HO: Model migrants to get priority – In future, all migrants will have to speak English & obey the law if they want to gain citizenship and stay permanently in Britain. Those who contribute to the community will be given a speedier path to citizenship.
Full access to benefits & social housing will be reserved for citizens and permanent residents. Foreign nationals who commit serious offences will face automatic consideration for deportation - and even minor offences will delay access to citizenship by up to three years.
The new draft Immigration and Citizenship Bill replaces 10 Acts of Parliament and its key measures include:
* Strong borders
* Selective migration
* Earning the right to stay
* Playing by the rules
* Managing any local impacts
MoJ: But why should MPs have primacy if Lords elected? - The Government has set out proposals for the next stage of reforming the House of Lords in a White Paper: An Elected Second Chamber: further reform of the House of Lords. Publication of the paper follows last year's free votes in Parliament in which the Commons voted in favour of a wholly elected second chamber and for an 80% elected chamber.
Key points in the White Paper include:
* A 100% or 80% elected chamber.
* Options for direct elections: first-past-the-post, alternative vote, single transferable vote and a list system
* The primacy of the House of Commons would remain
* Proposals on eligibility & disqualification
* Members should normally serve a single non-renewable term of 12 to15 years
* The right of hereditary peers to sit & vote in the House of Lords ended
* The size of the second chamber should be significantly reduced
* Individuals appointed on their ability, willingness & commitment
* New members of a reformed second chamber elected in thirds coinciding with General Elections
* If there is an appointed element, there should continue to be seats reserved for C. of E. Bishops
MIIB: Avoiding a ‘planning creep into danger’ - The Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board (MIIB) has released recommendations on land use planning around major hazard sites (non-nuclear), with a report that calls for the system to be updated in order to get the balance right between the need for strategic facilities (such as large scale oil storage sites) and the need for off-site social and economic development.
The MIIB is asking for a review of the system for land-use planning around major hazard sites in Britain. Critically, the MIIB is asking for the total population at risk to be considered for each new application; currently, the planning system does not consider the cumulative effect of developments on societal risk.
The MIIB endorses the fundamental principle that the local planning authority should be responsible for planning decisions, but observes that the roles of HSE, the Environment Agency and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the site operators in the planning system should be more aligned with the regulatory system for ensuring safety & environmental protection at major hazard sites.
The MIIB is calling for the system in Britain to be more consistent in the use of quantified risk assessment to inform planning decisions. The Board commissioned a report to describe what a risk based system incorporating societal risk might look like at a flammable storage site. The results of this work confirmed that a fully risk based land use planning system around such sites is feasible and is used elsewhere in Europe.
CRC: Limited public transport means limited access to services - The Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) has published the State of the countryside 2008 report, the tenth report in the series providing the definitive picture of rural England. The report has three central chapters:
* Living in the countryside - social issues
* Economic wellbeing - economic issues
* Land &environment - environmental issues
The report includes a number of new findings with 133 charts, maps & tables and reflects on 10 years of State of the countryside reporting. Whilst there are many advantages to living & working in rural England, there remain some significant challenges.
The quality of life may often be better in rural areas, but the report also highlights a rise in households living in poverty in rural England (around 1 in 5 rural households below the poverty line) and a growing inequality between remote rural areas and other parts of the countryside.
The decline in services in rural areas continues to concern rural communities. Each year there are fewer outlets for many services and poorer accessibility to services for people without cars. Meeting affordable housing needs in rural areas remains a dominant challenge, with demand being heightened because of people seeking to relocate to the countryside.
P&HSO: Justice at last? - Ann Abraham, the Parliamentary Ombudsman, has called on the Government to apologise to Equitable Life policyholders and to establish & fund a compensation scheme for them.
In her report - Equitable Life: a decade of regulatory failure (HC 815) - the Ombudsman makes ten determinations of maladministration on the part of the former Department of Trade and Industry, the Government Actuary's Department, and the Financial Services Authority, in relation to their regulation of Equitable in the period before 1 December 2001.
In addition to upholding several specific complaints, the Ombudsman has upheld a general complaint about the period before Equitable closed to new business on 8 December 2000, namely that: ... the public bodies responsible for the prudential regulation of insurance companies... and the Government Actuary's Department failed for considerably longer than a decade properly to exercise their regulatory functions in respect of Equitable Life.
She has suggested that the compensation scheme should be established within 6 months of any decision by Government & Parliament to do so and, once operational, should complete its work within 2 years.
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