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The Slovene presidency is keen to oversee significant progress on the ratification of the treaty of Lisbon in the EU27 during its time in the chair. The UK agrees with the presidency that this treaty is key to the success of the EU, bringing an end to institutional reforms and a return to strong delivery both internally and with external partners. This change in focus will be essential to enable the EU to meet the varied challenges of globalisation.

On climate change and energy security, the presidency will take forward discussions of the climate and energy package to be published before spring Council, including a unilateral 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. We will work with our partners to ensure that the EU helps secure agreement on a comprehensive framework to tackle climate change once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

The Slovene presidency will also aim to finalise the single market review and agree the energy and

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telecommunication liberalisation packages to create a more competitive network market and to ensure increased energy security. These are key issues for the UK Government, and we have been working hard with EU partners to reach agreement on them.

In addition, the presidency will focus on implementation of the Lisbon agenda, particularly at a national level, encouraging member states to carry out reforms already agreed. We will work closely with the presidency to assist it in taking this forward, rooted in a Global Europe approach. As part of this, the presidency is keen to increase innovation through a stronger focus on research and skills to prepare the EU for new global challenges, such as emerging markets and changing demographics.

The UK supports the presidency in its commitment to make real progress on Kosovo and the western Balkans over the next six months, for which it is ideally placed regionally, following on from the strong language we achieved at the December European Council 2007.

The EU will also continue to work with international partners to address the challenges posed by Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East peace process. The presidency has committed to summits with key partners, including Japan and Russia, and we will be working closely with Slovenia to carry forward agreed priorities with others, including China and Africa.

Race Relations Act

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration and Minister for the West Midlands (Liam Byrne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I have made an authorisation under Section 19D of the Race Relations Act 1976 as amended, to enable the Secretary of State to request that asylum applicants claiming to be Somali or Eritrean nationals submit to language analysis. This authorisation replaces the Race Relations (Immigration and Asylum) (Language Analysis) Authorisation 2007, which has expired.

Language analysis carried out in 2007 for some Somali and Eritrean asylum applicants demonstrated that significant proportions of those tested had claimed to be of a nationality or from a region or grouping that was not their own, in order to try to gain residence in this country. This authorisation will assist the Secretary of State to make decisions in individual cases and to ascertain the extent of this abuse. The Secretary of State may take a refusal to submit to testing into account when determining whether an applicant has assisted in establishing the facts of his case or her case.

The authorisation will remain in place for four months (until June 2008), at which point we will review whether it is still necessary and appropriate.

I am placing copies of the authorisation in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament.

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Railways: Correction to Question for Short Debate

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My response to the debate on railways capacity (Official Report, 24/1/08;

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col. GC 168) in Grand Committee has been subsequently found to contain an error.

Unfortunately, I inadvertently informed the House that the Government were spending £5.5 million to increase capacity by some 50 per cent on the Thameslink service. I should have said that the Government are spending £5.5 billion in this regard.

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