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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 6 December 2005



The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): I will chair the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) on 6 December 2005. The Paymaster General will represent the UK. Items on the agenda are:


Reserve Forces (Iraq)

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): In line with our policy of employing the Reserves as an integral component of the armed forces, and our normal pattern in Operation TELIC, we shall shortly begin mobilising approximately 700 Reservists to deploy as part of the integrated UK force package on operations in Iraq (Operation TELIC). Reservists currently deployed in Iraq carry out a range of activities including medical support, force protection duties and providing individual reinforcements to units. We anticipate that most of these tasks will continue.

We plan to issue the callout notices for reservists in phases and aim to give individuals 28 days notice of call-up (other than for those who may volunteer to be mobilised at shorter notice). As is customary, to ensure that we successfully mobilise the required number, we will need to issue a greater number of callout notices than the actual requirement. On current plans, we will be issuing around 800 callout notices.

Mobilisation will be followed by a period of training, integration into receiving units, and then a short period of pre-deployment leave. Deployment to theatre is
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expected to begin in May 2006. The majority of these called out can expect a deployed tour of six months and a total period of mobilisation, including post-tour leave, of around 11 months, though for a few it may be slightly longer.

I would like to emphasise that this callout is part of our routine management of UK forces deployed on Operation TELIC. We, and our Multinational Force partners, will consider, in the months ahead, the levels and dispositions of forces required in Iraq to continue to build the capability and capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces and support the Iraqi Government of Iraq up to and following the first full democratic elections in Iraq, which will be held in December.

The next major routine roulement of regular UK forces in Iraq is due to take place during April and May next year and the lead formation, currently 7 Armoured Brigade, will be provided by 20 Armoured Brigade. We will make a further announcement covering this roulement once the details have been finalised.

Votes A 2006–07 (Presentational Changes)

The Secretary of State for Defence (John Reid): Ministry of Defence Votes A seek the maximum numbers of personnel to be maintained for service in the armed forces during each financial year.

As of 1 April 2006, we are amending the presentational format. The figures for the Commonwealth troops in the United Kingdom category will no longer be reported, and the numbers of the Queens Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps and Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service will be incorporated into those of the Regular Army and Regular Air Force.

The Commonwealth Troops accounted for by the Army and RAF are members of Commonwealth Forces. The numbers are predominantly students attending courses, the remainder being those on exchange and attaché duties. The Commonwealth Troops, like those of other non-commonwealth nations, wear the uniform of and are paid and maintained by, their home nation. They are not members of the UK Armed Forces nor maintained for service with the UK Armed Forces and therefore fall outside the ambit of Votes A.

Originally the Nursing Service were not a fully integrated part of the Services—being non-combatants—however they are now fully integrated and are now regarded as a sub-specialism and as such there is no longer appropriate to record these figures separately within Votes A.


Oversight Commissioner's Report

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Shaun Woodward): I have today laid before this House a copy of the Oversight Commissioner's third statutory report for the year 2005 which was published today, in accordance with Section 68(4)(a) of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000.

This is the sixth report compiled by Al Hutchinson as Oversight Commissioner and the fifteenth in the series of oversight reports published since 2001.
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I met yesterday with the Oversight Commissioner and welcomed the opportunity to discuss with him the contents of this thematic report on training.

Office of the Police Ombudsman

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): The Government have received a report from the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland on the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (OPONI). The report has today been published.

The Government welcome this report, which recognises the good progress made by the Police Ombudsman's Office towards fulfilling its important role of providing a fair and impartial independent police complaints system. The report also makes some helpful recommendations, which the Police Ombudsman will address in striving for continuous improvement in the way that OPONI fulfils its investigatory, monitoring and accountability roles and responsibilities.

Copies of the Chief Inspector's report have been placed in the Library.


European Union Energy Council (Brussels)

The Minister for Energy (Malcolm Wicks): I chaired, for the UK Presidency of the EU, the Energy Council in Brussels on 1 December. Alun Michael represented the UK.

The Council considered several matters of interest to the UK; chief among these were Better Regulation in the context of implementation of the EU's liberalised Electricity and Natural Gas market, Climate Change and Sustainable Energy, and EU Relations with Third Countries. There was an important and substantive debate throughout around the energy agenda discussed recently at Hampton Court, and the balance between our three key objectives of competitive markets, security of supply and tackling climate change. Member States recognised the important potential contribution from a European energy policy and supported Commission plans for taking this forward, through a Green Paper early in 2006, with a view to reporting to the 2006 December European Council.

On market liberalisation, there was broad consensus that secure electricity and gas supplies at competitive prices, delivered on open, transparent and competitive markets are crucial to Europe's competitiveness; and that full implementation of the second electricity and gas directives was crucial. The Commission report on the internal energy market and the competition inquiry into the energy sector highlighted areas for more work, including more effective action by the Commission and national regulators against anti-competitive behaviour. Member States saw no need for further legislation until there had been more investigation into key issues such as market concentration, long-term contracts and the impact of the Emissions Trading Scheme. They agreed that the main issues for developing an effective internal energy market—such as independent and effective regulation, the development of regional markets, effective unbundling, and transparency—could be done within the existing framework.
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One Member State rejected the Commission analysis of market shortcomings, claiming that a period of regulatory stability was needed and that competition contributed to the ElTs energy problems as much as it helped to resolve them. Some Member States expressed concern at their dependence on particular energy suppliers, noting that similar liberalisation to the ElTs was needed in such countries.

Council conclusions were agreed on climate change and energy efficiency. Energy efficiency was recognised as making an important contribution to the three primary energy objectives. Member States saw the expected agreement on the Energy End-Use Efficiency and Energy Services Directive as welcome in this respect. Several Member States expressed concerns about the operation of the Emissions Trading Scheme and the need to revise the scheme before the next phase.

On EU-third country relations, the Presidency and Commission summarised progress on dialogues with key energy partners. On Russia, the successful Permanent Partnership Council held in October signalled real hope of progress. There would be a second ministerial meeting with OPEC on 2 December to develop the dialogue begun earlier in the year and promote mutual understanding. The Energy Treaty signed with south-east European countries would establish a neighbouring regional market on the same lines as the EU internal market. A key issue at the Energy Charter Treaty's annual Conference on 9 December would be how to take forward the negotiations on the Transit Protocol.

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