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22 Oct 2001 : Column WA107

Written Answers

Monday, 22nd October 2001.

International Terrorism

Baroness Crawley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the latest developments in the bombing of Afghanistan.[HL888]

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Prime Minister attended the informal meeting of EU Heads of Government in Belgium on 19 October.

The meeting was originally called to have an informal discussion about the future institutional development of the European Union. In the light of 11 September we, the Presidency and all our partners wanted to use the meeting to focus on developments in Afghanistan.

The continuing and wholehearted solidarity of the European Union in the face of the 11 September attacks was confirmed in the discussion in Ghent on Friday and in the statement which was issued, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House. The statement emphasises the crucial need to relaunch the Middle East Peace Process without preconditions.

The European Union's solidarity with the United States has been shown in action as well as in words, not just by our own contribution but those of other EU partners.

Since the beginning of this crisis, we and our EU partners have placed as much importance on the humanitarian as on the military aspects of our campaign. So far this year, aid amounting to over 310 million euros has been mobilised by the European Union to relieve the suffering of the Afghan people. That includes emergency aid and food aid released through the world food programme.

The EU has also been looking to the protection of our own citizens. The Commission has proposed uniform EU-wide security and safety standards in aviation, standards which have already been significantly tightened across the EU since 11 September. The co-operation between civil protection authorities across the EU has been stepped up and we are developing an EU system for surveillance and control of communicable diseases, including an early warning and response system to help us deal with threats from biologicial or chemical agents. EU-wide legislation is being negotiated on common penalties for terrorist offences and a European arrest warrant.

Statements on the economic situation in the European Union and on preparations for the euro have also been placed in the Library. At the meeting, the importance of sticking to the economic reform agenda we outlined at the Lisbon Summit 18 months ago was stressed. The essential requirement in the present economic climate is to create jobs, and that will

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happen if at EU level and beyond we can open up markets in energy, financial services, transport and other sectors. We also have to be steadfast for free trade. The Prime Minister welcomed the commitment of Prime Minister Aznar to pursue that economic reform agenda vigorously under the Spanish Presidency.

Human Rights Annual Report

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the Annual Report on Human Rights.[HL857]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos): The FCO Annual Report on Human Rights was laid before Parliament as a Command Paper on Monday 17 September 2001. Copies were placed in the Libraries of both Houses and distributed throughout Parliament in the usual way. The report is on the FCO website ( and is available through the Stationery Office.

Somerton and Wincanton: Policing

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many days since 1 January the police force areas around (a) Somerton and (b) Wincanton, Somerset, have been without dedicated police officer cover in the hours between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.[HL755]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): I am told by the Chief Constable of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary that the Somerton and Wincanton areas have 24-hour police cover and there has been no occasion when there was no cover between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

Kosovo: Export Licences

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there have been any recent export licences issued for military listed equipment to Kosovo.[HL858]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government have recently issued licences for the export of the following military listed goods:

    bulletproof vests for use by the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) which will provide protection against the threat posed by small arms;

    a cab control box for use by the Irish contingent of Kosovo Force (KFOR). It is a logistical piece of equipment that offers remote control operation from within the cab of a military cargo vehicle to load and unload paletted loads such as fuel, ammunition or temporary accommodation, allowing the operator to remain in the cab in potentially dangerous situations;

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    protective body armour for use by Ronco Consulting Corporation who are engaged in humanitarian demining activities on behalf of the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Centre in Kosovo;

    protective body armour and components for UNMIK for use by the Kosovo Police Service, which provides protection against the threat posed by small arms.

When the export licences were issued for these goods, the FRY was subject to an EU arms embargo (EU Common Position 96/184/CFSP). The decisions on these exports were part of the Government's continuing support for the peaceful reconstruction of Kosovo and were in the Government's view within the spirit of the embargo, which was subsequently lifted on 8 October 2001 following the removal of the UN arms embargo on 10 September.

Transport Council, 16 October

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What the outcome was of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 16 October; and what the Government's stance was on each issue discussed, including its voting record.[HL881]

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 16 October. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions and the Minister of State for Transport represented the United Kingdom.

This meeting of the Council was mainly focused on aviation issues, following the special session of the Transport Council on 14 September, which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State attended. In addition, the special European Council of 21 September had called on this Council to adopt measures in the field of aviation security. We are very pleased that the Council succeeded in doing this. The Council put in hand preparations for Community-wide measures to enhance aviation security.

The Commission presented a draft regulation establishing a framework of aviation security measures and inspection arrangements. The Presidency reported on the work of the ad hoc group set up by the special Transport Council which will examine further the scope for additional measures in areas such as crew training; checking and monitoring of hold luggage; securing cockpits; sky marshals; use of video cameras, and quality control of security measures. The Council also discussed alignment of security measures with those adopted by the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and the need for the issues to be further pursued at the global level by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The Council agreed conclusions, following a debate on the economic consequences for the aviation industry of the 11 September attacks, on the

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basis of a Communication from the Commission. The conclusions recognise that application of the Community's state aid rules is the Commission's exclusive competence and noted the limited range of financial assistance the Commission would approve. This would include compensation for losses directly attributable to the closure of airspace in the four days following 11 September, insurance guarantees for wat-related third party risk where the market has failed and possible assistance with the costs of enhanced security measures. The conclusions called on the Commission to take a position on slot flexibility before the next winter season and welcomed the Commission's intention to open a dialogue with the US on a code of conduct on unfair competition. On insurance guarantees, the conclusions called for monthly reviews, with a final cut-off date of 31 December this year.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State joined several Ministers in supporting the Commission's proposals. He also emphasised the importance of the EU airline industry restructuring itself and circulated a paper calling for member states and the Commission to try to prevent ownership and control clauses in bilateral air service agreements being an obstacle to airline consolidation.

The Commission presented its proposals for the Single European Sky, aimed at improving co-ordination of air traffic management across the EU and reducing delays through better use of airspace. This is an initiative which the UK supports and we look forward to seeing progress on it in the coming months.

The Presidency reported on recent developments at the ICAO General Assembly in Montreal. The results on aircraft noise were generally welcomed. Council conclusions noted that Council would give priority to adopting a replacement to the current "hushkits" regulation in the near future.

A common position was reached on proposals to establish a European Aviation Safety Agency. There were progress reports on proposals for occurrence reporting in civil aviation and on cabin crew training, which were remitted back to COREPER for further work.

The Council noted the progress report on the ERIKA 1 and 2 packages of proposals on maritime safety and related measures. The outcome of the packages is now satisfactory from our point of view, and we are pleased that a number of the issues have been taken forward by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). We look forward, subject to clarification on some points, to a decision in December on establishment of a European Maritime Safety Agency.

At a debate over lunch on the Galileo global navigation satellite system, the Minister for Transport set out the UK's concerns over the proposed joint undertaking management structure. When the Council resumed, the Presidency reported that COREPER would be continuing work on three main areas with a view to a decision on proceeding with the

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project at the December Council. The areas of work are arrangements for private sector involvement, in particular the need to avoid conflicts of interest; the best way of involving member states, with emphasis on the roles of a supervisory board and management committee; and involvement of the European Space Agency.

The Commission confirmed that a full revision of the transport Trans European Networks (TENs) guidelines would be undertaken in 2004. An interim revision will boost Community support to 20 per cent for major rail infrastructure projects and cross-border bottlenecks on frontiers of candidate countries.

The Commission gave a brief presentation on its recent White Paper on the common transport policy. The Presidency said that it would aim for a Council Resolution on the White Paper in December.

My right honourable friend the Minister for Transport was one of several Ministers who raised continuing concerns about the technical specification for digital tachographs. The Commission stated that adoption in December remained its goal.

There was a progress report on the proposal to extend the requirement to fit vehicle speed limiters to a wider range of vehicles. With a view to political agreement in December, COREPER will be continuing work on the proposal, seeking solutions on the scope of the proposal and the issue of retrofitting, on both of which the UK and some other member states have expressed concerns.

There was also a progress report on the proposal on training of professional drivers. Work on this will continue with a view to the Council reaching agreement on it in December.

No votes were taken at this Council.

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