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8 Dec 2008 : Column WS25

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Written Statements

Monday 8 December 2008



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.

In July 2007, my right honourable friend the Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Mr Ingram) was asked to undertake a detailed study into the role of the Ministry of Defence in counterterrorism and resilience. The then Secretary of State for Defence announced its completion in July. This Statement sets out the government response.

The report reinforces a central theme of the national security strategy—that there can be no simple distinction between defence and wider security or domestic and overseas considerations. Counterterrorism and resilience require an integrated approach. Government departments must work ever more closely together and with other stakeholders to overcome institutional barriers, including in respect of funding. This includes defence.

Mr Ingram has looked at the full range of defence capabilities and at all of our linkages with other organisations. In outline, the report endorses the approach that the primary focus for defence’s counterterrorism contribution should continue to be overseas, with any role in the UK restricted to the provision of niche capabilities to the civil authorities or augmentation in times of emergency. The emphasis is on the increasing use of “smart” power to gain strategic insight and intelligence and to develop relationships that enable work across all strands of the Government’s counterterrorism strategy. Within the UK the report concludes that defence should continue to provide specialist support to police forces and that it should be strengthened, including through an enhanced exercise programme.

The study has found that we could make more of some of our strengths, such as in strategic planning, education and research and development. In that context, we may have more to offer on protective security and planning support on security for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I welcome and agree in principle the 29 recommendations outlined in the report. They complement the development of a classified defence capabilities compendium that we have provided to those who may call on support from defence. The recommendations will be implemented across government, co-ordinated and developed where necessary by the National Security Secretariat. The security classification prevents us from publishing the report in full, but the Defence Committee has been given access to the report as part of its inquiry into national security and resilience.

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Deaths in Custody


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Shahid Malik) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In July this year, my predecessor and honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Maria Eagle) announced that Ministers had decided to implement the recommendations of the independent review of the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody (Official Report, Commons, 21 July 2008, col. 75WS). The review itself was made public in February of this year.

The review made recommendations for significant reforms to the existing structures. Its central recommendation was the establishment of a three-tier body, the Ministerial Council on Deaths in Custody. A ministerial board, which I will chair jointly with ministerial colleagues from the Department of Health and the Home Office, will include the heads of key agencies and will form the first of the three tiers. The board’s principal source of advice and recommendations will be an independent advisory panel on deaths in custody, which will form the second tier. The panel will be independently chaired and made up of experts in relevant fields.

Following a recruitment process conducted in line with the guidance of the Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments, I am pleased to announce the appointment of my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey as the first chair of the panel. Lord Harris has considerable experience of the criminal justice system and other areas of public service. The panel will play an important role in helping to shape government policy in the area of deaths in custody. As panel chair, Lord Harris will be influential in setting the panel’s objectives, its programme of work and the tone for its relationships with other stakeholders. The new ministerial council will become operational from April 2009. Lord Harris will undertake some early work to ensure a smooth transition from current arrangements. I look forward to working with him.

EU: Competitiveness Council


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Cabinet Office (Baroness Vadera): My honourable friend the Economic and Business Minister (Ian Pearson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The following Statement provides information on the Competitiveness Council which took place in Brussels on 1 December 2008, at which I represented the UK. The meeting was chaired by M Hervé Novelli, French Minister of State responsible for businesses and foreign trade, and Jean-Pierre Jouyet, French Minister of State responsible for European affairs.

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The meeting started with consideration of intellectual property issues. The Commission emphasised the need for a better, more cost-effective patent system and the role that the Competitiveness Council can play in boosting innovation, competitiveness and economic recovery through agreement of the Community patent proposals during either the Czech or Swedish presidencies. Member states agreed on the principle, but remained divided on the substance. I emphasised the need for the Commission to undertake further economic analysis, particularly on the level of fees, and invited the Commission to present a negotiating mandate on the European Patent Court proposals at the earliest opportunity.

Following this, the French presidency presented a report on gambling and betting policies in member states. It proposed further discussion of this issue in council, with a particular focus on illegal gambling, addiction, crime prevention (including money-laundering) and consumer protection. I emphasised that the report should have gone further in setting out the potential benefits of effective regulation as opposed to prohibition and questioned the appropriateness of further work in the council, stressing that further clarity and improvement of standards could be achieved through the Commission continuing to enforce the treaty provisions, member states completing reviews of national legislation, and an improved dialogue between regulators and the sector itself. I tabled a minute statement (jointly with Malta) to this effect.

The main agenda item was a presentation by the European Commission on its communication on the response to the economic crisis. Member states were invited to respond during a discussion over lunch, although no formal conclusions were proposed or agreed. The main themes raised were the automotive industry, appropriate levels of state aid, the need for investment in infrastructure, and supporting the need to advance structural fund spend. Access to capital was highlighted as key to limiting the spread of the financial crisis.

The Commission went on to stress the important role of small and medium enterprises in the economic recovery of Europe. It highlighted the need to ensure access to finance and reducing administrative burdens, in particular an exemption for micro-companies from certain accounting requirements. I took part in unanimous agreement to conclusions to put in place a small business Act for Europe.

The French presidency also tabled a progress report on the European private company statute, an area where discussions will continue under the Czech presidency in 2009. On European clusters, council conclusions were agreed without discussion. The Commission emphasised that the recent communication on clusters should enable member states’ own policies to be more effective.

Under any other business, the Commission stressed that consumers and particularly consumer confidence would be key in the economic recovery and that the new consumer rights directive introduced a simplified framework to unlock retail markets and raise choice at competitive prices. The French presidency called for rapid agreement of the defence procurement directive

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and signalled its intention to make every effort to reach a deal. I supported a Dutch paper on better regulation covering sectoral targets and an overall net reduction of 25 per cent. There were also brief presentations from Estonia and Portugal on the use of e-signatures to establish companies online, a request from Spain for tourism to be included as a sector in the economic recovery package, a Commission presentation on its raw materials communication, and an update from the French presidency covering negotiations on toys and cosmetics, which have the potential for first reading deals in December 2008 and January 2009 respectively.

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 8 December in Brussels. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (David Miliband) 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, which will be dominated by the EU’s response to the next stage of the economic downturn and the financial crisis. We can also expect substantial discussions on the 2020 climate change package. Other agenda items include the Lisbon treaty ratification process, the common agricultural policy, the European Security and Defence Policy and the Eastern Partnership.

The Government broadly support the presidency’s priorities for the December European Council. We welcome a continued co-ordinated response to the economic and financial crisis and remain fully committed to reaching an ambitious agreement on the 2020 climate change package by the end of 2008. On the common agricultural policy, we would not support any language that pre-empts the EU budget review.


We expect Ministers to agree conclusions on EU enlargement that reconfirm the council's consensus in support of enlargement on the basis that the EU should stick to its commitments, apply conditionality fairly and rigorously and improve communication. We expect Ministers to welcome the European Commission communication of 5 November on enlargement strategy and progress reports for candidates and potential candidates. They will take stock of the progress of accession negotiations with Turkey and Croatia, urging both countries to redouble their efforts to implement the necessary reforms, given that the pace of the negotiations depends on this. In the case of Croatia,

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the Commission has proposed a conditional roadmap for the conclusion of negotiations in 2009. We expect Ministers to express support for the forthcoming Czech presidency's plans for an event to mark the anniversary of the fifth wave of enlargement in 2004.

External Relations

World Trade Organisation (WTO)/Doha Development Agenda (DDA)

It now appears likely that a WTO ministerial on the DDA will be convened later in December. The discussion is likely to focus on the EU position and tactics ahead of the proposed ministerial. The Government expect partners to express a range of views on the likely outcome and success of the negotiations, reiterating in this context domestic concerns. Achieving agreement in the DDA remains the Government’s top trade priority and our objective at the GAERC will be to ensure partners’ continued support for the European Commission, so that it can negotiate the best possible outcome for the EU.

Western Balkans

Discussion is likely to focus on Kosovo and, in particular, deployment of the EU's rule of law mission, EULEX. Kosovo has made clear its agreement to EULEX deployment while, following last week's presidential statement in the UN Security Council, Serbia has also announced that it would support it. The Government believe that EULEX should rapidly become operational throughout Kosovo.

Ministers are also likely to discuss Serbia's progress towards the EU. The Government believe that Serbia has in recent months significantly improved its co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. While we would be happy for the EU to recognise that improvement (for example, by allowing the entry into force of the “Interim Agreement”), we believe that Serbia will need to demonstrate full co-operation with ICTY before its stabilisation and association agreement with the EU can be ratified.

Middle East

The council will discuss the renewed EU action strategy for peace in the Middle East, recognising the need for a comprehensive regional approach utilising the Arab Peace Initiative. Ministers will reaffirm the EU’s commitment to focus on supporting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and assisting Palestinian state-building efforts.

We expect council conclusions to: condemn all violence; urge a halt to new settlement activities; and call for an urgent improvement in the Gaza humanitarian situation, the release of Gilad Shalit and an increase in the numbers of Palestinian prisoners released.

The council will confirm that the Middle East peace process is a top priority for the EU and will remain so into 2009 and urge the next US Administration to participate in early engagement on this issue.

Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Discussion is likely to focus on progress towards a political resolution of the conflict in eastern DRC. Ministers will consider how the EU can support the

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efforts of former President Obasanjo, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to the region. They are also likely to discuss ways of alleviating the very serious humanitarian consequences of recent fighting. As the CNDP militia (rebels loyal to Laurent Nkunda) retreats from positions that it has captured recently, it is vital that humanitarian aid can reliably reach the people who need it. This requires appropriate military capacity and Ministers are likely to consider what role the EU can play in the augmentation of the UN mission in the DRC (MONUC).


We expect conclusions to condemn the ongoing failure to reach an equitable power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe. We anticipate that the council will express serious concern at the deepening humanitarian crisis and the rising incidence of cholera in Zimbabwe. The EU will reaffirm its commitment to the alleviation of suffering through the provision of aid.


We expect conclusions to welcome Pakistan's return to democracy and commitment to step up measures to counter terrorism and extremism. We also expect Ministers to commit to further developing EU political dialogue in a number of areas including: trade and development; intercultural exchange; non-proliferation; human rights; counterterrorism; and radicalisation and education. The council will discuss how best to intensify political dialogue in line with EU commitments to enhance engagement with Pakistan. The council will also acknowledge Pakistan's request to initiate the process for an EU-Pakistan free trade agreement and will commit to examining all the options aimed at enhancing trade relations.

European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP)

Ministers will consider efforts to improve the capabilities of the EU member states; teaching partnerships with organisations such as NATO and UN; and ongoing EU operations, including the operation to improve maritime security off the coast of Somalia, which will be commanded by a British rear admiral from the UK’s multinational headquarters at Northwood. Ministers will also agree statements on increasing co-operation between the European Defence Agency (EDA) and the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR); on a voluntary scheme for the exchange of young military officers; civilian and military capabilities; and on international security. The Government welcome this opportunity to underline the importance that we attach to further improving the EU's ability to stabilise countries emerging from conflict.

We also expect Ministers to approve a review by High Representative Solana of the implementation of the European security strategy. The document is intended to complement—not replace—the 2003 strategy, which was the EU’s first high-level security strategy. The review text focuses mainly on what has been achieved and what has changed. It highlights new threats to stability since 2003: climate change, energy security, globalisation, proliferation, cyber-security and piracy. The Government can welcome the broad direction of the document and its key policy conclusions—greater coherence, engagement with the neighbourhood and capabilities.

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EU: Transport Council


The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Lord Adonis): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Geoff Hoon) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I will attend the second Transport Council of the French presidency, which takes place in Brussels on 9 December.

The council will be asked to reach a general approach on a regulation amending the four regulations adopted in 2004, which established the single European sky (SES). As well as consolidating the original SES package, the proposal aims to strengthen the network approach and introduces environmental performance. It offers a pragmatic solution to the drive towards improved performance of the European air traffic management system. While reflecting the need to set performance targets at an EU level, it allows member states to generate their own national plans to contribute to the targets. Furthermore, it recognises the need to examine pan-European network aspects, by introducing the role of a network management function, to facilitate greater co-operation in the use of scarce resources. In general terms, the UK is content with the draft general approach text being put to the council.

The council will be given a progress report and may be asked to reach a partial general approach on an amending regulation extending the responsibilities and competencies of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). EASA was initially responsible only for the airworthiness of aircraft. Its responsibilities were widened to include air operations, flight crew licensing and the oversight of third-country aircraft earlier in 2008. The present draft regulation extends EASA’s responsibilities to the safety of aerodromes, air traffic management (ATM) and air navigation services (ANS), as part of the single European sky initiative. Responsibility for implementing the rules is to remain with member states. The Government broadly support the proposal to extend EASA’s remit, but we consider that there are a number of technical areas where the proposal could be improved. These include clearer applicability and scope for aerodrome safety and a clearer licensing framework for aerodrome operators. The negotiations to date have focused on the ATM/ANS aspects of the proposal, and member states are keen to ensure that the regulation builds on the existing regulatory system established under the single European sky initiative.

The final item of the aviation agenda is in external relations. The council will be asked to adopt two decisions authorising the Commission to open negotiations towards comprehensive aviation agreements with Tunisia and Algeria. The UK supports the mandates, which are in line with others given to the Commission recently to negotiate comprehensive aviation agreements with a number of Mediterranean countries.

In the first of two items on land transport, the council will be invited to reach a general approach on a directive amending the 1999 directive on charging of

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HGVs for the use of infrastructure (the “Eurovignette” directive). The UK is broadly supportive of the intention behind the directive, which is to allow member states more flexibility to apply the polluter pays principle within any lorry charges that they may choose to introduce. But some member states are arguing that it is too soon to reach agreement, so the likelihood of an outcome is uncertain. The UK opposes the Commission’s proposal for mandatory earmarking of revenues for transport and associated spending.

The council will be given a progress report on the proposed directive on cross-border enforcement in the field of road safety. This was debated initially at the October council, when the UK expressed its view that it should be a Third Pillar (justice and home affairs) measure. The majority of member states were in agreement with this and the UK has continued to take this line in council negotiations. The UK view is that the progress report should make it clear that full consideration will be given to a Third Pillar approach. This represents the best prospect for real progress towards achieving the improvements in road safety that we all want to see.

The presidency plans to put draft conclusions to the council arising from the Commission’s communications on the greening of transport, the strategy for the internalisation of external costs in transport and the reduction of rail noise on existing rolling stock. I expect to be able to agree to the conclusions.

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