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23 Oct 2006 : Column WS93

Written Statements

Monday 23 October 2006

Crime: Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Gerry Sutcliffe) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have great pleasure in announcing the publication of the fifth annual MAPPA reports today. Multi-agency public protection arrangements, or MAPPA, are now well established across England and Wales and making an increasing contribution to protecting the public, preventing re-victimisation, and reducing reoffending.

The arrangements focus upon those violent and sexual offenders who are assessed as presenting the greatest risk of harm and whose safe management requires a high level of inter-agency co-operation. They are led locally by the probation, police and prison services working together with other agencies who contribute to the management of these individuals, including social care, health, housing and education services.

This year has seen significant challenges to those operating MAPPA, in the form of general and specific case reviews that have underlined significant progress made through MAPPA, but have also highlighted certain areas for improvement. It must be remembered that effective management of high-risk offenders, as a discipline, is still relatively in its infancy. There is continuous development and the standards and good practice of tomorrow, achieved through experience and research, are likely to be different from today’s. The challenge therefore is not only to match current practice with what we know, but to respond rapidly to new learning.

The individual agencies have responded with major national initiatives to improve the assessment and management of MAPPA offenders and these, together with local actions, are reflected in the MAPPA business plans which appear with the annual reports for the first time this year.

The offences committed by those offenders qualifying for management within MAPPA make an enormous impact, principally upon the victims but also upon the wider public consciousness. They raise questions about how the risks presented by such offenders are assessed and then how it is possible to manage those risks once the offender returns to the community. While we can never eliminate risk entirely, we are all entitled to expect that everything that can be done is being done to prevent these offenders reoffending.

Even among those qualifying for MAPPA, the majority are managed within ordinary agency arrangements. While no incidence of further offending can ever be acceptable, it is a tribute to the effectiveness of the arrangements that very few of those who require active MAPPA management are charged with a further serious offence while so managed. I commend these annual reports because they detail the work that goes on day in, day out, in cases which generally do not make the headlines, because of the skill and commitment of the agencies involved in protecting the public, including the key work to prevent offending against previous victims.

Copies of every area report are being placed in the Library of the House.

Criminal Cases Review Commission

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Gerry Sutcliffe) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I would like to inform the House that Mr James England, Mr Ewen Smith and Ms Julie Goulding have been appointed as commissioners of the Criminal Cases Review Commission. Copies of the press release relating to these appointments are available in the House Library.

EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council

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.

My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (Margaret Beckett), Sir John Grant (UK permanent representative to the EU) and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Luxembourg. My right honourable friend the Minister for Trade, Investment and Foreign Affairs (Ian McCartney) and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Gareth Thomas) represented the UK for Trade and Development Ministers' discussions.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

Trade Ministers

Ministers discussed progress on the Doha Development Agenda and regional trade agreements with Commissioner Mandelson over dinner.

Development and Trade Ministers

Doha Development Agenda: Commissioners Mandelson and Michel briefed Ministers on the latest state of play, emphasising this remained a top priority. It was important to move forward on achieving the development aspects of the agenda.

Economic partnership agreements: Commissioner Mandelson briefed Ministers on developments in trying to conclude economic partnership agreements with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Aid for Trade: The council adopted conclusions which re-emphasised the commitment made in 2005 for €2 billion a year to be made available for Aid for Trade by 2010, unconnected to progress in the WTO Doha development round. The initiative aims to build the capacity of developing countries to take advantage of trade opportunities that result from changes in trade rules and globalisation.

Development Ministers

Governance issues in development policy: The council adopted conclusions on governance. Over lunch Ministers discussed how the EU could ensure a coherent approach to governance and efforts to address corruption.

The effectiveness of development aid: The council adopted conclusions setting out the guiding principles for two aspects of aid effectiveness—complementarity and division of labour. In discussion, council welcomed the push to improve complementarity and division of labour, and emphasised the importance of both volumes and quality of aid. Germany said it would continue work on complementarity and division of labour in its presidency.

AOB: Reform of the UN development system. Mr Thomas drew partners’ attention to the forthcoming report on UN reform by Kofi Annan's high-level panel and pressed for continuing EU ministerial attention to UN development reforms. The presidency said it intended to offer recommendations to the December council, based on the report's findings.

Migration and development: Over dinner Ministers discussed migration, agreeing that it was a key issue and that brain drain was a major concern for development. An important way to address this was to improve conditions in originating countries through development assistance.

Development and Foreign Ministers

Policy coherence for development: The council adopted conclusions on integrating development concerns into council decision-making. In discussion, Ministers agreed that further work was needed to improve policy coherence for development in order to help achieve the UN's millennium development goals, particularly in light of the EU's broader objective to strengthen its external policies. Germany said it would continue work on this area during its presidency.

The EU strategy for Africa: The council agreed to move forward with the EU strategy for Africa, welcoming the progress report by High Representative Solana and Commissioner Michel. The Commission asked member states to report on national actions to help to deliver the strategy. Ministers agreed to review implementation at the GAERC and European Council in December.

Foreign Ministers

Enlargement: Council conclusions welcomed the Commission's report on Bulgaria and Romania, noting it supported EU entry for both countries on1 January 2007.

Sudan/Darfur: Ministers noted the still deteriorating situation in Darfur and committed to continuing to provide support to the African Union mission in Sudan. Commissioner Michel reported on his visit to Sudan with the Commission president and their meetings with President Bashir. The Foreign Secretary briefed partners on the visit by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Hilary Benn) on 16 October: the situation was critical and we had to maintain political pressure on Khartoum for transition to a UN force together with international partners. Ministers agreed conclusions setting out council concerns and welcoming consultations between the AU and the Sudanese Government on transition to a UN mission.

Zimbabwe: Ministers exchanged views on the deteriorating situation and agreed on the need for continued engagement with African partners to promote reform in Zimbabwe.

Middle East: The council adopted conclusions on the Middle East peace process, calling for an end to violence and restraint on both sides. It offered its support to President Abbas in his attempts to form a Government based on the quartet principles, and highlighted the need for progress on movement and access to improve the situation of ordinary Palestinians. It welcomed the expansion of the temporary international mechanism, which would provide support to an even greater number of vulnerable Palestinians. The Commission noted the importance of strengthening capacity within Palestinian institutions.

On Lebanon, council conclusions welcomed the deployment of Lebanese armed forces and UNIFIL to the south, and noted the almost complete withdrawal of Israeli troops, calling on Israel to complete withdrawal as soon as possible. It offered its support to the Lebanese Government in asserting their authority across Lebanon and in taking forward political, social, economic and security reform.

Western Balkans: On Bosnia-Herzegovina, council conclusions welcomed elections and looked forward to the formation of new Governments, emphasising also the need for progress on the reforms necessary to conclude negotiations for a stabilisation and association agreement.

On Serbia, conclusions welcomed the holding of the second EU-Serbia troika and expressed willingness to move forward with stabilisation and association agreement negotiations once Serbia achieved full co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

On Kosovo, Ministers agreed on the need to support UN Special Envoy Marti Ahtisaari's work. Conclusions called on the parties to work closely with Special Envoy Ahtisaari and welcomed preparatory work on a European security and defence policy mission to Kosovo.

Iran: High Representative Solana briefed partners over lunch. Conclusions expressed deep concern that Iran has not yet suspended its uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities as required by the International Atomic Energy Agency board and UN Security Council, and confirmed EU support for consultations on a new Security Council resolution imposing measures under Article 41 of the UN charter.

Georgia/Russian Federation relations: Ministers discussed the recent escalation of tensions between Georgia and Russia, and agreed conclusions expressing grave concern at the measures adopted by Russia and calling for restraint from both sides. The council also reaffirmed the EU's willingness to work with both sides to facilitate mutual confidence-building and contribute to a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

North Korea: Ministers discussed North Korea over lunch and agreed conclusions condemning the test, committing the EU to fully implementing the provisions of all relevant UNSC resolutions, notably 1718 and 1695, and urging North Korea to return to the six-party talks, to comply with its NPT obligations and sign and ratify the comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.

EU-Ukraine relations: Poland raised relations with Ukraine under AOB, including in the context of the European neighbourhood policy. The EU-Ukraine summit will be held in Helsinki on 27 October.

EU: Lahti Summit

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister (Tony Blair) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The informal meeting of EU Heads of State or Government on 20 October followed up the 2005 Hampton Court summit in addressing a range of issues that are central to the question of how Europe responds to the challenge of globalisation.

There was a constructive discussion of the EU's external energy relations, particularly our relationship with Russia. There was unity on the need to build a close and legally binding partnership based on mutual, long-term benefits based on the principles defined in the Energy charter treaty and the declaration agreed at the G8 summit in St Petersburg in July this year. These principles include market-based rules, market opening, and transparency and reliability across the whole of the energy relationship. The EU will shortly start negotiations with Russia on a new comprehensive agreement to replace the10 year-old partnership and co-operation agreement. It was agreed that these principles should form the core of any new agreement.

We shall also continue to develop our relations with other producer and transit countries around the EU, and we agreed on the need to extend the internal energy market principles of open, transparent markets to our neighbourhood.

It was also agreed that the EU must show strong leadership in combating climate change. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister (Mr Blair) wrote to their colleagues about this ahead of the meeting. A copy has been placed in the Library of the House. They stressed the need to act now to avoid catastrophic consequences in the future. President Barroso, both in the discussion and with the media after the meeting, emphasised the Commission's intention to act on the climate change agenda, and highlighted the Commission's energy efficiency proposals as the first stage in this.

Migration was also discussed. Illegal immigration is an issue that concerns the whole EU. We agreed on the importance of well functioning border controls and gave our full support to the European Border Management Agency. It was stressed that co-operation with Africa and other countries of origin and transit is essential.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister raised the desperate situation in Sudan. The conflict has led to 2 million displaced persons. He emphasised, to general agreement, the need to keep up the pressure from the EU on the Sudanese Government to cease military action, allow UN peacekeepers into the country, and reopen talks with non-signatories to the Darfur peace agreement.

Finally, innovation policy was discussed—how best to develop it as a source of European growth. The Commission's intention to prepare a comprehensive strategy on intellectual property rights in 2007 was welcomed. Enhancing the co-operation between the private and public sectors is also essential. European technology platforms and joint technology initiatives were cited as excellent examples of public/private partnerships. A proposal to create a European institute of technology was also discussed, and looked forward to further consideration in the Council.

The presidency invited President Putin to join the EU Heads of State or Government for dinner. Energy was one of the main topics. The presidency reiterated the conclusions that we had reached earlier. For his part, President Putin stated his conviction that energy co-operation should be based on principles of predictability of the energy markets and the mutual dependence of suppliers and consumers.

The EU and President Putin agreed to enhance our co-operation on international matters such as Iran, North Korea and the Middle East peace process.

The EU also emphasised the need for a full investigation of the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

The EU expressed its concerns at the increased tension between Georgia and the Russian Federation.

EU: Structural Funds

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Industry and the Regions (Margaret Hodge) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In his Statement to Parliament of 28 February 2006, my predecessor, Alun Michael, launched a consultation on future structural funds spending in the UK. The consultation invited comments on three issues: the draft national strategic reference framework for future UK structural funds programmes; the Government's approach to distributing the UK's structural funds allocations under the new competitiveness objective; and administrative arrangements for delivering the funds during the next budgetary cycle.

I am today publishing the Government's response to the consultation exercise and the UK's national strategic reference framework for structural funds programmes during the 2007-13 period and these will be placed in the Library of the House. These documents set out the strategy for future structural funds spending across the UK, the allocations of funding for future programmes, and the administrative arrangements for delivering the programmes.

Under the new EU regulations for the structural funds, each member state must draw up a national strategic reference framework establishing its broad priorities for future structural funds spending. The DTI has developed the UK's national framework in close collaboration with other government departments responsible for the structural funds, the Scottish Executive, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Northern Ireland Administration and the Government of Gibraltar. The strategy establishes three high-level priorities for future programmes: enterprise and innovation, skills and employment, and environmental and community sustainability.

The national framework also makes a firm commitment to use the structural funds to support ethnic minorities. It requires all programmes to take account of the needs of ethnic minorities when determining priorities and in the development of individual projects. In particular, they should take account of the difficulties that certain ethnic minorities face in accessing the labour market and the low levels of employment, skills and entrepreneurship suffered by certain ethnic-minority groups.

As explained in the response to the consultation, the Government have decided that the UK's mainstream competitiveness funding should be divided equally between the European regional development fund (for regional development) and the European Social Fund (for promoting employment) at the UK level. As phasing-in competitiveness regions, South Yorkshire and Merseyside are a special case. The Government have therefore decided to allocate 60 per cent of the phasing-in competitiveness funds for South Yorkshire and Merseyside to the ERDF and 40 per cent to the ESF.

The Government have decided to allocate ERDF competitiveness funding between the UK's competitiveness regions by reference to population, GVA and levels of innovation, enterprise and skills. The Government have also applied a cap and safety net to limit the change in each region's proportion of funding in comparison with 2000-06. This will protect regions from particularly heavy reductions in their proportion of funding.

The Government have decided to allocate ESF competitiveness funding between the UK's competitiveness regions by reference to numbers of workless people, numbers of working-age people with no qualifications, and numbers of working-age people with low qualifications. Again, we have applied a cap and safety net to limit the change in each region's proportion of funding in comparison with 2000-06.

The UK will face a 50 per cent reduction in total structural funds allocations for 2007-13 in comparison with the current period, reflecting our strong economic performance and the need to focus funding on the poorer new member states. This means that most regions will, inevitably, suffer a significant reduction in funding. However, the Government's approach will ensure that funding is allocated fairly between the UK's competitiveness regions on the basis of objective evidence of economic need. It will also ensure that the allocation of funding supports our domestic priorities for regional development and employment.

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