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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Asylum applications are considered on their individual merit and in the light of the 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): In accordance with the current policy of non-cooperation, the Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs withheld UK agreement from 17 measures where unanimity was required. Three others were agreed (signature of the EU/Slovenia agreement; a mandate for a new EU/Algeria agreement; and a joint action on Bosnia election monitoring). As a result, the only "A" points in document 7929/96 that were adopted were items 1 to 10 inclusive, which did not require unanimity, and item 26 (Bosnia election monitoring). The single item in document 8047/96 was blocked. These documents will be placed in the Libraries of the House as soon as they are available. The Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs argued strongly for early agreement on a framework for lifting the beef ban. While other Ministers and the Commission expressed their concern at the policy of non-cooperation, many urged the Commission to produce such a framework at the earliest possible date, and both the Commission and Presidency made clear their commitment to work for an early agreement.
The Presidency explored their ideas for an informal Euro-Med Ministerial in Rome on 17th June. The Presidency also asked for approval of conclusions on Barcelona follow-up activity, but the Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs made clear he could not agree these on BSE non-cooperation grounds.
In a discussion of the former Yugoslavia, the Presidency and Commission reported on their tour of the region. Carl Bildt, the EU's High Representative, briefed the Council on preparations for the Florence Peace Implementation Council.
A ministerial session of the IGC focused on external issues. In the field of defence, Ministers discussed the implications for the IGC of the recent Berlin NATO ministerial meeting. Ministers also discussed general CFSP issues, the question of whether the Union should acquire legal personality and questions of external economic competence.
President Menem of Argentina briefly addressed the Council on 10th June. The first EU/Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay) ministerial meeting was held in the margins of the GAC on 10th June.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Local housing authorities in England, Wales and Scotland may provide rent guarantees using the powers conferred on them by Section 24 of the Local Government Act 1988, subject to the consent of the Secretary of State. No such powers exist in Northern Ireland.
A general consent was issued in March 1995 to local authorities in England to pay rent deposits or give indemnities to private landlords for up to eight weeks' rent per tenancy to meet losses arising from the grant of the tenancy. In the letter accompanying the general consent, authorities were urged to consider rent guarantees as a means of opening up access to the private rented sector for people in housing need who do not have the resources to provide rent in advance. Guidance for local authorities on the preparation of housing strategies issued in April 1995 draws attention to the benefits of such schemes.
Earl Ferrers: Together with my right honourable friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is today laying before the House a draft of the guidance which Ministers are required under Section 4 of the Environment Act 1995 to give to the Environment Agency on its objectives, including the contribution it is to make towards the achievement of sustainable development. We will also be providing to the Environment Agency an explanatory document which sets the statutory guidance into context and offers a commentary on the agency's duty to take account of likely costs and benefits. Copies of this document have been placed in the Library.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The commander of a combined joint task force (CJTF) headquarters, deployed under either NATO or WEU authority, will be selected on a case by case basis by the organisation mounting the operation; there is no requirement for him to be an American officer.
Earl Howe: Some of the printing of statutory instruments has been contracted out by HMSO for over 30 years as the most cost-effective way of producing them. A careful examination has recently been made of the legislation which refers to HMSO and the Queen's Printer. This has revealed that, while the Queen's Printer can contract out the printing of statutes, this may not be the case for statutory instruments. The Queen's Printer is currently also the Controller of HMSO. After privatisation, the Queen's Printer and Controller will remain in the public sector responsible for residual HMSO.
HMSO's records show for as far back as they are available that statutory instruments were being printed by commercial contractors in January 1965. It is likely that the practice is somewhat older. Currently, around half the printing work for statutory instruments is contracted out at an annual cost of some £200,000. In order to put the validity of this practice in relation to statutory instruments beyond doubt, the Government intend to legislate before the Summer Recess. The legislation will be retrospective in effect in order to cover existing statutory instruments printed for rather than by HMSO. The privatisation process, subject to meeting the safeguards required by Parliament, will continue as planned, with completion during the summer, and on the basis that the Queen's Printer would be able to print all statutory instruments. Meanwhile, HMSO will enter into no more external printing contracts for statutory instruments.
DVLA Annual Financial Statistical Returns.