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Written Statements

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Burma: Cyclone Nargis

Lord Tunnicliffe: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Douglas Alexander) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

A month has passed since Cyclone Nargis hit Burma on 2 May. While access has improved, the situation remains extremely grave. The UN continues to estimate that 2.4 million people have been directly affected by the cyclone and only 1 million of those have so far received any form of relief. Most of those who have been reached are in the most accessible and least badly affected regions. The official Burmese death toll is 78,000 and 56,000 missing. The threat of further deaths from infectious diseases and malaria is significant. Priority needs are food, shelter, clean drinking water and medical supplies.

The delivery of relief goods is increasing. The UN air-bridge between Bangkok and Rangoon is operating. We estimate a total of 237 flights have arrived since the cyclone struck. The first of nine World Food Programme helicopters is now delivering aid supplies to the delta region.

The UK Government’s priority has been, and remains, to ensure that relief reaches those who need it most. To this end, I attended the UN/ASEAN conference in Rangoon on 25 May at the personal invitation of the UN Secretary-General. The conference confirmed the importance of international aid workers being given necessary access to affected areas and the key role to be played by the ASEAN nations in facilitating the international relief effort.

Since the conference there has been some improvement in access. No visas have been refused to UN or international NGO personnel in the past seven days. The Myanmar Red Cross has been able to scale up its operations substantially in the delta. Five international medical teams from countries in the region are now providing support to national healthcare staff in the delta. A DfID team managed to travel to the Irrawaddy delta on 29 May.

However, significant concerns remain. Visa extensions are being granted for only one or two weeks at a time; there have been restrictions on dates of travel and requirements that government liaison officers accompany relief staff. There are still too few relief workers based in the delta.

The UK remains the largest single donor to the relief effort. We have contributed £7 million to the UN Flash Appeal; we have also channelled £6.7 million through international NGOs, including Merlin, MSF Holland and Save the Children. Our humanitarian team, which has been operating in Rangoon for three weeks, continues to play a crucial role in helping coordinate the overall aid operation.

A total of 20 DfID-funded aid flights have now arrived in Rangoon, delivering plastic sheeting and blankets for 250,000 people, hygiene kits and flat-bottomed boats for use in the delta. All these items

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have been consigned to the UN, NGOs and the Red Cross. We are also transporting 162,000 mosquito nets into Burma.

In addition to our previous commitment of £17 million, I am today announcing a further £10.5 million, bringing our total contribution to £27.5 million. These additional funds will be channelled through the Red Cross, NGOs and local community-based organisations. As before, none of the UK’s assistance will go through the Burmese regime.

While the Government’s immediate focus is to provide immediate assistance to those affected by the cyclone, this does not diminish our commitment to the restoration of accountable, democratic Government in Burma. It is an indictment of the Burmese regime that they proceeded with their constitutional referendum in the immediate aftermath of this natural disaster. The official results lack all credibility. I am also disappointed and saddened that the Government have once again ignored the international community and extended Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention on 27 May.

Millions of people remain in desperate need. Our priority remains to get assistance to those that need it. To do so, the regime’s promises to the UN Secretary General must be turned into action. Together with the UN, ASEAN and NGOs, the UK Government will be monitoring the situation closely in the days and weeks ahead.

Communities: Extremism

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.

Local communities working in partnership with their local authorities, police, education institutions, and others are at the heart of stopping people becoming or supporting violent extremists. Today my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Hazel Blears), the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls), the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham), the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (John Denham), the Secretary of State for Justice (Jack Straw) and I have published detailed guidance to organisations actively to assist them with their work.

This guidance is supported by activity and funding from across government, including £12.5 million to be spent to counter violent extremism and identify and support those individuals at risk across a range of key sectors, including in prisons, among youth offenders, and through community and police-led projects.

Our aim is to improve the long-term security of the United Kingdom. This work complements the action that the security agencies are taking to disrupt those who represent an imminent threat. Along with The Prevent Strategy: Stopping People Becoming or Supporting Terrorists and Violent Extremism, a Guide for Local Partners we are also publishingPreventing Violent Extremism: A Strategy for Delivery, which summarises the strategic framework and key priorities.

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Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform: Costs

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office & Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (Lord Jones of Birmingham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Consumer Affairs (Gareth Thomas) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Further to the Answer I gave the honourable Member for Fareham on 18 February 2008 (Official Report, col. 381W), we said that the costs incurred in setting up the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform were £218,063. These costs included stationery, rebranding and IT changes, including revised e-mail addresses, new signage, web-based changes, new logo and print costs and the anticipated cost of branding guidelines. This figure is also quoted in the letter of 26 November 2007 from Gareth Thomas, to the honourable Member for Richmond Park. A copy of this letter was placed in the Libraries of the House.

Those costs included an estimate of £24,000 for the costs of producing branding guidelines, which had not been completed at the time. These branding guidelines have subsequently been completed: the final costs were £20,000. Therefore, the final total costs are £214,063.

My noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Competitiveness is today answering a Written Question from Lord Barnett which updates the original costs as above.

EU: Education Council

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My honourable friend the Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I represented the UK at Education Council, on behalf of DIUS and DCSF.

Ministers adopted conclusions on multilingualism, noting that the Commission would produce a policy framework on this issue in the autumn. Ministers also adopted conclusions on adult learning that set out specific measures to be undertaken in this area by the Commission and the member states between 2008 and 2010. The text of the conclusions is in line with UK national priorities.

The council agreed a general approach on the European Year of Creativity and Innovation in 2009. I stated that the UK supported the year but queried whether matched funding would be available for member states to undertake events as part of this initiative. The Commission confirmed that project funding would come from existing EU programmes. Ministers also discussed and adopted conclusions on promoting creativity and innovation through education and training. We strongly support these conclusions which note the importance of creativity and innovation for reaching

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Lisbon targets, and the need to develop innovative capacity in children from an early age.

The presidency provided an update on the decision to extend the Erasmus Mundus programme beyond 2009. The European Parliament is currently discussing this dossier, and the French presidency will take this forward with a view to reaching a First Reading agreement in the autumn.

The presidency noted the state of play between the council and Parliament in the recast decision setting up the European Training Foundation. The Parliament has now rejected the council’s position regarding the composition of the foundation’s governing board, so this dossier is likely to progress to a Second Reading.

The Commission presented its proposals for two recommendations in the area of European vocational education and training, (i) a credit system and (ii) a quality assurance reference framework. These two proposals have recently been the subject of Explanatory Memoranda from the Government and will be subject to discussion by officials, with the aim of Ministers reaching an agreement at the next Education Council in November.

The French Minister presented France’s presidency priorities in the field of education: lifelong learning, enhanced co-operation in European vocational education and training, and youth mobility.

EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Jim Murphy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans (Derek Twigg), my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for International Development (Gareth Thomas), Kim Darroch (UK Permanent Representative to the EU) and I represented the UK at the General Affairs and External Relations Council in Brussels.

The agenda items covered were as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 19 and 20 June 2008

Foreign Ministers considered the annotated draft agenda for the European Council meeting to be held in Brussels on 19 and 20 June. The Government approve of the presidency’s priorities for discussion, which will include: policy implications of high food and fuel prices; implementation of the millennium development goals; measures in the areas of freedom, security and justice; economic, social and environmental issues; a progress report on ratification of the Lisbon treaty. The council will also discuss the situation in the western Balkans, and external relations (including enhancement of the Barcelona Process (EuroMed) and the eastern dimension of the European neighbourhood policy).

Ministers will carry out more detailed preparatory work for the European Council when they meet on 16 June.

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Foreign Ministers approved the negotiating mandate for a successor to the current partnership and co-operation agreement with Russia, which the Government welcome as a positive step forward for EU-Russia relations.

External Relations

Western Balkans

The council adopted conclusions that welcomed Serbian voters’ strong support for pro-European parties at the 11 May elections; hoped that the new Government would engage constructively with the EU in advancing Serbia towards candidate status, by meeting the necessary conditions; and looked forward to the signature of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s stabilisation and association agreement at the June GAERC.

I said that ifa pro-European Government were formed in Serbia, we would clearly want to sustain our commitment to that country’s European path. But we would also need to be clear about our expectations of that government.


The Government agreed council conclusions expressing the EU’s concern at the security situation in Somalia, in particular its impact on human rights and humanitarian relief efforts; calling upon all parties to refrain from violence and seek to resolve conflict through the political process; welcoming the Transitional Federal Government’s moves towards reconciliation with its domestic and external opponents; supporting the work of the UN and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM); and condemning instances of piracy off the Somali coast.


The council adopted conclusions, which the Government support, which noted the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s decision to hold a second round of elections on 27 June; condemned the campaign of violence and intimidation against opposition supporters since the first round; called upon the Government of Zimbabwe to respect human rights and promote conditions conducive to free and fair elections, in keeping with international standards.

Middle East Peace Process

On Lebanon, the council agreed conclusions welcoming the 21 May Doha agreement and the election of President Suleiman, as steps that would enable democratic institutions to resume functioning properly following a lengthy period of instability; commending the Arab League’s role in brokering the Doha agreement; and deploring the recent violence in Beirut.

On the MEPP, Foreign Ministers reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to the Annapolis process; expressed concern at Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; condemned the firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza; and called upon Israel to ease restrictions on movement and access in the West Bank.

The Government welcome these conclusions, and in particular Ministers’ decision to expand the EU police training mission (EUPOL COPPS) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

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Commissioner Mandelson updated Ministers on the Doha development agenda (DDA). The UK emphasised the strategic importance of a deal on the DDA, for the EU, the developing world and the global economy as a whole. We also called upon EU partners to support the Commission’s efforts to negotiate a successful outcome for the EU.


Sweden briefed Ministers on the international compact with Iraq (ICI) conference in Stockholm on 29 May, which the council welcomed as a reflection of the EU’s commitment to support Iraq. The Commission gave an update on its assistance to the Government of Iraq and council conclusions set out details of further support and assistance that the EU will deliver.

I underlined the recent positive developments in the political and security situation, and called upon EU partners to use the Stockholm conference as an opportunity to set out how we proposed to assist the Government of Iraq to consolidate and build upon that progress.


Foreign Ministers adopted conclusions that welcomed the peaceful conduct of the 21 May elections; called upon the Georgian authorities to address the remaining shortcomings identified by OSCE election observers; emphasised the need for dialogue between the Government and opposition; and reiterated the EU’s serious concern at the recent events that have increased tension between Georgia and Russia.

I said that it was important for the EU to make clear its commitment to Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Joint Session of Foreign Ministers and Defence Ministers

Conclusions were agreed under the European security and defence policy (ESDP) on current operations and missions, capability development including the European Defence Agency, and co-operation with strategic partners.


In their conclusions, which the Government welcome, Foreign and Defence Ministers decided to increase substantially the contribution through the EU police mission, with the aim of doubling its size; underlined the need to strengthen further the fight against corruption and drugs, and introduce local self-government; and looked forward to the Paris donor conference on 12 June.

I emphasised the need for closer EU-NATO co-operation on the ground, and for the Paris conference on Afghanistan to deliver, along with a commitment from the Afghan Government to take responsibility for its own development, a commitment from the international community that it would support this by delivering assistance in support of the Afghan Government’s national development strategy.

Children and Armed Conflict

The presidency highlighted progress on this issue. In their conclusions Foreign and Defence Ministers welcomed a study by the European Centre for Development Policy Management which set out concrete

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proposals for future action, as well as a review of, and amendments to, the council document Checklist for the Integration of the Protection of Children affected by Armed Conflict into ESDP Operations, particularly emphasising the aim to further enhance its implementation on the ground.

Defence Ministers

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