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The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): As I have previously made clear, it will be for the House to decide how to proceed with the recommendations contained in the Report on Standards of Conduct in the House of Lords. In order to assist the process, I have asked my noble friend the Attorney General to chair a working group to report to me within three months, and to make recommendations.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Commission has recently published a working paper on the presence of GM seeds in seeds of conventional varieties. The draft proposals include provisions on GM threshold levels, previous cropping requirements, isolation distances and labelling. Copies of the working paper have been placed in the Library of the House.
The Council expressed its willingness to meet in Oslo for discussions on climate change with the Umbrella Group (including the US, Japan Canada and Australia). After a lunchtime telephone discussion between the Troika and representatives of the Group, the Presidency reported that the Oslo meeting would not take place as the Group felt there to be insufficient common ground at the present time. Council Conclusions broadly reflect the outcome of these discussions, although the UK made a minutes statement to clarify one part of the Conclusions.
Council reached agreement on a Community Framework for co-operation to promote sustainable urban development. The Council agreed on a budget of Euro 14 million over a four-year period from 2001, the same figure as finally proposed by the European Parliament in amending the Commission's original proposal of Euro 12.5 million over the same period. Since Council agreed the proposal in the same terms as voted by the European Parliament, it was adopted without the need for a second reading.
Council reached Common Position on the proposed Framework Directive on Assessment and Management of Environmental Noise. This will introduce a common EU standard for noise measurement, harmonised noise level monitoring and mapping, along with a new EU noise indicator, but does not impose an EU-wide limit value for ambient noise. Council also invited the Commission to make proposals for new or more stringent binding noise emissions limits from specific sources, including vehicles and outdoor machinery.
Conclusions were agreed on global environmental governance, essentially to strengthen the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and improve the co-ordination of international environmental institutions. The EU will look into the possibilities of increasing its contribution to UNEP, providing other contributors do likewise. Detailed proposals on these issues will be developed for discussion at the European Council in Gothenburg next June, in preparation for the Rio + 10 Conference in 2002.
Proposals for Directives on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and Restriction of use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) were discussed. The Presidency explained that the EP had not given its opinion so Common Position was not achievable, but it aimed to develop a view on a common approach. My right honourable friends made it clear that the proposals had not cleared Parliamentary Scrutiny and could not, therefore, agree a text. However, a useful discussion enabled a clearer view to emerge of the possible range for agreement on the timetables for producer responsibility, and for recovery and recycling targets.
Council adopted, without debate, brief Conclusions on the Commission's review of the Auto Oils II programme calling for further proposals on fuel specifications and the control of vehicle emissions. Orientation debates were held on: the application of the Aarhus Convention to European Institutions, as regards access to environmental information; the Commisson's white paper on Environmental Liability; and on traceability and labelling of GMOs. Over dinner Ministers received informal progress reports from the Commission on the following, as there had been no time for taking these items during Council: Sixth Environmental Action Plan; the review of the EU chemical legislation; the planned Green Paper on Integrated Product Policy; Community guidelines on State Aid for the Environment; international negotiations on the Persistent Organic Pollutants Convention; and the Resolution adopted by the General Affairs Council on 4/5 December on the Precautionary Principle.
The Government have listened very carefully to representations made on the recommendations of the Donaldson Report and the regulations and they respect the often strongly held views (on both sides of the debate) of many people on these difficult and sensitive issues. We have arranged a number of meetings with Ministers and Professor Donaldson, to which all Members of Parliament and Peers were invited, in order to discuss these issues. A further meeting has been arranged for 4 pm on Thursday 18 January.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The cross-departmental review of illegal drugs that reported as part of last summer's spending review 2000 concluded that a new national treatment agency should oversee a pooled treatment budget for substance misusers, with the aim of increasing the numbers treated and raising the standard of that treatment. The Department of Health has published a consultation document containing
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The Systematic Review of Water Fluoridation report commissioned from the University of York found evidence that both children and adults living in fluoridated areas where overall health is poor had less tooth decay than those living in non-fluoridated areas. We want health authorities in areas of high dental decay to consider holding consultations in which local people could give their current views on fluoridation in the light of the report's findings.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The review showed that fluoridation does reduce dental decay and found no evidence of serious adverse effects on oral health, but there was a lack of high quality research. We have, therefore, asked the Medical Research Council to suggest how it might be possible to strengthen the evidence currently available.
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