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First, it is important to underline that considerable progress has already been made in recent years to reduce our vulnerability to the use of hazardous substances for terrorist purposes. The National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) provide specialist advice regarding the security of a variety of hazardous substances. They have undertaken a range of activities to reduce the vulnerability of hazardous substances. These include “Know Your Customer” campaigns to raise awareness about the ‘dual-use’ nature of certain products and encouraging suppliers to be more enquiring of new customers and to report suspicious enquiries to police. NaCTSO have also played an important role in overseeing the local police Counter-Terrorism Security Advisers who implement part 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 which provides the police with powers to impose security measures at laboratories that hold certain dangerous pathogens and toxins.

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) is the Government authority on protective security in relation to national security threats. CPNI works with NaCTSO to advise businesses and organisations on the security of hazardous substances and sites.

The Environment Agency has managed a Government-subsidised programme that has disposed of more than 9,000 disused radioactive sources from hospitals, universities, museums, schools and other sites across the UK. The Environment Agency, and their sister agencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, working in partnership with NaCTSO, are also regulating the security of radioactive sources used at hospitals, universities and industrial sites throughout the UK. This review did not cover those nuclear or radiological materials used within the civil nuclear sector, as they fall under the specific regulatory regime led by the Office for Civil Nuclear Security.

The Transport Security and Contingencies Directorate of the Department for Transport (Transec) enforces a statutory regime for the security of dangerous goods in transit. The Department for Transport’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) carries out inspections of vehicles at the roadside, and of road depots, on behalf of Transec. Transec’s own inspectors carry out compliance activity for the movement of dangerous goods by rail in the UK.

The Government also welcome the steps that industry has been taking, through a knowledge of its customers and through codes of conduct, to help reduce the chances of abuse of hazardous substances. For instance, the UK Fertiliser Industry has developed, at the request of the UK Government, the Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme (FIAS).

The main outcome of the review is a new risk-based strategic framework to drive prioritisation of work to reduce the accessibility of hazardous substances for terrorist purposes. This will enable work to focus on reducing the accessibility of hazardous substances considered to be at highest risk, taking account of the need for a proportionate, cost-effective and practical response. This will allow us to target resources where most needed and to improve the security of hazardous substances even further.

The framework will direct a cross-Government programme of work to reduce the vulnerability of highest risk substances. This programme will be delivered under
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the “Protect” strand of the Government’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy (CONTEST) and will be led by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office.

This framework has prioritised hazardous substances on the basis of the risk they pose, taking account of the threat, vulnerability and impact of those substances. The review examined the vulnerability of substances across their life-cycle (from their precursors through to their disposal).

We are reviewing the pathogens and toxins listed under schedule 5 of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 with the assistance of the Health Protection Agency. We are also considering whether further legislative changes are required to clarify the scope of the application of the legislation, and will consult on any proposed changes in due course as appropriate.

Another example of specific work under way as a result of the review is a joint Department for Transport-Home Office project which has been established to agree an impact-based list of substances of most concern, to inform our assessment of the risk, and to identify areas for further reduction of the vulnerability of these substances throughout the supply chain, including transportation.

We will continue to reduce the risks from the illicit transportation of hazardous substances at the UK border. We will build upon existing initiatives such as Programme Cyclamen, which provides radiation screening capability at UK points of entry to prevent the illicit importation of radiological substances, and will use the strategic framework to inform counter-terrorism requirements at the UK border, in conjunction with the UK Border Agency, the National Co-ordinator of Ports Policing and other stakeholders.

We are also considering what further work may be appropriate to reduce the vulnerability of hazardous sites and substances to insider action. This will build on existing work led by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure and take account of the findings of the independent review of personnel security in the transport sector by Stephen Boys Smith.

In taking forward this work, the Government recognise the importance of engaging fully with industry and academia. In particular, we are committed to working with them to identify proportionate, risk-based measures. Equally important is the need to work with international partners to reduce the risk of terrorists acquiring hazardous substances. For example, we are currently working with our European partners to reduce the availability of high-grade ammonium nitrate fertiliser.

Taken together, the various recommendations of the review will further reduce the risk of terrorists obtaining hazardous substances and will increase the likelihood that those attempting to access such materials will be detected.

Justice and Home Affairs Pre-Council Statement (24 and 25 July 2008)

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The Justice and Home Affairs Council will be held on 24 and 25 July 2008 in Brussels. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the Member for Lewisham,
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East (Bridget Prentice), Cabinet Secretary for Justice in Scotland (Kenny McAskill) and I will attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed.

The morning of the Council will focus on asylum and immigration business, starting with a state of play report on the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum. The pact covers five areas: legal migration of third-country nationals; illegal immigration and returns; border controls; asylum; and partnership with countries of origin and transit (the “Global Approach”). The presidency is seeking agreement on the pact in time for the 15 October European Council. We support the strong focus on immigration and asylum issues under the French presidency and will use this as basis for stronger practical co-operation in the EU. The Government are generally content with the pact but will continue to work with the presidency on the detail of the final document.

There will follow a discussion on the directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment (commonly known as the EU Blue Card), which aims to set admission conditions for highly skilled migrants. It also proposes to determine the conditions in which third-country nationals who are legally residing in a member state under the proposal may reside with their family members in other member states. The French presidency is aiming for political agreement at the September JHA Council. The UK has not opted in to this measure since it does not fit with the UK’s Points Based System.

The presidency is seeking an agreement to the directive providing for sanctions against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals by member states. The UK chose not to opt-in to this directive as a result of concerns in relation to the proposed definition of “employer”, a notification requirement and inspections. However, the UK is seeking to influence discussions in order to amend the text in a manner which would allow a review of our opt-in position post-adoption of the directive.

The Council will be asked to agree conclusions on the taking in of Iraqi refugees by member states. The Government strongly agree that member states should be able to determine their own resettlement policies. The UK will continue to resettle Iraqi refugees under our established policies and selection criteria and do not consider common resettlement criteria to be feasible. We support sharing good practice.

The presidency would like to reach a general approach on the directive amending directive 2003/109/EC to extend its scope to beneficiaries of international protection. The UK has chosen not to opt in to the proposed directive as we believe it is not in line with our Frontiers protocol. We want to determine the status of third-country nationals via the UK’s Immigration Rules.

The Council then revert to discussions on interior business, starting with the Mixed Committee with Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The presidency will present a state of play report on the draft regulation amending common consular instructions on visas for diplomatic and consular posts in relation to the introduction of biometrics. Although the United Kingdom does not participate in issuing Schengen visas, we welcome the efforts of Schengen member states in ensuring that the Schengen external EU borders are as secure as possible.

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The Commission will also update the Council on the state of play of the Second Generation Schengen Information System (SIS II). The presidency will also look to agree the Council Regulation and Council Decision on the migration of SIS1+ to SIS II.

Under any other business in Mixed Committee, the Commission will present their communication on visa reciprocity. Although the United Kingdom does not participate in the EU Common Visa Policy, the United Kingdom will continue to support the principle of reciprocity and extending the US Visa Waiver Program to all EU member states.

The presidency intends to present its proposed working method on the Passenger Name Records Framework Decision to the Council. Their approach will focus on seeking agreement on the key issues of the dossier, namely scope, the depth of harmonisation necessary, data protection and relations with third countries. The presidency will also suggest that there should be consultation with data protection authorities, the European Parliament and carriers. The UK is in broad agreement with this approach and welcomes the ambitious programme of work outlined in the French proposal.

The presidency will present the final reports of the Future Groups on Home Affairs and on Justice, which aim to provide input to the new JHA work programme that will replace the Hague programme at the end of 2009. The Government see these reports as one element among several that should feed the debate on the direction of the new work programme.

The presidency will propose taking forward work to improve co-operation in tackling cybercrime. The UK supports action in this area to promote co-operation between private industry and public authorities, as well as between law enforcement. We will work with the presidency to develop their ideas.

On the morning of the second day, the Council will move to justice issues. The presidency will seek political agreement on the Council decision on strengthening Eurojust. This instrument aims to improve the efficiency of Eurojust, including by giving national members a minimum set of powers and increasing the flow of information between national competent authorities and Eurojust. The Government are content with the outcome of negotiations and believe the draft strikes a good balance.

The French presidency will also seek political agreement on the Council decision amending the European Judicial Network. This instrument is intended to update and replace the 1998 Joint Action which established the European Judicial Network and take account of subsequent developments in EU judicial co-operation, including the establishment of Eurojust in 2002. The Government are generally content with what is proposed.

The presidency will present a proposal for a Council decision on the establishment of the European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS). There will be a policy debate on this measure which aims to find a standardised format for exchange of the content of a conviction, as well as other general and technical implementation aspects of the information exchange. The Government strongly support this measure insofar as it aims to improve and speed up the arrangements for exchanging information on past convictions.

There will be a policy debate about the Rome III Regulation (choice of law in divorce). The UK did not
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opt in to the negotiations on this proposal. Member states have been unable to reach agreement on the measure, and some now wish to proceed by way of “enhanced co-operation”. The treaty provides for this, as a last resort, where eight or more states wish to participate in something that falls within Community competence but cannot be attained within a reasonable period. If it went ahead, it would be the first use of enhanced co-operation. There is no expectation that the UK will participate and the Government do not intend to do so.

Innovation, Universities and Skills

European Investment Bank Loans

The Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Douglas Alexander): I have instructed my Department to ask the European Investment Bank (EIB) to return the relevant payments of Lomé debt service directly to Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) countries. It is estimated that the benefits of this decision will be approximately £27 million, for 18 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries. The payments relate to the UK share of future debt service payments on public sector loans signed by HIPCs before 2 December 2000 under the Lomé conventions.

The UK share of the Lomé debt service on loans of EDF money is received by DFID from the EIB. Part of this debt service relates to public sector loans signed before 2 December 2000 by HIPC countries. DFID has made a decision to stop receiving this part of the debt service. All monies previously received by DFID through Lomé debt service have been used for international development.


Chair of the Legal Services Commission

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Maria Eagle): My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) has made the following written ministerial statement:

Courts Service Key Performance Indicators 2008-09

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Maria Eagle): The following list of key performance indicators has been set for Her Majesty’s Courts Service for 2008-09:

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More information on these and other key supporting targets are published in the “HM Courts Service Business Plan for 2008-2009”. Copies of the business plan for 2008-09 have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies are also available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.

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