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Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and External Relations Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and Sir John Grant (UK permanent representative to the EU) represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 17 July.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs

Presentation of Presidency Priorities

The Council took note of the presidency priorities which included the Middle East, Enlargement, Energy, Central Asia, Human Rights and Relations with Russia.


The Council adopted conclusions: welcoming the outcome of the Euro-Africa Ministerial Conference on Migration and Development in Rabat on 10-11 July; expressing its concern about the increasing illegal migratory flows in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic; and underlining the need to address the situation, including further work on East African routes.

External Relations

World Trade Organisation/Doha Development Agenda (WTO/DDA).

Commissioner Mandelson briefed the Council on developments in the current round of trade negotiations.

Procedural conclusions were adopted allowing the Council to meet in special session in July or August if a WTO Ministerial were called.


High representative Solana stressed the need for the international community to continue support for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) until UN transition, as well as putting pressure on the Sudanese Government to accept the UN mission. The high representative hoped that a high level-conference in Brussels on 18 July would make progress on both these issues.

The Council adopted conclusions: reiterating EU support for the Darfur Peace Agreement; emphasising
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the importance of an effective AMIS; and urging the Sudanese Government to agree to UN transition.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

The Council discussed the forthcoming elections in DRC on 30 July. External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said that the EU’s election observation mission in DRC, working with other international delegations and with MONUC (UN mission in DRC) and EUFOR (EU force in DRC) on security issues, should help ensure a smooth election process.

The Council agreed conclusions urging the Congolese to seize the opportunity offered by the elections and the authorities to fully comply with democratic principles and noting the ongoing deployment of the EUFOR and the EU election observation mission.

Western Balkans

The Council was briefed by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari on the state of play of the Kosovo status process. The EU would have a key role to play in Kosovo post-settlement.

The Council adopted conclusions on Kosovo reiterating its full support for Ahtisaari and his efforts in conducting the political process to determine Kosovo’s fixture status and welcoming the joint report by High Representative Solana and the Commissioner for Enlargement Rehn on the future EU role and contribution in Kosovo.

Conclusions on Macedonia welcomed the organisation for security and co-operation in Europe’s preliminary assessment that overall parliamentary elections on 5 July met international standards, despite some isolated incidents.

The Council also adopted conclusions recognising Montenegro as a sovereign state and highlighting the importance of regional cooperation in the framework of the stabilisation and association process.

An Extended Troika (the presidency, incoming presidency, enlargement Commissioner Rehn and high representative Solana) met Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica after the GAERC on 17 July to discuss Serbia’s co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the action plan that Serbia had drawn up on how to deliver on its ICTY commitments.

The presidency stressed that Serbia must begin to implement the action plan immediately with full cooperation with ICTY being a condition for restarting Stabilisation and Association Agreement negotiations.

Middle East Peace Process

High Representative Solana briefed the Council on his trip to Lebanon on 16 July.

The Council adopted conclusions: expressing concern at the situation in the Middle East, particularly the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the destruction of civilian infrastructure; supporting the idea of a possible international monitoring presence in Lebanon; and calling for international engagement, especially through High Representative Solana, to de-escalate the crisis.

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High representative Solana briefed the Council on his 11 July meeting with Iranian chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani.

The Council adopted conclusions covering the nuclear file, Iran’s approach to the Middle East Peace Process, terrorism and human rights.

Wilton Park

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): Wilton Park is an academically independent Executive Agency of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Its annual report and accounts for 2005-06 are laid before Parliament today.

Wilton Park celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2006. It continues to achieve high ratings from participants on the value of Wilton Park conferences. Building on last year’s successes, nine overseas conferences are planned for 2006. There has been an increase in the number of participants from certain key areas including international organisations and business.

Wilton Park’s performance against agreed targets for 2005-06 is shown below.

05-06 Target05-06 Performance

Total income



Excellent rating for programmes



Excellent rating for administration




Patient Power Review

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): As recommended by Ofcom in their report(1) of January 2006, the Department set up a Patient Power Review Group (PPRG) in February 2006 to explore which communication services could be offered to hospital patients without charging as high a price for incoming calls.

The Patient Power Review Group has been considering:

Further work is needed to provide a considered response to the recommendations made in the Health Select Committee’s report on NHS Charges published on 18 July.

A final report will be published by December 2006.

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Allergy Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Ivan Lewis): We have today published the report of the Department of Health review of services for allergy, which the Government undertook to carry out in its response (Cm 6433, January 2005) to the Health Committee report on the provision of allergy services (November 2004). The report has been placed in the Library and it is available on the Department of Health website at: mp;chk=/Z3Wtj

Home Department

Parental Compensation Order

The Minister for Policing, Security and Community Safety (Mr. Tony McNulty): The Parental Compensation Order (PCO) is provided for by sections 13A to 13E of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (“CDA 1998) which were inserted by section 144 of and Schedule 10 to the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

The PCO powers will be commenced initially in 10 local authority areas (Gateshead, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Wandsworth, Southwark, Leicester, South Tyneside and York). The use, impact and cost of the PCO will be evaluated as part of the wider use of early intervention.

Attempts to secure voluntary reparation should always be made. The PCO should be used only where that approach fails and when its use would be desirable in the interests of preventing a repetition of the behaviour in question. However, we hope that the existence of the PCO will encourage reparation and wider behavioural change on a voluntary basis.

By requiring the parent(s) or guardian(s) to pay compensation, the PCO is designed to provide compensation to those affected and to prevent further behaviour by the child of the type which caused the order to be made. The PCO will therefore encourage parents and their children to understand their responsibilities and to take responsibility for behaviour.

A PCO is designed to be used as part of a wider strategy to increase the parents' skills and improve their child's behaviour, to address risk factors and underlying problems experienced by the child and family, to steer the child away from involvement in anti-social or offending-type behaviour, to keep the child safe and to encourage positive outcomes.

A Magistrates' Court may make a PCO on application from a local authority when it is satisfied that the child (who must be under 10) has taken, or caused loss of or damage to property in the course of:

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Before making an order the court must consider:

It follows that local authority practitioners should form a view about the suitability of a PCO following assessment of the child, parents and family circumstances and in light of experience of trying to resolve the dispute on a voluntary basis. The PCO would be a viable option only with the support of the person affected by the damage, loss etc.

The effect of a PCO is to require the parent(s)/ guardian(s) of the child to pay compensation to the person affected. Compensation is limited to £5,000. In deciding the level of compensation the court must take into account:

The court is responsible for enforcement of the order and has the same enforcement powers as it does for fines.

The court can make a parenting order when making a PCO provided this would be desirable in the interests of preventing a repetition of the kind of behaviour which led to the PCO being made.

Guidance on the PCO is being completed with DfES following limited consultation with key stakeholders including the Welsh Assembly Government. Feedback from practitioners will help inform the improvement of the guidance. It is intended that there will be a wider consultation exercise on the guidance before implementation of the PCO across England and Wales.

Departmental Report

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (John Reid): We have today published the Home Office's 2006 departmental report. Copies are available in the House Library and on the Home Office website. The report describes the work of the Home Office during 2005-06, in particular as reflected in its strategic objectives and key targets as delivered by our three key business areas: policing, security and community safety; offender management and criminal justice reform; and immigration citizenship and nationality.

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Identity Cards

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): Section 37 of the Identity Cards Act 2006 requires a report to be laid before Parliament every six months, following Royal Assent, setting out the Secretary of State's estimate of the public expenditure likely to be incurred on the ID cards scheme during the 10 years beginning with the laying of the report. The first six-monthly report on the costs of the identity card scheme is due on 30 September but, because of the dates of recess, it will be laid before Parliament on their return on 9 October 2006.

National Identity Scheme

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): Feedback from industry on the procurement strategy for the national identity scheme has reinforced the importance of avoiding a big bang implementation and supports the incremental approach to the scheme. The Home Office report on the feedback will be published in August. Intellect, the trade association for the UK hi-tech industry has also produced a report on the procurement strategy as part of its concept viability process. Copies of both reports will be placed in the Libraries of the House on publication and the documents will also be made available via the Identity and Passport Service website

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