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Gibraltar

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

19 Apr 2000 : Column WA103

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): I am pleased to announce that, following extensive consultation with the Government of Gibraltar and with their support, and with the encouragement of our EU partners, the United Kingdom has successfully concluded discussions with Spain to overcome difficulties which have arisen on a number of issues within the European Union concerning Gibraltar. As a result, arrangements have been established whereby formal communications and notification of decisions between Gibraltar authorities and their counterparts in other member states under EU legislation will be conveyed through a unit established in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. The arrangements will enable Gibraltar to derive immediate benefits in the development of its banking and insurance industries. They will unblock important measures for the development of the single market and in the Justice and Home Affairs field to the benefit of the UK and Gibraltar and prevent similar blockages in the future. The arrangements uphold the constitutional position of Gibraltar, while at the same time removing a major obstacle to the development of EU business. The arrangements are being notified to the Secretary General of the Council in Brussels together with an exchange of correspondence between the UK and Spanish Permanent Representatives to the EU. A copy of the exchange of correspondence and the arrangements will be placed in the Library of the House.

The identity card issued in Gibraltar will be recognised as a valid travel document throughout the EU, following some reformatting which is proposed by the Government of Gibraltar to associate the identity card with the UK as the member state responsible for Gibraltar. The UK Permanent Representative to the EU is writing to the Permanent Representatives of all other EU member states to inform them of the proposed reformatting. A copy of this letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Arrangements will be established under the Schengen Convention to enhance co-operation between the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Spanish police forces in the fight against transfrontier and other crimes in the region, as part of the Europe-wide fight against crime called for at the Tampere Special European Council last October and in keeping with Gibraltar's longstanding commitment in this respect. These arrangements have been initialled. The intention is that they will be signed by the Home Secretary and his Spanish counterpart, as required by the Schengen Convention, when the Council Decision on the UK Schengen application is adopted. A copy of the initialled text will be placed in the Library of the House.

A revised version of the draft Council Decision on the UK's Schengen application, including the relevant addition covering Gibraltar which has hitherto been left open, will be circulated by the Presidency shortly. It will provide for Gibraltar's participation in all the provisions in which the UK participates (except the Schengen Information System and cross border

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surveillance). It will be submitted to the scrutiny committee.

The Government welcome the outcome of these discussions. It represents a very good outcome for the UK, for Gibraltar and for all our EU partners. We hope that it will also help to improve the climate of dialogue and the spirit of co-operation with regard to Gibraltar between Spain, and the UK and Gibraltar.

DETR Consultation Document, High Hedges: Possible Solutions

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What number of replies were received by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions by the closing date, 31 January, in response to their consultation document High Hedges: Possible Solutions in support of each of the four offered options and for none of them.[HL1814]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My department received some 3,000 responses to this consultation, which we are currently analysing. We hope to make a statement, setting out our decisions on the way forward on this issue and the reasons for them, by the summer.

EU Budget: UK Contribution

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the total net contribution made by the United Kingdom to the European Community, at constant prices, during the period 1973 to 1995; what was the United Kingdom's net contribution in each of the years 1996 to 1999; and what is their estimate for the United Kingdom's net contribution in 2000, 2001 and 2002.[HL2024]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In 1995-96 prices, the United Kingdom's total net contribution to the European Community Budget for the period 1973-74 to 1995-96 was £38,011 million. Details of the United Kingdom's net contribution in 1996-97 and 1998-99, an estimate for 1999-2000, and the Government's latest forecast of the trended net contribution for 2000-01 and 2001-02 can be obtained from the latest departmental report of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's departments, published on 7 April (Cm 4615).

Post Office Closures

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Guardian of Tuesday 4 April was accurate in estimating 400-500 rural post office closures in the next year; and if not, what is their estimate.[HL1932]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: I understand that the estimate of 400-500 rural post office closures in the next year reported in the Guardian on 4 April is a wholly speculative number. In the Post Office's financial year to 27 March 2000, the net number of post office closures was 383.

As all sub-post offices are privately owned and operated, there can be many different reasons affecting the decision to close. There is therefore no accurate way of forecasting future closure levels but Post Office Counters Ltd seeks to maintain post office services wherever possible.

Government Departments: External Consultancy Costs

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 6 April (WA 147-148), whether the following departments hold any information as to the value of external consultancy contracts, excluding public relations and marketing consultancies, entered into by the Government since 1 May 1997; and, if so, what is the value of such contracts in each case--


    (A) The Treasury;


    (B) the Department of Health;


    (C) the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions;


    (D) the Ministry of Defence;


    (E) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office;


    (F) the Department of Trade and Industry;


    (G) the Cabinet Office;


    (H) the Department of Culture, Media and Sport;


    (I) the Department for Education and Employment;


    (J) the Department for International Development;


    (K) the Department of Social Security;


    (L) the Home Office;


    (M) the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and


    (N) the Lord Chancellor's Department, and[HL1972]

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 6 April (WA 147-148), whether the following departments hold any information as to the value of external public relations and marketing consultancy contracts entered into by the Government since 1 May 1997; and, if so, what is the value of such contracts in each case--


    (A) The Treasury;


    (B) the Department of Health;

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    (C) the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions;


    (D) the Ministry of Defence;


    (E) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office;


    (F) the Department of Trade and Industry;


    (G) the Cabinet Office;


    (H) the Department of Culture, Media and Sport;


    (I) the Department for Education and Employment;


    (J) the Department for International Development;


    (K) the Department of Social Security;


    (L) the Home Office;


    (M) the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; and


    (N) the Lord Chancellor's Department.[HL1973]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested is currently held only by departments which are individually accountable for the purchases they make. The newly established Office of Government Commerce is undertaking work to establish cross-Government purchasing trends.

Northern Ireland: Air Passenger Duty

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the debate on Northern Ireland on 22 March (H.L. Deb., col. 358), whether they will extend the air passenger levies waiver announced in the Budget for the Highland and Islands to Northern Ireland.[HL1984]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: No. The exemption from Air Passenger Duty for flights from airports in the Scottish Highlands and Islands is being introduced in recognition of the reliance on air transport by many people in this remote region. It is the only UK region with population density less than 12.5 people per square kilometre. The people of Northern Ireland do not depend on air transport for aspects of everyday life to the same degree.


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