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Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements Reports

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): I am today announcing the publication of the 4th annual Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) reports. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
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The MAPPA arrangements, lead by Probation, Police and the Prison Service are making a positive contribution to improving the safety of communities across England and Wales. By establishing these arrangements to assess and manage the risk posed by sexual and violent offenders these agencies are helping to ensure that fewer people are re-victimised. Violence and sexual abuse are unacceptable wherever they occur and it is evident through these reports that such offenders are identified and better managed than ever before.

Although the number of offenders within the MAPPA remit continues to increase, we are addressing these additional demands and strengthening the local partnership and active risk management between other social care agencies including health, Social Services and housing.

In the 12 months covered by the report every area has recruited or is recruiting two lay people, appointed by the Secretary of State, to assist the MAPPA process and to improve public communication. This is vital in informing communities about these arrangements and will enhance public confidence in the actions agencies are taking.


EU Competitiveness Council

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Alan Johnson): I chaired the first Competitiveness Council of the UK's EU Presidency in Luxembourg on 11 October 2005. My hon. Friend, Lord Sainsbury, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, chaired the Council for the Research item. The UK did not make any interventions.

Commissioner McCreevy (Internal Market and Services) presented the results of the 2005 Internal Market Scoreboard, published in July. The Council took note of the information he provided, in particular that, compared to last year, considerable progress has been achieved in transposing internal market directives into national legislation in most Member States. The Council adopted conclusions without debate, emphasising that this is an area that requires continued effort.

The Council took note of a Presidency progress report on Better Regulation, which gave a brief account of ongoing work regarding the use of impact assessments in the legislative process, simplification of legislation, screening of pending legislative proposals, the Commission's pilot project on a methodology to measure administrative costs, and stakeholder consultation. Vice President Verheugen (Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry) updated the Council on the developments relating to the Commission Communication on "Better Regulation for Jobs and Growth in the EU" adopted in March 2005. He advised that the Commission intends to withdraw 68 proposals which do not comply with Lisbon objectives, and to publish a Communication on simplification by the end of October. The Council will return to the subject of Better Regulation at its next session at the end of November.

I chaired a policy debate on some of the key aspects of REACH, the draft Chemicals Regulation. There was broad support for a targeted approach to information
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requirements, although some Member States preferred that this approach should only apply to existing substances. There was broad consensus to reduce the testing requirements for the registration of substances between 10 and 100 tonnes, while some Member States were willing to consider the possibility of exposure-based waiving for this tonnage range. There was also a broad consensus towards sharing of all data and joint submission of information for registrants of the same substance, provided that further consideration is given to provisions aiming to ensure a more cost-effective system and adequate protection of confidential business information. I was encouraged by the positive response to the Presidency compromise proposal, which has taken the Council a step closer to achieving political agreement in November.

We did not address any formal agenda items over lunch. However, I chaired an informal discussion on Competitiveness and Climate Change. This proved useful as a mechanism to encourage a focus on solutions that meet both competitiveness and environmental concerns. Almost without exception, Ministers recognised action on climate change as necessary.

There were four items under Any Other Business in the Council, on which there was no debate. Commissioner Kroes (Competition) presented the State Aid Action Plan: "Less and better targeted state aid: a roadmap for state aid reform 2005–2009" and a Communication on State Aid for Innovation. Vice President Verheugen informed the Council about the European Enterprise Awards Scheme, which will be launched in London on 14 November. Vice President Verheugen also presented a Communication on Industrial Policy, published by the Commission on 5 October, which looks at horizontal and sectoral issues and the challenges for EU industrial competitiveness. The Council intends to return to this subject for more in-depth discussion at a later date. The Council took note of Vice President Verheugen's information on the final AOB item on the third progress report on Life Sciences and Biotechnology, and that the Commission intends to update the Community Strategy on Life Sciences and Biotechnology in time for the 2007 Spring European Council.

Lord Sainsbury chaired the Research item, on the EU's 7th Framework Programme (FP7) for Research and Technological Development (2007–13). Commissioner Potocnik (Commissioner for Research) represented the Commission. The Council had an orientation debate on the "Capacities" and "Ideas" sections of the FP7 Proposal based on questions set by the Presidency. The UK submitted a written response to these questions (see Annex A). The Commission have suggested several new aspects to the 7th Programme: funding for basic research through a European Research Council; support for large-scale public-private partnerships to take forward industrial projects; and funding for new research infrastructures. The Council recalled that FP7 should be considered alongside the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP). In light of the discussions, the Presidency intends to draw up a revised draft text covering the whole proposal, to serve as the basis for finalising a "partial" general approach to FP7 at the Council in November. This should leave open the opportunity to adjust agreed parts of the proposal, should that be necessary in the light of negotiation of the financial perspective for 2007–13.
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The Council adopted at first reading (without discussion) a directive aimed at improving safety of pedestrians by laying down technical requirements on frontal protection systems in motor vehicles. The directive amends directive 70/156/EEC. The Council also agreed without discussion a common approach concerning the approval of mechanical components of combinations of vehicles and re-treaded tyres. The Council adopted a set of draft decisions with a view to introduce the pan-EuroMediterranean system of cumulation of origin in agreements with third countries. In all cases, the UK voted in favour.


Opportunity for All

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. David Blunkett): Today I have published "Opportunity for All—Seventh Annual Report 2005" (Cm 6673). The report sets out our strategy for tackling poverty and social exclusion, and reports on the indicators used to monitor progress. The report has been placed in the Library.

We are committed to achieving a fairer, more inclusive society where nobody is held back by disadvantage or lack of opportunity. I am pleased to report significant and sustained progress has been made on a range of our indicators. 41 of our 60 indicators now show an improving trend, compared with 35 last year. On some other indicators the data are not sufficiently robust to be able to determine trends.

Overall there are now 2 million fewer children and 2 million fewer pensioners living in absolute poverty since 1997, and there are 2.3 million more people in work, with unemployment the lowest for 30 years. And those in deprived communities have seen improvements in employment, education and housing.

In this year's "Opportunity for All", there are two new chapters; one on women and one on Europe.

The women's chapter highlights the improvements we have made in areas such as increased employment and flexible working, and increased maternity leave and child care provision, whilst setting out our current cross-Governmental programme of action to address issues which directly affect and disadvantage women.

The European chapter focuses on the challenges we face from rapid social and economic change. Reforming the social dimension is essential if we are to deliver our shared goals of social justice and inclusion in this expanded global market.

Undoubtedly there is more to do. Poverty and social exclusion are deep-rooted problems that have built up over many years.

Tackling the root causes of poverty, as well as ameliorating it, takes time as well as commitment and investment. It also requires a partnership across all sectors of society which recognises that rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. However, this report shows that we are now starting to see real signs of equally deep-rooted and lasting change that will help individuals and communities take control of their lives and break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and deprivation.