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Written Answers

Wednesday, 21st June 1995.

Foreign Affairs Council

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council.

Lord Inglewood: The 'A' points listed in document 7775/95, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House, were adopted unanimously.

The Commission was mandated to conclude the negotiations with Israel on a new agreement and report to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER).

The Council approved the initialling of a Europe Agreement with Slovenia.

On Former Yugoslavia, the Council expressed appreciation for the contribution of Lord Owen and welcomed his successor, Mr. Bildt. Agreement was given to open negotiations with Croatia for a Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

The Presidency concluded that the situation in Chechnya did not yet allow the EU to proceed with signature of the Interim Agreement with Russia. But the Council agreed to keep the question under review, and to prepare to sign the agreement as soon as possible.

The Presidency outlined subjects for discussion at the European Council at Cannes.

The Council agreed to the disbursement of the first tranche (200 million ecu) of a balance of payments loan to the Ukraine.

The Council agreed that negotiations should be opened for Partnership and Co-operation agreements with the countries of the Transcaucasus, and to open exploratory talks with Uzbekistan.

There was a further discussion of the European Development Fund. The subject was referred to COREPER for further work.

The Commission reported on the state of play in negotiations for Agreements with Morocco and Egypt, and announced details of a new Mediterranean Financial Regulation. There was a brief exchange over lunch on the forthcoming Barcelona Euro-Med Conference.

Negotiating directives for an EU/MERCOSUR Framework Agreement, plus an accompanying political declaration, were agreed.

Agreement was reached on negotiating directives for a long-term agreement with South Africa, subject to the solution of one outstanding problem by COREPER.

There was a discussion of free trade areas, and the subject was remitted to COREPER for further discussion.

The Council agreed that, if Canada dropped its threatened retaliation over compensation for tariff

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increases resulting from EU enlargement, the Community would introduce tariff reductions on newsprint.

Sir Leon Brittan reported on subjects on the agenda of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Council took note without debate, and endorsed the procedural conclusions on trade and social standards agreed previously in COREPER.

The Council agreed, following a vote, the Commission's proposed negotiating directives for the revision of the protocols of textiles with the Central and Eastern European countries. Italy, Portugal and Greece were opposed, and made minutes statements.

A copy of the Council's conclusions will be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as it is received by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

North Atlantic Assembly: UK Delegation

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes have been made to the composition of the United Kingdom Parliamentary delegation to the North Atlantic Assembly.

Lord Inglewood: My honourable friend the Member for Hampshire East (Mr. Mates) has replaced my honourable friend the Member for Harrogate (Mr. R. Banks) as a member of the delegation.

Inter-Governmental Conference: Study Group Meeting, 13/14 June

Lord Trefgarne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the meeting of the study group to prepare for the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference which took place in Luxembourg on 13/14 June.

Lord Inglewood: As the Foreign Secretary's representative, my honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Davis) attended the second meeting of the study group in Luxembourg on 13/14 June. The meeting concentrated on institutional arrangements in the European Community (the "first pillar"). Members of the group agreed that there was no need to change the overall balance between the central EC institutions (the Council, the Commission and the European Parliament).

My honourable friend stressed the need to arrest centralising tendencies in Europe, and to banish the notion of a European Government in embryo. The European Parliament (EP) had acquired important new powers in recent years. The EP needed to demonstrate that it was using its existing powers responsibly, and to the full, for example to secure better value for money from Community programmes and to hold the Commission more closely to account.

My honourable friend put the case for closer involvement of national Parliaments in the work of the

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EU, and suggested that we might examine, in particular, whether national Parliaments could play a more active role in the application of the principle of subsidiarity.

With respect to the Council, my honourable friend repeated our opposition to any extension of majority voting, and put the case for changes in the voting system to increase democratic legitimacy and to reduce the present bias against large member states.

My honourable friend argued that with the accession of new member states including perhaps some very small ones there could be a case for re-examining the system of 6-monthly rotating Presidencies in the EC.

Turning to the Commission, my honourable friend commended Mr. Santer's emphasis on the need to do "less but better". The Council should take a closer interest in the Commission's legislative programme to help to achieve this. He suggested that we might examine the possibility of requiring the Commission to withdraw proposals which had not been agreed within, say, three years: (a "sunset clause").

UN World Conference on Women, Beijing: UK Report

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House their report prepared for the forthcoming UN Beijing conference.

Lord Inglewood: A copy of the UK National Report, prepared for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, was placed in the Library in October 1994.

Osteoporosis: Prevention and Treatment

Lord Colwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are taking steps to ensure that health authorities throughout the UK are taking action to implement the report of the Department of Health Advisory Group on osteoporosis; and

    How many Health Authorities have access to bone density scanning devices and what is being done to encourage the early diagnosis of osteoporosis by early detection so that treatment can be given to prevent further fractures.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The report of the Advisory Group on Osteoporosis (AGO), copies of which have been placed in the Library, was published in January 1995. The AGO report's recommendations included that: the National Health Service should make bone densitometry more widely available to help clinical decision-making for those identified as being at high risk of developing osteoporosis; there should be better co-ordination and communication between specialists dealing with osteoporosis; and that there should be nationally agreed clinical guidelines on treatment and prevention of osteoporosis.

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Information on the number of health authorities with access to bone density scanning devices is not held centrally. It is for the NHS to decide locally what priority to give to making bone scans more widely available. I have sent the AGO report to chairmen of NHS bodies, drawing attention to its recommendations, and asking them to consider the cost effectiveness of identifying local "lead clinicians" to improve co-ordination between specialists. Discussions are also taking place with Royal Colleges with a view to developing national clinical guidelines for osteoporosis.

Dental Anaesthesia: Report

Lord Colwyn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Clinical Standards Advisory Group's Report on Dental Anaesthesia will be published and when the Government expect to publish their response.

Baroness Cumberlege: The Clinical Standards Advisory Group's Report on Dental Anaesthesia is due to be published in early July and the Government's response will be included as an appendix to the report. Copies of the report will be placed in the Library.

Mental Health Act 1983: Compliance with Code of Practice

Lord Mottistone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the result of monitoring by the Mental Health Commission of paragraphs 18.24 to 18.29 of the Code of Practice issued under Section 118(4) of the Mental Health Act 1983 concerning locked wards and secure areas in psychiatric hospitals.

Baroness Cumberlege: I understand from the Commission that their recent monitoring has shown an improved awareness in the mental health services of the need for clear and well understood policies in this area.

Lord Mottistone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are considering amending and more widely publicising paragraph 20 of the Code of Practice issued under Section 118(4) of the Mental Health Act 1983 relating to leave of absence granted under Section 17 of the Act, in view of the arrangements reported in the account of the case of Andrew Robinson, a psychiatric patient who committed homicide in 1993.

Baroness Cumberlege: Paragraph 20.1 of the code states categorically that leave of absence can only be granted by a patient's responsible medical officer. The Mental Health Act Commission is about to publish a Commission Practice Note on Section 17 leave which will emphasise this point. The commission has also been highlighting this matter in its recent visits to hospitals.

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