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Defence Ministers welcomed progress made in formulating the capability development plan and discussed European military capabilities, focusing on the use of EU Battlegroups in crisis management operations.
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence emphasised the continuing success of the Battlegroups initiative in helping the transformation of member states armed forces towards modern expeditionary capabilities. He also welcomed the recent improvement in the use of the EU-NATO capability group.
The EDA Steering Board also met in Defence Ministers formation on May 26. Ministers agreed to recommend that the November council postpone the agreement of the three-year financial framework for one year. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence advertised the UK-France helicopter initiative that was announced at the recent UK/France bilateral summit, and called for member states support.
Commissioner Michel briefed Development Ministers on his recent visit to Burma. The council agreed conclusions supporting the UNs role in response to Cyclone Nargis; welcomed the decision of ASEAN Foreign Ministers on 19 May to establish a mechanism for delivering and distributing aid inside Burma; and noted the outcome of the international conference in Yangon on 25 May 2008 co-sponsored by the UN and ASEAN and the commitment of the Burmese regime to participate in the UN/ASEAN mechanism agreed at the conference.
My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for International Development highlighted UK efforts to date and emphasised the need to build momentum on the back of the 25 May conference; to maintain pressure on the regime to deliver; to encourage influential ASEAN member states to do more; and for the EU to come good on pledges of assistance. He also noted that long-standing political concerns with the Burmese regime remained and underlay the problems faced.
Development Ministers agreed conclusions welcoming the Commission communication A Special Place for Children in EU External Action; and affirming the importance of a comprehensive and integrated human rights-based approach towards the promotion and protection of the rights of the child, encompassing all areas of EU external action.
Commissioner Michel gave an assessment of the EUs performance against overseas development aid (ODA) volumes and set out the Commissions views on how to accelerate progress towards achieving the MDGs. The council adopted conclusions, which the Government welcome, strongly reaffirming their commitment to achieve a collective ODA target of 0.56 per cent GNI by 2010 and 0.7 per cent GNI by 2015, as set out in the May 2005 council conclusions, the June 2005 European council conclusions and the European consensus on development.
The conclusions also state that the EU will prepare an EU agenda for action on the MDGs for the June European Council. This agenda will identify specific milestones and actions on key areas that will help contribute to achieving the MDGs by 2015. The Government strongly support this approach.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Ben Bradshaw) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The chairman of Monitor (the statutory name of which is the Independent Regulator of NHS foundation trusts) announced last week that, in accordance with Section 35 of the National Health Service Act 2006, Monitor has decided to authorise the following NHS acute and mental health trusts as NHS foundation trusts from 1 June:
The Government remain committed to offering all NHS acute and mental health trusts the opportunity to apply for foundation status as soon as practicable. Monitor is now authorising trusts on a monthly basis, and further waves of NHS foundation trusts are set to follow.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Ivan Lewis) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The NHS is Europes largest employer with 1.3 million people; 5 per cent of the United Kingdom workforce and is often the largest single employer in each of the regions of England. Given its size, the NHS in England is responsible for nearly 3 per cent of UK carbon dioxide emissions and 30 per cent of public sector emissions.
In the 10 years from 1990 to 2000, the NHS successfully reduced its building energy use by 20 per cent. As part of the Governments climate change programme 1998-99, some early targets on NHS carbon reduction from building energy use were set for NHS trusts to reduce energy consumption and improve energy efficiency.
The core of this strategy is action. It has highlighted the 10 achievable, practical and sustainability improving, actions, to win the top 10 actions that the NHS will challenge themselves to achieve:the use of high-quality information to help predict different possible trajectories of NHS carbon emissions (an NHS carbon model) to measure progress towards objectives, identify milestones, and guide action;a board approved carbon management strategy for all NHS organisations by 2009; a proposed extension of the energy fund to improve energy efficiency of the existing NHS estate;all our new buildings to be low carbon by 2015 and meet our ambition of zero carbon by 2018;a board approved sustainable travel plan for all NHS bodies by 2010;a target for better waste management to be created and met;sources of carbon emissions to be cut by improving procurement of goods, services and equipment;the pricing of carbon at an appropriate level within the NHS in England; the development and implementation of more effective incentives and policies to support and stimulate real progress on sustainable development; andall NHS organisations to report annually on a key metric as a part of a simple scorecard of sustainable development indicators, to be considered for performance purposes.
Saving Carbon, Improving Health, aDraft Carbon Reduction Strategy for the NHS in Englanda consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office.
I have today launched a public consultation on proposals to extend the scope of the Railway Heritage Committee. The public consultation, which will run until 5 September 2008, identifies three options to enable the committee to extend its scope to railway related bodies that were overlooked or not in existence at the time of the original legislation. These options are:for legislation to remain the same;for railway related bodies to voluntarily agree to allow the committee to designate their records and artefacts, or to add further organisations to the original list of bodies covered by the 1996 Railway Heritage Act.
From previous discussions between the committee and railway bodies, and a response to an informal questionnaire in March, there is a need for such bodies to be brought into the scope of the committee to enable it to fully meet its statutory obligations.
The consultation also seeks to update its membership to enable it to appoint an archivist. Current legislation restricts the department's ability to attract suitable candidates and appoint members who do not meet the existing requirements of the Public Records Act 1958.
The Transport Research Laboratory has today published a report, commissioned by my department, on the subject of longer and heavier goods vehicles (LHVs). The report highlights a number of issues that make the implementation of large 25.25 metre LHVs, sometimes referred to as super-lorries, impractical either on a permanent or trial basis. I will therefore not be allowing them on UK roads for the foreseeable future.
The report does show, however, that there could be worthwhile benefits from permitting a modest increase in the length of current articulated vehicles. The department will consider these further in the context of its ongoing strategic work on freight, on which I expect to publish a summary of progress this summer.
The report will help to inform member states and the European Commission which are reviewing the rules on lorry sizes as part of the logistics action plan to improve the efficiency of transport and logistics in the European Union.
Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of the House and can also be viewed at www.trl.co.uk.
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.
I am today laying before Parliament a copy of the report by Mrs Linda Costelloe Baker, the Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals with Limited Rights of Appeal, covering the period 1 April to 30 September 2007. A copy is also being made available on the UKBA website at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk together with the UK Border Agencys response to the independent monitor's recommendations.
In the report Mrs Costelloe Baker comments UKvisas has managed a huge programme of business change, holding on to principles of fairness and good service in the face of a strong controls agenda. It sets itself high standards and deserves the praise and awards it receives for its successes.
Mrs Costelloe Baker also makes a number of constructive recommendations as to how the UK Border Agency can continue to improve the quality of decision-making, customer service and complaint handling. The UK Border Agency welcomes these comments and is keen to use these recommendations to drive up the quality of its service to customers while maintaining a high level of immigration control.
I wish to record our thanks to Mrs Costelloe Baker for the work and effort she has put into producing this her third report as Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals with Limited Rights of Appeal.
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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 launching a consultation today on proposals for five essential elements of a long-term strategy to support volunteering in health and social care. The consultation document has been placed in the Library and copies are available for honourable Members in the Vote Office.
A volunteering strategy will articulate the key actions needed to address the perceived obstacles to making a refreshed vision for volunteering in health and social care a reality. Informed by the consultation
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