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The Council welcomed the proposals by the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation (IASCF) to enhance its governance structure and to improve the functioning of the IASB, and on that basis adopted conclusions that will be submitted as the European contribution to the public consultation on IASB. The UK supports the efforts to improve internal processes and governance within the IASB, principally through improving the oversight arrangements and the creation of a new Monitoring Board.
The Commission presented the state of play on the October 2007 Ecofin Council road map. Ministers agreed to conclusions calling for the fullest possible transparency in order to bring confidence to the market. Ministers also agreed conclusions supporting the need for a strengthened oversight regime for credit rating agencies, which will be based on Commission proposals to follow in the autumn. The UK continues to support work to improve the stability of financial markets, and will accordingly examine the Commission's proposals in detail.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (James Plaskitt) has made the following Statement.
The meeting started with a Ministers-only breakfast meeting looking at ideas to make social Europe more concrete and closer to its citizens. A social Europe week and a common declaration from all member states of the EUs social offer/deal to its citizens were some of the ideas raised.
There were three plenary sessions, each devoted to specific challenges linked to social Europe: the impacts of climate change and globalization, of changing demographic structures and the fights against poverty and discrimination. There was broad support by all delegations for the Commissions renewed social agenda and interesting discussions on poverty and active inclusion in particular. For the UK, I pledged broad support for the new proposals while highlighting some of the areas which would need further work. I raised the challenges posed by financial exclusion and the further possible useful work at a European level in this area. Other member states welcomed this positive Statement on anti-discrimination and thought the financial exclusion point was a good example of specific problems needing concrete answers and they were willing to discuss further.
An innovation by the presidency was the introduction of web chats at the end of each plenary session. The public had been invited to put questions to Ministers via the French presidency website and these were answered by whichever Minister chose to. I answered a question on active ageing pointing out the economic implications, the importance of skills, the need to exchange information and best practice and the challenges of anti discrimination.
I met bilaterally with Ministers from Denmark, Sweden, and Italy, and I hope that the new Italian Minister will visit the UK in the autumn and see a Job Centre Plus office. I was also able to discuss with the French High Commissioner for Active Solidarity against Poverty, Martin Hirsch, UK views on EU social experimentation, including the trans-national pilot projects which we believe can offer significant new insights in the field of social inclusion.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The French presidencys Informal Justice and Home Affairs (JHA)
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During the first session of the council, member states considered what practical measures could be taken to improve the internal security of the EU and police co-operation. All welcomed the presidency idea that police co-operation should be developed around the principle of convergence, with most defining that to mean practical changes to improve cross-border working by police forces, such as radio interoperation, data sharing, work on major events and in tourist areas. Several called for more European police training.
The UK agreed with the practical approach recalling that, especially on the third anniversary of the London bombings, one of our top priorities remained counterterrorism. As such we welcomed the work led by the counterterrorism co-ordinator. Counter-radicalisation, projects like the maritime analysis and operation centre (MAOC(N)) on drugs, criminal asset confiscation, cybercrime, and a data sharing and protection strategy were also all important. The presidency concluded by confirming that the lack of a new treaty did not stand in the way of the practical measures Ministers wanted.
The presidency introduced their paper in the civil protection session by stressing the need for the EU to be prepared, improve capabilities, convergence and interoperability and suggesting that some modules (specialised intervention teams based on member state assets) be put on standby. A number of member states supported the need for co-operation, but responded with caution regarding new structures and any suggestion of EU authority over national resources. Modules must remain on a voluntary basis to ensure that member states have full control over the use of their own assets. It was concluded that these should remain voluntary but the EU should look at any capability gaps and support joint training initiatives.
The presidency presented the migration pact and said that they hoped to adopt it at the October council. All member states supported the pact but raised points of detail, with some arguing that asylum procedures should not be changed, others wanting a single consolidated instrument on legal migration procedures, concerns regarding the creation of a common border guard; and some seeking a stronger reference to burden sharing of people.
The UK welcomed the pact and noted that the EU should continue to focus on practical measures that deliver results including on data sharing, border control, and passenger name records (PNR). The EUs border agency, Frontex, (among others) should be used to strengthen the external border but the responsibility
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The first justice session opened with a debate introduced by the presidency about whether judges required further training in EU law and judicial co-operation. Most member states welcomed the discussion but concerns were raised about judicial independence and the way the training should be delivered. Most thought that any such training should be open to judges, prosecutors and court officials and that the key subjects should be EU law, other member states law and language training.
The second justice session focused on the protection of children and vulnerable adults. For the discussion on protecting children, the presidency urged member states to establish national missing child alert systems which should be interoperable. The UK supported both the principle and detail of the presidencys ideas and explained that the UK was rolling out an alert system. Information sharing on convicted sex offenders, use of CCTV and automatic number plate recognition were all also useful. The presidency concluded that the child alert system would be taken forward.
There was a discussion about how the European Union should deal with the question of the protection of vulnerable adults in order to meet the challenges of an ageing population and the high level of mobility of European citizens. The presidency encouraged member states to ratify the Hague Convention on the international protection of vulnerable adults and there was a discussion about how member states could improve the implementation of the convention. The UK signed and ratified the convention within Scotland in 2003. Work is under way to extend the convention to cover England and Wales.
The Government announced in November 2006 that, as part of their work to improve accountability for EU funds across the EU, HM Treasury would
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The purpose of this arrangement is to strengthen the audit and parliamentary scrutiny of the UK's use of EU funds and help detect any weaknesses in the UK's management of these funds so that these can be more effectively and rapidly tackled. The Statement and C&AG's first report sets an excellent basis for doing this.
The C&AG's positive opinion on regularity clearly shows that the management of EU funds by UK authorities during the period covered by the Statement has been sound and that there has been no evidence of material irregularity in the payments made to beneficiaries. The Government welcome this finding, as providing assurance on the management of EU funds in the UK was one of the Statement's key objectives.
The C&AG's limitation of scope does make it clear that more needs to be done to improve the consistency of the recording and the accounting of EU funding by UK central government bodies. The Government are working to ensure these issues are addressed. In particular, improved guidance is being developed so that all future EU transactions and balances are recorded consistently and separately in the accounts of all the relevant entities. The actions taken this year will be the first in a rolling programme of improvement in this area.
This Statement and the improvements that result from it will be important in building momentum for similar action to be taken by our EU partners. Such action is critical, as a positive statement of assurance from the European Court of Auditors on the reliability of the EU's accounts will only ever be obtained if measures to improve the management of agricultural and structural funds are taken by member states as well as the Commission.
In this context, the Government warmly welcome the statements that have been published by the Dutch Finance Ministry and the Danish national audit office, as well the Swedish initiative to publish a statement in the spring of next year. In time, the UK hopes to welcome similar reports on the use of EU funds from other member states.
The Government hope this Statement and the C&AG's audit opinion will be helpful to the European Court of Auditors and the Commission when they are performing their own audits and controls. I will be sending copies of this Statement to both institutions, as well as to my counterparts in other member states.
It is crucial that EU taxpayers are given the necessary assurance that EU money is being spent correctly. The UK's initiative to publish this Consolidated Statement on its use of EU Funds will make a positive contribution to ensuring this is the case. I will continue to work to encourage my counterparts in other member states to show a similar degree of commitment to providing such an assurance.
The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): This Statement announces changes in the use of personal data held on the GB poultry register in England and Wales following a public consultation. The changes will come into effect on 1 August 2008. Copies of the report summarising the responses to the public consultation will be deposited in the Libraries of the House.
The register was set up in December 2005 in response to increased threat of outbreaks of avian influenza. Poultry keepers with more than 50 birds are legally required to provide essential information about their premises to populate the register. To date, the register has been used for avian influenza risk assessment, prevention and control.
Decisions on changes of use of the register took into account the views of individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation as well as the wider public and taxpayer interest, given that the register is a valuable resource. The intention has been to achieve a balance between the benefits of appropriate data sharing, including public protection and improving public services, and the proper respect for personal data in line with our data protection obligations.
It is important to note that the register will not be available freely to new users in connection with these purposes. Defra (Animal Health) will issue extracts of the register as necessary to the new users in response to receiving a specific request for personal data but
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The additional uses of the register will make the best of this valuable resource. We take very seriously our responsibilities for the proper handling of personal data and will ensure that appropriate safeguards are in place to protect the personal data of keepers on line with our legal obligations.
The Cabinet Office has today published Greening Government ICT which sets out the steps the Government will take to reduce the carbon footprint of its PCs, laptops, data centres and other office equipment. Greening Government ICT also sets challenging targets for central government and the executive agencies, and provides guidance on how these can be achieved.
Greening Government ICT can be downloaded from the CIO Council website along with a list of potential energy-saving measures for ICT at: www.cio.gov.uk/. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of the House.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Dawn Primarolo) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
In April, we published the Governments White Paper, Pharmacy in England Building on strengths, delivering the future (Cm 7341). The White Paper set out our future proposals for expanding high-quality,
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Following publication of Lord Darzis comprehensive and groundbreaking NHS Next Stage Review Final Report (Cm 7432) and Our vision for primary and community care, we will publish next month the further consultation on structural changes for pharmaceutical services promised in the White Paper. I am keen that we give everyone involved and concerned ample opportunity to consider these in full. Consultation will therefore run through to the autumn and will be accompanied by relevant impact assessments. We also plan to hold further national events to support comprehensive discussion and debate as part of that consultation.
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