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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
21 October 2016
Volume 615

Written Statements

Friday 21 October 2016

Defence

Successor Submarines

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I am pleased to announce that the next generation of nuclear-armed submarines will be known as the Dreadnought class, and that the first is to be named HMS Dreadnought. Construction of the first submarine formally began on 5 October 2016.

Dreadnought is a name with an excellent historical pedigree, traditionally used for powerful and innovative ships and submarines at the leading edge of technology and is a fitting name both for the class and the first submarine of that class. There have been nine Royal Navy vessels of the name, the most recent being Britain’s first nuclear-powered submarine, launched on this day, Trafalgar Day, in 1960 following her build at Barrow. The new Dreadnought submarines continue Barrow’s long association with submarine construction.

These submarines, the first of which we expect to enter service in the early 2030s, will replace the current Vanguard class submarines as the ultimate guarantee of our nation’s safety.

[HCWS206]

Health

Health Informal Council

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My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) has made the following written statement:

An Informal Health Council meeting was held in Bratislava on 3-4 October 2016 as part of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs (EPSCO) Council formation. Lord Prior, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, represented the UK.

Food reformulation

During a discussion about food reformulation, the UK updated Ministers on the introduction of a sugar levy on soft drinks and the importance of looking at how to best inform the population on links between sugar and obesity. The UK outlined key parts of the UK childhood obesity and talked about the importance of focusing on children, and influencing behaviour at an early age. The UK also stated commitment to working with others to tackle different issues whilst taking forward an exit from the EU.

Medicine Shortages

There was widespread agreement amongst Ministers on the importance of working together and sharing information to tackle medicine shortages. There was recognition that shortages occur for a wide variety of reasons and that there is no one solution. The UK explained that there was fragmentation within national systems and expressed caution on whether an EU wide solution to these problems was practically possible. The UK expressed recognition of member states’ concerns about pricing, but stressed the importance of a vibrant life-science sector. The UK also underlined anti-microbial resistance (AMR) as an area where action was needed to ensure the development of new drugs.

Tuberculosis

There was support from member states for an EU framework on tuberculosis (TB) which would also include hepatitis B and C and HIV given the significant overlap between the conditions. There was also agreement on the need to share information, to work with the eastern neighbourhood and support for a civil society forum. Current work was outlined, including the EU joint action on TB, the European Commission contribution to the Global Fund and the World Health Organisation (WHO) TB action plan. The UK updated the meeting on the new UK national strategy on TB, which takes a multi-sectoral approach and complements the WHO strategy. The UK also highlighted links with AMR.

Vaccination

During a discussion about how to increase vaccine uptake across the EU, the UK highlighted work undertaken to increase vaccine coverage in the UK — including through action on shortages, communication campaigns and through forecasting and planning. The UK supported further international work on the issue and, with other 4, agreed on the importance of sharing information. The UK also mentioned links between increased vaccine uptake and tackling AMR.

AOB

The Czech Republic invited Ministers to a joint ministerial meeting on health and the environment in Ostrava on 13-15 June 2017. There was also an item about European Commission work on patient safety.

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Home Department

Justice and Home Affairs Council

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The first formal Justice and Home Affairs Council of the Slovak presidency took place on 13 and 14 October in Luxembourg. The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service, my right hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), attended justice day and I attended interior day. My right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, also attended the Council.

Interior day (13 October) began with an update from the presidency on the implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency regulation. The agency was launched on 6 October. The UK does not participate in this measure.

The Council then discussed IT measures related to border management. The presidency encouraged member states to stress to their MEPs the importance of agreeing the regulation on systematic border checks quickly due to the ongoing risk from foreign fighters. The presidency also highlighted the entry-exit system (EES) as an important security measure and announced that a proposal on the new EU travel information and authorisation system (ETIAS) would be published by the Commission in late October. The Commission noted that a proposal revising the second generation Schengen information system (SIS II) would be published before the end of this year. The UK will not participate in systematic checks, ETIAS or EES as they are Schengen- building measures. The UK participates in SIS II.

The Commission provided an update on the implementation of agreed migration measures, including hotspots, reception conditions, asylum processing and returns. I reiterated the UK’s commitment to supporting efforts to address the migration crisis and increase security across the EU, with a particular focus on upstream migration and the effectiveness of returns.

Over lunch, Ministers discussed developing partnership frameworks with third countries to manage migration to the EU, and issues relating to temporary internal Schengen borders.

The Council then turned to the reform of the common European asylum system (CEAS) and the resettlement framework. The presidency outlined its proposed approach, which would focus on the Eurodac and EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) proposals in particular. The Council agreed that the current Eurodac proposal should aim to simplify law enforcement access to Eurodac. The UK supports this approach.

Under any other business, there were updates on a Belgian project on returns (EURES CRIM), and from the presidency on the ministerial conference of the Prague process held on 19 and 20 September in Bratislava.

Justice day (14 October) started with a discussion on the protection of the Union’s financial interests directive (PIF), specifically the inclusion of VAT fraud in the directive. The presidency concluded that the majority of member states supported the inclusion of certain serious cross-border VAT fraud in the PIF directive. The UK does not participate in PIF.

The Commission presented a cost-benefit analysis of the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), concluding that the benefits would significantly outweigh the costs. The presidency concluded that there was “broad conceptual support” for the four provisions under discussion: relationship with Eurojust; judicial review; relations with third countries; and relations with non-participating member states. The presidency aims to reach agreement on the Council position on EPPO at the December JHA Council. The UK will not participate in the EPPO.

At lunch, the presidency led a discussion on the role of Eurojust in combating terrorism, with a focus on data sharing.

Under any other business, the presidency updated Ministers on current legislative proposals and the Commission presented a note on hate crime in the EU. The Policing Minister supported the Commission’s message that hate crime has no place in our society and set out UK measures to combat hate crime.

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