On Monday 18 June 2007, I announced to the House, the launch of a public consultation on strategic export controls. In this consultation, the Government sought views both on the controls they introduced in 2004 under the Export Control Act 2002to establish whether they are having the intended effect without imposing unnecessary or disproportionate burdens on businessand on a range of options for further change.
Prior to the closure of the consultation period on 30 September 2007, the Government received a total of 23 substantive responses from a range of groups, including industry and non-governmental organisations, and over 5,000 brief emails and letters. These have now been published on the BERR website at: http://www. berr.gov.uk/europeandtrade/strategic-export-control/legislation/export-control-act-2002/review/index.html
Since the public consultation period closed, the Government have been analysing the responses and considering the case for change. The initial response commits the Government to introduce change in a number of areas of significant concern. Notably it puts into action the commitment announced by the Prime Minister, in his Mansion House speech on 12 November 2007, to extend export laws to control brokering and trafficking of small arms by UK persons anywhere in the world and to give consideration to extending these controls to cover other weapons of concern.
extend the coverage of extra-territorial trade controls to include trading in MANPADs (that is, portable weapons designed to fire missiles at aircraft) and those cluster munitions which cause unacceptable harm to civilians when carried out by UK persons anywhere in the world;
rationalise the licensing treatment of long range missiles and unmanned air vehicles;
add sting sticks to the current UK list of torture equipment, to which the most stringent controls are applied;
start EU negotiations to introduce a new torture end use control that will allow all EU states to bring under control any item which is known to be for use in torture.
The Government are currently undertaking further research and consultation with a view to reaching an agreement on some of the other change options that have been proposed. We hope to publish a further response to the change proposal in spring 2008.
Once the Government have finalised their position, they will aim to introduce the new legislation in three stages. The addition of sting sticks to the UK list of torture equipment is relatively straightforward to implement; this will be our first priority and we will act with immediacy. In the next stage we will then focus on the more complex changes to the controls on small arms, MANPADs and cluster munitions, so that change in these areas of high concern is also implemented speedily. In the final stage, the Government will introduce any further changes that may be necessary following further consideration, for example the potential extension of extra-territorial trade controls beyond small arms, to other types of weapons; the case for strengthening of controls on the export of non-controlled equipment for military end use in destinations of concern and introducing a register of traders in military equipment.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Mr. Gareth Thomas): The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is the UKs independent regulator and standard setter for accounting, auditing and the actuarial profession. The FRCs remit was expanded in 2004 as a result of the Governments review of audit and accounting regulation, and again in 2006 to include actuarial standards and regulation.
The Government believe the FRC has adapted well to its new responsibilities, and in particular welcome the recent changes it has made to its governance arrangements to increase its effectiveness and efficiency. The Government remain strongly supportive of the FRC. The FRC continues to exercise functions delegated to it by the Secretary of State, and indeed the Secretary of State is in the process of delegating additional functions concerning audit regulation to the FRC.
Corporate reporting and governance in the UK are widely recognised domestically and internationally as being of a very high standard generally. The FRCs integrated and market-led approach to regulation underpins these standards. This approach continues to receive strong support from companies, investors, the accountancy profession and other stakeholders.
For many years the Government have contributed one third of the FRCs core operating costs for its responsibilities for accounting, auditing and corporate governance. However, this position is not consistent with the funding arrangements for other similar regulatory bodies such as the Financial Services Authority and the Pensions Regulator, or with funding for the FRCs actuarial regulation. Nor does it sit well with the FRCs new board, which is now composed largely of private sector rather than Ministerial appointees. The Government have therefore concluded that, as a market-led regulator, the FRC should in future be funded largely by market participants.
The FRC will consult market participants on the options for new funding arrangements. In order to allow an orderly transition to stable, new, long-term funding arrangements, the Government have confirmed that they will maintain their current contribution to the FRCs costs for at least the 2008-09 financial year.
The Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes): The Deputy UK Permanent Representative, Andy Lebrecht, will attend the Youth Council on 14 February. The agenda items are as follows:
Ministers will be asked to adopt key messages to the spring European Council on further implementation of the European Pact for Youth. The messages call on the European Council to emphasise that participation by young people, particularly those with fewer opportunities in employment, education, training and social integration, should remain key objectives of member states economic and social strategies. These objectives should be achieved through concrete measures and be based on a cross-sectoral approach, youth empowerment, and through developing the youth dimension in the Lisbon agenda.The UK is content with this approach to youth policy.
The Minister for Local Government (John Healey): Following our announcement of 5 December [Official Report, Column 65WS] on decisions on unitary proposals, I have today requested the Boundary Committee under section 4 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 to advise on certain matters respectively relating to the unitary proposals made by Exeter city council, Ipswich borough council, and Norwich city council.
On the basis of her judgements that there was not a reasonable likelihood that these proposals would meet all of the outcomes specified by the five criteria set out in the invitation, the Secretary of State is at present not minded to implement these proposals. However, she believes, having regard to the circumstances of each area and to certain strengths that the proposals possess, notwithstanding her assessment of them against the criteria, that there could be alternative proposals covering the whole or part of the wider county area which would achieve those outcomes.
We have requested the Boundary Committee to advise on these proposals by 31 December 2008. We have in parallel issued guidance under section 6 of the Act to which the Boundary Committee must have regard in making a recommendation or alternative proposal to the Secretary of State.
The Secretary of State has specified in her request that the matters on which the Committees advice is
sought include whether for the areas affected by these proposalsin each case the city or borough area and the remaining county areathere could be alternative unitary proposals that would meet the five criteria specified in the request.
Our request also specifies the possibility of the Committee making alternative proposals, which may involve merging the whole or part of the districts of Great Yarmouth and Waveney or, if essential, involve changes to the boundaries of the existing Devon unitariesPlymouth city and Torbay borough. Given that these latter councils are already established unitary councils, our request about alternative proposals is on the basis of maintaining the concept of the city and the borough.
When providing its advice, it is a matter for the Boundary Committee to decide whether to make an alternative proposal. The Act provides that the Secretary of State may decide to implement by Order, with or without modification any alternative proposal made by the Committee, or to take no action on it.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): The next roulement of UK forces in Afghanistan will take place in April 2008. The force package that we currently plan to deploy will see the lead formation, 52 Infantry Brigade, replaced by 16 Air Assault Brigade, which will provide the majority of the units serving in Afghanistan. The forces deploying include:
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