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Education Council, 8 June 2000

Lord Stone of Blackheath asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: The Council of EC Education Ministers, at which the UK was represented by Nicol Stephen MSP, Deputy Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning in the Scottish Executive, adopted a Decision to establish the European Year of Languages 2001.

Ministers held an open debate on the future challenges and objectives of education systems in the learning society. The Council agreed that education and training policies would play a key part in ensuring the successful follow-up to the conclusions agreed at the Lisbon European Council, and on the need for Education Ministers to feed into the Luxembourg Employment Process. Ministers recognised that benchmarks and the exchange of good practice could be useful tools in supporting appropriate action at member state level. Ministers put forward proposals for policy areas which should be covered by the report of Education Ministers to the Stockholm European Council in Spring 2001. Discussion covered the Commission's work on the e-learning initiative, which was welcomed by member states.

The Commission presented a report on quality indicators in school education. It also gave progress reports on the Recommendation on Quality Evaluation in School Education, and the Recommendation on Mobility within the Community for students, persons undergoing training, young volunteers, teachers and trainers.

A copy of the Council minutes will be placed in the Library.

Social Affairs Council, 6 June

Baroness Mallalieu asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: My honourable friend Angela Eagle, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Social Security and my honourable friend the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities represented the UK at the Social Affairs Council meeting on 6 June.

Political agreement was reached by the Council on a directive implementing the principle of equal treatment of persons irrespective of their racial or ethnic origin. This is the first legislative proposal brought under Article 13 of the Treaty. The directive covers a range of issues including employment, access to social protection and social security; access to education; and access to goods and services. All member states with scrutiny reserves, including the UK, lifted them.

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The Presidency gave a progress report on negotiations on the other proposals brought forward under Article 13--a draft directive establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation and a Community Action Programme.

The Council debated its role in following up the Special European Council held in Lisbon in March and its input to the Spring European Council to be held in 2001. The Council agreed conclusions which would be transmitted to the Presidency of the EU before the European Council in Feira. The Council noted the Employment Committee's work programme for 2000.

The Council unanimously adopted a decision setting up a Social Protection Committee. The Council endorsed a report of the High-level Working Group on Social Protection and agreed to submit it to the European Council at Feira. The report sets out two priorities--a pensions study and the indentification of common objectives and indicators of social protection.

The Council discussed three outstanding issues arising from the Commission's proposals for simplification of Regulation 1408/71. The regulation concerns the co-ordination of member states' social security systems--including healthcare--and is aimed at assisting free movement of workers within the Community. None of the issues was resolved. Technical negotiations will continue at official level.

The Council adopted a mixed Resolution (of the Council and of the Ministers for Employment and Social policy meeting within the Council) on the balanced participation of men and women in working and family life.

The Council reached broad agreement on the draft directive on temporary work at height (the "Scaffolding Directive").

The Commission made a presentation on its study of the implications of the European Court of Justice rulings (Decker and Kohll) concerning reimbursement for medical treatment: these will be made available to member states following further relevant rulings from the Court.

Mr Vasili Mitrokhin: Intelligence and Security Committee Report

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the Intelligence and Security Committee's report into the handling of the information provided by Vasili Mitrokhin.[HL2797]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): I have today laid before the House a copy of the Intelligence and Security Committee's report into the security and intelligence agencies' handling of the

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information provided by Mr Mitrokhin. In consultation with the committee, a small number of excisions from the original text have been made on grounds of national security. I have also today laid before the House the Government's response to the committee's report.

The Government are very grateful to the committee for the report of its inquiry. Mr Mitrokhin's information is uniquely valuable. Its authenticity has been proved beyond doubt. The Government have drawn a number of conclusions from the information itself, from the publication project and from the findings of the Intelligence and Security Committee's inquiry. The most significant are:

    (i) The KGB posed a major threat to British interests but the United Kingdom's security and intelligence agencies were notably successful in containing this threat. After the expulsion of more than 100 Soviet intelligence officers in 1971, the KGB found the United Kingdom an extremely difficult target and operational environment.

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    (ii) Mr Mitrokhin himself is a brave man who was determined in his efforts to expose the KGB. The Government pay tribute to him.

    (iii) Credit is due to the Secret Intelligence Service for its role in getting Mr Mitrokhin and his material safely to the United Kingdom. This was a tremendous intelligence coup. Credit is also due to the security and intelligence agencies for their work in exploiting the material. This has been beneficial not only for the UK but also for many other countries.

    (iv) The publication project, leading to The Mitrokhin Archive, allowed Mr Mitrokhin's material to be made available to a wider readership. The Government believe that it was right to put this historic record into the public domain.

    (v) Lessons have been learnt from the handling of Mrs Norwood's case.

Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to our intelligence and security agencies for their dedication and professionalism in protecting our vital national interests.

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