Previous Section Index Home Page

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary emphasised the need for urgency from the European Council on delivery of the EU’s ambitious climate change goals; in particular, a mechanism to deliver the carbon capture and storage demonstration plants
18 Mar 2008 : Column 58WS
promised by the 2007 spring European Council; and the centrality of ETS to tackling climate change. He also stressed the importance of Europe not retreating into economic protectionism.

External Relations

Doha Development Agenda

Commissioner Mandelson updated the Council on prospects for negotiations on the World Trade Organisation’s Doha Development Agenda (DDA).

The Government agreed Council conclusions that reaffirmed the importance of achieving a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced final outcome in all areas of the DDA, that would meet both the EU’s objectives and the needs and interests of developing countries, in particular the least developed countries (LDCs). My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs supported the Commission’s efforts to move the DDA negotiations forward. The Council agreed that the GAERC should convene a special meeting to coincide with possible WTO ministerial negotiations in Geneva.


Ministers had an exchange of views on the EU’s co-operation with Georgia, and discussed the EU’s provision of support for electoral reform, which the Government support, in the run-up to parliamentary elections in May 2008.


The Government agreed Council conclusions that underlined the EU’s concerns about the humanitarian, political and economic situation in Zimbabwe and conditions on the ground; urged the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the forthcoming elections meet international norms and standards; and welcomed President Mbeki’s mediation efforts on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

I intervened to underline that the conditions for forthcoming elections were extremely poor and to regret that the EU had not been invited to send observers.


Foreign Ministers had an exchange of views following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1803. Ministers agreed that UNSCR 1803 clearly indicated that the international community remained united on the issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary underlined the importance of the EU maintaining pressure on Iran to comply with its international obligations.

Middle East Peace Process

High Representative Solana briefed Ministers on his visit to the region on 2 to 5 March. The EU expressed concern at the worsening situation, following the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel, as well as the six March killings at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem.

Ministers also expressed concern about the recent approval of settlement activity by the Israeli Government at Givat Ze’ev. The EU continues to make it clear that settlement building anywhere in the occupied Palestinian territories is illegal under international law and presents an obstacle to peace.

18 Mar 2008 : Column 59WS

Western Balkans

Over lunch, Foreign Ministers discussed recent developments in Kosovo and the Western Balkans.

The Council agreed conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), welcoming the unanimous decision of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board to keep that the Office of the High Representative should remain in place until the necessary objectives and conditions are met. The Council also gave full support to BiH’s EU perspective, and urged the authorities to do everything necessary to fulfil the four conditions necessary for signing the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.

The Council also adopted conclusions on the Regional Co-operation Council reaffirming the EU’s commitment to the RCC as a framework for the countries of South Eastern Europe to promote stability, democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity.

US Visa Waiver Scheme

The Slovenian presidency briefed Ministers on discussions with the US on the visa waiver programme and an exchange of views followed. The Government support the Commission in its wish to reach an agreement with the US on this issue.


The Council agreed conclusions reaffirming the EU’s commitment to long-term support for Afghanistan and promotion of Afghan leadership, good governance and the development of a democratic, secure and sustainable Afghan state with respect for human rights and the rule of law. The Council also expressed support for an international conference in Paris in June to review implementation of the Afghanistan compact and welcomed the progress of the EU police mission towards full deployment by the end of March 2008.


The Government agreed Council conclusions on Pakistan’s February elections as an important step in the development of Pakistan’s democracy. The conclusions also commit the EU to supporting Pakistan in strengthening democratic institutions, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as combating extremism, while promoting development and economic growth, through trade in particular. The Council agreed the EU’s intention to review its policy towards Pakistan in support of these objectives.


Dissolved NHS Trusts (Public Dividend Capital)

The Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson): Pursuant to the dissolution of four national health service trusts and one special health authority between 1 April 2007 and 1 October 2007, and their reconfiguration involving the establishment of two new NHS trusts, I propose to create originating capital for the two new NHS trusts created equal to the net assets transferred to them and also to remit the outstanding debt of the dissolved trusts.

These operations involved no overall loss to the Exchequer. Her Majesty’s Treasury has today presented a minute to the House giving particulars and circumstances of the proposed remission which it has approved in principle.

18 Mar 2008 : Column 60WS

Private and Voluntary Health Care

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The Government are currently undertaking a major programme to reform health and adult social care to improve the quality and safety of services. They are committed to make major changes to the current regulatory and system management frameworks covering health and adult social care, and are legislating to that purpose in the current session. This programme of change will put patients and service users at the forefront of driving forward improvements to services through increased choice, improved commissioning, and new regulatory arrangements.

In 2009 we plan, subject to the passage of legislation, to replace the current regulatory bodies covering health and social with a new single regulator—the Care Quality Commission, which will build on the work of the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, and the Mental Health Act Commission. However, certain changes to the current regulatory system for private and voluntary health care are needed earlier to ensure that we can continue to regulate this sector effectively during the run-up to the wider changes to the regulatory and system management frameworks. These changes are designed to:

We therefore present proposals to amend the regulations governing private and voluntary health care. We are satisfied that the amendments proposed in this consultation will deliver improved health care outcomes which are consistent with the risk based approach to regulation we envisage in our wider and longer-term system reforms.

The consultation document has been placed in the Library of the House and copies are available to hon. Members from the Vote Office. It is also available on the Department’s website at:

The consultation will end on 10 June 2008. After analysis of the consultation responses, we will make a decision on whether or not to proceed with these proposals, and to lay the new regulations before Parliament.

Home Department

Taser (Police Use)

The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): This statement is to notify the House about the release of the first formal quarterly figures on the use of Taser.

Taser has been available to all authorised firearms officers since September 2004 as a less lethal option for use in situations where a firearms authority has been granted in accordance with criteria laid down in the Association of Chief Police Officers’ manual of guidance on police use of firearms.

18 Mar 2008 : Column 61WS

On 20 July 2007 I gave my approval for chief officers throughout England and Wales to deploy Taser for use by authorised firearms officers in operations or incidents where the criteria for the authorisation to issue firearms does not apply, but where officers are facing violence or threats of violence of such severity that they would need to use force to protect the public, themselves and or the subject.

I also approved a 12-month trial of the deployment of Taser by specially trained units who are not firearms officers in similar circumstances. The trial commenced on 1 September 2007 involving 10 forces.

Figures on the use of Taser are broken down into three tables:

The figures show that Taser has been used by authorised firearms officers 163 times outside of a firearms authority from 20 July 2007 to the end of November 2007, and by specially trained units 16 times in the first quarter of the trial. It should be noted that only six of the 10 forces carrying out the trial, actually started on 1 September, and that this excluded West Yorkshire police service and the Metropolitan police service. Therefore, we expect the next quarter figures for the trial to be higher.

Publication of these figures is in line with the Government’s rigorous and measured approach to extending the use of Taser and to subject the trial to a full and thorough evaluation.

I have placed a copy of the figures in the Library of the House. Figures on laser use will be published regularly on a quarterly basis in May, August and November 2008 on the Home Office scientific development branch (HOSDB) website.

International Development

English Language Skills (Bangladesh)

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): At the request of the Bangladesh Government, the UK has approved £50 million over nine years for an ambitious programme which will significantly increase English language skills for 27 million people in Bangladesh. This will make a valuable and lasting contribution to economic and social development in that country.

18 Mar 2008 : Column 62WS

“English in Action” is an innovative and comprehensive programme that will target a number of different ages and groups. In particular, it will make more young Bangladeshis ready for employment. It will provide teachers at primary and secondary level with a firm foundation for teaching English; and it will offer opportunities for using and practising English in a variety of economic and social contexts. The programme will also address a major skills gap in the Bangladesh workforce and will help the country become more competitive in both internal and international labour markets.

Designed to reach approximately 27 million people, “English in Action” will make use of rapidly expanding mobile phone technology in Bangladesh. It will use television and radio to stimulate interest and debate, and to reach the maximum number of people with appropriate learning programmes. The “English in Action” programme will also provide a wide range of supportive printed and audio learning materials which will be available to a wide range of learners.

UK development assistance in Bangladesh promotes good governance, economic growth, trade and access to basic services. The “English in Action” programme will contribute to improving economic growth and to increasing the quality of education provision in Bangladesh.

A recent Bangladesh Government report identified unemployment and growing income inequality as two major constraints which may prevent the country from achieving the millennium development goals. “English in Action” will be an important contribution in assisting Bangladesh to overcome such constraints and to improve the livelihoods of its people.

We will continue to provide significant support for Bangladesh as an emerging economy and confident, stable state into the 21st century.

Leader of the House

MPs' Pay and Pensions Review

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): I announced in a written ministerial statement, 23 January 2008, Official Report, column 56WS, volume 470, the terms of reference for the Sir John Baker review.

The review team have now published a consultation document to help gather evidence that will inform recommendations. Written submissions have been requested by Friday 11 April 2008.

A copy of the consultation document can be found at:

    Index Home Page