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That review has now concluded. It has confirmed that there is a growing requirement for a protected vehicle with capabilities between our heavy armour,
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such as Warrior, and lighter patrol vehicles, such as SNATCH. The review has also identified feasible options to address the gap in the short term. We have now completed a very rapid assessment of those options and have identified three complementary ways forward. Two of these build on, and accelerate, work already ongoing in the Department. The third is new. The necessary funding will come in part from acceleration of existing funding within the defence budget, and in part from substantial new funding from the Treasury.

The first element is an additional buy of around 100 VECTOR, our new Pinzgauer based protected patrol vehicle, for Afghanistan, on top of the 62 already on contract. VECTOR provides good protection and, importantly, increased mobility and capacity compared to SNATCH which makes it very suitable for the rugged terrain and long patrol distances in Afghanistan.

The second element is to provide around 70 additional up-armoured and upgraded FV430 to equip a mechanised infantry battlegroup for Iraq by the spring of 2007, again on top of the 54 we have already ordered. The FV430 will be delivered incrementally with the first vehicles currently expected to be delivered this autumn.

Significantly smaller and lighter than Warrior, the up-armoured FV430 will provide a similar level of protection while being less intimidating and having less impact on local infrastructure—thereby providing commanders with an important additional option. Since it is able to carry out many of the same tasks as Warrior, it will also relieve pressure on heavily committed Warrior vehicles and armoured infantry battlegroups.

The third, new element is the Cougar manufactured by Force Protection Incorporated of Charleston, South Carolina. We judge that this vehicle meets our requirement for a well protected, wheeled patrol vehicle with a less intimidating profile than tracked vehicles like Warrior or FV430. We are arranging to rapidly procure around 100 vehicles through US military sources. We have received excellent co-operation from the US Government, military and industry—an example of the special relationship bringing real benefits for our soldiers on the ground. Once we take possession of the vehicles, we must then customise them with Bowman radios and electronic counter-measures—and then fit additional armour beyond the standard level, to ensure they have the best possible protection. This procurement and enhancement process takes time. But we expect to be able to deliver the vehicles, in batches, with an effective capability in place before the end of the year and continuing through the next six month rotations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These three vehicles will complement existing Warrior and SNATCH. Warrior will continue to provide the capability to deal with the most demanding threats, but its profile and weight makes it unsuitable for some operations and situations, such as Afghanistan. SNATCH, with a much less intimidating profile, enables troops to interact with locals and promotes a sense of normality and will remain a key tool for building and maintaining consent. The up-armoured FV430, the Cougar medium PPV, and
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VECTOR fill the requirements for varying degrees of protection, mobility and profile between these two extremes. But I am confident that together these vehicles provide commanders with the right range of options to deal with the situations and threats they face.

In my Afghanistan statement on 10 July 2006, Official Report, columns 1131-35, I detailed the additional forces we shall deploy to Southern Afghanistan. I also undertook to provide further details of the enhancement of the Support Helicopter force deployed as part of the Helmand Task Force once I had received definitive advice on the needs of our Commanders on the ground. I have now had that advice, as endorsed by the Chief of the Defence Staff, and I have directed that those needs be met in full.

I have therefore directed that two extra CH-47 CHINOOK be deployed: the first in early September 2006, and the second in October. Helicopter force levels will remain under constant review.

I also wish to update the House on the units assigned to provide additional forces for Afghanistan. Force protection for 28 Regiment, Royal Engineers will be provided by W Company, 45 Commando, Royal Marines, not a composite unit as has been suggested. Finally, I erroneously referred in my earlier statement to 12 Signal Regiment. The unit listed should have been 14 Signal Regiment.


Stratetgic Export Controls (Annual Report)

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): The 2005 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls will be published at 11 o’clock today as a Command Paper. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. The Report describes UK policy and international developments in export control regimes, as well as information on export licensing decisions taken during 2005.

The Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls is an innovation of this Government. This report, the ninth Annual Report (the first report was published in 1997) is a step away from the traditional reports of the past. Our export licensing system is one of the most rigorous and transparent regimes in the world and the Annual Report —in this new format—symbolises our continued commitment to accountability and transparency by presenting detailed information in a more modern and user friendly format. This year, due to the increasing volume of information on strategic exports that is being published by the Government, all the statistical data that was historically published only in hardcopy is now made available on a CD ROM which accompanies the report. Since 2004 the Government have also produced detailed Quarterly Reports available on the Internet—ensuring that the UK provides some of the most open and timely export licensing information available anywhere. The new CD ROM includes the Quarterly Reports for 2005, as well as more consolidated data, information on licence refusals and fuller information on trade control
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(trafficking and brokering) licences issued during 2005. The complete Report will be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website and also published through The Stationery Office.

British Council Trustees (Annual Report and Accounts)

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): Copies of the British Council Trustees' annual report and accounts for the financial year ended 31 March 2006 have been placed in the Library of the House. During the period the Council received £189,210,000 grant-in-aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Prospects for the European Union 2006

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper 6896 on “Prospects for the European Union 2006”. This is the latest in a series of forward looks to the work programmes of the respective European Union Presidencies.

Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Additional copies can also be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website

The last White Paper was published in January at the conclusion of the UK Presidency of the EU. This was a retrospective of our Presidency as well as a forward look to the year ahead. The White Paper I am laying before the House today is an update to the Spring Paper and sets out in more detail the priorities of the Finnish Presidency over the next six months.

The Finnish Presidency began on 1 July. The Finns have presented an ambitious programme for the next six months which builds on the work of previous Presidencies and addresses many important challenges for the European Union. We agree with the challenges identified by the Finns and welcome their proposed priority actions. In particular we welcome the focus on follow-up to the Hampton Court agenda initiated under the UK Presidency in October 2005. The informal meeting of the European Council in Lahti on 20 October will focus on innovation and energy and will be an opportunity to look at the next steps we collectively need to take to meet Europe's needs in the 21st century.

The Finnish Presidency also plans to take forward work in key areas such as tackling climate change, enlargement, competitiveness, security and migration. For example we will see an open dialogue on the best way to drive international action on tackling climate change. This Presidency will host a discussion on the Commission report on enlargement progress in the Autumn. It will also oversee the mid term review of the 2004 Hague programme which will, amongst other issues, look at stronger EU co-operation to tackle illegal migration. The Finns hope to reach agreement
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on a number of important measures to boost European competitiveness including final adoption of the Services Directive and increased investment in Research and Development.

This agenda demonstrates the EU's commitment to delivering on issues of concern to our citizens. We welcome these priorities and look forward to working with the Finnish Presidency over an important six months.

“The United Kingdom in the United Nations”

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper 6892 entitled “The United Kingdom in the United Nations”.

The Command Paper provides a comprehensive overview of the work of the United Nations, and details the UK's significant contribution to the UN's efforts, consistent with the UK's strong support for the organisation.


Clostridium Difficile Outbreaks at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and Publication of Data on Healthcare

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): The Healthcare Commission has today published its investigation into outbreaks of clostridium difficile at Stoke Mandeville hospital (Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust). Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State commissioned this report to establish:

The Healthcare Commission's report identified the factors involved in the first outbreak and concluded that a failure to implement appropriately the lessons learnt from this, combined with an inadequate governance system, led to a delay in controlling the second outbreak. Since the outbreaks, the trust has improved infection control practice and consequently strengthened patient safety.

My right hon. Friend has today written to Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission to accept the conclusions of the report. This letter also asks that the Commission use the powers available to it to ensure that trusts are following the good practice set out in the new Code of Practice on Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infection and to use their powers of intervention where trusts fail to do so.

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The Department will work closely with the trust, the strategic health authority, the Health Protection Agency and the local primary care trusts in addressing the recommendations in the report. As the conclusions have a wider applicability to the health service, the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer will consider this report over the summer and assess how the lessons learned can be implemented both locally and nationally to reduce the risk from this infection. The Department will also ensure that the report's conclusions inform the review of the current C. difficile guidance.

Today also sees the publication of the latest information from the Department of Health's mandatory healthcare associated infections (HCAIs) surveillance system. This information, which has been placed in the Library, brings together data on MRSA blood stream infections, clostridium difficile associated disease, glycopeptide resistant enterococci blood stream infections and orthopaedic surgical site infections to help assess trends in HCAIs.

This statistical report has been prepared by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and is a part of our new approach to publication of HCAI data, where the HPA both manages the surveillance programme and publishes the data. An annual report will be produced every July to help evaluate trends and facilitate access to all the data.

Mandatory surveillance has shown a clear need to improve NHS performance and we believe that upgrading the level of surveillance and more rapid feedback of results will help performance. Therefore we intend to move to quarterly publication as soon as it is feasible to do so.

Expert Group on Phase 1 Clinical Trials - Interim Report

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Andy Burnham): On 25 May 2006 I informed the House that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had published its final report on the investigations into the incident that occurred with the phase 1 clinical trial for a drug in development known as TON 1412, Official Report, column 95WS. I also announced the membership of the expert group established by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State under the chairmanship of Professor Gordon Duff, to consider what the incident revealed about the underlying science, and how clinical trials involving these types of products should be managed in the future. I promised a further report to the House when the expert group provided its interim report.

That interim report is being published tomorrow, 25 July, together with the minutes of all its meetings, the documents submitted for its consideration and details of the evidence given by a wide range of stakeholders, all of which have contributed to its preliminary findings. A copy of the interim report will be placed in the Library.

It is important to recognise that this is an interim report, that a public consultation will take place on its proposals, and further opportunities for interested parties to give evidence will be available in the autumn.

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The Government are very grateful for the great deal of progress already made on this important issue by the expert group in the two months since it first met. The group anticipates completing its work in the autumn and I will provide a further report to the House when this report is available.

Home Department

Criminal Records Bureau (Annual Reports and Accounts 2005-06)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): I announce that the 2005-06 annual report and accounts for the Criminal Records Bureau have been laid before Parliament. Arrangements are now in hand for their publication and copies will be placed in the House Library.

Justice and Home Affairs Council 24 July 2006

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Joan Ryan): The Justice and Home Affairs Council will be held today, 24 July 2006, in Brussels. I am attending on behalf of the Home Office. I thought it would be useful if I were to outline the main issues I expect to be discussed.

The Council will take an initial presentation by the Commission on the Hague programme review. There will also be discussion of migration issues and, in the mixed committee format, the second generation Schengen Information System. On the first of these, the Commission will present four communications: the future direction of the Hague programme which includes a proposed use of Article 42 TEU (the passerelle clause); reviewing the implementation of the Hague programme to date (the scorecard); options for better evaluation of the impact of EU policies in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA); and a legislative proposal based on Article 67(2) TEC adapting the provisions of the European Court of Justice under Title IV (immigration, asylum and civil law matters). The presidency has indicated that they will focus on procedure and handling and is not looking for substantive discussion on these items at this Council. Detailed discussion, including in relation to the more controversial aspects, such as the possible use of Article 42 TEU (the passerelle clause) and Article 67(2) TEC (adapting the remit of the ECJ in Title IV) will take place later in the year, including at the September Informal JHA Council in Finland. Those aspects aside, the Government’s initial view is to welcome the focus on implementation and more effective evaluation contained in the communications.

There will be information items on the EU preparations for the UN high-level dialogue on international migration and development and the report on the outcome of the Euro African ministerial conference on migration and development held in Rabat on 10-11 July 2006. The Government welcome the adoption of the EU common position at the General Affairs and External Relations Council last week, 13 July; we will continue to feed into preparations for the UN High Level Dialogues on
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International Migration and Development, which take place in September. There will also be a presentation by the Commission and Frontex (EU Border Agency) on the situation in the Mediterranean and Africa. We expect there to be a focus on the continuing influx of illegal immigrants to the Canaries and Malta. The UK strongly supports EU joint operational activity in the Mediterranean and has offered technical assistance to the Spanish and Maltese authorities.

There will be discussion on the management of migration flows; specifically on the two Commission Communications on: a policy plan for legal migration and a common policy on illegal immigration. The presidency will be seeking a first exchange of views on both items. The UK will be encouraging solutions of sharing best practice and establishing common principles, while advising against inflexible, detailed prescription, especially in the form of legislative measures on labour access.

The Government are fully committed to tackling the problem of illegal immigration of third country nationals and notes with interest the Commission’s Communication; we will examine concrete proposals for measures when they are tabled in due course.

In the mixed committee format the presidency will be hoping to agree a general approach on the key outstanding issues in the three legal instruments establishing SIS II—a regulation covering immigration aspects, a Council decision covering law enforcement aspects and a regulation covering access by vehicle registration authorities—with a view to reaching a First Reading deal with the European Parliament in September. This is the last opportunity to resolve the major outstanding issues within the Council before the expected EP vote in September. The UK will not participate in the regulation covering immigration but will participate in the other two legal instruments.

Two further presentations by the Commission are expected in the margins of the meeting. These are on: i) a proposal for a regulation setting up the powers and the financing of teams of national border control experts of member states (Rapid Border Intervention Teams) to provide joint EU technical and operational assistance at the external EU Border, co-ordinated by Frontex and ii) a proposal for a community code on visas—a Schengen measure in which the UK will not participate. Although the UK will not participate in the first proposal, we support the concept of nominated experts deployed at short notice to respond to emergencies to help enhance the security of the EU external border, but will wish to look carefully at the detail.

Finally there is likely to be a lunch-time presentation by Commissioner Franco Frattini on the issue of CIA rendition flights.

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