Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report



Letter from the Rt Hon Dr Gavin Strang MP, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Your Committee considered an Explanatory Memorandum (EM) on this proposal (12395/96), supplied by this Department on 21 January. Your letter of 5 March[6] to the then Minister for Shipping, Lord Goschen, lifted your scrutiny reserve and asked that you be kept informed of progress. In his reply, Lord Goschen promised to send you a compliance cost assessment of the proposal.

  The Council of Ministers reached agreement on a Common Position on 18 June. An unofficial text of the Articles of the Directive is enclosed. The Directive is designed both to improve safety and the effectiveness of search and rescue, and to assist aspects of post-accident administration. It will require, from January 1999, all persons on board passenger ships to be counted and their number reported to the master and to a person ashore before departure. For voyages of over 20 miles it will also require (Article 6), as from 31 December 1999, the recording of the name, age and gender of everybody aboard and, where proffered, information as to the need for special care or assistance during an emergency. This information must be collected before departure; communicated to the shore no later than 30 minutes after departure, and be readily available to the designated search and rescue authority in the event of an emergency or after an accident. Recorded personal data must not, however, be kept longer than necessary for the purposes of the Directive.

  Member states may exempt services from the Article 6 requirements in accordance with specified criteria set out in Article 9. For services not meeting those criteria, Article 9 provides that a member state may also seek a derogation through a Committee procedure governed by qualified majority voting.

  All international services to and from the United Kingdom will comply with the full requirements of the Directive. Some domestic services will qualify for exemption from the requirements of Article 6. My Department will also be considering, on a case by case basis, the merits of seeking derogation for other domestic services.

  In agreeing to a Common Position, which had the support of all other member states, I judged that the safety aspects of the measure as a whole outweighed the United Kingdom's earlier reservations about the practical issues raised by Article 6. In making that judgement, I gave consideration to the Commission's suggestion of a later implementation date than that originally proposed for Article 6; the provisions for exemption and derogation; and the possible benefits of Article 6 requirements in the (albeit rare) cases where they could be useful, including those which related to the safety of disabled passengers. I commend this outcome to your Committee, and seek its endorsement of my agreement to a Common Position.

3 July 1997

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to the Rt Hon Dr Gavin Strang MP, Minister for Transport, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions

  Thank you for your letter of 3 July in which you provide a helpful explanation of why the Government agreed to the Common Position of 18 June. Since, as you know, Sub-Committee B has a considerable interest in this proposal, I have passed your letter to Lord Geddes, the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, for consideration.

8 July 1997

6   Printed in Correspondence with Ministers, 12th Report, Session 1996-97, p21. Back

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