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Town Centres and Retailing: Revised Planning Guidance

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

Viscount Ullswater: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment hopes to publish a draft of revised guidance on town centres and retailing for consultation before the summer Recess.

Radioactive Waste Management

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Viscount Ullswater: We have not received a copy of The Power of the Future?, but the recommendation that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into all aspects of the past and future management of radioactive waste was one of the recommendations in the joint response by the Association of County Councils, Association of District Councils and Association of Metropolitan Authorities to the Government's Review of Radioactive Waste Management Policy. This is being considered, together with all the responses to the review, and an announcement about future policy will be made in due course.

Pepper v. Hart Judgment: Changes to Ministerial Practices

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes, if any, have been made in ministerial and administrative practices in the light of the decision in Pepper v. Hart that the courts may have recourse to Hansard for the purposes of construing legislation.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe): An implication of the Pepper v. Hart decision is that, if legislation is ambiguous or obscure, the courts may in certain circumstances take account of statements made in Parliament by Ministers or other promoters of a Bill in construing that legislation.

Textual clarity and precision, and the avoidance of ambiguity, will continue to be high priorities in drafting legislation. Nonetheless, in the light of the ruling, administrative procedures are being put into place for avoiding or correcting any errors or ambiguities arising out of ministerial statements during the passage of legislation. In particular: speeches and speaking notes will generally be reviewed by a department's legal adviser for possible influence on interpretation; the Hansard record of Ministers' contributions to debates on legislation will similarly be reviewed to consider whether there is any inaccuracy; and, where it seems sensible to do so, Ministers may more frequently offer to reflect and take further advice on points of interpretation that are raised in debate.

If it does prove necessary to correct a ministerial statement, the aim will be to do this as promptly as possible at an appropriate point during the further consideration of the Bill.

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OP Sheep Dips: Epidemiological Research

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in the assessment of the proposals submitted for epidemiological research into the effects of OP sheep dips.

Earl Howe: Thirteen proposals were received in response to the advertisements placed at the end of 1994 following acceptance by the Government of the recommendation of the Medical and Scientific Panel of the Veterinary Products Committee for carefully designed and targeted epidemiological studies into the effects of OP sheep dips. This research is to be publicly funded. Assessment of the proposals has now been completed, and after detailed consideration, it has been concluded that none meets the specifications laid down in the original advertisement. Considerable changes would need to be made before any of them could do so and, in the circumstances, it has been decided to re-advertise so that new or revised proposals can be submitted. This will be done as quickly as possible, but it is now likely to be the end of July before any contracts could be awarded.

I very much regret this further delay in getting this important work under way, but it is clearly in the interests of all concerned to ensure that any research which is commissioned is both scientifically sound and addresses the issues of concern.

Tokyo Nerve Gas Attack: Study of Health Implications

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will arrange for Department of Health doctors to liaise with doctors treating patients affected by the nerve gas attack in the Tokyo underground rail system so that the effects of any resulting chronic symptoms may be comprehensively studied.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The Government recognise the importance of understanding the full implications of the Tokyo incident. The health implications are a matter of concern to all countries and it is important, therefore, that the appropriate international organisation is involved. We shall be in contact with the World Health Organisation to ensure that the relevant clinical data are assessed carefully, including those obtained through any long-term follow-up of the individuals concerned.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to take any action following the judgment earlier today by the House of Lords in

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    the case involving the criminal injuries compensation scheme.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Earl Ferrers): We are naturally disappointed at the judgment, which we are studying carefully. However we will of course act in accordance with the law as determined by your Lordships.

The judgment relates to the method of introduction of the tariff scheme, not its merits. The Government remain firmly committed to the tariff approach. They believe a tariff scheme is the only sure way to bring the costs of the scheme under control and to provide a better service to the blameless victims of violent crime.

We therefore intend to introduce as soon as practicable a Bill inviting Parliament to give statutory force to a new tariff scheme as quickly as possible.

Orimulsion: Application for Use at Pembroke Power Station

Lord Prys-Davies asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Secretary of State for Wales is proposing to call in the application by National Power for permission to burn Orimulsion in its Pembroke Power Station plant.

Lord Lucas: The Secretary of State for Wales has no plans to do so as the pollution control issues raised by the application can be fully considered by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution.

EU/US Bilateral Air Service Agreements

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they oppose the European Commission's proposal that bilateral air service agreements between the member states of the European Union and the United States of America should be discontinued and that in future the Commission should have exclusive competence to negotiate such agreements.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Her Majesty's Government do not believe this would be in the interests of the United Kingdom.

Shipping: Proposed European Community Register

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on the development of the EUROS register in relation to shipping policy in the European Union.

Viscount Goschen: The European Commission has undertaken to produce a strategy paper on EU maritime policy by the end of 1995. We shall consider the possible role for a Community register (EUROS) in the

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light of that document. The arrangements for any such register would have to be consistent with proper enforcement of the rules on state aids laid down in the Treaty.

Unleaded Super Premium Petrol

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to implement the recommendation in paragraph 8.15 of the Eighteenth Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution that they should act to end the sale of unleaded super premium unleaded petrol.

Viscount Goschen: The Government have made clear their position on the sale of unleaded super premium petrol in its response to the sixth report of the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport (which was published on 17 March).

While the evidence points to marginally higher levels of aromatics, including benzene, in super premium unleaded compared to other grades of petrol, demand for this fuel accounts for less than 5 per cent. of the market and will continue to decline as older vehicles are replaced. At current levels of consumption, the use of super premium unleaded does not have significant impact on ambient levels of benzene. Ending the sale of super premium unleaded petrol could lead to increases in the use of leaded petrol.

The Government do not therefore accept the case for ending the sale of super premium unleaded petrol, but will continue to monitor the use and composition of that fuel.

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