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Written Statements

Monday 1 June 2015

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council/Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)/General Affairs Council

The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Philip Hammond) attended the Foreign Affairs Council, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) attended the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence), and they both attended a joint session with Foreign and Defence Ministers. I attended the General Affairs Council (GAC). The Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) were chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council was chaired by the Latvian presidency.

Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)

A provisional report of the meeting and conclusions adopted can be found at:


Foreign Affairs Council (Defence) & European Defence Agency (EDA)

The EDA ministerial steering board discussion focused on preparations for the June European Council. The Defence Secretary welcomed the work that the EDA has done in delivering the major programmes agreed to at the December 2013 European Council and encouraged the agency to remain focused on delivering progress on these programmes at the June council. Ministers also endorsed the small medium enterprise (SME) action plan.

Defence Ministers discussed CSDP missions and operations in the Foreign Affairs Council (Defence), where greater political will by member states in force generation and increased EU-NATO co-operation were highlighted as being key to success. The Defence Secretary reaffirmed the UK’s support for the counter piracy, operation EU Naval Force Atalanta and highlighted that a combination of naval forces and development of best management practice by industry and private contractors remained important in order to suppress the pirates’ business model. The Defence Secretary also emphasised the UK’s continued commitment to the maintenance of the Executive mandate for EUFOR Althea. This mandate was an essential international safeguard against a return to violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Joint Meeting of Foreign Affairs Council and Foreign Affairs Council (Defence)

Over lunch, EU Defence and Foreign Ministers exchanged views on the security in the EU’s broader neighbourhood with NATO Security General Jens Stoltenberg. Ministers then discussed the preparations

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for the European Council in June 2015, which cover the common security and defence policy, and debated ongoing work reviewing changes in the EU’s strategic environment, including the preparation of a report by the High Representative to the European Council on 25-26 June. The Foreign Secretary noted that the June European Council should be a stocktake of the work begun in December 2013 and highlighted the importance of the EU’s co-operation with NATO.

The Council then took stock of the follow-up to the European Council of 23 April, which focused on migration issues. It approved a crisis management concept for a possible EU military operation and established an EU naval operation to disrupt the business model of human smugglers in the southern central Mediterranean. The Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary spoke in support of the establishment of the operation, but, noted that prior to its launch, clarity would be required on the handling of migrants rescued, smugglers apprehended, and the necessary legal base for the operation would need to be established. All four phases (surveillance/intelligence; seizure of vessels on the high seas; seizure and potentially destruction in Libyan waters/ashore; and withdrawal) needed to be enactable. A number of Ministers set out their position on resettlement and relocation, including the Foreign Secretary who made it clear that the UK would not accept compulsory resettlement.

Foreign Affairs Council

Middle East peace process (MEPP)

Ministers exchanged views on the situation in the middle east and on prospects for the peace process, following the formation of a new Israeli Government and ahead of a visit of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to the region. Ms. Mogherini would be accompanied by Fernando Gentilini, the newly appointed EU Special Representative for the MEPP. The Foreign Secretary recognised the widespread frustration on the MEPP and argued that the EU should keep in step with the US and that there would likely be no progress until the Iran nuclear talks ended.

Other Items

Ministers agreed a number of other measures:

The Council adopted conclusions on Burundi;

The Council adopted conclusions on the Common Security and Defence Policy;

The Council adopted the EU position for the twelfth meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan co-operation in Brussels on 18 May; and

The Council adopted the draft agenda for the EU-Gulf co-operation Council Joint Council and ministerial meeting, to be held on 24 May 2015 in Doha.

General Affairs Council

A provisional report of the Council meeting can be found at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/gac/2015/05/19/.

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 19 May focused on: follow-up to the April emergency European Council; preparation of the June European Council; and the four presidents’ report on economic governance in the euro area.

Follow-up to the April emergency European Council on migration

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The Latvian presidency and European Commission updated the GAC on developments since the 23 April emergency European Council discussed migration pressures in the Mediterranean.

I reiterated the points made by the Foreign Secretary at the Foreign Affairs Council and informed members states about UK activities to help prevent further loss of life in the Mediterranean. I emphasised the importance of addressing the causes of illegal immigration and tackling the organised criminals behind it, and the need for the EU to focus on the longer term picture.

Preparation of the June European Council

The GAC began preparations for the 23 and 24 June European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The June European Council will focus on security and economic issues including: defence and the European security strategy; relations with Russia and Ukraine; follow-up of the February European Council on terrorism and April European Council on migration; the digital single market; the 2015 European semester; TTIP; and economic governance in the euro area.

Four presidents’ report on economic governance in the euro area

The European Commission updated the GAC on preparations of the four presidents’ report on the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) to be presented to the June European Council.


Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr Tobias Ellwood): The House may welcome a report on the 2015 nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) review conference, held at the United Nations in New York between 27 April and 22 May to review progress and agree future actions against the NPT’s three pillars: disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The review conference was a substantive event, which advanced discussion on each of the treaty’s three pillars but concluded without reaching a consensus outcome.

The UK played an active role both in the preparation for the review conference and at the conference itself. As part of its preparations for the review conference, the UK invited certain non-nuclear weapons states and civil society representatives, for the first time, to the UK-hosted P5 conference of nuclear weapon states in February this year. The UK also submitted a revised national report setting out the action the UK is taking to support the NPT. We encouraged and participated in five rounds of informal consultations between Israel and Arab states on a conference on a middle east zone free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

The Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the right hon. Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE, set out the UK’s approach and progress against NPT objectives on the opening day of the conference. The UK delegation participated actively, both in the main conference and at side events, including on our pioneering verification work and nuclear energy. We

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engaged constructively in the negotiations throughout, seeking to reach agreement and to make progress on all three pillars of the treaty.

We were disappointed that, despite the progress made in many areas, the conference was not able to find common ground on how to make further progress on the proposed middle east zone free from nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This issue was the reason that consensus was not reached on the draft outcome document. The UK sought a process which was meaningful and based on arrangements freely arrived at by all states of the region. The proposed text would not have enabled tangible progress to be made and so we were unable to support the draft conclusions. We remain committed to the 1995 resolution on the middle east, the creation of a middle east zone free from nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction, and the steps agreed in 2010 towards that end.

The UK’s commitment to the treaty and to fulfilling our NPT obligations, including under article VI on disarmament, remains undiminished. As a responsible nuclear weapon state and an original party to the NPT, the UK remains committed to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. We have reduced our nuclear forces by well over half since the cold war peak and dismantled all of our air delivered nuclear weapons. In 2010 the UK committed to reducing the number of operationally available warheads to no more than 120; we have now achieved this which means that our Vanguard submarines now carry 40 warheads. We also remain on course to reduce our total stockpile of nuclear weapons to no more than 180 warheads by the mid 2020s.

The lack of a consensus outcome neither undermines the treaty nor changes states’ obligations. Of the eight previous review conferences, three have ended without consensus. Throughout, the treaty has remained vitally important for the UK and for the international community as a whole, playing an unparalleled role in curtailing the nuclear arms race and keeping the world safe. The action plan agreed at the 2010 review conference remains valid as a comprehensive roadmap for all NPT states to follow to take forward action on disarmament, non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear technology, as do the agreements from 2000 and 1995. The UK will continue to pursue this roadmap, working closely with our partners in the NPT.


Prime Minister

Machinery of Government Changes

The Prime Minister (Mr David Cameron): This written statement confirms the following Machinery of Government changes:

Responsibility for the Shareholder Executive will transfer from the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. A new Government-owned company, UK Government Investments (UKGI), wholly owned by HM Treasury, will be formed to oversee the activities of both the

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Shareholder Executive and UK Financial Investments. This change will take place on the establishment of UKGI.

Responsibility for the Digital Economy Unit will transfer from being jointly held between the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to being the responsibility solely of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, with policy responsibility transferring accordingly. The Unit will retain strong

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links with the Department for Business Innovation and Skills through the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, which is a joint ministerial post. This change will be effective immediately.

Responsibility for cities policy will transfer from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. This change will be effective from 1 July.