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In the middle of August popular protests began against rises in fuel prices of up to 500 per cent.—a measure that had severe implications for the already impoverished Burmese people. The protests were swiftly followed by arrests of pro-democracy activists. The UK condemned the actions of the regime and
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called for the immediate release of those detained. I expressed the UK's solidarity with the protesters and warned the regime that it would be judged by how it responded to this peaceful movement.

In late September the demonstrations grew rapidly in size, led by large numbers of Buddhist monks. These demonstrations were peaceful and orderly. On 20 September Professor Ibrahim Gambari, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General, briefed the UN Security Council in informal session, a development which I welcomed publicly, while expressing concern for the peaceful demonstrators. On 22 September demonstrators were permitted to walk past the house in which Aung San Suu Kyi is being held under house arrest. As the crisis developed, the Prime Minister and I issued a number of statements and spoke to many of our international counterparts urging against repression and calling for reconciliation. After the Prime Minister had written to the UN Secretary General and the President of the EU expressing concern, the EU issued a statement on 25 September warning that it would not hesitate to impose strengthened measures against the Burmese regime if they resorted to violence; and there were further informal Security Council discussions on 26 September.

As we now know, the response of the regime—which it tried, unsuccessfully, to hide from the outside world - was one of violence and brutality. The security forces turned their guns on unarmed demonstrators. We do not know for certain how many people were killed but we fear it is many more than the regime has admitted. Monks and opposition leaders have been beaten and arrested. Many remain in detention and reports suggest that they are being held in appalling conditions. Through the indiscriminate use of force, the regime has suppressed the protests and forced people off the streets.

The crisis is continuing in Burma. There are a number of urgent questions the regime must answer. They must provide precise information on those who have been killed or injured; and on those who have been detained—their identities, whereabouts, and the conditions in which they are being held. The regime must immediately accede to the requests for urgent access for the Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Professor Pinheiro. And they must engage with Ambassador Gambari in developing an inclusive political process for reform.

UK action since crisis began

UK action has focused on three specific areas.

First, the UK has been working actively with the international community, and with Burma's neighbours in particular, to put pressure on the regime to end the violence, release political detainees, including those arrested for peacefully expressing their views in the recent protests, ensure full respect for human rights and work towards genuine reconciliation with all the relevant political and ethnic parties in Burma. This work remains a high priority for the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, other FCO Ministers and the entire diplomatic network.

Second, we have been pursuing urgent action in the United Nations. The UK pressed for the Security Council discussions that took place on 20 and 26 September and most recently, in formal session, on 5
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October, and we pressed for the visit by Professor Gambari, to Burma to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and the military leaders. We look forward to a return visit by Ambassador Gambari.

The UK also pushed hard for a Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which, with strong UK involvement and support, passed a Resolution on 2 October deploring the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators and agreeing to send the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Professor Pinheiro, on an urgent mission to Burma to report on the human rights situation

Third, with our EU partners we have been working to strengthen sanctions against the regime. This will continue over the next week in the run up to the General Affairs Council on 15 October.

Future direction

We have three clear objectives, building on the work we have already been doing. The Prime Minister re-emphasised these objectives when he met Burma activists on Saturday 6 October—the day of global action on Burma.

First, the international spotlight must be kept firmly on Burma. We will continue to highlight the appalling recent events in Burma and use our diplomatic network to keep our international partners focussed on the need to address urgently the ongoing human rights abuses there. On 6 October the Prime Minister drew attention to a compilation of material by FCO officials, drawing together information on recent human rights violations in Burma from media, eyewitness and diplomatic sources. This can be found on the front page of the FCO Website:

Second, the regime must understand that it cannot turn the clock back to the dire situation before the recent demonstrations. We welcomed Professor Gambari's clear statement on 5 October that the status quo ante was both unacceptable and unsustainable. Recent events have demonstrated clearly that this would pose unacceptable risks to Burma's long-suffering population and to the region.

At its meeting on 5 October, members of the United Nations Security Council sent a clear signal that a process of national reconciliation leading to democracy, full respect for human rights and the rule of law is the only way forward. That process must involve Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders of the democratic opposition and ethnic groups. And it will need to have international legitimacy. We continue to support urgent and active UN engagement to pursue such a process, and are pressing for an early return visit by Professor Gambari to Burma.

Third, we will galvanise and mobilise international support to put pressure on the regime. In addition to further engagement by the UN Security Council and the UN Secretary General, we also need all those with influence on the regime to use it to press for positive change. China and other key nations such as Thailand and India can play a crucial role. We appreciate the efforts China has already made in support of Professor Gambari's recent visit to Burma and we hope China will continue to use its influence on the regime to push for genuine dialogue with the political opposition. My recent meetings with Foreign Ministers of all three countries have provided the opportunity to explain the priority we give to this issue.

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We expect the European Union General Affairs and External Relations Council to announce a package of tougher measures against Burma on 15 October. We will push for these to include a ban on future investment, on top of the sanctions against individuals and their assets and measures aimed at specific commodities. These will be designed to have the greatest impact on those whose behaviour we are trying to change - the regime and those that benefit from their policies.

Support for the people of Burma

If the Burmese regime changes course and shows it is willing genuinely to work for reconciliation, democracy and poverty reduction, an economic package involving the UN, International Financial Institutions and bilateral donors could be offered. This could include the establishment of a multi-donor Trust Fund to support health, education and other key sectors; support for debt relief; financial and technical support for democratic elections; an investment conference to attract foreign direct investment; trade measures to facilitate Burma's entry into the global trading system, support for civil society including the development of a free media as well as continued humanitarian relief

Meanwhile, in response to PM's discussion with the activists he met on 6 October, the UK has announced an additional £1 million to meet the urgent humanitarian needs in Burma arising from this latest episode of gross misrule. This will help ensure that vulnerable people do not suffer because of the actions of the regime.


Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo): Today we have laid before Parliament the Government response to the Joint Committee’s report on the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill (Cm 7209).

On 17 May 2007, the Government published draft legislation to revise and update the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. This was set out in the Human Tissue and Embryos (Draft) Bill.

The Government welcomed the establishment of a joint committee of both Houses to undertake pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government are grateful for the Committee’s report and have accepted several of the key recommendations. We believe that an improved Bill will result from this process.

The Command Paper sets out the Government’s response to all 31 recommendations and is available in the Library.

NHS Injury Benefits

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The scheme administrators have identified shortcomings with the administration of the NHS Injury Benefits Scheme since 1972. The review identified that:

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The Pensions Division of the NHS Business Services Authority have instituted corrective action and all those known to be affected will be notified that their claims will be reviewed. People who have been underpaid will receive the money they are due and those who have been overpaid will not be expected to pay the money back. Once corrections have been made to known cases, an advertising campaign will be undertaken to identify individuals who may have been inappropriately advised against making claims.

The Government take very seriously the difficulties that have been identified with the administration of the NHS Injury Benefit Scheme over many years. They support the action of the scheme administrators in identifying the historic issues and in undertaking corrective action.

Recruitment to Medical Training

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Sir John Tooke announced the results of his inquiry into Modernising Medical Careers (MMC) this morning. We would like to thank Sir John Tooke and his review group for investing so much time and expertise in providing recommendations for the future of medical training for 2009 and beyond. We will consider Sir John’s findings carefully.

Recruitment to Medical Training in 2008

Following a discussion document and feedback from stakeholders, the new MMC programme board, whose members include the British Medical Association, the Academy of Royal Colleges and NHS Employers, has recommended changes to junior doctor training and recruitment for 2008. We have accepted its recommendations which are as follows:

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Recruitment to Medical Training in 2007.

The previously announced employment guarantee covers the period 1 August to 31 October while doctors continue to compete for posts in round 2 of this year’s recruitment. There are about 1,000 additional training posts being created for the end of round 2 as a transitional safety net for junior doctors. The transitional training posts will be filled in November and December. We have therefore decided to extend the employment guarantee to 31 December 2007, when recruitment to the transition training posts will have been completed.

MTAS Security Investigation

Following the security breach on 25 April further investigations have indicated that the personal data were accessed by a user accessing the information through the Imperial College London network. The Department understood that a continuing police investigation would result in serious invasive actions into Channel 4 and Imperial College and constitute a disproportionate response. The college has volunteered its complete co-operation in the matter. It has been supplied with the evidence and is carrying out its own investigations into the conduct of the user. The college has assured the Department that it is treating this as a serious issue and dealing with it in a proportionate and appropriate manner. Consequently, the police are taking no further action at this time.

International Medical Graduates

A consultation to help formulate policy on the place of international medical graduates (IMGs) in recruitment to specialist training for 2008 has been launched today. The consultation has been placed in the Library.

Adult Mental Health Services

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. Ivan Lewis): A set of principles and high level indicators for Adult Mental Health Medium Secure Services was published by the Department in August 2007 and has been placed in the Library. A summary document is available to hon. Members in the Vote Office.

This set of documents provides best practice guidance to support the process of commissioning safe and clinically appropriate adult medium secure services across the NHS and Independent Sector. The principles are supported by high level indicators which commissioners can use to describe to providers the standard of security and care they wish to commission. The documents have been developed with the assistance of specialised commissioners and are supported by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

This documentation defines and clearly describes what a medium secure service should provide in terms of care and the appropriate security standards. Issuing a national set of principles for Medium Secure Services should substantially strengthen the commissioning function.

Modernising mental health services remains one of this Government’s core national priorities. Medium secure mental health services are a key element of the forensic mental health system. For patients, these services are an important part of an integrated pathway, when they need care and treatment in a secure environment. The
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number of patients who will need this sort of treatment is only a small proportion of patients with mental health problems. However, it is essential for those who do need this treatment that they receive compassionate, beneficial and safe services.

Home Department

Juxtaposed Control Zones, Eurostar Terminals

The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Liam Byrne): I am today announcing changes to juxtaposed control zones for the new Eurostar Terminals at St. Pancras and Ebbsfleet International. Juxtaposed controls have been highly successful in reducing the dangerous and illegal crossing of the Channel. The changes in location of the control zone from Waterloo to St. Pancras and a new zone at Ebbsfleet International will take place when Eurostar moves its operations in November. In line with the Government’s strategic objective to strengthen our borders, this will allow us to continue work jointly with our French and Belgian partners to protect our borders against the threats from illegal immigration.

The Sangatte Protocol 1991 and the Additional Protocol to the Sangatte Protocol 2000, given effect by the Channel Tunnel (International Arrangements) Order 1993, provide the basis for juxtaposed controls at Eurostar terminals for trains travelling between France and the UK. A tripartite agreement between France, Belgium and the UK of 1993, a protocol to that agreement and administrative arrangements made pursuant to that instrument in 2004 provide the basis for juxtaposed controls in respect of trains travelling between Belgium and the UK (via France) via the channel tunnel. These are given effect by the Channel Tunnel (Miscellaneous Provisions) Order 1994. Secondary legislation is to be laid before Parliament to make the necessary provision for the new control zones at St Pancras and Ebbsfleet International and to remove the control zone at Waterloo International. Copies of the amended international agreements will be available in the House Libraries.

International Development

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has an essential role to play in delivering protection and assistance to refugees, ensuring an effective response to the needs of people displaced from their homes by conflict, and finding and promoting durable solutions to their plight.

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