The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey): Following the publication last year of the Regulatory Reform Committee's reports on civil registration reform, the Government announced that they would actively consider other ways of delivering the key elements of civil registration modernisation.
The Government remain committed to the modernisation of the local registration service in England and Wales, and are pressing ahead with their plans to reform the structure and delivery of civil registration. The consultation paper "Registration Modernisation", published today, sets out how local authorities are to be given greater responsibility and accountability for the delivery of the local registration service, and gives details of other important changes to be introduced to modernise civil registration.
Under these proposals local authorities would have more control to decide, within a national standards framework, how best to meet the needs of local people. Systems are also to be overhauled to speed up the registration process and deliver improved customer service. The details of the proposals have been developed by the Registrar General together with LACORS (Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services) and local registration managers.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Des Browne): Under the Cash Ratio Deposit (CRD) scheme, banks and building societies place non-interest bearing deposits at the Bank of England. The Bank invests the deposits and uses the income earned to fund the costs of the Bank's sterling liquidity, monetary policy and financial stability operations, which benefit sterling deposit-takers. With the effect of 1 June 1998 the Bank of England Act 1998 placed the scheme on a statutory footing.
From next year the Bank of England will be making significant changes to its operations in sterling money markets, in particular the introduction of remunerated voluntary deposits which banks and building societies will be able to place with the Bank. As a result, my written Ministerial Statement of 13 July 2005 announced that (as required by the Bank of England Act 1998) the Treasury would begin consultation on its proposal to amend the definition of Eligible Liabilities (ELs) for CRDs.
The consultation ended in September and the Treasury published its response. The responses to the consultation recognised and understood the rationale
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for making the change and accepted that including voluntary deposits in the definition of ELs would have a net neutral effect on the overall levels of CRDs.
As the proposal requires a change to secondary legislation made under the Bank of England Act 1998, tomorrow I will be laying before Parliament a Statutory Instrument scheduled to come into force on 1 March 2006. Principally the Statutory Instrument will ensure that voluntary deposits do not count as an offset within the calculation of ELs on which CRDs are based.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 2122 November in Brussels. My right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary, and the International Development Secretary will represent the presidency.
The Council is expected to approve the Requirements Catalogue, which is part of the EU's Headline Goal 2010 capability process. The catalogue has used NATO-sourced operational analysis to identify the military capabilities and force requirements needed for the EU to fulfil its level of ambition. The Council should also note the Single Progress Report on military capabilities, and discuss progress on the battlegroups concept and the work of the European Defence Agency. As presidency, we aim to focus discussion on the identified need for rapidly deployable, highly interoperable capability and the importance of filling qualitative capability shortfalls.
The Council will discuss progress on bringing together the EU's civilian and military instruments in a comprehensive approach to EU crisis management. Ministers are likely to note work on EU concepts for comprehensive planning and European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) support to security sector reform, and underline the need for these principles to be taken forward in future reviews and for planning for holistic EU engagement in particular regions.
The GAERC falls on the 10th Anniversary of the initialling of the Dayton Peace Agreement, and both Defence and Foreign Ministers will hold discussions on progress in Bosnia and the evolving nature of the EU's engagement. The Council will review both the military mission Operation Althea, following its first year of operation, and the EU Police Mission (EUPM). It should agree the Joint Action to launch a follow-on mission to EUPM and is also expected to agree the Joint Action modifying the mandate of the EUSR in Bosnia to give him a greater role in coordinating EU instruments in the overall rule of law effort.
The Council is expected to discuss EU involvement in a possible non-executive monitoring role at Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border. The Council is also expected to discuss the 25 January 2006 Palestinian Legislative Elections and Commission support to the electoral process. Council conclusions are expected.
The Council is expected to discuss how the international community (including the EU) can provide further support to Iraq in relation to a broader platform of international partnership to support political, economic, governance and security development.
The Council will have a further stocktake of EU-Iran relations following the 7 November GAERC. We can expect the nuclear portfolio also to be discussed given the proximity of the 24 November International Atomic Energy Agenda (IAEA) Board meeting.
The Council will discuss how the EU can work more closely in partnership with source and transit countries on migration issues to develop a balanced approach to migration, which harnesses the benefits of migration and also focuses on combating illegal immigration.
The Council is expected to agree Conclusions on the Commission Communication on the EU-Africa Strategy: Towards a Euro-African Pact to Accelerate Africa's Development. The Communication will form an integral part of the overall EU Strategy for Africa, which isexpected to be agreed at the European Council on 1617 December.
The Council is expected to agree the Joint Declaration by the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on the "European Consensus for Development". This is a successor to the 2000 EC Development Policy Statement. The Declaration is divided into two parts: the first provides a common vision that will guide the EU and its 25 Member States in development co-operation; and the second sets out the EC Development Policy to guide Community development assistance and implementation of the commitments in the common vision. The European Parliament is due to adopt its report on the proposal for a Joint
The Council will hold its annual Orientation Debate on the basis of a presidency paper looking at how the quality of aid and the effectiveness of aid delivery can be improved, building on EU commitments taken in the context of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Paris in March 2005. The Council is expected to agree Conclusions on the Orientation Debate.
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