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In conclusion, our ambition set out in Budget 2006a £600 million public and private package to support elite athletesremains in place and on track. In recognition of the changed economic circumstances we have increased
the public funding commitment and reduced the amount of funding that needs to be raised from the private sector. The Government will be working with all partners to raise the funds needed and remain confident that it can be achieved, and in doing so will establish a three-strand funding modelExchequer, lottery and private fundsthat will be the rightful and lasting legacy for the future of British elite sport.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. John Hutton): I am pleased to announce that I have appointed John Steele, Mary Carter and the Very Reverend Graham Forbes as members of the Armed Forces' Pay Review Body, each for a three-year term of office commencing on 1 March 2009. These appointments have been conducted in accordance with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.
The Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change (Edward Miliband): Lord Hunt, Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy Innovation and I, will represent the UK at the Environment Council in Brussels on 4 December. Stewart Stevenson, Scottish Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change will also attend.
At the Environment Council the French presidency will report on progress on the EU climate-energy legislative package. They will also provide briefing on the proposed renewable energy directive. The main outstanding issues on the climate and energy package include the redistribution of a proportion of allowances to the new member states for the purposes of solidarity; how to identify those sectors at risk of carbon leakage and what measures would be appropriate to reduce this risk; and the use of revenues from the auctioning of allowances. The door is still open for agreement on a financing mechanism for the demonstration of carbon capture and storage technology.
The presidency will also report on progress on the proposal for a regulation setting emission performance standards for new passenger carsC02 from carsand on the proposal for a directive on industrial emissionsintegrated pollution prevention and control, IPPC directive.
Furthermore, there will be a policy debate and adoption of Council conclusions on the sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and sustainable industrial policy (SIP) action plan. The policy debate is likely to focus on next steps for delivering the plan, ecolabelling, lifestyles and behaviour, and carbon content display for products.
Following policy debates, Ministers are due to adopt Council conclusions on addressing the challenges of deforestation and forest degradation to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and addressing the global mercury challenges in preparation for the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council in Nairobi on 16 to 20 February 2009.
Under any other business, the European Commission will present communications on: the dismantling of ships; the EU strategy on invasive alien species, the EU and the Arctic region and the implementation of European Community environmental law. Additionally, the European Commission is likely to present a Green Paper on biowaste management in the European Union. Finally, the Irish delegation has asked for a discussion under any other business on wastethe fall in demand for recycled materials.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith): The House will wish to know that we have today published the Governments response to Sir Ian Magees independent review of criminality information.
As I have said previously, we are grateful for the work that Sir Ian has done on the review and our response accepts the rationale behind all of his recommendations. These and the actions highlighted in our response encourage the better use, sharing and management of criminality information so that we can continue to reduce the risk of harm to the public while ensuring that information is held securely and shared only where it is lawful and proportionate to do so.
My introduction to the response is also the Governments statement of intent on the improved management of criminality information and its use to reduce the risk to the public. It sets out a number of examples of work we have already put in train to further protect the public, for example:
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has created a Central Criminal Records Office which is providing a focal point for several agencies involved in multi-agency public protection arrangements to protect the public against violent and sexual offenders;
The establishment of a UK central authority has enabled the exchange of criminal conviction information between EU member states and the UK;
The Criminal Records Bureau, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre are strengthening the information framework for protecting children and other vulnerable groups.
We are building on these achievements and have begun a programme of work to take forward Sir Ians recommendations. This will often not involve doing new things, but instead means factoring in the principles of the review into existing or planned pieces of work that we are already committed to delivering. For example, work to support the deportation of EEA nationals in appropriate circumstances and the developing identity management strategy.
Everyone in the Public Protection Network needs to recognise how their jobs contribute to protecting the public and they need to be provided with the training and resources necessary so that they can properly make their vital risk-based decisions relevant to public protection.
This is not just about solving yesterday and todays problems, it is also about trying to make sure that similar issues do not arise in the future. This will require long-term change to how Public Protection Network organisations operate and more work across organisational boundaries.
This will take time, but we have also set ourselves clear short-term milestones. We are already establishing robust ministerial governance structures and will appoint an independent adviser to ensure we maintain momentum. By the end of January 2009 we will agree a strategic direction for criminality information management and will provide new guidance on managing risks across the whole Public Protection Network by April. We aim to implement a number of steps to improve our business processes by the middle of next year and by September staff training on managing criminality information will be enhanced.
This will take us some considerable way to meeting our key objective which is to provide frontline Public Protection Network staff with the information they need, in the format that they need, at the time that they need it so that they can protect the public. Our response to Sir Ians review is an important aspect of meeting that challenge.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Meg Hillier): The Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council was held in Brussels on 27 and 28 November 2008. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice attended on behalf of the United Kingdom. The following issues were discussed at the Council:
The Council endorsed a statement condemning the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Giles de Kerchove, the counter-terrorism co-ordinator, welcomed the Councils recent focus on counter-terrorism. Radicalisation and recruitment were sensitive issues, but consensus has been reached on updating the action plan under the French presidency. It was important to encourage moderate Muslims to express their views. External work with the UN, Pakistan, the Sahel and the US was also critical. The Commission highlighted efforts on explosives, critical infrastructure protection, and CBRNChemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclearterrorism.
The UK welcomed the work of de Kerchove and the presidency on counter-radicalisation and stressed that this area had to be the focus for the long-term effort. Important elements were countering ideology, strengthening mainstream voices, tackling spaces where radicalisation can happen, such as prisons and schools, and communications. The UK had undertaken extensive work in this area, and was keen to do more at EU level.
On civil protection, Ministers were shown a film of a recent CBRN exercise and conclusions were agreed on improving the Unions modular response, training and EU-UN co-ordination. Some additional measures needed to be taken, and this was the consideration behind the presidencys roadmap.
The Council discussed a presidency paper on PNR. The incoming Czech presidency felt that the report was a good basis for future work and set out plans to work on the legal text at expert level, as well as to engage with other bodies such as the European Parliament and the Fundamental Rights Agency. The UK felt that the presidencys report showed that significant progress had been made, but that there was now a need to maintain the momentum.
During the mixed Committeeincluding Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Icelandthe presidency and the Commission congratulated Switzerland on its readiness to join the Schengen area, with land borders to be lifted on 12 December 2008 and air borders on 29 March 2009.
The Commission provided an update on the schedule for implementation of the second generation Schengen Information System (SIS II) programme. There had been some delays, but testing had resumed on 5 November and the results would be ready at the end of December. Every effort would be made to ensure that SIS II was fully operational before the end of 2009. The UK asked for the views of member states not presently linked into the SIS programme to be represented in the Friends of SIS II group looking at the SIS II programme. This was agreed.
The presidency reported on the 2nd EU-Africa Conference on Migration and Development which took place in Paris on the 25 November. The Commission supported the practical measures set out in the declaration from the conference and undertook to work hard with member states to take them forward. The Council conclusions on the global approach to migration were agreed without discussion and will be formally adopted at the December General Affairs and External Relations Council.
The presidency reported on the EU Ministerial Conference on Integration which took place in Vichy on 3 to 4 November, and the Council agreed the declaration as Council conclusions.
The presidency congratulated the Council on the progress made in negotiations on the draft directive establishing a single application procedure, a single permit and a common set of rights for third country nationals legally residing in the member states and on reaching political agreement on the blue card directive. The presidency declared that the directives demonstrated the EU was already delivering on commitments made on legal migration in the migration pact.
The Council did not reach agreement on the draft directive extending long-term residence to beneficiaries of international protectionin which the UK does not participate. Reservations are still outstanding on whether to offer the same access to long-term residence rights to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection as to refugees.
During lunch, there was a discussion on Iraqi refugees and, on reconvening, the Council agreed conclusions underlining the importance of resettlement as a protection tool for particularly vulnerable refugees. The Council agreed to step up efforts to meet the target set by UNHCR of 10,000 Iraqi refugees to be offered protection in the EU over the next three years while taking into account member states individual reception capacities and efforts already taken in the field of resettlement.
The Council discussed and agreed conclusions on how to take forward work dealing with abuse of the free movement directive, in particular by addressing the expulsion of criminals who threatened serious harm and the threat of illegal immigration. The Commission will adopt their report on their evaluation of the implementation of the directive next week but will take forward further work on how member states should interpret the directive in respect of the issues raised in the discussion in early 2009.
The Council agreed conclusions on child abduction alerts.
The presidency provided an update on work to amend the co-operation agreement between Eurojust and Europol.
Five legal instruments were adopted: the framework decision on racism and xenophobia; the framework decision on data protection; the framework decision on mutual recognition in probation matters; the framework decision on terrorism and the framework decision on mutual recognition of judgments in criminal matters.
The Council reached a general approach on the proposed decision amending the existing arrangements for the European judicial network in civil and commercial matters. The European Parliament is due to vote on the final text on 17 December 2008.
The Council conclusions concerning the common frame of reference in contract law were formally adopted. The presidency recalled that member states wanted a non-binding common frame of reference which was voluntary, and confirmed that the Council was not in favour of harmonising contract law in member states.
The e-justice action plan was adopted. This provides a structure and plan to take forward and deliver the proposed e-Justice projects.
Portugal and Estonia provided a demonstration of a practical example of e-justice, showing how citizens in each of the two countries can now rapidly create a company in the other state on line.
Agreement was reached on the setting up of a network for legislative co-operation, which will facilitate information about legislation in the various member states passing among Ministries of Justice. The presidency said that the first meeting of the network would take place in the first half of 2009.
The Council agreed a general approach on the European supervision order. The UK welcomed the instrument, which would enhance public protection by enabling the supervision of suspects awaiting trial when they returned home, while also ensuring people were not held unnecessarily in detention.
The UK congratulated the presidency on the conclusion of the negotiations on the regulation on mutual recognition of family maintenance obligations. The UK did not opt into this measure when it was proposed; however, Lord Bach announced that the UK would notify the Commission of our wish to participate in this measure when it has been formally adopted.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): The review of the experience of the United Kingdom under the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women announced on 25 June 2007 by my noble Friend Lord McKenzie of Luton (Official Report, c. 483) has been concluded.
The CEDAW optional protocol allows women in the UK to submit complaints directly to the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women if they feel that their rights have been violated. The Government accepted the optional protocol to reaffirm our commitment to womens rights and gender equality, and to gain greater empirical evidence on the value of individual petition to the UN generally.
The review of CEDAW was carried out by Professor Jim Murdoch of Glasgow university school of law. Professor Murdoch finds that: the CEDAW operational protocol has not yet provided women in the UK with real benefits; non-governmental organisations in the UK have not used the optional protocol in advancing the cause of women; and that the quality of the UN Committees adjudication on admissibility of complaints can appear inconsistent.
Professor Murdochs findings suggest that the first three years have not provided sufficient empirical evidence to decide either way on the value of other individual complaint mechanisms. We will need further evidence, over a longer period, to establish what the practical benefits are. In the meantime, the Government will consider the merits of other individual complaints mechanisms on a case-by-case basis.
Copies of Professor Murdoch's report of the review have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be placed on the Ministry of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/whatwedo/humanrights.htm
Legal aid is one of the fundamental elements underpinning the justice system and an important way of helping poorer members of the community. It enables access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay for legal advice and representation. The Government aims to get the best value for money from the provision of these services, so that as many people as possible can be helped using the available resources.
The value of legal aid contracts that have been awarded to the Not for Profit sector by the Legal Services Commission has increased from almost £48 million in 2002-03 to £80 million last year. This has enabled the sector to provide legal aid to an increasing number of people and last year over 250,000 of the 800,000 acts of advice and assistance were delivered by Not for Profit agencies.
The need for legal advice in areas like housing and debt will inevitably increase in these difficult economic times and the Government wants to be sure that the best use of existing resources is being made.
We need to bring together the evidence about the issues facing the advice sector on the ground. I have asked my officials, therefore, to lead a short study which will gather evidence about the following:
The impact of the recession and the demand for civil legal advice.
The impact of civil legal advice fixed fees on local providersfinancially and in terms of the type of work they are taking on.
The initial experience of Community Legal Advice Centres, including the impact on other providers in the area.
Trends in funding from sources other than the Community Legal Service, including local authority funding, national lottery funding, charities, central government departments, and others.
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