Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what further steps he is taking (a) to reduce overcrowded carriages on the London underground and (b) to increase safety against personal attack or accidents at stations ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Portillo : Since October 1986 investment of over £100 million has been approved on measures to relieve overcrowding in addition to the modernisation of the Central line at a cost of some £720 million. More is in the pipeline and the central London rail study is developing a strategy to relieve congestion and cater for the forecast growth to the end of the century. As regards passenger security and safety, I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 20 December and to the statement by the Secretary of State on 10 November at column 496.
Mr. Portillo : Each European Community country is permitted to charge for services, and light dues are a charge for a service which the Government believe the users should, as far as is practicable, continue to meet.
Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the extent to which British ports are at a disadvantage in relation to many European competitors, as a result of the level of subsidies received ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Portillo : There is competition with continental ports in deep sea trade. The volume of transhipment via Belgian and Dutch ports doubled between 1976 and 1984, and in 1984 to 1986 was about 10 per cent. of United Kingdom deep sea trade, 5 per cent. of all United Kingdom international sea trade. The relative importance in transhipment of state assistance to continental ports and of other factors cannot be reliably estimated.
Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for transport what is his policy towards the financing and operation of ports in the light of the Carossino report to the European Parliament, (Document A 2- 0215/8) of 17 October ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Channon : I have today placed a copy of British Rail's response in the Library of the House. In making its initial response to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report in February, British Rail accepted all of the commission's recommendations and set out the action it intended to take. I welcome the steps British Rail has already taken in implementing those recommendations and will continue to monitor progress.
Mr. Channon : I have today appointed Mr. Wilfrid Newton, at present chairman of the Hong Kong mass transit railway, to serve as chairman of London Regional Transport for a period of five years from 13 March 1989. I am grateful to Sir Neil Shields for serving as chairman of LRT in the interim.
(a) The estimated number of passengers per route mile per day on InterCity railways was 12,900 in 1987.
(b) There is no direct information about occupancy rates for vehicles on motorways. The estimated average daily flow of vehicles per mile for all motorways was 44,400 in 1987. We estimate that this volume of vehicle flow would represent approximately 85,000 drivers/passengers per mile per day, with about 80 per cent. of these travelling by car.
Mr. Peter Bottomley [holding answer 20 December 1988] : Regulations made in September mean that from 1 October 1990 virtually all new cars will have to be capable of running on unleaded petrol. Manufacturers have already made considerable progress towards meeting this binding requirement. In the first nine months of 1988, only 18 per cent. of the new petrol-engined vehicles sold were in the leaded only category.
Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the total number of (a) new petrol-engined car sales and (b) new diesel -engined car sales, respectively, for each of the last five years in (i) the United Kingdom and (ii) the European Economic Community.
1984 |1,780 |48 |1,828 1985 |1,841 |68 |1,909 1986 |1,865 |79 |1,944 1987 |1,984 |94 |2,079 <3>1988 |2,180 |105 |2,285 <1>Figures are for vehicles with a car body type. Figures for Northern Ireland are available on a slightly different basis from those for Great Britain but this does not significantly affect the United Kingdom totals. <2>Includes a small number of cars propelled by other means. <3>The estimate for 1988 is based on registrations in the first 10 months of the year. (ii) Readily available information about new car registrations for EEC countries does not identify method of propulsion. In any case, information is not available for recent years for all countries and it is therefore not possible to produce EEC totals.
Mr. Allan Roberts : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the total number of light commercial vehicles sales in the United Kingdom, and the proportion of those that were diesel engined, for each of the last five years.
New registrations: light commercial vehicles: United Kingdom<1> |Total (thousand) |Percentage diesel ------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1984 |112 |24 1985 |131 |37 1986 |160 |38 1987 |158 |43 <2>1988 |173 |46 <1> Figures are for all goods vehicles with a gross vehicle weight under 3.5 tonnes. Figures for Northern Ireland are available on a slightly different basis from those for Great Britain but this does not significantly affect the United Kingdom totals. <2> The estimate for 1988 is based on registrations in the first 10 months of the year.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I have been asked to reply. A public local inquiry into objecting to the A77 Ayr road route proposals was held in Glasgow earlier this year. The reporter has recently submitted part I of his report and I expect the full report to be completed early next year. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will decide whether the road improvement should go ahead when he has considered the full report.
Column 258implications for his housing policies of the report of the Commission for Racial Equality, entitled "Living in Terror".
Mr. Trippier : We took steps in the Housing Act 1988 to give statutory backing for a code of practice on rented housing, to be prepared by the Commission for Racial Equality. In the same Act, we extended the duty to eliminate racial discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity to the Housing Corporation and to our proposed housing action trusts.
Sir Eldon Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what sums of money he plans to spend on roof repairs to blocks A, B and C of the Government offices at Brooklands avenue, Cambridge ; if he has any plans to sell this site to the private sector ; and what are the implications of his plans for the staff currently at Newmarket.
Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what guidance, in the form of planning circulars his Department, is giving to local planning authorities in relation to the provision of low-cost housing ;
(2) what guidance in the form of planning circulars his Department gives to local planning authorities in relation to starter homes ; (3) what guidance in the form of planning circulars his Department gives to local planning authorities in relation to increasing the provision of housing for (a) the elderly, (b) the disabled and (c) single persons.
Mr. Chope : The Department has issued no planning guidance dealing specifically with these matters. But within our general guidance on land for housing, contained in planning policy guidance note 3 and circular 15/84, we emphasise that development plans will need to take account of the varied types of housing requirement met by the private sector such as those of single persons, small households and the elderly. We stress also the importance we attach to the provision of low-cost starter homes.
Mr. Moynihan : Drinking water supplies to Derbyshire do not regularly exceed the standards set in the EC drinking water directive except for supplies to a small part of south Derbyshire which exceed the directive nitrate limit. About 1,000 people receive this water. Remedial programmes are in hand.
Supplies to north west Chesterfield, north Buxton and the area around Ashbourne occasionally exceed the directive limit for iron manganese or aluminium.
Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, further to his statement on the outcome of the Council of Environment Ministers' meeting in Brussels on 24 November, Official Report, 29 November, columns 200-1, he has assessed whether the implementation of the Berne, Bonn and Ramsar conventions alone would provide an adequate means to protect threatened species and threatened habitats in the European Economic Community.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The best way to achieve effective nature conservation in the European Economic Community is for each member state to implement legislation which meets its own conservation needs, fulfils its international obligations and takes account of its own institutional frameworks and social structures. As I made clear in my previous answer, at the Environment Council on 24 November there was general support for the United Kingdom's view that the Community could most usefully assist member states, where appropriate, to implement fully the Bern, Bonn and Ramsar conventions.
Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now give his consent to the sale by the London Dockland Development Corporation of the site for a new Roman Catholic church in Surry docks, at the valuation agreed by the corporation and the church authorities, for which the corporation applied in a letter to his Department of 5 November 1987.
Mr. Fishburn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in implementing the recommendations in the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report published in May 1987 on the maintenance of the British Waterways Board's waterways ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Moynihan : The British Waterways Board is continuing to make good progress in implementing the commission's recommendations and I am placing copies of its second response in the Library of the House.
Improvements in the board's management, structural organisation, information systems, resource allocation, and procedures for project appraisal are being implemented as part of a major four year programme of change to develop a more commercial approach to the waterway business with the optimum balance between in-house work and contracting out. I welcome these changes and the commitment with which board members and staff are carrying them through.
The board has also taken action this year to divest itself of its remaining non-waterway-based freight operations while continuing to promote the use of suitable waterways for private freight transport. Leisure market prospects are being reviewed and means of quantifying the public service role of the BWB network explored. The board's property portfolio is being exploited in line with existing objectives and the scope for further potential has been identified in a study by independent consultants which the board commissioned earlier this year.
Column 260I am looking forward to seeing a fully worked up business plan on the basis of the board's current work and to consider the outcome of the property study before deciding on appropriate levels of grant for future years and on the possible changes in financial framework to which the board refers in its response. I shall continue to keep under review the question of the board's ownership of and statutory responsibilities for public road bridges over canals.
The board will aim to produce a final report on the implementation of the commission's recommendations by May 1990 in the light of which I shall make a further statement.
Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has yet reached a decision on the proposed new economic development powers for local authorities ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gummer : We announced our intention in the White Paper "The Conduct of Local Authority Business" to propose a new general, but circumscribed, power to engage in economic development initiatives. We have now reached conclusions about the form of this power in England and Wales. The different existing powers for Scottish local authorities mean that the proposal there will follow a separate timetable.
The new power will greatly simplify the position. At the moment local authorities have no specific powers for economic development spending, but can use a number of other powers. The aim is to make sure expenditure by local authorities can be targeted for maximum benefit.
The new power will be framed as a general power to undertake expenditure to facilitate economic development by others, to manage and turn to account assets acquired by such expenditure, and to make charges in connection with the provision of assets and services under the new powers. Economic development will cover investment in, the setting up or expansion of, or the creation or maintenance of employment in commercial, industrial or public undertakings within their localities. These general powers are intended to replace existing powers to the extent that they are used for these purposes. The Government are firmly of the opinion, however, that there are certain areas of activity which are not appropriate for local authorities. The general powers will therefore be subject to restrictions to be specified in regulations. The Government will consult locl authorities and others about these regulations. The present intention is that local authorities themselves should not be able to undertake most direct manufacturing and trading activities, banking, insurance business, investment broking, the media, and the provision of certain professional services such as conveyancing and audit.
Restrictions will also prevent the new powers being used for certain forms of expenditure such as deficit financing and for grants specifically to support wages and salaries. While the new power will be available to all principal local authorities, expenditure on grants, loans and guarantees to businesses conducted with a view to profit will be restricted to areas which have a particular need to promote economic development.
These areas will be detailed in the regulations following consultation and will include at least all those areas which
Column 261currently benefit from some form of central Government priority. There will be a power to adapt the definitions to changing circumstances.
Uses of the new powers may be capable of constituting "state aids" subject to restriction or notification under articles 92 and 93 of the treaty of Rome. Where this is a consideration, provision will be needed for notification and clearance with the European Commission through the Department of the Environment and the Welsh Office. Local authorities will be required to prepare a separate memorandum account of their activities (both on capital and revenue account) under these new powers. They will be required to consult representatives of the local business community (possibly in the context of the consultations already required under section 134 of the Local Government Finance Act 1988) on their proposals for the use of the new powers. They will also be required to take into account any guidance issued by the Government to promote value for money and consistency between Government and local authority initiatives. The Government have considered the question of a financial limit on the use of the new power, to which they referred in the White Paper. They do not consider that the new power should lead to any significant change in the level of local authority activity in this field, since it is intended merely to simplify the framework within which this activity takes place. In these circumstances, they have concluded that it would be inappropriate to set any general financial limits on the use of the power : the general financial disciplines to which local authorities are subject will be sufficient.
As a reserve power (to deal, for example, with circumstances where one local authority is distorting the local economy to the disadvantage of neighbouring areas), there will be provision for the Secretary of State to impose a limit on individual authorities' spending under the new power. However, this power is intended as a reserve power, since the Government are not aware of any current circumstances which would justify any use of such a power.
Mr. Ridley : I propose to consider whether the planning inspectorate should become an executive agency within my Department. The change to agency status would enable the inspectorate to operate within an agreed framework of objectives and performance targets and would provide for greater management responsibility in the use of resources.
The organisational changes that I envisage would not in any way affect the inspectorate's functions, its policy accountabilty, nor the high standards of integrity and impartiality with which its work is carried out.
Column 262member states, ratified the protocol in New York on 16 December. Only France and Belgium had not completed their internal procedures by that date. This means that the necessary ratifications are now in place for the protocol to enter into force as planned on 1 January 1989.
Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give the accumulated reduction in rate support grant since 1978- 79 in England at 1988-89 prices breaking down the figures between (a) 1978- 79 and 1979-80, (b) 1978-79 and 1980-81, (c) 1978-79 and 1981-82, (d) 1978- 79 and 1982-83, (e) 1978-79 and 1983-84, (f) 1978-79 and 1984-85, (g) 1978- 79 and 1985-86, (h) 1978-79 and 1986-87, (i) 1978-79 and 1987-88 and (i) 1978-79 and 1988-89.
|RSG |Difference from 1978-79|Cumulative difference |RSG |£ million |£ million |£ million ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1978-79 |14,323 |0 |0 1979-80 |13,749 |574 |574 1980-81 |13,638 |685 |1,259 1981-82 |12,905 |1,418 |2,677 1982-83 |12,069 |2,254 |4,931 1983-84 |11,605 |2,718 |7,649 1984-85 |11,091 |3,232 |10,881 1985-86 |10,580 |3,743 |14,624 1986-87 |10,124 |4,199 |18,823 1987-88 |10,059 |4,264 |23,087 1988-89 |9,687 |4,636 |27,723 Notes: All figures are in 1988-89 prices. The figures for 1978-79 to 1984-85 are final. Those for 1985-86 to 1988-89 are estimates based on the supplementary reports laid before the House on 19 December 1988. The figures exclude payments to bodies specified under 56(9) of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980. Such payments are currently about £10 million per year.
Mr. Ridley [holding answer 19 December 1988] : We hope to make an announcement early in the new year on the transitional arrangements for giving effect to the non-domestic revaluation and for the introduction of the unified business rate.
Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what responsibility his Department has for ensuring that foodstuffs are safe for human consumption and carry no risk of food poisoning ; in what way this responsibility is carried out ; how many and what type of staff are required ; what is the annual cost to his Department ; and what has been the change in the number of staff and the annual cost to his Department in each of the last five years.
Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what, pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan, Official Report, 8 December, column 280, was the total (a) value of the local authorities assets transferred to the water authorities and (b) amount of debt liabilities for which the water authorities took responsibility.
Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 19 December 1988] : Figures for the book value of assets inherited from predecessor authorities by the 10 regional water authorities on 1 April 1974 are given in the published accounts of the water authorities for 1974-75, as are figures for debt liabilities taken over. Water authority accounts are laid before Parliament.
Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if, further to his reply to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan, Official Report, 8 December, column 280, he will list (a) the local authorities, (b) the water authorities and (c) the assets involved in the transactions referred to, and the debt liabilities in each case.
Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 19 December 1988] : The local authorities concerned were those exercising water supply and sewerage functions in England and Wales up to 31 March 1974. The water authorities were the 10 regional water authorities set up under the Water Act 1973. In all, the water authorities took on the responsibilities of nearly 1,600 local undertakings. It would not be possible to draw up a list of those undertakings except at disproportionate cost. No list of the assets transferred from predecessor authorities is available centrally. It is not possible to assign a portion of the related debt to each item of the assets transferred.
Mr. Speller : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the existing consents for discharges of sewage, treated or raw, and trade effluent into the Bristol channel, and those applications that are currently awaiting a decision on both the Welsh and the English side.
Mr. Moynihan [holding answer 19 December 1988] : This information is not held centrally. The public registers which, in common with other authorities, the Severn Trent, South West, Welsh and Wessex water authorities are required to maintain, contain details of all authorised discharges of sewage and trade effluent to the British channel.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley [holding answer 19 December 1988] : The amount by which ratepayers fund individual services is not known since services are also funded by central Government block grant which is not attributable to individual services.
Column 264consultation paper on hazardous waste dated 29 June and (b) consultation document (Amendments to Waste Disposal Law), dated 23 November.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The announcement of 29 June setting out the Government's decisions following earlier consultation on waste disposal law amendments, and the follow-up consultation paper dated 23 November 1988 have been placed in the Library of the House. Copies of these papers were widely distributed to interested bodies.
Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the result of his meeting at the beginning of December with the Local Authorities Association regarding initial proposals in his recent consultation paper to impose the equal instalment of principal method for repaying local authority debt ; whether the alternative proposal of a fixed percentage repayment scheme has superseded his original, preferred method ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ridley : The consultation paper issued by my Department on 7 July 1988 proposed that local authority credit liabilities should in future be amortised by charges to revenue account using the "equal instalments of principal" method. At a meeting on 29 November with representatives of the main local authority associations, I undertook to seek their views on an alternative method known as the "reducing balance" method. I am sending to the hon. Member a copy of the official letter dated 2 December by which that undertaking was discharged.
Mr. Sims : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment in which European Economic Community countries the weedkillers Altrazine and Simazine are permitted and in which they are banned ; whether these chemicals find their way into tap water for human consumption ; whether they are a health hazard ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Moynihan : I understand that Atrazine and Simazine are not prohibited under European Community legislation but member states may prohibit substances nationally if they wish. There is no central registrar of approved or prohibited pesticides for individual member states. Both substances are approved for use in the United Kingdom. Water undertakers in the United Kingdom carry out routine monitoring for pesticides and traces of Atrazine and Simazine have been detected in some drinking water supplies at levels which are not considered to be a health risk.
Mr. Speller : To ask the Prime Minister if she will make a statement on the division of responsibility between the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Health in the area of food production and food safety.
Mr. Cohen : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether his Department has investigated, or is currently studying, the usefulness of a national identity card to his departmental responsibilities ; and whether he will make a statement.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will conduct an inquiry into the change in the number of independent shops retailing tobacco : and if he will make a statement.
Mrs. Gillian Shephard : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what response the Post Office has made to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission's report on Post Office Counters services at Crown offices ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Newton : I am placing in the Library of the House copies of the Post Office's response to the report of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) on Post Office Counters services at Crown offices published on 23 June 1988 (Cmnd 398). The commission made 80 individual recommendations on various aspects of the operation of Crown offices and wider issues, namely : the organisation of the counters business ; its financial management ; the market for counters services ; pricing ; investment ; the planning process ; quality of service ; productivity ; management of Crown offices ; manpower and industrial relations ; the counters network ; and automation.
The Post Office has accepted 68 of the commission's recommendations, closely related to the operation of the Crown offices themselves. My Department has now agreed a detailed timetable with the Post Office for the implementation of these recommendations in accordance with the standard procedures for follow-up of MMC reports.
Of the remaining 12 recommendations, the Post Office has rejected one and has reservations or qualifications about 11. Most of these remaining recommendations have implications beyond the immediate subject of the report. These include the impact of potential new business on counters ; pricing arrangements with Government clients ; the size and composition of the counters network ; and automation ; on all of which continuing consultation with Government is necessary.
As far as the single recommendation which the Post Office does not accept is concerned--the requirement that long-term client support should be an essential pre-condition to proceeding with installation of a major automation system--the Post Office recognises that client commitment is a desirable objective and will take the extent of this commitment into account in any strategic decisions which are made. The MMC made several recommendations about the Crown office network, notably recommendation 61 that
Column 266counters should consider a much more substantial programme of regrading Crown offices. While the Post Office accepts the need for this consideration to be given, along with consideration of other planning options, it has made it clear that no decision will be taken on any regradings beyond the 250 currently planned until the success of the commercial contract and the response of staff in putting forward proposals for cost reduction have been received and evaluated.
I will be monitoring the Post Office's progress in carrying forward appropriate action on the recommendations, on the basis of reports in June 1989 and June 1991. I should like to take this opportunity to convey the Government's gratitude to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission for its thorough and valuable investigation.