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The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): A successful ministerial Conference on Organised Crime in south eastern Europe, hosted by the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary, was held on 25 November in Lancaster House.
Fifty-seven delegations including all EU member states and the European Commission attended, as well as the five countries of the EU's Stabilisation and Association Process (SAP) and other countries from south eastern Europe and beyond.
The conference noted that the serious impact of organised crime in the region is felt far beyond its bordersincluding the EU. The conference agreed a wide range of actions to tackle the problem effectively. The focus was on meeting European standards, building wide public support for the necessary measures, and improving regional co-operation.
The UK, in full co-operation with EU, International and regional partners will now work to ensure the implementation of these actions. The incoming Greek EU Presidency set out a series of specific actions against crime to be carried out in the first half of 2003. The Greek Presidency has called a summit meeting next June to review progress.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I am pleased to say that Lord Carlile of Berriew QC has completed the report on the operation of the Act, which will be laid before the House today.
The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): The domestic violence concession was introduced on 16 June 1999 in an effort to help foreign spouses or unmarried partners who wish to leave their partner because of domestic violence before completion of the probationary period. It was introduced subject to review after a two-year period.
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Under the terms of the concession a person would be allowed to settle in the UK, provided they meet certain criteria, even though they are no longer living with their sponsor. The criteria require that the domestic violence must have occurred while the marriage or relationship was subsisting and the applicant should provide evidence of the violence in the form of:
As a result of our review and representations received, the Government have decided that the types of evidence acceptable to meet the terms of the concession should be widened. If evidence in some form of court order or police caution is not available, we will accept more than one form of evidence from the following list:
The domestic violence concession will be incorporated into the Immigration Rules to be laid today. This will ensure that domestic violence cases attract a right of appeal and that the facts of the case leading to the decision can be considered by the Appellate Authorities.
The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): The au pair scheme is an arrangement under which nationals of listed countries aged between 17 and 27, unmarried, and without dependants, may come to the UK for a maximum of two years to learn the English language and live with an English-speaking family. During their stay they may help with domestic tasks for a maximum of 25 hours a week in return for accommodation and pocket money.
The list, which is given in the Immigration Rules, currently includes 16 countries, including six of the 12 EU candidate countries. We have decided to extend the list to include those EU candidate countries which are not presently covered. These are Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Estonia, Republic of Latvia, Republic of Lithuania, Republic of Poland and Romania. It is planned to lay the necessary amendments to the Immigration Rules today, coming into force on 18 December.
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From that date, young people who are nationals of these additional six countries will have the opportunity to spend some time in the UK to learn English and to gain an insight into our culture and way of life.
The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): The Government are firmly committed to ensuring that visa regimes only apply to those nationalities where there is a clear immigration need.
Having reviewed the regimes on nationals from Maldives, Mauritius and Papua New Guinea it has been decided that these visa regimes are no longer necessary. We have therefore made a change to the Immigration Rules today lifting the requirements for nationals of these three countries to hold a visa before they visit the UK. This change will take effect on 18 December.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly): The Government's Troika aviation insurance scheme ceased to write new policies from midnight on 31 October 2002, thus bringing to a close Government involvement in the provision of aviation insurance, which had been prompted by the collapse in the commercial market for third party war and terrorist cover following the terrible events of September 11th 2001.
The ending of the scheme was in line with the decision taken by the European Commission to end automatic state aid approval for state backed aviation insurance schemes, from 31 October; a decision which recognised the return of the commercial market in this sector.
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The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Mr. Ivan Lewis): The Department for Education and Skills, in co-operation with the Learning and Skills Council, has conducted an investigation into allegations that the Principal and Corporation of Tameside College did wilfully and against legal advice conduct its business in a manner not in accordance with its Instrument and Articles of Government.
As a consequence, I have written to the Chair of the Corporation strongly censuring the Corporation's activities in breach of corporate governance and requiring the Corporation to conduct its future business in strict accordance with its Instrument and Articles of Government. I have also written to the Learning and Skills Council asking it to appoint an additional Member to the Corporation to ensure that it does so. I will review this arrangement after one year.
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