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3 Nov 1995 : Column WA177

Written Answers

Friday, 3rd November 1995.

Afghanistan: Assistance

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What further assistance he proposes to give to Afghanistan, in light of recent developments in that country and following the new inter-agency consolidated appeal from the United Nations.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Following a detailed review of aid to Afghanistan by an ODA-led mission earlier this summer and in light of the UN appeal launched in October, I have approved a package of further assistance amounting to £3.5 million, which will be provided through a number of UN agencies, as well as the International Red Cross and some UK-based NGOs.

Hong Kong Overseas Public Servants

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on new arrangements to be introduced for Hong Kong overseas public servants.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The Government plan to introduce legislation as soon as legislative time allows. Copies of a draft Hong Kong (Overseas Public Servants) Bill are being made available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Foreign Affairs Council, 30 October

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report on the outcome of the EU Foreign Affairs Council of 30 October.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The A points listed in Document 11057/95 (which will be deposited in the Libraries of the House as soon as it is available) were adopted unanimously.

The Council took note of resolutions in Documents 9914/95 (PE-RE 61) and 10679/95 (PE-RE 67). A copy of these documents will be deposited in the Libraries of the House as soon as they are available.

An Association Council with Turkey took place. The Council decided on the implementation of the EU/Turkey Customs Union agreement.

The Presidency noted Latvia's application to join the EU, lodged in Madrid on 27 October. The Council agreed on a formal acknowledgement referring to the procedure laid down in Article O of the Treaty.

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The Council reached agreement on participation in the Euro-Mediterranean Conference at Barcelona on 27 November.

The Council discussed a draft Association Agreement with Morocco. A special Foreign Affairs Council is to be convened on 10 November with the aim of reaching final agreement, preceded by discussion in the Committee of Permanent Representatives.

The Commission presented a Communication on strengthening EU/Latin America relations in the period 1996 to 2000.

The Commission presented draft negotiating directives for a new EU/Mexico Agreement. This was remitted to Coreper for further discussion.

The Commission presented a draft Council Decision for conclusion of the EU/Mercosur Inter-Regional Framework Agreement, which was remitted to Coreper.

The Presidency reported on the Troika visit to the Middle East. The Head of the EU Electoral Unit reported on preparations for election monitoring. The Commission's Communications on relations with the Palestinians was remitted to Coreper for detailed examination.

The Council discussed the setting up of the WTO Appellate Body.

The Council discussed EU/US relations in preparation for the EU/US Summit on 3 December.

The Council adopted a policy paper on former Yugoslavia, covering civilian aspects of implementation of an eventual peace settlement. The Council reaffirmed its support for the EU Mostar Administrator's continuing efforts to unify the city.

Agriculture Council, 24–25 October

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 24–25 October.

Lord Lucas: The Council adopted by qualified majority an amended Commission proposal enabling member states to pay national aids, under defined conditions, to farmers who had experienced considerable income losses as a result of significant currency depreciation in other member states. The original proposal was opposed by the UK, Italy and Sweden—comprising 24 votes—which meant it could not be adopted if a member state invoked the Council Decision reflecting the agreement reached at Ioannina in Greece on 27 March 1994. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food invoked this Decision, thereby requiring the Council to seek a basis for agreement involving at least 65 votes; that is, with fewer than 23 votes opposing or abstaining. As a consequence of this, the proposal was amended, in particular to require aid payments to be reduced or cancelled if currency depreciations were subsequently reversed. Although this was a significant and welcome improvement, it went less far than my right honourable

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friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would have liked. He therefore abstained on the vote. Italy voted against and Sweden in favour.

The Council also discussed reform of the rice regime and held a first discussion of the Commission's proposal to reform the fruit and vegetables regime. On the latter, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food welcomed the proposed steps towards reducing the role of intervention and urged the Council to commit itself to eventual abolition of intervention in this sector. He stressed the importance of focusing support on a wider range of organisations than the narrowly defined traditional producer co-operatives proposed by the Commission.

Under other business, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food expressed concern about the Commission's decision to reduce malt export refunds and effectively shorten the period for which export certificates were valid. Several other Ministers supported. The Commissioner undertook to reflect and if necessary adjust the measures in the light of experience.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also pressed the Commission to retain provision for guaranteed set-aside, so that the important environmental benefits of these arrangements could be preserved. He argued that any proposal setting limits of nitrate in lettuce must reflect the scientific advice. He drew attention to the lack of any health risk to UK consumers, the need to promote consumption of vegetables and the devastating effect which unduly restrictive rules would have on the UK glasshouse industry. He therefore argued that there was no justification for the setting of such limits.

Toxic Chemicals: Transit Requirements

The Countess Of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the legal requirements for the safe transport of toxic chemicals such as concentrated organophosphorus sheep dips between—

    (a) the manufacturer and the wholesaler/retailer; and

    (b) the purchaser and the premises on which the products are to be used.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The legal requirements in Great Britain covering the safe transport of dangerous goods, including toxic chemicals such as organophosphorus sheep dips, are contained in a number of regulations made under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. They place a wide range of duties for safe transport mainly on those persons consigning dangerous goods for carriage or on the operators of the vehicles being used, although there are some duties placed on drivers of road vehicles carrying dangerous goods. The main regulations affecting the transport of toxic chemicals are:

    The Road Traffic (Carriage of Dangerous Substances in Road Tankers and Tank Containers) Regulations 1992;

    The Road Traffic (Carriage of Dangerous Substances in Packages etc.) Regulations 1992;

    The Road Traffic (Training of Drivers of Vehicles Carrying Dangerous Goods) Regulations 1992;

    The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail Regulations 1994;

    The Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail (Classification, Packaging and Labelling) Regulations 1994.

These regulations include requirements for the placarding and supervision of the vehicle, for the packaging and labelling of the goods, for driver training and for the driver to have written information as to the dangers of the substances being carried in the vehicle.

The regulations are reviewed in the light of changes to international recommendations, developments in technology and practical experience.

Polish Nationals: Asylum Applications

Lord Belhaven and Stenton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many persons from Poland are currently seeking political asylum in this country: how many have been granted political asylum in the last three years, and what were the reasons for granting it; and how many have been refused.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The number of applications for asylum from Polish nationals awaiting an initial decision as at 30 September 1995 was 1,000. Information for decisions on asylum applications is given in the table.

Asylum decisions and refusals from Polish nationals, 1992–September 1995

Grants of asylum Grants of exceptional leave to remain Total refusals Substantive refusals Third country refusals Paragraph 340 refusals
1992 15 * 10 5
1993 * 55 25 25 5
1994 * 90 60 20 10
1995 (January to September) * 230 155 65 10

Figures rounded to the nearest 5 with * = 1 or 2.

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