The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary and Stewart Eldon, UK permanent representative to NATO, represented the UK at the informal meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels on 6 March 2008.
Allies decided that a public statement that clearly defines NATOs achievements and objectives in Afghanistan would be needed at the Bucharest summit on 2 and 4 April. Ministers agreed that this should include input from troop contributing nations (that is, including partners such as Australia and Sweden) and other international organisations involved in Afghanistan.
Ministers discussed the membership aspirations of Croatia, Albania and Macedonia. Decisions on each countrys respective applications would be made at Bucharest, based on their progress towards meeting accepted standards. NATOs relationships with Ukraine, Georgia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia were also raised and discussion will continue at the Bucharest summit.
Ministers discussed the role of NATOs Kosovo Force (KFOR) following Kosovos declaration of independence and the evolving relationship between KFOR, the UNs mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the EUs rule of law mission in Kosovo (EULEX).
The Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell):
The Sale of Student Loans Bill is currently before Parliament. It creates the legislative framework for the programme of sale of income-contingent student loans announced at Budget 2007. The Bill has completed its passage through the House of Commons and had its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 19 February 2008. The Governments intention, as
announced at Budget 2007, is for the sales programme to commence in 2008-09. The Government want the flexibility to make sales at times that offer the best value for money, including the period immediately after Royal Assent to the Sale of Student Loans Bill.
To that end, the Government seek to incur expenditure on external expert services on work that comprises the preparatory phase of implementation, in advance of an initial transaction. Whereas the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has already incurred preliminary expenditure on legal and financial expertise to refine the policy intention to conduct a sale programme, from existing funds, it seeks advances from the Contingencies Fund to be able to incur expenditure on preparatory implementation work.
Parliamentary approval for additional resources for this new service will be sought in a supplementary estimate for 2008-09 for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. Pending that approval, urgent expenditure estimated at £5 million will be met by repayable cash advances from the Contingencies Fund.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Purnell): I am pleased to announce today my plans for implementing the flexible New Deal. The new employment programme will build on the success of the various existing New Deals for jobseekers it replaces, helping to underpin our objectives for full employment and eradicating child poverty.
I want to make these opportunities available to jobseekers everywhere as soon as possible. Based on our previous experience in successfully implementing Pathways to Work in just two phases, we will adopt a similar approach for the flexible New Deal, with phase 1 being delivered from October 2009 and phase 2 from October 2010.
The flexible New Deal is a key part of implementing the vision set out in David Freuds report, Reducing Dependency, Increasing Opportunity published last year. It will be the first programme commissioned under the new DWP Commissioning Strategy that I announced on 28 February, and through which we will engage specialist back to work providers in the public, private and third sectors to offer more creative and innovative ways of helping jobseekers to overcome their specific problems with the clear aim of getting into sustainable employment.
Providers will match the type and length of activity to each participants needs resulting in an individually tailored support package. Our vision is that everyone who can work should do so. I have made it clear that all jobseekers joining this programme will be required to do at least four weeks of work or work-related activity
if they fail to find work within 12 months of support from their provider, and we will be looking for bidders who can offer even more for those who will benefit.
|Phase 1||Phase 2|
Transforming Britains labour market: Ten Years of the New Deal is available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/welfarereform/docs/PMNewDeal2-01-08.pdf.
DWP Commissioning Strategy is available at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/publications/dwp/2008/com-strategy/cs-rep-08.pdf.