Ministers will discuss EU sanctions as part of the dual-track strategy of engagement and pressure, in light of the likely passage of a UN Security Council resolution
in week of 7 June. Ministers may also discuss developments in Iran following the anniversary of last year's June elections.
Foreign Ministers will discuss the western Balkans, in the light of the Sarajevo high-level meeting on June 2 between EU and western Balkan Foreign Ministers, which the Foreign Secretary attended. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Chief Prosecutor Brammertz is expected to brief Ministers ahead of his six-monthly report to the UN Security Council. Ministers are likely to review the issue of ratification of Serbia's stabilisation and association agreement with the European Union.
Ministers will receive an update from the High Representative on her visit to Kenya, Tanzania and Seychelles of 18 to 21 May. Ministers' discussions are likely to focus on support to regional counter-piracy efforts and strengthening capability for prosecuting pirates.
Ministers will discuss recent developments on the middle east peace process, the Gaza flotilla incident and international efforts to improve the situation in Gaza. This may include discussions of an independent investigation of events and how restrictions on access might be lifted. Ministers will also discuss the wider peace process, including the American-led proximity talks and their progress.
Ministers will discuss the situation in Sudan, particularly with a view to the January 2011 referendum on self-determination for south Sudan as part of the 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA). The Council will also discuss the conflict in Darfur. Ministers will focus on the EU's engagement on Sudan going forward to support peaceful completion of the CPA, whatever the decision of south Sudan in the referendum. The Council is also likely to stress that efforts must continue to find a political solution to the Darfur conflict and the importance of improving security and humanitarian access in Darfur.
Ministers will discuss Council conclusions on the Commission staff working document on combating child labour. The conclusions set out a number of measures the EU should take to combat child labour, including through political dialogue and multilateral affairs; corporate social responsibility; public procurement; and trade incentives.
Ministers will discuss the annual evaluation of the EU common position on Cuba, and assess progress made in the EU-Cuba political dialogue. Ministers will also agree Council conclusions on Cuba which will centre on the continuing relevance of the common position, and may call on the Cuban Government to do more to improve the human rights situation in Cuba.
Georgia is on the agenda at the request of Lithuania. Ministers may discuss the recent local elections (30 May), which the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission noted marked "evident progress towards meeting OSCE and Council of Europe commitments". There may also be discussion of Georgia's relations with the EU: a visa facilitation agreement will be signed this month; negotiations on an association agreement are due to start in July; a review of the Georgian action plan for engagement with Abkhazia and South Ossetia; and the European Union monitoring mission's (EUMM) mandate is due for renewal in the autumn.
As with Foreign Ministers, Baroness Ashton will brief on her visit to the region of 18 to 21 May. The discussion is likely to focus on taking a comprehensive approach to all of Somalia's political, security and development challenges and enhancing co-ordination with the wider international community.
Ministers will be asked to agree conclusions on a common EU position on the millennium development goals (MDGs) ahead of the UN high-level review meeting on the MDGs in New York in September 2010. Ministers are likely to discuss some of the key issues in the conclusions, most notably levels of official development assistance (ODA) commitments. The UK is committed to supporting an action-orientated and ambitious outcome at the UN Summit.
This is likely to be a general discussion, focused on the "Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Development, EU Plan of Action 2010-2015" which will be attached as an annex to the Council conclusions on the MDGs. The UK has been involved in the drafting of the action plan, which seeks to establish a practical framework to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs, especially MDG 3 (gender) and MDG 5 (maternal health).
The GAC will present and discuss the draft Council conclusions for the June European Council (JEC) on 17 June which will focus on the European economy, financial regulation in advance of the G20 Toronto summit, millennium development goals and climate change. Economic issues are likely to dominate the European Council: the presidency will be seeking to finalise the Europe 2020 strategy and leaders will want to discuss reforms to economic governance in the wake of recent turbulence.
The Council is expected to endorse conclusions of the 3 to 4 June JHA Council by welcoming progress in implementing the European pact on immigration and asylum. The GAC will also consider potential external
items for discussion at the JEC including possible EU sanctions on Iran, following a new UN Security Council resolution.
The Commissioners for Regional Policy and Employment and Social Affairs will present the strategic report on the implementation of cohesion policy programmes, published on 31 March 2010. As this is a new requirement for the 2007-13 period, the presidency initiated Council conclusions on the report which are to be adopted. The conclusions invite the Commission to explore possibilities for a better co-ordinated and simplified policy and note that cohesion policy will need to support the Europe 2020 strategy and should continue to foster competitiveness, innovation, employment and economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union.
There will be a discussion of the Commission's dossier on the European citizens' initiative. The Government remain concerned that no impact assessment has been carried out with which to better inform the proposed regulation.
The Commissioner for regional policy will present the results of the 2010 forum for outermost Europe to the GAC. Following an initiative of the Spanish presidency, Council conclusions on the outermost regions are likely to be adopted. The conclusions encourage a renewal of the strategy for the outermost regions and a consideration of the role of the outermost regions in EU policies, in particular Europe 2020.
I wish to inform the House of errors relating to those periods in the past which have recently been identified following an internal review of the authorisation process for the stop-and-search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has undertaken work in relation to a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act concerning authorisations for the section 44 stop-and-search powers. In the course of reviewing their section 44 records, the MPS identified an authorisation from April 2004 which had not been confirmed by a Home Office Minister within the statutory 48 hour deadline for confirmation. Subsequent investigations revealed that approximately 840 were stopped and searched in the relevant area during the period of the invalid authorisation. The MPS are urgently considering what steps can reasonably be taken to contact those individuals involved.
As a result of this discovery, the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism (OSCT) in the Home Office undertook a review in May 2010 of all section 44 authorisations since the Terrorism Act came into force on 19 February 2001, in the course of which a number of other errors came to light. I have to inform the House that it appears that stop-and-search powers have been used unlawfully by a number of police forces on a number of occasions. The Home Office has written to each of the police forces concerned to alert them to these errors and those forces are now in the process of assessing how many individuals were stopped and searched in the periods of invalid authorisations. They will do their best to contact those involved. To summarise these errors, on 33 occasions authorisations were specified to be for 29 days, and two occasions when the authorisations were specified to be for 30 days, whereas the statutory maximum period is 28 days. In addition, there was one further case (as well as the MPS incident in April 2004) where ministerial confirmation for the authorisation was not provided within the statutory 48 hour deadline. All of these cases appear to have been as a result of administrative errors which were not identified at the time by either the police or the Home Office. A full breakdown is included in the attached table.
Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has been informed.
Three episodes of errors taking place in the section 44 authorisation process have previously been brought to the attention of the House. For completeness, these are also included in the attached table bringing the total number of such cases to 40. Home Office officials are working closely with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) with the aim of ensuring there are no incidents in future. Officials will keep Lord Carlile and me informed and I will report back to the House as necessary.
I am aware that there is considerable concern about the operation of section 44 stop-and-search powers going beyond these authorisation errors. The Government are committed to a wider review of counter-terrorism legislation, including the operation of the section 44 stop-and-search provisions. While I take some re-assurance from the fact that no errors have occurred since December 2008 when the authorisation process was tightened, I want to assure the House that there will be utmost vigilance in future. It is with the need for this in mind that I have instructed Home Office officials unconnected with the administrative process to conduct the internal review of procedures.
|Authorisations Over the Statutory 28 Day Period
|Statutory End Date
|Actual End Date
|(*)The two occasions in January and March 2007 were addressed by Lord Carlile in his report for that year
|(*)The two occasions in August and September 2007 were addressed by Lord Carlile in his report for that year.
|(*)The occasion in February 2007 was addressed by Lord Carlile in his report for that year and the Government Response to his report. The Government Response also highlighted an incident in 2005 where South Wales did not have an authorisation in place between midnight on 21 June 2005 and 09.25 hrs on 24 June 2005.