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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): The review was established to examine what scope there might be for rationalising relevant legislation and enforcement arrangements while maintaining or improving standards of fire safety. It found that there were overlaps in present legislation and enforcement arrangements which could impose burdens on business and create uncertainty. Consultation on the report showed that while there was general agreement that existing legislation should be simplified and made more coherent, there was no consensus on what precisely should be done to effect those improvements.
Where an employer fails to comply with any duty in relation to fire safety, the fire authority may apply to the courts for an order requiring compliance or if the breach is a serious one, may issue an enforcement notice. If the breach is deliberate, reckless and is serious, the employer can be prosecuted.
The powers provided under Section 5 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 will be applied to the Fire Precautions Act 1971 by means of a statutory instrument to be laid before Parliament by the end of 1996 and we shall identify other fire safety legislation where these powers could apply. The proposed new regulations to give effect to our Community obligations will also incorporate the principles underlying these powers.
Baroness Blatch: The carrying out of police raids, and whether television and newspaper reporters are allowed to attend, is an operational matter for the chief officer of police for the area concerned, in this case the Commissioner of police of the Metropolis.
Baroness Blatch: Information is not available in the form requested and there is no record kept of such people who are fully self supporting. However, the latest provisional figures available for 1995 show that 1,812 people were removed from the United Kingdom following the start of deportation action, of whom 327 were deported as a consequence of a criminal conviction. However, all those who knowingly overstay a leave to enter or remain in the United Kingdom, or who breach a condition of that leave are liable to prosecution under the Immigration Act 1971. Of those deported under the administrative powers in the Act, there is no central record of any other non-immigration related offences they may have committed.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): I have today written to the chairman of the British Council informing him that my department is prepared to meet 80 per cent. of the actual costs of redundancies among its grant-in-aid funded UK appointed staff this financial year. I propose to finance this from the ODA's contingency reserve. Since
In my letter to the chairman I have also assured him that an additional £5 million in 1997-98 and £9 million in 1998-99 will be made available to the council from within my departmental programme in order to avoid closures of British Council offices overseas, to help sustain their programmes in priority countries and to contribute towards their continuing redundancy costs.
The Presidency noted the resolutions adopted by the European Parliament in Document 6216/96, PE-RE 33 and drew attention to Nos. 8 (cooperation on EU fisheries with Morocco), 23 (outcome of Turin European Council), 24 (Central and Eastern Europe Integration into internal market), 30 (Baltic Sea Cooperation) and 32 (EMU and Economic and Social Cohesion).
The Council heard a progress report from the Chairman of the Consultative Commission on racism and xenophobia, Jean Khan, about the Commission's study on a possible EU Observatory on racism and xenophobia.
The Council reached political agreement on draft negotiating directives for a new EU/Mexico Agreement. The Commission also presented draft negotiating directives for new agreements between the Community and Cambodia and Laos; and updated agreements between the Community and Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The Commission gave a brief report on progress in the negotiations for "Euro-Med" agreements between the EU and Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon; progress towards opening negotiations with Algeria; and the Commission's exploratory contacts with the Palestinian Authority and Syria. The Council decided to reconsult the European Parliament on the text of the MEDA regulation.
The Presidency reported on progress in the Middle East Peace Process and Ministers had a meeting in the margins of the Council with Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri, Ministers also discussed reconstruction aid for the Lebanon.
EU High Representative Carl Bildt briefed Ministers about the current situation in Bosnia. Mostar Administrator Casado briefed the Council on the Mostar elections. Ministers also had a brief discussion on Albania.
The Council agreed the EU/Russia Action Plan and adopted conclusions reaffirming its support for the reform process, looking forward to free and fair elections, and restating EU willingness to take part in observation of them.
The Council also adopted conclusions on Niger, foreseeing progressive resumption of EU co-operation, subject to a review at the Council on 10th June of the results of the 12th May referendum and the lifting of the ban on political parties; and on Liberia, expressing concern at the humanitarian situation and affirming EU willingness to provide humanitarian aid.
The second substantive ministerial meeting of the IGC also took place on 13th May. Ministers had before them a Presidency note (CONF 3847/96, which has been deposited in the Library of the House) which raised two broad issues for discussion: flexibility of the Union and the efficiency and balance of the institutions. On the former, Ministers considered the desirability of more flexible structures in the Union and whether treaty provisions were necessary to provide a framework for this. On the latter, Ministers considered a range of institutional issues, including the size of the Commission, the scope and weighting of qualified majority voting, the role of the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice, in particular in the light of future enlargement.