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11 Jul 1996 : Column WA31

Written Answers

Thursday, 11th July 1996.

Turkey: Treatment of Iranian Refugees

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will request the Government of Turkey not to send asylum-seekers having genuine and reasonable fears of persecution in Iran back to that country; and in particular whether they will ascertain what has happened to Mr. Karim Shah Ashube.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): Our officials in Ankara are in regular contact with the UN High Commission for Refugees about the Turkish authorities' treatment of Iranian refugees. We are exploring what action could most effectively be taken to make our concerns clear. We are making enquiries about the case of Mr. Karim Shah Ashube.

Packaging Waste: Producer Responsibility

Viscount Davidson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will be able to publish draft regulations to give effect to producer responsibility for packaging waste.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Together with my right honourable friends the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is today publishing a consultation paper, together with draft regulations, which set out the Government's proposals for producer responsibility obligations for packaging waste and which will give effect to the EC Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC). Copies are being placed in the Library. This is the most outstanding example of partnership between government and industry to achieve an important environmental goal. We hope that the rest of Europe will follow this example. The regulations are based on the principles of a shared approach and the 15th December agreement, as set out in my right honourable friend's Answer to the honourable Member for Eastbourne on 7th May in another place, [Official Report, columns 73-75]. They are the outcome of a very substantial series of discussions with business to find the best way in which we can work together to meet an environmental goal: in this case the need to recover greater value from the 8 million tonnes of packaging waste which we generate each year.

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This is a pioneering process of partnership and dialogue which has wider lessons for how we seek to achieve environmental objectives. Inevitably there were differences of view along the way and difficult judgments on the right balance between fairness, effectiveness and minimising burden. There will be many issues in these proposals requiring further careful consideration on which the Government are keen to obtain views. Nevertheless we believe that there is a growing consensus on the best way forward, and the active and continuing involvement of all sectors is the right way to generate a sustainable long term approach, as well as achieving the co-operation necessary between businesses.

As an example of how we can help businesses assess what is required, we are making available on request a PC operable disc which will calculate the tonnage obligation for an individual business in relation to its own processes and patterns of trade.

There are three underlying aims which the Government remain committed to achieve: (i) A more sustainable approach to dealing with packaging waste by internalising the costs of meeting higher targets for recovery and recycling. This harnesses the efficiency and creativity of the supply chain to meet environmental goals. Additional costs to business may, like other costs, be passed on to consumers, to the extent that they are not absorbed; (ii) To help implement the EC directive. The main purpose of the EC directive on packaging and packaging waste is to ensure a single market for the free circulation of packaging but, in addition, member states must meet the minimum targets for recycling and recovery; (iii) To achieve both these ends in the most efficient and least burdensome manner. The principle of having the choice of doing so through collective business-led schemes, which have the maximum freedom and flexibility in which to operate, remains a fundamental objective.

We are greatly encouraged by the work now under way to develop collective business operated schemes, and in particular the efforts to establish VALPAK, which is supported by 60 leading United Kingdom businesses. The establishment of such schemes will be evidence that, when given the opportunity, industry will deliver environmental targets with real efficiency gains.

This is a new approach. We have endeavoured to achieve a wide measure of consensus, but we will need to monitor closely the operation of the regulations and review their impact and effectiveness. The Advisory Committee on Packaging has proposed a framework for future monitoring and review which we fully endorse. The committee will have a major part to play over the next two years and we shall follow its advice carefully in the future development of this initiative.

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The Rural White Paper

The Earl of Arran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will respond to the House of Commons Environment Select Committee's Third Report, Rural England: The Rural White Paper.

Earl Ferrers: Our response is being published today.

We welcome the committee's report as a contribution to the continuing debate about the future of rural areas in England. The response gives our considered reaction to the recommendations which were made in the report.

We agree with the committee that targets are important and we shall continue our efforts to develop targets in support of rural policies. We will produce a report later this year on the progress we have made in achieving the White Paper's commitments and we shall continue to monitor the report on progress annually.

Local Authorities' Capital Receipts

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their calculation of the inflationary effect of increasing the amount of capital receipts that local authorities are allowed to spend to:

    (a) 40 per cent.;

    (b) 50 per cent.;

    (c) 75 per cent.;

    (d) 100 per cent.

Earl Ferrers: There is no direct link between the proportion of capital receipts which local authorities are allowed to spend, and the rate of inflation.

Lord Skelmersdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which local government councils held capital receipts of:

    (a) under £1 million;

    (b) £1-3 million;

    (c) £3-5 million;

    (d) over £5 million in the last year for which figures are available.

Earl Ferrers: A list of the local authorities whose usable capital receipts at 1st April 1996 which fell in each of these bands has been placed in the Library of the House.

Figures for the amounts of set aside capital receipts are not available. These form part of the provision for credit liabilities, which is reported to the Department, but which also includes amounts set aside from revenue.

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President Mandela's Address to Both Houses of Parliament

The Earl of Clanwilliam asked the Leader of the House:

    What message the President of the Republic of South Africa gave to both Houses of Parliament on his visit to the Palace of Westminster on Thursday 11th July 1996.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): Copies of President Mandela's Address to both Houses of Parliament are available from the Printed Paper Office.

Gulf War: Kamisiyah Bunkers

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any members of HM Forces were deployed downwind of the Kamisiyah bunkers at the time of, and in days following, the detonation of the bunkers in March 1991.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): No.

Recruitment and Assessment Services: Shortlisted Bidders

The Viscount of Oxfuird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When shortlisted bidders will be announced for the sale of the Recruitment and Assessment Services (RAS).

Earl Howe: On 23rd November last year, the Government announced their intention to sell the Recruitment and Assessment Services (RAS) as a single viable business in a way which would ensure that it retained its reputation for the provision of high quality recruitment services to government departments and the wider public sector while allowing it to benefit from the freedom and opportunities to be gained outside the constraints of operating within government.

A large number of expressions of interest were received following the advertisement of the sale in January this year. A final shortlist of three has now been selected. Those being invited to submit final bids are:

    The Capita Group plc

    NFER-NELSON Publishing Company Ltd.

    Saville and Holdsworth Ltd.

The Government believe that this shortlist will lead to final bids which maximise the prospects of securing good long-term value for money for the taxpayer and customers while meeting the objectives set for the sale of the business.

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Carbamates: Combination with Other Pesticides

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are now in a position to comment on the findings of scientists at Duke University Medical Centre and the University of Texas Medical Centre that the action of carbamates is heightened when they are combined with other pesticides.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): We still await publication of the research. I will write to the noble Countess as soon as it is published and officials have considered it.

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