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18 Mar 1996 : Column WA83

Written Answers

Monday, 18th March 1996.

ODA Scholarships

Lord Lewis of Newnham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the recent reduction in funding for the Overseas Development Scholarships award will reduce the number of scholarships for new candidates which may be awarded in 1996 in comparison with those awarded in 1995, and whether there will be any change in the method of allocation used in 1996 in comparison with that used in 1995.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): ODA will continue to provide substantial support in 1996-97 for scholarships and technical co-operation training under bilateral aid arrangements. The numbers of new awards are not available but are likely to show a small overall reduction from the totals funded in recent years.

Selection criteria and procedures remain unchanged.

Environment Council, 4th March

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 4th March 1996.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council in Brussels on 4th March.

The Council discussed the Commission's proposed amendment to the leghold traps regulation. In response to representations by the United Kingdom, the Commission was invited to produce a fixed timetable as soon as possible for concluding negotiations it is conducting with the fur-producer countries. The Council also accepted the proposal by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that the import ban on furs obtained from leghold traps should come into force on 1st January 1997 unless the Community's final attempt at a negotiated agreement with the producer states on the introduction of alternative humane traps succeeds.

Council Conclusions were agreed on the Commission's Communication on the wise use and conservation of wetlands. During an open debate on this, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Wales welcomed the conclusions and advised the Council of the

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extensive action taken by the United Kingdom to conserve wetlands which are already well protected by national and European legislation. My right honourable friend also provided the Council with a comprehensive report on the latest state of play in respect of the "Sea Empress" incident, particularly paying tribute to all those who had been involved in the clean up, and expressing the hope that the Commission would respond favourably to his request for financial assistance.

Council Conclusions were agreed on the forthcoming 1996 session of the United Nations Commission for Sustainable Development and on the Community Strategy for the protection of the ozone layer. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment supported Common Positions which were agreed on the amendments to the Waste Shipments Regulation and on the Labelling of Dangerous Substances Directive (67/548). The Council also agreed a Community negotiating mandate for a protocol to the Barcelona Convention on the shipment of hazardous waste; and the Community negotiating mandate for an amendment to the Paris Commission to allow the use of hexachloroethane in certain limited circumstances.

The Council discussed the annexes to the proposed Biocides Directive and, for the first time, considered the Commission proposal to control emissions from off-road vehicles and the Commission Communication on CO2 emissions from cars. These will all be discussed further at the June Environment Council. There were brief presentations from the Commission on the recently published Communication on EC Water Policy and on the review of the Fifth Action programme.

My right honourable friend also attended a joint meeting with Environment Ministers of Central and Eastern Europe as part of the structured dialogue process. This showed continued enthusiasm for the Environment for Europe process and indicated that most of the central and eastern countries were making good progress on the approximation of EC environmental legislation.


The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any reports of suspected adverse reactions to glyphosate either on its own or in combination with other chemicals.

Earl Ferrers: Incidents where ill health is alleged to have been caused by exposure to pesticides, including those containing glyphosate, should be notified to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In the past five years HSE investigated 25 such incidents, affecting 36 people, in which glyphosate was one of the active ingredients. For two of these incidents, affecting three people, HSE's Pesticide Incidents Appraisal Panel assessed that the reported pesticide exposure was likely to be the cause of the reported ill health.

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Private Sector Housing Renovation: Specified Capital Grant

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many local authorities have claimed Specified Capital Grant ("SCG") for private sector renovation in excess of the figure identified for that purpose in their Housing Investment Programme allocation for 1995-96; and what is the total value of such additional SCG claimed.

Earl Ferrers: Local authorities' claims represent their estimates of expenditure attracting specified capital grant in 1995-96 and are subject to change until February 1997 when final audited claims for 1995-96 are due to be submitted. At this stage it is not possible to disaggregate claims and allocations for housing defects expenditure from those for private sector renewal. On this basis 244 local authorities claimed a total of £58.6 million in excess of their guideline allocation for private sector renewal and housing defects.

Global Maritime Distress and Safety System: UK A1 Area

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are in a position to announce the establishment of a UK A1 Area under the provisions of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): We are pleased to announce that the seas around the UK coastline will become an A1 Area: that is, an area within automated Very High Frequency (VHF) radiotelephone coverage of coast stations.

Between now and 1999, VHF Digital Selective Calling (DSC) equipment will be installed in HM Coastguard's radio sites. Implementation will begin this year with stations in the English Channel. The GMDSS system is being implemented in line with requirements in the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS) and applies to passenger and merchant vessels of 300 gross tonnage and upwards, for both national and international voyages.

This decision means that, as implementation progresses, ship operators in the sea area around the UK coast will be able to press a simple distress button automatically to alert shore-based DSC stations as well as other ships. The system does not need voice activation or telegraphy and so will speed up the transmission of distress messages. In order to maintain services for smaller vessels not covered by the new system. HM Coastguard will maintain a listening watch on the present calling and safety channel, Channel 16, for as long as necessary after 1st February 1999.

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East London Line

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the East London line will be reopened.

Viscount Goschen: I understand that London Underground plan to re-open the East London line in early 1997, subject to receiving the necessary approval from the London Docklands Development Corporation for their proposed works on the Thames tunnel.

Judicial Review

Lord Windlesham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many applications were made to the High Court of Justice for leave to challenge administrative decisions by way of judicial review in 1974 and 1994 respectively, and the number of cases in each of those two years in which the ultimate finding by the courts was that Ministers or government officials had acted unlawfully.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Chief Executive of the Court Service. I have accordingly asked the Chief Executive to reply direct.

Letter to Lord Windlesham from the Chief Executive of the Court Service, Mr. M. D. Huebner.

    Judicial Review of Administrative Decisions in 1974 & 1994

The Lord Chancellor has asked me to reply to the above Question about judicial reviews in 1974 and 1994.

No statistics of the number of judicial review applications exist prior to 1980. There were 3,208 applications for judicial review in 1994. Unfortunately, the breakdown you have requested could only be obtained at disproportionate cost.

Government Information: Dissemination

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

    Whether they will encourage the development of a private sector market in information by adopting a policy, on the same lines as that expressed in the US Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, that they will not restrict or regulate the use, resale or re-dissemination of public information by the public; charge fees or royalties for the resale or re-dissemination of public information; or establish user fees for public information that exceed the cost of dissemination.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The Government seek to make this information as widely available as possible and fees or royalties are waived or reduced for

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reproduction of material for educational or non profit- making purposes, or where the need for the fullest dissemination is paramount and outweighs other considerations. However the government view is that arrangements made for the commercial exploitation of Crown material produced at taxpayers' expense should where appropriate ensure some financial return to the Crown. This may be reflected in a charge to recover the cost of dissemination, or through sale of the material at a reasonable market price where an established market exists.

Acts of Parliament and Statutory Instruments may be freely reproduced in value-added contexts without the need to seek prior permission and without charge. A simple standard licence (QLM/2) is also available covering the value-added reproduction of most quasi-legislative material--at a reduced royalty rate-- in print form, and discussions are taking place with the publishing community to determine how far a similar regime might be extended to electronic publishing of quasi-legislative material.

Since 1986 Government has encouraged the supply of government held information to the private sector through its guidelines on government held tradeable information. These recognise the importance of the information industry in the economy and seek to encourage closer links between government departments and the private sector, building on the considerable activity that already exists.

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