The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): The supplement to the 2005 report of the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body making recommendations on the pay of service medical and dental officers has been published today. Copies of the supplement are available in the Vote Office and the Library of the House.
The review body recommends an increase of 3.225 per cent. for all regular and reserve defence medical services medical and dental officers. The review body also recommends a pay increase of 3.225 per cent. for medical and dental cadets. In addition, the review body recommends that there should be an increase of 3.225 per cent. in the values of trainer pay and distinction awards. The review body has also endorsed the introduction of the defence medical clinical excellence award scheme to mirror arrangements already in place in the NHS.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram): On 1 November 2004, I informed the House that there would be a series of announcements relating to the defence logistics transformation programme. On 25 November, I set out, in broad terms, the future arrangements for military aircraft support.
As a further development of these arrangements, I am today announcing our plans for the support of the RAF's fleet of Tornado aircraft. It is our intention to reduce the complexity of the Tornado support arrangements by placing, incrementally, where it offers best value-for-money for defence, contracts with BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce Defence Aerospace, leading to the eventual placement of a single support contract with each company to provide improved platform and engine availability.
This approach has the potential to improve significantly the availability and capability of our front-line aircraft. As the next stage in this process, we are now entering into a period of detailed discussions with the companies concerned to agree acceptable arrangements to deliver these benefits.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Jim Fitzpatrick):
Carlisle and large areas of Cumbria experienced exceptional storm and flood damage between 7 and 12 January 2005. Given these circumstances, I am satisfied that financial assistance under the Bellwin scheme is justified. A scheme will therefore be established under section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Grants
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will be paid to the authorities to cover 85 per cent. of the eligible costs above a threshold, which they have incurred in dealing with the storm and flood damage.
The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. John Prescott): I have today, with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, published a document setting out the Government's proposals for extending home ownership.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): When the King of Nepal dismissed the multi-party government and assumed direct power on 1 February this year, the UK expressed grave concern, saying that these moves would increase the risk of instability in Nepal and undermine the institutions of democracy and constitutional monarchy in the country. We also said we would be assessing the impact of the move on our security and developmental assistance.
Three months on we remain concerned about the continued detention of a number of political and civil society activists and ongoing restrictions on the press. We acknowledge the King lifting the state of emergency and releasing a number of political leaders from detention. We welcome agreement to the establishment of an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Nepal. We also welcome the publication by the political parties of a joint position on 8 May. We hope the King will respond to these efforts by engaging in a renewed dialogue with them. However, there is still a long way for the King to go in restoring representative government and democratic freedoms. This includes releasing the remaining political prisoners detained since 1 February, the easing of restrictions on the media and efforts to reintegrate the parties back into the political process. The Royal Nepalese Army also has a long way to go in improving its human rights record, tackling the culture of impunity and cooperating with human rights organisations. Our objective remains to see the restoration of basic civil and political freedoms. We will continue to cooperate with our key international partners in working towards this objective and will be monitoring the situation on the ground with close attention.
I said on 22 February in a statement that we would review the impact of the King's actions. Against the background of recent developments, we are continuing to keep our security assistance to Nepal under review but now intend to provide a package of bomb disposal equipment, which we had previously planned to gift. The Ministry of Defence is today laying before the House a parliamentary minute which gives the details of the proposed package.
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The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I have decided to grant consent under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to Scout Moor Wind Farm Ltd. to build 26 turbines with a capacity of 65 MW, at Scout Moor, near Rochdale.
My decision was taken after extensive and thorough consideration of the representations I received, both for and against consent being granted. The extensive, independent public inquiry ensured that community and environmental concerns were heard.
I am aware that this decision will come as a disappointment to those local people who opposed the application. Conversely, the decision will be welcomed by those local people who supported the application. Today's approval takes into account the concerns raised, and includes a number of conditions recommended by the inquiry inspector to mitigate any impacts.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Employment and Social Policy, Health and Consumer's Affairs Council will be held on 2 and 3 June in Luxembourg. Employment and social policy issues will be taken on 2 June. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and my hon. Friend the Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs will represent the UK. Health issues will be taken on 3 June.
The annual employment guidelines are a key element of the European employment strategy. The guidelines set out the framework of common priorities for member states' employment policies and are agreed by the Council of Ministers before coming into force. The annual economic and employment guidelines have been integrated for 2005. The 2005 employment guidelines reflect the conclusions of the Luxembourg Spring Council (22 and 23 March 2005) by being more focused on growth and jobs. This is tabled for a general approach (a high level agreement on broad principles). The UK supports the Commission's approach in producing shorter guidelines.
This is tabled for political agreement to agree the measure before reaching formal adoption of common position. The UK welcomes social partner dialogue and supports, in principle, a dfirective on a social partner agreement on this subject. The proposed directive is intended to implement a social partners' agreement concluded on 27 January 2004
The Bilbao agency collates and distributes information on health and safety whilst the Dublin foundation undertakes monitoring as well as research and development projects. These two items are both tabled for political agreement. The proposed regulations seek to improve governance and structures following enlargement. The UK supports both regulations.
EU negotiations on the revision of the working time directive have been ongoing since September 2004. There will be a public debate on this item. The UK is seeking EU agreement to legislative proposals to retain individual workers' freedom to choose to work more than 48 hours a week and provide a solution to the issues of on-call working.
The Commission Green Paper was published on 7 January 2005, launched a consultation on the potential added value of a community framework on admission of economic migrants, and on the form that such a framework might
The creation of an institute for gender equality was supported by the Council of Ministers in June 2004. The institute will provide the relevant institutions and authorities of the Community and its member states with objective, reliable and comparative information on gender equality and data at national and European levels and to give visibility to gender equality. This is tabled for general approach. The UK supports the principle of a European institute for gender equality, as it would raise the profile of gender equality across Europe and provide a more coherent approach to gathering research and information at EU level. However, it should be budget neutral, add value and avoid duplication.
The Beijing platform for action is the UN's agenda for women's empowerment launched in Beijing in 1995. It aims at accelerating the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women and at removing all the obstacles to women's active participation in all spheres of public and private life through a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making.
The objective of this agenda item is to agree the review of the Beijing platform for action proposed by the Presidency in the Council conclusions paper. These Council conclusions recognise that gender equality is a fundamental principle of the EU and is one of the objectives and tasks of the Community and that mainstreaming equality between women and men in all its activities represents a specific mission for the Community. The conclusions are based on the common declaration adopted by EU gender equality Ministers in Luxembourg in February 2004 on future European strategies. The UK fully supports the Council conclusions.