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Renewable Energy

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill): The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has today published a companion guide to PPS22 on renewable energy. The companion guide offers good practice advice on a range of issues, including how to frame policies for renewable energy in development plans.

Planning policy statement 22, published in August 2004, was an important step towards facilitating the delivery of more renewable energy developments and thereby meeting this Government's commitments in respect of global warming and climate changes. It sets out the Government's national planning policies for all types of renewable energy development. The companion guide offers practical advice as to how these polices can be implemented on the ground. It is intended to assist planners, regional and local decision-makers and other stakeholders in understanding the often complex issues associated with the different technologies and their application in different environments and is relevant to all local planning authorities in England.

The guide addresses the actions required at the local and regional level, with regard to both strategic/forward planning and development control and includes a chapter of each of these planning policy issues. It also sets out the factors that make a 'good' renewable energy application, how best to assess cumulative landscape and visual effect and how to deal with community involvement. Case studies are used to illustrate key points and to demonstrate how specific issues can be addressed. A technical annex to the guide includes specific advice on the range of renewable energy technologies covered by PPS22.

Copies of the companion guide will be made available in the Libraries of both Houses and it will also be available on the web site of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.


Race Equality Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Ivor Caplin): In accordance with undertakings in its race equality scheme, the Ministry of Defence has produced a second progress report, a copy
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of which is being placed today in the Library of the House. The report builds on and relates back to the first report, issued in January 2004, and describes the progress made across the Department and by the armed forces. It emphasises our determination to maintain the standards we have achieved to date and to continue to review our policies and procedures.

Our record for managing and retaining ethnic minority personnel is good. The outcome of staff attitude surveys and the low level of race-related complaints indicate a continuing improvement in the race equality climate.

However, there is still much more work to do as the report acknowledges. The Ministry of Defence is omitted to meeting the aspirations set out in the race equality scheme.


G8 Global Partnership

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Denis MacShane): Members will wish to be aware of the publication on 16 December of the second annual report by the Government of the United Kingdom's contribution to the against the spread of weapons and materials of mass destruction. The second report details the progress made in the past 12 months in destroying and securing the former Soviet Union's legacies of WMD and associated materials and infrastructure.

The UK pledged $750 million to the global partnership at the Kananaskis G8 summit in 2002. Since then the FCO, DTI, and MoD in close co-operation with the Russian Federation, other countries of the Former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe and other funding partners, have developed a wide portfolio of programmes and made considerable progress on implementing projects on the ground which help to tackle these issues. In 2005 the UK in its capacity as G8 president intends to take forward the work of the global partnership under the theme of "Pledges to Progress", focussing on effective project implementation.

The international community faces immense challenges in tackling the legacy of cold war weapons of mass destruction left in the former Soviet Union. The cold war WMD programmes in the FSU have created a significant non-proliferation and environmental threat to us all. This work represents the UK's largest non-proliferation programme and, as the report indicates, we have made significant progress over the last 12 months in collaboration both with other donors nations and our partners in the FSU.

Copies of the report are available in the Library of the House. Further reports will be published annually setting out the progress achieved in the work being undertaken by the United Kingdom.

Public Diplomacy Review

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): As part of spending review 2004, I agreed with my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to undertake a review of the effectiveness of our public diplomacy work. Lord Carter of Coles has agreed to lead this review. He will be supported by a
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small team based within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and an advisory panel of experts. The review is due to start immediately and Lord Carter of Coles will report his findings by summer 2005. The terms of reference are as follows:

The review team will undertake a short consultation exercise. If hon. Members would like to feed in comments they should send them to Public Diplomacy Review team, Room WHS52, FCO, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH.


NHS Professionals (Accounts 2003–04)

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): The annual accounts and accompanying comptroller and auditor general report of NHS Professionals for 2003–04 has today been laid before the House of Commons pursuant to section 98(1C) of the National Health Service Act 1977. Copies have been placed in the Library.

Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. John Hutton): The annual report and accounts for Monitor (whose statutory name is Independent Regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts), HC 104, were laid before Parliament today. Copies are available in the Library.


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson): The Government's response to the Health Committee's report of Session 2003–04 on obesity, Cm 6438, has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.


International Exercise

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): Further to the commitment my predecessor, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett), gave to the House in July 2003 that we would be taking part in a major UK/US exercise in 2005 as part of the Home Office's national exercise programme, and as a result of close co-operation with the US on joint crisis management issues, I would now like to provide the House with an update on developments.
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Exercise 'Atlantic Blue' is due to take place in April 2005 and is designed to test simultaneous responses to internationally linked terrorist incidents, focusing on how we communicate across international borders at a strategic level.

The Metropolitan Police Service is the host force for the UK working closely with the Home Office and other Government Departments and London agencies on planning and delivery. For obvious reasons we will not be discussing the scenario before the exercise takes place.

Exercise play in the US will be live while in the UK it will be a notional command post exercise (CPX) only. We have agreed this is the best way for us to focus entirely on strategic-level communication issues, rather than on the management of live play at an operational level, which is regularly rehearsed around the UK.

The UK programme of exercises is among the best in the world and a vital part of our work in resilience and contingency planning. This exercise provides us with an invaluable opportunity to enhance our domestic exercise programme by working with our US counterparts in order to test our capability to respond to the specific challenges of an international terrorist incident.

The exercise has been planned as a result of discussions between my predecessor and Cabinet colleagues, and the Department for Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and his colleagues, to promote a co-ordinated approach to counter-terrorism and homeland security issues.

In order to develop the work of Atlantic Blue we are keen to pursue our involvement in future exercises with the US, both in terms of tabletop and live exercises which enable us to further develop our preparedness and resilience.

I would like to reiterate that we are holding this exercise as part of sensible contingency planning with the aim of developing our joint preparedness and resilience in the event of a terrorist incident. It in no way reflects a change in the level of threat to the UK.

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