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16 Jun 1999 : Column WA23

Written Answers

Wednesday, 16th June 1999.

European Court of Human Rights: UK Obligations

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what matters Parliament retains the right not to implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.[HL2696]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Kingdom has undertaken to abide by the final judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in any case to which it is party. No areas are excluded from this obligation. Where a violation is found against the United Kingdom, it is for the United Kingdom to adopt appropriate measures to rectify it, which may include legislation. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has the task of supervising the execution of judgments.

Turkish Straits: Annulment of Navigation Regulations

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the implications of the Turkish Government's 5 May announcement that Article 50 of the Turkish Straits Sea Traffic Order Regulations regarding the right of free crossing and right of simple crossing was annulled; whether new conditions have in practice been imposed on passage through the straits; and, if so, what are these conditions.[HL2814]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: We understand the Turkish Government annulled this provision in its national regulations because it was inconsistent with the Montreux Convention. We are not aware of the introduction of any new conditions governing navigation in the straits since 6 November 1998, when the regulations were originally announced.

Agent Orange

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to help the Vietnamese Government obtain scientifically sound data concerning the effect of Monsanto's Agent Orange on Vietnamese citizens equivalent to the data provided for United States veterans who are being compensated for injury linked to Agent Orange in Vietnam.[HL2815]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government have no plans to assist in obtaining scientific data on the effects of Agent Orange. The recently expanded bilateral aid programme is directed towards poverty alleviation projects rather than to scientific research.

Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order

The Duke of Montrose asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the definition of the administrative boundaries in the North Sea, as contained in the Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order, has affected the administration of, or responsibility for, any of the current production sites for oil or gas; and, if so, what are the size of these.[HL2769]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The Scottish Adjacent Waters Boundaries Order defines a boundary for the purposes of fisheries regulation only. As such, it has no effect on the administration of, or responsibility for, oil and gas matters, which remain reserved matters for the Westminster Parliament after 1 July 1999.

Health Council, 8 June

Baroness Nicol asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Health Council held in Luxembourg on 8 June.[HL3051]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Public Health attended the Health Council on 8 June in Luxembourg, on behalf of the United Kingdom.

The Council reached political agreement on the draft recommendation on limitation of exposure of the general public to electromagnetic fields. This will be adopted at a future Council, subject to the lifting of the UK's parliamentary scrutiny reserve. The Council also adopted resolutions on antibiotic resistance and on future Community action in the field of public health and held an initial exchange of views on priorities and resources for the latter. It also adopted Conclusions on health protection requirements in Community policies. The Commission reported on the progress of the European Union/United States Task Force on Communicable Diseases and on the Community's own communicable diseases surveillance network. The Commission also presented a paper on health and enlargement, following which the Council went into an informal session to which Health Ministers from the accession candidate countries had been invited. They identified common health problems, particularly increased levels of communicable diseases, smoking, and drug and alcohol misuse. In formal session again, the Commission said that publication of its report on the state of migrants' health in the Community would be delayed to include the health needs of refugees in the

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light of the Kosovo crisis. Both the Commission and Belgium gave an oral update on the current situation following the contamination of food with dioxins in Belgium. After an oral report from the Commission on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies in the Community, the UK updated the Council on the number of cases of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease in the UK. The Council also stated its support for the World Health Organisation's "Tobacco Free Initiative".

NHS Pensions Agency Key Targets

Baroness Crawley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the key targets for 1999-2000 for the NHS Pensions Agency.[HL2997]

Baroness Hayman: We have agreed the agency's key targets for 1999-2000, and have placed copies in the Library.

Palliative Care

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether official clinical guidelines on palliative care for managing the last days of life in adults should draw attention to the importance of doctors and nurses giving effect to the wishes of patients in relation to the pharmacological and other treatment of symptoms.[HL2896]

Baroness Hayman: Patient and family participation in decisions about care is a key principle of palliative care. Guidelines on managing the last days of life in adults have been prepared by the National Council for Hospices and Specialist Palliative Care and have been distributed to the National Health Service. A copy has been placed in the Library. These guidelines make clear that where possible the views and feelings of patients should be sought in decisions about treatment and care. The prime aim of all treatment at this time is to control the symptoms which are distressing the patient, tailoring all therapy and care to that patient's needs.

Duty Free Sales

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What article of the European Treaties gives authority to the European Commission and Council of Ministers to abolish the sale of duty free goods to passengers on British Airlines flying to and from European Union countries; and whether the decision to ban the sale of duty free goods as from June 1999 fits with Article 5 of the European Community Treaty (consolidated version), which enunciates the principle of subsidiarity and which states "any action by the Community shall not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objectives of this treaty".[HL2817]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Article 28 of Council Directive 92/12/EEC provides that sales of goods to passengers to take away on intra-EU journeys may be free of excise duty until 30 June 1999. Article 28k of Council Directive 77/388/EEC provides that these sales may be exempt from VAT until 30 June 1999. Both these directives have regard to Article 99 of the Treaty establishing the European Economic Community (which became Article 93 under the Amsterdam Treaty). Accordingly, the decision to end intra-EU duty free sales from 30 June 1999 is entirely consistent with Article 5 of the Treaty.

Smoke Detectors

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will remove VAT at the point of sale from smoke detectors, in order to encourage householders to install them in their residences.[HL2822]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Removal of VAT for over-the-counter sales of smoke alarms is not possible. EC VAT law does not allow us to introduce new zero rates.

Withholding Tax

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 27 May (WA 99), what damage to the financial services industry in the City of London caused by a withholding tax they would regard as serious; and what damage they would regard as not serious.[HL2800]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As the conclusions of the ECOFIN Council on 25 May make clear, the treatment of international bonds as provided for under the draft Directive on the taxation of savings might give rise to problems regarding the competitiveness of financial markets, in particular wholesale markets. We regard that as serious.

Meat Contamination in Slaughterhouses

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What criteria are applied by Official Veterinary Surgeons and veterinary officers attached to the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group when they observe slaughterhouse practices which give rise to contamination, as to whether that contamination poses a risk of public health significance.[HL2879]

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): Veterinary staff will use their professional judgment in determining whether contamination of meat in slaughterhouses poses a risk to public health.

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