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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
Today my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (David Miliband) and I are announcing the final stage of the UK's first global review of visa regimes in relation to the seven countries of the eastern Caribbean-Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
A visa regime is a very effective immigration, crime and security control measure. As part of our overseas defences our Visa Waiver Test helps us determine whether our visa regimes are in the right places. Travellers from every country beyond the European Economic Area and Switzerland were measured against a range of criteria including illegal immigration, crime and security concerns. The test has been taken forward in close collaboration with other departments across
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Having initially considered the eastern Caribbean states on a regional basis, we decided to examine them individually to ensure any potential regimes would be aligned correctly. Our evaluation highlighted a number of concerns with two countries, Dominica and St Lucia.
We recognise that we have close historic, economic and political ties with Dominica and St Lucia and are aware that the introduction of a visa regime would be a significant step. It is a decision we do not take lightly. As a result we will now enter a six-month period of detailed dialogue with the Governments concerned to examine what actions will be taken to address our concerns and mitigate the need for a visa regime to be introduced. During this period, Dominica and St Lucia will need to demonstrate a genuine commitment to put into effect credible and realistic plans, with clear timetables, to reduce the risks to the UK, and begin implementing these plans by the end of the dialogue period.
Additionally, we have written to the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines to advise that, while they will maintain their visa free status for the time being, the decision will be subject to a further review.
The UK Government remain committed to operating a firm but fair immigration policy. It gives a high priority to treating all foreign nationals coming to or present in the UK with dignity and respect, and the highest legal standards. However, it expects all visitors to the UK to play by the rules. The UK will always welcome genuine visitors, whether business, tourist, student or family, but will continue to take all steps necessary to protect the security of the UK.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Chris Bryant) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:
The Western European Union (WEU) has played a valuable role in discussion on European security. It embedded the principle of mutual defence in post-war Europe, promoted consultation and co-operation on defence and security matters in western Europe and has conducted operations in a number of vital theatres, including the Persian Gulf and the Adriatic. Members from both Houses, past and present, have played a valuable role in pursuing the UK's interests within the WEU and I would like to take this opportunity to pay warm tribute to their efforts.
But the WEU's mutual defence role was essentially symbolic as soon as NATO was established and successive UK Governments have made clear, as the Lisbon treaty does, that NATO is the forum and the foundation for collective defence of the Allies.
Moreover, the operational role of the WEU has been succeeded by the EU, following the UK-French initiative to create security and defence policy capacity in the EU. With this development, which NATO and the US specifically have welcomed, it is clear that the Western European Union is no longer relevant to today's European security architecture. While the UK recognises the role the WEU Assembly has played in engaging the views of national parliamentarians from across Europe on European defence, we do not believe this justifies the cost of over €2 million a year to the UK alone.
For that reason, the UK intends to withdraw from the Western European Union. In accordance with the Modified Brussels Treaty, we will formally inform the Belgian Government of our decision in April 2010. A 12-month notice period will then follow, during which the UK will remain a member of the WEU, giving an opportunity for discussion on how to develop cross-European parliamentary scrutiny of European defence issues.
Given the inter-governmental nature of the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy, we believe that this remains entirely a matter for national parliaments and co-ordination between them. There is no reason and no case for the European Parliament to expand its competence in this area.
We are in discussion with other WEU member states on this issue. Many of them also believe that the time has come to radically reform or close the organisation. Following this announcement, we will continue to engage our European partners on this issue and on future cross-European parliamentary scrutiny of European defence.
This report reviews the UK's work with the World Bank from December 2008 to 2009. During that period we saw the effects of the financial crisis spread to the developing world. The report looks at how the World Bank was able to assist developing countries facing the impact of the financial crisis, as well as other major issues on which DfID has worked with the World Bank:The Bank's response to the financial crisis; Progress on World Bank reform; A review of the performance of the Bank's work in the poorest countries; An assessment of progress against the Government's high-level objectives for the Bank; and Priorities for engaging with the Bank in 2010.
The report has been placed in the Libraries of the Houses and an electronically accessible version is available on the DfID website at www.dfid.gov.uk.
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