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The Minister of State, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): In May 2002 Alan Whitehead MP announced the creation of a task group to look into the future of the Fire Service College. The group has now reported, and I have arranged for copies of its report to be placed in the House Libraries today.
The task group concluded that there was a need for a central Fire Service training facility to serve as a centre of intellectual leadership for the Fire Service. It should take forward work on vocational development through the integrated personal development system, the civil contingency response arising from the events of September 11, and the modernisation agenda opened up by the Bain report. It recommended that a national workforce development/training strategy should be drawn up, which would define the role of the college in relation to other providers. It also recommended that there should be a long-term plan for improving the college's infrastructure and services.
I have accepted these and other recommendations of the report. I have agreed that the college should be given a £5 million grant to invest in its infrastructure this financial year, plus £2.5 million to invest in urban search and rescue facilities; and that it should actively examine ways of involving the private sector in its future development. This investment in the college should enable it to develop as a centre of excellence, and play a key role in the modernisation of the fire service.
Lord Rooker: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister will be writing shortly to key interested parties, including the noble Lord, setting out proposals for amending the definition of a qualifying park home in relation to eligibility for disabled facililties grant to include all occupiers of caravans.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: Alastair Campbell is the Director of Communications and Strategy at No. 10. He is appointed by the Prime Minister under terms and conditions set out in the Model Contract for Special Advisers. He is accountable to the Prime Minister.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The provisions of the World Trade Organisation do not apply to the British Overseas Territories, with the exception of Gibraltar, which is covered by the EC's membership to the extent that the EC Treaty applies to Gibraltar. Negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) are at an early stage and it remains unclear what, if any, implications the FTAA might have for the Overseas Territories. We will keep this under close review.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The British Government encourage Montserrat to play a full role in regional affairs, including through its membership of CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS). The British Overseas Territories require prior British Government approval, in the form of an entrustment, before undertaking international commitments. We hope to work together with the Government of Montserrat and the CARICOM Secretariat to assess the implications of Montserrat's full participation in the CARICOM single market and economy (CSME) and the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) for Montserrat and the United Kingdom. Her Majesty's Government have already issued several entrustments to the Government of Montserrat to sign various protocols pertaining to CSME, but further entrustments will be required for full participation. The Government of Montserrat have not yet requested entrustments in relation to the CCJ.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Nations Security Council has not formally considered the issue of Burma. However, we are in discussions with Security Council partners to help to bring this about. Should Burma feature on the Security Council agenda, the Government would ensure that the plight of Burma's ethnic minority groups was taken fully into account.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We are in discussions with partners in the Security Council to determine whether the Security Council can consider the issue of Burma. The Government are encouraging all the appropriate bodies of the UN to tackle the issue of helping to bring about national reconciliation, respect for human rights and democracy in Burma. Despite our efforts, there is currently no consensus for Security Council action for a global arms and investment embargo against Burma.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK is one of the strongest critics of the Burmese regime's violations of human rights. There has been a consistent pattern of serious violations over many years in Burma, particularly against ethnic minorities. These have been highlighted in UK co-sponsored resolutions on Burma in both the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. There is currently no international criminal tribunal with jurisdiction over Burma; and ultimately, it will be for the people of Burma to decide how they view this period of their history. The UK is against impunity for breaches of international law. That is why it is one of the strongest supporters of the International Criminal Court (ICC) which is able to try cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK has been at the forefront of international action to bring pressure to bear on the Burmese regime to improve the human rights situation and restore democracy. Our Ambassador and other UK Government representatives regularly raise a wide range of human rights abuses including those against ethnic minorities, in their contacts with senior regime figures. However, these contacts are limited in view of the current state of relations between the United Kingdom and the
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