|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett):
Rosemary Radcliffe has completed her independent review of UK agricultural and horticultural levy bodies, and her report is published today. Copies are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses. My ministerial colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and I wish to offer our thanks to the Reviewer for the thorough and inclusive way in which she has carried out her work.
11 Nov 2005 : Column 36WS
In summary, the Reviewer finds that there is still a case for statutory levies to address issues of market failure in the sectors in question, and she makes recommendations for a new structure to meet the sectors' needs in future. This includes proposed arrangements for improving governance, flexibility, focus inactivities undertaken, levy collection arrangements, and operations and service delivery, to increase overall value for money for, and accountability to the levy payer.
My noble Friend Lord Bach is today launching a full consultation on the report so that the views of stakeholders, and in particular levy payers, can be taken into account before formal policy proposals are developed. This consultation will run for 12 weeks, and a further statement will be made thereafter.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Douglas Alexander): A General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) was held on 7 November in Brussels. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary (Mr. Jack Straw) and I chaired the Council as Presidency. I also represented the UK on certain agenda items.
The Presidency presented the six remits from Hampton Court: Research and Development, Universities, Demographic challenge, Energy, Migration, and the Common Foreign and Security Policy/European Security and Defence Policy (CFSP/ESDP). The Commission said they would take forward the first five remits, in consultation with the current and future Presidencies. The High Representative, in association, where appropriate, with the Presidency, the future Presidency and the European Commission, agreed to take forward work in the area of CFSP/ESDP.
Following up the extensive GAERC discussion and agreed Conclusions of 18 October, Commissioner Mandelson updated the Council on the state of play in the DDA negotiations in the light of its recent conditional offer and forthcoming meetings among WTO members. The Commission confirmed that it was continuing to act within its mandate, and would continue to ensure that the Council was fully informed of developments in the negotiations. The Council also agreed, as an A point, Conclusions noting support for Saudi accession to the WTO.
The Council exchanged views on the EU's budget for 200713 and identified the areas that will need to be addressed in order for the Presidency to reach an agreement at the 15/16 December European Council: (i) the structure of EU spending; (ii) modernising the budget, including a timetable for review; and (iii) the system of EU own resources. The Presidency concluded that work on these areas should continue and that it would return to the issue at the 21/22 November GAERC.
The Presidency introduced the item noting the deteriorating situation on human rights and political freedoms in Belarus. High Representative Solana underlined the difficulty faced by the EU in trying to bring about reform. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner agreed noting their efforts to realign aid towards support for civil society. A large number of delegations spoke expressing concern at the deteriorating situation and highlighting the need to intensify contact and support to civil society. The Council also noted the importance of free and fair Presidential elections in 2006 and called for the Belarusian Government to issue an early invitation to an OSCE/ODIHR monitoring mission. The Council expressed willingness to take appropriate restrictive measures against responsible individuals in the event of a failure to uphold international standards. Council Conclusions were agreed which committed the Council to a further GAERC discussion in January 2006.
Over lunch the Council held a discussion with Martti Ahtisaari, the UN Secretary General's future Kosovo Status Envoy. Ahtisaari welcomed EU involvement in the Status process and gave an initial indication of how he intended to take forward his mandate. He also flagged the importance of addressing Kosovo's poor economic situation. High Representative Solana nominated Stefan Lehne as EU Representative to the Kosovo Status Process. The Council expressed strong support for Ahtisaari's appointment and endorsement of Stefan Lehne as EU representative. Council Conclusions were agreed.
The Council reviewed the EU's overall relations with Iran. They condemned President Ahmadinejad's reported remarks calling for Israel to be wiped from the map. They agreed that recent developments had been discouraging in the EU's main areas of concern, including Iran's approach to WMD and terrorism, the human rights situation, and Iran's policies towards the Middle East Peace Process and regional issues. They noted the importance of the EU/Iran Comprehensive Dialogue, and urged Iran to take steps to resume substantive discussions under the EU/Iran Human Rights Dialogue and to demonstrate by its actions that it is willing to improve respect for human rights.They agreed to keep the EU's relations with Iran under close review. Council Conclusions were agreed.
The Council underlined the significance of the unanimity achieved on UN Security Council Resolution 1636 on Syrian and reviewed progress on the implementation of UNSCR 1559. Council Conclusions were agreed.
The Council discussed an invitation from James Wolfensohn, Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement, on behalf of Israel and the Palestinian Authority for the EU to play a monitoring role at Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner and High Representative Solana highlighted that an EU role in this area would help build confidence. In discussion Member States supported the idea of EU involvement in a non-executive monitoring role. This was the fruit of a continuous effort on the ground, which would reinforce the EU's political role. The Presidency concluded that there was a general endorsement for the proposals by the High Representative and the Commission. Council Conclusions were agreed.
The Presidency introduced this item, noting that effective follow-up to the UN Summit was a priority for the EU. Member States highlighted certain aspects such as the Peace-building Commission, Human Rights Council, and Counter-Terrorism as key areas for urgent action. The Council agreed extensive Conclusions that set out the agreed EU position on all the key areas of Summit implementation.
The Presidency introduced the item, noting the earlier discussion at the GAERC on 18 October. The Commission noted that work within the EU was well advanced. The Council agreed Conclusions that detailed the range of work under way, including a comprehensive action plan.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bot highlighted the importance of EU support for the peace process in Colombia. The Presidency noted that the 3 October GAERC had agreed Conclusions on support for the peace process in Colombia, which set the framework for EU policy.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's (HMIC) report, "Closing the Gap", published in September 2005 concluded that the current 43 force structure in England and Wales was no longer "fit for purpose". The report recommended that the best business solution was for the police service to reconfigure based on strategic forces of sufficient size to provide both effective neighbourhood policing and protective services to combat serious organised crime and terrorism.
Following the publication of the HMIC report, the Home Secretary asked all police forces and authorities to consider the best options for their region and to submit them to him by 23 December 2005. The first stage in this process was for police forces and police authorities to develop by the end of October short listed options for each region. This stage has now been completed and feedback has been provided to all chief officers and chairs of police authorities indicating which proposals appear to be most favourable for each of the nine Government Office regions in England and for Wales. The options identified for further development are set out below, although authorities are still free to develop alternative options alongside these.
In recommending particular options, the arguments put forward by forces and authorities have been carefully considered along with the need to create a balanced and resilient policing landscape across the whole of England and Wales. Neighbourhood and Basic Command Unit (ECU) level policing remain the essential local face of the police service, and by ensuring greater resilience and capability in our police service we will help maintain this service, whilst at the same time
11 Nov 2005 : Column 39WS
strengthening the capacity to deal with serious and organised crimes, major incidents and counter-terrorism.
Forces and authorities are now being asked to complete a cost benefit analysis for all of their short listed options. They will then develop a business case and initial implementation plans for their recommended option to be submitted to the Home Secretary.
The Secretary of State for Transport announced in a written statement on 11 October that, in the context of this review, he would be reviewing separately the role of the British Transport Police (BTP) Proposals for the British Transport Police will be brought forward, if appropriate, once the outcome of that review is known.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Ms Hazel Blears) has written to all Parliamentary colleagues on this matter inviting them to join the consultation process.
|Options assessed at this stage as suitable for progression|
|South East||1. Two strategic forces: Kent, Surrey and Sussex; Thames Valley and Hampshire|
|2. Three strategic forces: Kent; Thames Valley; Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire|
|3. Three strategic forces: Kent, Surrey and Sussex; Thames Valley; Hampshire|
|4. Three strategic forces: Kent and Sussex; Thames Valley; Hampshire and Surrey|
|5. Four strategic forces: Kent; Thames Valley; Surrey and Sussex; Hampshire|
|South West||1. Regional South West force|
|2. Two strategic forces: Devon and Cornwall; Avon and Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Dorset|
|West||1. Regional West Midlands force|
|Midlands||2. Two strategic forces: Staffordshire and West Mercia; Warwickshire and West Midlands|
|East Midlands||1. Regional East Midlands force|
|2. Two strategic forces: Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire; Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire|
|Eastern||1. Regional Eastern force|
|2. Two strategic forces: Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex; Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire|
|3. Two strategic forces: Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex; Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire|
|Yorkshire and||1. Regional Yorkshire and Humberside force|
|Humberside||2. Two strategic forces: West Yorkshire and North Yorkshire; South Yorkshire and Humberside|
|North East||1. Regional North East force|
|North West||1. Three strategic forces: Lancashire and Cumbria; Cheshire and Merseyside; Greater Manchester Police|
|2. Two strategic forces: Lancashire, Cumbria and Merseyside; Cheshire and Greater Manchester Police|
|Wales||1. National Wales force|
|London||1. Strategic force: Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London|
|2. Collaboration between the Metropolitan Police Service and the City of London|
|BTP||1. Proposals for the British Transport Police will be brought forward, if appropriate, once the outcome of the current DfT review is known
11 Nov 2005 : Column 40WS