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Merchant Navy

Miss Widdecombe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for changes to the certification requirements for officers serving on United Kingdom registered merchant ships.

Mr. Portillo : I am today placing in the Library of the House a copy of a consultation paper issued by the Department which invites comments on proposals for changes to the certification requirements for officers serving on United Kingdom registered merchant vessels. The changes would allow holders of certificates of competency issued by any member state of the European Community to serve as junior officers on board United Kingdom vessels. Such changes would be compatible with our obligations under Community law and would provide shipping companies operating on the United Kingdom register with greater flexibility in manning their vessels. If adopted, the changes would come into effect early next year.

The paper considers the implications of the changes for the safety of United Kingdom ships, the employment prospects for British seafarers, and United Kingdom's defence requirements. It also considers the case for extending recognition beyond the European Community. Comments are invited by 20 January 1989.

Drink-Driving

Miss Widdecombe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will take further measures to tackle the problem of drinking and driving by people who may have a medical alcohol problem.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : In 1983 we introduced a scheme covering the high-risk offenders--those disqualified from driving twice within 10 years because the level of alcohol in their bodies was on each occasion 2 times or more above the legal limit, or for twice refusing to supply a specimen for analysis, or for separate disqualifications for each offence. They are required to satisfy the medical branch of the driver and vehicle licensing centre that they do not have a drink problem and are otherwise fit to drive


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before their licence is returned after their statutory three-year period of disqualification. In the light of experience, we now propose moving the threshold for that scheme to the level recommended by the Blennerhassett committee, so that it will include all those who are convicted of driving while 2 times or more over the limit, as well as on the other categories. We propose that offenders should pay all the administrative charges needed to cover the costs of the new scheme.

Our intention is to include these proposals with others which arise from consideration of the North committee's review of road traffic law. We expect to announce the Government's conclusions on North early next year, so that the House will have the opportunity to consider the package as a whole before any legislation is introduced.

Vehicle Number Plates

Mr. Brazier : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when details of the proposed new British standard for vehicle number plates will be made available.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The British Standards Institution has now issued for public comment a draft revision of BS AU 145a governing the manufacture of number plates. I have placed a copy in the Library.

We welcome these proposals. The quality and durability of plates would be improved and the proposed unique standard character font would be much easier to read than many of the styles currently available.

The revised standard is an integral part of a package of measures which, if approved by the House, would make it much harder for criminals to obtain number plates for illegal purposes. The package has been extensively discussed with number plate producers, and has been tailored to keep additional costs to the trade and the motorist to a minimum.

Depending on the outcome of BSI's consultation exercise we would hope to present the necessary regulations next spring so that the scheme could be mandatory from 1 August 1990.

South Circular Assessment Study

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which of the options listed in the south circular assessment study 2A report he has instructed Travers Morgan to develop during the south circular assessment study stage 2B.

Mr. Peter Bottomley We have not yet taken any view on the preliminary options produced by the study consultants. This must await the submission of the consultants' report in the summer of 1989.

NATIONAL FINANCE

EC (Contributions)

Mr. Butterfill : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what refunds the United Kingdom has received as a result of the Fontainebleau agreement, from the net European Community contributions paid since 1985 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Brooke : Abatements made by the United Kingdom in respect of our VAT contributions since 1985 are set out in the table below :


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Year           Amount of abatement                      

abatement     |(million ecu)|(£ million)                

made                                                    

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

1985          |1,000        |<1>605                     

1986          |1,900        |1,262                      

1987          |1,633        |1,153                      

1988          |2,397        |<2>1,598                   

<1> United Kingdom actually received £439 million of    

this in the first few days of January 1986.             

<2> Estimate based on annual exchange rate to October   

1988 of £1=1.5 ecu.                                     

In addition, the 1989 revised draft budget includes an abatement of 1,780 mecu (£1,187 million).

Trade Balance

Mr. Andrew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he estimates that the annual balance of trade will next be in surplus.

Mr. Major : The Chancellor's Autumn Statement, which is available in the House of Commons Library, provided forecasts of visible trade for 1988 and 1989. Forecasts for later years are not published.

Ms. Quin : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the effect of the current level of interest rates on the prospects for Britain's balance of trade in manufactured goods.

Mr. Major : The rise in interest rates since the summer will act to slow the growth of domestic demand. This will, in time, reduce the growth of manufactured imports and thereby help to improve the balance of trade in manufactured goods.

Trade Deficit

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how the trade deficit was financed in 1987 and in the current year to date ; and if he will publish in the Official Report, a table showing the changes in the capital account which have occurred as a result of the deficit in the current account.

Mr. Major : Figures for the current account, capital account transactions and the balancing item up to the second quarter of 1988 are available in the September edition of Economic Trends, published by the CSO.

Government Debt

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will publish in the Official Report a table showing for the last available date how much of the indebtedness of central Government, including deposits with savings banks and all short-term debt instruments, are held by the public sector and private sectors, respectively ; if he will provide a breakdown showing how much is held by, in particular, the national insurance fund, the Bank of England and the exchange equalisation account, as well as banks, pension funds, building societies and overseas residents ; and if he will provide comparable figures for 1958, 1968 and 1978.

Mr. Lilley : I refer the hon. Member to the article on the net debt of the public sector in the November 1988 Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin for the latest figures on


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central Government debt and a breakdown of market holders. Comparable figures for 1968 and 1978 can be found in the 1968 and 1978 December editions of the Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin respectively. Comparable figures for 1958 are published in the January- March 1962 Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin. A complete breakdown of official holders is not published. However, debt held by the National Insurance Fund (NIF) is published annually in the NIF accounts.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will publish in the Official Report a table showing how much debt has been unfunded in each of the past two financial years and in the current year to date ; what is his forecast for the whole of the current financial year and his estimate for 1989-90 ; and whether he will publish in the Official Report a table showing the public debt which has been retired as a result of unfunding and the saving in interest which has resulted therefrom.

Mr. Lilley : The Government's policy is to fund the net total of maturing debt, the PSBR and any underlying change in foreign exchange reserves by sales of debt outside the banking and building society sectors. If that total is negative, unfunding is required. The relationship between funding and the stock of public debt is not straightforward. An article in the November 1988 Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin, "The Net Debt of the Public Sector : End March 1988" discusses the matter further.

The Government's estimate of funding or unfunding required in the current financial year is itself, and is based upon, market sensitive information. It is not the Government's policy to publish such information.

Schools (Charitable Status)

Mr. John Evans : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the cost to the Exchequer of charitable status of non-state schools in the last three years for which figures are available.

Mr. Norman Lamont : I regret that this information is not available.

Emission Controls (Crown Immunity)

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will be seeking Crown immunity from prosecution for the institutions which are the responsibility of his Department when the anticipated new controls on emissions come into operation.

Mr. Lawson [holding answer 30 November 1988] : I refer to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's reply on 29 November. My Department has no plans to seek removal of Crown immunity in relation to the proposed air pollution regulations.

Inflation

Mr. Mullin : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the rate of inflation (a) in June 1979, (b) in June 1988 and (c) now.

Mr. Lilley [holding answer 29 November 1988] : The RPI increased by 11.4 per cent. in the 12 months to June 1979, 4.6 per cent. to June 1988, and 6.4 per cent. to October 1988.


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Incomes

Sir Ian Gilmour : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish figures for 1979-80 and 1988-89 showing net incomes, after income tax, national insurance contribution and child benefit, at (a) two-thirds average earnings, (b) average earnings, (c) twice average earnings and (d) three times average earnings, of single-wage married couples with two children as percentages of the net incomes at the same earnings levels of (i) single people and (ii) two-wage married couples, where the combined wage comes to the specified total and the husband earns two thirds and the wife one third.

Mr. Lawson [holding answer 28 November 1988] : The information is in the table :


Net income after income tax, national insurance contributions and                                                             

child benefit (£ per week)                                                                                                    

Multiples of average |1                   |2                   |3                                                             

earnings<1>                                                                                                                   

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

Married couple with one earner and two children                                                                               

  1979-80            |65.46               |88.60               |163.44              |226.55                                   

  <2>1988-89         |145.99              |201.89              |379.14              |531.60                                   

Single                                                                                                                        

  1979-80            |53.71               |76.85               |151.30              |212.29                                   

  <2>1988-89         |124.33              |180.23              |353.18              |505.64                                   

Married couple with two earners and no children                                                                               

1979-80              |64.24               |88.02               |158.14              |288.15                                   

  <2>1988-89         |146.27              |201.62              |369.43              |533.41                                   

<1>Average earnings are those for full time males working a full week at adult rates in all occupations. They are £109.30 per 

week in 1979-80 and assumed to be £254.10 in 1988-89, an increase of 83/4 per cent. on average earnings in 1987-88 (the       

increase used by the Government Actuary in assessing the level of the National Insurance Fund as described in paragraph 3.02  

of the Autumn Statement 1988).                                                                                                

<2>Provisional.                                                                                                               

The amounts of income (£ per week) are as follows :


Net income after income tax, national insurance contributions and                                                             

child benefit (£ per week)                                                                                                    

Multiples of average |1                   |2                   |3                                                             

earnings<1>                                                                                                                   

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

Married couple with one earner and two children                                                                               

  1979-80            |65.46               |88.60               |163.44              |226.55                                   

  <2>1988-89         |145.99              |201.89              |379.14              |531.60                                   

Single                                                                                                                        

  1979-80            |53.71               |76.85               |151.30              |212.29                                   

  <2>1988-89         |124.33              |180.23              |353.18              |505.64                                   

Married couple with two earners and no children                                                                               

1979-80              |64.24               |88.02               |158.14              |288.15                                   

  <2>1988-89         |146.27              |201.62              |369.43              |533.41                                   

<1>Average earnings are those for full time males working a full week at adult rates in all occupations. They are £109.30 per 

week in 1979-80 and assumed to be £254.10 in 1988-89, an increase of 83/4 per cent. on average earnings in 1987-88 (the       

increase used by the Government Actuary in assessing the level of the National Insurance Fund as described in paragraph 3.02  

of the Autumn Statement 1988).                                                                                                

<2>Provisional.                                                                                                               

VAT

Mr. Warren : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he introduced value added tax on components supplied for multinational defence programmes ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lilley [holding answer 28 November 1988] : There has been no change in the VAT treatment of such programmes. Although there is no general relief for defence projects, components for international defence projects may be relieved of tax if they are exported or, in broad terms, if they are supplied by or to overseas bodies under arrangements that incorporate formal inter-governmental agreement to waive tax. If my hon. Friend has a particular point in mind, he is of course welcome to write me.


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ENVIRONMENT

National Tree Week

73. Mr. Chapman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what initiatives his Department has been taking to encourage and publicise National Tree Week.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Department continues to grant-aid the Tree Council, which is responsible for organising National Tree Week. On Monday my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister marked National Tree Week by planting a tree at the Chelsea physic garden and announcing that the Government will provide substantial additional funds to carry forward restoration of the treescape following last year's storm.

Some £7 million has already been allocated for planting of amenity trees, including £2.8 million for the coming financial year. In each of the following two years, 1990-91 and 1991-92, £3 million will now be made available, bringing to some £13 million the total provision for this programme. Most of this is being distributed through task force trees, a special unit of the Countryside Commission and the remainder through English Heritage and its scheme for the clearance and replanting of parks and gardens of outstanding architectural or historic interest.

Lighting (House of Commons)

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the lighting in the Chamber of the House conforms to the Health and Safety Executive standards for workplaces.

Mr. Chope : There is no Health and Safety Executive standard which is readily applicable to the Chamber of the House. The HSE Guidance Booklet "Lighting at Work" (HS/G38) suggests a number of levels of average illuminance ranging from 20 lux for corridors and circulation routes to 500 lux for locations such as drawing offices and factories assembling electronic components.

The actual measured illuminance on the Floor of the Chamber varies from over 200 lux at the table to about 60 lux on the Back Benches.

Waste Disposal

Mr. Higgins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has to change the law on waste disposal ; and if he is now able to give an estimate of when such legislation is likely to be introduced.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Legislation on waste disposal will be introduced as soon as possible during this Parliament. The main measures to be included were announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 29 June 1988 at column 4 and further proposals were put forward in a consultation paper issued on 23 November 1988. Bed and Breakfast

Mr. James Lamond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give the latest figures for households in bed and breakfast accommodation (a) in Greater Manchester, (b) in the Oldham metropolitan borough council and (c) in England and Wales as a whole.

Mr. Trippier : Latest national estimates of households temporarily placed in bed and breakfast accommodation


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by English local authorities appear in table 4(a) and numbers reported by individual authorities in table 7 of "Local authorities' action under the homelessness provisions of the 1988 Housing Act : England. Results for the second quarter 1988. Supplementary Tables", which is available in the Library.

For Welsh figures I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

Rent Arrears

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will set out figures showing the increase in rent arrears in each local authority in England and Wales since April.

Mr. Trippier : The information is not available centrally for English authorities. For information about Wales I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

Houses in Multiple Occupation

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what legal provisions he intends to make to increase the safety of people living in houses in multi-occupation ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Trippier : We have received so far over 200 responses to our consultation paper on houses in multiple occupation issued on 18 July, copies of which are in the Library. We are currently considering possible legislative changes in the light of those responses.

Mobility

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to encourage the independent rented sector to make adequate provision for a continuation of the principles of mobility as embraced in the national mobility scheme.

Mr. Trippier : My right hon. Friend fully recognises the importance of tenant mobility. With his approval, the Housing Corporation will shortly be issuing guidance to registered housing associations on the management of their housing accommodation. Amongst other things, this will make it clear that associations are expected to respond to the mobility needs of their tenants and to participate actively in national and local mobility and exchange schemes.

Pipeline Schemes (Chelmsford)

Mr. Burns : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to reach a decision on Chelmsford borough council's submission on pipeline schemes ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Of the eight applications submitted by the council, those in respect of the White Hart lane local park and the Airey houses project, Roxwell have already been approved. The applications in respect of the Kings Head meadow and Wharf road development and of the Victoria road livestock market redevelopment will be further considered when decisions on the related compulsory purchase orders have been reached ; a decision on the latter is expected shortly. The application in respect of Hylands house will similarly be considered following


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determination of a planning application now before my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. No information on expenditure or receipts has yet been provided in respect of the Airey house project, Galleywood, the highways land exchanges, or the civic centre site development ; without these the applications cannot be taken further.

Elderly Persons (Sheltered Housing)

Ms. Harman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, for each local authority, how many units of sheltered housing for the elderly they provide.

Mr. Trippier : The number of sheltered dwellings for the elderly owned by local authorities is reported in the annual housing investment programme returns. The information for each local authority appears in columns A2A1 (stock inside authority's own area) and A2A6 (stock outside authority's area) of the "HIP1 (1988) All items print" which is in the Library.

European Community Regulations (Infraction)

Mr. Corbett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many cases of infraction in the United Kingdom have been brought to his Department's attention following enforcement of article 6 of the European Economic Community regulation 3626/82 ; and what were the results of investigations in these cases.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : This information is not readily available. The Department does not hold a comprehensive record of infractions.

Stray Dogs

Mr. O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with local authority organisations on that part of the Local Government Act 1988 referring to stray dogs ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The powers enabling local authorities to exercise the same powers as the police in relation to stray dogs were included in the Local Government Act 1988 after consultation with the local authority associations.

Dog Registration

Mr. O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is considering allowing local authorities to introduce local dog registration schemes in accordance with the Local Government Act 1988 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : We have no plans to introduce local dog registration schemes.

Water Authorities (Land Holdings)

Mrs. Ann Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what area of land owned by water authorities is currently registered under the provisions of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1981 as being unused or underused.

Mr. Moynihan : The figure for the nine water authorities in England at 29 November 1988, is 2,200 acres.


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Nature Conservancy Council (Budget)

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the consequences (a) in financial terms and (b) on work undertaken of the 5 per cent. reduction in real terms in the budget of the Nature Conservancy Council for 1989-90 in the areas of (i) sites of special scientific interest notification/renotification, (ii) land purchase, (iii) marine conservation, (iv) urban conservation, and (v) grants to voluntary organisations ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave him yesterday at column 284 concerning the basis of the Nature Conservancy Council's allocation for 1989-90. The Council is responsible for the detailed planning and distribution of its budget and its estimates and corporate plan for 1989-90 will make appropriate provision for the areas listed.

White Paper on the Environment

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when his Department will be issuing a White Paper on the environment ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ridley : It is not customary to issue White Papers unless they contain detailed proposals for legislation. Our programmes for conserving the environment go far wider than what can be achieved through further legislation.

Rating Reform

Mr. Butterfill : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the Government have now decided on the boundary for rating purposes between domestic and non-domestic property.

Mr. Gummer : My Department and the Welsh Office are today issuing a consultation paper on the boundary for rating purposes after 1 April 1990 between domestic and non-domestic property, prior to making the necessary regulations. The paper makes proposals in several areas where it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between domestic and non-domestic use. The main proposal is that individual short-let accommodation, such as holdiay cottages, should be treated as domestic and subject to the standard community charge. We have concluded that this is the most practical course, given the difficulties involved in identification, valuation and monitoring of use that would arise if they were to be liable to non-domestic rates. Holiday complexes, for instance blocks of holiday flats or chalets, will however be subject to rating.

I am placing copies of the consultation paper in the Library.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what would have been the average community charge for the whole of Great Britain in 1988-89 based on local authority expenditure returns.

Mr. Gummer [holding answer 25 November 1988] : The types of service provided by local authorities are not the same in each country and hence an average figure would not be meaningful.

Mr. Rooker : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the progress of negotiations regarding the arrangements for foreign


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Governments and diplomats to continue paying broadly the same contributions towards the cost of local services under the poll tax system as under the present rating system.

Mr. Gummer [holding answer 28 November 1988] : Good progress is being made towards establishing the arrangements for contributions in lieu of the community charge under the new system of local government finance. These will be broadly the same as the contributions made under the present rating system.

Sewage Works (Discharge Consents)

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many water authority sewage treatment works failed to meet their discharge consents in 1987 ; and if he will list them, by water authority, in the Official Report.

Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 28 November 1988] : Almost 900 water authority sewage treatment works failed to comply with their discharge consent conditions during 1987. Copies of the water authority returns detailing the works concerned are now available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Lead Pipework

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the average level of plumbosolvency of the water (a) in Nottingham and (b) nationwide ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Moynihan : As there is no standard measure of plumbosolvency it is not possible to give a numerical answer. However, the water supply to the city of Nottingham is not considered to be aggressive to lead pipework.

Lead monitoring surveys by water undertakers between 1980 and 1985 identified 130 water supply zones serving some 5 million people where lead levels were of concern. Water treatment schemes have been completed in 66 zones. Schemes should be completed in the remaining zones by the end of 1989.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

General Medical Council

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Lord President of the Council what representations he has received from the General Medical Council concerning an increase in its membership ; and if he will take steps to consult interested bodies prior to making any response.

Mr. Wakeham : The Privy Council has recently received an application from the General Medical Council proposing the addition of four elected members (one for Scotland, and three for England) and of a fifth to be appointed by the faculty of occupational health. Following the addition last year of two extra appointed lay members, these proposals would restore the size of the majority of elected members, which is required by the Medical Act, approximately to that which existed before. The GMC has consulted a wide range of bodies representing the profession on these proposals, and the


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Privy Council will consider what further consultations, outside the profession, are desirable before a decision is reached.

Lobbies of Parliament

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Lord President of the Council what is the limit on the number of individuals allowed to enter the Palace of Westminster during a lobby of Parliament ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wakeham : Although there is no firm limit, experience has shown that, during the course of a mass lobby, approximately 1,000 lobbyists can be admitted to Central Lobby. A maximum of 100 people in total, which includes lobbyists and others, are allowed to be in the Central Lobby at any one time. A further 1,000 may be addressed by or meet Members in the Grand Committee Room and in the Interview Rooms off Westminster Hall. Details of these arrangements are contained in the leaflet "Notes for Members of Parliament on arrangements for Mass Lobbies" issued by the Serjeant at Arms.

Lighting (Chamber)

Mr. Allen : To ask the Lord President of the Council, what representations he has received concerning lighting in the Chamber.

Mr. Wakeham : The only representations that I have received have been in connection with the work of the Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House, which I chair. Those received from right hon. and hon. Members have been reported to the House, and copies have been placed in the Library.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

House Purchase

Mr. David Martin : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what progress has been made with negotiations with estate agents to help promote better practices in connection with house purchase ; and if he will make a statement.


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