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The Minister for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge): I will be representing the UK at the Telecoms Council in Brussels on the morning of 11 December 2006. This is the only Telecoms Council under the Finnish presidency of the EU.
The first item on the agenda will be the Draft Council Resolution for a strategy for a secure information society in Europe. This concentrates specifically on trust and security in the ubiquitous information society of tomorrow. It reflects presidency concerns on information security issues and also the conclusions of the I2010 Information Society Conference, the presidency hosted in Helsinki on28 September. I intend to give my endorsement tothis resolution as the actions it outlines for the Commission, member states and stakeholders are all consistent with the accepted need to engender trust, security and confidence in the on-line transactions we all increasingly carry out.
The presidency will then introduce an exchange of views on the proposal for a regulation on roaming on public mobile networks within the Community. This draft regulation, adopted in July, and on which I recently wrote to the European Scrutiny Committees, seeks to reduce the level of roaming charges across the Community in a harmonised manner. While there has been a general consensus amongst member states that regulatory intervention is justified, there has been considerable concern on the detail of the Commission's draft, particularly regarding the imposition of retail price control. Indeed the UK, along with several other member states, believes that the current draft, if adopted, may unintentionally have consequences which might damage some consumer interests. In my intervention I will warmly endorse the objectives of the Commission but note the shortcomings of their approach, highlighting the UK-tabled amendments including the introduction of a sunrise clause on the imposition of a retail cap.
There will also be a short exchange of views on the proposal for the full accomplishment of the internal market of Community postal services. This will be achieved through the removal or reduction of obstacles that are currently hindering the functioning of the internal market. Given the benefits that will be achieved through the liberalisation of the market such as choice of provider, better service quality and improved value for money, I intend to fully support this proposal.
Finally, under Any Other Business, the presidency will provide feedback on their I2010 conference and the internet governance forum which took place in October. The Commission will also do a presentation on the communication that it issued in November entitled Bringing eCall back on track. I do not expect to intervene on any of these items.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mrs. Anne McGuire): In July this year I announced my decision to create Equality 2025. This is a new advisory body to help Government understand the needs and wishes of disabled people when developing policies and designing service delivery, recommended in the Prime Ministers Strategy Unit Report: Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People. Equality 2025 will:
a. work with the Government to help it achieve the aim of equality for disabled people by 2025.
b. provide advice and information from disabled people based upon the values underpinning the work of the Network and the views and experiences of disabled people.
c. advise Government Departments on how they can engage effectively and meaningfully with disabled people.
d. assist the Government in raising awareness of disabled people and their rights, improving attitudes towards them and challenging negative stereotypes in the media and the wider community.
e. help ensure that public bodies are meeting their legal duties under the DDA in relation to the Disability Equality Duty.
f. advise Government on the implementation and maintenance of international treaties and conventions within the UK
Equality 2025 will not replace existing departmental arrangements for involving disabled people in policy-making, but supplement them. It will work closely with other advisory bodies such as the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) and DEAC.
Initially there will be 21 members who are all disabled people. Between them they bring a wide range of skills and experiences that will enable them to look at all issues from an equalities view point rather than being representative of any disability or organisation.
The advisory group that helped to create Equality 2025 has produced a report containing all its recommendations for Equality 2025. I have placed this report and the Governments response in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): On behalf of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the BFI inspection reports on the following councils were published today: Carmarthenshire county council, Guildford borough council, Mid- Devon district council and Renfrewshire council. Copies have been placed in the Library.