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Written Answers

Volume 576: debated on Sunday 18 February 1996

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Written Answers

Wednesday, 18th December 1996.

Afghanistan: Eu Arms Embargo

asked Her Majesty's Government:What will be the result of the recent adoption by the European Union of a Common Position on the supply of arms to Afghanistan.

At the UK's instigation and consistent with the UK's policy of supporting the UN's efforts to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, the EU adopted a Common Position on an arms embargo on Afghanistan on 17th December. The embargo prohibits the export to Afghanistan of all items listed in Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994 as amended—i.e. arms, munitions and military equipment. The embargo also covers contracts entered into prior to the adoption of the embargo. The EU will seek to align the countries associated with the EU with this Common Position and will also deploy efforts to encourage other countries to adopt a similar policy of restraint. Her Majesty's Government will continue to consider, on a case by case basis, all export licence applications. This will ensure that the export of goods intended for humanitarian operations is not prohibited.

Caribbean Dependent Territories

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have for their future constitutional relationship with the five remaining Caribbean Dependent Territories.

In the light of recent experience, we examined actual or potential problems in the five Caribbean Dependent Territories. Considerable improvements are being made in the administration of the territories and their good government. However, it has become clear that some extension of those powers which may be exercised by the Government may be needed. We will take this into account in our continuing discussions with each of the five governments concerned and make any changes if and when necessary. We attach importance to our continuing friendship and close co-operation with the territories in the interests of their well-being and future prosperity.

European Union: Six-Monthly Business Forecast

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union for January, and to list major EU events for the next six months.

Monthly forecast of business for January 1997

The following Councils are scheduled:

  • January 7th: Fisheries Council
  • January 20th: General Affairs Council
  • January 20th: Agriculture Council
  • January 21st: General Affairs Council
  • January 27th: Ecofin Council
  • January 31st: Transport Council (Informal)

The following subjects are likely to be discussed:

January 7th: Fisheries Council

This Council will only take place if the December Council fails to agree on the following item:

TACs and quotas.

January 20th/21st: General Affairs Council

Agenda not yet available.

January 20th/21st: Agriculture Council

Identification and registration of bovine animals (possible item).

Durum wheat (possible item).

Honey (possible item).

Flax (possible item).

BSE (possible item).

Veterinary and phytosanitary equivalence agreement (possible item).

January 27th: ECOFIN Council

Presentation of the Dutch Presidency

Programme/Work.

Programme of the Commission.

Structured dialogue with Ministers from the CEECs and the Baltics.

Follow-up to the Dublin European Council:

Preparation of Stage 3 of EMU;

Employment.

SEM 2000 (possible item).

Macrofinancial assistance to Ukraine (possible item).

Georgia, Armenia and Tadjikstan (possible item).

Renewal of EIB lending envelopes (possible item).

Taxation (possible item).

Appointment of EC Jury for coin competition (possible item).

Other Business:

Lunch: With Minister of Finance of the CEECs and the Baltics;

Coffee: Briefing on IGC.

January 31st: Transport Council (Informal)

No formal agenda.

European Calendar: December 1996–May 1997

This calendar is primarily concerned with European Union matters, but certain other relevant events are also

included. Events and dates quoted are based on the information available on the date of issue.

Date

Location

Event

January 1997

1stDutch Presidency begins
7thBrusselsFisheries Council
9th-10thThe HaguePolitical Committee
13th-17thStrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
20th-21stBrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
20th-21stBrusselsAgriculture Council
23rd-25thAmsterdamConference on Social Policy
27thBrusselsEcofin Council (tbc)
29th-30thBrusselsEuropean Parliament Plenary
30th-31stThe HagueOpening of "European Year Against Racism"
31stAmsterdamTransport Council (Informal)

February 1997

1stAmsterdamTransport Council (Informal)
1st-2ndThe HagueEconomic Affairs Council (Informal)
5th-6thNoordwijkJustice & Home Affairs Council (Informal)
6thBrusselsPolitical Committee
17thBrusselsPolitical Committee
17thBrusselsEcofin Council
17thQatarEU/GCC Conference
17th-18thBrusselsAgriculture Council
17th-21stStrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
24th-25thBrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
26thBrusselsEU/San Jos Conference
28thAmsterdamDevelopment Council (Informal)

March 1997

1st-2ndAmsterdamDevelopment Council (Informal)
3rdAmsterdamEducation Council (Informal)
3rd-4thBrusselsEnvironment Council
6thBrusselsTelecommunications Council
10thBrusselsInternal Market Council
10th-14thStrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
11th-12thBrusselsTransport Council
13thBrusselsPolitical Committee
14th-15thRotterdamSocial Affairs Council (Informal)
15th-16thApeldoornGymnich (Informal)
17thBrusselsEcofin Council
17th-19thBrusselsAgriculture Council
18th-19thBrusselsJustice & Home Affairs Council
24th-25thBrusselsGeneral Affairs Council
25thRomeInformal IGC Ministerial

April 1997

4th-6thNoordwijkEcofin Council (Informal)
6th-8thMaastrichtCulture Council (Informal)
7th-8thNoordwijkEU/Rio Group
7th-10thStrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
9th-11thThe HagueSocial Integration Conference
10thBrusselsPolitical Committee
10thLuxembourgConsumer Council
14th-15thLuxembourgFisheries Council
17thLuxembourgSocial Affairs Council
17th-18thMaastrichtMinisterial Conference on EC aid to African. Caribbean and Pacific Countries post-Lomé IV
18th-20thAmsterdamEnvironment Council (Informal)
21st-22ndThe NetherlandsPolitical Committee
21st-22ndLuxembourgAgriculture Council

Date

Location

Event

23rdBrusselsEuropean Parliament Plenary
24thLuxembourgIndustry Council
24th-25thLuxembourgACP/EU Ministerial Conference
25thBrusselsEuropean Parliament Plenary
29th-30thLuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council

May 1997

5thBrusselsGeneral Affairs Council (tbc)
6th-7thStrasbourgCouncil of Europe Ministerial
12thBrusselsEcofin Council
12th-13thBrusselsAgriculture Council
12th-13thParisWEU Ministerial
12th-16thStrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
14th-15thBrusselsResearch Council
15thBrusselsPolitical Committee
20thBrusselsInternal Market Council
22ndBrusselsPolitical Committee
25th-27thMiddelburgAgriculture Council (Informal)
26thBrusselsEnergy Council
27th-28thBrusselsJustice & Home Affairs Council
28th-29thBrusselsEuropean Parliament Plenary
29thBrusselsTelecommunications Council

June 1997

2nd-3rdLuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council
5thLuxembourgHealth Council
5thLuxembourgDevelopment Council
8th-10thNoordwijkEnvironmental Planning Conference
9thLuxembourgEcofin Council
9th-10thLuxembourgAgriculture Council
9th-13thStrasbourgEuropean Parliament Plenary
10thLuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council (tbc)
12thLuxembourgSocial Affairs Council
16th-17thAmsterdamEuropean Council
17th-18thLuxembourgTransport Council
19thBrusselsPolitical Committee
19thLuxembourgFisheries Council
23rdLuxembourgEcofin Council (tbc)
23rd-24thLuxembourgEnvironment Council
25th-26thBrusselsEuropean Parliament Plenary
26thLuxembourgEducation Council
30thLuxembourgGeneral Affairs Council
30thLuxembourgCulture Council

Privatisations: Market Stabilisation Operations

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are satisfied that share-price support operations or market stabilisation operations following privatisation issues do not create a "false market", and if so, what are the reasons for their view.

The stabilisation arrangements put in place in respect of government share sales are set out in the relevant prospectuses. Any stabilisation transactions have been carried out by the global co-ordinators of the share sales, in accordance with rules laid down by the Securities and Investments Board (SIB), under Section 48 of the Financial Services Act (FSA).

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have any details of share-price support operations or market stabilisation operations following the privatisation (or sale) of companies on the London Stock Exchange as part of the privatisation programme since inception, and, if so, which privatisations were they, and what was the number and cost of shares acquired in each case.

In line with developing market practice, the major government share sales since 1991, BT2, BT3, Genco2, Railtrack and British Energy have included provisions allowing the global co-ordinators to over-allot or effect transactions which stabilise or maintain the market price of the shares concerned. Details of the stabilisation arrangements are contained in the prospectuses issued in connection with these sales. Any stabilisation transactions are conducted by the global co-ordinators for the account of the managers.In the share sales where stabilisation has been present, part of the government shareholding in the company was not sold outright to the managers, but the managers were instead granted an option to acquire that part of the shares from the Government. The managers could, if they had purchased shares in the market stabilisation operation, use the stabilisation shares to satisfy their commitments to customers rather than buying the shares under option from the Government.The global co-ordinators announced that they had purchased all the relevant option shares from the Government in the case of BT3 (91.5 million shares) and Railtrack (65.2 million shares). In the other sales, the numbers of option shares purchased from the Government by the global co-ordinators were:BT2: 22.5 millionGenco2: 9.2 million National Power and6.1 million PowerGenBritish Energy: 80.9 millionIt is not market practice to publish the extent of over-allotment or the number and price of shares purchased in stabilisation operations.

Culture Council, 16Th December

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the Culture Council on 16th December 1996.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage
(Lord Inglewood)

EU Ministers of Culture met on 16th December 1996 in Brussels. Ministers agreed a resolution on the integration of cultural aspects into other Community actions. The purpose of this resolution is to give effect to article 128(4) of the Treaty on European Union.Ministers held an exchange of views on the proposal for a directive amending the Television Without Frontiers Directive and on the proposal to establish a European Guarantee Fund to promote cinema and television production. The council held an exchange of views on the development of new audiovisual services and adopted conclusions welcoming the European Commission's Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in the audiovisual and information services. Ministers held an exchange of views on the issue of violence in the media.Ministers noted that the conciliation process with the European Parliament on the Ariane and Raphael programmes would now be convened under the Dutch Presidency.An exchange of views was held on a number of further issues, including music, book pricing and the European Cities of Culture. Plovdiv was selected to host the Cultural Month 1999. Ministers also touched on the issues of cultural funding, authors' rights and cross-media ownership.

Uhf Relay Station Building Programme

asked Her Majesty's Government:What are the conclusions of the review of the UHF Television Relay Building Programme.

The announcement made on 16th April 1991 by the then Home Secretary, my right honourable friend the Member for Mole Valley (Kenneth Baker) (House of Commons, Official Report, column 131). explained that the Government had agreed with the BBC and Independent Television Commission that the programme of building 25 UHF relay stations a year to extend UHF television coverage would be maintained until 1996, when its further continuation would be reconsidered. We have now undertaken that consideration in close consultation with the Independent Television Commission and the BBC, who have jointly administered the relay building programme to date.We have decided, after careful consideration, in the knowledge that UHF television coverage now extends to 99.4 per cent. of the population, and in the light of plans for the introduction of digital terrestrial television, that the formal programme of building 25 relay stations a year should cease. The self-help television scheme, established by the Government in 1980 to assist those communities not eligible for assistance under the relay programme, will remain. The BBC and ITC will continue to give free technical advice to those seeking to establish such schemes in the future. In addition, the BBC and Independent Television Commission will continue to promote improvements in the quality and range of television transmission. They will provide free technical advice to the public on television reception and will in exceptional circumstances consider constructing new television relays to extend terrestrial services.

The Scarman Trust, Formerly Charter 88 Trust

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the previous name of the Scarman Trust, how and when the name was changed, and when the Charity Commission was notified of the change and the reason given for the change.

The Scarman Trust was formerly known as the Charter 88 Trust; its name was changed by a resolution of the trustees dated 29th January 1996. A copy of the resolution was sent to the Charity Commission and the register of charities was amended. A change of name is within the powers of the trustees. No reason needed to be given for this change, and none was given.

Charity Commission Investigations

asked Her Majesty's Government:(i) how many of the 303 cases being investigated by the Charity Commission at the end of October 1996 were as a result of complaints of abuse; (ii) how many were from the Commissioners' own monitoring programme and the scrutiny of charity accounts; and (iii) what were the ratios between the 194 being evaluated to establish whether there was a

prima facie cause for concern.

The breakdown of cases requested by the noble Lord is not available for those cases which were under investigation at the end of October. The sources of the cases currently under consideration are given in the table below:

External sourcesMonitoring and accounts scrutinyOther internal sources
Investigations2372924
Evaluations2183120

Charity Commission: Orders

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many orders have been made by the Charity Commission for (a) the removal and replacement of trustees; (b) the freezing of charity bank or building society accounts; and (c) for the production of documents and information for the years 1991 to 1996.

Details of orders made by the Charity Commission's Investigations Division between 1991 and 1996 are as follows:

YearOrders appointing trustees1Orders removing trustees1Orders freezing accounts2Orders or directions requiring information
1991161234not available
19929324not available
199323351145
199411034104
19953945130
1996 (to 12th December)89583286
1 Each order may include more than one trustee.
2 Each order may include more than one account.
3 Current estimate.

Horse Guards Road: Temporary Closure

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in view of the closure of the Horse Guards Road, they will take steps to open a temporary cycle lane through St. James's Park, to preserve the safety of cyclists who now, when travelling north/south or south/north have to negotiate either Hyde Park Corner or Trafalgar Square.

Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Colwyn from the Chief Executive, The Royal Parks, Mr. David Welch, dated 18th December 1996.

I have been asked by the Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage to reply to your parliamentary Question about opening a temporary cycle lane in St. James's Park while Horse Guards Road is closed.

I have given your suggestion careful consideration but I am afraid that it is not a practical proposition. We do not normally allow cyclists to cross St. James's Park because the paths, which are heavily used by pedestrians, are not wide enough to allow cyclists and pedestrians to mix safely. The same is true of the path parallel to Horse Guards Road, which is the main route for pedestrians while the road is closed. If cyclists wish to avoid the traffic on Whitehall, the may of course dismount and wheel their cycles across the Park or cycle via the Mall and Birdcage Walk, although that would certainly involve a long detour.

I am sorry that I cannot help further but major refurbishment of a large area like Horse Guards Parade, which involves road closures, will inevitably be disruptive. We try to keep the disruption to a minimum, but unfortunately we cannot guarantee that some park users will not be inconvenienced as a result. However, the work on Horse Guards Parade is due to finish in mid-February and the disruption will therefore be relatively short-term.

Commonhold Legislation

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Commonhold Bill will be brought before Parliament in accordance with the Conservative manifesto.

It had been hoped to introduce the Commonhold Bill during this Session, but the introduction of other measures of greater priority and the substantial amendment sought by Her Majesty's Opposition has resulted in there being insufficient time. The Government intend to bring the Bill forward as soon as a suitable opportunity occurs in a new Parliament.

Legal Aid: R V Kevin Maxwell & Others

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Answer given by the Lord Chancellor on 30th January 1995 (H.L. Deb., col

WA 101) whether it is now possible for them to give the full details concerning legal aid paid to barristers and solicitors in R v Maxwell Brothers, including how much was paid to each barrister and each solicitor.

Most of the final claims in this case are still being determined. It would therefore not be appropriate for me to provide a breakdown of the amounts paid to individual barristers and solicitor firms representing K. and I. Maxwell, L. Trachtenberg, R. Bunn, A. Fuller and M. Stoney, although I would be prepared to do so once the final bills have been paid. I can confirm, however, that £10.17 million has been paid to date from the legal aid fund to lawyers who acted in this case. That sum includes £7.25 million paid on account in respect of the Crown Court proceedings and £0.83 million paid in respect of the magistrates' courts proceedings.

Organophosphates: Enzyme Paraoxynase Research Proposal

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are aware of the research

The effect of the human serum paraoxynase polymorphism is reversed with diazoxon soman and sarin by Holly G. Davies et al and published in Nature Genetics, Volume 14, November 1996; and, if so, whether they are prepared to fund research into the evaluation of enzyme paraoxynase (PONI) status of farmers and Gulf War veterans who believe their ill health is caused by exposure to organophosphates.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
(Baroness Cumberlege)

We are aware of this research. Currently, the Government have no plans to fund research specifically into the evaluation of enzyme paraoxynase (PONI) status of farmers and Gulf War veterans. However, we are currently funding a number of research projects, including an epidemiological study costing approximately £0.5 million which is being undertaken at the Institute of Occupational Medicine in Edinburgh to investigate the effects of organophosphate sheep dips on sheep farmers and sheep farm workers; and, as recently announced, two studies on Gulf War-related health matters costing some £1.3 million.

Surrendered Handguns: Compensation Valuations

asked Her Majesty's Government:Who they propose will carry out valuations of firearms surrendered by certified holders if the Firearms (Amendment) Bill becomes law; andWhat rights of appeal will exist, and what the appeal procedures will be, for those firearms holders who dispute a valuation of a surrendered weapon under the provisions of the Firearms (Amendment) Bill.

The Government will draw up a set of values for the most popular makes of handgun in discussion with the British Shooting Sports Council and the Firearms Consultative Committee. People who surrender handguns under the terms of the Bill will be free to accept either a flat-rate payment, or a payment which is based upon these values.It will be open to claimants who have other makes of gun or who are dissatisfied with the payment offered to submit their own valuation. In cases which cannot be resolved by agreement, there will be access to independent expert valuation.

Asylum Seekers: Detentions

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many asylum seekers have been detained pending the determination of their applications each year during the past five years; andWhat have been the average periods of detention of asylum seekers during each of the past five years.

The information requested is available only at disproportionate costs.

Asylum Seekers: Access To Legal Advice

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether asylum seekers detained pending the determination of their applications have effective access to legal advice and speedy judicial review, and, if so, in what form.

All detainees held under immigration powers, including asylum-seekers, are able to seek legal advice. Posters explaining the role of organisations such as the Refugee Legal Centre and Immigration Advisory Service are prominently displayed. Legal representatives visiting detainees in Immigration Detention Centres are normally allowed access between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm every day of the year. In addition, detainees have access to telephones for both incoming and outgoing calls. It is open to any asylum seeker to seek judicial review of his or her case at any time.

Criminal Procedure And Investigations Act 1996: Code Of Practice

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to lay before Parliament the code of practice prepared under Part II of the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996, and when it will come into effect.

In view of the interest in the code of practice among criminal justice practitioners, my right honourable friend is laying it before Parliament today. This is to assist them in preparing for the implementation of Parts I and II of the Act next year.Before the code can take effect, Parliament must approve an order bringing it into operation. My right honourable friend will lay an order seeking approval before Parliament as soon as possible next year. He is not yet able to do so because the disclosure scheme in Part I, which the code supports, depends on a number of sets of rules of court. These are currently the subject of consultation with criminal justice practitioners, and it is too early to say exactly when they will be ready to be implemented.

Asylum And Immigration Appeals System: Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have any proposals for reviewing the system of asylum and immigration appeals.

My right honourable friend and my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor intend to review the current system of asylum and immigration appeals so as to establish, among other things, whether it provides adequate rights of appeal consistent with the costs to public funds and the impact upon the operation of the immigration control. They will publish their conclusions in due course as a basis for consultation with interested parties.

Bribery Of Members Of Parliament

asked Her Majesty's Government:What further consideration they have given the recommendation from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, in its first report, that the law relating to the bribery of Members of Parliament should be clarified.

My right honourable friend has today published a paper on this subject, and has placed copies in the Library. My right honourable friend the Lord President has also sent copies to the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges, and the House of Lords Committee for Privileges.

Criminal Cases Review Commission

asked Her Majesty's Government:When the Criminal Cases Review Commission will be established; if they will list the names of the people who will be appointed as members; and when the Commission will start work.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission will be established on 1st January 1997. Its members will be:

  • Sir Frederick Crawford (Chairman)
  • Miss Fiona King
  • Mr. Laurence Elks
  • Mr. David Kyle
  • Mr. John Leckey
  • Miss Jill Gort
  • Mr. Baden Skitt
  • Mr. John Knox
  • Dr. James MacKeith
  • Mr. Karamjit Singh
  • Professor Leonard Leigh
  • Mr. Edward Weiss
  • Mr. Anthony Foster
  • Mr. Barry Capon
The Commission will need a period of time to appoint and train its staff, and to develop its working methods, before it takes on its caseworking responsibilities. It will take on responsibility for considering cases on 31st March 1997.

Asylum Seekers: Fair Determination Of Applications

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the denial of social assistance to asylum seekers impairs the substance of their right of effective access to a fair determination of their applications.

No. All asylum claims continue to be considered fully in accordance with our international obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Veterinary Investigation Centre, Omagh

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in the light of the announced closure of the veterinary investigation centre at Omagh, Co. Tyrone, any report has been prepared on the comparative performance of the centres at Omagh and Stormont; if so, whether they will place a copy of the report in the Library; and whether they will defer the closure of the centre at Omagh until there has been further consultation within Northern Ireland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office
(Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

The Department of Agriculture Northern Ireland has not commissioned any report on the comparative performance of the Veterinary Investigation Centre at Omagh and Veterinary Science Division at Stormont. As part of a graduate training project a simple customer survey of veterinary practitioners was carried out, but as it was not part of the decision-making process it would not be appropriate to place this material in the House. It is not intended to change the decision to close the Veterinary Investigation Centre, Omagh.

Longer Term Road Schemes: Withdrawals

Official Report the list of longer term road schemes to be withdrawn included in Press Notice 357 of 26th November 1996 issued by the Department of Transport, showing in respect of each stage of preparation reached and the most recent estimate of cost.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport
(Viscount Goschen)

I am writing to my noble friend and will place a copy of my letter in the Library.

St Pancras Station

asked Her Majesty's Government:What decision has been reached about the future of the Grade One listed St. Pancras station.

The future of the station was considered earlier in the year by the Select Committee on the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Bill and was then extensively debated during the Committee and Third Reading stages of the Bill. St. Pancras will be refurbished as the terminus for the CTRL under powers contained in the Bill, and subject to Planning and Heritage Minimum Requirements and the provisions of a Heritage Deed. Ownership of both the trainshed and the adjacent Chambers—also covered by the Grade I listing—has been transferred to London and Continental Railways (LCR), who are responsible for building and operating the new railway. LCR have launched a competition to invite proposals for the future use of the Chambers.

London Underground Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:What were the costs for London Underground, for the last reporting year, of—

  • (a) day-to-day operations
  • (b) maintenance of trains and other assets
  • (c) replacement of life-expired assets
  • (d) new works
  • (e) management and head office
  • London Underground estimate that their costs during the financial year 1995-96 were as follows:

  • (a) £624 million
  • (b) £205 million
  • (c) £377 million
  • (d) £711 million
  • (e) £67 million
  • Amounts given at (b) and (e) also form part of the total figure at (a) above.

    Transport Council, 12Th And 13Th December

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the result of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 12th and 13th December.

    The Transport Council met in Brussels on 12th and 13th December. I represented the United Kingdom.The Council agreed a common position on the Commission's proposals for a directive on road passenger cabotage (replacing Directive 2454/92, which was annulled for technical reasons by the European Court of Justice). The UK indicated that it would vote against the text when formally adopted, because much of the original proposals for further liberalisation had been removed from the text. This was the only item on which the question of a vote arose.The Council also agreed a common position on a proposed amendment to Council Regulation 684/92, on further liberalisation of international bus and coach services.The Council held orientation debates on the Commission's White Paper on the future of the Community's railways, and on proposals for the introduction of new digital tachograph technology to replace the mechanical recording devices currently required for buses and lorries.The Council agreed conclusions endorsing the Commission's proposals to take forward negotiations on a land transport agreement with Switzerland. It also discussed proposals for a replacement to Directive 93/89 (also annulled by the European Court of Justice on technical grounds) on taxation and road user charges for heavy goods vehicles. It was agreed that this issue would be taken forward under the Netherlands Presidency of the EU in parallel with discussions on fuel excise duties.The Council held an orientation debate on air traffic management in the EU, and agreed conclusions noting the urgent need to adopt the new EUROCONTROL Convention. The Council agreed a common position on a proposed regulation increasing and harmonising the liability of Community air carriers in case of accident to passengers.The Commission reported to the Council on its negotiations on air transport relations with the United States, and gave a presentation on proposals for a mandate to negotiate Community membership of a new European Aviation Safety Authority.The Council reached political agreement on a proposed directive on safety standards for fishing vessels and on a proposed amendment to Directive 93/75 on reporting requirements for ships carrying dangerous or polluting goods.The Council agreed a resolution promoting a maritime strategy for the Community. The UK opposed two elements of the strategy (on employment-related operating subsidies, and on restrictive manning practices) which were therefore excluded from the resolution itself and were covered separately by Presidency conclusions supported by the Commission and the other delegations.The Council discussed the recent lorry blockades in France and Greece and the question of compensation.The Council discussed summer time, and received progress reports from the Commission on a number of other issues, which were not debated.

    Bull Bars

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What conclusions they have drawn from the Transport Research Laboratory's study of accidents involving bull bars.

    The Transport Research Laboratory published yesterday a study of accident data which suggests that the number of additional deaths and injuries caused by bull bars is significantly lower than had previously been assumed. Nevertheless, we cannot accept unnecessary deaths on the road, even if in single figures. We are still very much opposed to the fitting of aggressive bull bars and strongly support current European efforts to control their use. We shall also be studying the TRL report carefully to assess what further action is appropriate.A copy of the TRL study has been placed in the Library.

    Motor Vehicle Export Controls

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What are the present arrangements, if any, for applications to export motor vehicles, or their components, from the United Kingdom and for recording by the relevant British authorities of such exports when they take place.

    Where the export of motor vehicles and their components is controlled under the Export of Goods (Control) Order, or legislation relating to UN sanctions, a licence is required from the Department of Trade and Industry. Details of deliveries of equipment exported are not held by my department. Statistics of all exports are collated by the Tariff and Statistical Office of HM Customs and Excise.

    British Energy Plc Privatisation: Market Stabilisation

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the number and cost of shares acquired in the share-price support operation ("market stabilisation") following the privatisation of British Energy plc in July 1996.

    I refer the noble Lord to the answer given by my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish today.

    Plutonium Cargo: Container

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Answer given by the Baroness Miller of Hendon on 7th November (H.L. Deb., col.

    WA 72), whether the plutonium shipment in question was carried in a Type B container built to withstand a fall of 30 feet.

    The shipment of unirradiated fuel referred to in H.L. Deb., col. WA 72, was carried in a Type B container. Transport of unirradiated fuel is a well established and well regulated activity where safety is vested in the package and not the method of transport. Type B containers are designed and built to withstand serious accident conditions and are proved by a number of tests, including a fall from 30 feet on to an effectively unyielding target.

    Common Fisheries Policy Review Group Report: Response

    asked Her Majesty's Government:To respond to the report of the Common Fisheries Policy Review Group.

    The Government have carried out consultations on the report issued by the Common Fisheries Policy Review Group in July. The results of the consultation have been taken into account in preparing the government response, which is being placed in the Library today.We are very grateful to the members of the group for all the work that they put into preparing a thorough and wide-ranging document. The group's overall conclusion was that the common fisheries policy has failings but that UK withdrawal would not address the fundamental problems facing the fishing industry. Where changes are needed, the common fisheries policy should therefore be improved from within. The Government agree with this approach as representing the only practicable way forward.Forty specific recommendations are included in the group's report. The Government's response covers each of these in turn.

    Intervention Board Executive Agency: Corporate Plan

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to publish the Corporate Plan 1996-97 to 2000-01 for the Intervention Board Executive Agency.

    The Corporate Plan 1996-97 to 2000-01 has been published, and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

    Rendering Industry: Support Arrangements

    asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will decide on the final arrangements for financial support for the rendering industry in 1996-97.

    My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced in April that the Government would be providing temporary financial support to the rendering industry of up to £118 million this financial year. Since then we have made payments of about £59 million on account pending final decisions on the form of this support. We have met our objective of ensuring through this support that the essential links in the meat supply chain are maintained.

    My right honourable friend has now announced that the Government have finalised support arrangements for 1996-97. These take the form of a non-statutory scheme, and follow detailed consultation with representatives of the rendering industry. Copies of the scheme and the agreement which companies receiving support will have to sign are being placed in the Library of the House.

    As with the payments on account, support will be based on renderers' loss of income by comparison with 1995-96. However, support will be adjusted to take broad account of renderers' actual levels of throughput and costs this year. We have ensured in particular that the rendering industry does not receive support under this scheme in respect of material being processed under the Over Thirty Month Scheme. In devising the detailed arrangements we have sought to strike a fair balance between the interests of renderers and the taxpayer, and between different renderers.

    Any differences between payments on account and entitlement under the scheme will be made up through adjustments to payments under the scheme. Depending on the level of sales income and throughput in the remainder of the year, the final scheme is expected to cost the taxpayer in the region of £100 million to £110 million.

    As a condition of receiving support, rendering companies will continue to be required to maintain their prices and charges to their suppliers at the levels applying before 20th March 1996.

    In order to assist them in devising support arrangements for the rendering industry, the Government engaged the services of Coopers & Lybrand. Their report to the Government on the rendering industry will be published and copies will be placed in the Library of the House.

    We have announced that up to a further £59 million support to the disposal chain will be available in 1997-98 as slaughterers and renderers adjust to the changed value of animal by-products. We are now opening discussions with these industries about what form this support should take.

    Sheep Scab Control: Consultation

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the public consultation on control of sheep scab.

    We received a positive reaction to the proposals for new legislation to help farmers control the spread of sheep scab, which were issued for consultation in December 1995.Following comments, our original proposal making it a criminal offence to sell affected animals will be replaced with one making it a criminal offence to move affected animals, except to slaughter. In addition, we propose to make the provisions to deal with sheep scab on commons more flexible. We will proceed with our plans to make failure to treat affected sheep a criminal offence.We will now circulate our updated proposals, and invite further comments on the draft regulations which we are currently preparing. We expect the new legislation to come into effect in late spring or early summer 1997.

    Farm Woodland Premium Scheme

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What has been the outcome of the consultation on proposed changes to the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme and whether any conclusions have yet been reached on payment rates.

    A wide range of organisations were consulted on the proposed changes to the FWPS announced to Parliament on 24th July (Official Report, col. 624). Most organisations welcomed the proposed changes, though there were a number of different, often conflicting, views. In light of the consultation we will be making some minor modifications to our original proposals and a Statutory Instrument will be laid before Parliament early next year. Subject to approval by Parliament and the European Commission, it is intended that most of the proposals will be implemented with effect from 1st April 1997. A list of the changes is being placed in the Library of the House.The rates of payment to apply from 1st April 1996 will be as follows:

    FWPS £/hectare/yearFWS £/hectare/year
    Land eligible for Arable Area payments
    Outside of the Less300230
    Favoured Areas
    Disadvantaged Areas of the230180
    Less Favoured Areas (DA)
    Severely Disadvantaged160120
    Areas of the Less Favoured
    Areas (SDA)
    Other Cropped Land and Improved Grassland
    Outside of the Less260200
    Favoured Areas
    DA200160
    SDA140110
    Unimproved Land
    Less Favoured Areas6030

    Notes:

    Where land is to count against the farmer's set-aside obligation, the payment rate will be restricted to the set-aside rate.

    The FWS was closed to new applicants in 1992.