Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Environment Council, 12 October

Lord Howie of Troon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Whitty: My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment represented the United Kingdom at the Environment Council held in Luxembourg on 12 October. One common position was agreed along with three sets of Council conclusions.

A common position was reached on a Council decision for co-operation in the field of accidental marine pollution. While Community action in this area has existed since 1978, this decision establishes a new framework, updating and consolidating the existing arrangements for co-operation between member states. In particular, co-operation will be promoted in five key areas: exchange of information (through a Community information system); training; pilot projects; a Community task force; and international co-operation. It will also create a system of linked web sites to provide public access to information on member states' response arrangements.

Council conclusions agreed on climate change set out in the EU's negotiating position for the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change taking place in Bonn later this month, as well as noting the need for further action by member states and the Community towards meeting their Kyoto targets.

Through conclusions the Council also endorsed the voluntary agreements negotiated by the Commission with Japanese and Korean car manufacturers to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars. Along with the agreement with European car manufacturers secured last year, these will reduce average carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by at least 25 per cent by 2009.

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA11

Six Councils are due to deliver strategies or reports to the Helsinki European Council in December on integrating environment concerns into their policy areas. Council conclusions on integration and sustainable development were agreed to contribute to this process. These called for consideration to be given to the need for an overall EU sustainable development strategy which would complement individual sustainable development strategies all member states were charged with preparing at the Rio Summit.

The Presidency is hoping to make progress on four draft air quality directives. A first ministerial discussion was held on two--one setting national emission ceilings on emissions of air pollutants that cause acidification, euthrophication and ground level ozone formation and the other target values for ozone in ambient air. An oral report on a third setting limit values for benzene and carbon monoxide in ambient air was also given, on which the Presidency indicated it wishes to reach a common position in December.

The Council also received a report from the Commission on the latest developments on the Biosafety Protocol, preparing for a resumed negotiating session on the protocol next January.

Slaughterhouses Licensed to Export Meat to the EU

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many slaughterhouses are licensed to export meat to France, Germany and the rest of the European Union; and whether there are plans to increase the number.[HL4180]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): There are two slaughterhouses approved to export beef under the terms of the Date-based Export Scheme (DBES). They are not exporting to Germany and France at present because those countries have not yet lifted their import bans on UK beef. The Government would like to see more slaughterhouses approved to export beef. However, it is for slaughterhouse operators to decide whether they wish to apply for approval.

Tuberculosis Incidents on Farms

Lord Grantchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the report will be published which analyses the results of the pilot study in December and January 1999 on tuberculosis incidents from cattle breakdown farms.[HL4208]

Baroness Hayman: The pilot study was carried out in order to user-test a new and more comprehensive draft questionnaire (TB99) to be applied to farms which have herds with a confirmed TB incident. The final version of the questionnaire came into use on 1 April 1999. A copy was placed in the libraries of the House at the time.

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA12

The Countryside: Financial Support

The Earl of Clanwilliam asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Hayman on 11 October (WA3926), what were the acreages involved in:

    (a) Environmentally sensitive areas;

    (b) Organic aid schemes;

    (c) Countryside stewardship; and

    (d) Sites of special scientific interest

    over the timescales referred to in that Answer. [HL4210]

Baroness Hayman: The areas (in hectares) involved in the schemes referred to in my Written Answer on 11 October [HL3926] are set out below for the relevant time periods:

Enviromentally sensitive areas433,642461,129490,125535,000
Organic aid schemes6,13010,68316,09557,387
Countryside stewardship scheme106,047119,841143,055163,000
Sites of special scientific interest128,537125,076135,806*

*not available

The figures on SSSIs have been provided by English Nature.

Visually Impaired Peers: Facilities

Lord Morris of Manchester asked the Chairman of Committees:

    What steps have been taken since 17 February to extend special help, in relation to their parliamentary work, to Lords with severe visual impairments.[HL4172]

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): On 17 February, in response to the noble Lord's oral Question, I listed some of the special help available to peers with severe visual impairments, including, for example, the installation of new lifts, handrails on staircases and ramps. I am grateful for this opportunity to update the House on developments since then.

On 22 March I met representatives of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, whom the noble Lord accompanied. A follow-up meeting was then held with officials of the House. The RNIB welcomed the fact that many of the things which would assist visually impaired peers, such as the funding of personal assistance and the provision of audio tapes of Hansard, were already available.

Other recommendations related particularly to the documents used by peers. On 5 July the Administration and Works Sub-Committee considered the font size of the Lords Minute and the Order Paper and requested that the RNIB be invited

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA13

to approve an increase in the font size of the Order Paper from 10.5 point to 12 point. The sub-committee will reconsider the Order Paper at its next meeting, when a reply from the RNIB has been received. The Lords Minute can now be printed out on request in a font size suited to the needs of any visually impaired peers, which accords with the "flexible approach" suggested by the RNIB. The noble Lord may also be interested to hear that the new format for Bills and Acts discussed by the Procedure Committee and the House of Commons Modernisation Committee will include a larger typeface.

In May, several Members of the House were contacted to find out whether they wished to request any special assistance in connection with their parliamentary duties. One request was made, in relation to the first step up from the Floor of the Chamber towards the Back Benches, near the Bar. Unfortunately, it was not possible to make this step the same depth as the others without impeding wheelchair access to the Chamber, but the edges of the first two steps were picked out more clearly in order to assist visually impaired peers. No other services or facilities were requested, or have been requested since.

25 Oct 1999 : Column WA14

All Our Futures: Government Response

The Earl of Clancarty asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the joint response by the Department for Education and Employment and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education report All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education; and whether they will place a copy in the Library of the House.[HL4261]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): We have already responded to the National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education report All Our Futures by issuing a joint DfEE/DCMS Press Notice (215/99) on the day of publication, 14 May 1999. My right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Employment and for Culture, Media and Sport are considering the recommendations in the report and any further response they may wish to make.

   Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page