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Crawley Hospital

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I regret that there was an error in the first paragraph of my previous reply (Official Report, 27 September, at col. WA 189). The first paragraph of the reply should have referred to East Surrey and West Sussex Health Authorities rather than West Surrey and West Sussex Health Authorities.

The South East Regional Office of the National Health Services Executive is setting up a working group to consider the long-term provision of services by the East Surrey and West Sussex Health Authorities. The decision, announced by Ministers on 26 June, was made to ensure that the services currently provided, and those to be provided for the next 15-20 years to local residents, are safe, modern, effective and sustainable. The decision could therefore not await the recommendations of the working group.

The issue of population growth was carefully considered by East Surrey and West Sussex Health Authorities before they issued their proposals on the future configuration of acute services at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare National Health Service Trust and will also be taken into account by the working group.

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Environment Council, 12 October

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council on 12 October.[HL4276]

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 10 October 2000. This was the first Environment Council under the French Presidency. One common position and two sets of Council conclusions were agreed, and a public orientation debate was held on a proposed environmental noise directive.

Agreement was reached on a Daughter Directive under the Air Quality Framework Directive to set target values and long-term objectives for ground-level ozone, to protect human health and the environment. By 2010, member states will have to attain as far as possible ground-level air ozone concentrations that do not exceed 120 microgrammes per cubic metre on more than 25 days per annum. Some flexibility will be allowed in recognition of the difficulty of reducing ozone formation. The agreement reached is based on the World Health Organisation guideline values and a closely related EC proposal setting national emissions ceilings for ozone precursor pollutants. The directive also lays down monitoring requirements and provides for dissemination of information to the public.

Council conclusions were agreed on common and co-ordinated policies and measures which could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help to ensure that the EU and its member states meet their Kyoto targets. These build on previous Council conclusions, and give guidance to the Commission, and the work of the European Climate Change Programme, on priority areas for action, including transport, renewable energy, combined heat and power, the elimination of environmentally damaging subsides, and economic instruments. The Presidency also reported the outcome of the Lyons subsidiary bodies' meeting on climate change in October. An extraordinary Environment Council on 7 November 2000 will prepare for the forthcoming sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP6), taking place between 13-24 November 2000.

The Presidency gave a progress report on global environmental governance, and a short set of procedural Council conclusions were agreed. Ministers agreed that further consideration of options for improving the existing institutional arrangements was needed and that financing was a central issue. My right honourable friend stressed the importance of a step by step approach, and the need to secure developing countries' commitment to change. The Presidency plans to develop conclusions for adoption at the December Environment Council to guide EU involvement at UNEP's Administrative Council in February and the build-up to Rio + 10.

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A public orientation debate was held on a proposed directive to establish common methods for measuring and assessing environmental noise, in order to collate and map comprehensive information about noise exposure levels across the EU. Ministers recognised the significance of noise as a health and quality of life issue and broadly welcomed the proposal, which would enable accurate comparisons of noise levels in all member states to be made. In noting the importance of taking action to reduce noise levels, most commented that plans were already provided for at the national or local level and stressed the importance of local solutions. The Presidency indicated that it intends to reach a common position on this proposal at the December Environment Council.

The Presidency gave progress reports on two related directives which aim to increase re-use, recovery and recycling rates of waste from, and limit the use of certain hazardous substances in, electrical and electronic equipment. The Presidency aims to reach common position in December, subject to the European Parliament delivering its opinion before then. The Commission updated Council on the development of its planned proposals on the traceability and labelling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are expected later this year.

There were a large number of any other business items. Ministers agreed to consider Council conclusions at the extraordinary Environment Council in November setting out the EU position on the revision to the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Germany proposed that the European Commission should prepare for the early transposition into Community law of the International Maritime Organisation global ban on organotins in marine anti-fouling paints, and the Commission should also submit proposals for extending restrictions on the marketing and use of organotins in a range of consumer goods, such as textiles. They also called for prohibition on the use of the azo-dye Navy Blue. The Austrian delegation reminded Council of its concerns about the Temelin nuclear power station in the Czech Republic; the Italian delegation called for a joint Environment/Transport Council to resolve measures to tighten rules on oil tanker safety; and the Finnish delegation outlined its environmental concerns about the construction of a new oil terminal at Primorsk in Russia.

The Presidency updated Council on a proposed resolution on the Precautionary Principle, to be submitted to the Nice European Council in December, and on preparations for the Intergovernmental Conference for the Cartagena Protocol in Biosafety, also taking place in December. The Presidency indicated plans for further ministerial debate on the Commission's White Paper on environmental liability in December.

Other items included Commission progress reports on revised guidelines on state aids and the environment and the introduction of environmental requirements into public procurement guidelines. The Commission also briefly presented its Green Paper on

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the environmental issues of PVC, its Communication on water pricing policy, and its Communication on integrated coastal zone management.

Millennium Dome Site Contamination Liability

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, when the Millennium Dome is disposed of, the site will have been sufficiently cleared of contamination so that no liability for decontamination will fall on the purchaser as a result of contamination dating from before the site's disposal.[HL4128]

Lord Whitty: English Partnerships and British Gas remediated the Dome site to meet the statutory obligations of the landowner and to prepare the site for its current use. The purchaser of the site would only inherit liability for site contamination to the limited extent imposed by statute and common law and the final commercial terms negotiated for the sale.

Imported Organic Food Products

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the remarks by the Lord Hunt of Kings Heath on 9 October (H.L. Deb., col. 9), whether imported food labelled as organic and not coming from a European Union country, or from one of the six countries approved by the European Union for organic food production standards, has to fulfil any qualifications or any form of verification to be allowed to be so labelled in the United Kingdom.[HL4173]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 provides that, in the case of products from such countries, importers may make an application to the competent authority in the member state concerned, providing evidence (standards, control manuals etc) to show that standards and control measures equivalent to those set out in the regulation have been applied in the country of origin. Products can only be imported for sale as organic if an authorisation has been granted. The UK Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) undertakes this function in the UK.

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