HC Deb 17 June 2003 vol 407 cc111-3W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what the outcome was of the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council held on 5 and 6 June 2003; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if he will make a statement. [118485]

Mr. Jamieson

The transport segment of the Transport, Energy and Telecommunications Council was held in Luxembourg on 5 and 6 June 2003. My right hon. Friend, the then Minister of State for Transport (Mr. Spellar) represented the United Kingdom.

The Council agreed a three-part package on aviation external relations. This includes mandates for the Commission to negotiate an air service agreement with the US on behalf of the Community, and to negotiate oil specific Community issues with other third countries, while allowing flexibility for member states to negotiate and implement air service agreements bilaterally. We welcome this package as a pragmatic and balanced response to the European Court of Justice rulings in the `open skies' cases, and my right hon. Friend spoke in support of it.

A general approach was reached on a Regulation suspending the use-it-or-lose-it rule for airport slot allocation for the summer season 2003 for application in summer 2004, because of the exceptional circumstances —the Iraq conflict and SARS—that affected passenger demand.

There were written reports to the Council on progress on two legislative proposals in aviation, the draft Regulations on insurance requirements and protection against unfair pricing practices by third countries.

There was a debate on a draft regulation on ship and port facility security. Further work will be done in COREPER with a view to agreement at the October Council. There was consensus that work should focus on implementing the IMO regime for international traffic and the possible extension to Class A passenger ships on domestic voyages (primarily those travelling more than 20 nautical miles from the coast). We support this Regulation, which will ensure the consistent application of IMO requirements agreed last December. We expressed our concern at the automatic application to shorter domestic voyages at Council.

Council Conclusions were agreed on improving the image of Community shipping and attracting young people to the seafaring profession. We welcome this initiative and the my right hon. Friend proposed that there should be a review of progress during the UK Presidency in 2005, following a Commission report. This was welcomed by the Commission and the Presidency.

Written reports were submitted to the Council on designation of particularly sensitive sea areas and on the outcome of the IMO Diplomatic Conference of 12 to 16 May 2003 to adopt a Protocol to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage, 1992.

Council Conclusions were agreed supporting the integration of EGNOS (project for enhancement of the GPS system in Europe) and the Galileo satellite navigation project. We are in favour of the integration of EGNOS and Galileo.

The Commission reported on progress of the High Level Group of member states and acceding country representatives looking at future priorities for the transport Trans-European Network. The Group's report will be submitted to the Commission, which will bring forward proposals.

Council Conclusions were agreed on the Commission's Road Safety Action Plan, entitled 'Halving the Number of Road Accident Victims in the European Union by 2010: A Shared Responsibility'. We welcomed the document and said that, where legislative measures are in prospect, they will have a much better chance of early acceptance by the Council if careful consideration of proportionality and subsidiarity issues is given beforehand. My right hon. Friend referred to the UK's good record on road safety, which showed the value of our approach. The UK was one of the member states singled out by the Commission as models for best practice in reducing road accidents.

There was a written report on progress on the draft Directive on minimum safety requirements on tunnels in the trans-European road network. Several member states, including the UK, although supporting the general aim of improving safety, have had concerns about some of the detailed technical provisions in this Directive. The Commission recognised that further technical work needs to be done and that there is a need for flexibility in application. The Council will aim to reach agreement on the Directive later this year.

The Commission reported on its plans for transport infrastructure charging. It plans to issue a proposal on a revised Eurovignette system for the charging of HGVs before the summer break. A number of member states called for rapid progress to be made on expected wider proposals for transport infrastructure charging. My right hon. Friend called for proposals which will support the implementation of the UK's own lorry charging scheme.

No formal votes were taken at this Council.

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