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This item is on the agenda following the recent conference in Rabat (10-11 July), which addressed migration from West Africa. The UK supports the work done by the Rabat conference and agrees with other Partners that there is a need for parallel action on migration from East Africa. We will work with concerned partners on setting up follow-up action.

Conclusions are expected.

External Relations

World Trade Organisation/Doha Development Agenda

Commissioner Mandelson is expected to update partners on the latest state of play on the negotiations.

External Spending Instruments

This was originally put on the agenda as follow-up to discussion by officials in Brussels. However, as the structure of the external financing instruments has changed over the past week, following further discussions with the European Parliament, an agreement may be reached on financial allocations at working group level this week, which would lead to this item being taken off the GAERC agenda.


The UK is very concerned by President Bashir's refusal to accept transition to a UN force in Darfur. We will call for continued pressure on the Government of Sudan to accept handover. In the meantime the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) needs urgent bolstering. This will require significant financial support from the international community.

At the 18 July pledging conference all member states, including those who have not been significant donors so far, should make generous contributions. The UK will formally announce £20 million in support of AMIS for this year, bringing our total contribution to £52 million. We have been lobbying others to do more.

Conclusions are expected.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Discussion is likely to focus on elections and the EUFOR RDCongo.

The DRC will see its first democratic elections in 45 years on 30 July. Together, the EC and EU member states are contributing 80 per cent. of the financing for elections. The EU is providing an Election Observation Mission (EOM) of over 300 observers. At UN request, the EU is also providing a force (EUFOR RDCongo) to support the UN Organisation Mission in the DRC (MONUC) over the election period. The French and Germans have provided most of the troops. The UK is providing three officers (one in Potsdam, two in Kinshasa headquarters). We are unable to provide further military personnel because of commitments elsewhere.

Conclusions are expected.

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Relations with the Western Balkans

We expect Kosovo and Serbia to dominate ministerial discussion. Martti Ahtisaari is likely to brief the GAERC following the UN Security Council meeting this week. We will want to see continued strong EU support for Ahtisaari.

The first meeting of the Enhanced Troika with Serbia is scheduled to take place following the GAERC.

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions covering Kosovo, Montenegro, the conduct of the Macedonian elections and regional cooperation.

The Middle East Peace Process

Ministers will discuss the current situation in Gaza. They will consider how best to continue to work to reduce tension in the region.

The Council is expected to adopt conclusions.


We expect partners to consider latest developments and the High Representative to brief on his recent contacts with the Secretary General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani.


There may be discussion over lunch on Iraq, which is likely to focus on the International Compact, the preparatory meeting of which is scheduled to take place on 20 July.

The Secretariat and Commission have also produced a joint paper on the Iraq Compact.

We do not expect conclusions.


Health Reform in England: Update and Commissioning: and A Stronger Local Voice

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): Yesterday I published two publications which will take forward our commitment to place patients and the public at the heart of the way our health services are run: “Health Reform in England: Update and Commissioning Framework” and “A Stronger Local Voice”, which set out the Government's plans for the future arrangements to support public involvement in health and social care.

The update on health reform sets out a clear vision: to develop a patient-led NHS that uses available resources as effectively and fairly as possible to promote health, reduce health inequalities and deliver the best and safest possible healthcare.

The centrepiece of the update publication is a framework for commissioning. It will act as a manual for new primary care trusts to achieve excellence in the way they secure healthcare for their local people.

Commissioning is the means by which we secure the best possible healthcare and outcomes, including reduced health inequalities, within the money made available by the taxpayer. Commissioning itself is not
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new, but stronger primary care trusts and the acceleration of practice-based commissioning—together with the powerful new set of incentives and mechanisms introduced by the health reforms—provide the opportunity for far more effective commissioning that will benefit patients and taxpayers alike.

Effective commissioning will require:

The reorganisation of PCTs, the moves towards universal coverage of practice-based commissioning, and the establishment of the specialist commissioning groups will provide the basic architecture for commissioning NHS services.

The Department of Health will be seeking views from the NHS and partner organisations over the summer on the key proposals to inform final decisions. Views are sought on options for contracting in the NHS, a governance and accountability framework for practice-based commissioning and triggers for petitions.

The framework sets out the development programmes we are making available to all PCTs as they build on the good commissioning practice that already exists. We also issued yesterday an Official Journel of the European Union notice to procure a framework agreement and call-off contract which will enable PCTs to draw on private sector expertise to support their commissioning. This does not in any way affect or relate to PCT directly provided services. PCT boards will be entirely free to choose to what extent, if any, they make use of the call-off contract. In all cases the PCT board remains accountable and responsible for all commissioning decisions.

This commissioning framework focuses on commissioning NHS services, and in particular commissioning hospital services. This is the first step in making commissioning truly effective. We know that joint commissioning of services with local authorities and commissioning for health and well-being are important too. A second framework covering these wider issues will be published in December.

The commissioning framework is supported by an update on the other elements of the reform programme: choice, provider reform, workforce, system management, tariff and other financial incentives and information.

Effective commissioning will require real community engagement. The commissioning framework will therefore work alongside “A Stronger Local Voice”, which sets out the Government's plans for the future arrangements to support public involvement in health and social care.

These include plans to build on patient and public involvement forums through the creation of local involvement networks (LINks). The networks will provide a flexible vehicle for communities and groups to engage with health and social care organisations, and will promote public accountability in health
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and social care through open and transparent communication with commissioners and providers.

We also plan to simplify and strengthen the legislative requirements currently set out in Section 11 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001, to clarify the duties on all NHS bodies to involve and consult patients and the public on all services they provide or commission. There will be a new duty placed on commissioners to respond to what patients and the public have said.

I believe that the new environment being created by the reforms, using incentives and commissioning, will mean that commissioners become advocates for patients and taxpayers, driving up the quality, fairness, responsiveness and value for money of NHS services.

Copies of all publications are available in the Library.

Medical Regulation

The Secretary of State for Health (Ms Patricia Hewitt): The Shipman Inquiry, chaired by Dame Janet Smith, examined the circumstances surrounding the murders of some 250 patients by Dr. Harold Shipman, a general practitioner.

Following the publication of “The Shipman Inquiry: Fifth Report” in December 2004, which was highly critical of the General Medical Council and the broader arrangements for medical regulation, my noble Friend the Minister of State, Lord Warner commissioned a review. Shortly thereafter, the Department of Health elected to conduct a parallel review of the arrangements in place for the regulation of the other healthcare professions in order to provide consistency of approach and in recognition of the blurring of traditional job roles in healthcare.

The review of medical regulation was conducted by Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England. His report, “Good Doctors, Safer Patients” is published today, along with the parallel departmental review of non-medical regulation. Both reports focus upon the protection of the interests and safety of patients.

“Good Doctors, Safer Patients” is a rigorous and thorough report, taking into account systems of regulation in other high-risk industries, systems in operation in other jurisdictions and the views of the profession and the public. It is the first comprehensive review of medical regulation for over 30 years. There are 44 recommendations. The parallel review of non-medical regulation followed a similar process.

Among the key themes raised in the two reports are: changes to the governance and accountability of the professional regulators; the importance of operationalised standards against which to regulate; the appropriate legal standard of proof; the introduction of an independent adjudicator; a spectrum of revalidation across all clinical professions; and devolution of some regulatory powers to the local level.

Professional regulation is a complex area. I very much welcome the publication of these reports and the authoritative contribution that they make.

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Today, I am announcing a period of consultation on the proposals put forward by the Chief Medical Officer in “Good Doctors, Safer Patients”, and upon the options outlined in the parallel review of non-medical regulation. As regulation of most professions is a matter reserved to Westminster, comments on the reports are invited on a UK wide basis. Matters relating to specific devolved administrations may be copied to the appropriate administration. Both reports are accompanied by initial regulatory impact assessments. Copies of the reports have been placed in the Library.

Prime Minister

Chief Surveillance Commissioner

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I have laid before both Houses the Annual Report for 2005-06 of the Chief Surveillance Commissioner, the right hon. Sir Andrew Leggatt. I am grateful to the Commissioner for this report and the work that has gone into preparing it.

This is Sir Andrew's last report before his retirement as Chief Surveillance Commissioner. I would like to place on the record my thanks for all that he has achieved over the last eight years to keep under review the conduct of lawful surveillance by public authorities (other than intelligence agencies), to identify and promote good practice and, where it occurs, to challenge and eliminate bad practice.

Trade and Industry

Low Pay Commission

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Jim Fitzpatrick): In their 2006 report to Government the Low Pay Commission recommended that the accommodation offset provisions should continue to apply to all workers housed by their employer in all circumstances, and that Government update existing guidance and raise awareness. It also recommended that the Government should implement legislative measures to prevent
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employers using the device of a separate accommodation company to evade the offset.

The Government accept the need to update guidance on the accommodation offset in its response in March 2006. In the House of Commons debate on 3 July and the Lords debate of the 4 July 2006 on the Draft National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (Amendment Regulations) 2006 the Government announced that they agreed with the Low Pay Commission's recommendation that the accommodation offset should apply in all situations, but believed that legislative measures were not required. Existing legislation already covers a wide range of circumstances in which the employer provides accommodation to workers. We announced our intention to consult on the clarity of the revised guidance.

I am pleased to advise in line with better regulations guidelines that we are issuing draft guidance on the accommodation offset for consultation and will be consulting with a range of interested parties.

Copies of the draft guidance will be placed in both Houses.

Energy Review

The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (Mr. Alistair Darling): Further to my statement to the House on Tuesday 11 July, it has come to light that the statistics quoted on electricity appliances on standby should have referred to 8 per cent. of electricity used in the home, not 7 per cent. electricity generated in the United Kingdom 11 July 2006, Official Report, column 1261.

HMT Agreement to Extension to ECGD's Pilot Trading Fund

The Minister for Trade (Mr. Ian McCartney): I am pleased to inform the House that the Export Credits Guarantee Department's pilot trading fund has been extended for a further year.

ECGD has made good progress with its work to determine under what conditions it would be right for the Department to move to Statutory Trading Fund status. This has coincided with ECGD undertaking a significant restructuring programme. Extra time is therefore required to allow ECGD to complete its testing of Statutory Trading Fund status and to advise Ministers accordingly.

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