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Written Answers

Thursday, 28th June 2001.

Afghanistan: Mine-clearance Equipment

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any goods subject to strategic export controls have recently been approved for export to Afghanistan.[HL98]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The Department for Trade and Industry recently issued an export licence for mine-clearance equipment for use by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UNOCHA) to assist their demining activities in Afghanistan. The goods are rated as Military Listed. UNSCR 1333 (2000), which imposes inter alia an arms embargo on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, provides scope for the UN Sanctions Committee to approve of non-lethal military equipment intended solely for humanitarian or protective use to Taliban-controlled territory. The Sanctions Committee has given its approval in this case.

The granting of this export licence is fully consistent with the UN Security Council resolutions and does not affect the Government's continued support for the EU common position on arms exports to Afghanistan.

Ethiopia and Eritrea: Arms Embargoes

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any recent changes to the UN and EU arms embargoes against Ethiopia and Eritrea.[HL97]

Baroness Amos: The arms embargo and ban on related technical assistance and training imposed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1298 (2000) against Ethiopia and Eritrea expired on 16 May 2001. The EU arms embargo imposed against Ethiopia and Eritrea by Common Position 99/206/CFSP expired on 31 May 2001. Her Majesty's Government was content to support the expiry of both the UN and EU embargoes in recognition of the progress made by both parties in the implementation of the Algiers Peace Agreements, including the establishment of the Temporary Security Zone.

From 1 June 2001, the Government will consider all applications for a licence to export goods and technology on the Military List on a case-by-case basis against the consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria which the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced on 26th October 2000 (HC 199-203W). It remains our policy only to sell arms which will not be used for external aggression or internal oppression.

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Scotland: Parliamentary Constituencies

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Boundary Commission for Scotland has decided when to start a general review of constituencies in Scotland.[HL102]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 requires the Boundary Commission for Scotland to submit its next general report between December 2002 and December 2006 and within these limits the commission has discretion when to start a general review. The commission, in the exercise of its discretion, will give notice in the Edinburgh Gazette tomorrow, 29 June 2001, of its intention to commence forthwith a general review of constituencies in Scotland.

Broiler Fowl Welfare

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to improve the welfare of broiler fowls following the report of the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare of March 2000.[HL29]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): The report of the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare is the first step in enabling the EU Commission to bring forward proposals for broiler welfare standards across Europe; the UK is pressing the Commission to do so at the earliest opportunity.

Environment Council, 7 June

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Environment Council held in Luxembourg on 7 June.[HL100]

Lord Whitty: I am writing to report the outcome of the Environment Council in Luxembourg on 7 June. As Council fell on the same day as the General Election, there were no Environment Ministers available to attend, and the UK was represented by Bill Stow, Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU. Council reached a political agreement on six common positions, two of which allowed agreement to be reached with the European Parliament at first reading. The UK abstained on the vote on a proposed Directive on low-temperature emissions from motor vehicles, and voted in favour of the other common positions. Council also adopted five sets of conclusions.

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Political agreement was reached on a Decision of the Commission and European Parliament on the Sixth Environment Action Programme. This will set out the EU's environmental priorities for the next ten years, focusing on climate change, nature and biodiversity, environment and health, and sustainable management of natural resources and waste. The UK achieved its objectives of a commitment to improve the policy process, a clearer priority for climate change action, and a commitment to further analysis before the development and adoption of detailed targets. Political agreement was also reached on a proposal to amend Directive 90/313, giving the public enhanced rights of access to environmental information in line with the more demanding requirements of the Aarhus Convention.

In reaching Political Agreement on a Directive seeking to reduce the quantity of waste from electrical and electronic equipment and increase recycling, the UK achieved its objectives. The Directive delivers environmental benefits, and is in line with the Government's objectives on waste, and Council has avoided changes which would have made it more inflexible and less workable. In particular the UK secured additional flexibility for small manufacturers and on the arrangements for retailer takeback. Member states agreed that collection systems will have to be set up within 30 months of the Directive coming into force, with distributors having to take back used equipment free of charge on a like for like basis either in-store or through third parties. Producers were made responsible for reaching recovery and recycling targets within 46 months. A target of recycling 4kg waste per person per year by 36 months following entry into force of the Directive was also agreed. Agreement was also reached on a related Directive restricting the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment, protecting the environment from potential damage arising from the disposal of this equipment, and facilitating recycling. The Council agreed a date of 2007 for the phasing out of specific hazardous substances, including lead and mercury.

Council was able to approve all of the European Parliament's amendments on a Decision establishing a list of priority substances under the Water Framework Directive, allowing it to be adopted at first reading. The list contains 33 Priority Substances, 11 of which are classified as Priority Hazardous Substances. The Commission will be responsible for bringing forward proposals for measures aimed at the progressive reduction and, for Priority Hazardous Substances, at the cessation or phasing-out of emissions, discharges and losses. A first reading agreement was also reached on a Directive regulating emissions from motor vehicles starting in cold conditions. The UK abstained on the basis that the costs of implementing the proposal were disproportionate to the limited environmental benefits it would bring about, and recorded its position in a statement for the Council minutes.

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Council conclusions on climate change reaffirmed the EU's commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and its willingness to negotiate constructively at the resumed COP6 in July. Ministers reiterated the target of ratification and entry into force of Kyoto by 2002. The Council also held an informal discussion on climate change over dinner.

In response to the Commission's White Paper on EU chemicals policy, Council conclusions were agreed. Ministers offered broad support for the proposal that existing and new substances would in future be subject to the same authorisation process ("REACH" - Registration, Evaluation, and Authorisation of Chemicals) whilst stressing the need for realistic deadlines. The conclusions recommend an objective of phasing out uses of chemicals that lead to a significant negative impact on the environment by 2020, while maintaining the competitiveness of the chemicals industry. The Conclusions also call for a minimum of animal testing and increased public access to information about chemicals. Separately, in response to a suggestion by the Netherlands, Council agreed conclusions calling on the Commission to clarify the legal situation and possible consequences of the phase-out of mercury in the chlor-alkali industry, and to report back to Council.

In preparation for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+10) in Johannesburg in 2002, Council conclusions were agreed setting out a broad EU approach with suggestions for themes for consideration at the summit. These include protection of natural resources, integrating environment and poverty eradication and making globalisation work for sustainable development. Council also agreed conclusions on a strategy for an integrated product policy, the overall aim of which is to reduce the environmental impact of products across their whole lifecycle.

The Commission briefly updated Council on work on a number of forthcoming proposals, including its planned proposals on the labelling and traceability of GMOs, emphasising the difficult technical and legal implications of the proposals, which are still under consideration within the Commission. Commissioner Wallstrom also reported on developments in environmental relations with Russia.

The Presidency informed Council it would consider what progress could be made on the Directives on Public Participation in Environmental Decision-Making, Recreational Craft, Non Road Mobile Machinery and the Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management, before Belgium took over the EU Presidency in July.

Over lunch Council discussed the Commission's Communication on an EU Sustainable Development Strategy, and a Presidency report on the integration of environmental considerations into other policy areas, in preparation for the Gothenburg European Council on 15-16 June.

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