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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My right honourable friend the Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Beverley Hughes) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Today I am publishing the action plan for the youth task force. The youth task force in my department was created in October 2007 from the respect task force to build on the Governments success in tackling anti-social behaviour. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of the House.
The new task force will concentrate on the minority of young people who get into serious trouble, including anti-social behaviour, and cause serious problems in their neighbourhoods. It will work with local partnerschildrens services, the police, schools and community safety teamsto ensure that across the country every area has an effective approach for dealing with young people in serious difficulty.
Working with the Home Officewhich retains responsibility for the overall response to anti-social behaviourand other departments across government as well as local areas, the youth task force will help to ensure that young people and their families get the right package of intervention, challenge and support not only to curtail bad behaviour but to change it.
At the request of the Bangladesh Government, the UK has approved £50 million over nine years for an ambitious programme which will significantly increase English language skills for 27 million people in Bangladesh. This will make a valuable and lasting contribution to economic and social development in that country.
English in Action is an innovative and comprehensive programme that will target a number of different ages and groups. In particular, it will make more young Bangladeshis ready for employment. It will provide teachers at primary and secondary level with a firm foundation for teaching English; and it will offer opportunities for using and practising English in a variety of economic and social contexts. The programme will also address a major skills gap in the Bangladesh workforce and will help the country become more competitive in both internal and international labour markets.
Designed to reach approximately 27 million people, English in Action will make use of rapidly expanding mobile phone technology in Bangladesh. It will use television and radio to stimulate interest and debate, and to reach the maximum number of people with appropriate learning programmes. The English in Action programme will also provide a wide range of supportive printed and audio learning materials which will be available to a wide range of learners.
UK development assistance in Bangladesh promotes good governance, economic growth, trade and access to basic services. The English in Action programme will contribute to improving economic growth and to increasing the quality of education provision in Bangladesh.
A recent Bangladesh Government report identified unemployment and growing income inequality as two major constraints which may prevent the country achieving the millennium development goals. English in Action will be an important contribution in assisting Bangladesh to overcome such constraints and to improve the livelihoods of its people.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning (Caroline Flint) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
Home owners have the right to expect their homes to be built and renovated to minimum standards set
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The building control system is critical to our ability to deliver a range of wider aims on housing supply, sustainability and other key health and safety-related issues. Following discussion with stakeholders over the past two years it has become apparent that while the system is not broken, there are a number of issues which needed to be addressed to ensure that the system is fit for purpose now and in the future.
This consultation document also ensures we have a customer-focused building control system in which industry is able to plan with certainty and which is fully able to support the delivery of our housing supply and zero carbon housing targets in a way which delivers high levels of compliance at a reduced burden to industry and other stakeholders.
The consultation is accompanied by impact assessments. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses or it can be accessed via the Communities and Local Government website at www.communities.gov.uk/futurebuildingcontrol.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I have made a Statement under Section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998 that, in my view, the provisions of the Consolidated Fund (Appropriation) Bill are compatible with the convention rights. A copy of the Statement has been deposited in the Library of the House.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (David Miliband), my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs (Gareth Thomas) and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) in Brussels on 10 March 2008.
The council discussed preparations for the European Council on 13 and 14 March. The European Council will focus on the launch of a new three-year cycle of the EUs strategy for growth and jobs; an integrated climate and energy policy; and the stability of financial markets.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary supported the presidencys focus on delivering for the EUs citizens, and agreed with the priorities identified for action, particularly in taking forward the EUs commitment to delivering on the ambitious climate change goals set last year at the spring European Council and the need for the EU to lead wider international work towards a comprehensive climate change agreement for the post-2012 period.
My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary emphasised the need for urgency from the European Council on delivery of the EUs ambitious climate change goals; in particular, a mechanism to deliver the carbon capture and storage demonstration plants promised by the 2007 spring European Council; and the centrality of ETS to tackling climate change. He also stressed the importance of Europe not retreating into economic protectionism.
The Government agreed council conclusions that reaffirmed the importance of achieving a comprehensive, ambitious and balanced final outcome in all areas of the DDA, which would meet both the EUs objectives and the needs and interests of developing countries, in particular the least developed countries (LDCs). My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs supported the Commissions efforts to move the DDA negotiations forward. The council agreed that the GAERC should convene a special meeting to coincide with possible WTO ministerial negotiations in Geneva.
Ministers had an exchange of views on the EU's co-operation with Georgia, and discussed the EU's provision of support for electoral reform, which the Government support, in the run-up to parliamentary elections in may 2008.
The Government agreed council conclusions that underlined the EUs concerns about the humanitarian, political and economic situation in Zimbabwe and conditions on the ground; urged the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure that the forthcoming elections meet international norms and standards; and welcomed President Mbekis mediation efforts on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Foreign Ministers had an exchange of views following the adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1803. Ministers agreed that UNSCR 1803 clearly indicated that the international community remained united on the issue of Irans nuclear ambitions. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary underlined the importance of the EU maintaining pressure on Iran to comply with its international obligations.
High Representative Solana briefed Ministers on his visit to the region on 2-5 March. The EU expressed concern at the worsening situation, following the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and southern Israel, as well as the 6 March killings at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem.
Ministers also expressed concern about the recent approval of settlement activity by the Israeli Government at Givat Zeev. The EU continues to make it clear that settlement building anywhere in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal under international law and presents an obstacle to peace.
The council agreed conclusions on Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), welcoming the unanimous decision of the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board that the Office of the High Representative should remain in place until the necessary objectives and conditions are met. The council also gave full support to BiHs EU perspective, and urged the authorities to do everything necessary to fulfil the four conditions necessary for signing the stabilisation and association agreement.
The council also adopted conclusions on the Regional Co-operation Council reaffirming the EUs commitment to the RCC as a framework for the countries of south- eastern Europe to promote stability, democracy, respect for human rights and economic prosperity.
The Slovenian presidency briefed Ministers on discussions with the US on the visa waiver programme and an exchange of views followed. The Government support the Commission in its wish to reach an agreement with the US on this issue.
The council agreed conclusions reaffirming the EU's commitment to long-term support for Afghanistan and promotion of Afghan leadership, good governance and the development of a democratic, secure and sustainable Afghan state with respect for human rights and the rule of law. The council also expressed support for an international conference in Paris in June to review implementation of the Afghanistan compact and welcomed the progress of the EU police mission towards full deployment by the end of March 2008.
The Government agreed council conclusions on Pakistans February elections as an important step in the development of Pakistans democracy. The conclusions
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The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): FCO Services will become a trading fund of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on 1 April 2008. I have set the following performance targets for 2008-09:an in-year surplus before interest and tax of at least £1.3 million;a return on capital employed of at least 3.5 per cent (weighted average);a wider market revenue growth of 10 per cent on that achieved in 2007-08, assessed on a normalised baseline;a customer satisfaction rating derived from an independent, quantitative survey of at least 85 per cent satisfied or very satisfied;a utilisation rate of revenue earning staff of at least 65 per cent; anda contribution to the FCOs Comprehensive Spending Review commitments by delivering £2 million of cash savings, achieved through price stabilisation.
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