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Transport Council, 17 June

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 17 June. My right honourable friend the Minister for Transport represented the United Kingdom.

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The Council expressed its condolences to the French and Austrian transport ministers following the recent fatal fires in the Mont Blanc and Tauern tunnels. The Presidency said that, during the coming months, the Council would be considering recommendations on tunnel safety, in accord with the remit of the European Council in Cologne.

The Council agreed a common position on a draft directive aimed at avoiding pollution at sea by ensuring that ships discharge their waste while they are in port into properly planned and adequate waste reception facilities.

A common position was agreed on an amendment to the guidelines on transport Trans-European Networks (TENs) to clarify the eligibility of sea and inland ports for TENs funding.

The Council agreed a resolution giving its support to the definition phase of the Galileo satellite navigation project. Ministers agreed that the Council should maintain oversight of this work, and at my right honourable friend's request the resolution included an instruction to the Commission to present the results to the Council as soon as they are available to allow early consideration of the validity of the project and of its advantages compared with current systems and their developments. The Council agreed to her suggestion that the Commission should in any case present a further report to the October Council.

The Council agreed a resolution expressing concern about growing air traffic delays. My right honourable friend expressed concern about the inconvenience caused to business and leisure travellers and stressed the need to ensure that the powers in Eurocontrol's new convention were implemented and properly used to improve the situation.

The Council took note of reports by member states on action they are taking to deal with the Year 2000 computer problem in their transport sectors, and agreed to return to the issue at the October Council. The Commission undertook to convene a high-level group to consider whether additional action was needed at Community level.

My right honourable friend joined others at the Council in suggesting that it is time for further progress to be made on EU rail liberalisation. At the end of the debate no agreement was reached, and the Presidency asked for further work to be done.

Under other business, the Council heard reports from the Commission on its negotiations towards Community membership of Eurocontrol and the proposed new European Aviation Safety Authority. The Commission also reported on the successful outcome of the renegotiation of the Warsaw Convention, which brings air passenger liability rights in line with Community rules; the establishment of a high-level group to prepare for an "innovation forum", as requested by the informal Transport Council at Dortmund; and the proposed allocation of quotas for lorry transit traffic through Switzerland.

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Rail Travel

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were, for each year from 1994 to the present, the number of passenger train miles and freight train miles operated.[HL3350]

Lord Whitty: Information about freight train miles is not available at present. Estimates of passenger train miles run on the national railway are as follows:

1998-99 (provisional) 249


Data from British Rail have been used to produce two estimates for 1994-95 and 1995-96. Figures for 1996-97 and 1997-98 have been derived from OPRAF annual reports. The 1998-99 figure has been provided in advance of the publication of the OPRAF annual report later this month. Figures exclude train mileage run by non-national operators, including London Underground, operators of other urban railways, and Eurostar.

Appeal Hearings: Photocopying and Fax Facilities

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Further to his Written Answer on 28 June (WA 5), whether the Administration and Works Sub-Committee will consider making photocopying and fax facilities available for the convenience of parties, and their legal representatives, if necessary upon payment of a reasonable charge; and[HL3437]

    Whether the Administration and Works Sub-Committee will consider making photocopying and fax facilities available for the convenience of parties, and their legal representatives, when it becomes necessary in the course of a hearing to make use of such facilities, so that it is no longer necessary to seek the use of these facilities via the Doorkeepers and Library of the House.[HL3438 ]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): I do not propose to refer the questions of photocopying and fax facilities for parties to appeals to the Administration and Works Sub-Committee. These facilities are provided for parties for the convenience of the court, and I understand that the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary are satisfied with the extent to which these facilities are available. As I explained in my previous Answer, the Appellate Committee expects parties to attend with all their documents in readiness, as set out in Practice Direction 13.7.

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Poet Laureate

Lord Simon of Glaisdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether a leak occurred of the appointment of the new Poet Laureate after the death of Ted Hughes; if so, what investigation has been made into the leak; and with what result.[HL3375]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Prime Minister in reply to a written parliamentary question on 26 May 1999 (Official Report, Written Answer, cols. 193-194) provided information on the appointment of the new Poet Laureate.

Private Members' Bills

Lord Renton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, before tabling any amendments in the House of Commons to Private Members' Bills introduced in the House of Lords, they will consult with and show such amendments to Lords who were responsible for those Bills during their passage through the House of Lords.[HL3280]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: In principle the Government seek close co-operation with those responsible for private Peers' Bills and Private Members' Bills in another place. The degree of co-operation may depend on whether the Government support the Bill in question. Private Peers' Bills which pass the House of Lords are taken up in the House of Commons by an individual Member who is in charge of the Bill during its passage through that House. In many cases the Minister responsible for the subject area will also be a Member of the House of Commons. The normal practice would be for the Minister to liaise with the Member in charge of a Bill while it is in the Commons. Any government amendments, in either House, are available in the official papers of the House concerned for some days before they are debated and

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decided. Any amendments made in the Commons will return for further consideration in the Lords.

Royal Parks: Unlicensed Vendors

Viscount Astor asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received reports of food poisoning from the sale of food from unlicensed vendors in the Royal Parks; and whether they consider this to be a serious health risk;[HL3284]

    When they will take steps to prevent the sale of food by unlicensed vehicles in the Royal Parks; and [HL3283]

    Whether they consider that the Royal Parks Agency and tourist boards should offer advice to visitors in the Royal Parks of the dangers of purchasing foods from unlicensed vendors.[HL3285]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The problem of the sale of food by unlicensed traders in the Royal Parks has worsened since the surrounding local authorities obtained the power to seize the outlets and vehicles used by these traders. The Royal Parks Constabulary, who police the Royal Parks, do not have similar powers. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is deeply concerned about the problem of illegal trading and is seeking the earliest opportunity to introduce the legislation needed to give the Royal Parks Constabulary the necessary powers, and the Government continue to support the Royal Parks (Trading) Bill which is currently before Parliament. In the meantime the Royal Parks Constabulary do all that they can to control these traders using the powers available to them.

We have not received reports of food poisoning from the sale of food from unlicensed vendors. I can confirm that the Royal Parks Agency has placed signs in St. James's Park warning visitors that unlicensed traders are operating there, that the conditions under which food is prepared do not conform to statutory food hygiene standards and that, as a consequence, there may be a risk that eating this food may lead to serious illness.

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