Mr. Rifkind : Earlier this year I met the chief executives of Scottish Television, Grampian Television and Border Television to discuss their views on the White Paper "Broadcasting in the '90s : Competition, Choice and Quality" and on the possible future arrangements for broadcasting in Scotland, including the future of Gaelic broadcasting. My officials had similar discussions with staff of BBC Scotland and last December I discussed Gaelic broadcasting with BBC representatives at the offices of Radio Nan Eilean in Stornoway. In April this year, I met representatives of Comunn na Gaidhlig specifically to hear their views on the future of Gaelic broadcasting.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said during his statement on 13 June, we will make announcements before long on our proposals for Gaelic broadcasting.
Mr. Kennedy : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to be in a position to respond to the several letters outstanding from the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye concerning specific cases of individual financial losses or commercial damage as a result of the severe weather conditions in the Highlands and Islands earlier in the current year ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Michael Forsyth : A reply covering all eight cases raised by the hon. Member for Ross, Cromarty and Skye was sent by my noble Friend the Minister of State on 27 April, the day on which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State announced the Government's package of measures for assisting with storm damage Hansard, columns 609-12.
A follow-up letter from the hon. Member on behalf of one of the cases involved is being considered and a reply will be issued shortly.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider introducing a link between rate poundages in Scotland and the new unified business rate to be applied in England after 1990.
Column 540current Local Government and Housing Bill to enable us to prescribe the actual non-domestic rate of each local authority for a transitional period beginning in 1990-91. Our intention is that rate poundages in Scotland will generally be reduced relative to the uniform business rate in England and Wales so that, after five years or so, they will be brought into line with the rate in England and Wales.
Mr. Kirkwood To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider introducing an extension of the mechanism of industrial derating to commercial premises in Scotland in the period leading up to the introduction of the unified business rate.
Mr. Lang : The future of industrial derating will fall to be considered once the likely effect of the 1990 revaluations on different sides of the Border and on different sectors of property become known later this year.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will provide for interim relief to business rate payers in Scotland to take account of the discrepancies in rates paid north and south of the English border in the period leading up to the introduction of the unified business rate.
Operational area and date of implementation
County of Renfrew--6 April 1981.
County of Dumbarton--4 October 1982.
County of Lanark--3 January 1984.
County of the Barony and Regality of Glasgow--30 September 1985. These four counties contain about 30 per cent. of the housing stock of Scotland.
Further extension of the Land Register will be undertaken once current backlogs in the General Register of Sasines and the Land Register have been substantially reduced.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish in the Official Report the average length of time it has taken to record a deed in the General Register of Sasines over the last 10 years.
Average turnround time in days Year |Days --------------- 1979 |63 1980 |64 1981 |85 1982 |79 1983 |115 1984 |123 1985 |110 1986 |110 1987 |137 1988 |158 Note: Turnround time is the number of calendar days between receipt of a writ for recording and its return to the presenter.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take urgent steps to introduce common methods for use by assessors in Scotland when deciding questions relating to the status of tourist accommodation to include guidance in the assessment of the domestic element in computing the commercial rateable value of hotels and guest houses, the criteria to be used to classify
bed-and-breakfast establishments as commercial subjects not subject to the standard community charge and circumstances to be taken into account in deciding whether self-catering cottages are subject to the payment of the full standard community charge.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to ensure that statutory instruments dealing with matters such as solicitors' fees and court expenses are not implemented until after the regulations are made available to the legal profession.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I appreciate the desire of solicitors for adequate notification of forthcoming revisions to solicitors fees and court expenses. The normal arrangements for publishing statutory instruments permit this.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he is taking to monitor the effect the introduction of the community charge is having on the tourist industry in Scotland ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet representatives of the Scottish tourist industry to discuss the effects on tourism of the introduction of the community charge in Scotland.
Mr. Ingram : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he intends to maintain the existing number of appointees from local authorities to the board of East Kilbride development corporation when appointments fall to be made to the board.
Mr. Lang : In appointing members to new town development corporations, the Secretary of State is required to consult the local authorities and to have regard to the desirability of securing the services of at least one person resident in or having special knowledge of the locality. Both East Kilbride district council and Strathclyde regional council have been invited to offer nominees for vacancies due to arise in the board of East Kilbride development corporation on 1 January 1990. I cannot say at this stage what will be the outcome of that consultation, but all members are appointed because of the contribution their personal qualities enable them to make to the new towns.
Mr. Rifkind : In answer to a question from the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) on 8 November 1984 ( Official Report, columns 6 -7), my right hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) announced that the Forestry Commission's disposals programme would be extended to 31 March 1989, and that its main purpose would be to rationalise the forestry estate thereby improving the commission's efficiency and the commercial effectiveness of the forestry enterprise.
We welcome the important contribution that the rationalisation of the forestry estate has made to the increased efficiency of the forestry enterprise over the past few years. The commission has been able to dispose of a large number of plantations in a way which has assisted the streamlining of its management structure and enabled it to achieve significant improvements in its operational efficiency. The annual net call on Exchequer funds for the enterprise has been greatly reduced. At the same time the commission has been able to make an important contribution to the major new developments which have taken place in the wood-processing industry in recent years. The market for timber is now buoyant, to the great benefit of both public and private sector timber-growers.
My right hon. Friends and I have considered the future extent and purpose of the commission's disposal programme. We have had regard to the needs of the wood-processing industry for a steady and secure source of supply ; to the effect of the programme on the use of the commission's forests for public access and recreation ; and to environmental considerations. We also accept that the commission must be able to plan ahead without the uncertainty caused by frequent reviews, and that it will continue to make a small but effective contribution towards the fulfilment of our targets for new planting. We consider that the rationalisation policy has been successful and that there is scope for it to continue to be pursued with vigour. In accordance with the general policy of this Government, we also wish to see some further transfer of forests out of the public sector. This will have
Column 543the important effect of strengthening and enhancing the role of the private sector, whose proportion of the nation's woodland estate has already risen to over 60 per cent. We also see it as a valuable opportunity to widen interest and participation in British forestry. We have therefore asked the Forestry Commissioners to proceed with the further disposal of some 100,000 hectares of forestry land and properties in the period up to the end of the century, of which they should seek to dispose of some 50,000 hectares in the first half of the period. The commissioners will continue to be responsible for selecting properties for sale, and in doing so they will have regard to the selection guidelines which forestry Ministers set them in 1981. In particular I have referred to the use of the commission's forests for public access and recreation, which my right hon. Friends and I warmly support and encourage. Forests have a major part to play in the enjoyment and understanding of the countryside and the commission will continue to have an important role in this. We are concerned, however, that the general public should also continue to enjoy access to those forests to be disposed of by the commission in a way which is compatible with management for forestry and other purposes. We are therefore giving careful consideration to ways of achieving the objective.
It is estimated that, subject to market factors, the programme which we have now asked the commissioners to carry out should realise up to £150 million over the period. By settling this issue for a decade, we intend to put the commissioners in a position to implement the programme so as to consolidate their forestry estate in a rational and orderly manner.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations he has received on the need to establish a centre in the south of Scotland for the rehabilitation of persons suffering from head injuries ; and what progress has been made in funding the necessary resources and possible site for such a centre.
Mr. Michael Forsyth [holding answer 15 June 1989] : I have had a number of letters about improving rehabilitation services in Scotland for people suffering from head injuries. I expect to receive a report very shortly, following a study by the Scottish Home and Health Department, on how these services could be improved, and what arrangements for funding and location would be appropriate.
Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much money Her Majesty's Government has allocated to assist in the repatriation of Namibian refugees ; and how this will be deployed.
Sir John Stanley : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, further to his reply to the hon. Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor) of 12 June, Official Report, column 274 , what figures he used for (a) net development assistance, and (b) gross national product, in calculating the figure of 0.32 per cent.
|£ million -------------------------------------------------------- Net official development assistance |1,467.84 Gross national product |459,610
Sir John Stanley : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the grants to United Kingdom non- governmental organisations engaged in overseas development made by the European Community in the latest year for which figures are available.
Mr. Chris Patten : Under its NGO programme the European Community co -finances projects in developinging countries and development education projects with European NGOs. Normally the Community contributes 50 per cent. of the costs of individual projects. In 1987, the latest year for which figures are available, amounts granted to United Kingdom NGOs were as follows :
2. For Development Education |£ -------------------------------------------------------------- Action for World Development Fund |38,028 Africa Centre |85,241 CAFOD |99,615 Centre for World Development Education |45,634 Christian Aid |49,403 Catholic Institute of International Relations |83,594 Federal Trust |21,127 International Boys Town Trust |10,203 National Association of Developing Education Centres |74,690 Namibia Support Committee |62,639 Oxfam |44,703 Oxford House Trust |18,612 Returned Volunteer Action |65,705 TV Trust for Environment |76,125 Voluntary Service Overseas |19,177 Workers Education Association |32,917 World Development Group |19,471 |------- |846,884
Table file CW890616.004 not available
Sir John Stanley : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which official bodies and organisations outside the United Kingdom make grants to United Kingdom non-governmental organisations engaged in overseas development after either consulting or obtaining the approval of his Department.
Mr. Chris Patten : There are no formal arrangements for organisations outside the United Kingdom to consult my Department or seek its approval before making grants to United Kingdom voluntary agencies engaged in overseas development. But we are happy to put such organisations in touch with British agencies if asked to do so ; and we have taken the initiative in encouraging the Japanese to use their grant aid in support of projects undertaken in developing countries by British and other third country NGOs.
Mr. Tom King : I last met representatives of the Government of the Republic of Ireland at the meeting of the intergovernmental conference in Belfast on 24 May. At that meeting we completed the review of the working of the conference and copies of the joint statement were placed in the Library.
Mr. John D. Taylor (Stratford) : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many pupils are resident at Mitchell House school for the handicapped, Holywood road, Belfast ; what proposals he has for them after the closure of this school ; and at which other similar schools there is residential accommodation available for these students.
Dr. Mawhinney [holding answer 15 June 1989] : Ten pupils are currently attending the boarding department at Mitchell House special school, Belfast. The only other school providing residential accommodation for physically handicapped pupils is Fleming Fulton special school, Belfast. I understand that the Belfast education and library board is currently considering the closure of the boarding department at Mitchell House school but no decision has yet been taken. Should the board decide to close this facility, it would be required to publish a development proposal which would enable objectors to make their views known to the Department of Education within two months. The Department would have the ultimate decision in the matter.
Mr. Maude : I understand that the Director General of Fair Trading is continuing his inquiries into the structure of newspaper publishing, competition between newspapers, and the involvement of newspaper groups in other media. If a full-scale investigation were seen to be necessary it would be likely to take the form of a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, further to the Economic Secretary's answer to the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury on 12 June, Official Report , column 272 , he will indicate what other housing costs are included in the Italian index of consumer prices quoted by him on 7 June ; and what housing costs other than mortgage interest payments are included in the United Kingdom retail price index figures.
Mr. Lilley [holding answer 15 June 1989] : The only housing costs included in the Italian consumer price index are rent, water charges and repairs. The housing group of the United Kingdom RPI includes rent, domestic rates, water and other charges, repair and maintenance charges, do -it-yourself materials and dwelling insurance and ground rents as well as mortgage interest payments.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : The constituents of road materials are specified by the British Standards Institution. I understand that the institution has not yet set a timetable for substituting a lead-free pigment in their specification. Work to develop such a pigment of acceptable performance and durability is in progress.
Column 548and Road Research Laboratory with regard to (a) whether spray-reducing benefit can be applied to the resurfacing of existing roads and (b) whether this will be a general specification of new roads as proposed in the White Paper, "Roads for Prosperity" ; and if he will make a statement.
Trials of new materials normally last for five years so that their performance can be compared with conventional materials before they are permitted for general use.
In this case the material appears to be as durable as conventional materials and is effective in reducing vehicle spray.
We are proposing to amend the Department's specification to allow the use of pervious macadam on new or existing trunk roads. The aim is to issue it early in 1990 as soon as the trials have been completed and the results fully assessed. This will depend on those results being satisfactory.
Pervious macadam could prove more expensive than conventional materials and if so its use is more likely to be justified on sections of road where, for example, increased accident savings can be demonstrated.
Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what information he has concerning the circumstances in which the fishing vessel MV Majestic was sunk between Shetland and Orkney on 13 June ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Portillo : The Fraserburgh registered fishing vessel Majestic capsized and sank some 30 miles west of Sumburgh Head at about 1300 on 13 June with the loss of five lives. Two crew survived. The vessel was pair trawling at the time of the incident when the net snagged on an underwater obstruction. There are no indications at this stage of any involvement by a submarine.
One of the Department's marine surveyors has been appointed to investigate the casualty.
Mr. Richard Shepherd : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was his Department's latest estimated cost for completion of the previously preferred route for the Birmingham relief road ; and if he will estimate the number of man hours his Department has spent on the previously preferred route.
Mr. Portillo [holding answer 15 June 1989] : The estimated cost of the Birmingham northern relief road is £219.5 million at May 1989 prices. The Department is unable to disaggregate the number of man hours spent on individual schemes.
Mr. Ashton : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether he is now in a position to reply and treat as a matter of urgency the letter from the hon. Member for Bassetlaw of 11 April regarding redundancy payments at Rexo which was passed on to him by the Department of Employment on 30 May.
Mr. Peter Walker : It is important that there should be effective links between schools and business so that young people have the opportunity to experience the world of work and learn about the career choices available to them, and business has a workforce better prepared and equipped to meet its needs.
We have a range of activities designed to improve communications between schools and industry and to encourage enterprise activities in schools. The Technical and Vocational Education Initiative has proved successful and is being extended to all schools and colleges. The GCSE examination has an emphasis on learning by experience and the certificate of pre-vocational education also assists in the transition from school to adulthood and the world of work. The new national curriculum has as one of its main aims the preparation of pupils for adult life and work. Businessmen also have the opportunity to become governors of schools and colleges.
Each local education authority in Wales has an officer responsible for education/industry links and there is evidence of increasing interest in organisations at the local level working to develop partnerships between education and industry.
In addition, we now have a network of enterprise and education advisers whose purpose is to market to employers the benefits of links with schools and persuade them to become involved. Also, in the context of my valleys programme, I have met with the chairmen of the education committee and director of education of each of the five valleys LEAs to discuss ways of improving links between schools and industry. Positive action has already been taken and I hope to have further meetings in the near future.