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14 Dec 1995 : Column WA117

Human Rights: UK Adherence to European Convention

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What decisions they have taken about the UK's adherence to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We have decided to renew for five years our acceptance of the two optional articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, which expires for the United Kingdom on 13 January 1996. Individuals will therefore continue to be able to bring cases under Article 25 (the right of individual petition), and the Government will continue to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights under Article 46. The United Kingdom first accepted these articles in 1966. They have been renewed simultaneously for consecutive periods of five years for the last 20 years.

We will also initiate discussions with other members of the Council of Europe, and its institutions, on the need for changes in the way the convention system works. The Government have a number of practical proposals to put forward. We will pursue them vigorously. We believe they will be welcomed widely.

Leasehold Enfranchisement

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the statutory provisions for leasehold enfranchisement are sufficiently widely known, given that Bristol City Council is currently charging £520 for purchase of freeholds worth £4.50 annual ground rent.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): The Department of the Environment has published two booklets, Leasehold Houses and Leasehold Flats, which explain the main provisions of the leasehold reform legislation. These are available from the department, and advice organisations can obtain bulk supplies free of charge. Approximately 35,000 copies of Leasehold Houses and 175,000 copies of Leasehold Flats have already been distributed. The Leasehold Enfranchisement Advisory Service at

6/8 Maddox Street, London W1R 9PN, telephone 0171-493 3116, provides initial free advice on the provisions of the legislation, and on how to undertake the process of enfranchisement.

Leaseholders who are offered their freeholds and believe that the price demanded is excessive, may exercise their right to enfranchise. If they cannot agree the terms, either party may apply to the local leasehold valuation tribunal for a determination.

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Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Reduction

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What assessment they have made of the United Kingdom's progress towards meeting its commitment under the Climate Change Convention to take measures aimed at returning carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Earl Ferrers: We have today published an update of the carbon dioxide chapter of the United Kingdom Climate Change Programme. The document, entitled Progress Report on Carbon Dioxide Emissions, sets out details of policy developments and progress since January 1994 on each of the measures in the programme aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The revised chapter reflects energy projections, published by the Department of Trade and Industry earlier this year, which indicate that carbon dioxide emissions will be 4 to 8% below 1990 levels by the year 2000. In the light of the latest evidence of man-made climate change and its effects, this is most welcome progress.

This rate of progress puts us at the forefront of international efforts to combat climate change and demonstrates once again the United Kingdom's determination not to promise more than it can deliver on environmental commitments, but to do better if at all possible.

We shall continue to put pressure on others to achieve real cuts, and to agree new commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the period beyond 2000.

Cable Network: Access

The Earl of Bradford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken to ensure that dwellers in rural areas and those in conurbations have equal access to the cable network; and

    What are the figures for the numbers, expressed as a percentage, of households in rural areas that will be able to receive cable by the year 2000.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): The Local Delivery Operator franchises awarded by the Independent Television Commission under the Broadcasting Act 1990 are intended to encourage operators to use alternative technology, including radio delivery, in order to make services available to less accessible areas, including rural ones. As the programme of awarding these franchises is still proceeding it is not currently possible to give an accurate indication of the percentage of rural homes that will be able to receive cable by the year 2000.

From April 1994 national PTOs (including BT and Mercury) have been able to apply in their own right for

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new LDO franchises for local broadcasting services, testing technologies alongside their existing services, making use of the same infrastructure where possible. (Cm 2734, Creating the Superhighways of the Future, November 1994).

Project Work Programme Non-attendance Sanction

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what vires they rely when imposing a sanction of total withdrawal of benefit on those who refuse courses under the new Project Work programme.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): The vires for establishing the Project Work programme is Section 29(1) of the Jobseekers Act 1995 ("the Act"), which allows pilot schemes to be set up for a period not exceeding 12 months in specified areas or localities in relation to persons fulfilling prescribed criteria. Under Section 29(8) of the Act, such schemes must be established with a view to ascertaining whether their

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provisions will, or will be likely to, encourage persons to obtain or remain in work or will be likely to facilitate the obtaining by persons of work or their remaining in work.

Under Section 29(6), regulations under the Act or under Part VII of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 ("the 1992 Act") or under certain other provisions may be made on a pilot basis. Under Section 19(10) of the Act, regulations may prescribe the meaning of "employment programme" for the purpose of Section 19(5), which sets out sanctions in relation to jobseeker's allowance (JSA). Under Section 137(2)(d)(ii) of the 1992 Act, regulations may prescribe the circumstances where a claimant can be treated as not available for employment for the purpose of claiming income support.

It is intended that, where claimants refuse to attend the Project Work programme without good cause, they will be treated as not available for employment for the purposes of income support, with the result that income support will be withdrawn or reduced for specified periods. When JSA comes into force, they will receive a sanction under Section 19 for failure to participate in the Project Work programme.

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