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NMEC: Chairman

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): While I am responsible for appointing individual members to the board of the New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC), the decision to appoint the chairman rests with the board itself. There is no correspondence between myself and Bob Ayling on the Board's decision to select

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David Quarmby, nor have I had any other correspondence with David Quarmby on this subject.

Environment Council, 22 June

Baroness Gale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council held in Luxembourg on 22 June.[HL3180]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment represented the UK at the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 22 June 2000, accompanied by Sarah Boyack, Scottish Executive Minister for Environment and Transport. Political agreement was reached on two proposals, along with one set of Council Conclusions.

Agreement was reached on two important air quality measures which will deliver significant reductions in transboundary pollutants, contributing to problems of acidification and ground level ozone (summer-time smog) throughout the European Union. The first, the National Emissions Ceilings Directive, sets national emission ceilings for 2010 on four air pollutants (sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, volatile organic compounds and ammonia). We agreed to ceilings of 585, 1167, 1200 and 297 thousand tonnes respectively for each of the pollutants. A second common position, on an amendment of the 1988 Large Combustion Plants Directive, sets stricter limit values for emissions of oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and dust from new plant. For existing (pre-1988) plant, limit values will need to be applied from 2008, or equivalent overall reductions achieved through a National Emissions Plan. However, plant with less than 20,000 hours operating life remaining on 1 January 2008 may be exempted. This agreement will see a reduction in acidifying emissions, whilst flexibility for industry, particularly the power sector, is safeguarded.

In advance of the Sixth Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, due to take place at The Hague in November, Council Conclusions were agreed setting out the EU position on some of the key issues. Ministers agreed that eligibility for the Clean Development Mechanism should be on the basis of a positive list of safe environmentally sound projects, which excluded nuclear, and that the use of carbon sinks such as forests should not be extended, unless concerns about their scale, scientific and other uncertainties were addressed. The Conclusions also welcomed a Commission communication on a proposed European Climate Change Programme, and its Green Paper on Emissions Trading.

The Presidency gave brief progress reports on proposals to promote sustainable urban development and to establish a priority list of dangerous substances of European significance whose release to the aquatic environment should be controlled. The Presidency also summarised the environmental legislation

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adopted under the co-decision procedure during the last six months, and highlighted the increasing importance of this procedure in the Presidency's work. Final outcomes were agreed on six dossiers: a Decision to monitor the CO2 emissions from new passenger cars; a regulation controlling substances that deplete the ozone layer; a directive amending Directive 74/150/EEC limiting gaseous and particulate pollutants by agricultural tractors; a Directive limiting noise emission by equipment used outdoors; a directive on end of life vehicles; and the third EU LIFE Regulation.

The Commission reported on the progress of a new Community strategy for chemicals, expected by the end of 2000, and a draft new framework for environmental state aids on which there was a brief exchange of views between member states. The Commission also gave a report on the progress towards completing risk assessments for brominated flame retardants, based on work carried out by the UK.

The Commission presented two recently published proposals; one for a directive on renewable energy, the other for a directive ensuring proper treatment and disposal of waste from electrical and electronic equipment. Presentations were also given to Council on forthcoming proposals to integrate environmental consideration into public procurement rules and to update the 1991 directive on batteries and accumulators containing dangerous substances.

On a Danish point under Any Other Business, the Commission noted that it would be meeting an umbrella grouping of NGOs on 12 July to discuss their participation in the EU standardisation process. The Council also noted an Austrian intervention calling for a ban of tributyltin (TBT) in products with which human beings come into contact, following traces of TBT and other organotin compounds being found in nappies in Germany.

Greater London Authority: Rejected Ballot Papers

Lord Lipsey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what percentage of ballot papers in the London elections this May were not fully completed; and

    (b) of those not fully completed, what percentage were not complete because no votes were cast for Assembly members, and what percentage were spoiled.[HL3067]

Lord Whitty: The Greater London Authority Elections (No 2) Rules 2000 required returning officers to classify ballot papers which must be rejected under one of the following heads:

    (a) voter identifiable,

    (b) more than one vote cast, and

    (c) vote unmarked or void for uncertainty.

Amongst the rejected ballot papers in the three elections, the following percentages were categorised

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as voter identity identifiable, voting for more than one candidate and void for uncertainty or blank:

(a) voter identifiable (b) multi-vote (c) Uncertain or unmarked
Mayor first preference:0.04%1.4%0.7%
Mayor second preference0.04%0.06%17.0%
London Member election 0.03%0.8%4.2%
Constituency Member election 0.03%0.2%9.0%

Ballot papers which were unmarked or "not fully completed" would be included in those under head (c) as 'uncertain or unmarked'. Ballot papers with a mark on them, but where the voters' intentions were uncertain, were adjudicated by returning officers and also categorised as 'uncertain or unmarked'. Whilst under the Election Rules, both types of ballot paper are aggregated together as one category, it is clear from the returning officers' observations that a high proportion of the papers categorised as "uncertain or unmarked" were in fact blank.

Mobile Concrete Pump Vehicle Licence Cost

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the appropriate vehicle excise duty rate for a concrete pumping machine based on a 32 ton eight-wheel tipper truck chassis:

    (a) before the case R v Reilly Concrete Pumping; and

    (b) after the case R v Reilly Concrete Pumping.[HL3023]

Lord Whitty: The Appeal Court ruled in the case of R v Reilly Concrete Pumping that a mobile concrete pump should be taxed as a goods vehicle rather than a mobile crane. A mobile crane based on four-axle chassis with a maximum operating weight of 32 tonnes would pay £165 in VED. As a result of the Appeal Court ruling, a concrete pumping machine based on a similar chassis would pay an annual rate of £4,400.

Jubilee Line

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with London Transport's running of the Jubilee Line; and whether the number of interruptions to service and escalator breakdowns on a line with huge capital investment indicates management deficiencies.[HL3096]

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The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): Jubilee Line operational matters are the responsibility of London Underground Limited.

Opening the Jubilee Line extension in 1999 (integrating existing and new infrastructure) naturally posed a number of challenges, and service on the line suffered considerable teething troubles. However it has since then been improving consistently and I understand from LUL that the extended Jubilee Line is now amongst the best-performing of Underground lines. There are over 120 escalators on the line. One has been out of service at St John's Wood and one at London Bridge. The former is now back in service and the latter is being dealt with by the manufacturer. There have also been one or two minor escalator stoppages elsewhere, quickly resolved.

LUL management has addressed the extended line's problems, and has instituted a programme of further work to continue improving its performance, in particular to increase reliability and reduce delays.

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