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13 Nov 2007 : Column WS31

13 Nov 2007 : Column WS31

Written Statements

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Afghanistan: Reserve Forces

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

With the expiry of the call-out order made last October, a new order has been made under Section 54 of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to enable reservists to continue to be called out into service to support operations in Afghanistan. The new order is effective until 11 November 2008. Reservists are making a valuable contribution to operations in that country and some 700 reservists are currently called out in support of the operation.


The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My right honourable friend the Minister for Women and Equalities (Harriet Harman) has made the following Statement.

I am pleased to announce that the Government are publishing today, and making copies available in both Houses, their response to the report on equality of the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, published on 2 August 2007.

I am determined to carry forward, with my colleagues in government, an equality strategy that builds on the substantial advances we have already achieved: for example, closing the gender pay gap from 17.4 per cent in 1997 to 12.6 per cent in 2007; enabling 18,000 civil partnerships to be formed in the first year following legislation; banning discrimination against people of any sexual orientation and people of different religions or who do not have a religion, when they want to buy or access goods or services and when they are at work; banning age discrimination in the workplace; establishing the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Yet persistent inequalities remain. In responding to the committee’s report and specific recommendations, the Government also set out their direction of travel on equality, including progress on the equalities public service agreement, the Equality Bill, women’s priorities and their intention to develop an equality strategy that builds on the findings of the equalities review.

EU: Education, Youth and Culture Council

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend the Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism (Margaret Hodge) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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The Education, Youth and Culture Council will be held on 15 and 16 November in Brussels. Anne Lambert, UK Deputy Permanent Representative, will be representing the UK on 16 November when culture issues will be taken. Education issues will be taken on 15 November.

The first item on the agenda will be a report from the presidency on the first meeting of the EU-Russia Permanent Partnership Council on Culture which was held on 25 October 2007. This meeting was to discuss the future priorities for cultural co-operation between the two partners. The presidency is expected to present the outcome of the meeting to the council and the declaration that was agreed.

The presidency will then seek the adoption of the council resolution on a European agenda for culture in a globalising world. The Commission published a communication in June of this year which examined the role of culture in Europe and how the European Union can add value to this. Following the publication of this communication, the Portuguese presidency proposed a draft council resolution setting out the member states' response to the issues raised by the Commission. Working group discussions have resolved the UK's concerns with the resolution, notably, acknowledging that culture is essentially a matter for member states, participation in the open method of co-ordination on any given work strand will be voluntary and the results will be non-binding. The council is expected to adopt the resolution and I intend to endorse this course of action.

The council will then be invited to adopt a decision on the selection of two cities to host the European Capital of Culture event for 2011. Estonia and Finland are the EU member states nominating cites for this event and have put forward Tallinn and Turku respectively. I intend to support this proposal.

Under any other business, the presidency will provide feedback on expert conferences in the field of culture and information on forthcoming events. The Commission will give information on the EU-China declaration in the field of culture and education. I do not foresee any need to intervene on any of these items.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

Lord Davies of Oldham: My honourable friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Kitty Ussher) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have published today the impact assessment for the National Insurance Contributions Bill. Copies are available in the Vote Office and Printed Paper Office and have also been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The National Insurance Contributions Bill will ensure that the Government can implement one of the reforms announced in the Budget 2007 personal tax package, creating by 2009-10 a personal tax system which has two income bands covering both income tax and NICs.

The Bill will also include changes to the state second pension following the announcement by the Chancellor in the Pre-Budget Report. It was announced that the Government would bring forward the introduction of the upper accrual point in 2009.

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