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There will be a package of counter-terrorism items discussed in the main agenda at the Council. In particular, there will be an opportunity for Ministers to consider the EU Counter-terrorism Co-ordinators discussion paper on implementation of the EU Counter-terrorism strategy. The Government have welcomed his proposals in particular for a common EU policy on data sharing, but will wish to explore in more detail some of the ideas raised for example about future work on the use of special investigative techniques. Draft Council Conclusions will also be agreed on enhancing the security of explosives.
The UK welcomes the Portuguese presidencys continued drive to finalise these wide-ranging and complex pieces of work on explosives. There will also be a presentation and first exchange of views on the amending framework decision on combating terrorism. The Government support the Commissions proposals and look forward to working with the Commission to develop complimentary measures against terrorist use of the internet.
The presidency will seek to draw a line under the initial discussions on chapters 6, 7 and 9 of the draft Europol Council Decision, which deal with organisational issues, confidentiality rules and miscellaneous provisions respectively. The Europol working group will now focus its attention on the remaining chapters of the draft Council Decision. The Government support the proposed drafts which include helpful revisions that strengthen the Europol management board and provide more oversight. However these chapters will need to be revisited and revised again at working group level early next year once the work of three expert groups dealing with staffing and budgetary issues has been completed. This will provide the opportunity for further discussion before the entire Council Decision is taken to the Council for agreement.
There will be a state of play report on e-justice and an exchange of views on work planned for the first half of 2008. The UK supports the overall initiative and the priorities which have been identified for next year.
Rome 1 (applicable law in contractual obligations) is on the agenda for a presidency report on the First Reading Agreement with the European Parliament. The UK did not opt into this dossier at the start of the negotiations. We therefore have no vote in Council. We have, however, negotiated significant improvements to the text which deal satisfactorily with the points which gave rise to our decision not to opt in, and acknowledge the good co-operation with our European partners that has made this possible. The Government will shortly embark on a process of consultation before deciding whether the UK should now signify its wish to accept the measure, under the terms of our Protocol to Title IV of the Treaty.
The proposed Directive on protection of the environment through criminal law is on the agenda for a possible general approach, although this is considered premature by some member states. The UK supports the presidencys desire to progress this dossier, hut considers that further detailed work is required.
The presidency is hoping to agree Council Conclusions with a view to work next year on the development of Eurojust. The Government support the conclusions in recognising the value of Eurojusts work but have made clear that any future proposals should focus on ensuring that Eurojust fulfils its potential within its current powers. The Government have made clear that they would not therefore support some of the more far-reaching proposals in the recent Commission Communication on the future of Eurojust and the European judicial network.
The presidency proposes to seek a general approach on the draft Framework Decision on the recognition
and supervision of suspended sentences, alternative sanctions and conditional sentences. The Government welcome the work done on this instrument though some fundamental issues remain outstanding and agreement will be conditional on finding a satisfactory outcome on the entire instrument.
The presidency will give an update about the state of play of the European Supervision Order proposal and is likely to present the revised draft text. No substantive discussion is expected at the meeting. The first working group to consider this revised version is to take place on 11 December.
There will, also, be a report on the outcome of the Hague diplomatic conference which concluded work on a draft Convention on the international recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance. The Government welcome the outcome of that conference.
A lunch for interior ministers will also be held on 6 December with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A possible topic for discussion will be the new Green Paper on the second phase of the Common European Asylum System and the next steps but it may also focus on ongoing or protracted refugee situations.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. Peter Hain): The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini QC and I announced on 1 October 2007 a joint public inquiry under the Inquires Act 2005 into the explosion on 11 May 2004 at a plastics factory operated by ICL Plastics Ltd and ICL Tech Ltd in Maryhill Glasgow which killed nine people and injured 33 others.
I am today announcing that Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk has been appointed as chairman of the inquiry and Roy Martin QC as leading counsel. I can confirm that the chairman has been consulted on the terms of reference for the inquiry and we have agreed that these are:
To inquire into the circumstances leading up to the incident on 11 May 2004 at the premises occupied by the ICL group of companies, Grovepark Mills, Maryhill, Glasgow.
To consider the safety and related issues arising from such an inquiry, including the regulation of the activities at Grovepark Mills.
To make recommendations in the light of the lessons identified from the causation and circumstances leading up to the incident.
To report as soon as practicable.