Skip to main content

Written Statements

Volume 597: debated on Tuesday 16 June 2015

Written Statements

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Foreign Affairs Council and General Affairs Council

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will attend the Foreign Affairs Council on 22 June and I will attend the General Affairs Council on 23 June. The Foreign Affairs Council will be chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, and the General Affairs Council will be chaired by the Latvian presidency. The meetings will be held in Luxembourg.

Foreign Affairs Council

Asia

Ministers will have a strategic discussion on Asia. The UK will emphasise the importance of deepening EU co-operation with Asia on traditional and non-traditional security challenges which affect all our interests, including involvement with regional multilateral structures such as the East Asia summit. On China, the UK will encourage member states to push for agreement on a substantial investment agreement, and to agree to seek a reference to an EU-China free trade agreement (FTA) in the EU-China summit’s joint statement, alongside an ambitious statement on climate change. The UK will also encourage the EU to make progress on the EU-Japan FTA. The UK will highlight its positive engagement with the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and encourage other member states to do the same. Council conclusions on strengthening partnership between the EU and ASEAN and on Burma ahead of the November elections are also likely to be adopted.

Lunch with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon

EU Foreign Ministers will attend a lunch hosted by High Representative Ms Mogherini with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. This is an opportunity to hear, first hand, the most pressing areas of interest for the Secretary-General. Discussions are expected to cover a range of issues including the post 2015 development agenda, UN climate negotiations, migration in the Mediterranean, Yemen, Syria and Libya.

Mediterranean migration

Mediterranean migration will be on the agenda for the 25 and 26 June European Council (JEC), and ahead of this will be discussed at the JHA Council (16 June) and FAC (22 June). Some member states want to agree arrangements to share the burden of refugees across the EU. We also expect discussion of a CSDP operation to disrupt the smugglers’ business model. We need to break the link between being rescued and automatic entry into the EU, which means challenging the people smugglers’ business model that encourages potential economic migrants to believe that they can achieve settlement in Europe. We will argue strongly, at the FAC and JEC, that tackling the flows requires a comprehensive approach, incorporating development, capacity- building and good governance work in source and transit countries, action against smugglers, and robust arrangements to return economic migrants to source countries. We will also be pressing the EU and member states to put their weight behind a political deal in Libya and—if one is agreed—strongly support a Government of National Accord.

Energy diplomacy

The European External Action Service (EEAS) has produced an “energy diplomacy action plan” for consideration by Ministers. The plan proposes EU foreign policy measures and actions in follow up to the European Commission’s communication of February 2015 “A Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy” and the March 2015 European Council conclusions. The UK broadly welcomes efforts to make best use of the EU’s external diplomacy and co-operation mechanisms where this can add value to the work of member states in support of secure, sustainable and competitive energy supplies. While further co-operation between member states and the EU institutions may be useful in some situations, the UK will continue to argue against any extension of EU competence in the international energy sphere.

Macedonia

We expect a discussion on the ongoing political crisis in Macedonia and an update on EU-facilitated talks with political leaders.

General Affairs Council

The General Affairs Council (GAC) on 23 June is due to focus on: preparation of the European Council on 25 and 26 June 2015; the 2015 European semester; the better regulation agenda; and Macedonia.

Preparation of the March European Council

The GAC will prepare the 25 and 26 June European Council, which the Prime Minister will attend. The June European Council agenda is expected to include Mediterranean migration and security and defence issues as well as economic issues—including the digital single market, the country specific recommendations of the 2015 European semester and a report on better economic governance in the euro area. The Prime Minister will continue his discussions with other leaders on EU reform.

European semester

The GAC will consider the country specific recommendations (CSRs), published by the Commission to all non-programme EU member states on 13 May, as part of the European semester process. CSRs will also be considered by the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council on 18 and 19 June and the Economic and Financial Affairs Council on 19 June.

The advice to the UK is to continue reducing the deficit, boost housing supply and strengthen the labour market. These are generally in line with the Government’s long-term economic plan.

Better regulation agenda

The GAC will hold an initial discussion on the recently published better regulation package by the European Commission. The key part of the package is the inter institutional agreement (IIA) on better regulation. The IIA focuses on red tape in the EU and the institutional co-operation among the Council of Ministers, the Commission and the European Parliament.

Macedonia

We expect a short discussion on the ongoing political crisis in Macedonia and an update on EU-facilitated talks with Macedonia’s political leaders. We expect short conclusions setting out the EU’s concerns about the current political crisis.

[HCWS37]

Justice

Departmental Statistics

A typographical error has been identified in the table attached to the written statement I provided to the House on 11 June 2015.

The table showed revised figures for the percentage of prisoners in crowded and doubled conditions, following errors in how the figures had been collated dating back to 2008-09. The revised doubling figure for 2013-14 was incorrectly presented as 24.5% of prisoners held. This figure was a duplicate of the 2014-15 doubling figure. The correct figure for the number of prisoners held in doubled conditions in 2013-14 is 23.2%. All other figures in the table are correct.

The table below shows the national figures for crowding and doubling, with the correct figure for 2013-14.

Percentage of Prisoners in Crowded or Doubled Conditions

Financial Year

Crowding Figures

Doubling Figures

2008-09

25.3%

24.2%

2009-10

24.6%

23.6%

2010-11

24.2%

23.3%

2011-12

25.1%

24.1%

2012-13

23.9%

23.0%

2013-14

24.1%

23.2%

2014-15

25.5%

24.5%

I have been reassured that this mistake was the result of an administrative error rather than any more serious flaw in how the Department collates statistics. Once again, I sincerely apologise to the House for this mistake.

[HCWS36]