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The objective of the microgeneration strategy, launched in March 2006, was to create conditions under which microgeneration becomes a realistic alternative or supplementary energy generation source for the householder, for the community and for small businesses. As we outlined in the Microgeneration Strategy Progress Report(2), the majority of the strategy has now been implemented with many of the barriers removed, particularly planning constraints and technical barriers to connection. This has been achieved without targets, and completion of the remaining actions would not be assisted in any material way by the setting of targets.
Although it was not a requirement of the CCSE Act, we took the opportunity through the Renewable Energy Strategy consultation document to seek views on our position that we were not minded to introduce statutory targets for microgeneration at this stage in their development. Initial analysis of the replies to the consultation shows that the responses have been mixed, although the majority of those who expressed an opinion supported this position.
The Element Energy research concluded that the targets most likely to stimulate microgeneration investment by suppliers would be those which are about sales volumes. The research also suggested that a technology specific target is unlikely to be workable at this stage.
Setting a target-based on the total number of microgeneration installations has the potential to undermine other Government targets which are more flexible and outcome-driven, in particular the Governments CO2 targets. A target to secure that a particular number of microgeneration systems are installed in England and Wales and electricity microgenerating systems are installed
in Scotland could drive the installation of the cheapest forms of microgeneration, rather than the most cost effective or carbon efficient.
Further, a target focused at this scale namely the generation of electricity below 50kW and the production of heat below 45kW could divert investment from larger distributed energy technologies which can be more cost-effective and may therefore have a greater potential to assist the UKs contribution to combating climate change.
Small scale generation clearly has a role to play in combating climate change, the securing of a diverse and viable long-term energy supply and in alleviating fuel poverty. To play its part in the most effective way, however, broader consideration of its place within the energy mix is required. As a co-ordinated approach is necessary to best tackle the problems of climate change we believe that it would be preferable to consider the position in the light of our overall strategy.
In the first half of 2009 we will therefore launch our renewable energy strategy, and will bring forward our more detailed proposals on feed-in tariffs for small scale low carbon electricity and incentives for renewable heat. In the light of these decisions, we will be in a position to set out in detail the expected contribution of on-site generation alongside other kinds of electricity and heat generation.
Therefore at this stage, rather than designating targets within the narrower terms of the Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Act 2006, we intend to bring forward broader proposals in the context of the Renewable Energy Strategy.
(2) Available to download from: http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file46372.pdf
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Huw Irranca-Davies): At the start of the summer recess, we launched an open consultation to seek the views of a range of stakeholders on the principle of whether some members of national park and Broads Authorities should be directly elected.
Currently, the majority of the national park authorities membership comprises local authority and parish councillors selected by their respective councils, with the remainder being appointed by the Secretary of State in recognition of the national interest. This combination of members seems to be working well. The Broads Authority has a different membership structure under its own primary legislation to reflect the broads navigational interest.
Nevertheless, we are aware of alternative solutions elsewhere in the UKin particular in Scotland. The Committee scrutinising the Broads Authority Private Bill recommended that the case for directly elected members on the Authority should be re-evaluated. In response, my predecessor announced that the Government would seek stakeholder views on whether direct elections
would be appropriate for all English national park and Broads Authorities. Simultaneously, we have also taken this opportunity to consult on whether there should be any parish members on the Broads Authority.
The Minister for Europe (Caroline Flint): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Luxembourg.
Foreign Ministers discussed the agenda of the October European Council, including: the economic and financial situation; energy and climate security; migration; the Irish referendum on the Lisbon treaty; and follow-up to the 1 September Extraordinary European Council on Georgia and EU-Russia relations.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary broadly supported the draft European Council conclusions and welcomed the leadership shown within the EU in tackling the financial crisis; on climate change and energy, the Foreign Secretary noted the importance of a united EU position on the proposed climate and energy package, and of reaching agreement by December 2008; he also stressed the need for migration policies to take full account of the responsibilities as well as the rights that free movement carries.
The presidency updated Ministers on preparations for the international talks on Georgia, due to begin in Geneva on 15 October. The Council also discussed preparations for the donors conference for Georgia on 22 October and agreed that the time was not right to resume talks with Russia on a new Partnership and Co-operation Agreement. We support the Council Conclusions, which invited the parties to continue the implementation of their commitments under the 12 August and 8 September agreements. The conclusions also welcomed the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia, confirmed EU willingness to play an active part in the Geneva talks and looked forward to the donors conference.
Ministers agreed Council conclusions, which the Government strongly support, condemning the announcement of ministerial portfolios over the weekend,
encouraging Thabo Mbeki to work to make the power-sharing agreement of 15 September effective and confirming that the EU stood ready to consider additional measures if the impasse continued.
Foreign Ministers discussed the situation following the 28 September parliamentary elections. The Council adopted conclusions setting out the EUs response to recent developments. They retained the existing assets freeze; dropped the ban on ministerial contacts, with the aim of encouraging further democratic progress; and renewed the visa ban for 12 months but suspended it for six months for all but those involved in the 1999-2000 disappearances and the President of the Central Electoral Commission. Without further progress on democratic Government and human rights, the ban will be reimposed.
Ministers also adopted without discussion conclusions on Moldova, looking forward to negotiation of a new EU-Moldova agreement and further strengthening of the EU-Moldova relationship, including on visas and free trade. The conclusions also record the EUs desire to facilitate a resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.
The Government welcome the Council conclusions, which lifted the EUs visa ban on members of the Uzbek Government, following a 12-month suspension, in recognition of progress on human rights and democracy. But Ministers decided to retain the arms embargo for another year, and the conclusions look forward to further progress on human rights, democratisation and the rule of law.
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband): The conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is not just a threat to regional stability but also has appalling humanitarian consequences. Following last weeks events, in which the forces of the rebel leader Laurent Nkunda made substantial gains in territory and threatened the major regional city of Goma, I visited the region with the French Foreign Minister on 1 and 2 November.
My visit allowed me to discuss the conflict with Presidents Kabila of DRC, Kagame of Rwanda and Kikwete of Tanzania. Presidents Kabila and Kagame will need to work together to achieve a lasting solution which addresses the underlying political factors. The right framework for this is already in place. The Nairobi agreement, signed by the Governments of DRC and Rwanda in November 2007, commits both to act to reduce the threat posed by the Forces Democratiques de la Liberation du Rwanda, the militia recognised in UN Security Council Resolution 1804 as the leading cause of regional instability. It remains a valid approach. Presidents Kabila and Kagame have a key role to play in implementing that agreement. I was reassured in my meeting with President Kikwete that the African Union will mediate and assist both Governments in carrying out the work they have undertaken to do to create the conditions for peace.
Other international actors can help drive the process forward, too. The UN Secretary-General has announced that he will appoint former President Obasanjo of Nigeria
as his special envoy to promote better co-operation between DRC and Rwanda. I commend this initiative. It is right that the UN should stay closely engaged in the process to end this destructive conflict and encourage more constructive relations. The EU, too, should consider what support it can offer the UN, and continue its involvement in efforts to develop collaborative relations between the DRC Government and the other parties which signed agreements following the peace and security conference at Goma in January 2008.
I was struck during my visit to the camp for internally displaced people at Kibati, close to Goma, by the extent of the human suffering caused by the conflict. Access for aid workers to the displaced and the provision of food, sanitation and shelter are urgent issues. The UK is already a prominent donor of aid to DRC, much of which is targeted at improving the humanitarian situation. We have increased our contribution in this area by £5 million in the light of the recent events, in addition to the £37 million already committed. We will continue to lend support in this and other development areas.
The potential of the African Great Lakes region is enormous. The UK has invested considerable effort in it. While insecurity and violence persist in eastern DRC, the stability and prosperity of the entire region are under threat. The political processes already agreed, and the engagement of the international community, represent an opportunity to resolve them and avert further conflict. We must not let it pass.
The Minister for Borders and Immigration (Mr. Phil Woolas): Throughout this year, the Government have been delivering the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for a generation. We are delivering a stronger border that maximises the use of new technology, a selective Australian-style points system to control migration and a clear expectation that newcomers earn the right to stay.
We have already made sweeping changes to our border protection, including checking fingerprints before we issue a visa, screening all travellers against watch-lists and introducing a single border force with police-like powers.
implement one of the most important parts of the points-based system (PBS);
simplify the route for business visitors;
increase the minimum age for obtaining a marriage visa from 18 to 21;
close the little-used immigration route for retired persons of independent means to new entrants; and
support the roll out of identity cards for foreign nationals.
The PBS is part of a robust system of controls that is designed to prevent illegal migration and to welcome only those people that the country needs. We introduced the highly skilled tier of the new system in between February and June.
I am now introducing the tier for skilled workers with a job offer, the youth mobility scheme and the temporary workers route for people coming here for cultural, charitable, religious and similar reasons.
These changes will be complemented by new rules for business, entertainer and sports visitors, covering people who wish to come to the UK for short periods to conduct business, perform at a festival, or take part in a sporting event or tournament. These changes will simplify our existing provisions for business visitors, making it clear what they can and cannot do.
Finally, we are closing the retired persons of independent means route to new entrants, as announced in the Governments response to the consultation The Path to Citizenship: Next Steps in Reforming The Immigration System. This takes forward our policy that newcomers should earn the right to stay here permanently.
Tier 2 of the points-based system is for skilled workers who are coming to do a specific job. The job must be one that cannot be filled by a British worker or one from the European economic area. Tier 2 replaces the existing work permit system, including the provisions governing intra-company transfers and the employment of sportspeople, as well as the rules for Ministers of Religion.
All migrants will need a sponsor, who will need to have been licensed beforehand by the UK Border Agency. No one will get a licence unless we are satisfied that they are bona fide, honest and capable of complying with their duties, which include informing us if the migrant disappears, or does not turn up for the job.
In most cases, the sponsor will need to have advertised the job to UK workers before being able to bring in a migrant. This will not apply where the migrant is transferring from an overseas branch of the same company, or where the job is on the list of shortage occupations that we will publish shortly. That list will be drawn up following the advice that the Government have received from the independent Migration Advisory Committee.
Unless the job is in a shortage occupation, migrants will need to score a minimum number of points for a combination of their qualifications and prospective earnings in the UK before they will be able to come here. We will be able to adjust the points threshold to ensure that only the migrants we need are able to come.
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