Written Ministerial Statements
Thursday 14 February 2013
Business, Innovation and Skills
Political Opinions (Dismissal)
My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Viscount Younger of Leckie, has today made the following statement:
The Government take the United Kingdom’s responsibilities to comply with human rights protections seriously. With that in mind, we are taking steps to amend our legislation following a recent European Court of Human Rights (“ECtHR”) ruling.
In November 2012, the ECtHR held that the United Kingdom was in breach of article 11 of the European convention on human rights by preventing individuals who do not have a qualifying period of service from making claims for unfair dismissal on grounds of political opinion or affiliation. The ECtHR considered that the UK Government should amend their legislation to protect employees who suffer such dismissals.
In the case, Redfearn v UK, a bus driver was dismissed after he became a BNP councillor. Mr. Redfearn was unable to bring a claim for unfair dismissal because he did not have the requisite qualifying service.
In principle, the Court agreed that a qualifying service period is reasonable and appropriate. The ruling is a narrow judgment, limited to instances where the alleged reason for dismissal is political affiliation or opinion.
Having considered the judgment, the Government have decided not to appeal this decision. To bring our legislation into line with the ruling, we have tabled an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before the House of Lords. This amendment exempts claimants who allege that their dismissal was on the grounds of political opinion or affiliation from the two-year qualifying period.
Following the necessary Parliamentary stages, this additional protection would come into effect two months after the Bill receives Royal Assent and would apply to dismissals after that date.
UK’s Counter-Terrorist Asset-Freezing Regime
My noble friend the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Deighton, has today made the following written ministerial statement:
Under the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010 (“TAFA 2010”), the Treasury is required to report quarterly to Parliament on its operation of the UK’s asset-freezing regime mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 1373.
This is the eighth report under the Act and it covers the period from 1 October 2012 to 31 December 2012. This report also covers the UK implementation of the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime and the operation of the EU asset-freezing regime in the UK under EU Regulation (EC) 2580/2001 which implements UNSCR 1373 against external terrorist threats to the EU. Under the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime, the UN has responsibility for designations and the Treasury has responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under the al-Qaeda (Asset-freezing) Regulations 2011. Under EU Regulation 2580/2001, the EU has responsibility for designations and the Treasury has responsibility for licensing and compliance with the regime in the UK under part 1 of TAFA 2010.
Annexes A and B to this statement provide a breakdown by name of all those designated by the UK and the EU in pursuance of UN Security Council Resolution 1373.
During this period the independent reviewer’s second annual report on the operation of the TAFA 2010 was laid in Parliament. The report made one recommendation, to which the Treasury will respond by 14 February 2013.
The following table sets out the key asset-freezing activity in the UK during the quarter ending 31 December 2012:
EU Reg (EC) 2580/2001
Al-Qaeda Regime UNSCR 1989
Assets frozen (as at 31/12/2012)
Number of accounts frozen in UK (at 31/12/2012)
New accounts frozen
Number of designations (at 31/12/2012)
(i) new designations (during Q4 2012)
(iii) individuals in custody in UK
(iv) individuals in UK, not in detention
(v) individuals overseas
8 (0 in UK)
25 (1 in UK)
63 (1 in UK)
Individuals by Nationality
(i) UK Nationals2
(ii) Non UK Nationals
Renewal of designation
(i) Issued in Q4
(i) Issued in Q4
1This figure reflects the most up-to-date account balances available and includes approximately $64,000 of suspected terrorist funds frozen in the UK. This has been converted using exchange rates as of 19/01/2013.
Ibrahim (aka Abu Hamza) and Al-Fawaz were deported to the US in October 2012. Both individuals are designated under the UN al-Qaeda asset-freezing regime.
Appeals against designations made under the Terrorism (United Nations Measures) Order 2009 and TAFA 2010 were ongoing in the quarter covered by this report, brought by Zana Abdul Rahim and Gulam Mastafa. Judgment was handed down on a preliminary issue in relation to Mastafa’s appeal on 12 December 2012. Mr Justice Collins held that article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights applies to proceedings under TAFA 2010. A claim for damages arising from the designation of another individual, known as “M” for the purpose of these proceedings, issued against the Treasury, is also ongoing.
In the quarter to 31 December 2012, no criminal proceedings were initiated in respect of breaches of asset-freezes made under the Act or under the Al-Qaeda (Asset-Freezing) Regulations 2011.
Annex A: Designated persons under TAFA 2010 by name3
1. Hamed Abdollahi
2. Bilal Talal Abdullah
3. Imad Khalil Al-Alami
4. Abdula Ahmed Ali
5. Abdelkarim Hussein Al-Nasser
6. Ibrahim Salih Al-Yacoub
7. Manssor Arbabsiar
8. Usama Hamdan
9. Nabeel Hussain
10. Tanvir Hussain
11. Zahoor Iqbal
12. Umar Islam
13. Hasan Izz-Al-Din
14. Parviz Khan
15. Waheed Arafat Khan
16. Osman Adam Khatib
17. Musa Abu Marzouk
18. Gulam Mastafa
19. Khalid Mishaal
20. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed
21. Ramzi Mohammed
22. Sultan Muhammad
23. Yassin Omar
24. Hussein Osman
25. Zana Abdul Rahim
26. Muktar Mohammed Said
27. Assad Sarwar
28. Ibrahim Savant
29. Abdul Reza Shahlai
30. All Gholam Shakuri
31. Qasem Soleimani
32. Waheed Zaman
1. Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
2. Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN).
3. Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)
4. Hizballah Military Wing, Including External Security Organisation
5. Holy Land Foundation for Relief And Development
6. Popular Front for the Liberation Of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)
7. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
8. Sendero Luminoso (SL)
Annex B: Persons designated by the EU under Council Regulation (EC) 2580/20044
Abdelkarim Hussein AL-NASSER*
Ibrahim Salih ALYACOUB*
Sofiane Yacine FAHAS
Khalid Shaikh MOHAMMED*
Abdul Reza SHAHLAI*
AM Gholam SHAKURI*
Jason Theodore WALTERS
Groups and entities
1. Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO)
2. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade
3. Al-Aqsa e.V.
4. Al-Takfir and Al-Hijra
5. Babbar Khalsa
6. Communist Party of the Philippines, including New People’s Army (NPA), Philippines
7. Gama’a al-lslamiyya (a.k.a. Al-Gama’a al-lslamiyya) (Islamic Group—IG)
8. Islami Büyük Dogu Akincilar Cephesi (IBDA-C) (Great Islamic Eastern Warriors Front)
9. Hamas, including Hamas-Izz al-Din al-Qassem
10. Hizbul Mujahideen (HM)
12. Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development*
13. International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF)
14. Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF)
15. Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) (a.k.a. KONGRA-GEL)
16. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
17. Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army)*
18. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
19. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)*
20. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command (PFLP-GC)*
21. Fuerzas armadas revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC)*
22. Devrimci Halk Kurtulu Partisi-Cephesi—DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Army/Front/Party)
23. Sedero Luminoso (SL) (Shining Path)*
24. Stichting Al Aqsa
25. Teyrbazen Azadiya Kurdistan (TAK)
2Based on information held by the Treasury, some of these individuals hold dual nationality.
3For full listing details please refer to: http://www.hm- treasury.gov.uk/d/terrorism.htm.
4For full listing details please refer to: http://www.hm- treasury.gov.uk/d/terrorism.htm.
*EU listing rests on UK designation under TAFA 2010.
Procurement and Tax
The Minister for the Cabinet Office and I are today making available for comment a draft of new rules that will allow Government Departments to ban companies and individuals that take part in failed tax avoidance schemes from being awarded Government contracts. The discussion document and draft guidance have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses and are available through the HMRC website.
The rules, which are intended to come into effect on 1 April 2013, are outlined in draft guidance published for consultation by the Government. They will require potential suppliers to notify contracting Departments if any tax return has recently been found to be incorrect as a result of, among other factors:
HMRC successfully challenging it, including under any targeted anti-avoidance rule (TAAR), the new general anti-abuse rule (GAAR); or
A failed avoidance scheme which the supplier was involved in and which was, or should have been, notified under the disclosure of tax avoidance scheme (DOTAS) rules.
Suppliers will also be required to disclose if they have been convicted for tax related offences or have been subject to a penalty for civil fraud or evasion. Departments will be able to disqualify any bidder meeting these criteria from the procurement process.
Following their introduction, the rules will also enable Departments to include a new clause in contracts that allows them to terminate an agreement if a supplier subsequently breaches the new tax compliance obligations. The supplier will be contractually obliged to tell the contracting Department if their status changes after the award of the contract.
The rules have been designed to operate within the EU procurement directive and Public Contracts Regulations 2006, which allow procuring authorities to apply tax and propriety-based criteria at the selection stage. In particular, a potential contractor can be asked whether it has fulfilled all its obligations relating to the payment of taxes.
These new rules are another significant tool as they will provide a framework to enable Government Departments to say no to firms bidding for Government contracts where they have been involved in failed tax avoidance.
Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010
My noble Friend the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, Lord Deighton, has today made the following written ministerial statement:
Following consultation with other relevant Departments and agencies, the Treasury is today publishing the Government’s response to David Anderson’s second report on the operation of the Terrorist Asset-Freezing etc. Act 2010. This will be laid before Parliament today as a Command Paper.
Culture, Media and Sport
Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest
On 15 December 2011, Official Report, columns 113-114WS, I made a written statement to Parliament about the triennial review of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art. I am pleased today to announce the completion of the review.
The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art fulfils the important advisory role of recommending to the Secretary of State action to be taken on all cases where refusal of an export licence for an object of cultural interest is suggested on grounds of national importance, and advising her on the principles which should govern the control of export of objects of cultural interest under the Export Control Act 2002 and on the operation of the export control system generally.
The review concludes that there is a continuing role for the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art as an advisory non-departmental public body with secretariat support provided by Arts Council England. It finds that the Committee has good standards of corporate governance and it makes a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening transparency and openness.
The review of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art was conducted by my Department with the support of a review group made up of key stakeholders with a direct interest in the export licensing process. The review was publicised on my Department’s website and stakeholders were invited to contribute views.
I am grateful to everyone who contributed to the review. Copies have been deposited in the Libraries of both Houses.
Communities and Local Government
I am today announcing the coalition Government’s decision to revoke the regional strategy for the south-east of England. This decision follows an assessment as outlined in the written ministerial statement of 25 July 2012, Official Report, House of Lords, columns WS66-68. The order to effect this decision will be laid shortly after recess under the negative resolution procedure.
The decision to revoke the regional strategy for the south-east signals a significant step for localism. When the order comes into force, it will mean that development plans across the former south-east government office region will comprise local plans, and where they exist, neighbourhood plans. Localised planning enables councils to make the development choices that work for them; choices that are right for their communities and respond to the needs of the local area rather than to arbitrary top-down targets. This presents a far better deal for local people.
The Government have decided to revoke the regional strategy for the south-east, with the exception of policy NRM6 on the Thames basin heaths special protection area. We are also retaining Oxfordshire structure plan policy H2 concerning the Upper Heyford RAF base. The reasons for the decision to retain these policies and to revoke all other parts of the regional strategy and saved structure plan policies, will be set out in a post-adoption statement, which will be published on the Department’s website and placed in the Library of the House once the revocation order has been laid in Parliament.
Further announcements on the remaining regional strategies will be made in due course.
Armed Forces Independence Payment
In July 2012, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would introduce a new benefit that would provide additional financial support to seriously injured service and ex-service personnel. The Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) are working together to introduce the armed forces independence payment (AFIP) on 8 April 2013. The respective Secretaries of State agreed that MOD will legislate to create AFIP and DWP would administer and pay AFIP.
AFIP is designed to support the most seriously injured. It will be payable to service and ex-service personnel who have an armed forces compensation scheme award that includes a guaranteed income payment of 50% or higher. The payment will be £134.40 per week, which is the equivalent of the enhanced rates of the daily living and mobility components of personal independence payment (PIP). Those receiving AFIP will have access to other benefits in a similar way to those receiving disability living allowance (DLA) now or PIP in the future. In addition, they will not be subject to reassessment and their payments will continue if their circumstances change, for example if they enter hospital or a care home. Those receiving AFIP cannot claim other DWP disability benefits such as DLA or PIP.
AFIP is an example of the Government delivering on their commitment to uphold the armed forces covenant. MOD and DWP will track the progress of AFIP and will report on its implementation in the armed forces covenant report 2013.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Commons Act 2006 (Post-legislative Assessment)
The post-legislative assessment of the Commons Act 2006, Cm 8551, comprising the Government’s memorandum to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee will be laid before Parliament today.
The main purpose of the Act is to provide a legislative framework for the better protection, management and understanding of commons and greens. It provides powers to commons registration authorities and other bodies involved in the management and protection of such land.
Copies of the document are available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
Horsemeat Fraud (EU Meeting)
On 13 February I met Agriculture Ministers from a number of other member states together with the Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner in Brussels. I sought this meeting to get co-ordinated action across Europe for consumers so that they can have confidence in what they are buying. I am pleased to report that we reached agreement on a number of key issues in order to ensure that the current unacceptable situation with horsemeat cannot happen again.
First, there will be a three-month programme of DNA testing of beef products across the EU covering domestic and imported products, with first results by 15 April. Meat products across the EU will be DNA tested for horsemeat. In addition, both domestic and imported horsemeat will be tested for bute. The current system is based on paperwork, this introduces a programme of testing real products.
Secondly, we agreed to a new intelligence system so that information about the current investigations can be shared immediately. This will enable other member states to act straight away if they have any suspicions that food businesses are not playing by the rules. Members states also agreed to use Europol to co-ordinate law enforcement efforts, something I will be discussing further with representatives of Europol and Eurojust in the Hague this morning.
Thirdly, because of the urgency with which we have to deal with what is clearly an international issue, we agreed that the European Commission’s report and recommendations on labelling the origin of all processed meat should be accelerated and published as soon as possible. I expect that this will provide consumers with clearer and more reliable information on where meat products come from.
Fourthly, we agreed that implementation of these actions will be progressed urgently at an emergency meeting of member state food experts in the Standing Committee on the food chain and animal health on 15 February. I also requested that these issues should be put to all EU Agriculture Ministers at the Agriculture Council meeting on 25 and 26 February, which was agreed. This agreement represents a clear and immediate response to the current Europe-wide incidents and demonstrates the strong will across affected member states to ensure that consumers get honest food labelling they can rely on and that firm enforcement action is taken against fraudulent activity.
Agriculture and Fisheries Council (January)
I represented the UK on agricultural matters and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), who is responsible for natural environment and fisheries, represented the United Kingdom on fisheries items. Richard Lochhead MSP and Alun Davies AM were also part of the United Kingdom delegation.
The presidency ran through its work programme, underlining its priority to progress and adopt the common fisheries policy (CFP) reform package.
The presidency wants to return to the CFP basic regulation in February and have political agreement on the whole package in June; they urged member states to work flexibly towards a compromise rather than repeat their existing positions. All member states agreed they could support the timeline but many highlighted the issues they would need to see resolved before agreement could be reached. Despite a large number of member states stressing the need to stick to the Council’s general approach as closely as possible, many suggested they will seek delays to key deadlines, for example on discards or to make the provisions less ambitious.
The Commission outlined the background to their proposal for a regulation on technical control measures in the area between Denmark, Norway and Sweden, explaining that it was needed in order to allow fishing to continue under a discard ban; a view backed by Denmark and Sweden. The UK and others saw this regional approach to a specific regional situation as reflecting the shape of the future CFP. Some were more hesitant about the use of CCTV for control purposes in this case, but they could accept it if it was not used as a precedent for implementing the discard ban elsewhere.
Recent negotiations with Norway resulted in increases of the total allowable catches (TACs) for a number of species including North sea haddock, saithe, plaice, whiting and herring. The EU gained access to more Arctic cod and exchanges with Norway fairly reflected the interests of the different member states. The Faroes declared its intent to set its own TAC unilaterally on Atlanto-Scandian herring. The Commission would look closely into what could be done in response to this, including all legal measures available. The Commission also reported that the EU and Norway had agreed to take the traditional 90% of the mackerel TAG which was to be reduced in line with ICES advice. There was a need to consider further the possible introduction of trade sanctions against Iceland and Faroe Islands, but the Commission would continue to prepare suitable legislation.
The ministerial lunch involved a discussion on how to secure agreement with the European Parliament over multi-annual plans; given a likely institutional disagreement over the correct legal base.
Common agricultural policy (CAP) reform road map
The presidency began by underlining their objective of securing an inter-institutional political agreement on CAP reform in June. The Commission welcomed the proposed timetable and confirmed that it would bring forward a transitional proposal for 2014 once the MFF had been agreed. Some member states highlighted a list of issues which they considered priorities and would need resolving before an agreement could be met. The UK supported the proposed timetable from the presidency highlighting the need to reach a deal to provide certainty for farmers and the food industry and underline the need for it to be a good deal for farmers, consumers and taxpayers. The UK also highlighted the disappointing EP agriculture committee votes, which risked halting or reversing the CAP’s progress towards a more market-orientated policy.
Any Other Business
Pig sow stall ban
A total of 17 member states were not compliant with the sow stall ban which came into force on 1 January 2013. The Commission stressed that non-compliance would impact on the single market and the perception of the EU’s ability to implement its decisions; but also noted that any national restrictions on imports would be against the spirit of the treaty. It was holding a stakeholder conference at the same time as the Council to discuss solutions and encourage compliance. The UK, supported by others, called for vigorous Commission pursuance of the level playing field, so that compliant producers would not be disadvantaged by inaction elsewhere in Europe.
Neonicotinoids (risk assessment for bees)
The Dutch introduced a request for EU-wide measures. A ban on all neonicotinoids did not appear justified. Many member states intervened to echo the need for further consideration of the evidence and, if necessary, for action to be taken at EU level. The UK emphasised the need for a science-based and proportionate approach. The UK also highlighted that it had carried out field research to address gaps in the evidence and would provide this to the Commission as soon as it is ready. The Commission agreed that EU action was needed and would bring forward a proposal for legally binding measures to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on 31 January. The Commission aimed to complete its impact assessment by May.
European school fruit scheme
The Commission introduced its evaluation of this EU scheme which last year supplied fruit to eight million children across 24 member states. The presidency confirmed that a forthcoming meeting of the special committee on agriculture would be invited to consider the Commission’s evaluation in more detail.
EU-Singapore free trade agreement
The Commission stressed that it had met a key aim of protecting EU agricultural products with geographical indications (GIs) as part of this trade agreement. Singapore would bring in legislation to guarantee such GIs from 2014 and the FTA would not be signed until this guarantee was complete. France and Italy intervened and were reluctant to give full approval until they could see how this guarantee would work.
EU-Canada free trade agreement and WTO negotiations
Negotiations on the FTA with Canada were entering the final phase. Canadian access to the EU fresh meat market is causing concern with some member states, which the EU needs to consider in the light of the interaction between the different FTAs. EU has made clear that a satisfactory result is necessary on geographical indications (GIs), enhancing protection of EU GIs in Canada. These issues would have to be overcome in order to finalise the EU-Canada FTA. On the WTO Doha development agenda (DDA), developing countries would want movement on agriculture and the EU may have to compromise on this, in order to secure a DDA trade facilitation agreement. The UK welcomed progress on trade, which is a key driver of economic growth, and supported swift progress on EU-Canada FTA, EU-US trade talks and the DDA.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Countering Terrorism Overseas
I would like to update the House on the main principles underlying the Government’s approach to countering terrorism overseas.
The greatest source of the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom remains al-Qaeda and other organisations who subscribe to an ideology of violent jihad. But the nature of the threat has changed, in three principal ways:
It has become geographically more diverse;
It is more fragmented;
It is based even more closely on the exploitation of local and regional issues.
In the United Kingdom we have a long experience of confronting terrorism. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies continue to work tirelessly to protect the British public from terrorist attack.
But unless our foreign policy addresses the circumstances in which terrorism thrives overseas, we will always fight a rearguard action against it. This means ensuring a comprehensive approach designed: to deny terrorist groups the space to operate, to help vulnerable countries develop their law enforcement capabilities, to address the injustice and conflict which terrorist exploit, and to combat their ideology.
In standing up for freedom, human rights and the rule of law ourselves, we must never use methods that undermine them. I am determined that as a democracy we must hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards. This includes being absolutely clear that torture and mistreatment are repugnant, unacceptable and counter-productive.
In order to confront the threat we must strengthen the ability of states to counter terrorism, while protecting human rights, as called for by the UN. This is difficult and challenging work, since the threat from terrorism is greatest in the countries where the rule of law and human rights are weakest. This is why I wish to set out the clear direction the Government will follow over the coming years.
When we detect a terrorist plot originating in a third country, we want to be in a position to share information to stop that planning, and do it in a way that leads to the lawful arrest, investigation and prosecution of the individuals concerned in accordance with our own legal obligations, and with their human rights respected at every stage.
In many cases we are able to obtain credible assurances from our foreign partners on issues such as detainee treatment and legal processes that give us the safeguards we need and the confidence that we can share information in this way.
Where this is not the case we face a stark choice. We could disengage, or we can choose to co-operate with them in a carefully controlled way while developing a more comprehensive approach to human rights adherence. This approach brings risk, but I am clear that the risks of the first option, of stepping back are greater still, placing our citizens at risk of terrorist attack.
How we go about this will have to vary from country to country depending on the scale and nature of the challenge. But we will seek justice and human rights partnerships with countries where there is both a threat to the United Kingdom’s security, and weaknesses in the law enforcement, human rights and criminal justice architecture. These are not one-off initiatives or stand-alone agreements, but rather a systematic process of working with authorities in question to identify shortcomings in capability, and to address these through the provision of UK assistance and expertise, over many months or years.
The sorts of measures we will take include:
Building up the capacity of overseas security services to improve compliance with the law and human rights and to make them more effective.
Working with local investigators to improve the ability to build cases based on evidence.
Supporting prosecutors and judges to ensure that they are capable of processing terrorism cases through the court systems, ensuring they are handled effectively, fairly and in line with the rule of law.
Working to improve and where appropriate monitor conditions in detention facilities so that convicted terrorists can be held securely and their treatment meets with international standards.
Crucially we are creating a strong and systematic framework for this work, with strong safeguards:
We will only engage in such efforts where there is serious and potentially long-running threat to the UK or UK interests, such as that flowing from terrorist networks in south Asia, Yemen, and parts of north and west Africa.
All our capacity building work will be carefully considered in line with our overseas security and justice assistance guidance in order to assess and to mitigate human rights risks, and specifically designed to improve human rights standards and strengthen the rule of law in that country.
It will not be carried out in isolation, but will be part of UK and international diplomatic and development efforts in that country.
The intelligence dimension will be subject to the same robust scrutiny and oversight that exists in other areas of intelligence-related activity and always be in accordance with the law.
Every aspect of this work requires ministerial oversight and approval. If I or another responsible Minister see any credible evidence that our support is being misused we will take immediate action. Any work that would involve breaking our legal obligations simply would not go ahead.
This is a framework of accountability and human rights to ensure that our counter-terrorism work support justice and the rule of law as well as our security, with the goal of creating the long-term conditions for better observance of human rights in countries that have a poor record and where the threat from terrorism is strong.
Foreign Affairs Council
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on 18 February in Brussels. The FAC will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Baroness Ashton of Upholland.
Ministers will discuss the continuing crisis in Syria and the EU’s response, including the EU arms embargo, in advance of the roll over of the EU sanctions package, due on 1 March. We are urging EU partners to look at all options to protect civilians and to assist the National Coalition and opposition groups opposed to extremism, including amendment of the EU sanctions regime.
Middle East Peace Process
The discussion will build on January’s FAC, which agreed that it was important to engage with the US Administration on the middle east peace process. Ministers will also discuss the EU’s approach to settlements; Gaza; Palestinian recognition; and Palestinian Authority finances. The UK will emphasise the need for the FAC to agree concrete steps the EU could take to help support a renewed US-led initiative on the peace process. The UK will welcome discussion of settlements and Palestinian financing, and will reiterate the importance of EU action that supports the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire efforts, and addresses the underlying causes of the conflict in Gaza.
Ministers will discuss the current political crisis in Iraq and what actions the EU might take in response. The UK will encourage greater engagement with a broad range of Iraqi political actors to promote dialogue and restraint. We will also emphasise the need for the EU to consider its long-term engagement with Iraq to help prevent similar crises arising in future, including focusing on the development of the rule of law.
Ministers will take stock of the latest developments in Mali since the last FAC on 31 January. Discussions will focus on progress on the political track, including the Friends of Mali meeting which took place in Brussels on 5 February, and the EU’s response to the situation, including the establishment of an EU training mission to support Malian forces.
Ministers will have a discussion on the eastern partnership, looking ahead to November’s eastern partnership summit in Vilnius. I expect conclusions to be issued. The UK will reiterate its support for the eastern partnership process, which we see as an important driver for promoting economic and political reform in the region.
Equality (Language Analysis—Palestinian, Syrian and Kuwaiti Testing) Authorisation 2013
I am today making a ministerial authorisation under schedule 3, part 4, paragraph 17(4)(a) and (b) of the Equality Act 2010. This authorisation may be cited as the Equality (Language Analysis—Palestinian, Syrian and Kuwaiti Testing) Authorisation 2013.
The purpose of language analysis (LA) testing in UK Border Agency is to assist in identifying an asylum applicant’s true place of origin where it is in doubt, and to deter claims made in a false nationality because of an actual or perceived benefit to an asylum claim. Where the United Kingdom is responsible for deciding a case, LA testing may be carried out on an informed consent basis, and presently, only if it is strongly suspected the applicant has provided false information regarding their place of origin. A refusal to submit to testing may be taken into account when determining whether an applicant has assisted in establishing the facts of his case or her case.
UK Border Agency data on language analysis testing between October 2011 and May 2012 shows that although 20 different claimed nationalities were tested, on a case-by-case basis, abuse was particularly apparent for three claimed nationalities. Where tested, those claiming to be Kuwaiti were shown in 26 out of 33 cases (79%) not to be from Kuwait; none of the 12 claiming to be Palestinian (100%) were found to be from Palestine; and, to July 2012, 12 of the 15 applicants (80%) claiming to be Syrian nationals were assessed to not be from Syria.
I therefore consider the ministerial authorisation to be reasonable, rational, proportionate and necessary for maintaining the integrity of the immigration system.
The authorisation gives approval for the UK Border Agency to use linguistic analysis to analyse the language of persons making an asylum claim where they claim to be of Palestinian national origin or Syrian nationality or Kuwaiti nationality, to assist in determining whether those asylum seekers are of the national origin or nationality respectively as claimed.
The authorisation shall come into operation 20 February 2013, and remain in force until revoked.
I am placing a copy of the authorisation in the Library of the House.
Transforming Youth Custody
The Government are today launching their consultation “Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention”. This forms the next step in delivering the Government’s rehabilitation revolution following publication of the “Transforming Rehabilitation” consultation last month.
Much has been achieved in the youth justice system. Overall crime and proven offending by young people are both down, fewer young people are entering the criminal justice system and the number ending up in custody has fallen. This is testament to the important work done by a range of passionate people working with young people to prevent offending.
But there remains a hardcore of serious and persistent young offenders for whom custody is the right place, and at present custody is delivering poor outcomes both for this group and for society. Seventy-five per cent of young offenders who leave custody reoffend within a year; education provision is patchy, meaning that many young people leave custody still lacking basic skills; and too often the support provided in custody falls away when an offender is released back into the community. On top of this, we are paying far too much for youth custody, close to £100,000 a place per annum, and in some cases more than £200,000.
Custody punishes by depriving offenders of their liberty, but we must also use that time constructively. It is an opportunity for young people to get help to tackle their offending behaviour and acquire the skills and self-discipline to secure placements in education, training or employment on release. My vision is for secure colleges which refocus a young person’s time in custody as education with detention, rather than detention with education as an afterthought.
To help me implement this change I want to seek ideas from the market on how it would deliver a secure college, drawing on the innovation and diversity of provision that characterises the free schools and academies reforms to education. If the consultation demonstrates that the market can deliver improved education and reoffending outcomes while driving down costs, I will seek to move quickly to launch a competition that will be open to all sectors.
I am today laying before Parliament “Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention”, copies will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office.
Work and Pensions
Informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council
The informal Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council met on 7 and 8 February in Dublin.
On the first day, there were three simultaneous workshops covering: active inclusion for jobless households; job-rich recovery, key actions for future skills needs in ICT; and labour market engagement of older women. The UK attended the first workshop on jobless households and agreed that professional skills were important, but that benefit systems also needed to make work pay and labour markets had to be flexible. The challenge was providing tailored support to young people and that work experience had proved to be a valuable measure in helping young people find and keep work.
On the second day, there were two main plenary discussions. In the first discussion on youth guarantee, some member states called for flexibility both in the list of measures and the implementation deadline. The UK called for the current four-month deadline to be extended to six, suggesting that the focus should be on those most in need rather than those who re-enter the labour market within a short period of time by themselves. The Commission remained adamant that both the list of measures and the deadline had to remain closed. The presidency subsequently circulated a revised text which stated that gradual implementation of the recommendation could be considered for countries with highest levels of youth unemployment.
The second discussion was on a proposal for benchlearning across European public employment services (PES) and the potential legal formalisation of the head of public employment services (HoPES) network. The UK welcomed both proposals, but cautioned against blanket targets and measurements.