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9 May 2000 : Column WA217

Written Answers

Tuesday, 9th May 2000.

Takeovers Directive and Gibraltar

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Sainsbury of Turville on 10 April (WA 11-12), whether the Prime Minister agreed at the Lisbon European Council that the proposed Takeovers Directive was to be expedited; and, if not, who gave the relevant consent on behalf of the United Kingdom, what is the one point concerning the application of the Directive to Gibraltar which is delaying its agreement, and what other European Union instruments are currently delayed on this issue. [HL2098]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Prime Minister consented to the inclusion of a statement in the Presidency Conclusions to the Lisbon European Council calling for a rapid resolution to the issue which has delayed formal adoption by the member states of the Takeovers Directive. The text of the directive was agreed by the member states in June last year. Formal adoption of the text has been delayed pending resolution of a Spanish objection to the designation of competent authorities in Gibraltar for the purposes of the directive.

On 19 April 2000, Official Report, col. 499W-500W, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs announced that, following extensive consultation with the Government of Gibraltar and with their support, the UK has successfully concluded discussions with Spain to overcome difficulties that have arisen on a number of issues within the European Union concerning Gibraltar, including the question of competent authorities. In addition to the Takeovers Directive, other EU instruments which have been delayed on this issue include a proposal for a Council regulation on insolvency proceedings, a proposal for a Council regulation concerning the establishment of "Eurodac" for the comparison of fingerprints of applicants for asylum and certain other aliens, a proposal for a Council regulation on the service in member states of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters, proposals for directives on the reorganisation and winding-up of credit institutions and insurance undertakings, a proposal for a regulation on the recognition and enforcement of court decisions in matrimonial matters (Brussels II), and the Draft Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Between the Member States of the European Union. In addition, there are a number of other measures which have been implemented but whose practical application in respect of Gibraltar have been impeded by this issue. These include the Second Banking Co-ordination Directive; the Third

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Directive relating to life and non-life insurance, and related earlier insurance directives; and the 1968 Brussels Convention on Jurisdiction and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters.

The conclusion of the discussions with Spain also means that, subject to formal agreement by our EU partners, the way is now clear for the participation by the United Kingdom, including Gibraltar, in significant elements of police and judicial co-operation under Schengen.

The new arrangements do not resolve problems over EC aviation legislation, which raise issues relating to Gibraltar airport, rather than the competent authority issue. Instruments concerning aviation which are currently delayed are the Aviation Statistics Regulation, the Council Regulation Establishing Common Rules for a Denied-boarding Compensation System in Scheduled Air Transport, the Draft Protocol on the EC's Accession to the Revised 1997 Eurocontrol Convention, and the proposed Directive on Safety Assessments of Third Country Aircraft (Ramp Checks).

Telecommunications Council, 2 May

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Telecommunications Council held in Brussels on 2 May[HL2362]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: There was an orientation debate on the review of the regulatory framework for electronic communications. During the debate, all member states supported the general approach of the Commission on regulation of access to infrastructures in order to promote competition. A number, including the UK, welcomed the Commission's proposal that regulation should be on a co-regulatory basis with business where possible. Regarding the new institutional structure, member states welcomed the Commission's intention to build on the existing structure, but to define the roles of any new bodies. On the scope of universal service, most member states, including the UK, supported the Commission's proposal to retain the existing scope of universal service, but to keep this under review.

The Commission presented its Communication on the World Radiocommunication Conference 2000 and the Council adopted Conclusions giving broad support to the Communication.

The Commission also presented a number of recent or forthcoming Communications concerning the results of its consultation on creation of the EU internet top level domain; organisation and management of the internet; unbundled access to the local loop; and gave an update on the forthcoming postal services liberalisation directive. The Council also noted Presidency reports on the outcome of the Conference on Digital Terrestial Television, and the Ministerial Conference on Knowledge and the information Society held in Lisbon on 17-18 February and 10-11 April 2000 respectively.

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Animal Waste Material Incineration

Baroness Byford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by the Lord Whitty on 19 April (H.L. Deb., col. 701) concerning the proposed waste incineration directive, whether the lack of European Union support for a derogation for farmers is because the rest of the European Union is not constrained by the United Kingdom's BSE regulations; and whether United Kingdom farmers are at a commercial disadvantage in the European Union.[HL2213]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Government arrange and pay for the disposal, by incineration, of animals in the UK suspected of being affected by BSE or excluded from the food chain under the Over Thirty Month Slaughter Scheme. The cost of disposal of other animal waste material falls on the industry. The EU-wide ban on feeding of mammalian protein to ruminants has been extended in the UK to an additional ban on the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal (MBM) to any farmed livestock, and this may have resulted in more small-scale incineration being used. The UK livestock industry therefore inevitably has higher waste disposal costs. Against the background of a very much higher incidence of BSE in the UK, the additional ban is considered to be necessary in order to eradicate the disease. We understand that the practice of small-scale animal carcass incineration is less widespread in other member states.

Genetically Modified Fish

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any progress has been made in reaching an international agreement to prohibit releases of genetically modified fish as proposed by the Select Committee on the European Communities (Second Report, Session 1998-99. HL Paper 11).[HL2111]

Lord Whitty: The release of GM fish is prohibited within the European Union unless authorised. Any proposed release would be governed by Directive 90/220/EEC on the Deliberate Release into the Environment of Genetically Modified Organisms. Guidance on this regime makes clear that it would include releases of GM fish for experimental purposes in all water bodies, including beyond the estuarine environment. At the global level, the Biosafety Protocol to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, agreed on 29 January 2000, includes provision that Parties shall co-operate with a view to identifying living (genetically) modified organisms (LMOs) or specific traits of LMOs that may have adverse effects on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It also provides that Parties shall take appropriate measures regarding the treatment of such LMOs, which could include fish.

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The Government would regard the release of GM fish as covered fully in international fora controlling releases of all genetically modified organisms. The UK has participated fully in these fora.

British Transport Police: Best Value Requirement

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their intention to impose a statutory obligation regarding Best Value on the British Transport Police, as is the case with other police authorities.[HL2259]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): The British Transport Police Committee, who are responsible for overseeing the administration of the force, have decided voluntarily to adopt the principles of Best Value and are preparing a Best Value Plan which will commence in 2001.

The Government have announced in another place on 31 July 1998, Official Report, col. 637W, their intention to seek to establish an independent national police authority for the BTP when a suitable legislative opportunity arises. Consideration will be given to including a statutory requirement for the authority to adopt Best Value within this legislation.

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