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Written Statements

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Afghanistan: Air Support

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces (Bob Ainsworth) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Defence’s Statement on 16 June 2008 (Official Report col. 677-678) referred to the decision to withdraw the Harrier force and replace it with an equivalent force of Tornado GR4s by spring 2009 to Kandahar airfield. Delays in construction of the necessary supporting infrastructure and our current estimate of the time required to complete the Tornado urgent operational requirement (UOR) enhancements mean that the Tornado GR4s will now deploy in summer 2009. We expect delivery of the UORs in advance of completion of the infrastructure project and will keep both programmes under constant review to ensure completion as quickly as possible. In the interim, joint force Harrier will continue to contribute to the provision of close air support to UK and Allied Forces in southern Afghanistan; 1 (Fighter) Squadron will therefore replace IV (Army Co-operation) Squadron in mid-April.

Courts: Young Witnesses

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Maria Eagle) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today the Government have issued their response to the consultation Improving the Criminal Trial Process for Young Witnesses.

A copy of the full consultation response will be available in the Libraries of both Houses and will be downloadable from www.justice.gov.uk/publications/consultations-with-response.htm.

EU: Justice and Home Affairs Council

Statement

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): The Justice and Home Affairs Council is due to be held on 26 and 27 February 2009 in Brussels. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary (Jacqui Smith), the Scottish Solicitor General (Frank Mulholland) and I, intend to attend on behalf of the United Kingdom. As the provisional agenda stands, the following items will be discussed.

During the mixed committee with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein, Ministers will be asked to adopt council conclusions on the second generation of the Schengen information system. These reflect discussions at the informal Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) Council in January on action required

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in light of an analysis which identified problems with the central system. The conclusions set a direction for the central SISII project, and include a set of criteria against which the SISII-based scenario and the alternative scenario, based on a SIS I platform, will be assessed. They call for a decision regarding the future of the project to be taken by June 2009 at the latest.

The presidency will present to the mixed committee the current state of play on the implementation of regulation establishing the visa information system (VIS). The UK does not participate in the VIS. The presidency will also report on the outcome of the Swiss air borders evaluation which took place on 9 to 13 February. Provided that the air borders evaluation does not throw up any shortcomings and is fully compliant with the Schengen acquis, Switzerland will be able to abolish checks on persons at its air borders on 29 March 2009.

The council will then exchange initial views on a new proposal from the Commission for a regulation establishing a European asylum support office. The aim of the office will be to co-ordinate practical co-operation on asylum between member states. The UK will have three months to decide whether to opt-in to this proposal.

The presidency will present the recent report by the Commission on the implementation of the Free Movement Directive (2004/38/EC) by all member states. The UK strongly supports correct implementation of free movement rights and also welcomes the Commission’s undertaking to provide effective guidelines on abuse of free movement.

The council will discuss key issues around combating illegal immigration in the Mediterranean. This arises out of migration pact discussions. Four countries are calling for greater EU support in managing illegal migration flows through this region. The Government recognise the significance of these flows and support strong EU co-operation on this issue.

The council will discuss the situation of Iraqi refugees informed by council conclusions agreed on 27 and 28 November. The UK has already committed to resettling 1,000 Iraqi refugees during 2008-10 (financial years) and does not have capacity to include additional spaces. This has been communicated to the council. The UK will encourage other EU member states to set up their own resettlement programmes and will offer technical support based on our longstanding experience.

The council will have a discussion over lunch on the appointment of the new Europol director. The United Kingdom will push for adoption of the unanimous recommendation of the Europol Management Board that the UK candidate was the most suitable for appointment.

The presidency will seek a steer from the council on various aspects of the proposed framework decision in conflicts of jurisdiction in criminal matters. The proposal sets out a mechanism at Union level to prevent potential conflicts of jurisdiction in criminal proceedings and determine the most appropriate jurisdiction in cases where more than one member state could potentially exercise jurisdiction over the same case.



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The presidency will ask the council to adopt a negotiating mandate for a mutual legal assistance agreement between the EU and Japan. The Government are happy with the mandate in its current format. A key priority for the UK is to ensure the inclusion of videoconferencing to give testimony.

The presidency will update the council about the implementation of the European e-justice action plan, which was approved by the council in November 2008. The Government welcome the presidency’s commitment to the e-justice action plan and support the development of a more detailed roadmap to ensure proper implementation of projects such as the e-justice portal and videoconferencing.

Under any other business, the council will discuss any potential role of the EU in the closure of Guantanamo while the Commission will present an outline of a report by Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière on the processing of member states’ personal data by the US (Treasury Department) for counterterrorism purposes. The council will also have a discussion on the EU anti-drug policy, originally planned for the informal JHA Council in January. This will enable the UK to emphasise the continued necessity of EU action in tackling cocaine trafficking through West Africa. Greece is expected to highlight the third Global Forum on Migration and Development taking place in early November in Athens. The chosen overall theme is integrating migration policies in development strategies for the benefit of all. The UK is (as in previous years) a member of the Steering Group for the Athens Forum and will in that capacity help oversee and shape preparations.

The presidency is expected to inform the council on the state of play of the negotiations with the European Parliament on the proposal for an amending directive on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringements. The UK supports the directive and is keen to see a successful passage in the European Parliament. Germany will provide information on the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea based in Hamburg. Finally, Sweden is expected to raise the issue of transparency as a tool for strengthening citizens’ trust in the European institutions.

Regional Development Agencies

Statement

The Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Davies of Abersoch): My right honourable friend Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs (Pat McFadden) has made the following Statement.

I have decided to appoint the new RDA board chairs listed below.

Sir Roy McNulty—Advantage West Midlands (AWM); andSir Harry Studholme—South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA).

Sir Roy McNulty will commence as chair designate, to ensure continuity from 1May 2009 and take up post as chair from 1September 2009.



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Sir Harry Studholme will commence as chair designate, to ensure continuity from 31March 2009 and take up post as chair from 6July 2009.

The new appointments will be initially until 13 December 2012.

The appointments have been made in accordance with the Commissioner for Public Appointments code of practice.

I have placed further details of the appointments in the Libraries of both Houses. They were all made in accordance with the code of practice of the Commissioner for Public Appointments.

Sport: Funding

Statement

Lord Davies of Oldham: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

I am pleased to be able to announce to the House the creation of a unique fundraising partnership for elite sport. The partnership brings together, for the first time ever, UK Sport, the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association to raise funds for elite sport, along with the London Organising Committee of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). All the partners have today agreed a formal heads of agreement to pool their collective rights to help raise additional funds for elite sport in the run-up to London 2012 and beyond. This follows on from the challenge I set UK Sport last December to put in place a new partnership within government to develop our private fundraising effort.

Building on our Medal Hopes scheme, the partners have assembled an enhanced package of rights for sale as an official LOCOG activation programme. This will offer sponsors rights to branding, access and events surrounding our Olympic and Paralympic sports. The scheme will allow businesses to be associated with the success of all Olympic athletes, and all Olympic sports, through the UK Sport’s World Class Performance Programme—rights that no other sponsorship deal can deliver. This is why I believe, despite the challenging current economic conditions, the scheme has great potential for success. There will also be opportunities for regional and local companies, and individual patrons, to get involved in supporting our athletes.

In the 2006 Budget Statement, the Government announced a £600 million package for the remaining three years of the Beijing cycle and for the London cycle, comprising £200 million of Exchequer funding matched by £100 million of private sector investment, and supported by £300 million of lottery investment.

Last December, I announced a record public sector funding settlement when I allocated a total of £550 million of public funds—an additional £50 million—to UK Sport to fund its elite programme. This consisted of additional Exchequer funding of £29 million to UK Sport over the four years to 2012; plus a projected uplift in lottery income of £21 million.



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This meant that for the London cycle, the elite sport system will receive £304 million, the highest level of public funding ever made available over a four-year Olympic/Paralympic cycle. UK Sport confirmed that this funding package enabled it to set a target to attain a place in the top four in the Olympic Games, and second place in the Paralympic Games in 2012—aiming to win more medals in more sports than in Beijing.

I was clear that this new funding was the limit of public investment in elite sport, with any further funding having to come from our private fundraising initiative. Since last summer, we have been working with Fast Track Ltd and UK Sport in developing the Medal Hopes sponsorship package and this will now be subsumed within the new wider fundraising scheme.



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However, my aim has not only been to keep the full fundraising ambition in play but also to establish a commercial funding structure to continue raising funds for elite sport beyond 2012. Funding has moved from lottery money for Sydney and Athens, to Exchequer and lottery money for Beijing, and now Exchequer, lottery and private money for London. I consider this mixed-economy funding for elite sport to be the right long-term approach.

The creation of a unique fundraising partnership involving the wider Olympic family and the establishment of a third funding stream from the private sector will form a permanent legacy of the London Games. Both these measures, along with the record amount of public funding I have secured, leaves elite sport with the best possible opportunity for a secure and successful future.


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