The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (John Healey): Economic reform in Europe is vital to the prospects for growth and jobs in the UK. The challenges of globalisation mean that all EU member states must pursue real structural reforms to create a Europe that becomes more competitive as the route to delivering full employment and opportunity for all, and where flexibility and fairness advance together.
Under the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth, relaunched in 2005, the Government welcomed the introduction of national reform programmes. In October 2005, the Government published the first UK national reform programme (NRP), setting out priorities for national economic reform.
Today the Government published an update on the UK NRP, which reports on its comprehensive programme of long-term reform to deliver strong economic performance and employment growth in the UK now and in the future. This update demonstrates how Britain is leading economic reform in Europe, showing how an approach based on openness, free trade, competition and investmentin science, technology and skillsrepresents the right response to the challenges of globalisation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): This statement is issued in conjunction with the Minister for Industry and the Regions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge).
In September 2005, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the UK would switch over to fully digital TV broadcasting between 2008 and 2012. This will bring enormous benefits to all viewers, the broadcasting industries, the creative industries and the UK economy.
The timetable for these regions follows below, together with the timetable for the Border TV region that was announced in July 2006. These are the calendar quarters during which each main transmitter (and the many associated relay stations that carry its signal) will cease broadcasting analogue television, and begin transmitting a boosted digital signal. This will make digital TV through an aerial available to virtually all homes in each region.
The entire Granada region will switch to digital in this quarter, when the Winter Hill transmitter and its associated relaysserving Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire, are converted.
The Minister for Schools (Jim Knight): Schools must be safe places for both pupils and staff. Incidents involving knives and other weapons in school are rare, but we need to give headteachers stronger powers to act if they suspect a knife or another weapon is in their school. The Violent Crime Reduction Bill, currently being debated at Report stage in the House of Lords includes new powers for head teachers to search pupils if the heads suspect their pupils are carrying a weapon.
We will also provide guidance for schools on screening all their pupils for weapons using technology such as airport style walk-through metal detecting arches or hand held metal detecting wands. Screening can be carried out on all pupils, without their consent and without suspicion that a weapon might be found, provided it is carried out in a way that respects pupils' privacy. If screening indicates a weapon may be present, school staff could then use the new power included in the Violent Crime Reduction Bill (VCRB) to carry out a hands-on search. We plan to issue full guidance to schools on screening and hands-on searches if the VCRB receives Royal Assent.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 16-17 October in Luxembourg. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs will represent the UK at the Development and Trade Ministers' discussions.
The Council will agree Conclusions and discuss a Commission Communication that proposes principles and concrete actions to improve governance in developing countries with a focus on Africa, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This includes the provision of €3 billion in funds from the 10th European Development Fund (ACP countries only) whose release will be linked to a Governance Profile assessing partner governments' performance on, and commitment to, governance issues.
Development Ministers will agree Conclusions and, as part of the annual "Orientation Debate" on development issues, the Council will debate two aspects of aid effectiveness (complementarity and division of labour) based on questions from the presidency. The
questions focus on how donors should organise themselves at the country-level, as well as cross-countries and sectors, to be more effective.
Development Ministers will discuss migration informally over dinner, based on questions from the presidency covering the links between migration and development and follow-up to the UN High Level Dialogue on migration in September.
The Council will agree Conclusions on Aid for Trade and, in a joint session, Trade and Development Ministers will debate questions from the Presidency. These questions will focus on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), Aid for Trade, and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs).
The Council will adopt Conclusions on integrating development concerns into Council decision-making. As part of the annual "Orientation Debate" on development issues the Council will debate policy coherence for development in the context of effectiveness of EU external action.
The Council will review progress in implementing the EU Africa Strategy, agreed under the UK's presidency in 2005. This is an interim debate in advance of further discussion at the December Council with Conclusions expected to be agreed then and at the December European Council.
We will want the Council to give a strong and consistent message to President Bashir of Sudan, calling for a cease-fire, full humanitarian access, UN deployment/support for the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) until the UN can take over and implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. Funding of the AU Mission is another important issue, following its extension until the end of the year. The EU has agreed to continue support in coordination with the UN and other actors.
The Council is likely to focus on President Abbas' efforts to form a Government of National Unity and the recent clashes between Fatah and Hamas. The UK will raise the need for effective plans to strengthen Palestinian institutions.
The Council will discuss Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. On Serbia our assessment remains that Belgrade has not yet done enough to demonstrate compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to warrant restarting the Stabilisation and Association Agreement talks. On Bosnia the Council is expected to welcome the smooth conduct of elections as well as urging the need for progress on reform.
The High Representative for the Common and Security Policy, Javier Solana, will brief the Council on his recent contacts with the Secretary General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Dr Ali Larijani. Solana reported to the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, UK China, Russia and US on 6 October that Iran was not prepared to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, as required by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 1696. This is deeply disappointing. In Resolution 1696, the Security Council expressed its intention to adopt measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter if Iran did not comply.
The presidency is expected to report back on its recent visit to Georgia (part of a Troika visit to the South Caucasus region, related to agreement of European Neighbourhood Action Plans in each South Caucasus country). This is likely to be followed by a discussion on the recent escalation in tension in Georgian/Russian relations.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|