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27 Apr 1995 : Column WA85

Written Answers

Thursday, 27th April 1995.

Iraq: Hostages

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the allegations reported to them by the Committee for the Release of Hostages and Detainees in Iraq and what further steps if any they consider might be taken to ascertain the fate of the hostages and to press for their release.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We are unable to confirm or deny the claims in the report by the Committee for the Release of Hostages and Detainees in Iraq. However, we have sent copies of the report to Geneva to the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations Commission for Human Rights to seek their views.

Mr. Martin Blaiklock

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will state the circumstances in which Mr. Martin Blaiklock, formerly with Kleinwort Benson, was replaced by Mr. Alain Pillhoux as the official in the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development responsible for Energy Projects in Eastern Europe; and whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer was consulted prior to the change.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: I will write to the noble Lord.


Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received from Greenpeace the transcript of an interview with the director of the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine and, if so, what action they propose to take.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers): I can confirm that my department has received the transcript and that we have sent a reply to Greenpeace. The reply made clear the Government's wish to see the Chernobyl plant closed down as soon as practicable, within the framework of the G7 Action Plan for Ukraine's energy sector proposed at the Naples Summit. President Kuchma has now given a commitment to close Chernobyl by the year 2000. The Government will continue to work closely with our G7 and European Union partners on the measures and financial support needed to ensure that this important commitment is put into effect.

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IAEA: Budget

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking towards ending the freeze on the budget of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) so that the authority can have adequate resources to ensure that the commitments of treaty signatories are respected.

Earl Ferrers: The International Atomic Energy Agency's budget is approved by the General Conference on the recommendation of the Board of Governors (of which the United Kingdom is a member). The United Kingdom continues to argue for the provision of resources sufficient for the agency to discharge all its functions in a cost effective manner.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's budget has been subject to a zero real growth regime for a number of years. We believe that the discipline of zero real growth has served the agency well and encouraged efficiency and moves to more objective priority setting. We recognise, however, that circumstances change and that increased resources may be required to meet International Atomic Energy Agency commitments in the future. Her Majesty's Government are prepared to consider on merits any proposals that may be presented and will seek to ensure, through the Board of Governors, that their views are considered.

Marine Safety: Steering Committee Report

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider making available the Final Report of the National Marine Safety Steering Committee.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Copies of the report are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses and are also available from the Marine Safety Agency, Marine Information Centre, Spring Place, 105 Commercial Road, Southampton, SO15 1EG (Tel: 01703 329297).

European Legislative Proposals

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the state of negotiations (and in which Committees of the European Communities) which may have a bearing on the survival of: (a) the London double-decker bus; (b) the British midi-bus; (c) the British lettuce growing industry; (d) the Scottish whisky industry's trade in draff (used grain); (e) Britain's medium-sized and smaller slaughterhouses.

Viscount Goschen: Discussion of the proposed draft directive on bus and coach construction is continuing within the European Commission. A formal proposal is expected later this year.

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Commission working-group discussions on proposals to set limits for nitrate in lettuce are currently in abeyance while awaiting the opinion of the Scientific Committee for Food on the toxicology of nitrate and nitrite. The UK considers the proposals to be unnecessary, and we have consistently argued for their withdrawal.

There have been no meetings of the Council working group that is to consider the proposed directive on feed materials. None is anticipated under the French presidency. My noble friend will be aware from the reply to his parliamentary Question on 14 March that the Government are acutely aware of—and fully support—the Scotch whisky industry's concerns. UK officials will continue to seek an exemption for moist feeds when negotiations commence in the working group.

The December 1994 Council of Agriculture Ministers agreed in principle to a package of amendments to Directive 63/433/EEC on the production and marketing of fresh meat which would benefit small slaughterhouses. The European Parliament has now delivered its opinion, and we expect the amending directive to be considered at an early Council of Ministers.

Press Passes to Palace of Westminster

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked the Chairman of Committees:

    How many press passes were issued in respect of the Palace of Westminster and associated parliamentary buildings in (a) 1975, (b) 1985 and (c) 1995; and what was the total floor space allocated for press purposes in each of those years.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The figures for the House of Commons are understood to be 356 in 1975, 407 in 1985 and 489 today (House of Commons Debs, Written Answers, 29 March 1995, col. 651). Figures for the House of Lords alone are not available for 1975 or 1985, but the present figure is 19.

Total floor space allocated for media purposes in the Palace of Westminster is at present estimated to be 700 square metres (House of Commons Debs, Written Answers, 28 March 1995, col. 533). Of this, approximately one half is estimated to be allocated to the press (and the rest to the television and broadcasting companies). Figures for 1975 and 1985 are not available, nor are separate figures for the House of Lords.

Ordnance Survey Executive Agency Framework Document

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish a new Framework Document for the Ordnance Survey Executive Agency.

The Earl of Lindsay: The Framework Document for Ordnance Survey has been published today and copies have been placed in the Library.

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Viscount Mersey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the effect of Section 56 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is that the route of a footpath as shown on a definitive map, there being no indication of the route of the path in the statement, replaces the original route of the path over which the public formerly had a right of way.

The Earl of Lindsay: Under Section 56 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, definitive maps and statements are conclusive evidence of the rights they record. However, the recording of those rights is without prejudice to any others which might exist, and unrecorded rights are not extinguished merely through not being shown.

The procedures specified in the 1981 Act for reviewing definitive maps and statements recognise that errors may occur. If a surveying authority is presented with, or discovers evidence of such an error, it may need to make an order under Section 53, modifying the map and/or statement, to correct it.

Defence R & D

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of government funded research and development is militarily allocated, and whether this remains higher than in Germany and Japan.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): In 1992–93, the last year for which published figures are available, defence research development (R & D) accounted for 43 per cent. of the net UK government-funded R & D expenditure. However, around three-quarters of defence R & D expenditure is on development programmes carried out by industry as part of the equipment procurement programme. Defence research accounts for a little under 14 per cent. of UK government-funded research expenditure. Expenditure on research is expected to continue to diminish in real terms in future years. Equivalent figures for Germany and Japan are not available; however, figure 35 of the statistical supplement to Forward Look 1994 sets out comparisons of government R & D for civil and defence objectives as a percentage of GDP for those countries.

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