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9 May 1996 : Column WA19

Written Answers

Thursday, 9th May 1996.

NATO: Defence CapabilitiesProvided by US

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Chesham: For any European member of NATO to achieve a defence capability comparable to that of the US would require more than a doubling of their defence expenditure. A list of the most important specific capabilities which currently only the US can provide to the Alliance would include satellite intelligence and strategic Heavy Lift.

European Commission for Democracy through Law: Conference

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

Lord Chesham: The following states were represented, as either members, associate members or observers, at the seminar on "Constitutional Justice and Democracy by Referendum", organised by the European Commission for Democracy through Law:




    Czech Republic











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    United States

The United Kingdom is not a member of the European Commission for Democracy through Law. It was not invited to send participants to the seminar.

Local Authorities: Assistance with Software Modification Costs

Lord Methuen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In cases where local authority finance has been capped, whether any allowance has been made to enable local authorities to cover the costs of modifying their software systems to address the problems caused by the year 2000.

Lord Lucas: No. But we would consider representations where authorities consider that modification of their software represents a significant and unpredicted new burden.

Habitats Directive

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which European Union countries have so far failed (a) to transpose the provisions of the Habitats Directive into their national laws; and (b) to deposit with the Commission their lists of special areas of conservation which the directive requested them to do by June 1995, and what effect these delays will have on the future operation of the directive.

Lord Lucas: There is no official information available to the Government on member states' implementation of the Habitats Directive.

The directive required member states to transpose its provisions by June 1994. Member states may choose the means of transposition into their national laws. It is for the European Commission to judge the extent to which such transposition in respect of the Habitats Directive has taken place.

As far as the Government are aware, although all member states are actively engaged in site selection and consultation, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have not so far submitted any part of their national lists of sites.

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Transposition and communication of the national lists of sites are essential to ensure that the Habitats Directive is implemented coherently across the Union. The Commission may take infraction proceedings under Article 169 of the Treaty against those member states which are considered to have failed to comply with their obligations.

Food Safety

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food should adopt the precautionary principle in cases where clear-cut evidence about the safety of food products is not available and cannot be obtained.

Lord Lucas: The Government already follow the precautionary principle in relation to the safety of food products. They require evidence of safety when a novel food is produced or when a new substance is added in the course of food production. If prima facie evidence is found of a new risk in established foods, the Government take action which leaves a significant margin of safety.

Environment Agency Code onEnforcement Practice

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Environment Agency has now prepared its Code on Enforcement Practice.

Lord Lucas: The Environment Agency's Code on Enforcement Practice was adopted on 23rd April and copies have been placed in the Library of the House. It takes the form of a statement of enforcement policy which sets out how the agency will operate, and detailed guidance for warranted officers, setting out their responsibilities. The documents will be revised over time in the light of experience and comments from all the agency's customers.

Tug Deployment Trials

Lord Murray of Epping Forest asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have completed their review of the results of trials of tugs in the Dover Strait and at Stornoway; and when they will publish those results and their intentions for the future.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The 1995-96 trial period for the two tugs finished on 30th April 1996. The results of the trials are currently being analysed and will be published in due course. We will make public our intentions for future tug deployment on completion of our consideration.

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British Coal Recreational Land

Lord Gisborough asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the future use for sport and recreation of British Coal recreational land is now safeguarded from conversion to other uses, and, if not, whether any other deadline for the transfer of such sites to new owners and occupiers has been set; and

    Given that British Coal has refused to transfer any sites to the National Playing Fields Association, what alternative arrangements are being made for this land.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: The Government's objective remains that British Coal land in active use for sport and recreation will be retained for those purposes. Discussions continue with British Coal and the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation as to how this can best be achieved. Those discussions will be concluded as soon as possible.

Lord Gisborough asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide a full listing of sites in the British Coal recreational package giving names, locations, current occupiers and current uses.

Baroness Miller of Hendon: This is a matter for British Coal.

Benefit Changes: Second Order Effects

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer given by Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish on 30th April (H.L. Deb., col. 1472), whether they will place in the Library a list of research papers dealing with the second order effects of benefit changes, stating to which benefit change each paper relates.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): It is not possible to identify all those research papers which may prove useful for assessing the public expenditure consequences of benefit changes, including second order effects. An example of how research informs these assessments can be found in Options for Equality in State Pension Age (CM 1723, December 1991). Paragraphs 18 and 19 of Appendix 3 describe how the available research was used to estimate the indirect effects on public finances of changing state pension age. All the publications in the department's research report series are placed in the Library and the Research Yearbook provides details of individual projects commissioned by the department.

Unemployment Comparisons

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the rate of unemployment in the United Kingdom in May 1979, and what is the current rate of unemployment in: (a) the United Kingdom; (b) the United States of America and (c) Japan.

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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publishes figures based on the internationally standard definition of unemployment recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). It is the ILO definition of unemployment that provides the best basis for international comparisons. According to the available figures published by the OECD, the United Kingdom's ILO unemployment rate stood at 5.0 per cent. in the second quarter of 1979. In January 1996 (the latest available date for the comparison requested) the UK rate stood at 8.4 per cent., compared with 5.7 per cent. in the USA and 3.4 per cent. in Japan.

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