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Justice and Home Affairs Council, 13 and 14 June

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Filkin: I, together with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my right honourable friend Jim Wallace, the Deputy First Minister and Minister for Justice for Scotland, represented the United Kingdom at the Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 13 June.

A points: the A points were approved as in document 9825/02 PTS A 31 and ADD 1 and COR 1 (a copy of which has been placed in the Library), except points 23, 24, 25 and 45.

Terrorism: the Council noted a terrrorism threat assessment document, Europol reports on security measures taken since 11 September and extremist terrorism and a report on the current list of terrorist organisations. The Director of Europol reported on the work of the Europol Counter-Terrorism Task

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Force, noting that the provision of information to Europol had improved but remained insufficient and that more could be done to improve co-operation with the United States.

Activities of the Spanish Presidency on the subject of violence against women, to be submitted by the Ministers of Education, Justice, Home Affairs and Health at forthcoming Councils: the Presidency presented a study on measures adopted by member states to combat violence against women and a guide to good practice to mitigate the effects of and eradicate violence against women.

Illegal immigration and external borders: during a general debate on illegal immigration and asylum, the Home Secretary called for the Seville European Council to deliver concrete results so that citizens could see the relevance of a European Union (EU) approach. He said that the message should not be one of "Fortress Europe" but a coherent policy which opposed racism, welcomed legal inward migration, protected refugees and ensured that each member state accepted its responsibilities. The Home Secretary vigorously supported common action to protect the European Union's external frontier, arguing that this should be achieved through the use of joint operations at weak points in the border, extensions of the immigration liaison officer network and greater use of Europol's expertise, rather than through the establishment of a new border police. He also supported the need to complete work on common asylum measures and co-operation with third countries in a spirit of "positive conditionality", involving the provision of assistance to support returns and develop migration infrastructures.

The Council also noted a Presidency report on progress made in the fight against illegal immigration, agreed conclusions on measures to be established for the prevention of and the fight against illegal immigration and the trafficking of human beings by sea and agreed a plan on the management of external borders.

Proposal for a Council regulation establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the member state responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the member states by a third country national: in discussing key aspects of the draft Dublin II Regulations, the majority of member states, including the United Kingdom, said that the exisitng Dublin convention criteria should be taken as a starting point but that procedures should be improved and time limits shortened. Two member states with difficult external frontiers argued that they should not be penalised by virtue of their geographical position. Two other member states also opposed the proposed new criterion on tolerated illegal presence.

Proposal for a Council Decision on the implementation of specific measures for police and judicial co-operation to combat terrorism in accordance with Article 4 of Common Position 2001/931/CFSP: the Council reached a general approach on the Council decision. Portugal, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom maintained parliamentary scrutiny reserves on the text.

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Proposal for a Council framework decision laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of drug trafficking: the Council reached a general approach on the majority of the text. However, member states were divided by a proposal to permit the imposition of lower penalties for trafficking in small quantities of drugs. The Presidency concluded that discussions on this item would continue under the Danish Presidency.

Proposal for a Council directive to improve access to justice in cross-border disputes by establishing minimum common rules relating to legal aid and other financial aspects of civil proceedings: the Council agreed that the scope of the draft legal aid directive should be limited to cross-border claims.

Proposal for a Council regulation creating a European enforcement order for uncontested claims: the Commission presented its proposal for a European enforcement order. This would abolish, in uncontested cases, the requirement for a court to examine the procedure by which a judgment was issued in another member state before recognising the validity of that judgment.

Civilian aspects of crisis management: the Presidency reported that member states had met the targets set by the Gothenburg European Council for the provision of officials and judges to international missions intended to strengthen the rule of law in third countries.

Any other business: the Commission presented its revised scoreboard on the implementation of the Tampere European Council conclusions.

Mixed Committee: the Mixed Committee with Norway and Iceland met at ministerial level in the margins of the Council. It noted the existence of two negotiating mandates for the association of Switzerland with the implementation of the Schengen acquis, the Dublin Convention and Eurodac acquis; of a general approach on the proposal for a decision amending Article 40 of the Schengen Convention, subject to parliamentary scrutiny reserves from Germany, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom; of conclusions concerning the new requirements for the Schengen Information System (SIS) and a technical solution for the participation in the SIS by the United Kingdom and Ireland, reflecting the partial participation of the United Kingdom and Ireland in Schengen; and of a plan on the management of external borders.

Single Currency

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) whether they will provide details of each section of each Act of Parliament in force relating to any duties and powers of (1) the Bank of England or (2) any Minister of the Crown, which would be transferred to the European Central Bank or other institution of the European Community in the event

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    of full accession of the United Kingdom to the euro monetary system; and

    (b) whether they will place details in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.[HL4759]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: If government, Parliament and the people—in a referendum—decide to join a successful single currency, the transfer of legal responsibility for monetary policy to the European Central Bank would entail changes to the domestic legislation of the United Kingdom governing the formulation and conduct of monetary policy, at least to the extent necessary to ensure compatibility with the EC Treaty and the statute of the ESCB.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any decision to abolish the pound and adopt the euro would be irrevocable; and, if so, how the constitutional principle that one Parliament cannot bind its successor would be maintained.[HL4891]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I refer the noble Lord to the comments I made during the debate on 24 June 1999 (Official Report, col. 1063).


Lord Steel of Aikwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their representative on the International Monetary Fund has reported on the demand of the fund that the government of Malawi should sell grain stocks to repay government debt and the effect this has during the current drought and crop failure in the country.[HL4851]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It has not been a requirement of the International Monetary Fund that Malawi government grain stocks be sold to repay debt, nor has the fund had any role in developing such a policy. The fund programme agreed by the government of Malawi contains no conditions in this regard.

In line with the Malawi government food security policy, government publicly included in their letter of intent to the fund in December 2000 their decision to reduce grain stocks to 60,000 tonnes, from 167,000 tonnes. The letter of intent is a broad government policy document and there is no link between such letters and access to fund resources.

These grain stocks were seen as appropriate for a disaster response, which, when coupled with an early warning system, should have allowed time to import necessary food.

However, the Government of Malawi sold all of their food stocks, which has exacerbated the crisis. This sale has recently been under investigation by the National Audit Office, and it is unclear what happened to the proceeds from these sales.

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The Government of Malawi have admitted that the early warning system failed, and the UK Department of International Development is working with others to assist the Government of Malawi in developing a comprehensive long-term national food security strategy.

At the same time, the UK has allocated £13 million to direct support for food import and distribution in Malawi and Zimbabwe, and in addition we have recently committed £45 million for further support through the World Food Programme for NGOs for food distribution and inputs for the next planting season in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

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