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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): I am pleased to announce the publication today of a report by Gordon Beaumont, commissioned by the department, on the most used 100 National Vocational Qualifications and Scottish Vocational Qualifications. I very much welcome this independent report from former industrialist and businessman Gordon Beaumont, which shows that there is much support for National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) and Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) and the benefits they can bring to employers in improving performance and flexibility. It also suggests many ways in which delivery and take-up of the qualifications could be improved.
The report on the 100 most used NVQs and SVQs, which was commissioned following the Government's White Paper Competitiveness: Helping Business To Win, is the culmination of a review headed by Mr. Beaumont which was asked to focus on the breadth of the qualification, on the specification and assessment of knowledge and understanding, and on cost effective assessment more generally. It makes recommendations on all these, and some wider issues.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Together with my noble friend the Earl of Lindsay, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council in Brussels on 18 December.
Common positions were reached on a directive amending Directive 85/337 on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and on a directive amending the emission standards for light vans with effect from October this year. In both cases earlier concerns expressed by the United Kingdom about these proposals were met by revised proposals which were acceptable.
In responding to a Commission report explaining its proposed postponement and amendment of the regulations on Leghold Traps, we expressed serious disappointment at the Commission's proposals to postpone and amend the EC Leghold Traps Regulation, and pressed for much tougher action to demonstrate the Community's commitment to bringing an end to the use of leghold traps worldwide. The Council gave unanimous support to a statement by the United Kingdom calling on the Commission to make more rapid progress with the Community Ecolabelling Scheme.
What is the cost of printing, publishing and distributing to members of the public each copy of the First Report of the Select Committee on Procedure of the House (HL Paper 8), in addition to the costs necessarily incurred in printing, publishing and distributing the report for members of both Houses of Parliament, government departments and other public authorities.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): House of Lords Papers, along with other monochrome parliamentary publications, are priced using standard scales which determine a face value for items with a given page content and format. The scales aim to recover the overall costs of printing, publishing and distribution which are not recorded and assigned to individual titles. The scales also achieve an overall contribution to the financial targets set for HMSO by Ministers but, given the modest price of HL Paper 8, it is unlikely that sales revenue will be sufficient to recover costs in this case, particularly as demand for such specialised documents outside Parliament and Government is likely to be very small.
Lord Lucas: My honourable friend the Minister of State (Mr. Baldry) represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Fisheries Council in Brussels on 21-22 December, together with his honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office (Mr. Robertson) and his noble friend at the Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton).
The Council agreed by qualified majority, with Sweden voting against, the Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and Quotas to apply in 1996. The agreement fulfilled the Government's objective of securing the best possible deal for British fishermen consistent with the scientific advice and the conservation of stocks for the future. In the final package the total UK quotas agreed for the stocks of most importance to our fishermen were over 50,000 tonnes higher in cod equivalent terms than the quotas being discussed at the start of negotiations. This increase is worth over £30 million to the industry at 1995 prices. My honourable friend the Minister of State invoked Hague Preference on all the stocks where it was necessary to do so.
The Council unanimously agreed access and quota arrangements for 1996 with neighbouring non-member states. The United Kingdom has large quotas at North Norway and we secured them at the same level as for 1995. Similarly, we have retained our quotas in Faroese, Greenland and Icelandic waters at the same level as in 1995. There was unanimous agreement to a negotiating
The Council agreed by qualified majority, with Portugal voting against, to the allocation of the Community's 1996 quotas in the waters covered by the North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO). The United Kingdom's quota remains the same as in 1995. There was also unanimous agreement to a package of control measures to be applied in NAFO waters, implementing the agreement reached between the Community and Canada last April.
The Commission presented a report on the implementation of technical conservation measures under the Common Fisheries Policy. My honourable friend the Minister of State led the way in pressing the case for improvements to be made to help conserve stocks and it was agreed that the Commission should present new proposals, including measures to increase the effectiveness of the Plaice Box and to improve the selectivity of towed fishing gears. The Council undertook to reach a decision on these proposals before the end of 1996.
The Commission reported on the enforcement of Community rules on drift nets in 1995. The Council noted the success of the enforcement arrangements and the very high level of compliance with the rules in the tuna fishery in the North East Atlantic.
The Council agreed by qualified majority, with the Netherlands voting against, to adjustments in the rules governing the funding of schemes to reduce the size of fishing fleets. A ceiling on the funds that may be devoted to encouraging temporary cessation of fishing activity was agreed and the level of Community funding for decommissioning vessels more than 30 years old was increased.
Lord Lucas: My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at this meeting of the Council together with his noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office.
The Council unanimously agreed a reformed EC rice regime broadly modelled on the cereals regime following the reform of 1992. The reformed rice regime includes a significant reduction in intervention prices, accompanied by compensation payments limited to national base areas with stiff penalties if these areas are exceeded. The agreement also provides for phased improvements in quality standards to ensure that EC rice production is more competitive in the face of the more open trading conditions flowing from the GATT agreement.
The Commissioner introduced a communication on the welfare of calves including in particular their rearing systems. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food urged that he should bring forward without delay specific proposals for the improvement of EC rules in this area.
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