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Michael Fallon - Ministry of Defence

The UKs Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities and equipping our Special Forces are two high priority issues for the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

We have reached some early decisions in these two key areas. We will more than double the number of Remotely Piloted Air Systems in the RAFs fleet, as we start to replace the 10 current Reapers with over 20 of the very latest air vehicles. We will also provide our special forces with new specialist weapons and clothing, as part of a programme to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of technology.

The first RAF Reapers were deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, and are now flying vital missions over Iraq and Syria. We want to expand our capability as this area of technology rapidly develops, so we will start to introduce the new Protector aircraft. With its greater range and endurance, it will significantly increase our ability to identify, track, deter, and ultimately counter potential threats. Previously known as the Scavenger programme, Protector will substantially enhance the UKs global Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance capability.

The new Special Forces equipment package will ensure we maintain clear operational advantage over adversaries, and enhance their ability to work with our key Allies.

This investment will enable us to address sophisticated dangers both at home and abroad, and is only possible because this Government has committed to increase Defence spending, meeting the NATO investment pledge and spending 2% of GDP on defence for the rest of this decade.


Mr David Lidington - Foreign and Commonwealth Office

I attended the informal Foreign Ministers meeting on 45 September in Luxembourg.

The informal format of the Gymnich allows EU Foreign Ministers to engage in a free-ranging discussion on a number of issues. In contrast to the formal Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), Ministers do not agree written Conclusions. The next FAC is due to be held on 12 October. The Gymnich was chaired by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini. Discussion centred on the Middle East Peace Process, Russia/Eastern Partnership and the migration crisis. As the discussion on migration overran significantly, Ms. Mogherini decided to postpone the final discussion on Iran.

Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations also attended. Fernando Gentilini, EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process, took part in the discussion on the Middle East Peace Process. Elmar Brok MEP, Chairman of the European Parliaments Committee on Foreign Affairs attended the discussion on Russia/Eastern Partnership. Foreign Ministers from EU Candidate Countries joined EU Ministers for a session on migration.

Gymnich discussion

Middle East Peace Process

Ms. Mogherini used her opening remarks at the Gymnich to announce a meeting of the Quartet with key Arab countries in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. Her statement can be found at:

http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2015/150904_01_en.htm

Ms. Mogherini provided a sobering analysis of the situation on the ground including the fact that the humanitarian situation in Gaza remained dire.

I agreed with Ms. Mogherini's priorities for Gaza (access and port) and added power supply as a third priority. I also echoed other speakers in calling for the implementation of existing EU legislation applicable to settlement products.

Russia / Eastern Partners

There was general agreement that Ukraine needed continued EU support as the winter approached both in terms of security and continued reform. There was universal condemnation of Russias role in eastern Ukraine. There was however recognition of the constructive role Russia can play in international security issues, as it did in the Iran nuclear talks.

Ms. Mogherini recalled that the Eastern Partnership was not just about Ukraine and highlighted the differentiated engagement needed with Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Migration

The external aspects of the migration crisis were discussed in detail. The common view among Member States was that this was the single biggest challenge facing the Union. There was recognition of the heavy burden currently being carried by some of the candidate countries, in particular Turkey. It was agreed that more work was needed on readmissions and returns. There was broad support for setting up hotspots, both inside and outside EU territory, to bring together EU institutions involved to deliver an integrated service in managing migrants.

A number of Ministers pointed to the need to address the factors prompting migrants to leave their homes, and increase the incentives for them to stay close to their source countries. We also needed to address the people-smuggling networks. Otherwise, there was a risk that the flow of migrants and refugees into the EU would increase to unmanageable levels. The Valletta Conference in November would provide an opportunity to develop such a strategy with African partners. There was discussion of a second possible international conference focusing on the Eastern Mediterranean/Western Balkans route.

Ms. Mogherini concluded that all aspects of a comprehensive migration strategy needed to be pursued.


Michael Fallon - Ministry of Defence

Further to my statement to the House on 25 February (Official Report, column 321) and my written statement of 6 March this year (Official Report, column 83), I wish to update the House on our support for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The February ceasefire agreement, which came into effect at the beginning of September, has seen a reduction in violence in much of the conflict zone. We very much hope that this will bring an end to the fighting and generate substantial progress with the other measures agreed at Minsk.

This Government is committed to supporting Ukraines sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. As a result of their prolonged engagement in this crisis, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have faced a serious shortage of training and basic equipment and have requested help. The Ukrainians value highly the UKs support to training their personnel through Operation ORBITAL, welcoming our flexibility and responsiveness to their requests for assistance, and highlighting that our training has made a tangible difference on the ground to their capability.

So far this year the Armed Forces have deployed 19 teams to train nearly 1,600 members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Over 2,000 troops will have been trained by April 2016. Given the continued importance of our support in developing the resilience of Ukraines Armed Forces I have agreed that the UK should extend our training into the next financial year, with the continued deployment of short term training teams to deliver training to meet the Ukrainian Armed Forces requirements.

For the financial year 2016-17 this will see an increase from the current 75 personnel, announced last February, to around 100 deployed to Ukraine at any one time. This uplift will ensure we have sufficient flexibility to meet evolving Ukrainian requests without unnecessarily constraining activity. The UK coordinates our training support with Allies: from November there will be a UK liaison officer in the new US-led Joint Multinational Training Group based in western Ukraine. In addition to Operation ORBITAL activity, the UK will continue with its wider support to institutional capacity building and defence reform in Ukraine.


Penny Mordaunt - Ministry of Defence

Changes made by the Defence Reform Act 2014 allow for Reservists to be called out under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 if it appears to the Secretary of State that it is necessary or desirable to use members of a reserve force for any purpose for which members of the regular services may be used. Reservists called out under this power may be required to serve for a period of up to twelve months.

With the expiry of the orders made on 1 October 2014, on 21 September 2015 I made four new call-out orders under section 56(1B) of the Reserve Forces Act 1996 to continue to allow Reservists to be called into permanent service to support Defence Engagement activities (for example the provision of short term training teams and military capacity building overseas); Global Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Piracy; the operation of our Permanent Joint Operating Bases (PJOBs) in the South Atlantic Islands, British Indian Ocean Territory, Cyprus and Gibraltar; and Maritime Security objectives.

Under the orders made on 1 October 2014, 280 Reservists have been called out (193 for Defence Engagement, 66 for Global Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Piracy, 10 for Maritime Security Operations and 11 for the operation of PJOBs). We anticipate a continued requirement for Reservists, with the right skills and experience, over the period the new orders will be in force.

For operations that fall outside the scope of these orders, for example Military Aid to the Civil Authorities, or warfighting, or for operations which are likely to involve a large number of Reservists, I would expect to make separate call-out orders.

These orders take effect from 30 September 2015 and cease to have effect on 29 September 2016.

 


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