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Climate Change

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The G8 countries have discussed the implications of climate change on a number of occasions. In particular, the G8 Environment Ministers considered climate change when they met at Leeds Castle in April 1998, during the UK Presidency. A number of issues with major economic implications were discussed, including: the importance of domestic action; co-operation on the development of rules on the Kyoto mechanisms and compliance; provision of financial assistance and technology transfer to developing countries; climate change in relation to World Bank and other international financial institutions' policies; and the engagement of developing countries. The importance of tackling climate change was further endorsed at the G8 Environment Ministers' meeting at Schwerin earlier this year and, more recently, at the G8 Heads Summit in Cologne.

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Urban Task Force: Report

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Urban Task Force Report will be published.[HL3333]

Lord Whitty: Copies of the Report and the Executive Summary have been placed in the Printed Paper Office and the Library.

Right to Roam: Occupiers' Liability

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements will be made to ensure that the right to roam does not enable children to gain access to swim in lakes, ponds and rivers without supervision; and whether such activity will involve private owners in bearing public liability.[HL3160]

Lord Whitty: The Government's proposed new statutory right of access will apply only to open countryside and be limited to access on foot. The statutory right will not alter the primary responsibility of parents and others for the safety of children in their care. The right will be subject to restrictions, such as those set out in Schedule II to the National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949. Those restrictions currently prohibit swimming on access land where an authorised notice has been exhibited to that effect. We will be looking at how these restrictions might be updated to reflect present day requirements. We are considering questions of occupiers' liability as part of our package of measures to improve access to the countryside.

Small Businesses: Support for R and D

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have plans to introduce a programme similar to the one reviewed in the Harvard Business School working paper, The Government as Venture Capitalist: The Long-Run Impact of the SBIR Program, by Professor Joshua Lerner.[HL3247]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Professor Lerner's paper indicates that firms participating in the SBIR scheme have grown faster than other equivalent US firms. The UK already gives help to SMEs undertaking innovative research and development projects through the SMART scheme, which makes awards on a competitive basis to firms with fewer than 50 employees.

SMART is, however, a discretionary grant scheme, whereas SBIR is a legally enforced government procurement scheme. We will continue to consider alternative ways in which small firms can be helped to benefit from undertaking innovative research and development projects.

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Internal Market Council, 21 June

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Internal Market Council held in Luxembourg on 21 June.[HL3389]

Lord Simon of Highbury: I represented the UK at the Internal Market Council in Luxembourg on 21 June.

The Commission introduced an open debate on the future direction of the single market. There was a general agreement on the need to define strategic objectives against which the development of the single market could be monitored and on the priority areas for action (including public procurement, electronic commerce and mutual recognition). The Scoreboard was confirmed as a tool for monitoring progress; the latest version showed that the deficit in the transposition of directives was being reduced.

The Commission reported on the progress of SLIM IV (Simpler Legislation in the Internal Market), the review of the SLIM initiative and the prospects for SLIM V. The Netherlands introduced a joint paper from the Netherlands, Denmark and the UK and there was agreement from other member states that there was a need for improvements to help realise the potential of SLIM.

The Council reached political agreement on the Orphan Drugs Regulation (which provides incentives for the development of drugs for the treatment of rare diseases) and Customs 2000, and agreed Conclusions on Tourism and Employment. With the exception of a Spanish Gibraltar-related reservation on the designation of competent authorities, there was unanimous political agreement on the substance of the Takeovers Directive, which included the text that the Government had sought dealing with the issue of litigation. There was no agreement on the new chocolate directive, despite a qualified majority in favour of the Presidency's compromise, because of Commission objections to the proposed comitology provisions.

The Commission introduced Communications on the Environment and the Internal Market and on Mutual Recognition. There was a brief debate on international exhaustion of trademark rights following a Commission presentation. The Council took note of progress reports on Standardisation; the Copyright and related rights in the information society Directive; the Electronic Commerce Directive; and the Commission's oral report on Counterfeiting and Piracy. The Council took note of a progress report on the reform of Customs Transit Systems and adopted a Resolution. The Commission announced the imminent publication of an amended proposal on Community Design.

Ministers discussed the Artists' Resale Right Directive. The Council agreed to give more time to discussions in order to find a solution to the remaining difficulties some member states have with the proposed directive.

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FE Colleges and School Sixth Forms: Funding

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) What are the levels of central funding per sixth form student for Greenhead College, Huddersfield, and for school sixth forms in Kirklees local education authority; and (b) whether they have any plans to eliminate any funding discrimination against students at sixth form colleges in general.[HL3245]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Greenhead College in Huddersfield is funded by the Further Education Funding Council, and provision for 16-19 year olds is currently allocated at an average of £2,630 annually per full time equivalent student. The element of funding that is passed down to schools through the Average Weighted Pupil Unit by Kirklees Local Education Authority is currently £2,674 for each school sixth former.

Today the Government issued a White Paper, Learning to Succeed, setting out plans for a Learning and Skills Council which will in future fund FE colleges. A parallel consultation paper has been published today inviting views on options for the funding of school sixth forms in the light of the new arrangements. These documents have today been placed in the House of Lords Library.

Depleted Uranium: Use in Yugoslavia

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much depleted uranium they estimate has been deposited on Kosovo during the NATO action; and what steps are being taken to prevent its harming (a) NATO ground forces; (b) the inhabitants of Kosovo; and (c) returning refugees.[HL2999]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The UK did not use depleted uranium, DU, ammunition during the Kosovo air campaign. The United States is the only member of the Alliance to have confirmed that it used DU ammunition. I am not in a position to estimate the amount used.

British troops have been given appropriate guidance on dealing with any potential hazards from DU based munitions that they might encounter in Kosovo. As a precaution, this guidance includes advice to wear respiratory protection and gloves when contact with vehicles damaged by DU ammunition is unavoidable. British forces in theatre have been issued with the appropriate range of clothing and equipment. Other NATO nations are likewise responsible for providing guidance to their own troops.

KFOR troops are working hard to ensure that any immediate dangers to the population posed by military hazards are reduced as far as possible. KFOR troops also stand ready to provide advice on any hazards to international organisations, NGOs and the local population as necessary.

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The UNHCR is the lead agency responsible for the return of the refugees. It will be for them to provide such advice as they judge to be necessary on the hazards which returning refugees may face.

We have published on the MoD website the March 1999 paper produced by the MoD's Gulf Veterans' Illnesses Unit in respect of testing for the presence of DU in British veterans of that conflict. We believe that the health risks to our personnel from the use of DU based ammunition in the Gulf War were very small.

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