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Vehicle Emission Standards

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: Around 15,000 vehicles have been tested to date. Of these, just under 2,500 vehicles were found to be in breach of prescribed emissions standards, though only some 1,000 motorists have been issued with fixed penalty notices.

The cost-effectiveness of the scheme is currently being evaluated. The preliminary view of participating local authorities is that income from fixed penalties is unlikely to cover their costs.

It was always the case that a pilot scheme would have a small impact, at first, on air quality. What is significant is that already, after only 13 months since the scheme started, there has been a progressive improvement in the level of compliance.

EU Research Council, 22 December

Lord Morris of Castle Morris asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): I represented the UK at the meeting of the EU Research Council on 22 December 1998. I am pleased to say that the Council reached final agreement on the legislation for the Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP5), paving the way for the launch of the programme in the next few weeks. Agreement on FP5 marks a major step forward in Europe's research effort, opening up new opportunities for collaborative research tackling major European challenges relating to competitiveness and the quality of life. I look forward to continued strong participation by UK researchers.

The Council adopted decisions on the two framework programmes that under the EC Treaty and the Euratom Treaty set the budget and broad priorities for FP5 and on the rules for detailed participation in the programme stemming from Article 130j of the EC Treaty. It reached political agreement on FP5's 10 specific programmes which set out scientific and technological content in

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detail and provide for the internal distribution of each programme's budget, in preparation for formal adoption later this month.

The Council also agreed conclusions calling for greater emphasis on research, development and innovation activities in the EU's MEDA programme for development co-operation with Mediterranean countries. It approved signature of an agreement for scientific and technological co-operation between the European Community and China and made decisions progressing a number of other scientific and technological co-operation agreements between the Community third countries.

Agriculture Council, 18 and 19 January

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 18 and 19 January.[HL640]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels on 18 and 19 January 1999.

The German Presidency informed the Agriculture Council of the work programme for the coming six months, of which the principal focus would be completion of the negotiation for reform of the common agricultural policy (CAP) in the framework of Agenda 2000. In addition, the Presidency made clear that the Council would discuss proposals on the annual CAP price fixing, animal welfare, consumer protection and organic livestock standards.

The Council resumed its discussions of the Agenda 2000 CAP reform proposals by conducting an in-depth debate on reform of the beef and milk sectors. On behalf of the UK, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food supported the Commission's proposal to reduce prices and abolish intervention buying in the beef sector, though with appropriate arrangements to safeguard the systems of extensively-reared beef production which is characteristic of the UK. On reform of the milk sector, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food pressed the case for a more thorough-going reform than that proposed by the Commission, referring specifically to the proposal made by the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy and Sweden for reform in this sector which would lead to the eventual abolition of milk quotas.

The German Presidency outlined a programme of work on the CAP aspects of Agenda 2000, leading up to the meeting of the Agriculture Council beginning on 22 February. They indicated their intention to try to draw the negotiation to a conclusion at that Council in view of the timetable laid down by Heads of Government in Cardiff and in Vienna for completion of the whole package of measures by end-March 1999. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture,

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Fisheries and Food welcomed their commitment to reaching early agreement on these proposals.

Lupus Erythematosus

Baroness Brigstocke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any record of the numbers of those suffering from systemic Lupus Erythematosus in the United Kingdom.[HL412]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The information is not available in the form requested. However the figures for hospital treatment for systemic Lupus Erythematosus for the financial years 1996-97 and 1997-98 (the latest year available) for National Health Service trusts in the United Kingdom were 1996-97, 3,800; 1997-98 4,400. (Figures are estimates and are based on numbers of finished consultant episodes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and discharges and deaths for Scotland.)

Sex Offences: Review

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out the terms of reference for the review of sex offences they are undertaking.[HL690]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The intention to review sex offences and penalties was announced by Alun Michael, then Minister of State for the Home Office, on 15 June 1998. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has today published the terms of reference of this review. Copies of a consultation leaflet describing the review and inviting views to inform of its work have been placed in the Library.

The terms of reference of the review are: "To review the sex offences in the common and statute law of England and Wales, and make recommendations that will:

    Provide coherent and clear sex offences which protect individuals, especially children and the more vulnerable, from abuse and exploitation;

    Enable abusers to be appropriately punished; and

    Be fair and non-discriminatory in accordance with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and Human Rights Act".

The review will be conducted by a steering group of officials from relevant departments and expert advisers. This group will have the benefit of advice from an External Reference Group made up of individuals and organisations with experience, expertise and opinions on a range of issues relevant to the consideration of sex offences. The review should take about a year to

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complete its work and its recommendations will form the basis of a consultation paper.

Children: Abuse of Trust

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the report of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Preventing Unsuitable People from working with Children and Abuse of Trust.[HL689]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: We have today placed a copy of the report of the interdepartmental working group in the Library. This follows its interim report on abuse of trust which we placed in the Library on 25 November last year.

The working group has made a number of recommendations in principle for establishing an integrated scheme to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children. Following a written consultation exercise, it undertook initial discussion of the emerging proposals with a number of organisations outside government before making its report and received their broad support. The report acknowledges there is much work to be done on the scheme, including further consultation. The detailed elements of the scheme will need to be worked up before firm proposals can be made.

The Government welcome the report as the basis for an integrated scheme to provide greater protection for children and, in due course, vulnerable adults. We have asked the working group to work up the proposals as a matter of priority with a view to bringing forward detailed recommendations. Primary legislation will be required to put the new scheme in place.

The integrated scheme envisages a central access point for three sources of information: criminal records (with certain offences attracting a ban on working with children); List 99 (maintained by the Department for Education and Employment); and the Consultancy Index (maintained by the Department of Health). This central access point would be the Criminal Records Bureau. The Protection of Children Bill currently before Parliament makes provision for the necessary amendment to Part V of the Police Act 1997 for the bureau to act as a one-stop shop able to receive and pass on information from List 99 and the Consultancy Index. This should allow work on this wider role to form part of the work now under way on establishing the Criminal Records Bureau.

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