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4 Mar 1996 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 4th March 1996.

Foreign Affairs Council,26th and 27th February

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council on 26th and 27th February.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The A points listed in document 5157/96 (which will be deposited in the Library of the House as soon as it is available) were approved except item 15.

The Council took note of the European Parliament resolutions in documents 4306/96 and 4709/96, PE-RE 6 and PE-RE 9. Copies of these documents will be deposited in the Library of the House as soon as they are available.

The Council discussed former Yugoslavia and agreed conclusions on a regional approach, refugees and reconstruction. The Council invited the Commission to prepare, at the right time, negotiating directives for agreements with all the countries of the region which meet the necessary conditions and accept the regional approach.

The Council discussed preparations for the European Council in Turin and the practical organisation of the Inter-Governmental Conference.

The Council discussed the proposed mandate for an EU/South Africa trade agreement but failed to reach a decision. The matter was referred to COREPER for further work. Her Majesty's Government continue to believe that it is essential that the EU fulfils its commitment to agree a mandate for a free trade agreement with South Africa as soon as possible.

The Council discussed a draft mandate for a new EU/Mexico Agreement.

The Presidency gave a brief situation report on the preparations for the forthcoming Asia/Europe meeting on 1st/2nd March in Bangkok.

The Council approved the appointment of a Special Envoy, Aldo Ajello, to the Great Lakes Region for six months.

The Council discussed Greece/Turkey relations.

The Council discussed EU policy towards the Baltic Sea Region.

The Council agreed a one-off 5 million ecu contribution from the EU budget to the Korean Energy Development Organisation.

The Council discussed the Own Resources Decision and noted that formal ratification by the Netherlands Parliament could follow shortly after approval by the First Chamber on 16th April. This would complete the national ratifications.

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In the margins of the Council, the EU/Morocco Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement and the EC/Morocco Fisheries Agreement were signed.

Mr. Davis signed the Association Agreement on behalf of the UK.

On 27th February there were Association Councils with Slovakia and Romania; and a joint meeting with the foreign Ministers of the Associated Central European countries.

No votes were taken at this Council.

EU Financial Perspective

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the European Commission wishes to revise the allocation of funds under the "financial perspectives" and, if so, what sums are involved under which "budget" headings, and what is their response and why.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The Commission have not put forward any formal proposal to revise the Financial Perspective. However, comments made by President Santer at the end of January and reports in the press suggest that such a proposal might be forthcoming, and would involve some additional provision for spending on Trans-European Networks and Research, possibly offset by adjustments to expenditure ceilings elsewhere, notably in the provision for agriculture.

The UK is strongly opposed to any revision of the Financial Perspective, particularly where this would have the effect of increasing total Community expenditure. The Financial Perspective ceilings were agreed at Edinburgh in 1992 to enable the Community to meet its obligations from 1993 to 1999. Nothing has changed to render the basis for this agreement invalid.

Swiss Banks: Acceptance of Funds

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Answer of 9th January 1996 (WA 17), whether they will now urge the European Union to persuade the Swiss government to prevent the banks within their jurisdiction from receiving money allegedly obtained by fraud from other countries and their governments.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: There is nothing

I can usefully add to the Answer I gave the Noble Lord on 9th January 1996. (Official Report, col. WA 17).

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Answers of 9th January 1996 (WA 17), what information they have about that part of the $654 million fund in the possession of former South Korean President Roh Tae Woo which has been placed in Swiss banks; and

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    Further to their Answers of 9th January 1996 (WA 17), what information they have about the large part of the former Philippine President Marcos's "fortune" which was placed in Swiss banks; and

    Further to their Answers of 9th January 1996

    (WA 17), what information they have about the allegation that members of the Nigerian junta have funds placed in Swiss banks; and

    Further to their Answers of 9th January 1996

    (WA 17), what information they have about the allegation that close relatives of the former Mexican President Salinas have funds placed in Swiss banks; and

    Further to their Answers of 9th January 1996

    (WA 17), what information they have about the allegation that a part of the $60 billion funds allegedly missing from the ex-Soviet Union is unlawfully present in Swiss banks.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: It is not the Government's practice to comment on unsubstantiated allegations or matters relating to potential or ongoing criminal or regulatory investigations, either here or abroad.

Scotland: Grants for Environmental Work

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a decision has been reached on the allocation to voluntary bodies of grants under the Special Grants (Environmental) Programme in 1996-97.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): I am pleased to have been able to offer 53 individual grants totalling £450,000 to 46 voluntary bodies in Scotland to assist them in carrying out their valuable environmental conservation, improvement and education work. The sums available in the Special Grants (Environmental) Programme in 1996-97 match those available in 1995-96. This continued level of support reflects the Government's commitment to the voluntary sector, and its role in carrying out the Government's environmental objectives.

£

OrganisationGrant
Association of Deer Management Groups3,000
Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland3,000
Biological Recording in Scotland Campaign4,000
Buchan Countryside Group2,000
Centre for Environment and Business in Scotland (CEBIS)8,000
Council for Scottish Archaeology16,000
CSV Scotland17,000
Easter Ross Rights of Way Society800
Education for Sustainability Development Group10,000
Friends of the Earth Scotland36,300
Game Conservancy Limited4,000
Game Conservancy Trust4,000
Garden History Society3,000
Glasgow Building Preservation Trust8,000
Heatwise Glasgow4,000
Heather Trust7,000
Highland and Islands Forum18,000
Kilmartin House Trust8,000
Lothian and Edinburgh Environmental Partnership4,000
National Society for Clean Air4,400
Planning Aid for Scotland17,000
Plantlife3,000
Recycling Advisory Group Scotland8,000
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds20,000
Rural Forum Scotland24,000
Scottish Conservation Projects Trust27,000
Scottish Ecological Design Association6,000
Scottish Environmental Education Council37,000
Scottish Environmental Forum7,000
Scottish Farm and Countryside Educational Trust4,000
Scottish Historic Buildings Trust11,700
Scottish Native Woods Campaign5,000
Scottish Redundant Churches Trust2,300
Scottish Rights of Way Society7,000
Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link12,000
Scottish Wildlife Trust38,500
Strathclyde Greenbelt Trust8,000
Sustrans (Sustainable Transport Scotland)8,000
Treewise5,000
Venture Scotland3,000
Vision 213,000
West Galloway Fisheries Trust3,000
West Sutherland Fisheries Trust5,000
Woodland Trust4,000
World Wide Fund for Nature9,000
Youth Clubs Scotland8,000
Total450,000

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Armed Services: House PurchaseAssistance Scheme

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to replace the Married Quarters Discounted Sale Scheme, currently available to Regular Members of Her Majesty's Armed Forces.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The purpose of the Married Quarters Discounted Sale Scheme (MQDSS) has been to assist Service Personnel into home ownership. It has been popular, but has over the years necessarily helped a relatively modest number of personnel. This, combined with the proposed sale of the Married Quarters Estate, has resulted in consideration of a replacement scheme.

We now intend to replace the MQDSS with an interest free advance of pay for house purchase which is based on the current scheme available in the Royal Navy. The replacement scheme will come into effect on 1st August 1996.

The scheme will allow us to target resources more effectively to assist retention. It will be available to all Regular Army and RAF personnel aged 35 and over on pensionable engagements or commissions. The advance will be a maximum of £8,500 and will be repayable over 10 years of service. The qualifying age for the Royal Navy scheme will reduce from 25 to 23 years.

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