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Regional Development Agencies: Northwest

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Competitiveness (Stephen Timms) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have decided to appoint the new board members listed below:

Professor John Brooks;

Peter Allen;

Susan Williams;

Robert Hough; and

Cllr Anthony McDermott.

All the new appointments will be for a period of three years. The appointments began on 14 December 2007 and will expire on 13 December 2010. I have placed further details of the appointments in the Libraries of both Houses. They were all made in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

Biographies

Peter Allen MBE is a Cumbrian hill farmer based near Penrith. As chair of the sheepmeat and goatmeat advisory committee to the EU, he has been involved in reforming and implementing the European sheep regime. For many years, Peter was actively involved with the NFU, representing farming and rural issues locally, regionally and nationally. With many others he worked with aspects of industry and government to control and eradicate foot and mouth disease in 2000 to 2002 and he was the only farmer member of the Royal Society inquiry into infectious diseases of animals 2001-02. He is currently chair of the NFU Mutual northern area board, chair of RUMA (UK body promoting the responsible use of medicines in agriculture) and a board member of Natural England and the north-west region Regional Environment Protection Advisory Committee. He holds no other ministerial appointments and has not taken part in any political activities in the last three years.

John Brooks is the vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. In his previous job at the University of Wolverhampton, he chaired a regeneration project after the closure of Rover, which involved infrastructure development and small business support. Between 1992 and 1998, he helped to create Bodycote-SHU Coatings, a company that offers tool manufacturers the opportunity to use physical vapour deposition coating machines. He chairs the board of the Equality Challenge Unit and is on the boards of Universities UK (and its long-term strategy group), the Oxford Road Corridor Partnership and the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. He holds no other ministerial appointments and has not been involved in any political activities in the last three years.

Robert Hough has been deputy chairman and latterly executive director of Peel Holdings for over 13 years and is a non-executive director of a number

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of other companies, including Cheshire Building Society, Alfred McAlpine plc and Provident Financial plc. Peel’s businesses include airports, ports, land use, planning, development, waste, energy and the environment. A board member of the University of Manchester and a member of the North West Regional Assembly executive board, he also chairs New East Manchester Ltd (one of the first urban regeneration companies to be established) and is a member and former chair of the North West Business Leadership Team. He lives in Bowdon in Cheshire. He holds no other ministerial appointments and has not taken part in any political activities in the last three years.

Tony McDermott MBE is a resident of Widnes and leader of the council. He was educated at St Edward’s College Liverpool and Manchester University. He taught in Lancashire and Liverpool for 34 years. He is a board member of the Local Government Association Improvement and Development Agency, the Mersey Partnership and the North West Improvement Network, as well as chair of the North West Regional Transport Group, leader of Halton Borough Council and former chair of the North West Regional Assembly. He is also a member of the Urban Commission executive and the Northern Way Transport Compact. He is a supporter of the Asbestos Victims Support Group and board member of the Five Boroughs NHS Mental Health Trust. He holds no other ministerial appointments.

Susan Williams was a nutritionist for the charity Action and Research into Multiple Sclerosis until 2001. She became Conservative leader of Trafford Borough Council in 2004. She is a member of Manchester Enterprises Board, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Economic Development Board and the Trafford Local Strategic Partnership Board. She has acted as a political agent for the Conservative Party. In 2001, she stood for Parliament in Wythenshawe and Sale East and in 2006 she was selected as the parliamentary candidate for Bolton West. She lives in Altrincham in Cheshire. She holds no other ministerial appointments.

Russia: Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government regret the unilateral decision by the Russian Federation to cease compliance with its obligations under the conventional forces in Europe treaty (CFE) from 12 December. Russia has sought to explain this decision principally on the grounds that members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have not ratified the adapted version of the CFE treaty. Together with our NATO allies, the United Kingdom has made a public statement (www.nato.int/docu/pr/2007/p07-139e.html).

This Russian decision is unjustified. The United Kingdom, along with NATO allies, has made clear our commitment to ratify as quickly as possible the

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adaptation of the CFE treaty, which would provide the basis for addressing most of Russia’s concerns about the current CFE regime. But it remains right that Russia should in parallel honour its own commitments, made at the 1999 Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe summit in Istanbul, to regularise the status of its forces and equipment in Georgia and Moldova. The principle that host nation consent is required for the stationing of foreign forces is central to effective security and stability in Europe. NATO has engaged intensively with the Russian Federation to seek ways of overcoming differences over how to ensure that both these sets of commitments are delivered.

The Government also consider that the Russian Federation’s “suspension” of its obligations cannot be justified either under the provisions of the CFE treaty or on the grounds set out in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. Accordingly, on 11 December, we sent a note verbale, via the treaty depository, to all CFE states parties, making this clear.

We judge, however, that European security is not fundamentally or immediately threatened by this Russian action. In the short term, we understand that Russia will stop exchanging data or sending notifications on the whereabouts and composition of its conventional forces and will refuse to allow verification inspections. However, if Russia were to persist in this course of action, in the longer term that would erode the transparency and predictability that the CFE regime contributes to overall stability in Europe.

To help to maintain that stability, the United Kingdom will until further notice, along with its NATO allies, continue to honour all our obligations under the CFE treaty, including towards the Russian Federation. We will assess the impact of any non-compliance by the Russian Federation and consult NATO allies on a further joint response. With NATO allies, we will also continue to promote engagement with the Russian Federation with a view to reaching an agreed way forward.

Scottish Parliament: Elections

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am launching today a consultation exercise on proposals and recommendations arising from the Electoral Commission review, led by the independent expert Mr Ron Gould, into the conduct of elections to the Scottish Parliament in May 2007. In my Oral Statement to the House on 23 October, when Mr Gould published his report, I accepted immediately the five core recommendations, which taken together will have a direct beneficial impact on the experience of voters at future elections to the Scottish Parliament.

I confirmed to the House in my October Statement that a number of other recommendations in the report would require wide-ranging consultation with outside interests, including those responsible for the administrative conduct of elections in Scotland. At

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the same time, I stressed the importance of engaging with voters in these matters and will be seeking through the consultation exercise to reach as many as possible by both formal and informal means.

The paper is being sent directly to all MPs with Scottish constituencies and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. I hope that as many honourable Members as possible will take the opportunity to let me have views on the points raised for consultation, as well as any other relevant comments on ways of improving, particularly for the voter, these elections.

The consultation exercise will run to early March 2008 and I hope to publish a formal response to the Gould report, taking full account of views submitted during the consultation process, shortly thereafter.

The Gould report also made a number of proposals relevant to the conduct of local authority elections in Scotland. These are a matter for the Scottish Executive to determine.

Welfare Reform Green Paper

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.

Today I am publishing Ready for Work: Full Employment in our Generation, the Government’s response to the Green Paper on welfare reform published in July 2007. Ready for Work sets out the strategy to create a society in which as many people as possible can share in the rewards of work. Those rewards go far beyond financial independence, important as that is, because work is inherently good for people of all ages: good for their health, good for families and good for communities.

Today Britain is recognised by the international community as a leader in promoting employment and tackling disadvantage in the labour market. However, there are still too many people living on benefits who could work if they were given the right support. Our response will be to move to a new system of active rather than passive benefits.

We want to see an employment rate of 80 per cent, up from the current baseline of 74.5 per cent, putting full employment at the heart of our anti-poverty strategy and enabling Britain to seize the opportunities afforded by a dynamic global economy. In a new and radical approach, we will therefore increasingly look to move people from being spectators on the margins isolated at home, as recipients of passive benefits, to becoming participants, actively seeking and preparing for work with access to training and job-focused activity.

We also want to ensure that benefit claimants can train and improve their skills so that they are not only helped into jobs but also helped to stay and progress in work. Currently, benefit rules prevent JSA customers from studying full time for more than 16 hours per week for more than two weeks per year. We will reform this. As I announced in November, we will put in place the funding arrangements to ensure that

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JSA customers who would benefit from longer-term, full-time intensive and employment-focused training will have the opportunity to do so by moving to a training allowance. We will also remove the 16-hour rule in housing benefit completely for short-term recipients of incapacity benefit so that they, like long-term claimants, will always be able to take up training to enable them to return to work.

Lone parents who can work will be required actively to seek work once their youngest child is 12 or over from October 2008, 10 or over from 2009 and seven or over from 2010, supported by a flexible system of pre-work preparation and in-work support and by the £21 billion that we have invested in childcare since 1997.

Incapacity benefits for new claimants will go, replaced by employment and support allowance with the emphasis on what a person with a physical or mental health condition can do rather than cannot.

The New Deal will be modernised so that it better meets the employment and skills needs of those who have been on benefit for a long time or who have struggled to find a stable pattern of work.



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Jobcentre Plus has built up a truly world-class record and will remain at the heart of the system, working in partnership with public, private and third sector specialist providers, which will have an enhanced role through new contracting relationships—we will set those out early next year. Jobcentre Plus will also work in partnership with the Learning and Skills Council and devolved Administrations to deliver an integrated employment and skills service. It will also work with employers, opening up more jobs to disadvantaged people through local employment partnerships.

In an era of record employment and with 680,000 vacancies to fill, our aim is to get British benefit claimants into British jobs to become British workers. We will also do more to ensure that the long-term unemployed, lone parents and those currently on incapacity benefit are better off in work even after reasonable transport costs.

The reforms that we are bringing in have a central goal: work for those who can, support for those who cannot, combating poverty through full employment. That remains our welfare commitment and that is our way forward.


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