HC Deb 24 June 1999 vol 333 cc446-7W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what was the outcome of the Transport Council held in Luxembourg on 17 to 18 June; and if he will make a statement. [87977]

Mrs. Liddell

The Transport Council met in Luxembourg on 17 June. I represented the United Kingdom.

The Council expressed its condolences to the French and Austrian transport Ministers following the recent fatal fires in the Mont Blanc and Tauern Tunnels. The Presidency said that, during the coming months, the Council would be considering recommendations on tunnel safety, in accord with the remit of the European Council in Cologne.

The Council agreed a common position on a draft Directive aimed at avoiding pollution at sea by ensuring that ships discharge their waste while they are in port into properly planned and adequate waste reception facilities.

A common position was agreed on an amendment to the guidelines on transport Trans-European Networks (TENs), to clarify the eligibility of sea and inland ports for TENs funding.

The Council agreed a Resolution giving its support to the definition phase of the Galileo satellite navigation project. Ministers agreed that the Council should maintain oversight of this work, and at my request the Resolution included an instruction to the Commission to present the results to the Council as soon as they are available, to allow early consideration of the validity of the project and of its advantages compared with current systems and their developments. The Council agreed to my suggestion that the Commission should in any case present a further report to the October Council.

The Council agreed a Resolution expressing concern about growing air traffic delays. I expressed concern about the inconvenience caused to business and leisure travellers and stressed the need to ensure that the powers in EUROCONTROL' s new Convention were implemented and properly used to improve the situation.

The Council took note of reports by Member States on action they are taking to deal with the Year 2000 computer problem in their transport sectors, and agreed to return to the issue at the October Council. The Commission undertook to convene a high-level group to consider whether additional action was needed at Community level.

I joined others at the Council in suggesting that it is time for further progress to be made on EU rail liberalisation. At the end of the debate no agreement was reached, and the Presidency asked for further work to be done.

Under other business, the Council heard reports from the Commission on its negotiations towards Community membership of EUROCONTROL and the proposed new European Aviation Safety Authority. The Commission also reported on: the successful outcome of the renegotiation of the Warsaw Convention, which brings air passenger liability rights in line with Community rules; the establishment of a high-level group to prepare for an "innovation forum", as requested by the informal Transport Council at Dortmund; and the proposed allocation of quotas for lorry transit traffic through Switzerland.