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External Relations


This will be the first EU ministerial discussion since the 1 October meeting in Geneva of the E3+3 and Iran. The presidency will look to the parties involved to update on developments since then; namely, attempts to schedule a follow-up meeting with the Iranians that addresses the nuclear issue; the International Atomic Energy Agency's inspection (scheduled for 25 October) of the recently disclosed enrichment facility at Qom; and the negotiations in Vienna on 19 October regarding the Tehran research reactor. We will also reiterate the need for the EU to maintain a robust united voice in condemnation of human rights violations arising from the ongoing post-election trials.

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Ministers may discuss Albania's application for EU membership. The Government support prompt forwarding of the Albanian application to the Commission for an Avis (opinion) in line with normal practice.


Discussion will focus on the joint presidency/Commission paper on enhancing EU engagement in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Government welcome the paper, and look forward to its full and swift implementation.

We also expect discussion to focus on the outcome of the Afghan elections. We will underline the importance of maintaining co-ordinated EU support in the run up to the second round of the presidential elections, including through another European election mission. We will also aim to secure agreement to hold a second EU-Pakistan summit under the Spanish presidency.

Western Balkans

We expect the Swedish presidency to report on the joint EU-US initiative to make progress on blocked reform priorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The Government welcome this initiative, to which we are giving our full support. We are urging BiH's political leaders to engage fully and constructively in the talks.

Middle East Peace Process

Following a briefing to Ministers from the presidency and High Representative Solana, the GAERC is likely to reiterate EU support for: a two-state solution in accordance with previous agreements between the parties; the need for a comprehensive, regional approach; and urgent access to Gaza. We expect Ministers to review US efforts to launch negotiations between the parties and reaffirm the EU's readiness to work in close co-operation with the US and other international partners towards achieving a sustainable and lasting peace.

Sri Lanka

We welcome this discussion, which we expect to cover our main areas of concern, in particular: the need for the Government of Sri Lanka to make urgent progress in returning the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes as soon as possible; improving the conditions in the camps for the remaining IDPs and taking steps aimed at encouraging reconciliation between Sri Lanka's communities. This includes the need for an independent and credible process to address possible violations of international humanitarian law by both sides during the conflict.

AOB: Moldova

Ministers are likely to discuss recent political and economic developments. This may include the recent International Monetary Fund visit, the timing of EU macrofinancial assistance and other possible sources of funding. There may also be a short discussion about the outcome of the presidential parliamentary vote on 23 October. We support an ambitious programme of EU engagement and assistance with the new Government.

AOB: Somalia

Ministers are likely to discuss possible EU action, including a mission to train Somali security forces. They may also cover existing training initiatives undertaken bilaterally by some member states. We support the UN

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Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) joint needs assessment, expected mid-November, believing that its outcomes will help to focus EU activities, and encourage co-ordination and buy-in from the Transitional Federal Government.

AOB: Guinea

We expect Ministers to discuss an EU arms embargo and sanctions against individuals deemed to be a threat to the transitional process in Guinea. The Government strongly condemn the violent repression by military forces of the demonstration on 28 September in Conakry, the massacre of unarmed civilians and gross human rights violations including rapes. We would support an EU decision on targeted sanctions against suggested individuals and an EU arms embargo.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Justice and Home Affairs Council is due to be held on 23 October in Luxembourg. My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs (Meg Hillier), the Scottish Minister for Community Safety (Fergus Ewing), and I, intend to attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed.

The council, beginning in mixed committee with non-EU Schengen states, will receive an update from the presidency on arrangements for the first milestone test for the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II). The UK welcomes the update and will press to ensure the test is well-planned and managed in line with the criteria set out in the June JHA council conclusions.

Next the presidency will present an update on the current state of play on the implementation of the regulation establishing the visa information system (VIS). The UK does not participate in that regulation.

Following mixed committee, the Commission will present their annual report on visa reciprocity, which is to be published soon. While the UK does not participate in the EU visa regime, we do maintain an interest in all visa issues, notably for full reciprocity with third country nationals. The council will then exchange views on Canada's decision to reintroduce visa requirements for all Czech nationals. The UK believes the Commission should continue to engage with the Canadians to broker a solution.

The presidency will seek a general approach on the draft framework decision on accreditation of forensic laboratory activities, which aims to increase mutual trust in DNA and fingerprint data exchanged by requiring a minimum standard of accreditation. The Government fully support the measure, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.

The presidency will then invite the council to reach a general approach on the proposal for a council decision to establish the European crime prevention network. This instrument will strengthen the network's ability to identify exchange and disseminate crime

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prevention information and actions targeted at traditional, or volume, crime. The UK is a co-sponsor of the initiative and supports the presidency in wishing to secure a general approach.

In the afternoon, Justice Ministers will be asked to adopt a council resolution on a road map for strengthening procedural rights of suspected or accused persons in criminal proceedings. The resolution encourages the European Commission to submit proposals, to be considered by the member states, for action to improve criminal procedural law standards across the European Union. The Government hope that this will help to enhance the operation of mutual recognition by increasing trust among member states. The Government fully support the measure, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.

The presidency will seek a general approach on a draft framework decision and an accompanying draft resolution on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. Together they form the first of the measures that are to be proposed on the roadmap for strengthening procedural rights. They will ensure that there are common minimum standards with respect to the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. The Government support the measures, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.

The council will then have a first exchange of views on the proposed framework decision on the transfer of proceedings in criminal matters. This is a member state initiative, which seeks to establish a common legal framework for the transfer of criminal cases between member states where this would improve the efficient and proper administration of justice. This proposal is a priority for the Swedish presidency, where it hopes to reach a general approach at the November council (30 November/1 December).

The presidency will lead a political discussion on the proposal for a framework decision on combating trafficking of human beings with a view to resolving some of the outstanding issues; for example, on jurisdiction for offences. The Government are generally content with the proposed framework decision, subject to the views of the parliamentary scrutiny committees.

Under any other business the Commission will present its review of visa facilitation in the western Balkans. The UK does not participate in the part of the Schengen acquis that covers visa liberalisation and will not be lifting visit visa requirements for western Balkan states when the Schengen zone liberalises its own requirements. The UK remains a strong supporter of the EU enlargement process and the aspirations of west Balkan states for eventual EU membership.

Faith Schools


The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

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On 9 March 2009, I informed the House that I had asked Ofsted to carry out a survey of independent faith schools' work to promote pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development. The purpose of the survey was to gather evidence on current practice with a view to considering whether the independent school regulations on SMSC are fit for purpose. The survey focused on practice in faith schools in view of the particular context a faith ethos provides.

Ofsted has today published the results of the survey. It found that practice in all of the 51 schools visited was at least good with pupils demonstrating a strong sense of identity and belonging to their faith, their school and to Britain; and with a clear commitment to promoting the values of good citizenship. Ofsted has concluded that the current regulations are fit for purpose but recommends various ways in which we can work with the sector to improve pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development further and support consistently high standards across the sector.

I very much welcome the report. I asked Ofsted to carry out this survey because some concerns had been expressed about whether all independent faith schools were effectively preparing pupils for life in British society. While we will always take any specific allegations very seriously, this survey shows that the regulatory regime for independent schools is fit for purpose and that provision across the sector is good.

I would like to thank the schools and the representatives of different faith organisations who took part in Ofsted's survey. I look forward to working with them and with other practitioners from across the sector to take forward Ofsted's recommendations and promote excellent opportunities for all pupils.

Ofsted has made recommendations in three areas:

Provide greater clarity in the meaning of the five strands of the SMSC regulations

The independent school regulations are designed to offer flexibility to allow schools to provide a distinctive education in line with their faith ethos while at the same time preparing pupils to lead successful lives as responsible citizens in wider British society. While schools want to retain this flexibility, Ofsted has found that they would welcome greater clarity about what is meant by aspects of the regulations.

I will be setting up a new independent schools practitioners group to work with us on revised guidance to promote consistently high standards right across the sector. This will include encouraging schools to provide pupils with opportunities to learn about the different cultures and faiths practised in the UK, alongside developing a deep understanding and sense of belonging to their own community.

Encourage more interfaith and partnership working between independent schools and with the maintained sector

Ofsted has found that some of the best practice occurs where schools work in partnership with local communities and with other schools to support the professional development of staff and build mutual respect and understanding.

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There are lots of excellent examples of good partnership working already taking place. I have asked Pat Langham, chair of the Independent-State School Partnership Group (ISSP) for that group to consider how the sector could encourage this further.

Around 70 faith schools from the maintained and independent sectors are already embarking on linking projects through the DCSF funded national Schools' Linking Network (SLN). Last week I announced an additional £50,000 support for the national Schools' Linking Network to work in partnership with the Three Faiths Forum to provide high quality advice and training for local authorities and schools to encourage successful interfaith linking projects and links between maintained and independent schools.

Ensure teaching resources are accurate and unbiased

Religious education (RE) has a very important role to play in promoting cohesion through developing understanding of different faiths and cultures and exploring the role faith plays in society, and it is important that teachers have access to high quality and accurate resources. In a minority of the schools visited, Ofsted found that while the pupils' understanding was good, there were examples of inaccurate or biased materials being used to teach about religions

We know that the availability of high quality resources for RE is an issue in both maintained and independent sectors and I would urge all schools to review the resources they are using. As part of a drive to improve RE provision in all schools, we have commissioned Warwick University to carry out research to look at the RE materials that are currently being used. This work will help to inform work with the RE council, local RE curriculum advisers, teachers and schools to make sure that all pupils have access to high quality learning materials. We will publish this research in the New Year.

Health: Management Consultants


Baroness Thornton: My right honourable friend the Minister of State, Department of Health (Mike O'Brien) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Following the publication on 4 June 2009 of a House of Commons Health Select Committee report on the use of management consultants by the NHS and Department of Health, I am today laying the Government's response before Parliament (Cm 7683). The response is in the Library and copies are available to honourable Members from the Vote Office.

The Government have considered the committee's report and welcome it as a helpful contribution. The Command Paper sets out the Government's response to the report and outlines the steps already being taken to meet the recommendations of the committee.

The department is already working to meet the committee's recommendations as part of a programme to improve the transparency of expenditure and to enhance the way in which management consultants are procured, managed and evaluated. Details on the department's use of management consultancy have already been published and will be shared with the committee at the forthcoming public expenditure inquiry.

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Our response also sets out how we plan to improve the accountability and ensure value in the use of management consultancy in the NHS. We have already set in place plans to collect details of the NHS's overall expenditure by summer 2010. The Government have also committed to undertaking further work to improve the transparency of NHS expenditure. Through this work, the Government intend to continue to improve the level of detail we are able to provide to the Select Committee.



The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bill Rammell) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am making a Statement on the UK's bilateral agreement with the Government of Iraq on defence training and maritime support. Copies of the text of this agreement were placed in the Library of the House on 26 July.

The House will be aware that the UK concluded combat operations in Iraq on 30 April and that our combat forces were withdrawn by the end of July in accordance with our previous arrangement with the Government of Iraq.

As the Prime Minister announced on 18 December last year, the Iraqi Government have requested our continued military assistance, particularly in officer training, naval training and maritime support. The two Governments therefore concluded an agreement concerning naval training and maritime support to Iraqi forces in June. Since then, the agreement has been considered by the Iraqi Council of Representatives and received its Third Reading on 13 October. The agreement will now enter into force once both parties have completed their parliamentary procedures and exchanged diplomatic notes.

My right honourable friend the Defence Secretary wrote to Opposition spokesmen and the chair of the House of Commons Defence Committee last month to explain our intention to bring the agreement into force as soon as the Iraqi Government are ready. Training of the Iraqi Navy has been paused since June, and it is important to resume this activity as soon as possible to ensure that it quickly develops the capacity to protect its own territorial waters and the offshore oil platforms which are so vital to Iraq's economic revival. A prompt resumption of training would allow our Royal Navy trainers, who have been held at readiness since June, to return to the task that they are so adept at delivering.

The agreement was published as a Command Paper and laid before both Houses on 25 September. However, due to our Summer Recess, it will not now be possible to allow the agreement to lay for the full 21 sitting day period before exchanging diplomatic notes. Since it is agreed that our training activity should resume as soon as possible, and having kept Parliament informed of progress throughout the recess, the Government intend to notify the Iraqi Government within the next few days that the UK is ready to bring this agreement into force.

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Land Registry: Reorganisation


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

Land Registry is today announcing a five-year programme of reorganisation and transformation that will cut its costs and put it in the best possible position to continue to deliver effectively the service its customers need.

Land Registry believes that the proposals will help create an organisation that can meet the challenges of a developing property market, that can live within its means and that can continue to provide an outstanding service to its customers. Having looked at a range of possibilities it is proposing to close five local offices and to reduce staff numbers to reflect more efficient working practices. It also intends to embark on a programme of outsourcing some of its support functions and to decrease outgoings further by selling surplus property. These changes will be accompanied by a new customer strategy to ensure Land Registry continues to deliver services that make property transactions easier for all its customers and will also develop additional services to generate extra revenue.

The blueprint for Land Registry's future published in 2006 recognised the need for it to change to become a smaller, leaner, more flexible organisation. Since then Land Registry has steadily reduced staff numbers but it now needs to move much faster.

Land Registry is proposing, in the first phase of its programme, the closure of its offices in Croydon, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Stevenage and Tunbridge Wells, outsourcing some of its support functions and the sale of surplus property, including its current head office building in central London. Combined with a redundancy scheme for some clerical staff, Land Registry aims to reduce its total staff numbers by a further 1,500 people over the next year and a half. Land Registry will review progress in 2011. Subject to the outcome of that review it envisages the need to reduce staff numbers further resulting in the closure of two further offices in the second phase of the programme.

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