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Passport and Records Agency

The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): The Passport and Records Agency Accounts 2002–03 have been published today and I am pleased to say that copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

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Financial Services and Markets Act

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly): I announced the start of the two year review of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 in a written statement to Parliament on 4 November 2003, Official Report, (Col 28WS). In that statement I said that the Government intended to issue during February a public

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consultation document on changes to the boundary of financial services regulation. A consultation document was issued today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


Draft Disability Discrimination Bill

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Andrew Smith): When I published the draft Disability Discrimination Bill on 3 December 2003, (Cm 6058), I emphasised a priority to meet our 2001 manifesto commitment in the lifetime of this Parliament—on extending rights of disabled people and removing barriers to their participation in society. I also announced our intention to publish a further clause which would protect disabled local councillors from discrimination by the local authority of which they are a member. This meets the commitment in "Towards Inclusion", the Government's response to the recommendations of the disability rights taskforce.

I am pleased to announce that I have today laid before Parliament the draft clause which becomes clause 15 of the draft Disability Discrimination Bill (Cm 6126, Draft Disability Discrimination Bill—Clause 15: relationships between locally-electable authorities and their members). Alongside the clause are published expltory notes, prepared by my Department, to assist the Joint Scrutiny Committee of Parliament which is considering the draft Bill. The draft clause and notes are also available on http://


Free Packet Service (Gulf)

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): On 17 April 2003, with the generous support of the Royal Mail Group, the Ministry of Defence introduced a free postal service to enable families to post packets up to 2kg free of charge to BFPO addresses in the Gulf. The provision of a free packet service recognised the difficult conditions personnel were operating in and that it was not possible to provide the full spectrum of welfare support normally available to personnel on operations. Whilst southern Iraq is not yet a benign environment, the level of welfare support and the facilities available on Operation TELIC are now comparable to those provided in other operational theatres.

It has therefore been decided that from 8 April 2004 with the handover of 20 Armoured Brigade to 1 Mechanised Brigade this free service will cease. This date should allow for any Easter gifts to be sent under the free service.

In common with other operations, personnel in Iraq are provided with free forces air letters and their electronic counterparts ("Blueys" and "eblueys") in addition to free Internet access and free 20 minute phone calls each week. Families may also send packets up to 2kg in weight to personnel in the Gulf at a concessionary rate—the equivalent of the UK inland First Class postal rate. The NAAFI/Expeditionary Forces Institute also sells through its outlets in theatre many of the small

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consumable items that families were previously sending to personnel and this has led to a significant decline in the demand for the free packet service.


Council of the European Union

The Minister for Europe (Mr Denis MacShane): The forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union is as follows:

1–2CorkASEM Finance Deputies' Meeting
2BrusselsEnvironment Council
3BrusselsCOREPER 1
3BrusselsCOREPER 2
4–6Co. ClareYouth Ministerial Conference
4–5BrusselsEmployment, Social Policy, Health & Consumer Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
8BrusselsMeeting of Eurogroup
8–9AnkaraEU Ministerial Troika with Turkey
8–9BrusselsTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
10BrusselsCOREPER 2
10BrusselsCOREPER 1
11DublinEU/Russia Ministerial Meeting (Troika)
12BrusselsCOREPER 1
17BrusselsCOREPER 1
18BrusselsCOREPER 2
18OttawaEU Cda Summit (Troika)
18–19DublinOECD Ministers Conference
19BrusselsCOREPER 1
22BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
22–23BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
24BrusselsCOREPER 1
24BrusselsCOREPER 2
24–25BrusselsMeeting of the Economic and Financial Committee
30DublinEU/Ukraine Ministerial Meeting (Troika)
30BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
31BrusselsCOREPER 1
2PunchestownMeeting of Eurogroup
7–8Co. WicklowMinisterial Conference on Communicating Europe
17Co. KildareASEM Foreign Ministers Meeting
26–27BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
26–27BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
27LuxembourgEU/Russia Permanent Partnership Council (Troika?)
29–30BrusselsMeeting of the Economic and Financial Committee
29–30BrusselsJustice & Home Affairs (Ministerial Informal)
6–7DublinEuroMed Foreign Ministers
7LimerickMeeting of Ministers with responsibility for Equality
9–11KillarneyAgriculture Informal Ministerial Meeting
10BrusselsMeeting of Eurogroup
11–12CorkHealth Ministers Consultative Meeting
14–16WaterfordInformal Meeting of EU Environment Ministers
17–18BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
19–20OffalyInformal Budget Committee
21MoscowEU/Russia Summit (Troika)
23–25BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
24–25BrusselsMeeting of the Economic and Financial Committee
24–25BrusselsAgriculture & Fisheries Council
25–27Co. GalwayConference on Islands and Territorial cohesion— Meeting New Challenges
27–28BrusselsEducation, Youth & Culture Council
27–31DublinMinisters and Directors General of Public Administration
28GuadalajaraEU-Latin America/Caribbean Summit
1–2LuxembourgHealth Council
1DublinDevelopment Ministers' Meeting
1LuxembourgMeeting of Eurogroup
8LuxembourgJustice & Home Affairs Council Meeting
10–11LuxembourgTransport, Telecom & Energy Council
14–15LuxembourgGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
21–22LuxembourgAgriculture & Fisheries Council
21–22BrusselsMeeting of the Economic and Financial Committee
28–29LuxembourgCouncil Meeting of EU Environment Ministers
1BrusselsCoreper 2
2–3MaastrichtCompetitiveness (Informal)
7BrusselsCoreper 1
7–8BrusselsCoreper 2
8tbcEU-Ukraine Summit
8–10MaastrichtSocial Policy (Informal)
9–10AmsterdamTransport (Informal)
12–13BrusselsGeneral Affairs & External Relations (GAERC)
12–14RotterdamInformal Ministerial Education Youth and Culture
14BrusselsCoreper 1
15BrusselsCoreper 2
16–18MaastrichtEnvironment (Informal)
19BrusselsJHA Council
19BrusselsAgricultural and Fisheries Council
22BrusselsCoreper 2
23BrusselsCoreper 1
No meetings planned

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