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Transport Council, 20 and 21 December

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I represented the United Kingdom at the Council.

The Council unanimously adopted conclusions welcoming the Commission's proposals for a new European Aviation Safety Agency. The Commission welcomed the progress made and hoped that a Common Position would be reached by June 2001.

The Council took note of a progress report on a Commission proposal for transposing safety standards of the Joint Aviation Authorities into EC law. The Council also noted that a proposal for a directive creating generic training requirements for airline cabin crew was moving towards agreement.

The Commission set out the main conclusions of the High Level Group, set up following publication of the Commission Communication The Creation of a Single European Sky and chaired by the Commissioner. The conclusions focus on creating an independent regulator; managing civil and military airspace in Europe collectively; promoting technical interoperability; and improving the training and recruitment of air traffic controllers. The Commission said it would present a Communication to the Stockholm European Council and make legislative proposals soon after that. Member states all reacted positively. Most pointed to the need to fully involve Central European countries in this work. I stressed the need to separate the operation and regulation of air traffic management services.

The Council discussed air passengers' rights. The Commission stressed the need for performance criteria for airlines. It hoped for new agreements with industry by the end of April. The Presidency noted that voluntary arrangements were preferable to legislation.

The Commission gave a progress report on negotiations on air services agreements with the Central and East European countries.

The Presidency noted recent progress on the technical aspects of a Commission mandate for negotiating a Transatlantic Common Aviation Area with the US.

The Commission presented its report on the definition phase of the Galileo satellite navigation project. During the debate, I joined other Ministers in recalling the Conclusions of the Cologne and Nice European Councils on the predominant role of private sector finance in the project. The Council did not reach agreement on how to proceed with the development and validation phase. The Commission will undertake further work on outstanding issues, and the project is likely to be discussed again by the Council in April.

Proposals on maritime safety arising from the Erika disaster were further debated and common positions reached on two draft directives. The first of these enhances the supervision, and responsibilities and

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liabilities, of ship classification societies. The second improves the targeting and standards of port state control inspections, concentrating effort on those vessels which pose the greatest safety and/or pollution risks.

The Commission gave a presentation on elements of the second package of post-Erika proposals: ship surveillance; increase in provision for oil pollution compensation payments; and a new European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). I underlined the need for the first two elements to be pursued internationally in the context of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and supported the establishment of the EMSA to the extent that it should provide for better quality technical support to the Commission.

Council Conclusions were adopted reaffirming a maritime safety policy aimed at reducing the risk of accidents and the avoidance of loss of life and pollution of the marine environment. In particular, the Conclusions undertook to continue negotiations with IMO on acceleration of the introduction of double-hulled tankers on the basis of an approach agreed by the Council in October and, if an agreement on those terms is reached at the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee session in April 2001, to adopt a text bringing the IMO agreement immediately into Community law; emphasised the need for an adequate regime, global if possible, for compensation in the event of damage caused by oil pollution at sea; expressed the aim that Voyage Data Recorders (VDRs--"black boxes") should be compulsory within five years on all ships calling at EU ports and that member states should continue their efforts in the IMO to secure an international agreement making mandatory the fitting of VDRs to all vessels.

There was a debate on an amended proposal to harmonise employment standards between EU and third country crew members on intra-EU regular passenger ferry services. I was joined by other Ministers in emphasising the need to protect seafarers' employment conditions and maintain an appropriate maritime skills base.

Political agreement was reached on a directive to improve the safety of bulk carriers, which is now subject to the scrutiny of the European Parliament.

Agreement with the European Parliament having been reached on the package of measures for opening up international rail freight in the EU, the Council unanimously adopted the package.

Political agreement was reached by qualified majority on a directive on working time in the road transport sector. Self-employed drivers will not be covered by the directive immediately, but their exclusion will be reviewed two years after transposition of the directive, with the aim of drawing up specific provisions. The UK is content with much of the agreed text, and was pleased to see revised definitions of working time and night work incorporated. However, as the final text did not include satisfactory provision on an individual opt-out, or a temporary derogation permitting a 65 hour

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maximum working week, the United Kingdom abstained from the Council's agreement.

The Council agreed Conclusions on a proposal obliging international lorry drivers to carry an attestation showing that they were legally employed. The Conclusions stated that the draft regulation should apply only to third country drivers (subject to review), and that work should continue with a view to reaching agreement on the regulation at the Council in April.

The Commission presented its proposals on weekend lorry bans, driver training and the amendment to Regulation 3820/85 on drivers' hours.

There was a debate on proposals on public service obligations in the field of passenger transport by road, rail and inland waterway and on state aid granted for co-ordination of transport in those modes. I was among Ministers who spoke in support of the proposals. The Presidency concluded that public services were of general interest and needed particular treatment to safeguard them, and that there was a general desire for progress.

The Commission presented its Green Paper on security of energy supply.

The Council adopted a directive continuing indefinitely the harmonised start and end dates for summertime in the EU (last Sunday of March and October respectively). There will be review after five years.

Office of the Rail Regulator: Senior Staff

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    For how many years each senior staff member has been employed in the Office of the Rail Regulator; and how long was their previous experience in the railway industry.[HL205]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Office of the Rail Regulator has been in existence for seven years. The table below shows the length of time each of the 15 senior staff members has been employed there. Some senior staff have been associated with the railways for up to 25 years. But to regulate efficiently and effectively, the Orr requires experience and expertise, not only of the core railway disciplines but also of the regulatory, marketing, legal and economic conditions associated with the broader aspects of the rail industry.

Number of staffLength of service
27 years
16 years 9 months
16 years 5 months
13 years 6 months
13 years
21 years 6 months
11 year 3 months
11 year 2 months
29 months
18 months
16 months
15 months

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BSE and Prion Proteins

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Upon what scientific evidence was based the statement made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on Radio 4 on Monday 4 December that prion proteins were the infectious agents for BSE.[HL92]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): While there are a number of alternative theories as to the causal agents for BSE, the majority of the scientific evidence available points to the primary role of prion proteins. None of the ongoing studies on alternative theories has to date produced compelling evidence to suggest that prions are not implicated. Information on government-funded research on TSEs can be found at

European Fisheries Council Meetings

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will set out the number of meetings of the European Fisheries Council in each year since the creation of the Common Fisheries Policy, together with the number of times the United Kingdom was represented in each year by a Cabinet Minister, including instances where the Minister was acting as President of the Council.[HL243]

Baroness Hayman: This information is not readily available. However, the records we currently hold indicate that the number of meetings of the European Fisheries Council since the creation of the Common Fisheries Policy is as follows:

YearNumber of Meetings

Information on attendees is available only from November 1992. Of these, a Cabinet Minister has represented the UK on four occasions since 1992. On three of these the Minister was acting as President of the Council (December 1992, March 1998 and June 1998).

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