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The Commission presented a report on economic reform in Malta. On Ukraine, the Council discussed progress in implementing the action plan on energy sector reform which was launched at the G7 summit in Naples in July 1994.

The presidency reported to the Council on the Troika ministerial visit to the middle east from 7 to 10 February.

There was a discussion on candidates for the position of executive director of UNICEF.

A partnership and co-operation agreement between the EU and Belarus was signed.

A Co-operation Council with Lebanon was held, at which it was agreed to open negotiations for a new EU/Lebanon agreement. The presidency and the Commission discussed the preparations for the concluding conference to adopt the stability pact, which will take place in Paris on 20 to 21 March.

There was a further discussion of EDF VIII. No agreement was reached.

Agreement was reached on the abolition of quotas for ACP light rum and rum from the overseas countries and territories--OCT. A reduction of excise tax was also approved for exports of rum from the French overseas departments to metropolitan France. A quota on ACP traditional rum was set at 58,000 hectolitres, rising by 3,000 hectolitres each year before abolition in the year 2000. A declaration proposing support for Spanish sugar producers was remitted to COREPER for further discussion.

The Council agreed by qualified majority, with only Spain voting against, to increase the Community quotas on imports from China, to take account of the Community's enlargement. Some of the quotas were redefined, to exclude products not made in the Community such as work gloves and certain sports footwear. The quotas on toys were further increased as originally proposed by the Commission in July 1994. The Council confirmed its support for Signor Renato Ruggiero's candidature for the director-generalship of the World Trade Organisation, and issued a declaration urging others to support him in the current round of consultations in Geneva.

Sir Leon Brittan introduced a Commission paper on trade and investment. The paper examines how best to liberalise investment flows world-wide. It will be discussed at the April meeting of the Council.

There was unanimous agreement on a Council statement rejecting the Canadian demand for a 60-day moratorium on the disputed Greenland halibut fishery pending bilateral discussions, and condemning the extension of Canadian enforcement powers on Spanish and Portuguese fishing vessels beyond their 200-mile limit.

The presidency noted agreement on the importance of securing a successful outcome to the forthcoming non-proliferation treaty review conference.

The presidency noted the Council's agreement that the Political Committee should examine the Council of Europe additional protocol on the cultural rights of minorities.

The Council agreed a negotiating mandate for a European agreement with Slovenia.


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The Council agreed on the terms of Customs Union with Turkey, together with the resumption of EU financial assistance. An Association Council with Turkey was held, attended by the Turkish Prime Minister.

The A points listed in Commission document 5342 95 were agreed unanimously, with the exception of number 22 which was withdrawn. A copy of this document is available in the Library of the House.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Legal Aid

Mr. Marlow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. Gill) of 17 March, Official Report, column 726 , relating to legal aid provision, how the merits of the case are assessed; and in what ways and by what process the relevant guidelines can be modified.      [16797]

Mr. John M. Taylor: An applicant for civil legal aid must satisfy the board that he has reasonable grounds for taking, defending or being a party to the proceedings. It must also be reasonable in all the circumstances of the case for legal aid to be granted. This second test permits legal aid to be refused if, for example, the potential financial benefits of litigation seem unlikely to outweigh the probable cost to public funds. The basic merits test is set out in section 15 of the Legal Aid Act 1988, supplemented by the Civil Legal Aid (General) Regulations 1989. In addition, the Legal Aid Board issues guidance on the merits test which is published in the "Legal Aid Handbook". The guidance is amended by the Legal Aid Board when this seems appropriate.

Mr. Marlow: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how much money has been paid in legal aid for persons whose cases (a) are being considered and (b) are in the stages prior to being considered by (i) the European Court of Justice and (ii) the European Court of Human Rights; and if he will list the number of (1) cases and (2) people involved.      [16809]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The information is not readily available and could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the amount of legal aid paid to Mr. Gordon Foxley.      [15448]

Mr. John M. Taylor: The total amount of legal aid paid to lawyers acting on behalf of Mr. Gordon Foxley was £160,228, including VAT. This amount also includes disbursements and other expenses necessarily incurred by the solicitors acting in this case.

Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if Mr. Gordon Foxley disclosed assets held overseas in his aplication for legal aid.      [15449]

Mr. John M. Taylor: Applications for legal aid in criminal proceedings are considered by the court. Section 38 of the Legal Aid Act 1988 prevents the disclosure by the court of any information given to it in connection with a legal aid application.


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DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Financial Statistics

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the cost to the benevolent fund of donations for charitable purposes in (a) England and (b) Great Britain in the last 10 years.      [16905]

Mr. David Hunt: The information is as follows:

1985: £31,554

1986: £46,088

1987: £61,063

1988: £81,122

1989: £99,805

1990: £119,124

1991: £129,653

1992: £161,318

1993: £149,436

1994: £168,293 (subject to audit)

Payments were made to charitable causes in Lancashire, Greater Manchester or Merseyside or those with Duchy connections in the remainder in England. The figures for Great Britain are the same.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what deductions were made to cover the Duchy's Palatinate and special costs from the total sums paid to the Duchy of Lancaster in the last four years.      [16903]

Mr. David Hunt: The information is as follows:

1991: £406,882

1992: £474,933

1993: £564,367

1994: £580,322

The Duchy solicitors costs of administering devolutions were included in the costs of Palatinate administration and historical obligations in the figures in the parliamentary accounts in 1991 and 1992. In 1993 and 1994 they were shown separately and have therefore been added to the costs for those years.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the income to the Duchy of Lancaster from devolutions in the last four years.      [16902]

Mr. David Hunt: The information is as follows:

1991: £938,597

1992: £1,053,121

1993: £1,069,028

1994: £960,295

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will list the total amounts transferred to the benevolent fund in each of the last four years.      [16906]

Mr. David Hunt: The information is as follows:

1991: £531,715

1992: £578,188

1993: £504,661

1994: £379,973

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the cost to the benevolent fund of donations for charitable purposes in Lancashire in the last 10 years.      [16904]

Mr. David Hunt: To calculate figures for the county of Lancashire for the last 10 years would involve disproportionate cost. However, figures for the Counties


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of Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside--the Duchy area--are as follows:

1985: £21,500

1986: £29,000

1987: £47,180

1988: £59,180

1989: £75,656

1990: £88,518

1991: £93,607

1992: £121,944

1993: £127,225

1994: £148,819 (subject to audit)

Central Office of Information

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what has been the expenditure on behalf of Government Departments and agencies by the Central Office of Information for each year since 1979, in 1994 prices; and whether he will provide a breakdown to show the division between (a) television advertising, (b) radio advertising, (c) newspaper advertising and (d) all other advertising and publicity.      [16725]

Mr. Horam: Expenditure by the Central Office of Information on behalf of Government Departments and agencies is set out in the following table. An analysis of expenditure in the form requested is not available for years prior to 1984 85.


COI Expenditure: 1994 Prices                                                        

£000                                                                                

            |Television |Radio      |Press                                          

Year        |advertising|advertising|advertising|Other      |Total                  

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1984-85     |10,353     |702        |21,275     |72,310     |104,640                

1985-86     |11,471     |1,379      |21,005     |69,165     |103,020                

1986-87     |67,141     |4,835      |48,925     |88,322     |209,223                

1987-88     |63,961     |2,208      |46,254     |84,512     |196,935                

1988-89     |46,435     |2,108      |55,277     |88,403     |192,223                

1989-90     |56,533     |3,445      |50,837     |91,984     |202,799                

1990-91     |57,596     |1,839      |42,805     |85,659     |187,899                

1991-92     |44,694     |2,058      |33,741     |82,569     |163,062                

1992-93     |21,199     |1,784      |22,822     |73,945     |119,750                

1993-94     |29,451     |1,986      |27,888     |68,350     |127,675                

All figures exclusive of VAT.                                                       

Government Information

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what assessment he has made of the deterrent effects of reported charges by Government Departments or other public bodies in respect of applications for the release of information under the code of practice on access to Government information.      [15991]

Mr. David Hunt: The great majority of requests for information under the code of practice have been answered without charge. Charges have been made only where requests have required significant additional work. These arrangements reflect the principle that charges should strike an appropriate balance between the interests of the applicant and those of the taxpayer.

The explanatory leaflet on the code of practice makes clear that charges will not be made without the applicant's being notified in advance and asked if they wish to proceed.


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Press Officers

Mr. Henderson: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many press officers there are in his Department currently; and what the figure was in 1979.      [16554]

Mr. Horam: There are currently 10 press officers in my Department. This figure does not include press officers within the Central Office of Information.

My Department did not exist in any comparable format before May 1992 and figures for 1979 are, therefore, not available.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Astra plc

Mr. Bermingham: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list those of his officials, including Ministers, who have been in contact with the Ministry of Defence in relation to the attempt by directors to obtain their own copies of documents relating to Astra plc; and if he will list those Ministry of Defence Ministers or officials contacted.      [16997]

Mr. Jonathan Evans: I am not aware of any contact in this respect between Minister and officials in my Department and Ministers and officials in my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Defence's Department.

Mr. Bermingham: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what evidence he has received of former directors of Astra plc being denied access of their own copies of the board minutes of the Astra Group of companies during the course of his inspectors inquiry.      [16996]

Mr. Jonathan Evans: None.

Company Directors' Documents

Mr. Bermingham: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the policy of his Department in relation to the availability to directors of companies who are subject to a DTI inspectors investigation of their own personal copies of the board minutes and related documents; and if he will make a statement.      [16995]

Mr. Jonathan Evans: Inspectors appointed under the Companies Act 1985 are primarily concerned with company records. Where documents are referred to in the questioning by the inspectors of directors or others, the usual practice is for the inspectors to provide copies or allow sight of such documents. The inspectors might ask to see personal papers of directors if, for example, the company's records are incomplete or if they are considered otherwise relevant.

Deregulation

Mr. Clifton-Brown: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what potential he sees for the use of the order making power as set out in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 to reduce the burden on small businesses.      [16672]

Mr. Jonathan Evans: The Government recognise that small businesses are particularly vulnerable to


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over-regulation, whether arising from legislative provisions, administrative requirements or enforcement. The deregulation order-making power provides a useful new means of reducing burdens arising form primary legislation.

A list of potential candidates for the use of the power was included in the publication "Cutting Red Tape", a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. We would welcome any suggestions for further ways in which the power could be used to reduce burdens on business--and particularly small business--arising from primary legislation.

Rugby Radio Station

Sir Peter Emery: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many persons who have been employed at Rugby radio station are known to have developed cancer.

Mr. Ian Taylor: This is a matter for the board of British Telecommunications.

Classified Directory Advertising

Mr. Harvey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) if he will consider referring "Thomsons Yellow Pages" and the market in directory advertising to the Director General of Fair Trading;      [16484]

(2) what assessments he has made of the competitiveness of the market in directory advertising for small businesses;      [16483] (3) if he will insist on the introduction of compensation schemes for small businesses whose entries in advertising directories are published inaccurately.      [16485]

Mr. Jonathan Evans: The market for the supply of classified directory advertising services was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission by the Director General of Fair Trading on 1 March. The MMC is due to report to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade by 29 December. It would be inappropriate for me to comment until the MMC has reported its findings. However, the hon. Member should bring any concerns to the attention of the MMC so that they may be taken into account during the inquiry.

Chemical Weapons Convention

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the President of the Board of Trade for what reasons the chemical weapons convention has not yet been ratified.      [14654]

Mr. Rooney: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to ratify the chemical weapons convention.      [14649]

Mr. Heseltine: Legislation is required before the UK can ratify the chemical weapons convention. This will be introduced as soon as parliamentary time and the Government's other legislative priorities permit.

Regional Selective Assistance

Mr. Hutton: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the total value of regional selective assistance grants made in each assisted area since 1992 in (a) cash terms and (b) constant 1994 prices.      [16404]

Mr. Eggar: Information on the amount of regional selective assistance paid is published in the "Annual Report of the Industrial Development Act 1982". GDP deflators to convert expenditure to constant prices are


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published in the public expenditure statistical supplement to the "Financial Statement and Budget Report". Both publications are available in the Library of the House.

Defence Diversification

Mr. McCartney: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish details of his Department's research into defence industries diversification and the sums of money spent on diversification research projects in each of the last 10 years and in total.      [14639]


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