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Written Statements

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Identity (Meg Hillier) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to announce that Dr Judy MacArthur Clark CBE DVMS DLAS DipLAM FIBiol MRCVS has been appointed as the next chief inspector of the Home Office Animals (Scientific Procedures) Inspectorate. She will succeed Dr Derek Fry BA MA DPhil BM BCh, who is retiring. Dr MacArthur Clark is a distinguished veterinary surgeon whose past appointments include chair of the Farm Animals Welfare Council and president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. I would also like to record my thanks to Dr Fry for his many years of dedicated service to the inspectorate. Dr MacArthur Clark will take up appointment on 10 December 2007.

EU: Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo), has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will meet on 5 and 6 December 2007. The health and consumer affairs part of the council will be taken on 6 December.

Items on the main agenda are: health and migration in the European Union; the EU health strategy; a Commission communication on organ donation and transplantation; an EU strategy on nutrition, overweight and obesity; and a progress report on combating HIV/AIDS within the EU and in the neighbouring countries.

Ministers will have a policy debate on the EU health strategy and will be asked to adopt draft council conclusions on this. The Commission’s proposals aim to develop a strategy for 2008-13 for actions at EU level which will add most value to member states’ health priorities. The UK is broadly supportive of the strategy, which focuses on many of the UK's own priorities for EU action, and can support the conclusions.

There will also be a debate on health and migration in the EU and the presidency will ask Ministers to adopt draft council conclusions on this issue. The Portuguese presidency chose health and migration as its theme in recognition of the fact that migrant populations are often exposed to health inequalities. The UK broadly supports the conclusions.



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Also tabled for adoption are council conclusions on a Commission White Paper on a strategy for Europe on nutrition, overweight and obesity-related issues, and a Commission communication on organ donation and transplantation. The UK is fully supportive of these conclusions as drafted. There will also be a presidency progress report on combating HIV/AIDS within the EU and in the neighbouring countries.

Over lunch, the presidency will chair an informal ministerial discussion on the Commission’s forthcoming proposals for a community framework on health services.

Under any other business, there will be information from the presidency on its health conferences and on draft council conclusions on environment and health, which are to be discussed in the Environmental Council later this month. There will also be information items from the Commission on a community framework on health services, a strategy for Europe on mental health, health security related matters, the Commission’s high-level group on health services and medical care and the framework convention on tobacco control; and the Slovenian delegation will provide information on the work programme for its forthcoming presidency.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The final Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council under the Portuguese presidency will be held in Brussels on 6 and 7 December 2007. My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw), my right honourable friend the Home Secretary (Jacqui Smith), my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Bridget Prentice), the Solicitor-General for Scotland (Frank Mulholland) and my honourable friend the Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State, Home Office (Meg Hillier), will represent the United Kingdom. The following issues will be discussed at the council.

The council will begin with a joint meeting of the JHA and Employment Councils looking at migration, employment and the Lisbon strategy. The Lisbon strategy aims at making the EU the most competitive economy in the world and achieving full employment by 2010. The strategy is based on three pillars: economic, social and environmental. The focus of the Lisbon strategy is therefore growth and jobs. The Government support this approach but want to emphasise that a balance needs to be struck between stimulating labour migration and the management of integration and cohesion, enforcement of the rules and combating illegal migration.

It will then move into mixed committee with Iceland, Switzerland and Norway. That session will begin with a discussion on the full application of the provisions of the Schengen acquis to the member states that joined the European Union in 2004. A formal decision will be made on lifting the internal

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borders of nine of the 10 countries involved. There will also be updates on the Schengen information system (SIS) communication network and the SIS II programme.

There will also be a state-of-play report on the directive on common standards and procedures in member states for illegally staying third-country nationals. The directive is based on the premise that an effective returns policy is a crucial part in the fight against illegal immigration. The UK has not opted into this as we are not yet convinced of the need for common standards in this area.

There will be a discussion on the weapons directive in both the mixed committee and subsequently under the main agenda. The presidency will be seeking a political agreement on a first reading deal with the European Parliament. The Government are happy with the text as it stands, having secured some important amendments, particularly in relation to the application of criminal sanctions and the arrangements for allowing young persons under 18 to continue to shoot with parental permission or at approved centres. We are aware that the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union has yet to clear this from scrutiny, but hope it will be able to do so on the basis of the further information we have recently provided.

Under the main council agenda, the presidency is hoping to adopt council conclusions on mobility partnerships and circular migration in the context of the global approach to migration. The Government support the council conclusions and are keen for progress to be made under the EU's global approach to migration. We believe it is important to build effective partnerships with third countries to help manage migration issues more effectively. These partnerships should cover all aspects of migration—legal, illegal, and migration and development. Mobility partnerships and circular migration are only two aspects of the global approach to migration.

There will be a package of counterterrorism items discussed in the main agenda at the council. In particular, there will be an opportunity for Ministers to consider the EU counterterrorism co-ordinator's discussion paper on implementation of the EU counterterrorism strategy. The Government have welcomed his proposals, particularly for a common EU policy on data sharing, but will wish to explore in more detail some of the ideas raised, for example, about future work on the use of special investigative techniques. Draft council conclusions will also be agreed on enhancing the security of explosives. The UK welcomes the Portuguese presidency's continued drive to finalise these wide-ranging and complex pieces of work on explosives. There will also be a presentation and first exchange of views on the amending framework decision on combating terrorism. The Government support the Commission's proposals and look forward to working with the Commission to develop complementary measures against terrorist use of the internet.

The presidency will seek to draw a line under the initial discussions on chapters 6, 7 and 9 of the draft Europol council decision, which deal with organisational issues, confidentiality rules and miscellaneous provisions respectively. The Europol working group will now

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focus its attention on the remaining chapters of the draft council decision. The Government support the proposed drafts, which include helpful revisions that strengthen the Europol management board and provide more oversight. However, these chapters will need to be revisited and revised again at working-group level early next year once the work of three expert groups dealing with staffing and budgetary issues has been completed. This will provide the opportunity for further discussion before the entire council decision is taken to the council for agreement.

There will be a state of play report on e-justice and an exchange of views on work planned for the first half of 2008. The UK supports the overall initiative and the priorities which have been identified for next year.

Rome 1 (applicable law in contractual obligations) is on the agenda for a presidency report on the First Reading agreement with the European Parliament. The UK did not opt into this dossier at the start of the negotiations. We therefore have no vote in council. We have, however, negotiated significant improvements to the text which deal satisfactorily with the points which gave rise to our decision not to opt in, and acknowledge the good co-operation with our European partners that has made this possible. The Government will shortly embark on a process of consultation before deciding whether the UK should now signify its wish to accept the measure, under the terms of our protocol to title IV of the treaty.

The proposed directive on protection of the environment through criminal law is on the agenda for a possible general approach, although this is considered premature by some member states. The UK supports the presidency's desire to progress this dossier, but considers that further detailed work is required.

The presidency is hoping to agree council conclusions with a view to work next year on the development of Eurojust. The Government support the conclusions in recognising the value of Eurojust's work, but have made clear that any future proposals should focus on ensuring that Eurojust fulfils its potential within its current powers. The Government have made clear that we would not therefore support some of the more far-reaching proposals in the recent Commission communication on the future of Eurojust and the European judicial network.

The presidency proposes to seek a general approach on the draft framework decision on the recognition and supervision of suspended sentences, alternative sanctions and conditional sentences. The Government welcome the work done on this instrument, though some fundamental issues remain outstanding and agreement will be conditional on finding a satisfactory outcome on the entire instrument.

The presidency will give an update about the state of play of the European supervision order proposal, and is likely to present the revised draft text. No substantive discussion is expected at the meeting. The first working group to consider this revised version is to take place on 11 December.



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There will be a report on the outcome of the EU-Russia JHA ministerial held in Brussels on 22 and 23 November.

There will, also, be a report on the outcome of the Hague diplomatic conference which concluded work on a draft convention on the international recovery of child support and other forms of family maintenance. The Government welcome the outcome of that conference.

A lunch for Interior Ministers will also be held on 6 December with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A possible topic for discussion will be the new Green Paper on the second phase of the common European asylum system and the next steps, but it may also focus on ongoing/protracted refugee situations.

Health: Stroke Patients

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health (Alan Johnson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The department is publishing today a new national strategy to modernise service provision and deliver the newest treatments for stroke. Between 9 July and 12 October 2007, a consultation on a draft document was held, and over 1,000 responses were made, of which more than 800 were from individuals who had experienced stroke and their carers. These responses have helped to shape the development of the new strategy.

The strategy is constructed around 20 “quality markers” of a good stroke service covering four key areas: raising awareness and prevention; the importance of rapid assessment and treatment; provision of rehabilitation and care after stroke; and developing the workforce to meet these markers.

Awareness

A push on raising awareness of stroke symptoms among the public and the medical profession to ensure they know to react quickly—alongside wider work to encourage and support healthy lifestyles and manage risk indicators such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.

Acting on the warnings

Transient ischaemic attacks (TIA)—also known as “minor strokes”—are a clear warning sign that a further stroke may occur, and the time window for action is very short. In about half of cases this is a matter of days. Stroke as a medical emergency: getting people to the right hospital quickly—where there are specialists who can deliver acute treatments including thrombolysis—will save lives. This means immediate transfer of suspected stroke patients to specialist centre—offering clinical assessment, scans and thrombolysis. Stroke unit quality:stroke unit care is the single biggest factor that can improve a person’s outcomes following a stroke. Successful stroke units are those which are able to meet the needs of the individuals. People must get there on day one and spend the majority of their time on a stroke unit.



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Improving support long term in the community

This focuses particularly on intensive rehabilitation immediately after stroke, which can limit disability and improve recovery. Health, social care and voluntary services need to work together to provide the long-term support people need, as well as access to advocacy, care navigation, practical and peer support.

Workforce

People with stroke need to be treated by a skilled and competent workforce. Resources to assist services in planning their workforce requirements are signposted in this strategy. Central funding will be made available for more stroke physician training places and training packages, particularly for specialist nurses and allied health professionals.Service improvement:his new vision for stroke care demands services working together in networks, looking across all aspects of the care pathway.

The strategy has been placed in the Library and copies are available for honourable Members in the Vote Office.

ICL Plastics Ltd/ICL Tech Ltd Inquiry

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Peter Hain) has made the following Statement.

The Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini QC, and I announced on 1 October 2007 a joint public inquiry under the Inquires Act 2005 into the explosion on 11 May 2004 at a plastics factory operated by ICL Plastics Ltd and ICL Tech Ltd in Maryhill Glasgow, which killed nine people and injured 33 others.

I am today announcing that Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk, has been appointed as chairman of the inquiry and Roy Martin QC as leading counsel. I can confirm that the chairman has been consulted on the terms of reference for the inquiry and we have agreed that these are:

to inquire into the circumstances leading up to the incident on 11 May 2004 at the premises occupied by the ICL group of companies, Grovepark Mills, Maryhill, Glasgow;to consider the safety and relatedissues arising from such an inquiry, including the regulation of the activities at Grovepark Mills;to make recommendations in the light of the lessons identified from the causation and circumstances leading up to the incident; and to report as soon as practicable.

The Lord Advocate and I have agreed that there will be no other appointments to the inquiry panel.

Immigration: Migration Reform

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Jacqui Smith) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.



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Over the next year, the Government will bring in the biggest shake-up of the immigration system for over 40 years. As part of this, key aspects of our migration reform programme are being announced today, including: a statement of intent which sets out how the points system will work for highly skilled migrants; two consultation documents, one on proposals to tackle forced marriage and another on proposals to introduce a pre-entry English-language requirement for spouses; and the results of an initial consultation on simplifying immigration law.

Statement of intent for highly skilled migrants

One of the key changes to reform migration will include a firmer, faster and fairer Australian-style points system. The new system will be simpler and more transparent, ensuring that only those migrants Britain needs can come to work or study in the UK. We are creating a Unified Border Force, bringing together the Border and Immigration Agency, Customs and UK Visas. The new agency will provide tougher policing at ports and airports with a highly visible, uniformed presence, counting all migrants in and out of the UK; and we are introducing compulsory identity cards for foreign nationals, meaning that we will know who is here and what they are entitled to do.

We will launch the points system in under 100 days, beginning with highly skilled migrants and sponsor registration. The statement of intent sets out how the points system will work for highly skilled migrants, showing how points will be awarded and the robust checks that will be made on applications.

The economic benefits of migration are clear. Migrants put far more into the Treasury purse than they take out. Migrants contributed an estimated 15 per cent to 20 per cent to the UK's growth in 2001-05, worth around £6 billion to output growth in 2006. Highly skilled migrants are key to Britain winning these benefits, filling crucial roles in financial and public services, education and health, ICT and business. Following the success of the existing highly skilled migrant programme, the purpose of the high-skilled tier of the points system is to attract and retain the most talented migrants who have the most to contribute economically.

The points system will simplify around 80 immigration routes into just five tiers:

Tier 1—Highly skilled individuals to contribute to growth and productivity;Tier 2—Skilled workers with a job offer to fill gaps in the UK labour force;Tier 3—Low-skilled workers to fill specific temporary labour shortages. This tier will be introduced only if there is a specific need;Tier 4—Students; and Tier 5—Youth mobility and temporary workers: people coming to the UK to satisfy primarily non-economic objectives.
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