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5 Mar 1996 : Column WA13

Written Answers

Tuesday, 5th March 1996.

EU Airlines: State Subsidies

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they have made in restraining the European Commission from the authorisation of state subsidies to airlines.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The UK Government's views on the harmful effects of state subsidies to airlines are well known to the Commission. Where appropriate we back up those views by using the powers available to us under the Treaty of Rome to influence or challenge the Commission's decisions.

Inheritance Tax (Scotland)

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any items accepted in lieu of inheritance tax have been allocated in Scotland since they last made an announcement.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): I am pleased to announce that my right honourable friend is allocating the painting The Return from the Flight into Egypt by the 16th century artist Paris Bordone to the National Galleries of Scotland. The painting has been accepted in lieu of tax arising from the death of Colonel W. J. Stirling of Keir.

Prison Rules Held on Computer

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether an up-to-date copy of prison rules and standing orders is held on computer, and how these are made available to prisoners.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the temporary Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Avebury from the Director of Security and Programmes, the Prison Service, dated 5th March 1996.

Lady Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about prison rules and standing orders held on computer, and their availability to prisoners.

5 Mar 1996 : Column WA14

Current versions of the prison rules and some standing orders are held on computer for printing purposes only. Printed copies of the current prison rules and standing orders are placed in prison libraries for the use of prisoners. Copies of prison rules are made available to prisoners on request. Prisoners may also purchase copies of standing orders.

Armed Forces: Homosexuality Policy Assessment

The Earl of Clanwilliam asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the homosexuality policy assessment team has completed its assessment of the armed forces policy on homosexuality.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The homosexuality policy assessment team has, following an exhaustive and wide ranging consultation exercise involving personnel from all three services, together with staffs from overseas defence forces, now produced its report, copies of which have today been placed in the Library of the House. The team's assessment is that any relaxation of the existing policy is likely to have a detrimental effect on operational effectiveness. For that reason, the Government will continue to support the existing policy of excluding homosexuals from the armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence will shortly be submitting a paper of evidence, based on the team's report, to the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill to assist in its deliberations on the subject.

Joint Service Command and Staff College

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the plans for the provision of a Joint Service Command and Staff College.

Earl Howe: We have now completed an appraisal of the options for staff training from September 1997 until the opening of the permanent site of the joint service command and staff college. RAF Bracknell, Queen Elizabeth Park Barracks, Guildford, and the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst were examined as possible temporary sites for the new college. We have chosen RAF Bracknell and propose, subject to formal consultation, to open the new joint service command and staff college there in September 1997. The consultation document is available in the Library of the House. The Government intend to dispose of the Bracknell site by the end of 1999, by which time the new college should be well established at its permanent site.

5 Mar 1996 : Column WA15

Diplomatic Service: Ethnic Minorities

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the numbers and percentages of members of ethnic minorities employed in the senior grades of the Diplomatic Service.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): There is no system of compulsory ethnic monitoring in the Diplomatic Service. Records based on voluntary declaration show that, at present, there are no declared ethnic minority officers employed in the senior grades.

Burundi

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their latest evaluation of the political, economic, social and security situation in Burundi and what their response will be both bilaterally and multilaterally.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The situation in Burundi remains fragile. We maintain regular contact with the Burundi Government. I met the Burundi Foreign Minister on 22nd February in London and reiterated our concerns over continuing violence. We are giving full support to the efforts of the UN, OAU, regional leaders and the EU to promote political progress.

Chechnya-Russia: Detainees

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What information the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Grozny has about the number of Russians held by Chechnya combatants, and of Chechens by the Russian authorities; and what access to the detainees on either side has been granted to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC).

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The OSCE through the assistance group is following the question of detainees as closely as possible, but it does not have sufficient information to draw up precise figures. The ICRC have visited 500 Chechen detainees and 200 Russian detainees--this represents numbers visited not total held. The ICRC further reports that, apart from occasional administrative difficulties, they have, generally, been granted full access.

Council of European Unions: Forthcoming Business

The Viscount of Oxfuird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will detail the forthcoming business in the Council of European Unions.

5 Mar 1996 : Column WA16

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey:

The following councils are scheduled:

4th March: Environment

5th March: Environment

9th March: Foreign Affairs Council (Informal)

10th March: Foreign Affairs Council (Informal)

11th March: Transport

11th March: Ecofin

18th March: Agriculture

19th March: Agriculture

19th March: Justice/Home Affairs

20th March: Justice/Home Affairs

21st March: Telecoms

25th March: Research

25th March: Foreign Affairs Council

26th March: Foreign Affairs Council

28th March: Industry Council

29th March: Social Affairs Council

29th March: European Council

The following subjects are likely to be discussed:

4/5th March: Environment Council

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

"B" Points

Preparation of 4th session of Commission on Sustainable Development (Council conclusions)

Draft Directive on Biocides (orientation debate on annexes)

Draft Hazardous Waste Shipment Regulation (possible common position)

Draft Classification, Packaging and Labelling of Dangerous Substances Directive (possible common position)

Draft Directive on Emissions of Off-road Machinery (orientation debate)

Open debate on Wetlands (Council conclusions)

Draft revised regulation on Leghold Traps (lunchtime orientation debate)

CO2 from Cars (exchange of views on Commission communication)

Community strategy on the Ozone Layer (Council conclusions)

Adoption of negotiating mandate for protocol to Barcelona Convention

Adoption of negotiating mandate for Paris Convention (PARCOM)

Draft Decision revising the Community's 5th Action Programme on the environment and sustainable development (presentation by the Commission)

Joint meeting with Ministers from Central and Eastern Europe.

9/10th March: Foreign Affairs Council (Informal)

Agenda not yet available.

11th March: ECOFIN

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

5 Mar 1996 : Column WA17

"B" Points

Convergence Programmes (possibly)

Contractual Netting Directive (possibly)

Council Regulation on Community action in the field of statistics

Discharge of the Budget and Court of Auditors' report for 1994

Court of Auditors' Special Report on the Reliability of the Expenditure for 1994

Commission's report on the implementation of the Court of Auditors' recommendation and of the Council's remarks for the Budget for 1993.

11th March: Transport

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

"B" Points

Aviation relations with US (debate)

Negotiations with Switzerland (Commission progress report)

Trans-European Networks (debate)

Directive on harmonisation of vehicle tests (largely consolidation of existing measures--common position)

Inland waterways liberalisation, state aid rules and scrapping scheme (common position)

Aviation statistics regulation (for agreement by simple majority).

18/19th March: Agriculture Council

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

"B" Points

Reform of the fruit and vegetable regime (possibly)

Reform of the wine regime (possibly)

Price fixing

Geographical indications (possibly)

Amendment to Directive 64/432 on trade in animals (possibly)

Plant health--solidarity and responsibility (possibly)

Veal crates (possibly)

Hormones (possibly)

Inspection fees (possibly)

Pesticides (possibly)

Equivalence Agreements (possibly)

Amendment to Directive 90/675 on controls on imports (possibly)

Amendment to Directive 72/462 on equivalence (possibly)

Intra Community inspection fees (possibly)

Amendment to 90/524 on feeding stuffs (possibly)

19/20th March: Justice Home Affairs

Agenda not yet available.

5 Mar 1996 : Column WA18

21st March: Telecoms

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

"B" Points

Directive on interconnection in telecommunications with regard to ensuring universal service and interoperability through applications of the principles of Open Network Provision (ONP):

Common position (possibly).

Decision on action at Community level in the field of satellite personal communications services in the EU:

Orientation debate.

Directive on a common framework for licensing of telecoms services:

Progress report.

Directive adapting Directives 90/387/EEC and 92/44/EEC for a competitive environment in Telecommunications:

Progress report.

Directive on common rules for the development of Community postal services and the improvement of quality of service:

Progress report.

Council Resolution on the future development of the market for directories and other information services in a liberalised environment (possibly).

Commission Communication on universal service in telecoms (possibly):

Commission presentation.

25th March: Research Council

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

"B" Points

Decision adapting the fourth framework of programmes of activities in the field of research, technological development and demonstration for the European Community and European Atomic Energy Community:

Orientation debate.

Communication on International Cooperation:

Orientation debate.

Council Conclusions (possibly).

Cooperation with Mediterranean countries (follow up to Barcelona Conference):

Debate.

Green Paper on Innovation:

Debate.

Joint meeting with Central and Eastern European countries:

Debate.

25/26th March: Foreign Affairs Council

Agenda not yet available.

5 Mar 1996 : Column WA19

28th March: Industry Council

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

"B" Points

SMEs:

Conclusions on co-ordination of Community programmes in favour of SMEs;

Presentation of Commission's proposal for new multi-annual programme for SMEs.

Textiles:

Presentation of Commission communication on competitiveness of textile and clothing industry;

Conclusions on impact of international developments on EU textile and clothing sector.

Pharmaceuticals:

Resolution on competitiveness of EU pharmaceutical industry.

Defence Industry:

Presentation of Commission communication on competitiveness of defence industry.

Maritime Industry:

Presentation of Commission communication on competitiveness of maritime industry.

Research and Industry Task Forces:

Commission progress report and discussion.

5 Mar 1996 : Column WA20

29th March: Social Affairs Council

"A" Points

As advised by council secretariat.

"B" Points

Parental Leave:

Draft Directive endorsing social partners' agreement.

Draft Directive on Postal Workers.

Draft Council Recommendation on the Balanced Participation of Men and Women in Decision-Making.

Commission Communication on the Future of Social Protection:

Open Debate.

Commission Report on the Demographic Situation.

Commission Communication on the Fight against Racism and Xenophobia.

Draft Decision on Essen Programme.

Draft Decision on SAFE (health and safety) programme.

Draft Decision on Older People Programme.

29th March: European Council

Formal Opening of IGC.

Agenda not yet available.



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