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Written Statements

Monday 10 November 2008

Employment: Discrimination

Baroness Thornton: My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Maria Eagle) has made the following Statement.

I wish to notify Parliament that Great Britain has fully implemented the Council directive (2006/54/EC) (“recast directive”) as required by the European Union. The recast directive came into force on 15 August 2006 with a primary aim of ensuring the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between men and women, in matters of employment and occupation in member states.

Our domestic law is fully compliant with the requirements of the recast directive, which repeals and replaces four existing EU directives and incorporates some established principles of case law from the European Court of Justice. In Great Britain we already protect people from discrimination on the grounds of sex, through the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the anti-discrimination provisions in the Social Security Act 1989 and the Pensions Act 1995.

We are, therefore, in a position to notify the European Commission that we have transposed the recast directive into our domestic law, in the way set out in the transposition table which will be placed in the Library.

The equality Bill will bring together the provisions of the Sex Discrimination and the Equal Pay Acts and the relevant aspects of the Social Security and Pensions Acts along with the law governing discrimination on other grounds. We will ensure that the equality Bill too is fully compliant with European legislation.

EU: Defence Ministers’ Informal Meeting

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My predecessor, Des Browne, represented the UK at an informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers held on 1 and 2 October 2008, in Deauville, France. It provided an important opportunity for discussions on EU-led operations, a range of military capability issues and presidency initiatives for Europe and its citizens.

In the first session on operations, Javier Solana, the EU high representative for common foreign and security policy, briefed Ministers on the positive start to the EU monitoring mission in Georgia. On Chad, the French presidency sought greater clarity on which EU countries would remain militarily engaged for a post-March 2009 UN follow-on mission. On Bosnia-Herzegovina, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR), General Sir John McColl, briefed

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Ministers on options for drawing down the current 2,500-strong EU Operation Althea military force. It was agreed that further discussion on possible drawdown and civilianisation would be required at the next EU Defence Ministers’ discussion on 10 November. Responding to the growing menace of piracy in the seas off Somalia, Ministers discussed the prospects for an ESDP counterpiracy mission, noting the need for the EU to co-ordinate closely with other actors already in theatre, notably NATO and Combined Joint Taskforce 150.

In the two sessions on military capabilities, the French Presidency outlined a number of bilateral and multilateral initiatives to improve European military capabilities, in partnership with the European Defence Agency. Des Browne outlined progress on the UK-France helicopter initiative, and some additional funding contributions were announced by Luxembourg and Finland. The Secretary General of NATO welcomed the initiative and stressed the need for complementarity with NATO’s efforts to deliver more operational capability from the large number of European helicopters. Ministers debated the difficulty of generating sufficient forces and reserves for operations such as EUFOR Chad. Des Browne maintained that the Battlegroup concept remained valid, but that the UK was ready to engage in a debate about the usability of European forces. He also emphasised that European defence budgets should be spent on improving capability, not on boosting staff numbers and budgets of Brussels institutions; a theme supported by others.

In the final session on “Europe and its citizens”, Ministers heard Presidency proposals for exchanges between European military academies, improved EU co-ordination of non-combatant evacuation operations, and the need for a stock-take on European maritime surveillance arrangements. Javier Solana briefed Ministers on his work to update the European Security Strategy, and expressed his confidence that a draft would be agreed in time for December’s European Council.

EU: General Affairs and External Relations Council

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

The General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) will be held on 10 and 11 November in Brussels. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband), the Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor), the Minister of State for International Development (Gareth Thomas) and I will represent the UK.

The agenda items are as follows:

General Affairs

Preparation of the European Council on 11 and 12 December 2008

The council will discuss the presidency’s draft agenda for the December European Council. This agenda is likely to be dominated once again by the EU’s response to the next stage of the economic downturn and the

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financial crisis, including the need for reform of international financial institutions. We also expect the agenda to feature the 2020 climate change and energy package, and the next stage on the Lisbon treaty ratification process. We also anticipate a discussion on the European security and defence policy, including on an updated European security strategy, and on a range of external relations items including Russia/Georgia.

The Government support the presidency’s priorities for the December European Council. We remain fully committed to reaching an agreement on the 2020 climate change package by the end of 2008. We expect substantive discussions on the way forward for Ireland and an agreement on a 2009 road map for treaty ratification.

External Relations

ESDPcivilian crisis management capabilities

Ministers will assess progress made in developing the EU's ability to deploy high-quality civilians in crisis management operations. The ministerial declaration will set out areas for future work, and agree that Ministers reassess progress annually. The Government welcome this opportunity to underline the importance we attach to further improving the EU's ability to stabilise countries emerging from conflict.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

The council will discuss the recent violence in the DRC, its security and humanitarian implications and the EU’s role in resolving the crisis. The Government recognise the extent and gravity of the suffering in the region and have increased the UK’s aid contribution to the DRC. We expect the council conclusions to underline the EU’s concern at the displacement caused by the resumption of fighting and the unacceptable human rights abuses continuing in the region. They will also reiterate the need to maintain efforts towards a political solution through the Goma and Nairobi processes. As my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear in his Written Statement to the House of Commons on 4 November, these processes remain a viable approach to resolving the issues underlying the violence in the DRC.

Ministers will consider the EU’s role in supporting the work of the African Union and the newly appointed UN special envoy on eastern DRC. The support of the international community is vital to developing co-operation between the Governments of the DRC and Rwanda. The question of military support from the EU to the region will also be under discussion. The UN already has the world’s largest peacekeeping force deployed in the DRC, and our view is that military support to the political processes must come through an enhanced UN response. But it is right that EU Foreign Ministers should consider contingency preparations.


We expect conclusions to deplore the lack of progress towards democracy; underline the EU's strong support for the UN Secretary-General's efforts to break the political deadlock in the country; and welcome the strong and unified call for progress from leaders at the Asia-Europe meeting in Beijing on 25 October. We expect no discussion.

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Preparation of the 14 November EU-Russia summit

We expect the discussion to focus on the resumption of negotiations on a new partnership agreement with Russia, which were postponed by the 1 September Extraordinary European Council. As EU member states agreed at the October GAERC and European Council, this decision will be informed by the audit of EU-Russia relations and Russia's engagement in the process of talks in Geneva to find a settlement for the situation in Georgia.

Joint Session of EU Foreign and Defence Ministers

European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)draft conclusions and presidency initiatives

Foreign and Defence Ministers will receive a presentation by the presidency on the various capability initiatives launched during its tenure.

Western Balkans

Discussion is likely to focus on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), including the recent lack of reform progress and increased nationalist rhetoric. The Government believe that the situation in BiH is of serious concern and merits increased EU focus and attention, including fully supporting High Representative/EU Special Representative Miroslav Lajcak and considering how the EU's presence and efforts in BiH can be strengthened. The Government believe closure of the Office of the High Representative should remain dependent on BiH's leaders fulfilling the agreed conditions and that decisions on the EU's military presence in BiH (EUFOR) should only be taken once there is clarity on the future of the international presence in Bosnia.


Ministers are likely to discuss the security situation and, more widely, increasing the EU's impact in Afghanistan. EU member states and the European Commission are major donors and troop contributors, but collectively have the potential to make more of a difference. Improving the co-ordination of the EU's efforts in Afghanistan, particularly the relationship between the EU special representative, the European Commission and the EU Police Reform Mission (EUPOL), will enable the EU to better assist the Government of Afghanistan in rebuilding the country, and addressing the underlying causes of insecurity.

Defence Ministers

Capabilities and the European Defence Agency

The director of the European Defence Agency (EDA) will report to Defence Ministers on the agency’s activities in 2008, and the proposed 2009 budget. Ministers will also discuss capabilities projects such as the proposed European air transport fleet and Europe defence research and technology strategy.

Following their attendance at the biannual EDA steering board, Ministers will discuss the French presidency’s proposals for improving European military capabilities. We welcome this focus on encouraging Europeans to develop more effective military and civilian capabilities and deploy them in multilateral operations, whether for the EU, NATO or UN. The UK has worked closely with France on a number of bilateral initiatives, and we expect to sign a declaration of

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intent with EU partners on the European Carrier Group Interoperability Initiative. We continue to scrutinise carefully presidency proposals on wider capability initiatives, space security policy and the usability of multinational forces.

Ministers will also discuss presidency plans for a “military ERASMUS” voluntary exchange scheme for young European military officers among EU member states. The UK will not benefit directly from the scheme and so will not participate or contribute to the costs, but is happy to let partners proceed on this basis.

Ministers will also discuss the report by EDA director Alexander Weis on the agency’s activities and the adoption of the 2009 EDA budget.

ESDP operations

Ministers will focus on the ongoing ESDP mission in Chad/the Central African Republic (EUFOR Chad/CAR) and the planned ESDP counterpiracy mission off the coast of Somalia. On EUFOR Chad, Ministers will discuss the progress of arrangements for handing over to the UN when the ESDP mandate expires in March 2009. On the proposed ESDP counterpiracy missions, Ministers will discuss the ongoing preparations for the planned December 2008 launch of Operation Atalanta in December 2008 and the need to secure the necessary legal powers and force generation.

Development Ministers


Development Ministers will discuss Afghanistan over dinner. There will not be any formal council conclusions. The Government believe that the EU, together with other major donors, should give full support to the Afghan Government’s national development strategy; and push for delivering on the commitments made at the Paris conference on the importance of improving the effectiveness of aid to Afghanistan, including delivering assistance in a co-ordinated and coherent way through the Afghan Government wherever possible. The EU should also give strong backing to the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative Kai Eide's eight-point plan to ensure better co-ordination of the international effort in Afghanistan and increase the impact of the UN. The Government welcome the response of EU member states to the World Food Programme's humanitarian appeals. The UK has committed £16.5 million to alleviate food shortages since January.

Food Security

Despite recent falls in food prices, the Government believe it remains important that the EU implement ambitious short and longer term responses to assist those most affected by food insecurity. The Government welcome the EU’s support for the global partnership on agriculture and food (GPAF) and the ongoing reform process of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.

DohaFinancing for Development

We expect Ministers to agree conclusions on guidelines for EU participation in the International Conference on Financing for Development in Doha on 29 November to 2 December. The Government believe it is critical to

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maintain support for the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development and to reaffirm support for development assistance, especially in light of the current global financial crisis. It is important the EU agrees strong council conclusions, including commitments to aid volumes and timetables for delivering aid, including to least developed countries, in order to support accelerated progress towards the millennium development goals as part of this year of action on MDGs.

Regional integration/EPAs

Ministers will discuss council conclusions on the European Commission's regional integration communication on the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. The Government would like the council to adopt language on economic partnership agreements (EPAs) that stresses: the importance of maintaining a flexible approach in the future negotiations when moving from interim to regional EPAs; and the need for development-friendly rules of origin in regional EPAs and interim EPAs, where appropriate, that foster regional integration and diversification of ACP economies.

Healthy Community Challenge Fund

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.

Healthy Weight, Healthy Lives: A Cross-government Strategy for England (published January 2008) included a commitment to invest £30 million between 2008-09 and 2010-11 in a healthy community challenge fund. The strategy explained that up to £5 million would be given to a small number of interested local areas—“healthy towns”—to build on existing work in their communities and test out their ideas on what further action needs to happen to make regular physical activity and healthy food choices easier for their population. This funding would be matched by contributions from the local area.

The areas that have been successful in their application for funding are Calderdale, Manchester, Thetford, Portsmouth, Tower Hamlets, Dudley, Middlesbrough, Tewkesbury and Sheffield.

Local Government: Housing and Planning Delivery Grant

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing (Margaret Beckett)has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing final allocations of the first round of £101 million of housing planning delivery grant (HPDG) for 2008-09. HPDG was established in 2007 to reward local authorities for improved delivery of housing and other planning outcomes as part of their strategic, place-shaping role and to provide more support to communities and local councils that are actively seeking to deliver new homes. The grant replaces planning delivery grant, which has been paid since

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2002-03. The housing element of the grant was developed following concerns from local authorities that housing growth was inadequately recognised by the local government finance system. HPDG is designed to strengthen the incentive for local authorities to respond to local housing pressures by returning the benefits of growth to communities and to incentivise efficient and effective planning procedures.

The grant is performance-related. The £40 million housing element of the grant goes to all local authorities with net additional housing completions above 0.75 per cent of their existing housing stock. The net additions are averaged over the previous three years. For each net addition above the threshold, the local authority receives one unit (£916) of housing grant. The amount per unit is calculated by the total amount of money for the year divided by the total number of units above the threshold.

The £61 million planning element of the grant consists of four separate parts with incentives for local authorities to deliver:

sufficient land for housing (40 per cent of the planning element); core strategies and development-plan documents allocating more than 2,000 dwellings (50 per cent); joint working on the production of development plan documents (6 per cent) and; a strategic housing market assessment (4 per cent).

The formula for allocating HPDG was consulted on last year. A review of the formula will be undertaken ahead of next year’s allocations.

The announcement today includes the revised allocations of awards following the evaluation of the challenges to the provisional allocations which we published in July. The successful challenges resulted in an increase to the overall allocation which has been offset partially by redistribution of abatement. Downward adjustment of the provisional allocations for all authorities has therefore been kept to a minimum.

Grant allocations are not ring-fenced and authorities have discretion in the way they spend this money. However, to encourage investment for the future, 32.5 per cent of the total grant paid to any individual authority must be spent on capital. The remaining 67.5 per cent can be spent by the local authority on resource or capital budgets. Payments to local authorities will be made on Tuesday 11 November 2008.

A table showing the amounts payable has been placed in the Library of the House.

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