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Independent Monitoring Commission

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Peter Hain): I have received the 10th report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report has been made under articles four and seven of the International Agreement that established the Commission. I have considered the content of the report and I am today bringing it before Parliament. I have placed copies in the Library of the House.

The Commission have provided an assessment of ongoing levels of paramilitary activity and criminality.

In respect of the Provisional IRA, the report states that

The report also observes that

The report notes that progress with regards to other paramilitary groups remains

It further notes that

The report recognises that some organised crime continues, and is an issue for both republican and loyalist paramilitaries. However, it notes:

The report observes that some members of PIRA remain involved in organised crime but categorises them

On the issue of arms, the report states that

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On the issue of intelligence gathering, the report notes that

The report goes on to state that

The Government believe that this report provides further evidence of the direction of movement that PIRA and its leadership are taking in accordance with its commitments on 28 July 2005. The report is positive in that respect and the Government believe that it should make a helpful contribution to the rebuilding of trust and confidence in Northern Ireland which is necessary for a return to full devolution.

Once again, I am grateful to the Commission for their submission of this report and for its careful analysis.


Competitiveness Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Barry Gardiner): I attended the informal meeting of the Competitiveness Council on Saturday 22 April, hosted by the Austrian presidency in Graz. My ministerial colleague, Lord Sainsbury, attended the Council on Friday 21 April.

At the morning session on 21 April, Austrian Minister for Education, Science and Culture, Elisabeth Gehrer, chaired a discussion on the breakdown for the EU's research budget for the 7th Framework Programme 2007–13 (FP7).

Commissioner Potocnik presented the principles behind the Commission's revised breakdown for the budget for 2007–13 following agreement on the overall EU budget. The budget for FP7 would see a 60 per cent. increase over current levels to an average of €7.8 billion per annum as opposed to €4.8 billion per annum under the 6th Framework Programme, but this was still a reduction on the Commission's original proposal in 2005. Ministers were unanimous in stating that the Commission's revised breakdown represented a good basis for negotiations, but all put forward suggestions for changes.

The presidency hoped that this discussion would allow the Competitiveness Council to agree a general approach on FP7 on 29–30 May 2006. This would give them the basis with which to negotiate with the European Parliament, which expects to complete its first reading of FP7 in June.

The afternoon session on 21 April was on "The Opportunities of Globalisation". There were presentations from Vice-President Verheugen on "Competitiveness Through Innovation"; Commissioner Kroes on "Less and
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Better State Aid for Growth and Jobs"; French Minister Francois Loos on "Competitiveness Clusters"; and Helmut List, CEO AVL List, on "Centres of Competence".

Ministers showed general support for clusters as useful initiatives. Some member states thought EU cooperation on clusters was important, and a number have drawn up a national map of clusters. There was general support for Commissioner Kroes's plans to introduce some additional flexibility to EU rules on state aid for innovation. Member states were also supportive of improving access to risk capital for SMEs.

At the morning session on 22 April I participated in a discussion based on the Commission's revised proposal on the services directive. Austrian Minister for Labour and Economics, Martin Bartenstein, chaired the discussion, inviting Ministers to agree that the revised Commission proposal, based largely on the European Parliament's first reading text, should be swiftly agreed as an overall "package" with the aim of reaching political agreement at the Competitiveness Council on 29–30 May. Member states expressed support for moving forward quickly on the basis of the Commission's revised proposal but noted that important issues remained to be discussed.


Romford and Havering

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Dr. Stephen Ladyman): In my answer of 30 March 2006, Official Report, column 1125W to a written parliamentary question (UIN 63004) from the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), I stated that the information requested was available from Essex county council and the London borough of Havering, and made no reference to Highways Agency roads. Contrary to my original answer, Essex county council is not in fact a local highway authority for the area in question. The two local highway authorities are Transport for London and the London borough of Havering.

The Highways Agency is not responsible for any roads in the town of Romford; however, there is a 12.4 km section of the M25 motorway in the London borough of Havering, which is their responsibility. Whilst the Agency does not hold financial records based on local authority boundaries, it is possible to estimate the proportion of spend for this section of the motorway from the total maintenance budget for the M25, in the last five financial years:

2001: £2.04m

2002: £2.17m

2003: £2.30m

2004: £2.45m

2005: £2.61m

There is no information available from which to estimate expenditure for the financial years before 2001.