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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): We understand that the UN Secretary-General's report has been delayed because the Secretariat has been conducting extensive interviews and these have taken longer than expected to complete.
The Secretary-General is expected to sign the report this week. It will then be translated into all the UN's official languages before being issued formally. This will take about three weeks. We understand that the report will be published around the end of this month.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal : I would like to take this opportunity to clarify the oral answer given by my honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr Battle, in another place on 2 November to the honourable Member from Milton Keynes, (Official Report, col. 80). The FCO takes no view as to the innocence or guilt of British nationals on trial overseas--that is a matter for the courts. International law does not allow the FCO to interfere in the judicial procedures of other sovereign states, just as we would not tolerate other countries interfering in our own judicial procedures.
The FCO therefore cannot intervene in the trials of British nationals overseas. However, the FCO will do everything it can to ensure that such nationals have access to legal representation, and insist that they are treated as well as nationals of the countries concerned.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal : We welcome the return of the United States--the largest single contributor to United Nations' budgets--to the United Nations' principal budgetary committee, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions. We hope this will help to bring about early payment of US arrears to the UN.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The US Administration have made clear to us that they remain committed to seeking full funding from Congress of the US share of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation's budget, through the normal US budgetary process.
We are aware of reports that opponents of the treaty in Congress may seek to cut US funding to the treaty organisation. The same reports note widespread support for a global monitoring system, including among some Senators who voted against the treaty. We have made clear to all concerned the importance we attach to the treaty, and its monitoring system. We will continue to monitor the situation closely as budgetary negotiations continue.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments Guidance was followed in identifying suitable candidates for lay membership of the Transport Tribunal earlier this year. Advertisements were placed in the press inviting expressions of interest in these appointments. In filling vacancies we were looking for experience in the transport sector and at a senior level in management and administration. In addition, in deciding on the balance between re-appointments and new appointments, we sought to ensure that there was a range of experience and skills amongst the lay members of the tribunal.
Lord Whitty: EU Directive (98/76/EC) on access to the road haulage profession came into force in the UK on 1 October. Prospective international operators of goods vehicles now require 9,000 euro (£6,500) to be available for their first or only vehicle and 5,000 euro (£3,500) for each subsequent vehicle. Existing international operators have until 1 October 2001 to comply. In assessing applications for domestic operator licences, Traffic Commissioners normally assess the appropriate level of funds to be 80 per cent of the international financial levels for standard national licences and 50 per cent of the international levels for restricted licences.
These funds are required to satisfy Traffic Commissioners that there is adequate money available to maintain the vehicles in a fit and serviceable condition and, in the case of standard operators, additionally to ensure the proper administration of the business. If these funds are used, for example to meet the cost of emergency repairs, then the reserve would temporarily reduce but the operator would be expected to replenish it within a reasonable period of time.
Lord Whitty: It is not practical to publish details of all the instructions and advice given and questions asked of consultants over the period during which tunnel solutions at Stonehenge were being assessed. The initial assessment was carried out by independent cosultants Halcrow, on the Highways Agency's instruction in 1994, ahead of English Heritage's International Conference in August 1994. In 1995, this was further checked and assessed by two separate independent consultants, Halcrow acting for the Highways Agency and Mott MacDonald acting for English Heritage, ahead of the Planning Conference.
Agreement was reached that the estimated cost for twin bored tunnels over 4km long was in the order of £300 million inclusive of construction, design, servicing, survey work and allowing for the preliminary stage of assessment.
Lord Whitty : The Highways Agency announced the Preferred Route for the A.303 Stonehenge scheme in June 1999 and confirmed that this would include improvement works at Countess Roundabout. It is too early to say the precise form that the improvement will take. Further detailed assessment is continuing. The aim is that any improvement would be carried out prior to the opening of the new Visitors' Centre.
Lord Whitty : In the case of farm films and plastic sheeting, which are one type of non-packaging waste plastic, my department issued a consultation paper in October 1998, which received a fairly limited response. Subsequently we have been reassessing the proposals for a new industry initiative based on the Government's commitment to apply waste management controls to agricultural waste which is not excluded under Article 2 of the amended Framework Directive on waste. This means that most agricultural waste will be subject to the controls which apply to "controlled waste". The commitment was most recently confirmed in the waste strategy A Way With Waste, which was published on 30 June.
We will make a further statement in the light of this work. Other waste streams may also generate non-packaging plastic waste such as electrical and electronic goods, on which a proposal for a Directive has been made by the European Commission.
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