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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Members of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) met on 9-10 October in London. Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States took part in the meeting. The London meeting built on the firm foundations laid during earlier meetings in Madrid, Brisbane and Paris.
The PSI aims to expand capabilities to conduct maritime, aviation and land interdiction operations in order to help counter the threat of WMD proliferation. At the Paris meeting, PSI participants agreed a statement of interdiction principles, outlining the aims and scope of the initiative, and making clear that all action will be in accordance with international law. Following its publication, we have been drawing governments' attention to, and eliciting support for, the statement.
At the London meeting, we analysed the responses to date. So far the results have been very good: over 50 countries have already expressed support for the PSI. We hope to build on this over the coming weeks and months. WMD proliferation is a global threat: we need to encourage a global response.
The London meeting also agreed a short statement on the focus of the PSI efforts. This makes clear that the initiative does not target any particular countrythere are no blacklistsbut aims to impede and stop trafficking of WMD, their delivery systems and related materials by any state or non-state actor engaged in or supporting WMD proliferation programmes, at any time and in any place.
The PSI is a global initiative with an inclusive mission. It is an activity, not an organisation. Successful interdiction of trafficking in WMD, their delivery systems and related materials requires the widest possible co-operation between states. It was agreed at the London meeting that participation in the PSI should be open to any state or international body that accepts the Paris statement of interdiction principles and makes an effective contribution. Participation will vary with the activity taking place, and the contribution participants could provide. Some countries have particular experience, assets or expertise relevant to all PSI activities; other countries or organisations could be expected to contribute according to their particular capabilities. I hope that we can therefore ensure as wide participation in the initiative as practically possible, includingwhere appropriatecontributions from the EU and NATO.
In short, we have agreed the broad direction of the PSI. We now have to work to fill in the detail. In doing so, we are keen for the PSI to be an open and transparent process. As such, the chairman's summary was agreed as a public document, and is available on the FCO website at www.fco.gov.uk/internationalsecurity, under the heading "Counter-Proliferation".
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) have been working together to strengthen arrangements for government and business to share information on a wide range of issues affecting their security when operating in overseas markets. The Government recognise that business needs good information sharing to ensure that they are making the right decisions on their investments in overseas markets.
Most of our embassies and high commissions already have arrangements to exchange information on security issues with locally based British business representatives and to provide information on request to business visitors. The new scheme is designed to make the service more systematic and more proactive, and will seek to ensure that all posts and FCO departments provide a consistent level of service.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The threat from international terrorism remains. The data retention provisions in Part 11 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 are an essential part of our response to the threat.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: On 17 June we announced the introduction of UK residence permits and in parallel to this the introduction of an entry clearance requirement for all persons who want to stay in the UK for more than six months. The entry clearance requirement is being gradually phased in over a two-year period. The first phase will require nationals of 10 specified countries to obtain entry clearance from 13 November.
We have now decided to expand further the scope of the entry clearance requirement in order to streamline procedures for work permit holders. With effect from 13 November all work permit holders and training and work experience scheme (TWES) permit holders who wish to stay in the UK for more than six months should obtain entry clearance before travelling. This will enable these permit holders to be granted their full period of stay in the UK, as stated on their work permit, before they arrive here, saving them from needing to make a further application for stay shortly after arrival.
There will be a grace period for work permit and TWES permit holders until 23.59 on 13 January 2004 to ensure that those who are not aware of these new arrangements are not unduly inconvenienced on arrival in the UK. During this grace period, if a work permit holder arrives in the UK without entry clearance, and would qualify for entry except for the absence of the necessary entry clearance, they will be admitted for a period of six months. During that time they will be able to apply for an extension of stay for a
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have today announced new legislative proposals for asylum reform. We are writing to a number of key stakeholders outlining these proposals and inviting comments. Copies of this letter will be placed in the Library and on the IND and DCA websites. The major proposals include: reform of the immigration and asylum appeals system into a single tier of appeal with restricted access to the higher courts; measures to tackle the problem of asylum seekers deliberately destroying or disposing of their documents to make unfounded claims; provisions removing NASS support from families whose claim for asylum has been rejected and enhancing the effectiveness of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner.
The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 has enabled us to make significant progress in reforming the UK's nationality, immigration and asylum systems. In the asylum system this has meant that the number of people claiming asylum has halved, removals are at record levels and the number of claims awaiting an initial decision is at the lowest for a decade. The Government determined that there should be a balanced approach in asylum and immigration policy so that we bear down on those who would seek to enter the UK illegally and who make unfounded asylum claims, while ensuring effective help for refugees who need our protection. Our policy on asylum has to be seen in the wider context of managed migration, through which we are opening up routes for people to enter the UK legally. That is why we are committed to continue reform, as necessary, of the asylum system to ensure that those in need of protection are identified quickly and those who try to exploit the system are prevented from doing so.
We believe that these reforms should be in place as a matter of urgency and will introduce legislation to enact the measures as soon as parliamentary time allows. We are therefore urgently seeking comments from interested parties on the proposals. We would welcome views on the proposals by 17 November.
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