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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Theresa May) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I announced on 15 June that further implementation of the vetting and barring scheme would be halted pending a review of the scheme. Together with my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Education and for Health, I am today announcing the terms of reference for this review which we have collectively agreed.
The review will be thorough and consider afresh the principles and objectives of the scheme and recommend what, if any, scheme is now needed. The review will be developed by officials working jointly across our three departments and recommendations are expected early in the new year.
The protection of children and vulnerable adults must be paramount. But we must also ensure that arrangements are proportionate and support a trusting, caring society where well meaning people are encouraged rather than deterred.
In parallel, a review of the criminal records regime will take place, led by the independent government adviser for criminality information management, Mrs Sunita Mason. This will be undertaken in two phases and will report first on employment vetting systems, which involve the Criminal Records Bureau, followed by a report on the broader regime.
The Criminal Records Review will examine whether the criminal records regime strikes the right balance between respecting civil liberties and protecting the public. It is expected to make proposals to scale back the use of systems involving criminal records to common-sense levels. The review will include consideration of the following issues:
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke QC) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I have today placed copies of the post mortem examination report and the toxicology report relating to the death of Dr David Kelly in July 2003 in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Ministry of Justice website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/ kelly-pm-toxicology-reports.htm.
While I firmly believe that the publication of these documents is in the public interest, I am mindful that the contents may be distressing. I hope that the privacy of Dr Kelly's family will be respected at this difficult time.
The Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council will meet in Luxembourg on 25 October. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary (William Hague) will attend the Foreign Affairs Council. I will attend the General Affairs Council.
The Foreign Minister of Belgium (which holds the rotating EU presidency) will chair the GAC. The council president Herman Van Rompuy will host a dinner the previous evening, at which he intends to focus on EU summits with third countries. Drawing on the experience of the recent summit with China, he will invite Ministers to look ahead to summits with the US, Ukraine and Russia later this year. The Government believe that the EU needs to focus these summits on a few key priorities, including advancing the EU's trade relationships. This issue will be discussed further at the following day's FAC (see below).
Ministers will look ahead to the October European Council, which takes place in Brussels on 28 and 29 October and will be attended by the Prime Minister. The council agenda includes economic governance, the Single Market Act, climate change, the Seoul G20 summit, and the EU-US summit. There may also be discussions on the EU-Russia summit, Pakistan (see below) and the EU budget review.
Ministers will debate whether to take the next step on Serbia's EU membership application. The Government support doing so, by referring Serbia's application to the Commission for an assessment of its readiness to begin membership talks (an 'avis').
Ministers will consider follow-up to the September council. The key UK interest here is on Pakistan. The September council invited the Commission to present in October a proposal for "immediate and time limited reduction of duties on key imports from Pakistan, in conformity with WTO rules". This would be part of an ambitious trade and development package for Pakistan. The Government support quick passage of the trade proposal adopted by the Commission on 7 October, providing Pakistan with significant trade concessions until 2014.
The compromise texts for the amending staff and financial regulations for the EEAS have been agreed and should be adopted by November. Member states may take the opportunity of the GAC to congratulate the presidency and Baroness Ashton on their work in completing the procedures necessary to get the EEAS up and running. It is unlikely that there will be substantial discussion. We will stress the importance of budget neutrality and the need for progress on efficiency savings. We will also emphasise the need for recruitment to be meritocratic, and for the EEAS to support member states' foreign policy objectives, complementing rather than replacing national diplomatic services.
Baroness Ashton will chair the FAC. Following the GAC discussion on EU third country summits (see above), we expect the FAC to focus on specific objectives for the US, Ukraine and Russia summits. The Government would like to see an agreement on the importance of support to Pakistan and a revitalised Transatlantic Economic Council with the US; a reaffirmation of the importance of the EU-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement; and a push on Russian WTO accession with a view to finalising an ambitious EU-Russia New Agreement with trade provisions.
Discussion on Cuba was deferred from the June FAC to allow time for Cuba to make progress on an anticipated release of political prisoners. The EU will discuss how to respond to these recent developments in Cuba. The Government recognise that some progress has been made on prisoner releases, and believe that any EU response should be measured and aimed at encouraging further progress.
Baroness Ashton will update Ministers on her recent visit to the region. Ministers will discuss developments in the latest talks and what the EU can do to support progress. The Government believe that the EU has a role to play in supporting US-led efforts to broker peace in the region.
Ministers will discuss Sahel on the basis of a recent joint paper by the Commission and the General Secretariat of the Council on security and development issues in that region. The discussion is likely to highlight increasing concerns about security in the Sahel and the importance of the EU's political, security and development engagement.
There will be a discussion of proposals from Baroness Ashton for a one-year transitional arrangement for the EU co-presidency of the Union for the Mediterranean. The Government have concerns regarding this proposal, including around the basis on which the Commission would represent the EU at this intergovernmental meeting. We would like a long-term solution to be found on a legal basis that is acceptable to all member states, and which respects national sovereignty.
We expect a brief discussion on the Commission's consultation exercise on the ENP with member states and partner countries. The Government believe that the ENP needs to be more ambitious, with access to EU markets linked to demonstrable progress by partners on economic and political reforms. The application of this conditionality should be the basis of the EU's engagement.
We expect a short stocktake of bilateral EU-Georgia relations following recent Georgian elections. Ministers may cover the EU's role in continuing efforts to foster regional conflict resolution, and Georgia-Russia relations.
The council reached a political agreement on the directive amending directive 1999/62 on charging of heavy goods vehicles (the Eurovignette directive). The political agreement was acceptable to the UK.
Neither the existing directive nor the proposed amendment requires the use of tolls or user charges but where member states choose to apply them they must respect the rules. The presidency had tabled a compromise proposal, the main elements of which were: to remove all requirements for the mandatory hypothecation of revenues to transport projects; to remove the possibility of adding a supplement for congestion, while allowing significant variation of charges within the overall revenue limit; and to allow member states the choice not to apply tolls and charges to lorries below 12 tonnes.
Further modifications made by the presidency at the council included provision that the cleanest vehicles would be exempt from any external cost charges for four years after dates of application; and that EURO V and EURO VI standard vehicles would have a zero charge for air pollution until the end of 2013 and 2017 respectively. On the key issues for the UK (mandatory hypothecation and inclusion of vehicles under 12 tonnes) the text was acceptable.
The council adopted a mandate authorising the Commission to open negotiations with Brazil on a comprehensive air transport agreement, with the aim of opening up traffic rights between the EU and Brazil. The UK supports the opening of negotiations.
There was an exchange of views on Strategy and the Future of Transport 2010-20, in advance of publication of the European Commission's White Paper on transport policy, expected in December or January.
In the debate, member states supported the need to develop a more sustainable transport network. There was wide support for a financial framework to support infrastructure developments and intelligent transport
22 Oct 2010 : Column WS90
On 26 July 2010, I responded to the interim findings of the independent review panel examining the resilience of England's transport systems in winter. The panel is publishing its final report today. I would like to thank David Quarmby CBE (chair) and his fellow panel members Brian Smith and Chris Green for their further thoughtful analysis and recommendations. Copies of the review have been placed in the Libraries of the House.
As today's report notes, much action has already been taken by local and national highway authorities, salt suppliers, government and others to help keep our road network moving in the event of snow and ice this winter. But as the previous two winters have shown, we cannot be complacent.
Following July's interim report, I immediately instructed the Highways Agency to build up a national strategic salt supply of last resort. I am pleased to report that the Highways Agency has made arrangements for the import of 250,000 tonnes of salt which is expected to start arriving this month. I am in full agreement with the panel's view that this should be considered as a short-term reaction to current exceptional circumstances following two successive severe winters.
I therefore welcome the recommendations to improve resilience in salt supply in the longer term through: greater efficiencies in salt utilisation; increased throughput flexibility by suppliers; a new recommended standard of 12 days (48 runs) pre-season stockholding by local highway authorities; and regular monitoring of the national stock position. I urge all parties to take forward the recommendations that relate to them.
The Department for Transport has already been monitoring the national salt stock position in the run- up to winter in order to help highway authorities and suppliers to make better informed decisions. Working with the UK Roads Liaison Group the department has also commissioned the production of technical
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I note the review panel's conclusion that the rail industry had learnt valuable lessons from the winter of 2008-09 and overall coped well with the severe weather in 2009-10. I agree that the industry can improve performance further still by considering the additional measures around emergency timetables, technical improvements, and ensuring that the industry works closely with local highway authorities regarding responsibilities for de-icing key areas.
The report notes that the aviation industry generally anticipates and manages the effects of severe weather to a very high standard of resilience and is already
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Across all modes of travel, the report acknowledges the importance of communications in extreme weather for the travelling public. I agree with the panel that those delivering transport services should continue to look to the opportunities that advances in technology may provide to improve communications with their customers.
Finally, in response to public concerns about the fear of litigation, and following a recommendation in the panel's interim report, the Government are today publishing brief guidance for households and traders who wish to clear snow and ice from paths in front of their property, pavements and other public spaces. I hope that this will empower those who wish to act in a neighbourly way.
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