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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): The BSE Inquiry was originally intended to report on 31 December 1998. At the request of the inquiry, the Government announced on 9 March 1998 that the original terms of reference would be revised to allow the inquiry until 30 June 1999 to report. The inquiry has now requested a further extension and, following discussions with the committee about the time needed to complete their task, the Government have agreed that the report shall be delivered by 31 March 2000.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government will not agree to any Directive which would risk serious damage to the financial services industry in the City of London. We have already made it clear on a number of occasions that the draft Directive is not acceptable in its present form.
(a) whether parliamentary scrutiny arrangements can prevent them from agreeing to any proposal by the European Council for a withholding tax;
(b) whether, following such an agreement, there would be a breach of European Community law if the necessary tax legislation was not enacted in the United Kingdom; and
(c) whether such a breach would undermine both Parliament's control of supply and the constitutional principle that one Parliament cannot bind its successors.[HL2634]
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: There are long-standing government undertakings to both Houses of Parliament that they will not normally vote in favour of (or in some cases abstain from voting on) proposals in the Council of Ministers which are still subject to the established parliamentary scrutiny arrangements. The undertakings are embodied in a 30 October 1980 Resolution of the House of Commons (updated on 24 October 1990).
A failure to give effect to an obligation to transpose the provisions of an EC Directive would be a breach of our obligations under the EC Treaty, and would render the United Kingdom liable to infraction proceedings under Article 226 (ex-Article 169).
The European Communities Act 1972 provides for effect to be given in our domestic law to obligations of the United Kingdom under EC law, including, where necessary, for those obligations to override inconsistent provisions of our domestic law.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The annual value to the United Kingdom of the financial service industry is variable. Annual figures are available in table 4.1.1 of the publication United Kingdom National Accounts 1998. For comparison purposes, annual figures for the whole are available in table 2.1 of the same publication.
The estimated revenue increase from removing the VAT exemption for financial services and taxing them at the standard rate of VAT is £100 million, as published in table C of HM Customs and Excise 1997-98 annual report.
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The detailed programme for the rollout of the ICL Pathway project to all post offices in the network is an operational matter for the Post Office and ICL Pathway.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The population of catalogued manmade objects in orbit around the earth is approaching 10,000. This number represents objects greater in size than about 30cm in low earth orbit (LEO) and greater than about 1 metre in geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO). Of these catalogued objects, only about 350 are active satellites. In addition, there are estimated to be over 300,000 objects in orbit that are greater than 1cm and a correspondingly larger number of even smaller objects. Natural debris predominates at sizes less than 1mm, man-made debris at all other sizes.
The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) is working towards agreement on the steps to be taken to mitigate the growth and impact of space debris. A report will be submitted to the UN General Assembly in Autumn 1999. Recommended activity includes removing space objects from orbit at the end of their lives, making safe objects remaining in space and other measures to help control the rate of growth of space debris.
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Tonnage is only one factor in determining a yard's capabilities; others include the overall dimensions of the vessel and any specialist design or manufacturing capabilities that may be needed.
My department estimates that two yards are currently capable of building vessels of that size: these are Harland & Wolff in Belfast and Marconi Marine at Barrow. Their registered owners are Harland and Wolff Holdings plc, Queens Island, Belfast BT3 9DU and Marconi Marine (VSEL) Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria LA14 1AF respectively.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): The House of Commons has agreed that the public areas of the Commons should be closed that night. In the House of Lords, there will be a celebration, sponsored by the Millennium Commission, in the Royal Gallery. Events in the Lord Chancellor's Apartment are a matter for the Lord Chancellor. Elsewhere, no events are planned in the House of Lords that night.
Whether they consider that the proposed joint committee on human rights should be able to enquire into ministerial statements of compatibility made under Section 19 of the Human Right Act 1998; and[HL2666]
Whether they consider that the proposed joint committee on human rights should be empowered to consider amendments tabled during the passage of a bill which might render the bill incompatible with Convention rights; and[HL2667]
Whether they consider that the proposed joint committee on human rights should be able to scrutinise the compatibility of secondary legislation with convention rights.[HL2668]
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