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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 29 November 1988

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Chat-line Telephone Services

Ms. Walley : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) if he proposes to introduce legislation to control the chat-line telephone services and the advertising of such services ; (2) whether he proposes to take action to ban the advertising of chat-line telephone services in magazines and newspapers targeting young people.

Mr. Atkins : The Director General of Telecommunications has already proposed some controls on these services, and these proposals are being considered by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which will report its conclusions shortly. The advertising of chat-line services is subject to the British code of advertising practice administered by the Advertising Standards Authority. The independent committee for the supervision of standards of telephone information services also takes a particular interest in advertisements of such services and considers complaints.

Patent Office

Mr. Cran : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress is being made in the planned relocation of the Patent Office to Newport, south Wales ; how many civil servants will be involved in the transfer ; and when he expects the relocation to be complete.

Mr. Forth : Plans for the relocation of the Patent Office to Newport are on schedule for completion by September 1991. The trade marks branch has already begun to move and will be fully established in refurbished existing accommodation at the Duffryn site by May 1989. Construction of a new building on the same site for the remainder of the office will begin early next year. In the meantime, other posts are being transferred to temporary accommodation in the area. The move involves some 850 posts of which over 500 are expected to be filled by staff recruited locally in Wales.

Three-wheeled All-terrain Vehicles

Mr. Cran : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many of the three-wheeled all-terrain vehicles recently withdrawn from the American market have now been imported into the United Kingdom ; and how many are estimated to be in private hands.

Mr. Forth : My Department has responsibility for off-the-road vehicles that are for leisure use. We understand that between 2,000 and 3,000 of the three-wheeled racing ATV model TRI-Z-250 have been imported into this country from the United States of America. They are being sold through motor auctions, and we believe that about half of the above number is in private hands.


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Mr. Cran : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will instigate an inquiry into the safety aspects of the off-road usage of three-wheeled all-terrain vehicles.

Mr. Forth : My Department has a considerable volume of evidence from the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, whose report led to the withdrawal of three-wheeled all terrain vehicles from the North American market, and we have also had discussions with the manufacturers and suppliers in Britain. I am considering what action may be required.

German Cars (Sales)

Mr. Leighton : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what information he has as to how many cars the German motor industry sells in the Federal Republic and how many it sells in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Atkins : In the first nine months of this year there were 1,467,271 new German manufactured cars sold in the Federal Republic of Germany. In the same period, there were 306,295 new German-made cars sold in the United Kingdom.

Off-course Bookmaking

Mr. Watts : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will request the Director General of Fair Trading to consider the increasing concentration of off-course bookmaking in the hands of four major companies and whether a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission would be appropriate.

Mr. Maude : The Director General of Fair Trading announced on 7 January that, following detailed inquiries by his officials into the off- course bookmaking industry, he had decided not to refer the four major bookmakers--Coral, Ladbroke, Mecca and William Hill--to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. The Office of Fair Trading is continuing to monitor developments. If my hon. Friend has any new information to offer about concentration in the off-course bookmaking industry he should bring it to the attention of the Director General of Fair Trading.

British Steel

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will advise the British Steel Corporation to consider further the allocation of shares to those employees who were appointed to their post by the corporation and where the corporation continues to issue all or a significant proportion of the business where their employment continues.

Mr. Atkins : No. The preferential employee share arrangements which were agreed between the Government and the company and announced on 17 May 1988 are restricted to eligible employees of British Steel plc and its wholly owned subsidiaries. To have extended the coverage of these arrangements to include employees of the numerous other companies in which British Steel has a shareholding would have presented unacceptably complicated logistical and administrative difficulties.


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Hearing Aids

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many complaints have been raised in the last year regarding the supply of private hearing aids ; and what has been the least common cause of complaint.

Mr. Forth : My Department has received one complaint about the supply of hearing aids in the last year. I understand that the Hearing Aid Council has received 79 representations in the same period. The most common cause of complaint was dissatisfaction with the quality of after-sales service.

European Community (State Aids)

Mr. Anthony Coombs : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on European Community arrangements for monitoring the repayment of state aids granted by European Community Governments, which the European Commission and the European Court of Justice find to have been awarded in breach of the treaty of Rome.

Mr. Alan Clark : It is the responsibility of the European Commission to secure repayment of any aid which it or the European Court of Justice decide is incompatible with the treaty of Rome. In such a case, the Commission will ask the member state how it intends writing a specified timetable, to comply with the decision. The Commission then reviews progress regularly and may enter into further discussion with a member state which is slow or has difficulty in reclaiming the aid, in order to ensure compliance with the decision.

National Engineering Laboratory

Mr. Ingram : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress has been made in selecting a purchaser for the national engineering laboratory at East Kilbride ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Forth [holding answer 28 November 1988] : Following the withdrawal of YARD Ltd. from negotiations to acquire NEL, my right hon. and noble Friend has concluded that some restructuring is likely to be necessary over the next two years in order to achieve successful privatisation as soon as practicable. To this end Touche Ross management consultants have been commissioned to undertake a detailed study of the laboratory (to be completed by 15 April 1989), to plan the restructuring and the way forward towards privatisation. The study will examine those of NEL's activities which will continue to be needed to support Government functions as well as identifying any scope for involvement of higher education institutions for example by creating a technology centre. It will look at the scope for future development of the NEL site in order to reduce overheads and attract additional employment. Finally the study will advise whether there are programmes within NEL for which there is no current or future Government need and which receive inadequate industrial support. The terms of reference of the study have been placed in the Library of the House.

To assist the restructuring study and its implementation, I intend to appoint a supervisory board including some members drawn from industry and commerce. The


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board's role will be non-statutory and advisory and it is expected that it will be appointed for 18 months with a possibility of subsequent extension.

The names of those to be appointed to the supervisory board will be announced shortly.

The study is likely to contain commercially sensitive information and it is unlikely that it will be published.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Prison Department Houses

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prison officers' houses have been sold at each London prison.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : In the period from 1 April 1982 to 31 October 1988, the numbers sold were :


                |Number       

------------------------------

Brixton         |56           

Holloway        |2            

Pentonville     |22           

Wandsworth      |32           

Wormwood Scrubs |12           

Information in respect of the period before 1 April 1982 is not readily available.

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prison officers' houses are allocated to prison officers at each London prison.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : On 31 October 1988, the numbers allocated, including flats, were :


                |Number       

------------------------------

Brixton         |323          

Holloway        |166          

Pentonville     |195          

Wandsworth      |207          

Wormwood Scrubs |336          

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, as at 31 October, how many prison officers' houses had been sold in England and Wales.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : In the period from 1 April 1982 to 31 October 1988, 4,020 prison officers' houses were sold in England and Wales. Information in respect of the period before 1 April 1982 is not readily available.

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how the money from the sale of prison officers' housing is spent by his Department ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Income from the sale of prison officers' quarters is treated as an appropriation-in-aid, and thereby forms part of the total net provision for the prison service in England and Wales : as such it cannot be separately identified.

Prison Visits

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the prison rules on visits between husband and wives who are both serving prison sentences ; how often such visits are allowed ; and if he will make a statement.

text Mr. Douglas Hogg : The rules in question are contained in prison standing order 5A 19, a copy of which is in the Library.

Prisoners (Transfers)

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the procedures followed by his Department regarding prison inmates who are being recommended for transfer to Broadmoor hospital ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : The following are the present procedures. If a prison medical officer considers that an inmate is suffering from a form of mental disorder of such nature or degree that he should be removed to hospital for treatment under the provisions of the Mental Health Act 1983, arrangements are made for the inmate to be examined by a second medical officer. In cases where the prison medical officer considers that treatment would be required in conditions of maximum security, the second medical officer would be a consultant psychiatrist at one of the four special hospitals. If both doctors agree as to the nature or degree of mental disorder reports would be submitted to the Department of Health's admissions panel. If admission is agreed the panel would consider which of the four special hospitals, including Broadmoor, would be appropriate. On being satisfied that the statutory criteria have been met, my right hon. Friend can then sign a warrant directing the inmate's transfer.

Women's Prisons

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how often women inmates at Holloway prison are allowed to bath or shower ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : All the women inmates at Holloway prison are allowed a bath or shower as often as staffing permits, which is usually daily.

Passports

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the increase in passport applications since 1979 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : The increase in demand, in terms of the number of standard passports issued, is as follows :


Year                      |Standard passports issued                          

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1979                      |1,809,091                                          

1987                      |2,041,220                                          

1988 (January-October)    |<1>2,171,858                                       

<1> Provisional total.                                                        

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the number of extra permanent and temporary staff recruited by passport offices since 1979 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : The information, covering the six United Kingdom passport offices, is as follows :


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Year             Highest number of                              

                 staff in post in any                           

                 month<1>                                       

                |Permanent staff|Casual staff                   

----------------------------------------------------------------

1979            |901            |182                            

1988            |956            |285                            

<1> Includes headquarters staff.                                

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the number of hours of overtime worked in each passport office in 1987 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : The information is shown in the table below.


Hours of overtime worked during 1987            

Passport office |Hours                          

------------------------------------------------

London          |38,213                         

Liverpool       |43,591                         

Peterborough    |13,083                         

Newport         |28,345                         

Glasgow         |16,269                         

Belfast         |Nil                            

                |----                           

Total           |139,501                        

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will estimate the cost to public funds of payments for overtime made to passport office staff ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : The cost of running the passport service, including salaries, is reflected in the level of passport fees, and does not represent a net charge to public funds.

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his Department has made any forecasts of passport application levels to 1991 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : The latest estimate of demand for standard passports to the end of 1990 is as follows :


        |Million        

------------------------

1988    |2.4            

1989    |2.75           

1990    |3.0            

Mr. McCrindle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the passport issuing computer system to become fully operational ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : The system is already fully operational in Glasgow. It should have been extended to all other passport offices in the United Kingdom by the end of 1989.

Police

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report fom the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis on the action taken by mounted and other police on the Victoria embankment on the west side of Westminster bridge between 3.15 pm and 3.45 pm on Thursday 24 November ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hurd : I understand from the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis that the National Union of


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Students organised the marches which took place last Thursday in protest against the Government's proposals for student loans. The NUS had agreed the routes with the police beforehand.

The main march was due to follow a route from Malet street to Geraldine Mary Harmsworth park via Waterloo bridge. On the day, up to 17,000 people took part in this march. On crossing Waterloo bridge at about 1.20 pm a group of approximately 1,000 demonstrators, who were outside the control of NUS stewards, broke through a police cordon and proceeded along York road. This was not part of the agreed route.

The action of those marchers, who are believed in the main to have comprised members of the Socialist Workers party, encouraged several thousand others to follow suit. This body of demonstrators went to the south side of Westminster bridge, where their way was barred by police so that the Sessional Order of the House, which requires the Commissioner to keep the streets leading to the Palace of Westminster free for Members, was not breached.

For about two and half hours the police on the south side of Westminster Bridge came under intense pressure from large numbers of demonstrators who tried to break through. Missiles, including placard poles, cans, bottles and coins, were thrown at the police. A number of officers were injured by the missiles and by the efforts of the demonstrators to break through the police line. NUS stewards and the police made loudhailer requests to the demonstrators to return to the march and rally, but with no effect.

Just before 4 pm, after warnings had been given, mounted officers were deployed to disperse the crowd. I understand that this was a controlled action in which foot officers were also involved and that it was not a charge. I further understand that truncheons were neither drawn nor used. Throughout the afternoon police also had to deal with significant numbers of demonstrators at other locations ; for example, at about 3.25 pm a group of demonstrators was dispersed along Victoria embankment towards Richmond terrace.

During the afternoon there were some 72 injuries to officers and five to horses. The police are aware that seven demonstrators were injured ; 69 people were arrested and 50 charges have been brought, mainly for public order offences ; 1,500 officers and over 70 vehicles were employed in the operations. The additional cost of policing was £27,462. I understand that a few complaints about the action of individual officers have been made. These are being investigated in accordance with the statutory procedures. The NUS co-operated with the police both before and during the marches and the police made what arrangements they could to enable demonstrators to lobby Parliament in a way which did not breach the Sessional Order. I understand that some numbers did so. If the breakaway group had not left the march and had followed the prescribed route the disruption to traffic would not have been so great. Interruption to traffic flow is one of the factors which the police take into account when discussing with organisers the proposed route of a march. Where necessary the police can use powers in the Public Order Act 1986 formally to impose conditions on unco-operative organisers if they reasonably believe that the march would otherwise result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community. It was not considered to be necessary in this


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case because the NUS were believed to be co- operative and responsible. It was the determined violent action of a group which they were unable to control which led to the confrontation and disruption.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Criminal Proceedings (Jurors)

Mr. Cash To ask the Attorney-General what steps he is taking to ensure that the right of the Crown to stand by jurors in criminal proceedings is limited to exceptional circumstances following the abolition of peremptory challenge.

The Attorney-General : The enactment by Parliament of legislation abolishing the right of defendants in England and Wales to remove jurors by means of peremptory challenge makes it appropriate that the Crown in England and Wales should assert its own right to stand by only on the basis of clearly defined and restrictive criteria. During the Third Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill my noble Friend, the Earl of Caithness, undertook on my behalf at column 980 of the Official Report for 1 December 1987 that in future stand by would be exercised in only two situations. These are, first, to remove a manifestly unsuitable juror, but only if the defence agrees ; secondly, to remove a juror in a terrorist or security case in which the Attorney-General has authorised a check of the jury list, but only on the personal authority of the Attorney-General.

Accordingly, I have today had placed in the Libraries of both Houses copies of guidelines on the excercise by the Crown of its right to stand by. The guidelines are to have effect from 5 January 1989 to coincide with the implementation of section 118 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988, which abolishes the right of peremptory challenge.

I am also taking this opportunity to re-issue, and have placed in the Libraries of both Houses, copies of my guidelines on jury checks. These incorporate amendments made in 1986, together with a new amendment to paragraph 9 whereby the Attorney-General's personal authority is required before the right to stand by can be exercised on the basis of information obtained as a result of an authorised check.

Family Law Reform Act 1987

Miss Lestor : To ask the Attorney-General whether the Government will bring the outstanding parts of the Family Law Reform Act 1987 into force within the next year ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : The Government hope to bring those parts of the Act relating to parental rights and duties, custody and financial provision for children, and registration of birth where the parents are unmarried, into force on 1 April 1989.

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Students (Statistics)

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what proportion of home students entered university undergraduate courses in


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Great Britain and Council for National Academic Awards first degree courses in England did not have two or more A level passes or Scottish highers in each year since 1979.

Mr. Jackson : The available information is given in the table below :


Proportion of entrants to university in undergraduate courses and all           

public sector first degree courses<1> who do not have two or more               

A-level passes or Scottish Highers                                              

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

Vivisection

Sir Richard Body : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made in reducing the number of primates for purposes of vivisection in the establishments for which he is responsible.

Mr. Jackson : All proposals which involve the use of animals in scientific experiments must be licensed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, under the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986. Such proposals are subject to very careful scrutiny-- including the scope for using alternative experimental approaches not involving live animals. The establishments for which my right hon. Friend is responsible, and which use animals in experimental or other scientific procedures, are subject to the Act's provisions.

Superannuation Schemes

Mr. Galbraith : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science why the universities superannuation scheme is no longer transferable to the National Health Service superannuation scheme ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jackson : I understand that accrued pension benefits in the universities superannuation scheme are transferred to the National Health Service superannuation scheme on a regular and substantial basis.

PRIME MINISTER

Birmingham

Q19. Mr. Rooker : To ask the Prime Minister if she will pay an official visit to Birmingham.

The Prime Minister : I have at present no plans to do so.


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European Council

Q29. Mr. Spearing : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list the topics she expects to be placed on the agenda at the meeting of the European Council at Rhodes on 2 and 3 December next.

The Prime Minister : The Rhodes European Council is expected to be devoted to discussion on the Commission's article 8(b) progress report on completion of the single market, the EC's role in the wider world, and the environment.

Ministers (Exchanges of Letters)

Q40. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions she has in the exchange of letters with departing Ministers expressed the hope that the departing Minister would return to high office soon and resume his ministerial career.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave him on 15 November 1988 at column 543.

Crown Immunity

Q59. Mr. Ashley : To ask the Prime Minister if she will make it her policy that Ministers do not seek Crown immunity from prosecution for their Departments when the anticipated regulations on emissions into the atmosphere come into force.

The Prime Minister : The Government's policy on Crown immunity is that it should not lead to lower standards being accepted on Crown premises. It is reviewed in individual cases only where there appears to be evidence of cause for concern.

Engagements

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

Mr. Yeo : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

Mr. Pike : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

Mr. Stern : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

Mr. Calum Macdonald : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

Mr. Ian Bruce : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

Mr. Mullin : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list her official engagements for Tuesday 29 November.

The Prime Minister : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty The Queen.


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OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT

Kampuchea

Mrs. Rosie Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether there have been any developments in the move to offer aid and to recognise Kampuchea on the part of Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Chris Patten : We have no dealings with the illegal and unrepresentative regime in Phnom Penh. We are, however, contributing £100,000 to the Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Food Programme appeal for Cambodia, and last month I announced an additional allocation of £500,000 to support projects, including humanitarian projects in Cambodia, proposed by British voluntary agencies for assistance under the joint funding scheme.

WALES

Health Authorities (Pharmaceutical Staff)

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list those area health authorities in Wales which have reported a shortage of qualified pharmaceutical staff.

Mr. Grist : There have been reports of difficulties in the recruitment of qualified hospital pharmaceutical staff in a number of health authorities in Wales. The latest information held by the Department on the level of vacancies in health authorities in Wales relates to the position as at 31 December 1987 and is as follows :


District Health Authority |Whole time equivalent                              

                          |vacancies for qualified                            

                          |pharmacists<1>                                     

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Clwyd                     |6.5                                                

East Dyfed                |2.0                                                

Gwent                     |7.0                                                

Gwynedd                   |0.3                                                

Mid Glamorgan             |5.0                                                

Pembrokeshire             |0.0                                                

Powys                     |0.0                                                

South Glamorgan           |8.0                                                

West Glamorgan            |5.0                                                

<1> Difference between funded establishment and staff in post. Includes       

pre-registration graduates.                                                   

Hospital pharmacy manpower has been the subject of a recent joint review by the manpower steering group established by the Department and the Welsh pharmaceutical committee. The report of that review has made a number of recommendations for action to mitigate the effects of recruitment difficulties and shortages among hospital pharmacy staff and to improve pharmacy services within the NHS in Wales. The report will shortly be issued with a view to early implementation of its recommendations as appropriate and I shall place a copy in the Library of the House.


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