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27 Jun 1996 : Column WA65

Written Answers

Thursday, 27th June 1996.

EU: Council Meetings

The Earl of Clanwilliam asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will detail the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey):

Subject: Monthly Forecast of Business for July 1996

1. The following Councils are scheduled:

    8th July: ECOFIN

    10th July: Social Welfare (Informal)

    11th July: Social Welfare (Informal)

    11th July: Labour Affairs (Informal)

    12th July: Labour Affairs (Informal)

    15th July: General Affairs Council

    16th July: General Affairs Council

    19th July: Environment (Informal)

    20th July: Environment (Informal)

    22nd July: Agriculture

    23rd July: Agriculture

    25th July: Budget

2. The following subjects are likely to be discussed:

8th July: ECOFIN Council

    Approval of the provisional agenda

    Approval of the list of "A" items

    Presentation of the Irish Presidency's ECOFIN programme: open debate

    Follow up to the Florence European Council

    Examination of the Austrian convergence programme

    Excessive government deficit procedure: recommendations (a vote may be requested on this item)

    ELISE (possible item)

    New guarantee system for EIB lending to third countries (possible item)

    Preparation of structured dialogue with the CEECS

    SEM 2000 interim report by the Commission

    Fight against fraud: Commission's annual report 1995

    Other business

    ECOFIN will be followed by a meeting with CEES at 4.00 pm, and an informal dinner for CEEC Finance Ministers at 7.00 pm, hosted by the Presidency.

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10th/11th July: Social Welfare Council (Informal)

    Long-term unemployment

11th/12th July: Labour Affairs Council (Informal)

    Long-term unemployment

15th/16th July: General Affairs Council

    Agenda not yet available

19th/20th July: Environment Council (Informal)

    Agenda not yet available

22nd/23rd July: Agriculture Council

    Set-aside rate for 1997-98

    Arable base area flexibility

    Price fixing (possible item)

    Reform of the fruit and vegetable regime (possible item)

    Bananas (possible item)

    Plant health: solidarity and responsibility (possible item)

    BSE (possible item)

25th July: Budget Council

    1997 preliminary draft budget

Disabled People:Supported Employment Programme

Lord Kingsland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes will be made to the entry procedures for the Employment Service's Supported Employment Programme on account of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): We have recently completed a public consultation on the entry criteria for this programme. The consultation was announced by my honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People in January 1995 in the publication Ending Discrimination against Disabled People. A substantial majority of those responding were in favour of keeping the current entry criteria apart from the modifications needed to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Entry to the Programme is currently based on registration under the Disabled Persons (Employment) Act 1944 and judgments by the Employment Service on a disabled person's capability of undertaking open employment. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 amends the 1944 Act by introducing a new employment right and a new definition of disability. Once these apply towards the end of 1996, registration as disabled will cease.

We have decided that the current entry criteria (i.e., that disabled people should be 30 per cent. to 80 per cent. productive relative to a non-disabled person and that they cannot otherwise obtain or retain employment on account of the severity of their disability) should continue to apply. Once registration as disabled has ceased, all disabled people entering the programme will need to comply with the definition of disability in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

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Disabled people who were on the register on 12th January 1995 and on the date the new employment right comes into effect will be deemed to be disabled for the purposes of the Act without having to provide other evidence of disability.

Overseas Postgraduate Students in UK

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many overseas students undertaking postgraduate courses or training in the United Kingdom (a) in 1980; and (b) today are from Commonwealth countries, how many from EU countries and how many from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Lord Henley: The available information is as follows:

Full-time postgraduate students from overseas in the UK (thousands)

Total (1)17.541.1
of which:
Other Europe0.82.2

The available data do not allow the "Other Europe" category to be further disaggregated to show reliable estimates for the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

1. The categorisation of countries reflects the position in the year stated. Thus, for example, EU includes Spain and Portugal in 1994-95 but not in 1981-82 when they were included under "Other Europe".

European Rail Freight Terminals

Lord Hooson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the European rail freight terminals within the UK; what contribution has been paid to each from public funds, either directly or indirectly; where the European rail freight terminal for Wales is to be established; and what contribution from public funds is to be made for that.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): British Rail has invested in terminals in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Wakefield and Glasgow. The private sector has developed a terminal at Doncaster. Some of these have benefited from European Regional Development Fund and Industrial Development Act grant. In all, over £40 million has been invested in these sites, though none has received freight facilities grant in respect of Channel Tunnel services.

It is for the private sector to consider the scope for further investment in terminal facilities. As far as locations in Wales are concerned, I understand that the Welsh Development Agency is in discussion with the promoters of a proposed terminal at Wentloog near Cardiff.

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Ferry Safety: Stockholm Agreement

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be the impact of the recent Stockholm Agreement on safety standards on ferries operating to and from the United Kingdom.

Viscount Goshen: The Stockholm Agreement is a major achievement. It will provide substantial extra protection for those who travel on ro-ro ferries. Ferries operating to and from United Kingdom ports must demonstrate, within a tight timescale, both that they meet a stringent basic survivability standard and that they can cope with a considerable amount of water on the car deck.

The requirements of this significant agreement go beyond the worldwide application of the demanding SOLAS 90 standard, as agreed in the International Maritime Organisation last November. Ferries connecting ports in the United Kingdom with neighbouring countries will meet a higher standard for seagoing voyages than similar vessels operating outside the specified area, as will those on similar UK domestic services.

A list of ferries, showing the dates by which each must meet the new standard, has been published today. Copies of the list have been placed in the Library.

The list shows that about one hundred seagoing passenger ro-ro ferries currently serve United Kingdom ports. The majority of these vessels already have such a high survival capability that further limited modification is not required until the latter part of the agreed timescale. This shows the robustness of the ro-ro fleet, which will be fortified yet further by the application of the new standard.

Merchant Shipping: Draft Legislation

Lord Bcabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish a draft Merchant Shipping Bill.

Viscount Goschen: A draft Merchant Shipping Bill has been published today for consultation; copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

The draft Bill contains clauses to implement those recommendations in Lord Donaldson's report Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas (Cm 2560) which the Government accept and which require legislative change.

The draft Bill contains important provisions which will be widely welcomed. Taken together with the measures already implemented since the Donaldson Report, they represent a significant step forward in protecting the marine environment and raising safety standards.

The most important clauses cover:

(a) Enabling powers to require ports to prepare waste management plans and to take other measures to improve provision and use of waste

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reception facilities, and increased fines for illegal discharge of waste (part of the package of measures announced on 24th January);

(b) Temporary exclusion zones at sea to allow safety zones to be placed around shipping casualties or structures on grounds of safety and/or pollution;

(c) Widening intervention powers to cover all cases of significant degrees of pollution, not just pollution "on a large scale" as at present;

(d) Enabling powers to charge shipowners for port state control inspections, emergency response measures and standard setting activity;

(e) Enabling powers to implement new instruments providing for improved compensation payments to victims of marine pollution.

The draft Bill contains a number of minor amendments to merchant shipping legislation.

We are also publishing today consultation papers on sub-standard and uninsured ships and on the responsibilities of local authorities and port authorities in oil pollution response. Subject to the outcome of consultation on these papers, further draft clauses will be prepared as appropriate.

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