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16 Jan 2003 : Column WA51

Written Answers

Thursday, 16th January 2003.

Pedal Cycle Lamps

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Macdonald of Tradeston on 8 January (WA221–222), whether they are in discussion with lamp manufacturers to arrive at a standard for flashing lamps.[HL1000]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Standards for cycle lamps are developed by the British Standards Institute. Preliminary discussions about the need for a standard have been held with the relevant BSI committee, which includes representatives from government and manufacturers.

If the results of the Department for Transport's consultation paper outlining proposals to permit flashing cycle lamps suggest that a standard is appropriate, the Government will consider introducing basic requirements until a British Standard can be adopted.

The consultation paper was issued on 13 January. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Bus Lanes: Camera Enforcement

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Macdonald of Tradeston on 5 November 2002 (WA91) stating that they intended to introduce camera enforcement of bus lanes outside London by the end of 2002, whether the relevant regulations have now been published.[HL1004]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: We are presently finalising the regulations taking account of the comments on the draft regulations published last July. We hope to be in a position to make them within the next few weeks.

Rail Bridges Struck by Vehicles: Train Delays

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress Network Rail are making in reducing delays to trains by bridge strikes.[HL1006]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: I understand that Network Rail and highway authorities work in association to try and reduce the incidence of road vehicles striking railway bridge structures. This includes the provision of signs indicating the location of bridges and their specifications, particularly height. Network Rail investigates all reported incidents as

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quickly as possible and is trialling new electronic systems to reduce the response time and the amount of delays to services. Its prime objective is to ensure that railway safety has not been compromised. Delays to trains may occur until necessary checks and any required remedial works have been carried out.

Oxfordshire Structure Plan

Lord Bradshaw asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the Highways Agency in raising an objection to a planning application which flows from the already adopted structure plan for the county of Oxfordshire.[HL1007]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Highways Agency is responsible for implementing the Government's trunk road development control policy on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport. The policy is set out in DTLR Circular 04/2001, a copy of which has been placed in the Libraries of the House, and could lead to the Highways Agency raising proper objections to planning applications whether or not the proposed development flows from adopted structure plans.

Tax Law

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is their policy that tax law should not be discriminatory between married couples on the one hand and either unmarried cohabiting heterosexual or homosexual couples on the other.[HL955]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Tax law in general applies equally to men and women but the law provides differently for married couples than for other couples. The Government will consult on a civil partnership registration scheme for same-sex couples in the summer, including the implications of such a scheme for tax.

Inland Revenue Holdings

Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When and why the Inland Revenue acquired the security holdings listed on pages 32 and 33 of the Statements supplementing the Consolidated Fund and National Loans Fund accounts; and what plans he has for these holdings; and[HL1016]

    Why the Inland Revenue increased its holding of Coral Group plc Loan Stock Certificate 2010 (Funding Bonds) from £4,166,239 nominal value at 31 March 2001 to £5,515,972 nominal value at 31 March 2002; and why it acquired a holding of £94,247 Coral Eurobet plc Loan Stock Certificates 2010 (Funding Bonds) between those two dates.[HL1017]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: For reasons of taxpayer confidentiality the information requested cannot be supplied. Exemptions 14 (Information given in confidence) and 15 (Statutory and other restrictions) of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information apply.


Lord Moynihan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have made to persuade the Turkish Cypriots to accept the United Nations Secretary-General's plan for Cyprus as the basis for continued talks.[HL349]

The Minister for Trade (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Our High Commissioner in Nicosia and members of his staff are in regular contact with Mr Denktash, Turkish Cypriot political leaders and members of civil society. During his visit to Cyprus on 21 and 22 November 2002, the UK Special Representative to Cyprus, Lord Hannay, had meetings with the representatives of Mr Denktash, party leaders and NGOs.

We have also made clear to Turkey that we believe a comprehensive settlement which protects the legitimate interests of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots is attainable. The Prime Minister met Mr Erdogan, leader of Turkey's ruling party, on 12 December and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary visited Ankara on 4 December.

We urge all parties to come to agreement by the UN deadline of 28 February on the basis of the UN Secretary-General's revised proposals of 10 December. We fully support the UN Secretary-General and his special adviser, Alvaro De Soto.

Palestinian Reform: London Meeting

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the London meeting on Palestinian Reform.[HL1049]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: On 14 January my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary chaired a meeting in London attended by representatives of the Quartet and Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. We are grateful that they were able to attend and contribute. They were joined through a video link by Palestinian Authority Ministers and civil society representatives, as the Israeli Government had unacceptably denied permission for them to travel to London. This arrangement was no substitute for a face to face conference, but we believe the meeting to have been constructive and wide ranging. It will support and complement the efforts of the Quartet on the road map towards a two-state settlement.

Palestinian reform is only one part of the work required to achieve a just and comprehensive peace, but it is an important part. It is clear that the Palestinians are committed to the reform of their

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institutions and have already started that process. But there remains much to be done, and they need support and encouragement. At the meeting they repeated their condemnation of violence against civilians as a means of achieving Palestinian ends and briefed us on their plans for a new Palestinian constitution, political, economic and administrative reform and the creation of a Palestinian state.

This is an objective the whole international community shares. The next step will be meetings in London in early February of the Taskforce on Palestinian Reform and of Quartet envoys. It will take action from all sides, including Israel, to maintain momentum and implement the roadmap.

Her Majesty's Government urged the leaders of all sides to demonstrate the courage necessary to realise their obligations towards one another and turn that realisation into a genuine process of negotiation.

The Foreign Secretary has placed a summary of his understanding of the proceedings and outcomes from the meeting in the Library of the House. The key elements were:

    An agreement that we need practical action to begin implementing the clear Palestinian declaration against violence and terrorism.

    A new Palestinian commitment to work on constitution. We expect an agreed outline by the end of this month and have promised to support their work on this.

    A clear commitment to finalising preparations for free, fair and open elections.

    Recognition of the work the PA has done on financial accountability.

    A clear message to the Palestinians on the need to do more on the judiciary.

Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council Pinewoods

Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether English Nature has any plans to carry out further environmental developments along the pinewoods of Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council in 2003.[HL997]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): English Nature currently has no plans for further environmental development along the pinewoods of Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council.

However, a full environmental impact assessment of the potential effects of any further removal of frontal woodlands on the Ainsdale Sand Dunes National Nature Reserve (NNR) and candidate special area of conservation (cSAC) will be carried out, incorporating public consultation, in 2003.

Plans for any future environmental developments would be produced in the light of the environmental

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impact assessment which is due to be concluded by 31 August 2003, and then submitted to the Forestry Commission.

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