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Packaging Waste (Pots)

Mr. Gibb: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if plastic plant pots are considered to be packaging for the purposes of the Producer Responsibility Obligation (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997. [157603]

Mr. Robert Ainsworth: A recent High Court ruling confirmed the interpretation of the Producer Responsibility Obligations (Packaging Waste) Regulations 1997 (as amended) that has been taken since the Regulations came into force in 1997. Where an empty plant pot is brought as a retail product, it is not packaging. Where a plant is bought in a pot and will be kept in the pot throughout its life, or where a pot is made of biodegradable material and will be planted in the garden with the plant, the pot is not regarded as packaging. However, where plants are bought in a plant pot or a seed or bedding tray and will be transplanted to the garden, such pots are packaging. This is because these pots are used to keep the plants in good condition throughout the sales process until replanting and contain the plants for the ease and convenience of the purchaser in handling and transporting them. As such, each pot constitutes a 'sales' unit at the time of purchase.

Transport Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the outcome was of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 4 and 5 April; what the Government's voting record was at the Council; and if he will make a statement. [157537]

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Mr. Hill: I represented the United Kingdom at the Council, which was held in Luxembourg.

The Council opened with a policy debate on the Commission's second package of maritime safety issues. The Presidency presented a questionnaire focusing on the three elements in the package: improved ship monitoring, an additional compensation fund mechanism in cases of oil pollution, and the creation of a European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The Commission hoped for common positions at the June Council. I stressed the importance of considering these proposals in the context of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and of existing member state competence, an approach shared by most member states present.

On Galileo, the Council adopted an approach that established milestones for future significant decisions about the launch of the development (December 2001) and the deployment (December 2003) phases. I was one of a number of Ministers to speak in support of this approach, which is intended to ensure that the project is based on sound financial management and private sector financing, as required by successive conclusions of the European Council. The decision milestones are necessary if Galileo is to deliver tangible benefits to the public and provide the taxpayer with good value for money. I also argued for more work to be carried out this year to meet UK and other member states' concerns about costs, management arrangements, the definition of the services and attracting private finance. This work will help the Council make an informed decision in December about the future of the project.

The Council agreed a Resolution setting out priorities for further progress in integrating environmental issues into transport policy. The Commission said it would follow up many of these priorities in the forthcoming Common Transport Policy White Paper.

There was a progress report and policy debate on the draft regulation establishing a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The Presidency sought views on the key issues of which aircraft should be covered, the mechanism for appointment of the Executive Director, and inspections of member states and investigations of undertakings. I joined others in expressing the views that only member state registered aircraft should be covered, that the Executive Director should be appointed by the Agency's Administrative Board, and that EASA should have the powers of inspection and investigation. The Presidency concluded that discussion should continue in the Working Group, aiming for a common position as soon as practicable.

The Council agreed Conclusions urging member states to be in a position to ratify the Montreal Convention on air carrier liability by 31 December 2002. The Council also agreed a Decision for Community ratification of the Convention, to be deposited simultaneously with those of the member states. The Presidency hoped that a decision on a revision of Regulation 2027/97 would be taken in June.

The Commissioner reported on her recent visit to the United States to discuss ways to limit aircraft noise in future. She felt the exchange had been useful and further technical meetings had since been arranged.

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The Commissioner also initiated a discussion on the state of the European airline industry, arguing that a Community mandate to negotiate with the US was a necessary precursor of airline consolidation.

The Presidency presented a framework for the Community to negotiate on aviation environmental issues, particularly aircraft noise, in the run-up to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) General Assembly in September. This framework was agreed unanimously.

Pending the First Reading of the European Parliament there was political agreement on the text of a Regulation requiring third country lorry drivers to carry a certificate of legal employment. The UK maintained a parliamentary scrutiny reserve.

Following a Commission presentation, the Presidency confirmed that the directive on professional driver training would be discussed at the June Council.

The Council debated a proposed amendment to the directive on weights and dimensions of heavy vehicles, requiring member states to accept the use of 15 metre buses. The Presidency presented a global compromise addressing delegations' outstanding concerns. At the end of the debate, the Presidency concluded that there was general political agreement, but that the text of a derogation for the UK (addressing our concerns at the out-swing of these vehicles) would be remitted to Coreper for further consideration.

The Council adopted Conclusions on the Commission's recent Recommendation on the maximum permitted blood alcohol level for drivers. The Conclusions underline the importance of progress on a range of drink drive measures including collaboration between member states.

The Council discussed a proposed amendment to the directive on compulsory use of safety belts and child restraint systems. The text under discussion attempted to solve outstanding concerns on the detailed requirements for young children to use adult seat belts in the absence of appropriate child restraints. A number of member states had concerns about the proposals. The UK was among those taking the view that it required further examination. The Presidency concluded that the Council could not reach agreement and remitted the text for further consideration at the technical level, hoping for a common position in June.

There was a progress report and policy debate on new proposals to update the procurement procedures for public transport services. The Commission hoped that the new regulations would be discussed in June.

There was a discussion over lunch of the draft directive on the harmonisation of weekend lorry bans. The Commission emphasised the importance of harmonising the periods during which member states may impose bans and stressed that the proposal applied only to new bans and to the transport Trans-European Network. Consultation would be required on the imposition of new bans. I joined a number of member states in supporting the proposal.

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The Commission noted the success of the Ecopoints system in managing lorry transits through Austria. It would be maintained only until 2003. The Commission undertook to issue a report soon about operation of the system.

No formal votes were taken at this Council.

Energy Efficiency Savings

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the time scale for achieving the 30 per cent. energy efficiency savings laid down in the House Energy Conservation Act 1995. [157539]

Mr. Meacher: The Home Energy Conservation Act 1995 requires designated energy conservation authorities to prepare a report setting out energy conservation measures that the authority considers practicable, cost- effective and likely to result in significant improvement in the energy efficiency of residential accommodation in its area.

In England, the Secretary of State for the Environment asked energy conservation authorities to prepare a strategy for making at least substantial progress towards a 30 per cent. improvement in energy efficiency over a 10-year period commencing 1 April 1996. Strategies were not expected to exceed 15 years. Similar arrangements apply in the devolved Administrations.

I have placed in the Library information on improvements reported by each local authority in England from 1 April 1996 to 21 March 2000 (the latest data available).


Sandra Gidley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when resurfacing of junctions 2 to 4 of the M27 motorway will commence; and if he will make a statement. [157966]

Mr. Hill: Resurfacing of the M27 between junctions 2 and 4 is programmed to start in late autumn 2001, subject to funds being available.

Bus Services

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many bus services were operated from Tadcaster (a) in May 1997 and (b) on the most recent date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [157961]

Mr. Hill: The total number of bus departures from Tadcaster bus station on an average weekday were 85 in May 1997 and 100 in April 2001.

Mr. Grogan: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many buses were operated from Selby (a) in May 1997 and (b) on the most recent date for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [157960]

Mr. Hill: The total number of bus departures from Selby bus station on an average weekday were 190 in May 1997 and 214 in April 2001.

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