The Council will be asked to adopt opinions on the updated stability programme for Belgium and the updated convergence programme for Poland, as well as a decision putting an end to the excessive deficit procedure for Poland. In addition the Council will be asked to agree to a decision and recommendations under article 104(7) of the EC treaty with regard to the UK.
The Council will adopt legislative acts required for the adoption of the euro by Slovakia. The adoption will finalise the procedure foreseen by article 122 of the treaty establishing the European Community. The Council (meeting at the level of Heads of State or Government in the margins of the June European Council) gave its guidance on this issue on 19 June. Ministers will first vote on the legislative acts and, if successful, will decide on the exchange rate as recommended by the Commission. The UK congratulates Slovakia on the substantial reforms they have made in order to meet the Maastricht criteria.
Following the June European Council and in advance of the report for the October European Council, Ministers will hold an exchange of views on the situation in the oil and fuel markets. This will also cover the role of ECOFIN in preparing the October and December European Councils. The UK supports the work underway to better understand what is driving the development of oil prices.
The IASB launched a public consultation on the issue of its own governance in May. The Council will provide the European perspective and will prepare a European contribution to the public consultation on IASB. The UK supports the efforts to improve internal processes and governance within the IASB, principally through improving the oversight arrangements for the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation (IASCF).
The Commission will present the state of play on the Council road map agreed in the October 2007 ECOFIN Council conclusions. This will cover the items for which the deadline was set at mid-2008. These items include credit rating agencies and the transparency of markets on the level of their losses and risks. Conclusions have been agreed in which member states look forward to further work on transparency and on credit rating agencies in the autumn.
The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls): The Secretary of State for Health and I today welcome the publication of the Bercow report on services for children and young people with speech, language and communications needs (SLCN). A copy of the report will be placed in the Library.
In September 2007, we asked John Bercow MP to advise us on the range of universal and specialist services to best identify and meet the diversity of needs of children and young people with SLCN; how planning and performance management arrangements and effective co-operation between Government Departments and responsible local agents can be used to promote early intervention and to improve services; and examples of good practice in commissioning and delivering services which are responsive to the needs of children, young people and families.
We welcomed the interim report that John Bercow MP published on 20 March 2008, which identified five key themes: communication is crucial; early identification and intervention are essential; the need for a continuum of services, designed around the family; that joint working between agencies is critical; and the current system is characterised by high levels of variability and a lack of equity.
The final Bercow report, published today, sets out 40 recommendations to improve services for children with SLCN under these five themes. We support fully the reports call for action to raise the profile of speech, language and communications across Government, local agencies and wider society and to improve services for children and young people with SLCN.
Improve understanding that communication is critical through the creation of a Communication Council, to monitor and support implementation of the recommendations, and a Communication Champion to lead on awareness raising, including a National Year of Speech, Language and Communication by 2011; a set of measures to improve information, support and advice to parents about the importance of speech, language and communications, including through the Child Health Promotion Programme;
Ensure early identification and intervention through monitoring of children to identify potential SLCN across the age range; reviewing the Personal Child Health Record so that there is a
clear record of a childs speech development; and promoting examples of how barriers to pupils with SLCN accessing the curriculum have been overcome.
How to design a continuum of services around the family by developing a joint commissioning framework for universal, targeted and specialist services through pathfinders, supported by other action to build on the national service framework standard for disabled children and young people; the current review of the Dedicated School Grant should consider how the funding system supports the delivery of services for children with SLCN; the new Masters in Teaching and Learning has core elements and a module including speech, language and communication; and that there should be a programme of research to enhance the evidence base for improving outcomes for children with SLCN.
How to promote more and better joint working through effective functioning of childrens trusts, including a recommendation to them to appoint a senior lead on speech, language and communication issues.
How to ensure greater consistency and equity for families by better monitoring of performance by commissioners and publication of accessible data, for instance on educational attainment by children with SLCN.
The Child Health Strategy, which will be published in September, will seek to address the real issues that the report has raised about the commissioning and provision of equipment and aids for children with complex needs.
We are announcing today that the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Health will together commit £12 million to lead action to take forward the recommendations up to and including the National Year of Speech, Language and Communication by 2011. In addition, the DCSF are investing £40 million in the Every Child A Talker programme, to ensure that early years practitioners are better able to access training and materials to support childrens speaking and listening skills from birth to 5. My Department has already asked Sir Jim Rose to examine how schools can better focus on speech, language and communication as part of his review of the primary curriculum.
The Secretary of State for Health and I thank John Bercow MP, and his expert advisers, for the way the review was conducted, with extensive consultations and a programme of visits; it provides a benchmark for future reviews. The recommendations in the final report have the potential to transform the lives of children and young people with SLCN and their families and we are committed to delivering the changes required to achieve this.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne): The next relief in place of UK forces in Afghanistan will take place in October 2008. The force package that we currently plan to deploy will see the lead formation, 16 Air Assault Brigade, replaced by 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, which will command the majority of the units serving in Afghanistan. The new force elements deploying include:
Volunteer and regular members of the reserve forces will continue to deploy to Afghanistan as part of this integrated force package, and we expect to have eventually issued in the order of 620 call-out notices to fill around 560 posts. On completion of their mobilisation procedures, the reservists will undertake a period of training and, where applicable, integration with their respective receiving units. The majority will serve on operations for six or so months, although some may have shorter tours. As part of this commitment, we expect up to 25 members of the sponsored reserves to be in theatre at any one time.
The Minister for Europe (Mr. Jim Murphy): I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper Prospects for the European Union in 2008: French Presidency. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Additional copies can also be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at: www.fco.gov.uk .
The last White Paper was published in January 2008. It focused primarily on the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency. The White Paper I am laying before the House today looks at the priorities of the French Presidency for the latter half of 2008.
The French Presidency has set out a challenging agenda covering a wide range of areas, building on the positive successes of the Slovenian Presidency. The Presidency offers a significant opportunity to work closely together on a number of key issues.
On climate change and energy security the Presidency aims to reach agreement on the 2020 climate change package, the text of the internal market energy package, the strategic energy review. The Presidency will continue work on tackling the challenge of food and oil prices, and the credit crunch. These are key issues for the UK Government and one which we will work hard with EU partners to reach agreement on. The Presidency will also look to agree a way forward on the Lisbon treaty during the next six months.
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