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UK Fleet: Tonnage Increases

The Earl of Caithness asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): We would expect tonnage in the UK fleet to increase as a result of the initiatives

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outlined in British Shipping: charting a new course. As announced in the Budget, the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, is to conduct an independent study of the issues involved in introducing a ring-fenced tonnage tax for the shipping industry. Specific expectations for tonnage increases will be able to be developed following that review.

Countryside: Conditions for Access

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention that the conditions for access to the open countryside in England and Wales should be brought in line with those currently in force in Northern Ireland.[HL1451]

Lord Whitty: There are significant legislative and cultural differences between Northern Ireland and England and Wales regarding access which require different approaches to access provision. A consultation on access is being considered in Northern Ireland and responsibility for any new access measures will be for the new Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention that the conditions for access to the open countryside in England and Wales should be brought in line with those currently in force in Scotland.[HL1450]

Lord Whitty: Scotland has different patterns of land use and landscape and a different legal history from that in England and Wales. It will be for the new Scottish Parliament to legislate for new statutory access as necessary.

Standard Spending Assessments

Lord Harris of Haringey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether standard spending assessments for specific services for individual local authorities reflect an expectation by the Government that those precise sums will be spent on the services concerned.[HL1427]

Lord Whitty: Standard spending assessments are the Government's way of dividing up total standard spending (not including specific and special grants) between local authorities. The formulas used to work out standard spending assessments make use of information on the demographic, social and physical characteristics of local authority areas. It is for individual authorities to decide how much they will spend on each of their services.

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Environment Council, 11 and 12 March

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council held in Brussels on 11 and 12 March.[HL1589]

Lord Whitty: My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council which took place in Brussels on 11 March.

The Council reached a common position on the proposal for a water framework directive following the receipt of the European Parliament's opinion in February. This is a major environmental proposal which will set demanding but achievable targets for improvements in the quality of both surface and groundwaters to be delivered through co-ordinated plans, where necessary between member states, for each river basin. It was agreed to postpone a final decision on the End of Life Vehicles Directive until the next Council meeting in June.

Discussions took place on Council Conclusions establishing the Community's negotiating position on climate change for the next round of global negotiations. These focused in particular on the definition of a concrete ceiling on the use of emissions trading and other off-set mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol. A final consensus was not reached on this despite protracted negotiations, and Ministers will return to this issue in the near future.

Council Conclusions were adopted on the Commissions negotiations with Japanese and Korean car manufacturers, which seek to secure an equivalent voluntary agreement to that reached with ACEA last October. This is part of the EU strategy on reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars. The Conclusions impress on the Commission to conclude their negotiations by May and report back to the Council by June.

First ministerial debates were also held on two other dossiers. The first, on a proposal to amend the directive limiting emissions of certain pollutants into the air from large combustion plants, is an integral part of the Commission's Acidification Strategy. It will reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxides, both of which can potentially cause acidification and health problems. During discussions on whether the directive should cover existing plants emissions we argued that these were better covered by the current IPPC directive and National Emissions Ceilings Directive being developed by the Commission. The second debate was held on a proposal that would allow voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme. Both of these proposals will return to the Council in June, along with a proposal for a directive on the incineration of waste. At this Council the Commission reported on the progress of negotiations in working group of this dossier.

We welcomed the Presidency announcement on its plans to reach a common position at the June Council

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on the proposal for a revision to the 90/220 directive controlling the release and marketing of genetically modified organisms. In addition, Council Conclusions were agreed that reflect on the suspension of discussions on the biosafety protocol in Cartegena last month, and agree that a strategy be developed with a view to completing the negotiations.

DfEE Green Paper:The Learning Age--A New Britain

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide a summary of the responses to the Department for Education and Employment Green Paper The Learning Age--A New Britain[HL1472]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We received some 3,000 thoughtful and constructive responses to The Learning Age Green Paper--almost 2,000 from members of the public and the rest from employers, education and training organisations and others. They supported our vision of the learning society and our proposals for achieving it. A summary of the responses will be made available in due course.

Palestine-European Union Trade

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to ensure that in its economic dialogue with Israel the European Commission continues to urge the removal of obstacles to Palestinian-European Union trade and to emphasise that Israeli exports from settlements, East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Golan are not entitled to preferential treatment in the European Union.[HL1381]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The UK is actively contributing to EU discussion about the Commission's efforts to remove the technical and other obstacles to Palestine-European Union trade and to consider what action should be taken about Israeli exports originating in the Occupied Territories.

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Bosnia: Aid

Baroness Park of Monmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What was the provision made in the Department for International Development budget for aid to Bosnia ("BiH") for the funding of SFOR-managed small projects in 1997-98 and in 1998-99; and (b) what provision is being made for 1999-2000.[HL1483]

Baroness Amos: In 1997-98 the Department for International Development spent £2.5 million on SFOR-managed small projects in north-west Bosnia. In 1998-99 we expect to spend £2.25 million. The provision for 1999-2000 is under discussion.

Royal Gallery: Maclise Paintings

The Marquess of Ailesbury asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether it is possible to clean the two largest pictures in the Royal Gallery.[HL1453]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): In relation to the two large paintings by Daniel Maclise in the Royal Gallery, experts have advised that there is very little which can be done to bring the bright colours back to these paintings. The paintings were painted using the waterglass technique, in which the paint was applied directly to the plaster on the walls of the Royal Gallery. The artist completed the work by spraying the surface of the painting with layers of liquid silica.

Within two years of completion, the paintings began to darken and the colours began to fade. This was either because the silica layers were applied too thickly or because the lime in the underlying plaster reacted adversely with the colours in the paint. Since the 1860s, various techniques have been tried to revive the colours. The paintings have been cleaned and at one time they were also coated with wax. The wax was removed in 1966, leaving the paintings much more visible.

The paintings are now stable and the detail can be seen reasonably well. I am afraid that nothing further can be done to brighten the colours.

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