5 Jul 2000 : Column: 179W

Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 5 July 2000


Waste Recycling

Mr. Don Foster: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list for (a) Great Britain and (b) each local authority the percentage of waste recycled in (i) 1997 (ii) 1998 and (iii) 1999. [127207]

Mr. Meacher [holding answer 23 June 2000]: Recycling levels in Scotland are a matter for the Secretary of State for Scotland. For England and Wales the national household recycling rates for 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99 were 7.5, 8.2 and 9.4 per cent. respectively. I have placed a list in the House of Commons Library setting out ranges of household recycling rates for local authorities in England and Wales. All figures are based on data from the annual DETR Municipal Waste Survey.

Transport Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the outcome was of the Transport Council held in Luxembourg on 26 and 27 June; and if he will make a statement. [128333]

Mr. Hill: The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 26 June. I represented the United Kingdom.

At the opening of the Council, the Netherlands made a statement expressing regret at the recent incident at Dover and stressed the need for EU action on traffic in human beings. I welcomed and endorsed the Dutch statement.

The Council debated a draft directive on interoperability of the conventional rail network. The only outstanding issue was the UK and Spain's request that derogations to allow the retention of existing track or loading gauges would be automatic rather than requiring Commission approval. I am pleased to say that, following the debate, a revised text was agreed which allows the automatic derogation we had been seeking and enabled the Council to agree a common position.

The Council debated proposals arising from the loss of the oil tanker "Erika" (the 'Erika 1' package). These are revised directives on ship inspection organisations and on port state control of shipping; and a new regulation on accelerating the introduction of double hulls in oil tankers. The Council reached political agreement on the first of these, which would give the Commission responsibility for recognising member states' appointed ship inspection organisations. The Commission gave a progress report on the port state control proposal. There was a debate on double-hulled tankers, during which I noted the need for a proper economic and regulatory impact assessment. I agreed with the Commission and a number of member

5 Jul 2000 : Column: 180W

states that IMO action at global level would be preferable, but that otherwise EU legislation would be acceptable. These issues will be debated again at the October Council. The Council agreed conclusions, stating that further progress should be made towards the "Erika 2" package, foreseen at the Feira European Council. France stated that Erika 2 would be a priority of its Presidency.

There was a further progress report from the Commission on the Galileo satellite navigation project. The Commission said it would submit a final report on the definition phase and an economic analysis in time for the December Council, at which a final decision would have to be made on whether to go ahead with the project. At the October Council, there would be an orientation debate on structure and funding. I joined other member states in stressing the need for full cost benefit analysis and for private sector funding to make the project viable. Conclusions were agreed, urging that the Council be provided with sufficient information early in the autumn to allow it to take a decision on Galileo's future.

The Commission gave a further presentation of its Communication on air passenger rights, underlining the need for progress with legislation or voluntary action in various areas of passenger protection, including the setting of minimum contract requirements for ticket purchase. Further work will be done to prepare for a discussion at the October Council.

The Commission gave its view of progress on work to create common EU structures for air traffic management (ATM). This might include the establishment of bodies to regulate European ATM. The Commission noted that separation of provision and regulation of ATM services was vital, to implement the conclusions of the European Councils at Lisbon and Feira.

The Council agreed that the Commission proposals on cabin crew qualifications in civil aviation should be re-examined in the light of the recent proposal to transpose standards drawn up by the Joint Aviation Authorities into Community law.

The Presidency presented a paper describing recent discussions on the establishment of a European aviation safety authority (EASA). The point at issue is whether the Commission should work up detailed proposals for an EU agency, rather than an international organisation. The Presidency presented a paper which analysed whether an EU agency could effectively promote air safety across Europe. I said that the UK was open to the idea of an EU agency, but that such an agency would have to have sufficient power to take safety decisions effectively, involve member states and national safety regulators fully in its work, and involve non-EU states as fully as possible. It should not initially cover safety of airports or air traffic management. The Council invited the Commission to make a formal proposal for an EU agency.

The Council also discussed the Transatlantic Common Aviation Area (TCAA). The Commission is seeking a mandate allowing it to negotiate a TCAA agreement with the US on behalf of the EU. The UK has on previous occasions made clear that it gives priority to its bilateral negotiations with the US, which are continuing. Technical work on the likely shape of a Commission mandate has been taking place, and the UK has been participating in that. The Presidency concluded that the Council was

5 Jul 2000 : Column: 181W

satisfied with the technical work, and asked for further work to be done by COREPER, to allow a decision on the mandate to be taken in December.

The Commission reported on developments in the area of aviation noise standards. They noted the good progress in defining new standards within the ICAO CAEP process.

The Council agreed a wide-ranging Resolution on road safety, following the Commission Communication presented to the March Council. Among areas identified for legislative action are: further development of the European new vehicles crash testing programme (EuroNCAP), use of speed limiters on larger vehicles, higher levels of seatbelt and child restraint usage, safer car fronts, and targeting of accident blackspots. The Resolution also refers to the Commission's intention to bring forward a recommendation for member states to introduce a maximum blood alcohol level of 0.5 milligrams per millilitre.

Two road transport issues were debated: a proposed Regulation on transit quotas ("ecopoints") for lorries passing through Austria; and a proposal on the allocation of Swiss transit permits for heavy lorries. The former concerns a proposal to reduce the ecopoint quotas of five member states, a legal requirement under the terms of Austria's Act of Accession. The member states affected (which do not include the UK) expressed their opposition to this measure and the Presidency instructed COREPER to re-examine the proposal. The Commission noted that unless an alternative proposal emerges, and is agreed upon, the Commission regulation will automatically come into effect on 20 September. The Commission also introduced its amended proposal for the distribution of permits for heavy goods vehicles travelling in Switzerland. The permit allocations for individual member states were in the process of being revised in the light of recently completed analyses of trade and traffic statistics in the Alpine region. The Presidency asked for further work to be done by COREPER to prepare for decision at the October Council.

Under other business the Commission presented its new "Communication on safer and more competitive quality road transport in the Community", covering such issues as working and driving time for lorry drivers, conditions for employment of non-EU hauliers, and driver training. This will be a priority issue for debate during the French presidency.

Vehicle Speeds

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if the national transport plan and local transport plans will give priority to slower speeds for vehicular traffic on roads where the risk of injury to other road users is significant. [128547]

Mr. Hill: Our guidance on local transport plans makes clear that authorities should ensure that safety is a key element in all aspects of their plan. Authorities are required to prepare a road safety strategy, which must contain local casualty reduction targets for 2005 and annual milestone targets. While the precise package of measures used to achieve these targets is a matter for

5 Jul 2000 : Column: 182W

individual authorities, we would expect to see many making use of traffic management measures and lower speed limits.

PSV Provisional Licences

Mr. Sanders: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what the average processing time is for PSV provisional driver licences; and if he will make a statement. [128448]

Mr. Hill: Since April the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency has processed 95 per cent. of PSV provisional driving licences within five working days of receipt. Allowing three days for delivery of the licence by Royal Mail this means the overall turnaround is eight days from the date of receipt. This is an improvement on last year's turnaround, which was nine days overall.

Next Section Index Home Page