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16 Jul 1997 : Column WA109

Written Answers

Wednesday, 16th July 1997.

Gibraltar

Lord Merrivale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking for Spain to conform with its 5 February 1985 agreement to open fully the land frontier with Gibraltar, bearing in mind present restrictions, and its agreement to operate red and green customs channels.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We continue to urge Spain to provide sufficient staff to ensure that delays are kept to a minimum, and to implement its proposal in 1985 to establish red and green channels. Spain has the right to carry out customs checks because Gibraltar is outside the Community Customs Territory.

Tunisia

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Tunisia is receiving consideration in Brussels as a potential member of the European Union.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: It is not.

Department for International Development: Funding

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What funding from United Kingdom sources will be available to the Department for International Development for its activities overseas, and what those sources will be.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The resources for the Department for International Development remain as those shown for the ODA in table 36 of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 1997 Departmental Report (CM 3603). The figures reflect the ODA allocation in the last Public Expenditure Survey and the level of anticipated appropriations-in-aid from past aid loans which DFID are permitted to reallocate in the Development Assistance programme.

Landmines

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the article by the Secretary of State for International Development, Miss Clare Short, published in the Spectator of 5 July 1997 represents government policy.

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The article was a personal comment by the Secretary of State for International Development based on the Government's determination to seek an effective international ban on anti-personnel landmines at the earliest possible opportunity and to seek more rapid progress in demining.

Water Services

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What actions they and the water companies are taking on the 10-point plan which was announced at the recent Water Summit.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): Each water company has now responded in a generally positive and constructive way to our proposals for action. Copies of each company's response have been placed in the Libraries of the House, together with a short analysis of them prepared by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.

All water companies will now provide free supply pipe leakage detection and repair services to their household customers. Eight of the smaller companies have told us that they will limit the number of free repairs to any one service pipe. Two other of the smaller companies have decided to replace leaking supply pipes free of charge.

All companies are taking action to promote water efficiency. All tell us that they are making significant efforts in the provision of water saving devices. Most are actively distributing devices to reduce toilet flush volumes or else are making them available free on request. A very few companies have decided to conduct trials before committing themselves to widespread promotion; they should take very careful note of what the majority of companies have done and are doing. Most water companies already offer free water efficiency audits to household customers. The remainder are developing or evaluating the service they intend to offer and we want them to go firm very soon. All water companies confirmed that they have in place a wide variety of measures to encourage water efficient gardening. All companies see clear roles for the Environmental Task Force in promoting water efficiency.

In addition to the 14 companies which had already done so, eight companies have indicated that they are now prepared to conclude formal arrangements with the Director General of Water Services in respect of their compensation schemes for drought-related supply interruptions. We want to see these eight licence amendments made by October. We also want the six other companies which indicated that they are minded to accept licence amendments to resolve their reservations with the Director General and to have the amendment process agreed by the same time. That also applies to the one company which still declares itself

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unable to accept licence amendment. All companies have expressed a willingness to consider compensation payments if they have to issue advice to boil or refrain from using mains water for reasons within their control.

Those companies which have not already done so are now moving to agree with the Environment Agency a publicly available drought contingency plan. We are pleased that the industry is united in taking this action in advance of our bringing forward legislation to make it a statutory requirement when parliamentary time allows.

We asked companies to do more to explain to their customers their water supply performance targets and how well they are being met. Altogether, we believe that companies are taking appropriate action. But none should rest contented with their efforts.

We shall be looking for sustained commitment to all of these actions. So my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions will be writing to all companies again in November, asking for an update on the various activities and initiatives they have described.

We have kept to our part of the plan. At its head was tough action by the Director General of Water Services on leakage. He wrote to all water companies on 22 May, setting out the process by which he will establish mandatory targets.

We said that we would make new water regulations which would include significantly tighter requirements for water efficiency. The proposed recommendations of the Government's Water Regulations Advisory Committee were published for consultation on 19 June. We also announced that we would be conducting two reviews. My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment announced on 25 June the launch of a review of the water charging system in England and Wales.

Yesterday, we launched the review of the water abstraction licensing system in England and Wales. A key aim will be to ensure that abstraction licensing and related processes provide full protection for the environment while enabling fair and flexible arrangements for meeting properly managed demand for water resources. This review will be conducted jointly by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Welsh Office, in consultation with the Environment Agency and the Office of Water Services. We have written to interested organisations, inviting their representations on a wide range of issues associated with water abstraction. A copy of this letter has also been placed in the Libraries of the House.

"Sea Empress": Report

Lord Gallacher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the report of the Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents into the grounding and subsequent salvage of the tanker "Sea Empress" at Milford Haven in February 1996.

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Baroness Hayman: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions is publishing the report by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch on the grounding and subsequent salvage of the tanker "Sea Empress" at Milford Haven between 15 and 21 February 1996 today. A copy has been placed in the Library. The report will be distributed by the Stationery Office. It is open for public comment for a period of six weeks. Thereafter, the Government will issue a detailed response to the report. In the meantime officials at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions will begin a review of the 1987 Pilotage Act. Lord Donaldson of Lymington has also been asked to conduct an independent review of salvage and intervention operations and their command and control, having satisfied himself that the Marine Accident Investigation Branch's report provides a reasonable basis for his review. Lord Donaldson's review will form part of the Government's ongoing review of the National Contingency Plan for Marine Pollution. The detailed terms of reference of these reviews will be announced later.

Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland

Lord Gisborough asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to return the areas occupied by the counties of Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland to the County of North Yorkshire.

Baroness Hayman: For ceremonial purposes, the counties of Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland are deemed to form part of the ceremonial County of North Yorkshire County Council.

Relief of Distress

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

    Further to the Answers given by Baroness Jay of Paddington on 3 July (H.L. Deb., cols 298-301) whether they consider that it is lawful for a doctor or nurse whose primary intention is the relief of severe distress (as distinct from pain), and not the deliberate shortening of the patient's life, to give medication to a terminally ill patient, in accordance with the patient's wishes, to relieve such severe distress, even though the likely consequences may be the shortening of the patient's life.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): We are unaware of any case law which elaborates on what is meant by relief of pain and suffering or distress but consider that, as part of good health care, both physical and mental suffering may require treatment. In my Answer on 3 July I referred to the case of Regina v Cox and we have the judge's comments to guide us. In summing up the evidence the judge said, "If a doctor genuinely believes that a certain course is beneficial to his patient, either

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therapeutically or analgesically, then even though he recognises that that course carries with it a risk to life, he is fully entitled, nonetheless to pursue it. If in those circumstances the patient dies, nobody could possibly suggest that in that situation the doctor was guilty of murder or attempted murder". He went on to say: "What can never be lawful is the use of drugs with the primary purpose of hastening the moment of death".


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