The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence (Derek Twigg): Key targets for the financial year 2008-09 for the following Ministry of Defence agencies and trading funds have been placed in the Library of the House:
Defence Support Group
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory
Defence Storage and Distribution Agency
Key targets for the Defence Vetting Agency, Ministry of Defence Police and Guarding Agency, People Pay and Pensions Agency, Service Childrens Education and the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency will be published shortly.
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Phil Woolas): The Minister for Science and Innovation, my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, South (Ian Pearson) announced the start of a review of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) on 27 November 2006, Official Report, column 80WS. On 16 July 2007, Official Report, column 1WS, I announced the publication of the independent report of that review. Today, I am announcing the Government response to the recommendations put forward in that report.
The Government response I am publishing today sets out our future policy for the RCEP. New activities have been funded by savings released through efficiency gains from other areas of the Commissions activity. The Government response will be implemented through annual plans agreed between DEFRA and the RCEP over the next three years.
My officials worked with the RCEP to identify ways of improving its way of working, along the lines envisaged in the report, while keeping within its current resources. This approach was agreed with the devolved administrations, other Government Departments, and the RCEP.
The Government value the work of the RCEP as an independent, high quality and objective analyser of environmental issues. Its reports are often highly influential and enhance the quality of Government policy making.
The Government welcome the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report and its findings. We value the work that the RCEP has done as an independent, high quality and objective analyser of environmental issues. The great value of RCEP to Government has rested on its combination of independence and scientific authority. We value its reports which are often highly influential and deliver policy benefits to the Government.
We have been working with RCEP to identify ways in which it could modernise along the lines envisaged in the review while keeping within existing resources. Our approach has been to fund the new activities proposed in the PwC report through savings released through efficiency gains in other areas of the Commissions work. We have worked with the RCEP to identify areas where RCEP could make such savings which include:
Costs of accommodationby moving from current private accommodation to an estate building, including re-letting current premises;
Costs of hiring meeting roomsby using DEFRA meetings rooms which are free of charge;
Costs of IT support and printing/photocopyingby using DEFRA IT-shared services and reprographic facilities.
These could amount to savings of around £89,000 a year, although smaller savings are expected in the first year, to allow for the cost of fees, dilapidations, disposal of current accommodation and IT relocation and removal (estimated not to exceed £49,000). The realisation of these savings, and hence the implementation of the review recommendations, will clearly depend on RCEP achieving value for money with regard to the way it uses its resources.
Under the existing framework document, the RCEP agrees a business plan with DEFRA defining its strategic direction, priorities and goals over the next three years. This annual plan assists DEFRA in fulfilling its financial management responsibilities by helping us to assess whether resources allocated to RCEP represent value for money. Implementation of these recommendations will be an element of the plan over the next three years.
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution is an independent standing body that advises the Queen, Government, Parliament and the public on environmental issues. It was established by royal warrant in February 1970. The Commissions terms of reference are To advise on matters, both national and international, concerning
the pollution of the environment; on the adequacy of research in this field; and the future possibilities of danger to the environment.
The Commission interprets pollution broadly as covering any introduction by man into the environment of substances or energy liable to cause hazards to human health, harm to living resources and ecological systems, damage to structures or amenity, or interference with legitimate uses of the environment. Within this remit the Commission has freedom to consider and advise on any matter it chooses; the Government may also request the Commission to consider particular topics.
The Commissions advice is mainly in the form of reports which are the outcome of major studies. The RCEP published its 26th report on the urban environment in March 2007 and is concluding its study on the environmental impact of novel materials during 2008. In September 2007, it announced its next study, adapting the UK to climate change. In reaching its conclusions, the Commission seeks to make a balanced assessment, which takes account of the wider implications for society of any control or preventive measures proposed.
The Commission is funded through the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and is supported by a small full-time secretariat. The Commission maintains links with Government Departments, parliamentary committees, pollution control agencies, research organisations, industry and environmental groups, and with its counterparts in other European countries.
At this Council, the Slovenian presidency will hold a policy debate on the climate and energy legislative package. The policy debate will focus on the following key areas: improving and extending the greenhouse gas emission allowance trading system of the Community; member states efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Communitys reduction commitments up to 2020; carbon capture and storage; and the promotion of renewable energy.
There will also be a progress report by the presidency and public deliberation on the Commissions proposal for setting emissions performance standards to reduce CO2 emissions from new passenger cars. Ministers will consider the current state of play of the Commissions proposal.
Under any other business, the Presidency will update the Council on: the Euro VI regulation; the conference of the parties to the convention on biological diversity; the conference of the parties to the Cartagena protocol on biosafety; progress under the Bali road map; the outcome of the bridging the gap conference, and; the implementation of the action programme for the implementation of the territorial agenda of the EU.
The Presidency and the Commission will also provide information on the environmental crime directive, and the Commission will also update the Council on proposals for sustainable consumption and production and sustainable industrial policy. Information on the fourth meeting of the parties to the convention on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context has been requested a member state.
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Hilary Benn): On 2 June, suspicion of avian influenza was reported on premises near Banbury in Oxfordshire, following deaths in the chicken-laying flock and a reduction in egg production. Following initial tests, the chief veterinary officer confirmed the H7 strain of avian influenza on 3 June.
The culling of all birds on the premises, and the following up of any dangerous contacts, will now take place. Laboratory testing continues and full confirmation of results, including whether the strain is high or low pathogenic will follow. A detailed epidemiological investigation is also in progress.
A temporary control zone with a 3 km inner zone and a 10 km outer zone have been established around the infected premises. All birds must be housed or otherwise isolated from contact with wild birds in the inner zone . Bird gatherings are banned in the whole of the temporary control zone. We are urgently considering whether any wider measures may be needed.
Avian influenza is largely a disease of birds, and the virus does not easily cross from birds to infect humans. In almost all instances, such transmission requires extremely close contact with infected birds.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ann Keen): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will meet on 9-10 June 2008. The health and consumer affairs part of the Council will be taken on 10 June.
Items on the main agenda are: adoption of Council conclusions on reducing the burden of cancer; on a co-operation mechanism between the Council and the Commission for the implementation of the EU health strategy; and conclusions on antimicrobial resistance. The UK supports these conclusions. There will also be progress report from the Slovenian presidency on the proposal for a regulation on novel foods.
Ministers will have a policy debate on the provision of information to patients on medicinal products and will be asked to adopt draft Council conclusions on this. The UK is broadly supportive of the Council conclusions.
Over lunch, the presidency have arranged an introductory presentation by Zsuzsanna Jakab, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, and will chair a debate and exchange of views on An EU Action plan to fight tuberculosis. This follows on from the publication in February 2008 of the Framework Action Plan to Fight TB in the EU, which the UK supports.
Under any other business, the presidency and the Commission intend to provide information on the proposal for a directive on cross-border healthcare and patient rights; the conference on eHealth without frontiers which took place Slovenia on 5-7 May; the EU Strategy to support member states in reducing alcohol-related harm; nutrition, overweight and obesity related health issues; the framework convention on tobacco control; organ donation and transplantation; the proposed package on patient safety to be published later in 2008; health security-related matters; the strategy for Europe on mental health; the proposal for a directive on the variations to the terms of marketing authorisations for medicinal products; the networking meeting of the competent authorities for pricing and reimbursement of pharmaceuticals which was held on 28-29 April 2008 in Slovenia; and finally the food improvements package.
There will also be a debate on health and migration in the EU and the presidency will ask Ministers to adopt draft Council conclusions on this issue. The Portuguese presidency chose health and migration as their theme in recognition of the fact that migrant populations are often exposed to health inequalities. The UK broadly supports their conclusions.
Also tabled for adoption are Council conclusions on a Commission White Paper on a strategy for Europe on nutrition, overweight and obesity-related issues, and a Commission communication on organ donation and transplantation. The UK is fully supportive of these conclusions as drafted. There will also be a presidency progress report on combating HIV/AIDS within the EU and in the neighbouring countries.
Under any other business, there will be information from the presidency on their presidency health conferences and on draft Council conclusions on environment and health, which are to be discussed in the Environmental Council later this month. There will also be information items from the Commission on: a Community framework on health services; a strategy for Europe on mental health; health security-related matters; the Commissions high-level group on health services and medical care and the framework convention on tobacco control; and the Slovenian delegation will provide information on the work programme for their forthcoming presidency.
Land Registry became an executive agency of the Lord Chancellor in July 1990 and over the last 18 years has enthusiastically grasped the opportunities that agency status and, since 1993, trading fund status have provided. During that period it has met improving financial, customer service and development targets whilst making land registration services progressively more efficient and cheaper.
The framework document is a statement of Land Registrys legal position and reflects its status as a non-ministerial Department. It sets out the role and responsibilities of the Chief Land Registrar and those of the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
Copies of the revised framework document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available on the internet at www.landregistry.gov.uk.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Mr. James Plaskitt): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 9 June in Luxembourg. The UK will be represented by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Health and Consumer Affairs issues are being taken on 10 June.
The presidency hopes to reach agreement on an amended proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Directive 2003/88/EC concerning certain aspects of the organisation of Working Time (9554/05 (formerly 12683/04). UK priorities remain a solution to the problems caused by the ECJ SIMAP and Jaeger judgments, and the retention of a workable individual right to opt out of the 48-hour maximum working week. The UK is still analysing the proposal from the presidency, but believes it is a further step forward in that it provides further legal clarity on the use of the opt out and the solution to the issues raised by the SIMAP and Jaeger judgments.
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