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Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The transport segment of the Transport, Energy and Telecommunications Council was held in Brussels on 5-6 December. My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport (John Spellar) and my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (David Jamieson) represented the United Kingdom.
The Council came to an agreement on the Single European Sky package. The aim of the four regulations making up the package is to improve the efficiency of air traffic management across the EU, thereby reducing air traffic delays. The United Kingdom has been a strong supporter of this package from the outset and we are very pleased to be able to report the successful outcome. Civil/military co-operation is an important aspect of air traffic management, and the member states made a declaration agreeing to cooperate on military aspects.
The Commission presented its recent communication on the consequences for European avaiation policy of the recent ECJ rulings on aviation agreements. The Commission called for rapid progress on concluding an EU-US aviation agreement, the Commissioner having written to Ministers asking them to denounce their existing agreements with the US, which, following the ECU rulings, the Commission believed were no longer valid. There was general agreement that member states and the Commission needed to discuss the consequences of the ruling urgently, including the question of a Commission mandate for negotiations with the US. COREPER was asked to work on proposals to be put to the Council.
The Council agreed on a regulation providing for new levels of compensation to air passengers in the event of denied boarding, cancellation and delay. A majority of Ministers accepted three levels of compensation: 250 euros for all flights of 1,500km or less, 400 euros for intra-EU flights of more than 1,500km and other flights between 1,500-3,500km, and 600 euros for all other flights. These compensation levels will be reviewed four years after the regulation comes into effect. The UK voted against the regulation because in the absence of a link to the ticket price it could damage the interests of consumers of no-frills air
Conclusions were agreed setting out the basis for the continuation of the Galileo satellite navigation project, including the tendering procedure, and addressing the importance of relations with third countries. A final decision on whether to include a public regulated service (PRS) in the project is to be taken before the end of 2003. The UK and the Netherlands entered a minutes statement stressing that they could not accept any PRS that would overlay the US GPS M-Code.
The Council debated the second package of rail measures. The Presidency noted the progress that had been made on this package of five proposals, designed to progress the development of more harmonised technical standards for interoperability, harmonise safety regulation processes, to open up access to the market for all rail freight services and to establish a european rail agency. In discussion of the main outstanding issues on the safety and interoperability proposals there was a consensus for member states to be able to maintain safety levels above any harmonised minimum standard, and general support for extending the scope of the interoperability requirements. The Presidency concluded that work should continue on the package. Greece made clear that it hoped to reach agreeement during its Presidency.
There was a debate on action to be taken following the "Prestige" accident. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Mr Jamieson), in common with other Ministers and the Commission, generally welcomed the Presidency's approach in the conclusions put to the Council. He joined others in arguing for better quality port state control inspections and expressed the UK view that in general there should be co-ordinated EU actions leading to improvements in the international regulatory framework. The conclusions reaffirmed the support of member states for the establishment of a supplementary compensation fund, developed in the IMO, to the benefit of the victims of oil pollution. This would enhance the existing international fund. The UK's concern was that the EU should not commit itself at this stage to its own fund in the event of failure of negotiations in the IMO for fear of prejudicing those negotiations, and we secured an amendment to this effect. The conclusions also include commitments to a faster phasing out of single-hulled tankers and restrictions on those carrying very heavy oil. There is to be an analysis of available double-hull tanker capacity. Also included are better implementation of port state control obligations and possible measures by member states to prohibit within 200 miles of their coasts traffic carrying dangerous and polluting goods.
The Council agreed on a regulation establishing the Marco Polo programme to grant Community financial aid to projects designed to achieve the shift of freight transport from road to other modes. The programme will have a total budget of 75 million euros.
The Council debated the issue of alpine transit and the ecopoint system for transit through Austria. Agreement could not be reached, and the Presidency submitted the dossier to the General Affairs and External Relations Council.
The Minister of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Lord Rooker): The e-voting electoral pilots held in May 2002 were undertaken by local authorities together with suppliers working under contract to the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.
Lord Rooker: I am pleased to announce that the Armed Forces personnel deployed on firefighting duties have been given the extended break over Christmas they richly deserve. This does not imply any reduction in our commitment to the provision of emergency fire cover during any further industrial action. However, the FBU has called off the nine-day
Lord Rooker : The repeal of Section 19 of the Fire Services Act 1947 is an essential element of the move to risk-based fire cover which is at the centre of the recommendations of the Independent Review of the Fire Servicethe Bain review. The Deputy Prime Minister announced on Monday 16 December that he would take the earliest opportunity to make the necessary amendment to the Fire Services Act. The Deputy Prime Minister is now announcing that he shall be proposing an amendment to the Local Government Bill which is currently before the House.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) : Figures for the number of offenders convicted of racially motivated offences who are attending accredited offending behaviour programmes are not currently recorded. The roll-out of OASys (the new joint prison-probation offender assessment system) and the reporting facility for the programmes database will enable more detailed information to be obtained. This will give the prison and probation services the ability to report on offenders on accredited programmes by offence type.
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