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Written Ministerial Statements

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform

Departmental Set-up Costs

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): Further to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban) on 18 February 2008, Official Report, column 381W, we said that the costs incurred in setting up the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform were £218,063. These costs included stationery, rebranding and IT changes, including revised email addresses, new signage, web-based changes, new logo and print costs and the anticipated cost of branding guidelines. This figure is also quoted in my letter of 26 November 2007, to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer). A copy of this letter was placed in the Libraries of the House.

Those costs included an estimate of £24,000 for the costs of producing branding guidelines, which had not been completed at the time. These branding guidelines have subsequently been completed: the final costs were £20,000. Therefore, the final total costs are £214,063.

My noble Friend Baroness Vadera, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Competitiveness is today answering a written question from Lord Barnett which updates the original costs as above.

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Veterinary Products Committee

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Jonathan Shaw): My noble Friend Lord Rooker has received the annual report of the Veterinary Products Committee and its sub-committees for 2007, which has been published today.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

I am glad to acknowledge the valuable work done by the distinguished members of the Veterinary Products Committee and its sub-committees and thank them for the time and effort dedicated in the public interest to this important work.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

General Affairs and External Relations Council (26-27 May)

The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence and the Minister with responsibility for veterans, my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg),
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the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), Kim Darroch (UK Permanent Representative to the EU) and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 19-20 June 2008

Foreign Ministers considered the annotated draft agenda for the European Council meeting to be held in Brussels on 19 and 20 June. The Government approve of the Presidency’s priorities for discussion, which will include: policy implications of high food and fuel prices; implementation of the millennium development goals; measures in the areas of freedom, security and justice; economic, social and environmental issues; a progress report on ratification of the Lisbon treaty. The Council will also discuss the situation in the Western Balkans, and external relations (including enhancement of the Barcelona process (“EuroMed”) and the eastern dimension of the European neighbourhood policy).

Ministers will carry out more detailed preparatory work for the European Council when they meet on 16 June.


Foreign Ministers approved the negotiating mandate for a successor to the current partnership and co-operation agreement with Russia, which the Government welcome as a positive step forward for EU-Russia relations.

External Relations

Western Balkans

The Council adopted conclusions that welcomed Serbian voters’ strong support for pro-European parties at the 11 May elections; hoped that the new Government would engage constructively with the EU in advancing Serbia towards candidate status, by meeting the necessary conditions; and looked forward to the signature of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stabilisation and association agreement at the June GAERC.

I said that if a pro-European Government were formed in Serbia, we would clearly want to sustain our commitment to that country’s European path. But we would also need to be clear about our expectations of that Government.


The Government agreed Council conclusions expressing the EU’s concern at the security situation in Somalia, in particular its impact on human rights and humanitarian relief efforts; calling upon all parties to refrain from violence and seek to resolve conflict through the political process; welcoming the Transitional Federal Government’s moves towards reconciliation with its domestic and external opponents; supporting the work of the UN and the African Union mission to Somalia (AMISOM); and condemning instances of piracy off the Somali coast.

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The Council adopted conclusions, which the Government support, which noted the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s decision to hold a second round of elections on 27 June; condemned the campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition supporters since the first round; called upon the Government of Zimbabwe to respect human rights and promote conditions conducive to free and fair elections, in keeping with international standards.

Middle East Peace Process

On Lebanon, the Council agreed conclusions welcoming the 21 May Doha agreement and the election of President Suleiman, as steps that would enable democratic institutions to resume functioning properly following a lengthy period of instability; commending the Arab League’s role in brokering the Doha agreement; and deploring the recent violence in Beirut.

On the MEPP, Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the Annapolis process; expressed concern at Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; condemned the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza; and called upon Israel to ease restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank.

The Government welcome these conclusions, and in particular Ministers’ decision to expand the EU police training mission (EUPOL COPPS) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.


Commissioner Mandelson updated Ministers on the Doha development agenda (DDA). The UK emphasised the strategic importance of a deal on the DDA, for the EU, the developing world and the global economy as a whole. We also called upon EU partners to support the Commission’s efforts to negotiate a successful outcome for the EU.


Sweden briefed Ministers on the international compact with Iraq (ICI) conference in Stockholm on 29 May, which the Council welcomed as a reflection of the EU’s commitment to support Iraq. The Commission gave an update on its assistance to the Government of Iraq and Council conclusions set out details of further support and assistance that the EU will deliver.

I underlined the recent positive developments in the political and security situation, and called upon EU partners to use the Stockholm conference as an opportunity to set out how we proposed to assist the Government of Iraq to consolidate and build upon that progress.


Foreign Ministers adopted conclusions that welcomed the peaceful conduct of the 21 May elections; called upon the Georgian authorities to address the remaining shortcomings identified by OSCE election observers; emphasised the need for dialogue between the Government and opposition; and reiterated the EU’s serious concern at the recent events that have increased tension between Georgia and Russia.

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I said that it was important for the EU to make clear its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Joint Session of Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers

Conclusions were agreed under the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP) on current operations and missions, capability development including the European Defence Agency, and co-operation with strategic partners.


In their conclusions, which the Government welcome, Foreign and Defence Ministers decided to increase substantially the contribution through the EU police mission, with the aim of doubling its size; underlined the need to strengthen further the fight against corruption and drugs, and introduce local self-government; and looked forward to the Paris donor conference on 12 June.

I emphasised the need for closer EU-NATO cooperation on the ground, and for the Paris conference on Afghanistan to deliver, along with a commitment from the Afghan Government to take responsibility for its own development, a commitment from the international community that it would support this by delivering assistance in support of the Afghan Government’s national development strategy.

Children and Armed Conflict

The Presidency highlighted progress on this issue. In their conclusions Foreign and Defence Ministers welcomed a study by the European Centre for Development Policy Management which set out concrete proposals for future action, as well as a review of, and amendments to, the Council document “Checklist for the Integration of the Protection of Children affected by Armed Conflict into ESDP Operations”, particularly emphasising the aim to further enhance its implementation on the ground.

Defence Ministers

ESDP Operations

Foreign and Defence Ministers discussed the progress of the ESDP missions in Chad/Central African Republic (EUFOR Tchad/RCA) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (EUFOR ALTHEA).


Defence Ministers welcomed progress made in formulating the capability development plan and discussed European military capabilities, focusing on the use of EU Battlegroups in crisis management operations.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence emphasised the continuing success of the Battlegroups initiative in helping the transformation of member states’ armed forces towards modern expeditionary capabilities. He also welcomed the recent improvement in the use of the EU-NATO capability group.

European Defence Agency

High Representative Solana presented a report on EDA activities. Defence Ministers welcomed the EDA’s achievements.

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The EDA steering board also met in Defence Ministers’ formation on 26 May. Ministers agreed to recommend that the November Council postpone the agreement of the three-year financial framework for one year. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence advertised the UK-France helicopter initiative that was announced at the recent UK/France bilateral summit, and called for member states' support.

Development Ministers


Commissioner Michel briefed Development Ministers on his recent visit to Burma. The Council agreed conclusions supporting the UN’s role in response to Cyclone Nargis; welcomed the decision of ASEAN Foreign Ministers on 19 May to establish a mechanism for delivering and distributing aid inside Burma; and noted the outcome of the international conference in Yangon on 25 May 2008 co-sponsored by the UN and ASEAN and the commitment of the Burmese regime to participate in the UN/ASEAN mechanism agreed at the conference.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for International Development. the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) highlighted UK efforts to date and emphasised the need to build momentum on the back of the 25 May conference; to maintain pressure on the regime to deliver; to encourage influential ASEAN member states to do more; and for the EU to come good on pledges of assistance. He also noted that long-standing political concerns with the Burmese regime remained and underlay the problems faced.

Rights of the Child in External Action

Development Ministers agreed conclusions welcoming the Commission communication “A Special Place for Children in EU External Action”; and affirming the importance of a comprehensive and integrated human rights-based approach towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, encompassing all areas of EU external action.

Women and Armed Conflict

Development Ministers had an exchange of views based upon a study prepared by the Presidency, which called for a comprehensive EU approach to the issue and more specific cross-cutting EU action.

Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS,Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM)

Ministers discussed the performance of the (GFATM) over dinner.

The EU as a global partner for development: speeding up progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

Commissioner Michel gave an assessment of the EU’s performance against Overseas Development Aid (ODA) volumes and set out the Commission’s views on how to accelerate progress towards achieving the MDGs. The Council adopted conclusions, which the Government welcome, strongly reaffirming their commitment to achieve a collective ODA target of 0.56 per cent. GNI by 2010 and 0.7 per cent. GNI by 2015, as set out in the May 2005 Council conclusions, the June 2005 European Council conclusions and the European consensus on development.

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The conclusions also state that the EU will prepare an EU agenda for action on the MDGs for the June European Council. This agenda will identify specific milestones and actions on key areas that will help contribute to achieving the MDGs by 2015. The Government strongly support this approach.

Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs)

Commissioner Mandelson gave Ministers an update on EPA negotiations. The Council agreed conclusions that confirmed the EU's commitment to further negotiations and implementation of the EPAs.

Rising food prices and food security in developing countries

Development Ministers held an informal discussion over lunch, attended by the directors of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for International Development, the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr Thomas) encouraged the FAO to make further efforts at internal reform, so as to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

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