|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Council adopted the decision authorising the presidency to sign the EU agreement with Japan on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters which includes important safeguards regarding the death penalty. Other
measures of note included a framework decision on prevention and settlement of conflicts of jurisdiction in criminal proceedings, a resolution on a "roadmap" for strengthening procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings, and Council conclusions on model provisions guiding the Council's criminal law deliberations.
The presidency presented the draft future JHA work programme (the Stockholm programme). The Council considered interior issues on the first day and justice on the second. All delegations welcomed the draft text, although points on mutual recognition of asylum decisions and training targets for police and judges remained contentious. On asylum, the Commission insisted on mutual recognition of asylum decisions as a long-term objective. The UK along with a number of other member states supported a text reflecting that beneficiaries of international protection should not have an automatic right to move throughout the European Union. In addition the UK secured language limiting ambitious targets for providing training in European law to police and judiciary to those who were concerned with European co-operation. The UK also secured acceptable language on the "Roadmap" on criminal procedural rights.
Overall, the Government welcome the Stockholm programme, which will allow the EU to build upon the many successes of EU collaboration in this area. The programme will now go to the December European Council for final agreement. An action plan for implementation of this JHA work programme will be presented by the Commission as soon as possible in 2010.
After lunch, the Commission introduced its proposals to revise directives on asylum procedures and qualification. The UK fully supported the objectives to streamline standards, simplify the law and combat abuse, but not the draft directives, which would go in the opposite direction. Restrictions on accelerated procedures would stop member states making fast, fair decisions on asylum applications. Lengthening the process and unnecessary burdens (like new rules on translation) would result in additional costs. Changes to who qualifies could actually result in member states granting asylum to those not in need of EU protection. Measures on unaccompanied minors would have negative effects and could undermine efforts to reduce human trafficking. These concerns were supported by other member states.
The EU Counter-terrorism Co-ordinator (CTC), Gilles de Kerchove, presented his six-monthly report and outlined considerations for ongoing efforts to implement the CT strategy. Priorities would be: victims; prevention; information management; co-operation with the private sector; and development and security. The UK supports efforts made by the CTC to continue to drive forward EU co-operation on CT, and is particularly appreciative of his efforts with priority third countries, such as Pakistan. The Commission looked forward to further work with the private sector, such as follow up by future presidencies of the recent seminar organised by the
UK's Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), and encouraged member states to further co-ordinate their counter-terrorism strategies.
The Council agreed the EU-US agreement on the processing and transfer of financial messaging data for the purposes of the US terrorist finance tracking programme (TFTP). This agreement, supported by the UK, was required due to a restructure of the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank financial Telecommunications) system used by the TFTP to identify and trace terrorist finance and facilitators. The presidency concluded that the interim agreement would be signed and, though temporary, did contain strengthened data protection provisions. It will come into force on 1 February 2010.
Under any other business, the Commission noted the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty on 1 December: any third pillar proposals not adopted would become void and would need to be re-negotiated; new proposals would be brought forward under the new Commission, as soon as possible in 2010. Spain outlined its presidency priorities and, in the margins of the Council, the UK joined other member states in signing a mobility partnership agreement with Georgia.
On day two, the presidency outlined the progress made during negotiations on the framework decision on combating sexual abuse, exploitation of children and child pornography. A new proposal will be needed, following the coming into force of the Lisbon treaty. The Commission said it would table one as soon as possible. The UK welcomed the progress made and looked forward to a new Commission proposal.
Justice Ministers then debated transfer of proceedings in criminal matters. This covered, among other things, the extent to which EU action could add value to the 1972 Council of Europe convention on transfer of proceedings, in particular in relation to jurisdiction. The UK congratulated the presidency on its efforts to try to reach agreement on this complicated issue. It is not clear whether, or when, a new proposal on this subject will be brought forward.
The presidency updated the Council on the way forward on negotiations to update the framework decision on combating trafficking of human beings and, following the entry into force of the Lisbon treaty, looked forward to a new Commission proposal. The UK supported this view for an updated framework decision, drawing on the good work done by the Swedish presidency.
The presidency also updated the Council on the adoption of the action-oriented paper (AOP) and the human trafficking conference held in October. The UK highlighted that the implementation of the AOP should focus on how existing measures, instruments, and mechanisms could be best utilised. The UK welcomed the presidency's efforts to link JHA work with the external dimension, but also needed to address the internal EU dimension of trafficking, as the EU contained source, transit and destination countries.
There was a state of play report on e-Justice, during which it was explained that the launch of the European e-Justice portal had been delayed for technical reasons. It is hoped that the launch can be rescheduled for the first half of 2010.
It includes our report against the 2007 Public Service Agreements that are led by the Home Office. These PSAs ensure controlled, fair migration that protects the public and contributes to economic growth, make communities safer, reduce the harm caused by alcohol and drugs and reducing the risk to the UK and its interests overseas from international terrorism.
The report also provides an update on performance against the targets we set in the 2004 spending review that are still current. It shows that we have met our targets to reduce unfounded asylum intake and we are on course to reduce the harm caused by drugs.
The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper):
In 2005, the Government made public their commitment to work towards equality for disabled people
by 2025. Since then we have come a long way but, as many disabled people know, we still have further to go.
To help achieve this ambition, on 11 June 2009 we launched a national consultation on the Right to Control by publishing the consultation paper, "Making choice and control a reality for disabled people: consultation on the Right to Control". We have also legislated for a Right to Control for disabled people in the Welfare Reform Act 2009, which recognises that disabled people are the experts in their own lives. We have worked closely with disabled people and their organisations to develop this right, including with our advisory group, chaired by Baroness Jane Campbell, and will test it in our Trailblazers, which will start in late 2010.
The consultation concluded on 30 September 2009 and 176 responses were submitted from individual disabled people, user-led organisations, service providers and local authorities, amongst others. These responses have helped us understand what areas we need to focus on and develop in order to offer a right that will be truly transformative for disabled people. Today, with the publication of the Government Response, "Making choice and control a reality for disabled people: Government Response to the consultation on the Right to Control", we can take another step towards delivering the Right to Control and improve the life chances of disabled people by giving them more choice and control over how public money is spent to meet their individual care and support needs.
The Government response to the Right to Control consultation can be viewed and downloaded from the Office for Disability Issues website at www.odi.gov.uk/right-to-control. Copies of the document will be placed in the House Library.