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8 Jul 1996 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 8th July 1996.

Council of Europe Committee of Ministers: Compliance Report

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, they will support the release to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the Secretary General's factual overview of the compliance with commitments of member states in respect of each country under consideration.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): If the Committee of Ministers' compliance with commitments procedures are to be credible and effective, discussions must remain confidential to ensure frank and constructive dialogue. This is clear from the implementation procedures adopted in April 1995. Consequently, if we are to give the procedures every chance of success in improving compliance by member states with their commitments--eg, to respect human rights--supporting documentation needs to be handled in the same way. It is for this reason that we do not support the release to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Secretary General's factual overview. We would agree however that the Parliamentary Assembly should be kept informed generally of progress.

Asylum Appeals Referred for Further Consideration

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many certified asylum cases have been remitted to the Home Office for substantive consideration by the Immigration Appellate Authority under current asylum legislation.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Information on without foundation appeals referred in 1995 to the Secretary of State for further consideration is given in table 8.1 of the Home Office Statistical Bulletin Asylum Statistics United Kingdom 1995, issue 9/96, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.

Transport Council, 17th-18th June

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the result of the Transport Council held in Luxembourg on 17th and 18th June.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 17th and

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18th June. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport represented the United Kingdom on the first day and I did so on the second.

The Council took a vote on one item, a mandate for the Commission to open negotiations with the United States on the regulatory framework for a possible future EU/US common aviation area. This was opposed by the United Kingdom but was approved with the support of other member states. The mandate is restricted to negotiations on "soft rights" such as competition rules and ownership and control of airlines. Any second stage, including a mandate for negotiations on "hard rights" such as market access, would require a separate Council decision. Member states retain the right to conduct bilateral negotiations with the US while Community level negotiations are under way.

The Council reached agreement with the European Parliament in the conciliation procedure on guidelines for the trans-European transport network. The next stage is for the Council and the European Parliament to adopt the agreed text, formally and separately, to bring the guidelines into force.

The Council reached political agreement on a proposed directive concerning the safety of domestic passenger ferries. The Council also reached political agreement on a draft directive to harmonise codes used to record information on driving licences.

The Council discussed a directive to extend until 2001 the present arrangements for harmonisation of summer time start and end dates, but deferred a decision until its October meeting.

The Council agreed a mandate for the Commission to negotiate an agreement between the Community, the European Organisation for the safety of Air Navigation (EUROCONTROL) and the European Space Agency (ESA) on a European contribution to a global navigation satellite system (GNSS).

The Council agreed general conclusions accepting a report on aviation safety which was presented to the Council by the Commission, and calling for further work.

The Council discussed four policy papers prepared by the Commission on air traffic management, the external costs of transport, public passenger transport and maritime strategy.

The Commission presented progress reports to the Council on its negotiations with Switzerland on land and air transport, and on the work of the research task forces on intermodality and the train of the future.

The United Kingdom blocked a number of "A" points submitted for adoption by the Council in accordance with the Prime Minister's statement of 21st May.

Employment Policy

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether "downsizing" of enterprises results in the overworking of some (at a reduced cost to their employers) and to the unemployment of others (at an

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    increased cost to the taxpayer); and, if so, whether they intend to promote alternative arrangements.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): Her Majesty's Government believe that decisions on the organisation of enterprises are best taken by those enterprises themselves. The Government's role is to help create a flexible labour market and a skilled and adaptable workforce, so that employees affected by restructuring of enterprises can find new work quickly. The Labour Force Survey shows an increase in employment of 733,000 in Great Britain since winter 1992-93.

Government Department Records: Private Sector Purchase

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any departments have privatised any parts of their filing systems; and, if so, which and on what dates.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): Files and other records of government departments or agencies which are to be privatised are dealt with under the provisions of the Public Records Act. In each instance the staff of the department and of the PRO identify those records of enduring value and they are transferred to the PRO in due course. Other series of records may be passed to the private sector purchasers and these have been itemised each year by the Keeper in appendices to the annual reports. A list of presentations authorised under the Act since 1989 extracted from the annual reports is given below.

Government department records presented into the commercial sector authorised, under Public Record Act s.3(6) since 1989

British Coal CorporationAssorted files (1920-1966)
Department of Trade and IndustryAssorted files (1945-1995)
Department of Trade and IndustryNational Engineering Laboratory records
British Coal CorporationPre-1985 NRF and FS files
British Coal CorporationPre-1985 V files
United Kingdom Atomic Energy AuthorityMiscellaneous records
British Coal CorporationDuplicate research reports, commercial contracts and other records
HM TreasuryPersonal files of staff of Forward Catering
Property Services AgencyRegistered files
Property Services AgencyProperty maintenance records
Property Services AgencyPersonnel records of PSA projects (1973-1993)
Property Services AgencyAll PSA projects (1960-1992)
Property Services AgencyPSA files (1983-1992)
Property Services AgencyPSA files, Scotland (1976-1993)
Property Services AgencyPSA property records; PSA job and contract files (1976-1993)
Property Services AgencyPSA building management files (1976-1993)
Property Services AgencyPSA property records; property, policy and contract files; microfiche and computer records (1975-1993)
Property Services AgencyManagement records, PSA registered files (1940-1993)
Export Credits Guarantee DepartmentRecords of the Insurance Services Group
Property Services AgencyRecords of PSA projects
Department of EmploymentRecords of Professional and Executive Recruitment
National Dock Labour BoardPlans of board headquarters
National Dock Labour BoardPlans of other board properties
National Dock Labour BoardRecords of registered dock workers on the register immediately prior to the abolition of the scheme
Training AgencyUnregistered papers of the Skills Training Agency
Department of TransportRoad service licensing application files, NW Traffic Area

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Asylum Seekers: Dublin Convention

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To which rule of which international convention the Secretary of State for Social Security, Mr. Peter Lilley, was referring when, speaking on BBC's Newsnight programme on 21st June, he described the safe third country rule in asylum cases as "part of the rules of the international convention".

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): Most countries apply the safe third country principle. The Dublin Convention, which the majority of member states, including the United Kingdom, have ratified, will provide a framework for operating that principle within the European Union.

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