Written Ministerial Statements
Thursday 4 June 2009
Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council
My noble Friend the Minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting , Lord Carter of Barnes, has made the following statement:
The following statement provides the agenda items for which BERR has responsibility at the forthcoming Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (Telecoms Council) in Luxembourg on 11 June 2009. Andy Lebrecht (Deputy Permanent Representative in Brussels) will represent the United Kingdom.
The only substantive item on the agenda is an exchange of views regarding European network and information security policy. To guide the exchange of views, the Czech presidency has issued a paper, ahead of the Council which includes asking the Ministers three questions. The first is what the medium to long-term aims of a strengthened network and information security policy at EU level will be while the second and third relate to the future of the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA).
This work has various strands, including the recently published Commission’s recent communication on “Critical Information Infrastructure Protection” (CIIP). I recently placed an explanatory memorandum (EM €375/09) with both Houses on this communication. This communication was also recently discussed at a ministerial conference on CIIP in Tallinn in April, which proposed that the content of the communication and the conclusions of the conference should be discussed at the next TTE Council.
This is unlikely to be a controversial agenda item. Regarding the UK’s interventions, we will welcome the opportunity to debate this essential issue, and will be suggesting that the community needs to be clear on what it wants to achieve in network and information security policy terms. We will be seeking to establish principles that lead to a policy that can deliver measurable benefit and add to, rather than subtract from the ICT sectors’s ability to drive through growth and recovery.
Regarding ENISA, we will say that it is too early in the debate to say whether we still need an agency. First, we need to establish the policy priorities and then asses the extent to which they can be achieved through an agency and whether this represents value for money.
Finally on this agenda item, overall, the UK is generally supportive of the projected work plan set out in the Commission communication on CIIP and believes that the closer collaboration with industry, and the increased drive to achieve preparedness so all member states are capable and prepared to respond to an emergency is extremely good news.
This will be followed by two items under “Any Other Business” which are “Internet of Things—An action plan for Europe and Information from the Commission” and “Ministerial Conference—Safer Internet for Children (Prague, 20 April 2009),—Information from the Presidency”.
The former item will see the Commission present a short paper entitled “Internet of Things—An Action Plan for Europe—Information from the Commission”. This paper lays out the challenges that this subject brings, if Europe is to realise its ambitions in this space. The paper also mentions that the Commission will publish a communication on the subject in the coming weeks. This will also present an opportunity for presidency and Commission to report on the recent conference in Prague on the “Future of the Internet”, at which among other issues, the “Internet of Things” was discussed.
The second item will be a readout by the presidency regarding their conference on safer internet for children that took place recently in Prague. The end result of the conference was the adoption of the Prague declaration by all member states entitled “New European Approach for Safer Internet and Children”, the aim of which is to see enhanced co-operation by all stakeholders across Europe, which will lead to for safer use of the Internet by children. The Department for Children, Schools and Families led on this conference.
There is unlikely to be a debate on these two issues and therefore we do not plan to intervene.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
On Friday 5 June I am launching a DEFRA/DECC consultation on Government guidance on how organisations should measure and report on their corporate greenhouse gas emissions.
Copies of the consultation document, guidance and a regulatory impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The consultation document sets out the rationale for Government intervention, how the guidance was developed and seeks views on it and the impact assessment. The consultation will close on 7 August 2009. Stakeholders will continue to be involved throughout the consultation period.
The consultation package will also be available on the DEFRA website at: http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/greenhouse-gas/index.htm
Responses to this consultation will be reviewed and final guidance published by 1 October 2009 to comply with the requirement of section 83 of the Climate Change Act 2008.
Independent Monitor Report
I have today placed in the Library a copy of the report by Mrs. Linda Costelloe Baker, the Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals with Limited Rights of Appeal, covering the period 1 April to 30 September 2008. A copy is also being made available on the UKBA website (http://www.ukvisas.gov.uk/ en/independentmonitor/imparliamentaryreports.) together with UK Border Agency’s response to the Independent Monitor’s recommendations.
I am most grateful to Mrs. Costelloe Baker for this report based on the 904 sample cases which she has reviewed for the period 1 April to 30 September 2008, and the 578 cases reviewed during her monitoring visits to visa issuing posts during the period April to September 2008.
In the covering letter to this, her final report, Mrs. Costelloe Baker notes that Visa Services Directorate recognises the need to “spend the next year concentrating on the basics...and paying attention to feedback”. This will be UKBA’s main focus for 2009-10. Mrs. Costelloe Baker describes the overseas visa operation as “the most constructive organisation” she has ever worked alongside, with “enthusiastic, energetic staff whose commitment to doing a good job means that they have sought, welcomed and thrived on straight talking and external scrutiny”.
Mrs. Costelloe Baker makes a number of constructive recommendations as to how the UK Border Agency can continue to improve. Key themes to pursue are:
The accuracy of data capture.
The attention to evidence in the decision-making process.
Promotion of consistency in the application of the new Immigration Rules relating to deception (paragraphs 3207 A and B).
The appearance and quality of refusal notices.
Complaint and correspondence handling procedures.
Global implementation of IM recommendations.
The development of a constructive working relationship with the chief inspector of the UK Border Agency.
The UK Border Agency welcomes these comments and is keen to use these recommendations to drive up the quality of its service to customers while maintaining a high level of immigration control.
I wish to record our thanks to Mrs. Costelloe Baker for the work and effort she has put into producing this her sixth and final report as Independent Monitor for Entry Clearance Refusals with Limited Rights of Appeal.
Home Office Annual Repport
We will publish the Home Office’s 2009 Departmental Report on 5 June. Copies will be available in the Vote Office and on the Home Office website. The report describes the work of the Home Office during 2008-09, in particular as reflected in its strategic objectives.
Work and Pensions
Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumers Affairs Council
The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council will be held on 8 June 2009 in Luxembourg. I will represent the UK.
The first and main item of the agenda will be preparation of the June European Council. This will include a policy debate on the employment implications of the economic crisis, messages from the 7 May employment summit and a Commission communication for the June European Council. The communication to be published the week before EPSCO will propose an update of EU actions and priorities on the impact of the global downturn on employment.
The next item will be political agreement on employment guidelines. A general approach on the employment guidelines under the Lisbon strategy was agreed at the March 2009 EPSCO. Following a European Parliament opinion, these will be for political agreement ready for formal adoption at a future Council. The next item on the agenda is political agreement on a proposal which will extend social security rights to third country nationals, including those who have never worked. The UK is not taking part in this proposal.
The Council will also seek adoption of Council conclusions on flexicurity in time of crisis. Flexicurity policies are seen as increasingly important as part of the strategy to help labour markets in the current downturn. This will be followed by Council conclusions on social services as a tool for active inclusion. The measures addressed are largely already in train and there are no direct implications for the UK. There will also be Council conclusions on active and dignified ageing. Active ageing is a Czech presidency theme, and a necessary policy in light of the demographic time bomb. Finally there will be Council conclusions on inclusion of Roma. These have been drafted in the light of the first meeting of the integrated European platform for Roma inclusion in April 2009 which discussed a set of common basic principles on Roma inclusion. The UK Government welcome all the conclusions.
The Council will also receive presidency reports on progress in negotiations on three draft directives: pregnant workers; anti-discrimination; and equal treatment between men and women engaged in a self-employed capacity.
Under any other business, there will be information from the Commission on a report by the high level group on disability presenting an update of the progress made by each MS towards ratification and implementation of the UN Convention. In addition, the Commission will report on the impact of free movement of workers in the context of EU enlargement. There will also be information from the Polish delegation giving details of an informal ministerial working group meeting which I attended in Radziejowice, Poland on 18-19 May 2009. This meeting discussed how best to face the economic crisis. There will also be information on conferences held under Czech presidency.