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Downing Street (Furnishings and Decoration)

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister, what, pursuant to her answer of 1 December, Official Report, column 347, would be the cost of providing an answer to the question asking her to provide an analysis of the £213,318 spent from public funds in 1988-89 to date on furnishings and decoration in No. 10 Downing street.

The Prime Minister : I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the hon. Member on 1 December 1988 at column 347.

Official Gifts

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister how much has been expended from public funds for the provision of official gifts by her office in each year since 1979-80.

The Prime Minister : Information before 1 April 1983 is not available except at disproportionate cost. Since 1 April 1983 the following amounts have been spent on official gifts.

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Financial year |Amount £                     


1983-84        |14,450                       

1984-85        |16,678                       

1985-86        |21,524                       

1986-87        |10,176                       

1987-88        |18,496                       

<1>1988-89     |11,192                       

<1> Actual to date.                          

Policy Unit

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister how many staff are employed in her policy unit ; and how many were employed in 1979-80.

The Prime Minister : There are at present nine members of staff employed in my policy unit. In 1979-80 there were two members of staff.

Questions (Costs)

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister what is the current expenditure limit for replying to parliamentary written questions beyond which she maintains cost as being disproportionate.

The Prime Minister : Any parliamentary question likely to cost more than £250 is referred to the responsible Minister before significant resources are committed.

Travel Restrictions

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister (1) what restrictions on travel to (a) the Soviet Union and (b) Comecon Eastern bloc countries apply to retired Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, Aldermaston, staff ;

(2) what restrictions on emigration to (a) the Soviet Union and (b) other Comecon Eastern bloc countries apply to former government civil servants who worked at (i) the Ministry of Defence, (ii) the Atomic Weapons Research Establishments, (iii) MI5 and (iv) Government communications headquarters at Cheltenham.

The Prime Minister : Certain retired staff from the Ministry of Defence, the Atomic Weapons Establishment and Government Communications Headquarters, and all retired members of the security service, are asked to seek the permission of their former employers before visiting these countries.

Security Screening

Mr. David Howell : To ask the Prime Minister what progress has been made in implementing the recommendation contained in the Security Commission's report on the case of Geoffrey Prime, Cmnd 8876, that there should be a pilot study to test the feasibility of polygraph security screening in the intelligence and security agencies ; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The first phase of the pilot study included the examination of staff of the security service and of senior staff of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Following completion of that phase and before deciding on a starting date for the second phase, which was intended to cover the testing of a random sample of the staff of GCHQ, the Government

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commissioned a review of the scientific literature relating to the validity of the polygraph. This was conducted by Dr. A. B. Levey, a senior psychologist in the Medical Research Council. Dr. Levey delivered his report, which was based on an examination of 372 professional and scientific papers from which 100 were selected for a more detailed analysis earlier this year. I am placing a copy in the Library.

Dr. Levey's conclusion from the literature is that the polygraph is probably incapable of achieving a high level of accuracy and reliability when used for screening purposes and, moreover, that individuals trained in the use of counter-measures would have a good chance of escaping detection. Against this background the Government concluded that there would be no advantage in implementing the second phase of the pilot study, but before reaching a final decision, the Government felt it right to consult the Security Commission again. The Security Commission has considered Dr. Levey's report and has taken further evidence from the director general of the security service and the director of GCHQ. In the light of their evidence the Security Commission accept that there would, in present circumstances, be no point in continuing the study. The commission believes, however, that the possibility of introducing the polygraph should not be ruled out for all time. In the light of the Security Commission's comments, the Government have decided that, while scientific research on the validity of the polygraph should continue to be monitored, the pilot study should not proceed further.



Mr. Oppenheim : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many homes in Derbyshire are privately owned ; and by how many this figure has increased since 1983.

Mr. Trippier : There were 282,202 homes in private ownership as at 1 April 1988 according to housing investment programme returns submitted by Derbyshire district councils. This figure is about 24, 000 more than that for 1983.

Manchester Council for Voluntary Service

Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations his Department has received from the Manchester Council for Voluntary Service ; what reply is being sent ; if any action is to be taken ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : A series of representations about rate reform has been received in recent months from the Manchester Council for Voluntary Service both direct and via the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) and the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris). The latest letter from the council asks a number of detailed questions about the community charge and will be answered shortly.

I have recently agreed to a request by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley) for a meeting with representatives of Greater Manchester voluntary groups.

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Building Regulations

Mr. Dover : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the outcome of the consultation process on building regulations parts F (ventilation) and L (conservation of fuel and power), including the timetable for publishing approved documents and bringing into force of any new regulations.

Mr. Trippier : A consultation paper setting out proposals for amending the requirements and guidance relating to parts F (ventilation) and L (conservation of fuel and power) of the building regulations was issued in July of this year. Comments have been received from over 100 organisations and individuals, and these are still being considered. The Building Regulations Advisory Committee will be consulted on the outcome early next year, but it is too early to say when a revised approved document is likely to be published or when any amendments to the regulations themselves are likely to be brought into operation.


Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information his Department has on the use of polycarboxylates in detergents ; and what studies have been carried out into the envionmental implications of their use.

Mr. Ridley : Polycarboxylates are used at very low levels, generally less than 2 per cent., in detergents. Studies on the environmental implications of their use have been carried out by the detergent industry. These studies compare the results of toxicological and environmental test data with potential or predicted environmental concentration. In addition, a review of their behaviour and use has been published by Imperial college.

Fauna, Flora and Habitats

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment why Her Majesty's Government expressed objections on 24 November to the proposal to introduce a new European Community directive to protect threatened fauna, flora and habitats.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : At the Environment Council in Brussels on 24 November, all member states unanimously rejected the rigid and bureaucratic directive that the Commission had proposed. There was general support for the United Kingdom's view that the Community could most usefully assist member states, where appropriate, to implement the relevant existing international conventions, particularly the Bern convention.

East Thames-side Study

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment why the comments invited from the London borough of Newham were excluded from the east Thames-side study published on 23 November.

Mr. Trippier : As not all of the boroughs concerned had submitted comments when the consultants' report was due to be printed, it was decided not to include an incomplete set in that report. However, we will take careful account of

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submissions from Newham and other boroughs, along with the consultants' report, as we consider the findings of the study.

Rented Housing

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

Mr. Trippier : The Housing Act 1988 should increase the supply of private rented accommodation, and this will improve job mobility. The principles of the tenants' guarantee as they relate to mobility will apply to all landlords approved under tenants' choice and for large-scale voluntary transfers of public sector housing.

Defective Dwellings

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what estimate he has of the number of households with properties affected by mundic-type concrete block ;

(2) what estimate his Department has of the value of properties affected by being built of mundic-type concrete block ;

(3) what estimate he has, by county, of the number of properties suffering from deterioration or potential deterioration as a result of being built from mundic-type concrete block.

Mr. Trippier : Virtually all mundic block properties appear to have been built within the private sector, and there are therefore no reliable statistics on the numbers and values involved.

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what research his Department is carrying out into the numerical extent of the problem of properties built with mundic-type concrete block ;

(2) what research his Department is carrying out into geographical extent of the problem of properties built with mundic-type concrete block ;

(3) what research his Department is carrying out into possible cures to the problem of properties afflicted with decaying mundic-type concrete block ; and what is the status of that research.

Mr. Trippier : The Building Research Establishment has carried out research into the caues of mundic block failure within its continuing overall work on the behaviour of concrete aggregates. We have no plans to commission specific research on numbers and location, but I understand that private lending institutions are considering commissioning research into appropriate tests ; this could lead to the development of remedial treatments for affected properties.

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what financial assistance is available to the owners of properties with problems caused by mundic-type concrete blocks ; and what changes he is proposing.

Mr. Trippier : At present, some owners of mundic block houses may be eligible for discretionary improvement

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grants. However, we intend to bring forward proposals in the next housing Bill to streamline the grants system ; this may bring more owners within the scope of grant aid for repairs, subject to their particular circumstances.


Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the amount in cash terms, by which he estimates Leeds city council will have to spend below the Government's grant-related expenditure allocation level in 1989-90 in order to produce a rate increase in line with inflation, based on the information contained in the rate support grant consultation paper for 1989-90 issued on 11 November.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : It is estimated that if Leeds city council uses the same amount of balances as in 1988-89, a 5 per cent. increase would finance expenditure about £13 million below its GRE.

Rating Reform

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library the papers produced for the following groups of officials and local authority association representatives (a) the new systems working group, (b) the rates working party, (c) the community charge working group, (d) the community charge implementation sub-group and (e) the capital programmes working party.

Mr. Ridley : I am placing in the Library copies of the papers circulated for the most recent meetings of these working groups and working parties.

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how he proposes to meet the loss of £10 million income from the introduction of the uniform business rate in Nottingham.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : If the uniform business rate had been introduced in 1988-89, business in Nottingham would have benefited from a 15 per cent. reduction in rates, and some £10 million less would have been raised locally from business rates. This does not necessarily mean that the local authorities would have been any worse off. Broadly speaking, provided that a local authority is spending sensibly, its total income from business rates and grant combined should be no less under the uniform business rate than under the present system.

Local Government Finance

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish a summary of the responses to "Capital Expenditure and Finance : A Consultation Paper."

Mr. Ridley : No. A list of those responses which respondents have agreed can be released is being placed in the Library of the House. Copies of those responses can be obtained through the Library.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what responses he received to "Capital Expenditure and Finance : A Consultation Paper", from financial institutions ; what points they made ; and whether he responded to them.

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Mr. Ridley : Certain brokers, banks, and market makers asked that local authorities should be permitted to place surplus funds in a wider range of investments than was proposed in the consultation paper. Receipt of their representations has been acknowledged.


Mrs. Ray Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total stock of dwellings for England and Wales by tenure expressed by local authority area.

Mr. Trippier : Local authorities in England report the number of dwellings by sector of ownership in their annual Housing Investment Programme returns. The latest information, for 1 April 1988, is contained in column A11 (local authority), A12 (housing association), A13 (other public sector) and A14 (private sector) of the "1988 HIP1 All Items Print", which is in the Library. For corresponding information about Welsh authorities I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

The 1981 census provides the most recent information, by local authority areas, of the split of households in private sector dwellings between owner -occupiers and renters. This information is shown in table 17 of "Census 1981, Key Statistics for local authorities, Great Britain", also in the Library.

Mrs. Ray Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what is the total number of local authority dwellings in England and Wales expressed by house type ; (2) what has been the average weekly unrebated local authority rent in England and Wales for the financial years 1979-80 to 1989-90, expressed by local authority area.

Mr. Trippier : Average weekly unrebated local authority rents at 1 April and of local authority dwellings by type are published in an annual survey by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy. Copies of the latest edition "Housing Rent Statistics at April 1988" and those for earlier years are in the Library.

Crown Suppliers

Mr. Leigh : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further progress has been made towards the privatisation of the Crown Suppliers.

Mr. Chope : As a step towards privatisation, I have authorised Crown Suppliers to commence selling to the private sector. This activity will be controlled in accordance with a business plan which will provide for sales and costs to be monitored by Ministers with the aim of ensuring that there is no cross-subsidisation of the sales to the private sector. The arrangement will enable Crown Suppliers to test its ability to trade with the private sector, which will be a feature of privatisation.

In addition, I have received a report by Coopers and Lybrand on the organisation of Crown Suppliers during its move towards privatisation. The report recommends that there should be three divisions operating as discrete businesses : product supply and services, a transport division and a buying agency. I am considering these recommendations which are aimed at putting the Crown Suppliers' operations on to a more commercial footing in preparation for its move into the private sector.

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Housing Investment Programmes

Mr. Patnick : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will make the allocations to local authorities in England for their housing investment programmes in 1989-90.

Mr. Trippier : My right hon. Friend announced on 1 November 1988 that gross provision for capital expenditure by local authorities on housing in 1989-90 will be £3,303--£395 million (13.5 per cent.) higher than previous plans. This is the fourth successive year in which it has been possible to increase provision, thanks to the continuing success of the right to buy policy. Through the receipts which this provides, local authorities have a growing source of spending power to supplement their capital borrowing.

The gross expenditure provision allows for a total housing investment programme (HIP) allocation of £920 million. This represents new borrowing consents for local authorities. Each housing authority is today being informed of its initial HIP allocation for 1989-90. Copies of the letters to local authorities and the schedule of initial allocations have been placed in the Library and the Vote Office.

The local authority associations have been consulted about the distribution of HIP allocations. After considering their comments, and bearing in mind his obligation to make allocations in relation to need, my right hon. Friend has decided to make the distribution on the following basis :

£873.5 million is available for main HIP allocations. Every authority will receive at least 75 per cent. of its corresponding allocation for the current year.

£11.5 million is available for the homes insulation scheme, of which £8 million is being distributed with the main HIP allocations ; £2.5 million will be reserved for further allocations under the scheme in accordance with demand, and the remaining £1 million will be used to defray local authorities' administrative costs. £20 million is available for the private sector area renewal initiative. The 29 authorities receiving allocations are being informed today of the details.

£15 million is being reserved for additional allocations at a later date to authorities which face particular difficulties in meeting their obligations under the housing defects legislation.

Only the initial allocations are being made today. The letters being sent to local housing authorities describe the procedure under which they can apply for additional allocations.

Tenants' Choice

Mr. Cash : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations are proposed with interested parties as part of the implementation work on tenants' choice.

Mr. Trippier : When the Housing Act was in Parliament the Government undertook to invite views on how tenants should be consulted and vote on a tenants' choice application, and on the terms on which flats should be leased back to a public sector body after any transfer. The Department has now issued two consultation papers, which set out our proposals on these matters. They are being circulated to interested parties with a request for comments by 20 January 1989. Copies are available in the Library.

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Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Mr. Speller : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what estimate he has of the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from energy used in domestic buildings, from (a) coal, gas, electricity and oil sources, and (b) space heating, lighting, water heating, fridges/freezers, washing machines and other electrical appliances ; (2) what research he has commissioned or he intends to commission on the potential of energy efficiency measures in the housing stock for reducing carbon dioxide emissions contributing to the greenhouse effect ; and if he will make it his policy to summarise the results of such research and make copies available in the Library.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Warren Spring laboratory and the Building Research Establishment have made preliminary estimates of the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from energy use in domestic buildings in 1987 as follows :

                                 |Millions of tonnes CO2                       


(a) by fuel delivered to                                                       

    households: (WSL)                                                          

Coal and other solid fuels       |25                                           

Natural gas                      |55                                           

Electricity (including all forms                                               

    of generation)               |88                                           

Oil                              |6                                            


Total                            |174                                          


(b) Percentage break down by                                                   

    end use: (BRE)               |Per cent.                                    

Space heating                    |45                                           

Lighting                         |4                                            

Water heating                    |21                                           

Fridges/freezers                 |9                                            

Washing machines                 |2                                            

All other appliances (including                                                

    cookers)                     |19                                           


Total                            |100                                          

The Department is currently considering how further studies of domestic efficiency and its carbon dioxide emission reduction potential can best be carried out. Where appropriate, results of such work will be made available in the Library of the House.

Water Companies (Foreign Interests)

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will be seeking emergency legislation to stop foreign companies mounting take-over bids for British water companies ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Moynihan : No, European Community law does not allow discrimination against investment by nationals of other community members. Competition and merger law applies to all takeovers where there is a threat to the public interest.

River Pollution

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will instigate legislation similar to the Rivers (Prevention of Pollution) (Scotland) Act 1951 in respect of the River Don and similar rivers affected by pollution caused by poisonous effluents coming from abandoned mines ; and if he will make a statement.

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Mr. Moynihan : I am aware of the difficulties caused by discharges from abandoned mines, particularly from long abandoned workings. The costs of dealing with discharges can be considerable and in many cases it would be unreasonable to make the present landowners liable. Making such discharges an offence along the lines of the 1951 Act would not solve the problem of liability.

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many miles of Yorkshire's prime game and coarse fishing rivers have become unsuitable for fishing since 1979 due to river pollution ; and if he will make a statement on the report by Yorkshire Water's scientific services department which show a sharp decline in catches due to heavily polluted water.

Mr. Moynihan : Yorkshire water authority reported that about 12 miles of river length providing satisfactory fisheries in 1979 are now considered as unsatisfactory because of the effects of pollution. Over the same period 14 miles of river length have improved. However, I understand that the recently reported declines in catches on the Wharfe, Nidd and Ouse are considered to be normal variations brought about by rainfall, river flow, temperature and disease cycles rather than the results of river pollution.

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many times since the Control of Pollution Act 1974 has been implemented it has been tested in the courts in respect of breaches of river pollution ; and if he will list such occasions in date order.

Mr. Moynihan : This information is not held by the Department. However, the new National Rivers Authority will in future enforce water pollution controls on a national and more consistent basis and information of this nature should then be more readily available.

Water Authorities

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy on the recommendations in the Environment Select Committee Report concerning the introduction of new prohibitive powers enabling water authorities or other independent bodies to stop dischargers releasing effluent and to revise effluent permits without financial penalty.

Mr. Moynihan : The Water Bill will empower my right hon. Friend to direct the National Rivers Authority to revoke or modify particular discharge consents with immediate effect, where this is necessary for the protection of public health or of flora or fauna dependent on the aquatic environment. Compensation would arise in those circumstances only where the authority in granting the consent could reasonably have been expected to foresee the threat to public health or the aquatic environment.

Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will (a) list all the local authorities which, under present legislation, have lost lands given to the present water authorities, (b) indicate the location and size of such land and (c) list the cases in which local authorities received proper and direct compensation for that loss of land.

Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 5 December 1988] : Information is not available in the form requested on land

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transferred from local authorities to water authorities in the 1974 reorganisation. The local authorities concerned, or their successors, were relieved of the debt liabilities associated with the land transferred.

Mr. Livsey : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what amount of income in cash terms each water authority in England and Wales raised from land drainage precepts, direct charges for abstraction and impoundment licences, fishing rod licences and navigation licences in 1987- 88, broken down by region.

Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 5 December 1988] : Information on land drainage precepts and charges for abstractions is shown in the annual reports and accounts of the water authorities laid before Parliament each year and available in the Library. This information is brought together in Waterfacts, published annually by the Water Authorities Association and also available in the Library. The remaining information requested by the hon. Member is not available centrally.

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he possesses concerning the asset value of all property, plant, including sewers, and machinery relating to disposal of used water currently owned by regional water authorities ; and what is the basis of valuation.

Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 7 December 1988] : Analyses by service of the net asset value of water authorities' tangible fixed assets are set out in the historic cost and current cost sections of the authorities' published annual accounts. The basis of the figures is explained in notes to the accounts.

Business Property (Revaluation)

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his Department's assessment of the impact of the revaluation of business property in 1990 (a) upon business in Nottingham and (b) upon the uniform business rate.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : We do not yet have sufficiently detailed forecasts of the likely effects of the revaluation on business property to be able to predict the effect in Nottingham. We would expect businesses in Nottingham to share in the benefit of reduced rate bills which businesses in the North and midlands generally will enjoy as a result of revaluation and the introduction of a uniform business rate.

The uniform business rate will be set at the level necessary to raise nationally broadly the same amount in rates in 1990-91, in real terms, as is raised in 1989-90. So whatever the overall increase in rateable values on revaluation, the uniform business rate will be reduced proportionately.

Disabled Persons (Staff)

Mr. Sean Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of his Department's staff are classed as disabled.

Mr. Ridley : As at 1 December 1988, the percentage of staff classed as disabled was 1.50 per cent., including 1.27 per cent. registered disabled persons.

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