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Aircraft Navigational Systems: Interference by Electronic Devices

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): Standards relating to Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC) for aircraft and their systems already exist and are continuously updated as the level of understanding of EMC and the possibility of Electro Magnetic Interference (EMI) increases. Consequently, aircraft systems demonstrate a high level of immunity to EMI.

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On large passenger aircraft the level of interference that may be produced by consumer electronics is unlikely to have any detrimental effects on the aircraft's systems. However, due to the diversity of devices available, the Civil Aviation Authority have adopted a cautious approach and placed restrictions on the use of consumer electronics on board aircraft, including a complete ban on the use of mobile telephones. In addition, flight crews are advised to monitor the use of any consumer electronic devices for signs of interference to the aircraft's systems.

Transport Safety and the Treaty of Rome

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome has ever been invoked and, if so, in what circumstances, to enable the United Kingdom to act unilaterally in pursuit of improving transport safety.

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Baroness Hayman: Article 36 provides an exception from the Treaty requirement that prevents one member state from restraining imports of goods from, or exports of goods to, another member state, by means of a national quantitative restriction or other measure which has an equivalent effect (e.g. a licensing system).

Article 36 may be based on various grounds one of which is "the protection of health and life of humans". It therefore covers transport safety. Whereas the UK may, in the future, wish to rely on this article in order to preserve transport safety, preliminary research indicates that it has not, so far, found it necessary to invoke it. A comprehensive search to find whether there is such an instance would incur a disproportionate cost.

Bus Franchises and Contracts Advertised in the European Journal

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the number of bus franchises or contracts in each member state advertised in the European Journal during the last three years, and the number awarded to operators based outside that member state.

Baroness Hayman: We do not collect this information.

Passenger Bus Service Operators: Qualifications

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What qualifications and track record are required by firms tendering for contracts to operate passenger bus services.

Baroness Hayman: The operator of a local authority tendered bus service must hold a Public Service Vehicle Operator's Licence or a Community Bus Permit issued by the Traffic Commissioner, who must be satisfied that the operator is professionally competent and of good repute and has adequate financial resources and facilities for maintaining vehicles.

The authority awarding the contract may, at their discretion, specify other requirements relating to service quality and performance and take into account the bidder's past performance.

Devolution White Paper

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they decided the approximate date of the publication of the White Paper on Devolution.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The Government from the outset intended that the White Paper on Scotland and Wales should be published before the Summer Recess.

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Glasgow: Empty Council Houses

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many empty council houses there are in Glasgow, and what this represents as a percentage of the city's council housing stock.

Lord Sewel: There were 6,435 vacant local authority dwellings in Glasgow as at 1 April 1996, the latest date for which information is available. This represented 5.8 per cent. of their total stock. Over half of the vacant dwellings were due to be demolished or sold with vacant possession.

Devolution Referendum, Scotland

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached a view on the date of the referendum to be held in Scotland on the establishment of a Scottish Parliament.

Lord Sewel: Subject to the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill receiving Royal Assent, the referendum on our proposals for a Scottish Parliament will be held on Thursday 11 September 1997.

Pay Television: Competition

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that BSkyB's participation as a long-term supplier of pay-television services to British Digital Broadcasting, in particular of sports programming, raises substantial competition concerns in the pay television network and conditional access markets.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Any such competition concerns would be considered by the Office of Fair Trading and by the regulators statutorily responsible for particular aspects of these markets: the Independent Television Commission; and OFTEL.

National Lottery

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they repudiate the report by George Parker "Government may drop non-profit lottery pledge" in the Financial Times of Tuesday 8 July; and

    Whether they intend to review their manifesto commitment that after the year 2001 the lottery must be run on a "not for profit" basis.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Proposals for the future of the National Lottery will be set out later this month in a White Paper to be issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

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Road Accidents in Continental Europe: Settlement of Claims

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will take steps to prevent insurance companies within the European Single Market from allowing unjustifiable delays to elapse when settling insurance claims made by United Kingdom nationals in relation to road traffic accidents which occur in continental Europe.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): In its recent Communication, Financial Services: Enhancing Consumer Confidence, the European Commission has indicated its intention to bring forward, by autumn 1997, proposals for a fourth directive on motor liability insurance. This directive would address the problems faced by the persons making a claim for compensation for injury or loss which they have suffered through being involved in a road accident while visiting another EU member state. In the course of drawing up its proposals for this directive, the Commission has been holding discussions with member states' representatives. The Government are participating in these informal discussions, but will wish to consider their position further when the Commission presents a formal proposal to the Council of Ministers.

Nairobi Cathedral: Police Action

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they will make to the Government of Kenya following the recent action by police officers in Nairobi Cathedral.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): We have issued a statement with other donors in Nairobi expressing our shock at the storming of the All Saints Cathedral by the Kenyan police on 7 July. My honourable Friend the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Tony Lloyd, has also written to the Kenyan Government condemning the violence and urging them to put in place the conditions for free and fair elections.

Indonesia: Human Rights

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is still their policy not to sell arms to regimes which might use them for internal repression or international aggression, or to abuse human rights; and, if so, what evidence they have that Indonesia is not guilty in this respect.

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in both Indonesia and East Timor. We are reviewing the criteria used in considering licence applications to export conventional arms so as to meet our commitment not to sell arms to regimes which might use them for internal repression or international aggression. The review does not focus on individual countries but will result in criteria applicable to all destinations for such arms sales.

Pensions Review

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will announce the review of pensions which they are to undertake.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Our Election Manifesto promised a review of the central areas of insecurity for elderly people in this country. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Security has today set up a wide-ranging review of pensions.

We have inherited a major pensions challenge. The failure over the last two decades to develop an adequate pensions strategy has resulted in widening inequalities amongst pensioners. Too many of our older citizens do not enjoy security in retirement.

Only by achieving a sustainable consensus for change can the country meet the pensions challenge. We want everyone who can make a positive contribution to this review to do so. Our starting-point must be the health and success of the wider economy. We must give everyone a real opportunity to be able to participate in it. By establishing the conditions for stable, sustainable growth, we will build a stronger economy and provide the essential foundations for decent and secure pensions. By opening up fresh opportunities to come off welfare and into work, we will ensure that more people have the opportunity to contribute to their own pensions.

The review will address nine fundamental challenges:

    To achieve a sustainable consensus on pensions policy. We need to reach a broad based agreement, which will allow people to plan for their long-term future and avoid the constant changes in pensions policy we have seen in the last 20 years.

    To agree where the responsibility for funding pensions should lie and to establish the right balance between the public and private sectors.

    To respond to demographic change. Talk of a demographic "time-bomb" is exaggerated, but there are real issues to address as the ratio of working age people to pensioners falls in the first half of the next century.

    To respond to social and labour market change. The last 50 years have seen far-reaching changes in the way we live and work. The pension system needs to reflect this. It must be capable of responding to future change. We need to ensure

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    that it provides everyone--men and women, the self-employed, full and part-time workers, those in permanent jobs and those on short-term contracts--with the chance to build up better pensions in their own right.

    To ensure resources devoted to pensions are used to maximum effect. We need to make sure that every penny available for pensions is used as efficiently and effectively as possible, whether it comes directly from individuals and employers, or indirectly from them through the tax system.

    To get the regulation of pensions right. The personal pensions mis-selling scandal illustrates too clearly what can go wrong when pensions are not properly regulated. People need to have confidence in pensions and be sure their pensions are secure. We need to find a balance which provides an appropriate level of security, eliminates the scope for abuse and does not impose an undue burden on providers.

    To raise awareness of pensions and improve the level of financial education so that people understand the importance of saving for retirement and make the right choice about which pension product is best for them.

    To narrow the pensions gap between men and women so as to give women more security in retirement. Many pensions are simply not flexible enough to cope with women's working patterns. Women still earn less on average than men and are more likely to have caring responsibilities.

    To strike the right balance between the generations. We face the challenge of providing for the future, but we must also look at the position of today's pensioners. The views and concerns of current pensioners will be at the heart of the review process. We will ensure that current pension costs are manageable and that excessive costs are not placed on future generations.

This is a formidable challenge and the Government has a key role in bringing change about. But it cannot tackle the issues on its own. We want to receive advice and hear new ideas from everyone with an interest in pensions.

We shall retain the basic state pension as the foundation of pension provision, and SERPS for those who wish to remain in it.

We will also build on the good quality second pensions that many employees enjoy by supporting and strengthening the existing framework of occupational pension provision where that is necessary. And we wish to consider with the pensions industry how an Investors in Pensions award could be established to set a benchmark against which employers, employees and trustees can measure the quality of their own scheme.

We recognise that, for many people, security in retirement can best be achieved by building up their own funded second pension. We shall therefore consult widely on how best to take forward our proposals for new Stakeholder Pensions. These will offer secure, flexible and value of money second pensions for those

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who cannot join an employer's occupational scheme, whose pay is low or intermittent, and for whom personal pensions are usually unsuitable.

The review will take forward consultation on the development of Citizenship Pensions for carers who are unable to contribute to pensions in their own right. As a result, carers can lose out on the pension entitlements they would otherwise acquire, and end up on means-tested benefits.

Both these proposals, which we plan to legislate for and implement in this Parliament, will be particularly good news for women.

As part of our consultative approach, the Secretary of State for Social Security has invited Tom Ross, of Alexander Clay and vice-president of the National Association of Pension Funds, to chair a group of pensions experts to report to me on the current state of pension provision in the United Kingdom and on likely future trends. Their work will inform the development of our plans for a modern, responsive pensions system for the future.

Modernising the social security system is a key priority of the Government. Our long-term objective is to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to build up an adequate pension to guarantee security in retirement. We aim to build a society in which there is a wide consensus on the future for pensions, both now and tomorrow, and provide dignity in retirement for the whole nation.

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