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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 23 May 2006

Communities and Local Government

Crown Application of the Planning Acts

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): The Government, on 17 May, laid before Parliament the statutory instruments subject to the negative resolution procedure required to commence part 7 chapter 1 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and incorporate the Crown into the planning system.

They are:

These instruments will commence Part 7 Chapter 1 of the 2004 Act which will end the Crown’s immunity from the planning system by applying the planning Actsto the Crown. These will apply existing planning subordinate legislation to the Crown with modifications where necessary; amend the listed buildings and hazardous substances regulations; and provide rules covering the role of special advocates for planning cases with national security implications.

These instruments will come into force on7 June 2006.

Constitutional Affairs

Official Solicitor and Public Trustee Trusts and Estates Cases

The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, has made the following written ministerial statement:

Her Majesty's Courts Service

The Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Ms Harriet Harman): The following table list sets out the key performance targets* that have been set for Her Majesty’s Courts Service for 2006-07:

Relevant PSA

Target 2006-07


To improve the delivery of justice by reducing the proportion of ineffective trials to no more than 15.5 per cent. in the Crown Court and no more than 21 per cent. in the magistrates’ courts.


To reassure the public, reducing the fear of crime and anti-social behaviour and building confidence in the Criminal Justice System with compromising fairness.


By 2009-10, increase the proportion of care cases being completed in the courts within 40 weeks by not less than 49 per cent. in the County Court and not less than 61 per cent. in the magistrates’ courts.


To achieve earlier and more proportionate resolution of legal problems and disputes by:

Increasing the opportunities for people involvedin court cases to settle their dispute out of court to 40 per cent.; and

Reducing delays in resolving those disputes that need to be decided by the courts by increasing the proportion of small claims hearing that take place within target time by 81 per cent.

Copies of the HM Courts Service business plan for 2006-07 have been place in the Libraries of both Houses.

*More information on these and other key supporting targets are published in the Strategic and Business Plans, which includes how HMCS helps deliver PSA1 and 2 (joint Criminal Justice System targets).

Education and Skills

HE Student Finances

The Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning (Bill Rammell): This announcement covers repayment arrangements for student loans made from September 2006 onwards for borrowers who move abroad after completing their courses.

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Deferred fee loans will be made available in 2006-07 for EU students who are accepted at our universities with the first full cohort eligible to repay fromApril 2010.

Repayments will be collected directly by the Student Loans Company (SLC) and, as for students who stay in the UK after finishing their course, will remain income contingent with repayments based on 9 per cent. of income over an earnings threshold.

The Government are determined to ensure that all EU students repay fee loans on an income contingent basis. Our policy is for repayments to be fair and affordable and that on leaving their course, all those who can contribute to the costs of their Higher Education, should do so. This will ensure that students returning to countries where average earnings are low, will repay on an income contingent basis.

However living costs and earnings vary from country to country and so we will use an index of price levels to establish fair earnings thresholds based on where borrowers choose to live. This principle will also apply where borrowers move outside the EU.

Countries will be banded according to price levels and the bands will be as follows:


Price level index (UK=100)

























In addition, for student loans paid out from 2006 all borrowers will have entered into an enforceable contract to allow debts to be pursued in the courts as necessary, wherever a borrower may choose to live.

From 2007 students planning to move overseas after finishing their course, will be required to sign a repayment agreement with the SLC that establishes how they will repay their loan once they have moved overseas.

This means the SLC will be able to take action to enforce the debt in the courts both in the UK and abroad if necessary. We intend to make use of EC regulation 44/2001 which will allow the SLC to enforce a judgement made in the UK courts in the rest of the EU.

These arrangements will be enacted in regulations which are expected to be laid before Parliament later in the year.

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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General-Affairs and External Relations Council 15 May 2006

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Sir John Grant (UK Permanent Representative to the EU) and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 15 May 2006. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence represented the UK at the Defence Ministers discussions.

The agenda items were covered as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council (15-16 June, Brussels): Draft annotated agenda

The Council discussed preparation of the European Council on the basis of a draft annotated agenda presented by the Presidency. Likely agenda items include the Future of Europe, Hampton Court follow-up and EU enlargement.

The Presidency agreed to issue draft European Council Conclusions to COREPER (Committee of Permanent Representatives) ahead of discussion at the Foreign Ministers informal meeting at Klosterneuberg, Austria on 27-28 May.

Inter-institutional agreement (IIA)

The Council endorsed a new inter-institutional Agreement on the EU's 2007-2013 Financial Perspective in line with the provisional agreement reached between the Council and the European Parliament in April.

The new inter-institutional agreement will enter into force on 1 January 2007, replacing the existing agreement.

External Relations


The Council adopted Conclusions reiterating the EU's call for an independent inquiry into the Andijan massacre, expressing concern about the deteriorating human rights situation and reaffirming that the measures imposed in October 2005 remain in force.

Western Balkans

The Council adopted Conclusions on Serbia and Montenegro regretting her non-compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and supporting Enlargement Commissioner's Rehn's decision to disrupt the Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations, while indicating support for discussions resuming once full co-operation with ICTY is achieved.

The Council also agreed Conclusions on Montenegro reiterating the importance of a free and fair referendum and on Bosnia and Herzegovina, expressing disappointment at the failure of constitutional reform and a readiness to engage with Bosnia and Herzegovina on transition arrangements for the Office of the High Representative.

Preparation of EU-Russia Summit

The Council had a short discussion on the forthcoming EU-Russia Summit on 25 May. We expect the agenda to cover issues such as energy, visa facilitation, economic reforms and commitment to common values.

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The Council was briefed on latest developments.

The Council adopted Conclusions welcoming the progress made in Iraq to form a government of national unity; stating that the EU stands ready to engage with the new government to achieve a secure, stable and democratic Iraq.


The Council was briefed on the Foreign Ministers' E3+3 meeting in New York on 8 May and discussed next steps.

The Council adopted Conclusions which expressed deep regret at the failure of the Iranian authorities to take the steps deemed essential by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board and the UN Security Council as well their threats to maintain this failure into the future. The Council called on the Iranian authorities to cooperate fully with the IAEA, suspend all enrichment related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, and to suspend the construction of a reactor moderated by heavy water. It expressed the EU's full support for the Security Council making this mandatory. The Council also underlined its deep concern about the human rights situation in Iran.

Middle East Peace Process

The Council endorsed the Quartet's decision of9 May that the EU would establish a temporary international mechanism to help provide basic services to the Palestinian people.

The Council adopted Conclusions welcoming the statement of the Quartet Principals on 9 May in New York; expressing concern about the deterioration of the humanitarian, economic and financial situation in the West Bank and Gaza; welcoming the endorsement by the Quartet of the temporary international mechanism. Conclusions also called for early engagement between the Israeli Prime Minister and the President of the Palestinian Authority in line with President Abbas' commitment to a platform of peace.


The Council was expecting to adopt a common position freezing the assets of President Lukashenko and several key supporters responsible for fraudulent elections. Due to technical problems, this is expected to be formally adopted by the Education Council on18 May.

EU-Africa troika

The Council discussed the outcome of the EU-Africa troika meeting held in Vienna on 8 May.


High Representative Solana congratulated those involved in reaching agreement at Abuja. There was a need to put pressure on those who had not yet signed up to do so.

The Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) provided an additional basis to enable the UN to take over from the Africa Mission in Sudan (AMIS). The EU needed to support the peace process economically and, until transition, through support to AMIS. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said the Commission would provide €100 million in humanitarian and reconstruction aid.

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