The UK work programme of the ECOFIN Council, which outlines the UK Government's priorities for ECOFIN over the UK presidency, including provisional ECOFIN agendasand as part of which Ministers will discuss the full and rapid implementation of the EU action plan against terrorism. Copies of the work programme have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses;
Implementation of the Stability and Growth Pact, where Council will consider an opinion on the stability programme of Portugal. ECOFIN will then discuss a Council decision under Article 104(6) and Council recommendation under Article 104(7) on the excessive deficit procedure for Italy.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs (Bridget Prentice): Yesterday, the legal services ombudsman laid the fourteenth annual report and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Mr. Adam Ingram):
The Government have today published by Command Paper their responses to the Defence
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Committee's reports on Duty of Care and the Armed Forces Bill. Copies of both responses have been placed in the Library of the House.
We take responsibilities for recruits extremely seriously and have carefully considered the Committee's recommendations, together with those of the adult learning inspectorate in their report "Safer Training" which identified a number of common themes.
Our priority is to deliver cultural change within the training organisation and create a regime that values trainees as individuals where responsibility for their welfare is accepted at all levels. We have committed ourselves to a longer term partnership with the ALI who will continue to undertake inspections of our training establishments, the results of which will assist us in ensuring a process of continuous improvement. We have also recently signed an agreement with the Equal Opportunities Commission setting out a range of measures to prevent and deal with sexual harassment in the armed forces, which will be monitored by the Commission.
A comprehensive redress procedure already exists whereby complaints can be taken higher up the chain of command, and support is available from outside the chain of command for those who need it. I accept, however, that there is a case for introducing an independent element to the complaints system. We are considering this further ahead of the introduction of the Armed Forces Bill planned for later this year and will bring forward proposals at that time.
The Committee recommended that we consider raising the recruiting age for all three services to 18. However, the services need to attract those under 18 in order to compete effectively in an increasingly competitive employment market and any move to increase the minimum recruiting age would have an acute impact on the Services' ability to meet their recruiting targets and hence operational commitments. By recruiting from this age group, the services provide valuable and constructive training and employment to many young people.
The Government welcome the Committee's report on the forthcoming Armed Forces Bill as part of an ongoing process of pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill is due to be introduced towards the end of the year. The Government's response to the Committee's specific recommendations must be seen against the background of the requirement for a separate system of service law, which is fair, consistent and expeditious. We believe such a system is vital to the operational effectiveness of the armed forces and particularly welcome the Committee's acknowledgement of this point in its report.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw):
The British Council, although not a Government Department, receives a substantial grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Council regularly organises or sponsors exhibitions overseas of works of art loaned from National Galleries and private collections in the United Kingdom. It provides certain assurances or guarantees in respect of loss or damage while these works are on loan.
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In the six months ending on 30 March 2005, the British Council provided such assurances to eight national lenders and undertakings to 85 private lenders. The value of the contingent liabilities outstanding on 30 March 2005 in respect of private lenders was £18,830,698. No liabilities to National Galleries existed at that date.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Ms Rosie Winterton): A consultation document for regulations to be made under the Human Tissue Act 2004 has been published today. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library and on the Department's website at:
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): Following appropriate consultation and in accordance with section 10 of the Intelligence and Security Act 1994, I have appointed the following as members of the Intelligence and Security Committee:
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The Employment Tribunals Service has published its annual report and accounts for 200405 today. Copies have been laid before Parliament and will be placed on the ETS website at www.ets.gov.uk.