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Economic and Monetary Union

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Following the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement to the House of Commons on 27 October and in accordance with

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paragraph 1 of Protocol (No. 11) of the Maastricht Treaty, the Government formally notified the Council of the European Union on 30 October 1997 that the United Kingdom does not intend to move to the third stage of economic and monetary union on 1 January 1999. The Treaty enables the United Kingdom to reverse this notification after the beginning of the third stage.

Economically Significant Work

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the work being produced by the National Statistical Office on all economically significant work done, in contradistinction to work only paid for and recorded, they will now measure the Gross Domestic/National Product with the greater accuracy these statistical techniques permit, and, in order to obviate the distortions which current Gross Product measurement methods insert into comparative studies of international economic well-being, whether they will seek to introduce this new accuracy into international measurements of "growth".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Director of the Office for National Statistics, Dr. T. Holt.

I have been asked to reply, as Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), to your recent question on work being produced by ONS on all economically significant work done.

The ONS estimate of unpaid work is presented in a satellite account. This should be read alongside measures of paid activity in Gross Domestic Product. The article entitled A Household Satellite Account for the UK, a copy of which is enclosed, argues on pages 63 and 64 that such parallel presentation is preferable to trying to produce a single index. This article appeared in the October edition of the ONS publication Economic Trends, a copy of which is available in the House of Lords Library. Since unpaid work is unpaid, we feel that to create a single measure based on the assumption of some market valuation would create a meaningless magnitude. The wide range of estimates shown in the article also underlines the judgmental nature of any estimate. Rather than attempt to construct a single measure of "wider GDP" we have taken the view that it would be preferable to see GDP as normally defined in the context of a small set of indicators reflecting elements excluded from national accounts such as unpaid work. The same principle is applied to satellite accounts used in the context of the environment.

There is now a wide range of industrial countries which have constructed similar accounts. There may exist some basis for international comparison of such a set of summary indicators.

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Building Societies: Treasury Supervision

Lord Young of Dartington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many officials in HM Treasury are concerned with affairs of building societies; what is the grade of the most senior official involved; and what were the management objectives of these officials for the year 1996-97.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Building society matters form a substantial part of the responsibilities of five Treasury officials. But, depending on the nature of the issue, many others, including members of the Treasury Management Board, will become involved.

The objective most relevant to their work is the ninth identified in the Government's Expenditure Plans for the Chancellor's Departments, 1996-97 to 1998-99 (Cm 3217): "maintaining a regime for the regulation of financial services which preserves a stable financial system, honest markets and the confidence of investors and depositors, while promoting an open, efficient and competitive financial services sector".

Transport Council, 9 October

Baroness Fisher of Rednal asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the results of the Transport Council held in Luxembourg on 9 October.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 9 October. My right honourable friend the Minister for Transport represented the United Kingdom.

The Council opened with a session of structured dialogue with Transport Ministers of the applicant Central European countries (CECs). A report by the Commission on the recent Pan-European Conference in Helsinki was followed by discussion of issues relating to market access. Three areas for future work were identified: the need to strengthen co-operation between the Community and the CECs; developing the mobility of citizens; and the need to take account of all modes of transport in negotiations in market access.

The Council discussed air transport negotiations with the US. The Commission's view was that, although Community discussions with the US on regulatory issues had been useful, further progress would not be made unless market access was brought within the scope of the negotiations. The UK noted that success in its current bilateral negotiations with the US would bring benefits for passengers from the UK and the rest of the EU. The UK and other member states expressed doubts about the Commission's approach. The Presidency concluded that there should be further work by the Commission, and a report back to the December Council.

The Council took note of the Commission's progress report on air transport negotiations with the CECs.

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The Council debated a draft directive on airport charges. The debate focused on two aspects of the directive; the use of charges for cross-subsidy of smaller regional airports; and the variability of charges to reflect environmental considerations. The Council invited the Committee of Permanent Representatives to continue its examination of the proposal.

The Council reached unanimous political agreement on a directive on access to the occupation of road transport operator. This directive will raise the standards required of lorry, bus and coach operators in the Community.

The Council agreed conclusions urging greater emphasis on the Public Private Partnerships approach to Trans-European Network projects.

The Commission presented its White Paper on extension of the provisions of working time legislation

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to excluded sectors, including transport. It was noted that consultation with interested parties was still in progress. The UK, with some other member states, urged a case by case approach to the extension to transport, taking account of the needs of each form of transport.

The Commission presented the case for a Community-wide blood alcohol limit of 50 mg per 100 ml. The UK expressed its determination to further reduce alcohol-related road deaths, and noted that it was important to consider other ways of reducing drink-drive accidents as well.

There was a discussion of weekend lorry bans in member states; the Commission undertook to produce draft legislation on this issue by the end of the year. The Commission also presented its draft regulation extending the Community's competition rules to air services to third countries.

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