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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 24 November 1988


British Approvals Board for Telecommunications

Mr. Gill : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he expects the British Approvals Board for Telecommunications to be appointed as an approvals authority for meters.

Mr. Atkins : I am pleased to announce that, following statutory consultation and consideration of comments, my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has appointed BABT as an approvals body for meters comprised within the public telecommunications systems of British Telecommunications plc and Mercury Communications Ltd. This appointment is under section 25 of the Telecommunications Act 1984.


Nitrate Sensitive Zones

Mr. Harris : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals there are to compel farmers to restrict farming activities in nitrate sensitive zones and to compensate them for such restrictions.

Mr. MacGregor : The nitrate problem is a complex one and remedies may vary considerably from area to area depending on local circumstances such as geology, rainfall and farming patterns. In some cases, water blending or treatment may provide the best option for reducing nitrate levels--and indeed the only one in the short term. In other cases, agricultural restrictions may be preferable or a mixture of water and agricultural measures.

That is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and I commissioned a range of desk studies to examine the options for limiting nitrate concentrations in drinking water in ten varied localities. We hope to publish the results of those desk studies soon.

The Government believe that, wherever possible, any agricultural restrictions should in the first event be on a voluntary basis. They do, however, consider that it is necessary to retain compulsory powers to establish protection zones as a fallback. Provision for such zones is therefore included in the water privatisation Bill on a similar but more flexible basis than the provisions, which have so far never been used, contained in the Control of Pollution Act 1974. The Government also believe that, where farmers are obliged to restrict their agricultural activities beyond the degree which could be regarded as good agricultural practice, they should be compensated. The details of these compensation arrangements are currently the subject of careful consideration, the conclusions of which will be announced during the passage of the Bill. Appropriate consultations will be held with water, farming and other

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affected interests. The Government will also be considering the extent to which compensation costs can be offset by reductions in CAP support.


Teacher Training

Mr. Franks : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many students were recruited to courses of initial teacher training in 1988.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : A survey undertaken by my Department shows that 20,183 students entered courses of initial teacher training in 1988, an increase of 1,003 over 1987, and an improvement of 3,294 over 1986. Recruitment to primary courses is 12 per cent. higher than last year, while intakes to secondary training are 97 per cent. of the very high levels achieved last year. Recruitment to the shortage subjects is higher than 1987 in CDT, business studies and modern languages, but lower in maths, physics and chemistry.

I am placing in the Library the principal results of the survey.


Charter of Local and Self-government

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many countries have now signed the European charter of local and self-government ;

(2) whether Her Majesty's Government propose to sign the European charter of local and self-government ; and if he will make a statement ;

(3) what discussions he has had with representatives of local authorities about the European charter of local and self-government.

Mr. Ridley : I understand that 14 countries have signed the charter. We have no plans to sign it. The matter was last discussed in the presence of local authority representatives at the eighth conference of European Ministers responsible for local government which was held in Ireland in September.



Mr. Knowles : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service how much money is spent in a full year on official travel between (a) London and Paris, (b) London and Brussels and (c) London and Munich ; which airlines are used, and at what level of fares ; and if he has any plans to use cheaper fares now available.

Mr. Luce : The information is not held in the form requested and cannot be obtained except at disproportionate cost. However, it is the OMCS policy that British carriers are the carrier of first choice where they offer best value for money but we seek always to use the most economic fare whenever possible.

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Council of Ministers

Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish in the Official Report a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council held on 21 and 22 November.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The Foreign Affairs Council met in Brussels on 21 and 22 November. I attended on 21 November, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. She attended on 22 November accompanied by the Minister for Trade.

The Council reached agreement on the four implementing regulations for the structural funds following the agreement at the Brussels European Council in February to double the funds by 1993. It also concluded the conciliation procedure with the European Parliament on the regulations for the European social fund and the agriculture guidance fund. Discussions on the Parliament's proposed changes to the horizontal and regional fund regulations will continue at official level with a view to securing a common Council position for the Parliament in time for the co-operation procedure to be completed and the regulations adopted at the December Foreign Affairs Council. The Council discussed the preparation for the Rhodes European Council and agreed that the main subjects for discussion would be the further development of the Community, the EC's international role, and the environment. For the first item the main text will be the report by the Commission on progress in completing the single market, due to be submitted under article 8(b) of the Treaty of Rome as amended by the Single European Act.

The Council had an exchange of views on prospects for the mid-term meeting of the GATT Uruguay round in Montreal on 4-8 December. The Council noted the importance of the mid-term meeting for success in the round as a whole, and endorsed the Commission's proposals for a constructive approach to the meeting in Montreal. The recommendations from the Agriculture Council on 14 -15 November on the handling of agriculture at the MTM, were confirmed.

There was discussion of possible ways forward in the dispute with the United States on the Community directive prohibiting the use of hormones in meat. This will be further discussed at the December FAC.

The Council agreed the Community's generalised scheme of preferences (GSP) for 1989. The GSP is an important element in the Community's relations with developing countries. It provides access to the Community market on concessional terms for a wide range of LDC products, on an autonomous basis.

The Commission introduced a report on the Community's textile and clothing industry which will be further discussed.

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In the margins of the Council there was a successful meeting of the EC/Cyprus Association Council which underlined once again the close relations between the two sides. At the FAC itself progress was made on new financial protocols for Cyprus and Malta.

Meeting in the framework of European political co-operation, Ministers of the Twelve discussed the outcome of the Algiers meeting of the Palestinian National Council--which represented a modest step forward--and agreed a statement. Statements were also issued on recent developments in Afghanistan and on the occasion of Lebanese national day on 22 November. Copies of all three have been placed in the Library of the House.


Trade Union Rights Commissioner

Miss Widdicombe : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he has appointed the Commissioner for the rights of trade union members.

Mr. Cope : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has appointed Mrs. Gill Rowlands as Commissioner for the Rights of Trade Union Members, from 24 November 1988 to 24 November 1991.


Family Practitioner Committees

Mr Janman : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made in developing a leadership role in prescribing for family practitioner committees, as announced in "Promoting Better Health" ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mellor : Early in 1989 we intend to launch a number of pilot projects designed to establish how family practitioner committees (FPCs) can most effectively discharge their new leadership role in promoting more effective and economic prescribing by general practitioners. Building on the experience gained in the pilot projects, we intend to issue guidance in about a year's time on best practice in this area for all FPCs to follow. To carry out this role--whether in the pilot projects in the first instance or more generally later--family practitioner committees will be given access to all levels of data from PACT, the new prescribing information system. A further important feature of the new arrangements will be the provision of FPCs of professional advice, independent of local GPs and their representative body the local medical committee, on interpretating the PACT data and on developing their activities in this field. FPCs will also wish to consult local medical committees who will have access to the PACT data about prescribing in their FPC area.


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