for Clansman and I am pleased to report to the House that BOWMAN has achieved its in service date on this basis, ahead of the target. This achievement and the capability it provides will enable the programme to progress to its next key milestone, the delivery of war fighting capability in 2005.
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Once fully implemented, BOWMAN will provide a secure tactical+ voice and data communications system for our land forces and selected elements of the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, until at least 2025. As well as being man-portable, it will be an integral part of the communications fit of major equipments such as warships, main battle tanks and helicopters. The provision of secure voice communications down to section level represents a step-change in capability for the armed forces as they migrate from Clansman to BOWMAN. Other functions which BOWMAN is designed to deliver, such as automatic position reporting and an ability to pass digital data around the battlefield have been demonstrated in principle on field trials and their development is on course.
At the end of 2002, nearly a year and a half into the BOWMAN contract, we extended it to further develop the battle management system and to enhance integration with systems and sensors on board our key armoured platformsa programme known as CIP. A key advantage of aligning both programmes is that time and cost are saved through converting vehicles only once. There has been positive progress on CIP but the performance of the battle management system in recent field trials leads us to conclude that a few more months of work will be required to develop and fully demonstrate its effectiveness.
BOWMAN will provide a marked increase in operational tempo, firepower lethality and survivability across all our armed services and will be a key enabler for the UK's network-enabled capability. There is a widespread commitment to BOWMAN across the services and industry stakeholder community and it has already demonstrated greater military capability overall than Clansman. The first brigade converted to BOWMAN will undertake a further 15 months of unit and collective performance training, and as with the programme hitherto, the brigade will be closely involved in the development and proving of BOWMAN.
Achieving the BOWMAN in service date is an important step on the road to the ultimate goal, delivering a robust war fighting capability that fully meets the requirements of the user in service. It is a key milestone on the path to achieving war fighting operational readiness in 2005 and represents a huge success for smart acquisition as well as a big step forward for the British armed forces.
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