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On the use of modern technology for security purposes, the presidency stressed the importance of the core values of mobility, security and privacy in taking forward this work. The Commission emphasised the need for a coherent common strategy to enable information sharing and interoperability, covering all aspects of law enforcement information exchange across the EU. The UK also stressed the need for a broad strategy, but one which was not artificially constrained by the treaty pillars, and which drew on operational needs. The UK agreed that balance of privacy and data sharing was important. In subsequent interventions there was general support for a broad strategy in the area of EU information access that looked at the practical needs and that could then be reflected in the post-Hague JHA work programme. There was also a sense that this work should be taken forward through existing Council structures rather than through the creation of new groups.
On the related issue of the use of modern technologies in border control, migration management and asylum policy, there was clear support for the use of modern technologies to improve border management, including the use of biometric data to manage external borders. There was also broad support to develop the use of Eurodac. The presidency noted that existing mechanisms should be combined to enhance the effectiveness of border management work and said that the entry/exit system and registered traveller system would be ongoing areas of work for its presidency. The Commission recognised the possibility of an automated border system for those with biometric travel documents, but noted that a requirement to make the collection of such data binding would require a change to the current legislation. The Commission thought that new systems should only be developed once the legal instrument had been agreed, and systems needed to be developed in an integrated manner, across all levels (national and EU). The Commission also said that there would be an agency to manage IT systems, which would improve the process and enable member states to be more involved. The UK welcomed the presidencys proposals, noting its extensive use of data in border management, which facilitated travel as well as being a tool for law enforcement and migration management. It was important to learn from one another, and agree on the basic principles and benefits for citizens, for example in the use of passenger name records.
During a working lunch the presidency sought views on the international protection of children, with particular emphasis on the use of IT, including SIS II. The Commission raised the issue of the still small number of member states who currently have an early warning child abduction system in place. The UK called for support on a number of related issues: the work being undertaken by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre to tackle the sale and distribution of abusive images; for member states to consider participation of their law enforcement agencies in the virtual global taskforce (an international collaboration of law enforcement agencies who lead work to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation both on and offline in their respective countries) to broaden its use within the EU; for consideration of an EU-wide child abduction taskforce and use of a website to exchange information and child alerts. Other delegations stressed the importance of concerted effort at EU level, mentioning specifically the
role of internet service providers (ISPs), while warning against duplication of existing Interpol work in relation to child pornography.
As regards the debate on the future of mutual recognition of court decisions and judgments, there was a general sense that mutual recognition should remain the cornerstone of judicial co-operation. However, there were also widespread calls for better implementation and for improved evaluation of existing instruments, and for minimum procedural safeguards in order to enhance trust in each others systems. The UK stressed the importance of proportionality in the way instruments were applied, and called for existing standards under the European Convention on Human Rights to be better observed.
During the debate on succession and family law, general support was expressed in principle for a proposal that dealt with problems arising from succession and wills involving property in more than one country. However there was widespread caution as to the detail, with some delegations calling for work to proceed slowly and taking full account of the diversity of member states legal systems. During a short discussion on family law, some states observed that it would be better to focus on implementation of agreed measures before proceeding further. A number of delegations spoke in favour of enhanced co-operation where negotiations on family law measures among all member states had not led to agreement. Nonetheless, the Commission indicated it did not consider that there was the critical mass to proceed with a proposal under enhanced co-operation on choice of law in divorce (following from the failure to reach agreement on Rome III).
Over lunch there was a discussion about e-justice. The presidency announced that they are going to produce a manual listing the location of video-conferencing facilities in every member state. The Commission said that member states would be able to request funding to help them to improve their video-conferencing capabilities.
The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I should like to inform the House that I have made the following appointments under schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986:
Mr. David Elvin QC, appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, effective from 12 January 2009 until 11 January 2014; and
Mr. Neil Pringle, appointed as a Member of the Boundary Commission for England, effective from 1 July 2009 until 30 June 2014.
I am today announcing the United Kingdoms participation in the European Community Regulation, on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I). The regulation will provide for uniform choice of law rules in contract for all member states
(except Denmark) and will come into force on 17 December 2009. The decision to participate follows the United Kingdoms successful negotiation of the proposed regulation. The regulation now improves on the 1980 Rome convention and will give greater legal certainty for business and consumers in Europe.
I would also like to announce the publication of the response paper to the public consultation on whether the United Kingdom should participate in the Rome I Regulation. The consultation period ran from April to June 2008. The responses received to this consultation were almost unanimous in support of the United Kingdoms participation.
As a result of the positive response to the consultation, the United Kingdom notified the European Commission and the Council of its intention to participate in the Rome I Regulation. The Commission, on 22 December 2008, adopted a decision to extend the application of the Rome I Regulation to the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom will be required to implement the regulation by 17 December 2009, at the same time as all other participating member states.
Copies of the Rome I response paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The Olympic Funders Group(1) met yesterday and agreed to allow the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) to access £394 million of funders contingency. This decision provides £68 million, to meet the funding requirements of the International Broadcast Centre/Main Press Centre (IBC/MPC), and £326 million to support the construction of the Olympic village. The overall £9.325 billion public sector funding package remains unchanged.
As a result of good progress being made by the ODA, this investment is affordable from the overall contingency funds available and the contingency provision still available exceeds the assessed value of remaining risks. Alongside other contingency allocations, this means that around £1.5 billion of contingency funds remain available. The additional funding required is due to the shortage of private sector funding and the deterioration in the property market as a result of the current global economic downturn.
The overall cost of the venue has reduced from £380 million to a new budget of £355 million. The original budget assumed a private sector contribution of £160 million which is no longer available, with £220 million from the ODA budget. As a result, £68 million of funders contingency is being provided to bridge the funding gap. This allocation by funders is in addition to £67 million that is being made available from ODA Programme Contingency(2), to provide a total budget of £355 million.
The public sector will retain ownership of the asset and the ability to bring in private sector funding at a later stage. The new budget includes funding to ensure
that the buildings left in legacy have the flexibility to be adapted to a wide range of uses, to maximise the potential employment opportunities after the games.
The Olympic village is planned to have up to 3,000 apartments, fewer than in original plans, but the IOC requirements for athletes during the games can still be met with this reduced number. The village will house up to 17,000 athletes during the Olympics and over 6,000 during the Paralympics.
The funders group have agreed to allow the ODA access to a further £23l million in contingency, to maintain the momentum of the project while discussions on private sector financing continue, following the agreement last year that the ODA could spend an initial £95 million this financial year. The total contingency for the village is therefore £326 million.
The ODA is continuing to negotiate with Lend Lease (the anticipated private developer), and the banks, in terms of the private investment for the Olympic village, and this decision on the funding available will enable good progress to continue to be made on site. Negotiations are also continuing with Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), in relation to the provision of affordable housing, which also contributes to the funding of the overall project.
The Olympic village will provide up to 3,000 homes after the games, of which around 30 per cent. will be affordable, creating a core part of the legacy plans for the future regeneration of the Lower Lea valley.
The £9.325 billion public sector funding package announced in March 2007 included £2.7 billion of contingency. Some £0.5 billion was released to ODA when its baseline budget was confirmed at the end of 2007, and £0.238 billion was allocated as contingency for security. Some £2 billion of contingency therefore remained available for the ODA. Further details on the total public sector funding package and the ODA baseline budget is available from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Annual Report: January 2008.
Of the £2 billion remaining available in the baseline budget, only £35 million (as set out in the table below) has been allocated to projects other than the village and IBC/MPC. Taken together with the decisions now being announced, the ODA have now, in total, been given access to around 25 per cent. of the £2 billion contingency remaining at the time of the baseline budget, leaving around £1.5 billion of contingency remaining available.
A full picture on the contingency released for other projects, and an update on the overall picture across the programme, will be contained within the next 2012 annual report due to be published next month.
(1)The Ministerial Funders Group is Chaired by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling), and also consists of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Yvette Cooper), Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell), Culture Secretary (Andy Burnham), Communities Secretary (Hazel Blears) and Transport Secretary (Geoff Hoon). The Mayor of London attends but is not a member.
(2)Programme contingency is for risks managed by the ODA, in relation to delivering a programme of projects on this scale, on a tightly constrained site, against an immovable deadline. Funders contingency is to cover other risks, beyond the project and programme levelprincipally risks outside the control of the ODA.
|Previously Agreed Contingency Releases|
|Funders Contingency||Programme Contingency||Total|
budget increases required on a number of projects, including powerlines and legacy requirements for the aquatics centre, and new budgets for sustainability and technical reviews;
savings arising on various other projects including: enabling works, various transport projects and structures bridges and highways.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): Lord Chidgey has been appointed as a full member of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union in place of Lord Russell-Johnston.