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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 24 May 1989

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Foreign Affairs Council

Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish in the Official Report a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council held on 22 May.

Sir Geoffrey Howe : The Foreign Affairs Council met in Brussels on 22 May. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State represented the United Kingdom in the Council and at an EC-Israel Co-operation Council later on the same day.

The council reviewed progress in the Community's negotiations with Poland on a trade and co-operation agreement and agreed on the need for further flexibility in the Community position. In particular, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State pressed for a Community proposal on phasing out quantitative restrictions, which took full account of Polish reform efforts, and for early help with management training. The Commission introduced its draft mandate for negotiations with the USSR on a trade and co-operation agreement and the council agreed to consider it further at its next meeting in June.

The council discussed the Community's trade relations with the United States. Progress on resolving the dispute over hormones in meat, and setting up GATT panels on soya and sugar, was noted. The council expressed its concern over the implementation of section "Super 301" of the 1988 United States Trade Act, and reaffirmed its intention to refer to GATT any United States action affecting the Community which might appear to be in breach of GATT obligations. The council discussed a proposal to complete the annex to the council regulation adopted in December 1987 laying down maximum levels of radioactive contamination of foodstuffs and of feedingstuffs following a nuclear accident or other radiological emergency. A related proposal on the special conditions applying to exports of foodstuffs and feedingstuffs following a nuclear accident was also discussed.

The Commission reported on the progress in the renegotiation of the Lome convention and on preparations for the next EC-ACP ministerial meeting in Brussels on 3-5 June.

The council adopted conclusions on the renegotiation of the international coffee agreement which will form the basis of the Community's position at the special session of the International Coffee Council in London on 5-9 June.


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Remains of General Sikorski

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to refuse requests that the remains of General Sikorski be removed from the Polish war cemetery at Newark ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waldegrave : The matter is a difficult and delicate one which divides the Polish people, both in Poland and in this country. We periodically receive representations, both for and against the transfer of the remains to Poland, and we review them in the light of the circumstances prevailing at the time. The Prime Minister said in Warsaw in November that the time was not yet right for such a transfer.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Vehicle Exports

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what is his estimate of the import content of United Kingdom exports of (i) cars and (ii) commercial vehicles in 1970, 1979 and 1988.

Mr. Maude : The information is not available.

Weights and Measures (Wine)

Sir David Price : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he intends to take steps to implement the voluntary code of practice on the sale of wine by the glass in licensed premises.

Mr. Forth : I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay) on 16 May at column 115.

Radio

Mr. Gale : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether the review of the civil use of radio frequency spectrum between 470 and 3400 MHz has been completed ; and whether he will publish the report.

Mr. Atkins : The committee studying civil use of the radio frequency spectrum from 470 to 3400 MHz has completed its review and my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is today publishing the report. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library.

This review was initiated as part of a rolling programme recommended by the Merriman committee, to audit present use of the radio spectrum, to analyse emerging developments and to assess potential new demands. The report on the corresponding independent review of defence use of this part of the radio spectrum, chaired by Sir Kenneth Corfield, was published in June 1988.

I am sure that industry and users will welcome this report for its in-depth analysis of the current uses and future demands in this key portion of the radio spectrum. The United Kingdom is already at the forefront in exploring innovative ways of exploiting this crucial, finite, natural resource, and I believe the report makes a significant contribution to the technical base from which United Kingdom can maintain its position at the leading edge of telecommunications exploitation throughout the 1990s and beyond.


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The review was conducted on the basis of existing policy regarding management and allocation of the radio spectrum, and is being published in advance of detailed consideration by Government to stimulate interest and to promote discussion.

PRIME MINISTER

Soviet Diplomats (Expulsion)

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister if she will refer the matters which led to the recent expulsion of Soviet diplomats to the Security Commission.

The Prime Minister : No.

Cabinet Office (Cash Limits)

Mr. Oppenheim : To ask the Prime Minister if there are any proposals to change the 1989-90 cash limit and running costs limit for the Cabinet Office : other services.

The Prime Minister : Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary revised estimate the cash limit for the Cabinet Office : Other Services (class XX, vote 2) has been reduced by £2,764,000 from £19,403,000 to £16,639,000. This decrease will be offset by a corresponding increase in the cash limit for the Central Statistical Office (class XIX, vote 18) and reflects the transfer of part provision between the Cabinet Office and Central Statistical Office as a result of the reorganisation of the statistical services which I announced on 5 April 1989.

The running costs limit for the Cabinet Office : Other Services has been reduced by £2,901,000 from £20,984,000 to £18,083,000 in the main as a result of the functions transferred to the Central Statistical Office (£2,898,000) and also to provide £3,000, reclassified from running costs, as a grant in aid to the British national committee for the history of the second world war.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Police Operational Procedures

Mr. Sheerman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if he will make a statement on the implications for police operational procedures following the conviction of those involved with the killing of PC Frank Mason ;

(2) if he will announce a new inquiry into police operational procedures following the conviction of armed robbers for causing the death of PC Frank Mason ;

(3) whether, in the light of recent experience, new guidelines on stake-out procedures are to be issued to police authorities.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : No. Police operational procedures are a matter for chief officers.

Woolwich Prison

Mr. Cartwright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what response he has received to his invitation to the London borough of Greenwich to suggest a name for the new Woolwich prison ; what opportunities will be given to local people to put forward suggestions ; and when he expects to announce his decision.


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Mr. Douglas Hogg : We have not yet received a formal response from the London borough of Greenwich to our invitation to it to suggest a suitable name for the new prison at Woolwich. We understand that arrangements have been made as is considered necessary. I shall write to the hon. Member once a formal decision has been taken.

European Elections (Electoral Registers)

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will instruct the election officers, in each of the European election constituencies, to issue to the agents of each prospective candidate a full set of electoral registers for the constituency free of charge ; and if he will make a statement on the practice currently being adopted in the north Wales constituency for the June 1989 Euro-elections.

Mr, Douglas Hogg : No. The Representation of the People Regulations 1986 (as applied by the European Parliamentary Elections Regulations 1986) include the provision of two free copies of each electoral register in force to each candidate at a European Parliamentary election, and it is the duty of electoral registration officers and acting returning officers to comply with this provision. We are considering the possible need for some further guidance on this point,.

Barry McKay

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when Barry McKay, detained at Risley remand centre, will have his case brought to court ; what information he has on (a) this detainee's dietary habits, (b) whether he has lodged any formal complaint and (c) what action has been taken ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Mr. Barry McKay has been at Manchester prison since 29 March and his trial will take place at Chester Crown court on a date yet to be fixed.

Mr. McKay is a practising Moslem and every effort has been made to meet his dietary requirements since the date of his reception at Risley remand centre on 12 September 1988. However, Mr. McKay refused all food from 27 March until 9 April on which day he requested, and was provided with, food in accordance with the restrictions imposed by Ramadan.

I understand that Mr. McKay has made no formal complaints about his diet and that he is now accepting food appropriate to the needs of his faith.

Women Police Officers (South Yorkshire)

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of South Yorkshire as to why women police officers in the South Yorkshire police force, who have been on maternity leave or time off to attend to their young children, are reinstated at a lower rank when they return ; what is the policy of other police forces in England and Wales ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Under the Police Regulations 1987, women police officers have the right to return to their force after maternity leave (which is limited to nine months after the birth) without any reduction in rank. An officer who


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has resigned from the service will normally be considered for reappointment only in the rank of constable, although previous service counts for pay purposes.

Probation Officers

Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many probation officers have been employed in England and Wales during each of the last 10 years.

Mr. John Patten : The number of probation officers employed in England and Wales at 31 December in each of the last 10 years was :


       |Number       

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

1979   |5,467        

1980   |5,602        

1981   |5,656        

1982   |5,801        

1983   |5,994        

1984   |6,161        

1985   |6,343        

1986   |6,471        

1987   |6,651        

1988   |6,792        

This is an increase of 1,325, or 24 per cent., in the period in question.

Hull Prison

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when Hull prison was built ; what was the originally intended maximum number of prisoners ; what is the number on remand or serving custodial sentences there now ; and for how many hours daily an inmate is confined to his cell.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Her Majesty's prison Hull was opened in 1870. The accommodation originally comprised 304 single cells (not including those used to house prisoners on reception and undergoing punishment). The establishment's certified normal accommodation is currently 406. On Friday 19 May 621 prisoners were held there, 354 on remand and 267 under sentence.

The daily routine varies widely as between individual inmates. On average adult inmates at Hull spend at least three and a half hours out of their cells each day for regular purposes such as exercise, ablutions, meals bathing and kit changing, canteen, association and library. The average for young inmates, who receive additional association, is at least four and a half hours. Individual inmates spend additional periods out of their cells for activities such as voluntary education and physical education, work, domestic and official visits and religious services.

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people currently at Hull prison have ever been in-patients at a psychiatric hospital or clinic, showing (a) serving a custodial sentence and (b) those on remand.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : The information requested is not readily available in respect of the total population of Hull prison and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost, as records there are not yet computerised. Of the 12 prisoners in the prison hospital on 22 May, five unconvicted prisoners and two convicted prisoners have been in-patients in a psychiatric hospital.


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Horse Race Reporting

Mr. Henderson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy to seek power to enable him to ensure that the BBC and independent television spread out their horse racing coverage evenly throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Renton : No. It is a long-standing principle that the Government do not intervene in programming matters. Subject to the obligations placed on them by Parliament, it is for the broadcasting authorities to decide which programmes to broadcast and from which locations.

Litter Act

Mr. Heddle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will discuss with representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers the practicalities of introducing legislation to allow the police to levy on-the-spot fines for breaches of the Litter Act.

Mr. John Patten : We are currently considering a number of proposals for dealing with the litter nuisance. The results of the year-long fixed penalty scheme in Westminster will be available soon, and we shall want to consider these before contemplating the introduction to an on-the-spot fine regime nationally.

Latchmere House (Detainees)

Mr. Hanley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a further statement on his proposals to transfer detainees from Latchmere house to Haslar in Gosport ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : We intend to relocate Immigration Act detainees from Latchmere house remand centre to the prison service establishment at Haslar, Gosport as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made, probably in early July.

We are taking great care to ensure that facilities at Haslar adequately meet the needs of the detainees. Haslar will offer a better regime in more suitable premises and will cater for the inmates' religious and welfare meeds.

The accommodation at Latchmere house will be used to hold remand prisoners from the London area. This measure will make a substantial contribution to our aim of clearing remand prisoners from police cells.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Value Added Tax

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received concerning the imposition of value added tax on pitch fees for static caravans ; and if he will make it his policy to achieve consistency between the exemption from value added tax of retired people staying at hotels for periods in excess of four weeks, and such people staying at static caravans for similar periods of time.

Mr. Lilley : I have received a number of representations via right hon. and hon. Members and I met representatives of the British Holiday and Home Parks Association and the National Caravan Council on 3 May. There is no direct connection between the long-stay VAT relief for


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retired people living in hotels and VAT on static caravan pitch rentals at seasonal sites. The relief was introduced to protect retired people living in hotels as their permanent accommodation. There is no VAT at all on pitch rentals in non-seasonal caravan sites which may be used as permanent accommodation. Moreover, VAT on seasonal caravan sites applies not to the accommodation as such (the caravans are zero-rated) but only to the pitch rental--which is the right to locate the caravan on the park and have access to all the facilities of the holiday park.

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the loss of value added tax or of the shortfall on the yield of value added tax as a result of shortages in the number of VAT control officers available for service.

Mr. Lilley [holding answer 23 May 1989] : In their management plan for 1989-90 published in March, the commissioners of Customs and Excise estimated that if there was no improvement in the levels of recruitment and retention of staff, and if each additional control officer could secure the average yield of existing officers some £60 million of additional tax could be at stake : around 0.2 per cent. of the total VAT yield. Although Customs and Excise have been facing difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff, continuous efforts are being made to offset any potential loss of tax by the increasingly effective targeting of available resources.

Overseas Assets

Mr. Andy Stewart : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the latest figures for the identified stock of United Kingdom net overseas assets ; and what these represent as a share of gross domestic product.

Mr. Major : An estimate of the value of the stock of United Kingdom net overseas assets identified at end-1988 will be included in the Pink Book in August. The latest estimate is of the order of £115 billion to £120 billion, which represents about one quarter of money GDP.

Balance of Payments

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the balance of payments for the first quarter of 1989.

Mr. Major : The provisional estimate of the current account balance for the first quarter of 1989 was a deficit of £4.5 billion. This is likely to be revised when the full balance of payments accounts are published on 15 June.

PSA Staff (Pay)

Sir Eldon Griffiths : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what local pay additions have been, or are being, negotiated with the trade union side of the Whitley council in respect of Property Services Agency civil servants employed in Cambridge ; and if he will publish in the Official Report a table of any such supplementary local pay additions as are paid to Cambridge-based officials, but not Newmarket-based staff, by the Property Services Agency, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Department of Trade and Industry, Forestry Commission, Department of the Environment, and other bodies such as the National Institute of Agricultural Botany, in respect of the following grades : AA, AO, Typist, PA and EO.


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Mr. Brooke : LPA payments are not a matter for negotiation with the trade union side. However, the trade union side in each Department concerned is consulted prior to their introduction.

The following local pay additions are currently being paid in Cambridge :

Administrative Assistant

DTI

£300 on entry ;

£600 after 1 year ; reducing to £400 on the maximum of the pay scale.

LCD

£300 after 6 months.

MAFF

£300 on entry.

PSA

£300 on entry.

Administrative Officer

DTI

£300 on entry ;

£600 after 1 year ; reducing to £400 on the maximum of the pay scale.

Forestry Commission

£400 after 1 year.

LCD

£300 after 6 months.

Typist

Forestry Commission

£400 after 1 year.

LCD

£300 after 6 months.

NIAB

£500 on entry ;

£600 after 1 year.

Personal Secretary

DTI

£600 on entry.

Executive Officer

LCD

£300 after 6 months.


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