The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Ed Balls): The Government are strongly supportive of international efforts to tackle the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to prevent the abuse of financial systems. My written ministerial statement of 7 February 2007, Official Report, column 37WS informed Parliament that the Government were seeking the agreement of the Privy Council for the adoption of an Order in Council concerned with giving effect to the financial sanctions against Irans nuclear programme as required by UNSCR 1737. The Iran (Financial Sanctions) Order 2007 was laid before Parliament on 8 February and came into force on 9 February.
On 19 April, the European Union adopted EC Regulation No 423/2007. This regulation implements at a Community level the sanctions against Iran agreed under UNSCR 1737. It also establishes an autonomous EU financial sanctions list against entities and individuals associated with Irans nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. The regulation came into force on 20 April and is directly applicable in the UK. Council decision 2007/242/EC establishing the autonomous EU financial sanctions list came into force on 24 April.
In order to enforce the financial sanctions elements of EC Regulation No 423/2007, the Government are today laying before the Parliament the Iran (European Community Financial Sanctions) Regulations 2007. These establish prohibitions, offences and penalties with regard to persons who are on the autonomous EU financial sanctions list in relation to Iran. The Iran (Financial Sanctions) Order 2007 continues to apply with regard to persons who are on the UN financial sanctions list in relation to Iran.
As set out in the explanatory memorandum to the regulations, it is necessary that the regulations come into force as soon as possible in order to minimise the risk of asset flight. For this reason, the Government consider it necessary to waive the usual convention that there should be at least a 21 day period between regulations being laid and coming into force. Accordingly, the regulations will come into force tomorrow.
The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I represented the United Kingdom at this months Agriculture and Fisheries Council in Luxembourg.
The Council ultimately postponed political agreement on measures to ensure the recovery of the stock of European eel. A compromise text was tabled by the presidency during the meeting, taking into account a number of the concerns of interested member states. However, some member states had particular difficulties remaining which proved irreconcilable. This was unfortunate to say the least, given that the Council adopted conclusions calling for urgent measures as long ago as 2004. However, I hope the dossier will return to the Council in May or June for final approval.
The Council also held a policy debate on a proposal establishing a multi-annual plan for the recovery of cod stocks in the Baltic sea. Although the UK has no direct interest in the fishery, it is clearly important that the plan is adopted as a matter of some urgency. On the basis of the discussion, it is hoped that this will be possible in June.
There was an exchange of views on the Communitys approach towards eco-labelling schemes for fisheries products, based on a presidency questionnaire. There was a general consensus that European legislation should simply set minimum requirements for individual schemes, whilst allowing member states to introduce adaptations to suit their national circumstances. I argued that consumers had a role to play in supporting the development of sustainability in fisheries, but supported the use of EU legislation, with the proviso that it did not cut across existing successful schemes like those of the Marine Stewardship Council.
The Fisheries Commissioner updated the Council on the progress made in simplifying and improving the operation of the common fisheries policy (CFP). In particular, he confirmed that they would be cutting down on the size of the annual TAC and quota regulation to make its analysis easier and also that they would be conducting a study into the administrative burden placed on member states by the Communitys control and enforcement rules. I welcomed these initiatives.
The Council held a policy debate on proposals to reform the fruit and vegetables sector based on a presidency questionnaire covering decoupling of processing aids and the inclusion of crisis management measures within the operational programmes. I intervened to indicate a readiness to accept limited transition arrangements on decoupling and to warn against allowing crisis management measures to prop up structural surplus production.
The Agriculture Commissioner presented a report on cross-compliance rules introduced in the 2003 CAP reform and which form the first stage of the Commissions review of cross compliance due for completion by the end of 2007. In its report the Commission recommended inter alia the removal of disproportionate penalties for minor non-compliance, the introduction of uniform implementation between member states and advance notice of inspections. There was general support for these initiatives.
A number of issues, as follows, were raised under any other business.
The Agriculture Commissioner updated Council on the WTO agricultural negotiations following discussions with WTO partners (United States, India, Brazil and Japan) in Delhi. She said that there had been little in the way of substantive progress but that all parties had agreed to intensify work with the aim of concluding the round by the end of the year. In reply to some member states, the Commissioner confirmed that the EUs position in the negotiations is still its offer from October 2005.
The Council took note without discussion of updates provided by the Commission on avian influenza, and on the EU-Russia veterinary negotiations.
Denmark called on Council to encourage higher standards of animal welfare, in particular during transport, by using voluntary agreements with the industry.
The Council took note of Polands concerns about the definition of vodka as part of the current negotiations on the definition, presentation and labelling of spirit drinks.
A number of member states raised concerns about the Commissions offer to introduce duty and quota free access to the EU market for all African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) country products, with transitional periods for rice and sugar, as part of economic partnership agreement negotiations. The Commissioner confirmed that these developments had already been taken into account in the reform of the EU sugar market (2005). I intervened to support WTO-compatible trade liberalisation with these countries.
Spain expressed concerns regarding recent French activities targeting anchovies.
The Minister for Local Environment, Marine and Animal Welfare (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I have set the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) the following performance targets for 2007-08.
1. To meet 85 per cent. of rationale, objectives, appraisal, monitoring and evaluation (ROAME) milestones.
2. To achieve 85 per cent. of surveillance deliverables to time.
3. To achieve a three-year weighted average score of at least 82 per cent. in the VLA customer satisfaction survey.
4. VLA science auditachieve a score, which is good or above in the majority of the assessment areas including one excellent rating.
5. Maintain current third party certifications and accreditations
6. To achieve full cost recovery.
7. To deliver 2.5 per cent. efficiency savings.
8. Implement the VLA safety plan 2007-08 to timescales indicated.
9. Establish a formal framework agreement for extending collaboration with the Institute for Animal Health
Further details are given in the VLA business plan for 2007-08 a copy of which has been provided to the Library of the House along with copies of the VLA corporate plan.