§ Mr. Carter-Jones
asked the Secretary of State for Trade if Her Majesty's Government have endorsed the international agreement on the importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials; if the protocol relevant to the duty-free importation of equipment for the use of disabled people or of material for the manufacture of such equipment is being implemented; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Meacher
The United Kingdom is a contracting party to the 1958 UNESCO — "Florence" — Agreement which provides for the duty free importation of educational, scientific and cultural materials. Since January 1976, the EEC countries have implemented the agreement on a Community basis, in part by zero rates in the common customs tariff and in other respects by the provisions of Council Regulation (EEC) 1798/75.
The protocol, which extends the scope of the agreement in various ways, was adopted by the UNESCO General Con- 546W ference in Nairobi in November 1976. It is now open for signature by countries which are parties to the agreement itself and also by customs unions, such as the EEC, providing that each member State of the union also individually becomes a party to it. Unlike the agreement however, the protocol contains several options which need to be exercised at the time of signature, ratification, acceptance or accession. For the Community and its member States it is necessary, therefore, to agree a common position on these options.
Proposals for a common position are currently before the Council and discussions are expected to begin shortly—Council document S/261/78 of 6th February 1978, which includes a copy of the protocol. When this has been settled the way will be open for signature of the protocol by the Community and the member countries and its subsequent implementation on a Community basis.
Annex E to the protocol, which includes provisions for the duty-free importation, under certain conditions by approved organisations, ofmaterials specially designed for the education, employment and social advancement of physically and mentally handicapped persons",is not one of the optional annexes. The interpretation of the term "materials" in this context has yet to be decided. It will almost certainly include specially designed equipment, imported as such, but not necessarily materials for the manufacture of such equipment. On implementation of the protocol, these provisions will supplement the existing similar provisions relating to articles for the blind.