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Justice and Home Affairs Council, 27 March

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Home Office, Mrs Roche, represented the United Kingdom at the Council. The main matters dealt with were as follows:

'A' points

The list of 'A' points was agreed in full, including, amongst other things, the Europol Work Programme for 2000; the exchange of information in the evaluation of risks and control of new synthetic drugs; and the Council Decision concerning the better exchange of information in order to fight the use of counterfeit travel documents.

Open debate on the protection of victims in the European Judicial Area

The priority being given to improving the position of victims in the European Union was welcomed wholeheartedly by the Council. The Commission's consultation paper was regarded as the basis for future work. All member states had domestic schemes to assist victims, but it was agreed that action was needed at Union level to ensure adequate protection for those who were victims abroad. The right to compensation was also discussed.

Adoption of the Agenda

In view of the ongoing discussions between Spain and the United Kingdom, in consultation with the Government of Gibraltar, the Presidency dropped four items (Insolvency, Service of Documents, Eurodac Regulations, Mandate for a parallel Dublin Agreement with Norway and Iceland) from the meeting's agenda, since the outstanding issue on these dossiers was the question of application to Gibraltar.

Tampere Score-Board

There was a presentation by the Commission. The Council gave broad endorsement to the objectives, structure and deadlines set out in the Commission Score-Board as a political, not legal, commitment. It was acknowledged that the document should be flexible, with deadlines and substance being kept under

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review. A revised version would be presented for review once per Presidency. Member states set out their priorities, with the next Presidency giving a detailed picture of its Presidency objectives.

Counterfeiting the Euro

There was political agreement, subject to one Member State's parliamentary scrutiny reserve. The Commission announced its intention to bring forward a supplementary instrument including provisions on co-operation, training and exchange of information.

Draft Mutual Legal Assistance Convention

Agreement was reached on outstanding issues except territorial scope and data protection. The draft Convention would be submitted for adoption at the May Council, following further consultation and consideration.

Framework Decision establishing joint teams to conduct criminal investigations in one or more member state

Member states remained divided as to the most appropriate means of implementing the paragraph of the Tampere conclusions calling for the establishment without delay of joint investigation teams to conduct criminal investigations. The issue would be remitted back to the appropriate working group.

The prevention and control of organised crime: a European strategy for the beginning of the new Millennium

The text of the strategy was approved and would be published in the Official Journal in due course.

Collective Evaluation: preliminary country reports on Czech Republic and Hungary

The Council noted the reports by the Collective Evaluation Working Group. The importance of Justice and Home Affairs matters in the enlargement exercise was stressed. Member states would assist applicant countries all they could, but it was considered important that pressure should continue to be placed on the applicant countries themselves. It was agreed that the Council Secretariat would prepare a document for the Enlargement Working Group setting out any areas of omission or weakness identified in the country reports.

Brussels II Regulation (proposal for a Council Regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility for joint children)

Substantial progress was made on this item, subject to the outstanding issue of territorial scope. The United Kingdom did not lift its parliamentary reserve and in that respect the reference in the press statement by the Council reporting on the outcome of the proceedings that "political agreement" has been reached on the draft instrument was incorrect.

Brussels I Regulation (proposal for a Council Regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters)

The Presidency gave a "state of play" report on discussion of the draft Regulation. It was noted that the European Parliament's opinion was awaited. The

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Commission announced its intention to propose an amendment to Article 15 of the Regulation to make clear that it applied to distance contract only.

Charter of Fundamental Rights

The Presidency gave a "state of play" report on discussions. A final draft would be prepared by June and adopted by the end of October, for submission to the European Council. Major issues such as scope, legal status and relationship with the European Court of Human Rights would be considered once agreement had been reached on the body of the text. There was no discussion.

Commission proposal for a European Refugee Fund

The Presidency gave the state of play, reporting on discussion in the Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum, noting the need for the proposal to be clearer on the aims and target of the fund, on future financing and on the allocation criteria. The Commission was invited to bring forward a proposal on temporary protection as soon as possible.

Following discussion, the Commission expressed the hope that the proposal could be adopted during the current Presidency.

Revision of the Dublin Convention

The Commission paper (analysing the current problems with the operation of the Dublin Convention and considering alternatives for a replacement Title IV measure) was generally welcomed. The Commission planned to consult widely. A proposal would then be made at the turn of the year.

High Level Working Group on Asylum and Migration

The Presidency noted that the Action Plan on Albania and the neighbouring region had now been agreed by the High Level Working Group and would go to the General Affairs Council for adoption in June. New working methods had been established to take forward the implementation of all the Action Plans.

United Kingdom Drugs Initiative

We provided information on the United Kingdom Initiative for European Union action to tackle drugs with the aim of achieving a drug-free enlarged Union. The Presidency asked Coreper to remit this to the Article 36 committee to take forward.

German Initiative on Public Contract Law

Germany introduced its initiative for a Framework Decision to establish uniform minimum standards under criminal law for unlawful/uncompetitive behaviour in the award of public contracts.

Relations with Mediterranean countries

An Israeli request to increase the dialogue on judicial co-operation between the European Union and Mediterranean countries through the Barcelona process was noted by the Council.

Asylum conference

The Presidency confirmed that it would host a joint conference with the Commission in Portugal on 15-16 June on asylum issues.

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The Services: Values and Standards

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in updating guidance to the Services on the values and standards of Service personnel.[HL1856]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Army and RAF have revised and updated the guidance given to their personnel on the values and standards of each Service and the standards of behaviour and conduct to which they are expected to adhere. This underpins Service ethos and so helps to sustain the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces.

The revised guidance is set out in publications entitled Values and Standards of the British Army and Core Values and Standards of the Royal Air Force, which are being widely distributed in the Services. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Marne Barracks, Catterick

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress the Ministry of Defence has made with the refurbishment or redevelopment of Marne Barracks at Catterick; and what use will be made of the barracks in the future; and[HL1652]

    Whether the redevelopment of Marne Barracks at Catterick is being impeded by residual gliding activities at that location[HL1653]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Marne Barracks is occupied by 5 Regiment Royal Artillery and 8 Transport Regiment Royal Logistic Corps. From 2003, 8 Transport Regiment will expand to include two further squadrons and in order to accommodate this increase it is proposed that part of the airfield should be built over. Precise details have yet to be confirmed, but it is envisaged that glider activity by 645 Volunteer Glider School at the airfield will be affected. An option study to identify an alternative site for the Gliding School is under way, but, in the meantime, gliding activity does not impede the current redevelopment.

Currently, work is under way at Marne Barracks to upgrade the gymnasium and it is expected that this work will be complete by the end of September. In addition, a new Surveillance and Target Acquisition Training Centre should be completed at the end of the year. A major refurbishment of the single living accommodation will commence at the end of 2001.

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