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51. Mr. Michael : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what means his Department is using to monitor the scale of personal and family debt problems ; what is his latest estimate of the scale of such problems and what is his policy on the provision of advice and counselling for people with debt problems.
Mr. Newton : My Department has access to information on debt problems from a variety of sources. Under section 1(2) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 the Director-General of Fair Trading has a statutory duty to advise on social and commercial developments relating to the provision of credit. I have carefully considered the views expressed by the Director- General from time to time, for example in the introduction to his most recent report to Parliament.
Column 235My Department has also been informed of the results of the survey on the use of credit which was commissioned by the Office of Fair Trading and was published in August 1988. Information on debt problems is available from sources such as major organisations of lenders, the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, the National Consumer Council and Familybase. The information available suggests that while a significant number of individuals have encountered debt problems, from a variety of causes, the proportion of users of consumer credit who encounter such problems remains small.
A great deal of advice and help on debt problems is provided free of charge by citizens advice bureaux. The National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NACAB) and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) are funded by my Department. Their budget in the current financial year is £9.365 million. They have been encouraged to seek additional funding money advice services from the finance industry and already money has been pledged for four money advice support projects.
52. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what advice is provided by his Department to firms contemplating offering industrial scholarships and other incentives to those going on to further and higher education.
Mr. Forth : Advice to firms contemplating various kinds of link with higher education, including sponsorship, will be included in a guide to good collaborative practice which the Department, in conjunction with the Council for Higher Education, will be publishing later this year.
Mr. Alan Clark : My right hon. and noble Friend has recently received a letter from the Commission stating its view that, in the present state of Community law, there would be no justification, as far as the free circulation of goods is concerned, for treating Nissan UK production differently from other cars produced in the Community. United Kingdom-built Nissan cars are currently being distributed without obstruction in all their EC markets, and I trust that, in the light of the Commission's statement, exports will continue to go ahead smoothly.
56. Mr. Favell : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many of the standard industrial trade classification divisions within manufactured trade are currently (a) in surplus and (b) in deficit.
Mr. Atkins : Of the 35 divisions within sections 5-8 of the standard international trade classification (which correspond to manufactures), for the 10 months to October 1988, 12 are in surplus and 23 in deficit.
58. Mr. Butterfill : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he has received the new Securities and Investment Board disclosure rules relating to the sale of life assurance policies ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Newton : The Securities and Investments Board has not published any new disclosure rules relating to the sale of life assurance policies. I have, however, received a copy of the consultative document "Life Assurance and Unit Trust Disclosure : the regime for 1990" published by the SIB on 14 December 1988. It will be for the SIB to draw up rules in the light of this consultation. Any such rules will be subject in the usual way to the competitive scrutiny by the Director General of Fair Trading and the Secretary of State provided by the Financial Services Act.
Mr. Nelson : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many complaints the Office of Fair Trading has received this year about the activities of the Central Selling Organisation for Diamonds operating in London ; when he will be replying ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Forth : I understand that the Office of Fair Trading has received two complaints about the activities of the Central Selling Organisation for Diamonds. These are matters for the Director-General of Fair Trading to consider under the competition legislation for which he is responsible.
Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the number of businesses registered for value added tax in (a) 1978 and (b) 1988 in the City of Durham district ; and how many deregulations took place in 1988.
Mr. Atkins : Reliable estimates are not available before 1979. At the end of that year the total number of businesses registered for value added tax in the City of Durham district was 1,222. The latest reliable estimate is 1,368 for the end of 1987 ; there were 118 deregistrations during that year.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) whether he will meet with his European counterparts to discuss what action can be taken to deal with the level of imports of footwear from South Korea ;
Column 237(2) whether he will introduce measures further to restrain imports of footwear from South Korea.
Mr. Alan Clark : The Commission is currently carrying out a Community-wide investigation into imports of footwear from South Korea and Taiwan. We shall need to see the Commission's findings and recommendations before deciding our position. I have no plans, at this stage, to discuss this issue with my European colleagues.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what representations he has received from Millers Footwear of Cockermouth on the level of South Korean imports into the United Kingdom of South Korean footwear.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will list the arrangements that exist in each member country of the European Community for controlling imports of footwear from South Korea.
Italy voluntary restraint arrangements on most types of footwear
Portugal certain quantitative restrictions : the details are not known
Spain certain quantitative restrictions : the details are not known
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will meet with representatives of the British Footwear Federation to discuss the level of imports of footwear from South Korea.
Mr. Alan Clark : I met two MP's and representatives of the footwear industry, including the British Footwear Manufacturers' Federation, in February 1988 to discuss footwear imports from the Far East. We have had no request for a further meeting with the federation. This might be appropriate when we know the EC Commission's findings and recommendations following its current investigation of footwear imports from Taiwan and South Korea.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he will consider the introduction of selective aid to the footwear industry to alleviate the damage to employment arising from the level of imports from South Korea of footwear.
Column 238other sectors. Also, my Department's enterprise initiative offers eligible firms a nationwide self-help package to improve management practice.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether he would set up a footwear imports review group to evaluate the effect of South Korean imports into the United Kingdom on the British footwear industry.
Mr. Alan Clark : I have no plans to set up a review group for this purpose. The results of the investigation being undertaken by the EC Commission will be studied closely by my Department and the trade associations concerned.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what evidence he has as to the diversion of South Korean footwear from the American market to European markets due to a fall in the value of the dollar.
Mr. Alan Clark : Total exports of footwear by Korea have increased by 140 per cent. in United States dollar terms since 1985. The proportion taken by the United States of America has declined from 73 per cent. to 63 per cent. while the shares taken by the EC and the rest of the world have increased. It is not clear how much of this change is due to exchange rate movements and how much to other factors.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what impact he expects Her Majesty's Government's strategy for the exchange rate to have on the level of footwear imports into the United Kingdom from South Korea.
Mr. Alan Clark : It is not Government policy to depreciate the exchange rate to try to maintain competitiveness. Restraint of unit costs, which is in industry's own hands is the key to improved competitiveness. In fact, the South Korean won appreciated by 10 per cent. against sterling between the first and second halves of 1988.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the volume and value in current and standard prices of meat exports, other than live animals, in each year since 1983, distinguishing between exports to the European Economic Community, North America and elsewhere.
United Kingdom exports of meat and meat preparations Volume in thousand metric tonnes Value in £ million 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 |Volume|Value |Volume|Value |Volume|Value |Volume|Value |Volume|Value ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- EEC |283.7 |433.9 |267.2 |403.0 |268.5 |422.9 |267.4 |446.0 |309.7 |536.3 North America |0.3 |0.4 |0.2 |0.4 |0.2 |0.3 |0.2 |0.5 |0.5 |1.2 Rest of the World |57.7 |61.4 |79.8 |87.6 |64.6 |74.2 |83.5 |75.5 |68.1 |88.4 Source: Overseas Trade Statistics. Notes: EEC includes all Member States as at 1 January 1989 throughout; Value on a fob basis; Meat and meat preparations defined as Standard International Trade Classification Revision 2 Division 01.
Mr. Maude : The Council, at which I represented the United Kingdom, reached agreement on 32 individual measures which contribute towards completion of the single market. This has brought the total number of single market measures agreed under the Greek Presidency to more than 50.
Important decisions reached by the Council included the final adoption of directives on the mutual recognition of higher education diplomas ; trade marks ; construction products ; and a package of three directives relating to food law harmonisation (on quick-frozen foodstuffs, food additives and materials and articles intended to come into contact with foodstuffs). It also reached agreement on common positions on directives on the official inspection of foodstuffs ; two directives to cut barriers to trade in pharmaceutical products (blood products and radiopharmaceuticals) ; and on the safety of machines under the Commission's "new approach" to technical harmonisation.
On the initiative of the United Kingdom the Council invited the Commission to bring forward a paper on the subject of barriers to takeovers in member states. It also discussed the proposal for an EC merger regulation.
At the Council Germany withdrew its reserve on the Italian plan for state aid to its steel industry.
Mr. Newton : I have given my consent under section 61(2) of the British Telecommunications Act 1981, to a subsidiary of the Post Office, Barton House Services Ltd., contracting to provide subscription management and monitoring services on behalf of the Post Office's TV licensing organisation to organisations providing satellite TV services. This will enable the Post Office to complement its current TV licensing activities and to use TVLO's expertise and resources in taking advantage of the new opportunities offered by the Government's framework for broadcasting which was set out in the White Paper "Broadcasting in the 90s : Competition, Choice and Quality," CM 517, November 1988. Any service provided by TVLO in this respect will be on a strictly commercial contractual basis and without any cross-subsidy from the services it performs for Government in respect of TV licensing itself.
Column 240announced his intention to publish the report of the inspectors as soon as circumstances permit and on 25 November he announced his decision not to refer the takeover to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. As the hon. Member will be aware both these decisions are the subject to proceedings for judicial review and it would not be appropriate for me to comment further on these matters at this stage.
Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the consumer safety implications of the use of sprays marketed for the purpose of treating covers on flammable foam-filled furniture to make such furniture less flammable.
Mr. Forth [holding answer 17 January 1989] : Most of the spray fire-retardant treatments for furnishings now on the market can be quite effective, but they have limitations. The effectiveness depends on the amount taken up and this in turn depends on the fibre of which the fabric is made. Whilst a cotton fabric will absorb the requisite amount of fire retardant in water solution, the same fabric with a stain resistant finish may not, nor will many synthetic fibre fabrics. The feel of the fabric may be affected by the presence of the fire retardant salts. Because these treatments are water based they can be removed by spillage or by sponging. Treatment of the cover fabric will not affect the flammability of the foam. In consequence, use of such sprays to treat curtains is likely to be more reliable than treatment of furniture. Thorough and even treatment is required to ensure effectiveness, and in this respect professional treatments may be more reliable than do-it-yourself products.
There is now greater public awareness than formerly of the fire risks of furniture and furnishings. But for some years to come the furniture in most people's homes will not be made to the requirements of the new regulations. So people are likely to show increased interest in spray fire-resistant treatments. This makes it very important that they should not be misled about the effectiveness of such treatments, and we look to the trade to ensure that their instructions are adequate and their claims accurate.
Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what restrictions are at present imposed on exports to Iran ; and what restrictions are imposed by other members of the European Economic Community.
Mr. Alan Clark [holding answer 17 January 1989] : Licences are required for export to Iran of goods which are subject to control under the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1987 (S.I., 1987, No. 2070), as amended.
Applications for such licences are examined in particular against the guidelines on the export of defence equipment to Iran and Iraq announced to the House by my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary on 29 October 1985, ( Official Report, Vol. 84, column 454). The Guidelines are being kept under constant review in the light of the ceasefire and developments in the peace negotiations.
Column 241There is no common EC policy on sales of controlled goods to Iran, and I am unable to comment on the national export policies of other EC member countries.
Mr. Andrew Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many retirement pensioners (i) aged 65 to 79 years and (ii) aged 80 years and over both pay income tax and receive housing benefit.
Source : Family Expenditure Survey 1986.
1. Based on the "Impact of the reformed structure of Income Related Benefits" published in October 1987 and adjusted to take account of the 1988 Budget.
2. Married and unmarried couples count as one unit.
Mrs. Beckett : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what number and what proportion of pensioner households are in receipt of (i) occupational pension payments, (ii) income support, (iii) housing benefit and (iv) income support and housing benefit.
Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 5 December 1988] : The latest information, taken from the family expenditure survey, indicates that in 1986 approximately 3.4 million (50 per cent.) pensioner tax units were in receipt of occupational pension payments. The May 1988 Quarterly Statistical Enquiry indicates that approximately 1.7 million pensioners were in receipt of income support. The latest information for housing benefit is for autumn 1987 when the estimated total number of pensioner households in receipt of benefit was 3.8 million which included 1.3 million who were also receiving supplementary benefit. Up to date information is not available to enable income support or housing benefit recipients to be shown as a proportion of all pensioners households.
A pensioner tax unit--a single person of pensionable age, or a married couple where the head is of pensionable age.
Pensioners receiving income support are defined as those in receipt of a pensioner premium.
A pensioner household--a single household of pensionable age or a married couple where at least one of the partners is of pensionable age.
Mr. Nicholas Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the estimated full-year revenue effect in 1988-89 and 1989 -90 of (a) abolishing the upper earnings limit for employees' national insurance contributions, (b) allowing personal allowances against such contributions and (c) (a) and (b) together.
1988-89 |1989-90 £ billion |£ billion --------------------------------- (a) +1.50 |+1.65 (b) -4.85 |-5.15 (c) -3.35 |-3.50 These estimates assume that- (i) The lower and upper rates earnings limits are retained for the purpose of assessing contracted-out contributions so that contracted-out rebates are unaffected. (ii) Employers' secondary contributions are not subject to personal allowance. (iii) Personal allowances are not transferable, and consist of the single person's allowance ( in 1988-89 £2,605) except for married men who are all assumed to be entitled to married man's allowance (in 1988-89 £4,065). (iv) Lower rates of contribution ( 5 per cent and 7 per cent compared with the standard NIC rate of 9 per cent.) are retained for th e lower paid earning in excess of personal allowances.
(iv) Lower rates of contribution (5 per cent. and 7 per cent. compared with the standard NIC rate of 9 per cent.) are retained for the lower paid earning in excess of personal allowances.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the percentage of the cash budget paid to date to claimants using the two Doncaster social security offices seeking assistance from community care grants ; what percentage of claims have been refused ; what percentage of claimants were recommended to apply for social security loans ; what percentage of the loan budget has been spent ; what percentage of the national budgets have been spent to date ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : Information on the numbers of applicants for social fund loans and grants processed and awarded, listed by local office, including information on budget allocations and expenditure, is available from the details held in the Library.
Information is available on the social fund application form to assist people in deciding whether to apply for a grant or a loan. Social fund officers are also available to provide additional information and help with form completion, but they do not recommend applicants to apply for loans in preference to grants. Upon receipt of an application the social fund officer will determine whether a grant or loan is appropriate.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if, pursuant to his answer of 20 December, Official Report, column 214, he will state the number of officers and their grades who are carrying out the investigation into benefit fraud in Doncaster ; and what has been the cost to date.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : Three officers of Departmental grade LOI are currently involved in the investigation into benefit fraud in Doncaster. The cost to date has been about £18,000. The benefit savings yield to date is £56,974 gross.
Mr. Cummings : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people in the Easington constituency, by ward, receive reduced earnings allowance at present, how many will receive reduced earnings allowance after April 1989 ; and what are the current amounts paid in reduced earnings allowance and the amounts expected to be paid out in reduced earnings allowance after April 1989.
Mr. Scott : Easington is served by Peterlee and Seaham local offices, although their boundaries are not coterminous with the constituency ; information by ward is not available. At 12 January, 1,471 people were receiving reduced earnings allowance from the Peterlee office and
Column 243686 from Seaham. I regret that information relating to wards and the amounts of benefit paid could be provided only at
Mr. Cummings : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what criteria are used in assessing levels of reduced earnings allowance ; what effect the receipt of other benefits, including invalidity benefit, has on the level of reduced earnings allowance ; what plans there are to change such criteria ; and if these changes have been advertised.
Mr. Scott : Entitlement to reduced earnings allowance arises where an industrial accident or disease causes disablement of at least 1 per cent. and a person's capacity to earn is reduced as a result. The level of benefit is calculated by comparing pre- and post-disablement earnings and is subject to a maximum of £26.88 a week at today's rates ; it is not affected by receipts of other benefits. There are no plans to change the criteria for assessing the level of benefit. Information about the allowance is available in the Department's leaflet on industrial injuries disablement benefit.
Mr. Cummings : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what safeguards are being introduced for those people who currently receive reduced earnings allowance, especially those on other social security benefits, when the proposed ending of the reduced earnings allowance takes place ;
(2) how the proposed ending of the reduced earnings allowance will affect people over retirement age ; and whether safeguards are being incorporated to ensure that retired persons do not lose out as a result of the April 1989 changes.
Mr. Scott : People in receipt of reduced earnings allowance who are of pensionable age and who retire on or after 10 April will no longer be entitled to the allowance. The vast majority of them will become automatically entitled to a new benefit, retirement allowance, which will be paid at 25 per cent. of the former entitlement to reduced earnings allowance. Retirement allowance will be uprated annually in line with prices. Beneficiaries of reduced earnings allowance who retire before 10 April will retain their entitlement, although the rate will not be reviewed. No special safeguards are being introduced. The change removes the long-standing and widely recognised anomaly by which compensation for loss of earnings can continue beyond retirement when earnings would normally have ceased in any case, and takes effect on retirement, when most people expect a reduction in their income.
Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether, pursuant to his answer of 21 December to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North East, Official Report, column 308 , he will make it his policy to ensure that all statements in his Department's official publications are objective and factual.
Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the average time for adjudicating decisions on reduced income support cases arising from leaving a job without reason in the Nottingham area.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : I regret that the information requested is not collected. However, in the four Nottingham offices--Castlegate, David lane, Shakespeare street and Station street--the average clearance time for all income support claims in the months April to November 1988 (the latest available figure) has been provisionally calculated as 5.2 days.
Mr. Turner : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the cash figure included in the April 1988 income support rates to represent the average water rate payment by an income support claimant.