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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Simon of Highbury: WTO panels and the appellate body take decisions on the basis of evidence submitted to them by the parties to a dispute. Reports by WTO panels and the appellate body are made publicly available. Documents submitted to panels and the appellate body in the course of their inquiries are kept confidential, although the parties can also be requested to provide a non-confidential summary of the information contained in the submission, which can be disclosed to the public. As with all WTO functions, the activities of panels and the appellate body are funded through annual WTO member government subscriptions.

WTO: Rejection of Import Bans

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Simon of Highbury: Consistent with current WTO rules, WTO panels and the appellate body have ruled against measures restricting imports on the basis of inadequate scientific justification in a number of cases, including the EU's ban on imports of meat from animals which have been treated with hormone growth promoters; Australia's ban on the import of fresh, chilled or frozen salmon from Canada; and Japan's lengthy procedures for testing quarantine requirements for every individual variety of fruit.

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WTO: Appointment of Technical Experts

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the World Trade Organisation's technical experts are appointed and by whom; how many there are; and whether peer review is in place to examine their adjudications.[HL2004]

Lord Simon of Highbury: Members of WTO panels are selected from a rota of panellists nominated by WTO member governments. Normally three will be selected to sit on each panel and, unless the parties to the dispute agree otherwise, panellists are not drawn from countries which are parties to the dispute. Panellists are also selected with a view to ensuring their independence, diversity of background and a wide spectrum of experience. There are seven appellate body members who were appointed following a formal selection process in December 1995. WTO panel rulings can be appealed to the appellate body; appellate body rulings cannot be appealed. Both panel and appellate body rulings must be adopted by the dispute settlement body. Separately, WTO panels can call independent experts in specific cases where they consider it necessary and appropriate, for example where scientific evidence may be disputed. In all cases, it is open to the plaintiff or defendant to submit advice from relevant experts as part of their written submissions.

WTO Rules: Decisions Taken on the Basis of Science

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What procedures the World Trade Organisation has in place to adjudicate on the scientific bases on which governments may control or restrict imports of products believed to be harmful.[HL2003]

Lord Simon of Highbury: The main WTO rules which relate to decisions taken by member governments on the basis of science are contained in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements. The SPS Agreement recognises the right of members to take measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant health but requires that any such trade measures are based on scientific principles and are not maintained without sufficient scientific evidence. The TBT Agreement similarly permits technical regulations provided that they are not more trade-restrictive than is necessary to achieve legitimate objectives, taking account of the risks that non-fulfilment of such objectives would create. Such objectives include the protection of human health or safety, animal or plant life or health, or the environment. The available scientific and technical information, related processing technology and the intended end-uses of products are among the factors which must be taken into consideration.

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Electronic Trading Document: Response Time

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 25 March (WA 170) "that eight weeks should generally be the minimum response time for all consultation exercises, but whenever possible more should be allowed", on what grounds only four weeks were allowed for responses to the Department of Trade and Industry's consultation document Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce; and [HL1983]

    Whether the subject matter contained within the Department of Trade and Industry's consultation document Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce falls within the description of Lord Falconer of Thoroton as being of interest to "clearly defined or specialist groups" (WA 170, 25 March) thereby justifying a shorter consultation period than that promoted by Cabinet Office guidelines.[HL1984]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Government have set a deadline of 2002 for their ambitious goal of developing the UK as the world's best environment for electronic trading. We are committed to introducing legislation in this parliamentary session and therefore need to be in a position to introduce the legislation soon. The deadline was set in view of this and to allow enough time for a careful analysis of responses.

The overall thrust of government policy in this area is relatively well known, and DTI Ministers and officials had numerous informal discussions with interested parties about the likely content of the document in the months leading up to its publication. There has also been considerable media interest and public debate over the last year or so. In effect, the formal consultation has been the culmination of a continuing informal consultation process. I am pleased to say that we have received over 240 responses from industry and other interested parties.

These factors, rather than being of interest to "clearly defined or specialist groups", have justified a consultation period which is less than the minimum recommended in the Cabinet Office guidelines. These guidelines themselves make it clear that departments have flexibility:

    "Following the best practice principles contained in this guide will be the responsibility of individual departments, agencies and other relevant bodies. Where they do not follow the best practice for a particular consultation exercise, they must satisfy themselves that, if asked, they have good reasons for not doing so".

A.40: Reduction of Speed Limit

Lord Burnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many road accidents have occurred on the A.40 between the Target roundabout and Hanger Lane since the reduction of the speed limit in 1998;

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    and in how many of these accidents speed was a contributory factor.[HL2033]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): I have asked the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency to write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Burnham from the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, Mr. L. Haynes, dated 27 April 1999.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions has asked me to reply to your recent question about the latest figure for road accidents on the A.40 between Target Roundabout and Hanger Lane.

In the nine months following the reduction of the speed limits, there were 31 personal injury accidents on this part of the A.40 and in 17 of these speed was deemed to be a contributory factor. This compares with 48 accidents in the equivalent 9-month period in 1997 of which 23 were speed related.

Although the figures are encouraging, it is too early to draw firm conclusions from the comparisons. Usually, accident data for the three years prior to and following any new measures being introduced is required before robust conclusions on their effectiveness can be made.

Railway Signalling Infrastructure: Hesketh Report

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What conclusions and recommendations of the Hesketh report on signalling, produced for British Rail before privatisation, have not been implemented

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    in full or in part; and whether they will place a copy of this report in the Library of the House.[HL2084]

Lord Whitty: The Hesketh report was produced internally for the British Railways Board in 1992. It has never been published, although a BR summary of it was published on 19 July 1995 by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee. It is now out of date.

Responsibility for the signalling infrastructure passed to Railtrack in April 1994, which adopted its own system for assessing the conditions of signalling. All signalling equipment is monitored regularly by Railtrack to ensure operational safety. The Health and Safety Executive monitors Railtrack's signalling maintenance procedures as part of its routine inspection programme and is satisfied with Railtrack's strategies for achieving the safety of its signalling systems, including the management of any problems.

Local Government Bill: Compliance Costs

Lord Bowness asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In respect of the Local Government Bill and the best value provisions therein, what is their estimate of the costs of compliance and implementation which will fall on best value authorities in England and Wales, and how much of this will be met by increases in the revenue support grant; and what is their estimate of the costs of audit and inspection which will be incurred by the Audit Commission, and how much of this will be met by government grant and how much will be recovered from local authorities.[HL2041]

Lord Whitty: I have today written to the noble Lord. A copy of the letter has been placed in the House Library.

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