Previous Section Index Home Page

Conclusions were agreed underlining that development and security considerations should inform EU strategies and policies in order to contribute to the coherence of EU external action. Conclusions highlighted the
27 Nov 2007 : Column 20WS
interdependence of work on security and development, the key role of the UN and the need for a strategic approach, reflecting CFSP priorities in development planning and vice versa.

Development Ministers

Orientation debate on the effectiveness of EU external action

The annual orientation debate focussed on the development consequences of the new joint strategy and action plan, aimed at providing a comprehensive framework for EU-Africa relations from 2008-10, following presentation of a presidency paper.

Towards an EU response to situations of fragility

World Bank President Robert Zoellick briefed Ministers on the Bank’s approach to fragility and work on climate change. Member states agreed on the need for rapid work to improve coordination on the ground and enhance the synergy of EU development instruments.

Conclusions were agreed welcoming the Commission’s paper on fragility, endorsing the OECD Development Assistance Committee’s Principles for Good International Engagement in Fragile States and Situations and calling for the comprehensive and forward-looking use of Community and Member State Development Instruments to address situations of fragility.

Policy coherence for development

Ministers discussed work on the policy coherence for development or beyond aid agenda. Progress had been made, but a number of member states called for increased momentum. The Secretary of State for International Development called for greater effort on achieving the millennium development goals (MDGs), further progress on reform of the common agricultural policy, development-friendly trade rules and urgent action to tackle climate change.

Conclusions were agreed reporting on the role that EU policies other than development had in helping developing countries achieve the MDGs. They welcome the introduction of mechanisms into EU policy formation designed to improve policy coherence for development, but note that work remained to be done.

Economic partnership Agreements (EPAs)

Commissioner for Trade, Peter Mandelson, briefed Ministers on progress in negotiations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific states affected by EPAs. The Secretary of State for International Development underlined the importance of agreement on EPAs being reached by the end of the year.

Conclusions were agreed underlining EU commitment to the negotiations, endorsing the Commission’s two step approach, that aimed to achieve agreement on market access for goods by the end of the year, and calling for maximum WTO-compatible flexibility in negotiating the agreements, respecting the right of the negotiating states to determine the best policies for their development.

Advancing Agriculture in Africa

Ministers discussed the Commission’s communication on advancing agriculture in Africa.

Conclusions were agreed recognising the importance of broad-based sustainable agricultural growth for poverty reduction and food security, and in attaining the millennium development goals (MDG) in Africa. They also welcome
27 Nov 2007 : Column 21WS
the decision by African heads of state to increase the share of national budgets allocated to agriculture and rural development.

Partnership with Cape Verde

Ministers welcomed Cape Verde’s prospective graduation from LDC status at the beginning of 2008.

AOB: Ratification on the Cotonou partnership Agreement

Ministers updated the Council on progress in ratifying the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. The UK has completed the ratification process.


Allergy Report (Government Response)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ann Keen): The Government’s response to the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report on allergy has been laid before Parliament (Cm 7255). It is available in the Library and on the Department’s website at:

Innovation, Universities and Skills

EU Education Council

The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell): My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State with responsibility for intellectual property and quality attended the EU Education Council to represent the UK on behalf of DCSF and DIUS.

Ministers discussed the following issues:

European Qualifications FrameworkPolitical Agreement

The Council agreed the European Parliament amendments to the EQF. These amendments were in line with the General Approach that had been agreed previously at the Education Council, and there were no additional comments.

Improving the Quality of Teacher EducationAdoption of Conclusions

The conclusions are intended to help countries improve teaching standards and attract high-quality teachers into the profession. The UK was happy to support these conclusions, which were adopted without discussion.

Education and Training as a Key Driver of the Lisbon Strategy’—Adoption of Resolution

This resolution focuses on the role that education and training have to play within the Lisbon strategy, notably the role of education in the knowledge triangle, the links between education and training and other ‘Lisbon’ policies, and the effective use of peer learning and the open method of co-ordination. The resolution was formally adopted with no discussion, and the Commission
27 Nov 2007 : Column 22WS
gave information on the Joint Report of the 2010 Work Programme, a draft of which they had accepted earlier in the week.

New Skills for New Jobs’—Adoption of Resolution

This resolution emphasises the importance of anticipating skills needs and providing opportunities for citizens to improve their skill levels to match these needs. I intervened to congratulate the presidency for this initiative, to reinforce the fact that skills have an enabling role and help Europe to compete in an increasingly globalised world, and to emphasise the importance of training those with low skills and those most at risk of social exclusion. The resolution was then adopted with no further comments.

‘Towards a More Multilingual Europe’—Exchange of Views

Most Ministers welcomed this focus on multilingualism, stressing the important social and economic role it has to play within the EU. The main points raised during the discussion included the issues surrounding language training for migrants and the importance of looking beyond the EU to other important global languages. I intervened to acknowledge that the UK has not historically performed well in the teaching and learning of foreign languages, but that significant initiatives have been introduced in recent years. I stressed the importance of all languages, rather than just European languages, in fostering strong and cohesive multicultural communities. It would be a mistake to regard the languages used by long-settled communities as simply an ‘immigration’ issue without regard to pride in historic cultural roots.

Erasmus Mundus Action Programme (2009-13)General Approach

Ministers agreed a General Approach on the new phase of the Erasmus Mundus Programme, which will see an expansion of the programme to all levels of higher education, but particularly to doctoral studies, and provide additional financial support for EU students.

Resolution on Modernising UniversitiesExchange of Views

Ministers discussed this resolution, which addresses issues around autonomy, governance, curricula and mobility and will go to the Competitiveness Council (23 November) for formal adoption. I supported the joint approach linking mutually reinforcing areas of university and research policy, and stressed the importance of member states committing to university reforms, which are important for both economic reasons and for the life of universities. Other Ministers reported some progress in reform but were frank about how much more was needed.

Student Mobility: Broadening the Social Dimension of Erasmus—Exchange of Views

This discussion saw a call from many Ministers for ‘positive discrimination’ in the awarding of grants, to encourage young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate. France stated that they would work on this during their presidency. Anne Lambert, UK Deputy Permanent Representative, intervened to underline the importance of mobility in meeting the challenges of globalisation.

27 Nov 2007 : Column 23WS


Forced Marriage (Civil Protection ) Act 2007

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): Today the Government are announcing their timetable for the introduction during 2008 of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007.

From autumn 2008 the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2008 will come into force. The Act enables courts to make orders to protect those at risk of forced marriage or any attempt to force a person into marriage or to protect a person who has been forced into a marriage. The approach taken gives the courts a wide discretion to deal flexibly and sensitively with the circumstances of each individual case, employing civil remedies that will offer protection to victims without criminalising members of their family.

The new provisions take the form of a new part 4A to Family Law Act 1996, placing them firmly in the wider context of domestic violence and family proceedings generally. During the next year the Government will consult on how to ensure that the Act is implemented effectively.

Strategic Plan for Reducing Re-offending 2008-11

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. David Hanson): I am today announcing the publication of a consultation document to inform the Strategic Plan for Reducing Re-offending from 2008-11. The consultation period runs from today to 18 February 2008, and the Strategic Plan will be published next spring. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office and on the internet at:

Re-offending causes real harm to individuals, to communities and to the economy. The costs of reoffending by ex-prisoners alone are significant.

The Government have undertaken a successful programme of work to tackle reoffending since 1997. The latest results show that we have reduced proven adult reoffending by 5.8 per cent. since 2000 against the predicted rate. Tackling reoffending is ongoing work and there is still more work to do to examine what other measures need to be in place to support offender management. The consultation paper seeks views from professionals working in the field on how the Government can capitalise on the successes to date, and continue to reduce reoffending rates.

Public Service Agreements (PSAs)

From April 2008, a number of new Public Service Agreement (PSA) targets will be introduced. The Make Communities Safer PSA includes a specific measure for reducing reoffending which focuses on the volume and seriousness of reoffending, thereby allowing us to monitor the success of our interventions with priority offender groups more closely, and reflect the impact reducing reoffending has on overall crime rates. Other PSAs are
27 Nov 2007 : Column 24WS
also critical—specifically Drugs and Alcohol, Socially Excluded Adults, and Young People: A Path to Success. Each of these national agreements will act as levers to further embed the reducing reoffending agenda across Government and at regional levels to support effective local delivery by partners.

Supporting Events

The National Offender Management Service is today holding a national launch to promote the consultation. In recognition of that fact that cooperation between agencies is essential in successfully tackling reoffending alone, this event will also be used to launch the Department of Health’s consultation, ‘Improving Health; Supporting Justice’ and a NOMS third sector action plan to build the contribution of the sector to work to reduce reoffending. Consultation events for partners in regions and Wales will follow in December and January.


Pre-Trial Witness Interviews

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:

I am today announcing that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will be rolling out Pre-Trial Witness Interviews (PTWIs) throughout England and Wales. The roll-out will be completed by April 2008.

The use of PTWIs was proposed by the then Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith in the report “Pre-Trial Interviews by Prosecutors” published in December 2004. The report proposed that prosecutors should be permitted to speak to witnesses about their evidence in order to assess the reliability of the evidence or to clarify complex evidence.

In January 2006, the CPS introduced a pilot scheme in the CPS areas of Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cumbria. The pilot scheme has been evaluated carefully and it has been decided that PTWIs will be implemented throughout England and Wales. As of 26 November 2007, 88 PTWIs had been conducted by Crown prosecutors in the pilot CPS Areas.

The decision to conduct a PTWI is at the discretion of the prosecutor having regard to the circumstances of the case. However, it has been found from the pilot scheme that prosecutors welcome the ability to conduct a PTWI with a witness if appropriate, as it allows the prosecutor to make better-informed prosecution decisions.


EU Transport Council

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Ms Rosie Winterton): I will attend the second Transport Council of the Portuguese presidency which takes place in Brussels on 29-30 November.

Next Section Index Home Page