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Written Statements

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 8 July 2008

Written Statements

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Afghanistan: Roulement

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The next relief in place of UK forces in Afghanistan will take place in October 2008. The force package that we currently plan to deploy will see the lead formation, 16 Air Assault Brigade, replaced by 3 Commando Brigade, Royal Marines, which will command the majority of the units serving in Afghanistan. The new force elements deploying include:

3 Commando Brigade Headquarters, Royal Marines

Elements of the Naval Strike Wing

Elements of 845 Naval Air Squadron

Elements of 846 Naval Air Squadron

Elements of 847 Naval Air Squadron

42 Commando Royal Marines

45 Commando Royal Marines

United Kingdom Landing Force Command and Support Group

Commando Logistic Regiment Royal Marines

1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards

29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery

24 Commando Engineer Regiment

2nd Battalion The Royal Gurkha Rifles

1st Battalion The Rifles

3 Close Support Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

114th Provost Company Royal Military Police

Elements of the Queen's Royal Lancers

Elements of 5th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 16th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 26th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 47th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 39th Regiment Royal Artillery

Elements of 32 Engineer Regiment

Elements of 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal)

Elements of 35 Engineer Regiment

Elements of 170 (Infrastructure Support) Engineer Group

Elements of 10th Signal Regiment

Elements of 21st Signal Regiment (Air Support)

Elements of 22nd Signal Regiment

Elements of 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment

Elements of 7 Transport Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 4 Regiment, Army Air Corps

Headquarters, 104 Logistic Brigade

Elements of 9 Supply Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 11 Explosive Ordnance Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 24 Postal Courier and Movement Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 29 Postal Courier and Movement Regiment The Royal Logistic Corps

Elements of 101 Force Support Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

Elements of 103 Military Working Dog Support Unit

Elements of 1 Military Intelligence Brigade

Elements of 4th Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (King's, Lancashire and Border)

Elements of 6th Battalion The Rifles

Elements to man 904 Expeditionary Air Wing, Royal Air Force

4 Force Protection Wing Headquarters, Royal Air Force

1 Regiment Field Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 4 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 18 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 27 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 30 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 39 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 70 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements to man the Tactical Supply Wing

Elements to man the Joint Helicopter Support Unit

Elements of 1 Air Movements Wing, Royal Air Force

Elements of 85 (Expeditionary Logistic) Wing Headquarters, Royal Air Force

Elements of 1 Air Control Centre, Royal Air Force

Elements of 90 Signals Unit, Royal Air Force

Elements of 2 Motor Transport Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of 5001 Squadron, Royal Air Force

Elements of Mobile Catering Support Unit

Elements of Tactical Medical Wing

Elements of Tactical Armament Squadron

Elements of Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing

Elements of Joint Medical Command

The above represent either direct replacements for capabilities already in place in Afghanistan or comprise elements of the force level increases that I announced to the House on 16 June 2008.

Volunteer and regular members of the Reserve Forces will continue to deploy to Afghanistan as part of this integrated force package, and we expect to have eventually issued in the order of 620 call-out notices to fill around 560 posts. On completion of their mobilisation procedures, the reservists will undertake a period of training and, where applicable, integration with their respective receiving units. The majority will serve on operations for six or so months, although some may have shorter tours. As part of this commitment, we expect up to 25 members of the sponsored reserves to be in theatre at any one time.

The House will also wish to be aware that 3 Commando Brigade’s deployment will last until April 2009.

Airports: Heathrow

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport (Ruth Kelly) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

The 2003 White Paper The Future of Air Transport made it clear that, given the economic benefits to the UK, the Government support the further development of Heathrow by adding a third runway and exploring the scope for making greater use of the existing runways, subject to meeting strict local conditions on air quality and noise and improving public transport access.

Last November, I published a major consultation on the future expansion of Heathrow Airport. The consultation invited views on:

a revised proposal for a third runway and associated passenger terminal facilities, and the Government's assessment of how the strict local environmental conditions mentioned above could be met;

a proposal to introduce mixed mode on Heathrow's existing two runways as an interim measure and the Government's assessment of how the same strict local environmental conditions could be met. In considering the mixed mode options, the consultation looked at the position with or without additional air traffic movements;

the results of a review of operational procedures on the existing runways—westerly preference (the preferred direction of operation) and the Cranford agreement (which generally prohibits easterly departures off the northern runway)—irrespective of any further changes; and

an assessment of the effects of night-time rotation between westerly and easterly preference, and of the current trial of runway alternation in the 0600 to 0700 period.

Almost 70,000 individuals and organisations representing all sides of the debate responded to the Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport consultation, which my officials are still analysing. That process is itself also subject to quality assurance and peer review to ensure its integrity.

We also want to be sure, given the socio-demographic mix in the Heathrow area, that we fully understand how airport development might affect different groups in terms of race, disability, age or gender. An initial screening exercise has been conducted to look at the potentially different effects of the proposals. Further work is now being undertaken to deliver a full equalities impact assessment. We will shortly engage in a consultative exercise, focused on these particular groups.

Our work on analysing the consultation responses, on completing the equalities impact assessment and on finalising the overall impact assessment will take some more time to complete. But I intend to inform the House of my decision on the future development of Heathrow Airport before the end of the year.

Children: Bercow Report

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (Ed Balls) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Secretary of State for Health and I today welcome the publication of the Bercow report on services for children and young people with speech, language and communications needs (SLCN). A copy of the report will be placed in the Library.

In September 2007, we asked John Bercow MP to advise us on the range of universal and specialist services to best identify and meet the diversity of needs of children and young people with SLCN; how planning and performance management arrangements and effective co-operation between government departments and responsible local agents can be used to promote early intervention and to improve services; and examples of good practice in commissioning and delivering services which are responsive to the needs of children, young people and families.

We welcomed the interim report that John Bercow MP published on 20 March 2008, which identified five key themes: communication is crucial; early identification and intervention are essential; the need for a continuum of services, designed around the family; that joint working between agencies is critical; and the current system is characterised by high levels of variability and a lack of equity.

The final Bercow report, published today, sets out 40 recommendations to improve services for children with SLCN under these five themes. We support fully the report’s call for action to raise the profile of speech, language and communications across government, local agencies and wider society and to improve services for children and young people with SLCN.

We accept the report’s key recommendations:

improve understanding that communication is critical through the creation of a communication council, to monitor and support implementation of the recommendations, and a communication champion to lead on awareness raising, including a national year of speech, language and communication by 2011; a set of measures to improve information, support and advice to parents about the importance of speech, language and communications, including through the child health promotion programme;

ensure early identification and intervention through monitoring of children to identify potential SLCN across the age range; reviewing the personal child health record so that there is a clear record of a child’s speech development; and promoting examples of how barriers to pupils with SLCN accessing the curriculum have been overcome;

how to design a continuum of services around the family by developing a joint commissioning framework for universal, targeted and specialist services through pathfinders, supported by other action to build on the national service framework standard for disabled children and young people; the current review of the dedicated school grant should consider how the funding system supports the delivery of services for children with SLCN; the new Masters in Teaching and Learning has core elements and a module including speech, language and communication; and that there should be a programme of research to enhance the evidence base for improving outcomes for children with SLCN;

how to promote more and better joint working through effective functioning of children’s trusts, including a recommendation to them to appoint a senior lead on speech, language and communication issues; and

how to ensure greater consistency and equity for families by better monitoring of performance by commissioners and publication of accessible data, for instance on educational attainment by children with SLCN.

The child health strategy, which will be published in September, will seek to address the real issues that the report has raised about the commissioning and provision of equipment and aids for children with complex needs.

We are announcing today that the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) and the Department for Health will together commit £12 million to lead action to take forward the recommendations up to and including the national year of speech, language and communication by 2011. In addition, the DCSF is investing £40 million in the Every Child a Talker programme, to ensure that early years practitioners are better able to access training and materials to support children’s speaking and listening skills from birth to five. My department has already asked Sir Jim Rose to examine how schools can better focus on speech, language and communication as part of his review of the primary curriculum.

A full implementation plan will be produced in the autumn.

The Secretary of State for Health and I thank John Bercow MP, and his expert advisers, for the way in which the review was conducted, with extensive consultations and a programme of visits; it provides a benchmark for future reviews. The recommendations in the final report have the potential to transform the lives of children and young people with SLCN and their families and we are committed to delivering the changes required to achieve this.

Civil Justice Council

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Bridget Prentice) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am today announcing that Dr Jonathan Spencer CB has submitted his report of his independent review of the Civil Justice Council on 24 June 2008. I welcome the report and accept the thrust of the recommendations. I have asked my officials to work closely with the council to develop a suitable action plan for their implementation. The report recommends retention of the council as an advisory public body but with a series of changes, set out in 27 recommendations for action. These are designed to increase the relevance, value and visibility of the council’s work to users of the civil justice system. They aim to achieve this in particular by increasing the user element in the council’s membership and by increasing the user influence over its programmes of work, while retaining the technical expertise of the legal and judicial members of the council and its committees.

I am particularly pleased that the report acknowledges the value of the council’s work and achievements so far and I am confident that the implementation of the recommendations will be a major step towards its further development.

The report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The report and further information about the review can be found at the Ministry of Justice website at

EU: Economic and Financial Affairs Council

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Alistair Darling) has made the following Written Statement.

The Economic and Financial Affairs Council will be held in Brussels on 8 July 2008. Items on the agenda are as follows:

Presidency work programme

The French presidency will present the ECOFIN work programme for the next six months.

Implementation of the stability and growth pact

The council will be asked to adopt opinions on the updated stability programme for Belgium and the updated convergence programme for Poland, as well as a decision putting an end to the excessive deficit procedure for Poland. In addition, the council will be asked to agree to a decision and recommendations under Article 104(7) of the EC treaty with regard to the UK.

Adoption of the euro by Slovakia

The council will adopt legislative acts required for the adoption of the euro by Slovakia. The adoption will finalise the procedure foreseen by Article 122 of the treaty establishing the European Community. The council (meeting at the level of heads of state or government in the margins of the June European Council) gave its guidance on this issue on 19 June. Ministers will first vote on the legislative acts and, if successful, will decide on the exchange rate as recommended by the Commission. The UK congratulates Slovakia on the substantial reforms that it has made in order to meet the Maastricht criteria.

Oil price trends

Following the June European Council and in advance of the report for the October European Council, Ministers will hold an exchange of views on the situation in the oil and fuel markets. This will also cover the role of ECOFIN in preparing the October and December European Councils. The UK supports the work under way to better understand what is driving the development of oil prices.

Governance of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB)

The IASB launched a public consultation on the issue of its own governance in May. The council will provide the European perspective and will prepare a European contribution to the public consultation on IASB. The UK supports the efforts to improve internal processes and governance within the IASB, principally through improving the oversight arrangements for the International Accounting Standards Committee Foundation (IASCF).

Financial markets: situation and implementation of the council road map

The Commission will present the state of play on the council road map agreed in the October 2007 ECOFIN council conclusions. This will cover the items for which the deadline was set at mid-2008. These items include credit rating agencies and the transparency of markets on the level of their losses and risks. Conclusions have been agreed in which member states look forward to further work on transparency and on credit rating agencies in the autumn.

EU: French Presidency

My honourable friend the Minister for Europe (Jim Murphy) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement:

I will today lay before the House the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Command Paper Prospects for the European Union in 2008: French Presidency. Copies will be placed in the Library of the House. Additional copies can also be obtained from the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office. A copy will also be available on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website at

The last White Paper was published in January 2008. It focused primarily on the priorities of the Slovenian presidency. The White Paper that I am laying before the House today looks at the priorities of the French presidency for the latter half of 2008.

The French presidency has set out a challenging agenda covering a wide range of areas, building on the positive successes of the Slovenian presidency. The presidency offers a significant opportunity to work closely together on a number of key issues.

On climate change and energy security, the presidency aims to reach agreement on the 2020 climate change package, the text of the internal market energy package and the strategic energy review. The presidency will continue work on tackling the challenge of food and oil prices and the credit crunch. These are key issues for the UK Government and ones that we will work hard with EU partners to reach agreement on. The presidency will also look to agree a way forward on the Lisbon treaty during the next six months.

In addition, the presidency will consider the way ahead on the Lisbon agenda for jobs and growth, within the context of increased economic uncertainty, climate change and competition from emerging economies. It will be important in this to focus on delivering reforms that help EU citizens to take advantage of the opportunities and meet the challenges presented by globalisation. We will work closely with the presidency to assist it in taking this forward, rooted in a Global Europe approach.

The EU will continue to work with international partners to address challenges such as those posed by Zimbabwe, Burma, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East peace process.