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Mr Edward Vaizey - Department for Culture, Media and Sport

The Telecommunications Council will take place in Brussels on 11th December 2015. The UKs Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU, Shan Morgan, will represent the UK. Below are the agenda items and the positions we intend to adopt.

The first item is a progress report from the Presidency on state of play on the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on the accessibility to public sector bodies' web-sites (First reading - EM16006/11). We do not expect a debate on this item. However, if there is a debate, the intervention will outline the UKs support for this Directive in general, but state our concerns about the European Parliaments and some Member States desire to increase the scope of the Directive beyond the Commissions stated aims of creating a harmonised minimum EU standard.

The second item is a report from the Presidency on the state of play on the negotiation in Trilogues of the Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning measures to ensure a high level of network and information security across the Union (this is sometimes referred to as the cyber security Directive - first reading EM6342/13). We do not expect a debate on this item.

These items will be followed by a debate on the review of the European Electronic Communications Framework. The Frameworks aim is to harmonise the regulation of electronic communications services across all EU Member States. The UKs intervention will say that the UK places high priority on access to high-quality fixed and mobile connectivity for consumers and business; and the framework must also continue to encourage competition as the main driver for private investment in infrastructure, but the limits of competition need to be understood.

We will also advocate a principled proportionate approach to ensuring consumers are protected from harm when using communications services. This is important to avoid stifling innovation and unnecessary regulatory burdens. We will also outline the UK priorities for the framework review, including investment and competition, innovation and consumer protection; and to note that it is also important that we work together to conclude the review as soon as possible and ensure coherency with the other Digital Single Market work strands.

This will be followed by two items under AOB led by the Commission, the first being information from the Commission on current Internet Governance issues and the second an update on the telecommunication and ICT aspects of the negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). We do not intend to intervene on either of these items.

Finally, the Dutch delegation will inform the Council of their priorities for their forthcoming Presidency before Council adjourns until the next meeting in May 2016.

Mr Desmond Swayne - Department for International Development

My Noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development (Baroness Verma) has today made the following statement:

I am pleased to take this opportunity to update the House on my plans following my appointment as Ministerial Champion for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Overseas.

It is an honour to be appointed to this position. I have been personally committed to tackling violence against women and girls for a long time and given my role as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for International Development (DFID), I have identified some significant opportunities for pushing forwards this agenda.

I have chosen to issue this Statement today because the 10 December marks the end of the formal 16 days of activism that the UN leads, to address the human rights abuse that is violence against women and girls. It also formally marks the beginning of an even more concerted effort from myself to lead work to tackle this issue.

Violence against women and girls is a systematic, widespread human rights violation, faced by 1 in 3 women worldwide in their lifetime. Tackling violence is essential: to women and girls, their families and communities. It is critical to sustained poverty reduction and the achievement of the new Global Goals. Furthermore, it is a top priority for the UK Government and DFID.

The 25 November marked the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls, followed by 16 days of activism that culminate today, on International Human Rights Day. Ministers across the UK Government, myself included, have done a number of things to mark this period, including pushing for change through a number of events. On 25 November, I spoke at a Parliamentary panel discussion hosted by ActionAid UK, outlining the importance of empowering womens organisations in order to tackle violence against women and girls. I was delighted to see such a large and engaged audience at this event, reflecting the huge strides we have taken in raising awareness of violence against women and girls. We heard first-hand accounts from women who have experienced and witnessed such violence. I was proud to share the important work that DFID and the UK have done to empower and protect women and girls in these situations.

I have been championing the White Ribbon Campaign within DFID during the 16 days of activism, an international campaign that mobilises men to stand up to violence against women and girls. I have spread the message in DFID and on social media, shown solidary for this by wearing a white ribbon, and encouraged pledging to never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women and girls. I encourage parliamentarians to do the same. You can do so here:

This period of focused activities provides a strong foundation from which to begin my role as Ministerial Champion and I have every intention to build on the momentum that we have created here in the UK and across the world.

Looking forward, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my new objectives for the Ministerial Champion role, which build on the work done by my predecessors. My objectives are:

  1. Securing and defending the rights of women and girls to live free from violence, through international frameworks;
  2. Further linking and ensuring policy coherence across the entire UK efforts to end violence against women and girls overseas;
  3. Forging strategic partnerships and influencing the international system to increase financial, political and technical commitment for tackling all forms of violence against women and girls in all contexts;
  4. Leading step change in galvanising the use of evidence of what we know works to prevent violence against women and girls;
  5. Eliminating FGM and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation;
  6. Driving forward a new and significant push on all forms of Domestic and Intimate Partner Violence as a policy and programme priority for the international community;
  7. Stepping up global leadership on tackling violence and abuse against adolescent girls overseas.

I look forward to driving forward work on this agenda, and working with Ministers and parliamentarians to achieve our ambitious, but ultimately achievable goal of eradicating violence against women and girls for good.


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