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Bookmakers' Committee

Lord Archer of Sandwell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Williams of Mostyn: After careful consideration we have decided to implement the proposals for reconstituting the Bookmakers' Committee previously consulted on.

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Mr. Howarth, today made regulations under Section 26 of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 which will come into force on 24 July.

We consider that the new make-up of the committee strikes a reasonable balance between the different bookmaking interests.

The committee will continue to consist of 12 members. The main change is to give representation to a new body, the British Betting Office Association, which will be invited to appoint two members to the committee.

The Betting Office Licensees Association (which previously appointed five members) is to appoint six members of the committee as a consequence of its merger with the National Sporting League (which previously appointed one member).

The National Association of Bookmakers is to appoint three members of the committee (previously five); and the Scottish Starting Price Bookmakers Association will continue to appoint one member.

My honourable friend will keep the position under review.

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Household Division: Soldiers from Ethnic Minorities

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many soldiers from ethnic minorities are serving in each regiment of the Household Division.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The number of soldiers from ethnic minorities serving in each regiment of the Household Division is as follows:

Household DivisionEthnic Minority Numbers
Household Cavalry1
Grenadier Guards1
Coldstream Guards0
Scots Guards1
Irish Guards2
Welsh Guards0

The Army is committed to Equal Opportunities, and to providing genuine equality of opportunity, within the limits of the law, for all servicemen and servicewomen, in an environment free from harassment. The Army places great importance on teamwork and on the creation of an environment in which individuals are valued for their contribution to the team.

We are well aware that ethnic minorities are not adequately represented within the Army, and we are working in close conjunction with the Central Staffs and the Commission for Racial Equality to redress this situation as quickly as possible.

Prisoners of War: Review of Pay Deductions

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the review report on compensation for prisoners of war.

Lord Gilbert: The detailed report of the review of pay deductions from officer prisoners of war and protected personnel in German and Italian hands during the Second World War has been submitted and is now being studied with care. The result will be announced as soon as is possible.

Holy Loch

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are contemplating the removal of debris from the bed of Holy Loch; and, if so, whether they have established that the benefits of doing justify the cost.

Lord Gilbert: This matter is under consideration. We expect to be in a position within the next few months to decide whether the clearance of the loch, which was originally requested some time ago by various local agencies, should proceed. In reaching a decision, we will of course ensure that all factors are taken into account, including likely costs, benefits and the views of the local community.

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Armed Forces Education Allowances

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to continue unchanged the current scheme under which serving members of the regular Armed Forces may claim an allowance to cover the cost of fees incurred in sending their children to independent boarding schools.

Lord Gilbert: The Government intends to continue with the current scheme for Service education allowances; and, in addition, to continue with the implementation of the recommendations relating to these allowances which were outlined in the Information Document, published in February 1997, and entitled The Armed Forces of the Future-- A Personnel Strategy.

"Sea Base" Floating Runway

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the "Sea Base" 1.6 km floating runway recently ordered by the United States Navy will, in international law, count as a ship, and if not, how will it be classified.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): I have asked the Chief Executive of the Marine Safety Agency, Mr. Robin Bradley, to write to my noble friend.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Chief Executive of the Marine Safety Agency, Mr. R. M. Bradley, dated 26 June 1997.

The Deputy Prime Minister has asked me to reply to your Question as to whether the "Sea Base" 1.6 km floating runway recently ordered by the United States Navy will, in international law, count as a ship, and, if not, how it will be classified.

The classification in international law of a proposed floating runway will depend on its nature and on where and how it is to be used. I have no details of the proposal and so I am not able to offer a more specific comment. If you have any information which you wish to forward to me. I would be pleased to try to give further advice.

Environment Council

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 19 and 20 June 1997.

Baroness Hayman: My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council which took place in Luxembourg on 19 and 20 June.

The Council reached a common position on two major directives which will reduce air pollution from

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vehicles. These two directives form part of the so called "Auto-oil programme" and will set new fuel and car standards for 2000 and prospectively for 2005. The Council also reached political agreement on a directive to tackle the problems caused by the emission of volatile organic compounds from industrial and commercial processes. This directive aims to reduce emission levels by 50 per cent. and was agreed unanimously. It will now go forward for a common position once the opinion of the European Parliament has been given.

The Council further developed the Community's negotiating position for the preparatory meetings for the Third Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, in December this year. Following the decision at the March Environment Council on a target for 2010, the Council agreed that the EU should propose that development countries should reduce emissions of the main greenhouse gases to at least 7.5 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2005. The Council also supported our call for action by the Commission to investigate and bring forward proposals for tackling the potential problems caused by self-chilling cans.

The Council also agreed that at the 9th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol in Montreal in September the European Community should propose that consumption of methyl bromide in developed countries should be reduced to 50 per cent. of 1991 levels by 2001 and phased out in 2005, with exemptions for critical uses. The present phase-out date under the Protocol is 2010.

In the debate about the strategy prepared by the Commission to reduce the problems of acid rain in the Community, we made it clear the UK strongly supported action on this, though more work was needed to clarify the benefits and costs--a view shared by the majority who spoke. We also supported the designation of the Baltic and North seas as areas where the emissions of sulphur dioxide by ships should be controlled; we also called for this control to be extended to the west of Britain. The Council expressed general support for the proposal for the Water Framework Directive, although greater definition of the objectives to be achieved remains a common priority for the further discussions to be held under the forthcoming Luxembourg Presidency.

Conclusions were also agreed on several issues relating to the EU position for the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in New York. The Council also agreed resolutions on the drafting, implementation and enforcement of Community Environmental Law and on Environmental Agreements. The Presidency concluded that there was insufficient support by member states for the proposal by the Commission for a Framework Agreement on Humane Trapping Standards (leghold traps) and therefore handed the dossier over to the Luxembourg Presidency.

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Homelessness: Response to Consultation

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What responses they have received to the proposals for changing the homelessness legislation contained in the consultation paper that was issued on 23 May.

Baroness Hayman: There have been about 200 responses to the consultation paper, the overwhelming majority of which unreservedly welcomed our proposals. Today we have laid draft regulations that would add households owed a main homelessness duty to the groups of people to whom local authorities are required to give reasonable preference in their housing allocation schemes.

This is the first step in our plans to rebuild a proper safety net for families and vulnerable individuals who lose their homes through no fault of their own. It means that, in allocating housing, local authorities will be taking into account the experience of homelessness alongside other indicators of housing and social need.

While it is for each local authority to balance the priority for different groups of housing applicants, this measure gives authorities the potential for moving households accepted as homeless into permanent accommodation more quickly.

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