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Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Shaun Woodward) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement. This statement is issued in conjunction with my right honourable friend Margaret Hodge MP, the Minister for Industry and the Regions.
In September 2005, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport announced that the UK would switch over to fully digital TV broadcasting between 2008 and 2012. This will bring enormous benefits to all viewers, the broadcasting industries, the creative industries and the UK economy.
Today Digital UK, the independent body leading digital switchover, announces the detailed switchover dates for the Wales, West Country and Granada TV regions. The timetable for these regions follows below, together with the timetable for the Border TV region that was announced in July 2006. These are the calendar quarters during which each main transmitterand the many associated relay stations that carry its signalwill cease broadcasting analogue television and begin transmitting a boosted digital signal. This will make digital TV through an aerial available to virtually all homes in each region.
The entire Granada region will switch to digital in this quarter, when the Winter Hill transmitter and its associated relaysserving Lancashire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Cheshire, are converted.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My right honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Geoff Hoon) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 16-17 October in Luxembourg. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Margaret Beckett) and I will represent the UK. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Gareth Thomas) and my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Ian McCartney) will represent the UK at the Development and Trade Ministers discussions.
Good governance: The council will agree conclusions and discuss a Commission communication that proposes principles and concrete actions to improve governance in developing countries with a focus on African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. This includes the provision of €3 billion in funds from the 10th European Development Fund (ACP countries only) whose release will be linked to a governance profile assessing partner Governments performance on, and commitment to, governance issues.
Orientation debate: complementarity and division of labour: Development Ministers will agree conclusions and, as part of the annual Orientation Debate on development issues, the council will debate two aspects of aid effectiveness (complementarity and division of labour) based on questions from the presidency. The questions focus on how donors should organise themselves at the country level, as well as across countries and sectors, to be more effective.
AOB: UN Reform: The UK has asked for reform of the UN development system to be put on the agenda as an AOB item in the context of the forthcoming report of the Secretary-Generals panel on UN system-wide coherence.
Migration and development: Development Ministers will discuss migration informally over dinner, based on questions from the presidency covering the links between migration and development and follow-up to the UN high-level dialogue on migration in September.
Aid for Trade: The council will agree conclusions on aid for trade and, in a joint session, Trade and Development Ministers will debate questions from the presidency. These questions will focus on the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), aid for trade and economic partnership agreements (EPAs).
Orientation debate on policy coherence for development and effectiveness of EU external action: The council will adopt conclusions on integrating development concerns into council decision-making. As part of the annual Orientation Debate on development issues the council will debate policy coherence for development in the context of effectiveness of EU external action.
The EU strategy for Africa: The council will review progress in implementing the EU Africa strategy, agreed under the UK's presidency in 2005. This is an interim debate in advance of further discussion at the December council with conclusions expected to be agreed then and at the December European Council.
Sudan: We will want the council to give a strong and consistent message to President Bashir of Sudan, calling for a ceasefire, full humanitarian access, UN deployment/support for the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) until the UN can take over and implementation of the Darfur peace agreement. Funding of the AU mission is another important issue, following its extension until the end of the year. The EU has agreed to continue support in coordination with the UN and other actors.
Middle East Peace Process: The council is likely to focus on President Abbass efforts to form a Government of national unity and the recent clashes between Fatah and Hamas. The UK will raise the need for effective plans to strengthen Palestinian institutions.
Western Balkans: The council will discuss Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo. On Serbia our assessment remains that Belgrade has not yet done enough to demonstrate compliance with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to warrant restarting the stabilisation and association agreement talks. On Bosnia the council is expected to welcome the smooth conduct of elections as well as urging the need for progress on reform.
Iran: The High Representative for the Common and Security Policy, Javier Solana, will brief the council on his recent contacts with the Secretary-General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Dr Ali Larijani. Solana reported to the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, UK China, Russia and US on 6 October that Iran was not prepared to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities, as required by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 1696. This is deeply disappointing. In Resolution 1696, the Security Council expressed its intention to adopt measures under Article 41 of the UN Charter if Iran did not comply.
Georgia: The presidency is expected to report back on its recent visit to Georgia (part of a Troika visit to the south Caucasus region, related to agreement of European Neighbourhood Action Plans in each south Caucasus country). This is likely to be followed by a discussion on the recent escalation in tension in Georgian/Russian relations.
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK): The council will discuss the EUs reactions to the announcement by the DPRK of a nuclear test. Developments in New York will influence the context of discussions.
AOB: EU-Ukraine Summit: Ukraine will be discussed under AOB at Polish request. It is likely that the council will agree the need for the EU-Ukraine summit to give a clear signal of support for ongoing reform in Ukraine.
Economic reform in Europe is vital to the prospects for growth and jobs in the UK. The challenges of globalisation mean that all EU member states must pursue real structural reforms to create a Europe that becomes more competitive as the route to delivering full employment and opportunity for all, and where flexibility and fairness advance together.
Under the Lisbon strategy for jobs and growth, relaunched in 2005, the Government welcomed the introduction of national reform programmes. In October 2005, the Government published the first UK National Reform Programme (NRP), setting out priorities for national economic reform.
Today the Government published an update on the UK NRP, which reports on their comprehensive programme of long-term reform to deliver strong economic performance and employment growth in the UK, now and in the future. This update demonstrates how Britain is leading economic reform in Europe, showing how an approach based on openness, free trade, competition and investmentin science, technology and skillsrepresents the right response to the challenges of globalisation.
Today the Government launch Northern Ireland's first European strategy, Taking Our Place in Europe. The strategy maps out a framework for Northern Ireland's engagement with Europe. Its challenge is to benefit fully from the European Union by participating proactively and confidently.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the signing of Europe's founding Treaty of Rome, it is timely that Northern Ireland uses the period of reflection to consider its role in the future of Europe. This strategy promotes a vision of a positive future for Northern Ireland as the preferred European region of choice in which to live, work, study and invest.
The strategy, Taking Our Place in Europe, sets out what needs to be done to engage with Europe, guiding the work of regional and local government in partnership with civil society. The Government wish Northern Ireland to speak with one voice, engaging with Europe on as many levels and as consistently as possible.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): My honourable friend the Minister of State (Jim Knight) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Schools must be safe places for both pupils and staff. Incidents involving knives and other weapons in school are rare, but we need to give head teachers stronger powers to act if they suspect a knife or another weapon is in their school. The Violent Crime Reduction Bill, currently being debated at Report stage in the House of Lords, includes new powers for head teachers to search pupils if the heads suspect their pupils are carrying a weapon.
We will also provide guidance for schools on screening all their pupils for weapons using technology such as airport-style walk-through metal detecting arches or handheld metal detecting wands. Screening can be carried out on all pupils, without their consent and without suspicion that a weapon might be found, provided it is carried out in a way that respects pupils privacy. If screening indicates a weapon may be present, school staff could then use the new power included in the Violent Crime Reduction Bill (VCRB) to carry out a hands-on search. We plan to issue full guidance to schools on screening and hands-on searches if the VCRB receives Royal Assent.
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