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Written Ministerial Statements

Thursday 8 June 2006

Communities and Local Government


The Minister for Housing and Planning (Yvette Cooper): On 9 February my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy informed the Standing Committee of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Bill that I would undertake an urgent review of local plans to determine whether there is a problem with emerging plans that do not fully incorporate PPS22 guidance. That review has now been completed.

The review has shown that in emerging new style regional spatial strategies and local development frameworks there has been a strong take-up of the policy in PPS22 on the use of on-site renewables in new developments. For those authorities preparing new plans where an appropriate stage in plan making has been reached, 26 out of 29 surveyed have devised policies to secure on-site renewables in new developments. The majority of them have set a requirement for 10 per cent. on-site renewables, where it is viable. Many of those at an earlier stage of developing their local development frameworks have not yet included PPS22 policies, although they still have time to do so. We strongly encourage them to do so. For those areas still completing old style plans, such as unitary development plans, policies on on-site renewables are less likely to have been included.

It is essential that all planning authorities follow this example and take account fully of the positive approach to renewables set out in PPS22 at the earliest opportunity in their plan-making. In particular the Government expect all planning authorities to include policies in their development plans that require a percentage of the energy in new developments to come from on-site renewables, where it is viable. Such policies have a vital role to play in reducing emissions, through the use of carbon-neutral energy sources. Local authorities who are now updating their plans through new local development frameworks should take the opportunity to update their policies in this area. The Government's forthcoming draft planning policy statement on climate change will be an opportunity to consider further how the planning process more generally can help combat climate change by extending the contribution of renewables from both on-site and off-site sources.

A more detailed breakdown of plans that were examined for this review of PPS22 policies has been published today on the DCLG website at: http://www.communities.gov.uk/index.asp?id=1500549 and is available in the Libraries of both Houses. I have instructed my officials to write to all chief planning officers enclosing a copy of this ministerial statement
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and to draw attention to the importance that the Government attach to such measures in tackling climate change.

Culture, Media and Sport

Government Indemnity Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): The provision for the Government Indemnity Scheme is made by the National Heritage Act 1980. The scheme facilitates public access to loans of works of art and other objects for public display made to museums, galleries and other such institutions by private owners and non-national institutions. It does this by indemnifying lenders against loss or damage to objects they loan. Loans covered by the scheme must be for public benefit. The scheme also covers loans of such objects for study purposes within borrowing institutions where this would contribute materially to the public's understanding or appreciation of the object loaned. Examples of this are enhancing interpretation or explanation to the public of objects, or bringing into the public domain the conclusions of any study.

The limit on the contingent liabilities which may be incurred in relation to the Government Indemnity Scheme for non-national museums and galleries in England approved by the Treasury in May 2004 was £1.2 billion. As a result of two major temporary exhibitions taking place in non-national museums and galleries and the high value of the objects included in those exhibitions, it has been necessary to temporarily increase the limit to £1.74 billion, effective from June 2006 until July 2006.

Education and Skills

Chief Inspector of Schools

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Alan Johnson): I am pleased to announce that Christine Gilbert is to become Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England with effect from 1 October 2006.

Ms Gilbert applied for the position of chief inspector through an open competition. She was recommended by the Secretary of State, on behalf of the Government, and appointed by Her Majesty in Council on 7 June 2006.

Maurice Smith, who currently holds the office, will continue as chief inspector until 30 September 2006.

Subject to the passage of the Education and Inspections Bill which is currently before Parliament, it is intended that Christine Gilbert, as the holder of the office of HM Chief Inspector of Schools in England, will become HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills when the new Ofsted is established.

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Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Agriculture and Fisheries Council

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (David Miliband): I represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels on 22 May 2006. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, represented the UK for the fisheries item.

The Council held a policy debate on a proposal on organic farming, which aims to simplify and improve the structure of current regulations. All member states welcomed the proposal but could not agree on a number of points: the proposal to include mass catering and the obligation to use the EU logo or an EU organic indication. The Presidency noted the discussion and informed Council that two further working groups would now be held and that work on a compromise text would continue under the Finnish Presidency.

Sweden, formally supported by the Czech Republic and the UK, urged the Commission to relax import restrictions on olive oil to reduce recent high EU price rises caused by a drop in supply. The Commission noted that production in 2005 had been exceptionally low due to drought in Spain and would continue to monitor the situation.

The Commission noted that in several member states farmers had missed the deadline for single farm payment applications due to technical difficulties. The Commission would consider a derogation for these cases to avoid penalising farmers. A UK request is under consideration.

The Council adopted conclusions on the co-existence of genetically modified, conventional and organic crops.

The Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner presented a progress report on the status of the veterinary agreement between the EC and the Russian Federation. Significant progress has been made and memoranda have been signed on regionalisation and intra-Community transit and fraud.

Under any other business, the Council took note of a written update on Avian influenza H5N1 by the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

Over lunch, the Agriculture Commissioner urged the EU to press for a package in WTO agricultural negotiations. She said there would be no unilateral commitment by the EU but that failure to agree a package was not in the EU’s interest.

The only fisheries item was the proposal for a European Fisheries Fund, on which the Council had hoped to reach political agreement. However, member states failed to reach agreement on a compromise and it is likely that this proposal will return to Council during the Finnish Presidency.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and External Relations Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The General Affairs and External Relations Council
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(GAERC) will be held on 12 June in Luxembourg. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and I will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 15-16 June: Draft conclusions

We expect discussion of draft conclusions.

European Council declarations are also expected on the Middle East Peace Process, Iraq, Lebanon, Africa, the Western Balkans and Iran.

Enlargement (possible agenda item)

Ministers may be asked to consider the texts on the opening of first chapter negotiations (Science and Research) for both Turkey and Croatia as well as the text for the EU-Turkey Association Council. The UK is keen to see language which reflects the EU's support for the UN Cyprus settlement process.

The item may be taken off the agenda if agreement is reached at official level.


Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos is expected to address the Council on Spain's work to address illegal migration from West Africa.

The Spanish are co-organising a regional conference with the French on migration and development in Rabat on 10-11 July to help manage migration flows from West Africa to the EU.

The UN high-level dialogue on international migration and development is also scheduled to take place in September. The UK looks forward to using this as a forum to showcase the EU's progressive record in this area and as an opportunity to identify ways to maximise the development benefits of voluntary legal migration and to minimise the risks.

European Union agency for fundamental rights (possible agenda item)

The Council will discuss the fundamental rights agency, with a view to reaching final agreement on the regulation.

External Relations

Preparation of EU-US summit

Preparations for the 21 June EU-US summit are ongoing, with the presidency and Commission engaging the US on the draft declaration between now and the summit.

The presidency is likely to present a progress note at the Council.

Relations with the Western Balkans

We expect discussion at the Council to focus on Montenegro, relations with Serbia and possibly the transition arrangements for the Office of High Representative in Bosnia.

Draft conclusions are expected on the comprehensive review for Bosnia and Herzegovina, regional co-operation and the signature of Albania's stabilisation and Association Agreement, which is expected to take place in the margins of the Council.


We expect Council conclusions on Cuba, reaffirming the Common Position, extending the suspension of the 2003 diplomatic measures and calling for greater practical support for civil society.


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We anticipate a short discussion of Iraq over lunch. This is likely to cover developments on the ground and ways in which the EU can continue to support the new Iraqi Government.

We expect Ministers to discuss and welcome the new Commission communication on EU-Iraq engagement, which is due to issue on 7 June.

The Council is also expected to consider draft European Council Declaration.


High Representative Solana and the E3 will brief on the E3+3 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Vienna on 1 June, and HR Solana’s subsequent visit to Tehran.

Middle East Peace Process

The GAERC will consider the Middle East Peace Process declaration for the European Council. This is likely to welcome: the development of the temporary international mechanism (TIM) to support Palestinian basic needs directly; both sides’ commitment to negotiations; and to call on the new Palestinian government to accept the 3 Quartet principles.

World Trade Organisation

Commissioner Mandelson is expected to update the Council on recent developments including the negotiations in Abu Dhabi on the EU/Gulf Co-operation Council Free Trade Agreement.

Sustainable Development

We expect the Council to confirm political agreement of the revised EU sustainable development strategy before forwarding the text to Heads of State for adoption at the June European Council. The UK's aim has been to see a single coherent strategy that effectively communicates the Community's internal and external sustainable development objectives.

AOB: International facility for the purchase of medicine

French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy, is expected to raise the French proposal for an international drugs purchase facility (IDPF) which aims to lower the cost of drugs for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and improve the availability of these drugs.

In line with the UK/ France Communique at the Paris conference on innovative finance in February, we strongly support the IDPF and will work with France on the details as co-sponsor of the initiative, including the consultation process, to ensure the effectiveness of this proposal.

Climate Change

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Margaret Beckett): In recognition of the increasing importance of the FCO network in delivering our climate change goals, I have looked again at our strategic international priorities, set out in the Government White Paper “Active Diplomacy for a Changing World: the UK's International Priorities”, published in March. Climate change was covered in the White Paper and implicit in strategic priorities five and six. I believe that we need to
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emphasise its central importance to our international agenda by creating a new Strategic Priority. This will be:

This wording is designed to draw attention to the outcome that the effort on climate change needs to achieve; and to underline the reality, which is not yet fully reflected in the priorities of foreign ministries worldwide, that climate change has become a core foreign policy challenge.

I am also announcing today the appointment of John Ashton as my Special Representative for Climate Change. His primary focus will be to build a stronger political foundation for international action on climate change, working to build consensus among key governmental and non-governmental actors in priority countries.

DEFRA will continue to lead our international work on climate change. But the new Strategic Priority and John Ashton's appointment will strengthen significantly the contribution the FCO can make.

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