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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 20 July 1989


White Papers

Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if, for each of the last three White Papers issued by his Department, for which legislation has been started, he will state the time elapsed between their publication and the First Readings of any Bills connected with them ; and if he will do the same for the last three White Papers issued by his Department prior to 1979.

Mr. Channon : The last three White Papers published by my Department, in which legislation was proposed and has been subsequently started or completed, were : Airports Policy (Cmnd. 9542), Channel Fixed Link (Cmnd. 9735) and Merchant Shipping (Cmnd. 239). These were published on 5 June 1985, 4 February 1986 and 2 November 1987 respectively and the First Readings of the Airports, Channel Tunnel and Merchant Shipping Bills resulting from them took place on 16 January 1986, 17 April 1986 and 18 January 1988. It is not for me to answer for the record of the last Government in this matter, but the information requested should be available in the Library of the House and the Official Report.

London River Bus Service

Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will consider making a further grant to the London river bus service in order that it may accept London Regional Transport tickets and passes.

Mr. Portillo : An arrangement for Riverbus to accept London Regional Transport's tickets and passes would be a matter for negotiation between the operators in the light of their commercial interests. I do not consider that it would justify a further grant.

Summer Time

Mr. Thornton : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are the equivalent figures for the years 1968-69 and 1970-71 to correspond with those from the transport and road research laboratory, illustrated on page 9, paragraph 28 of the Government's Green Paper, "Summertime", Cmd. 722.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The estimates for the winter of 1968-69 and 1970-71 that correspond to those contained in paragraph 28 of the Green Paper are :



Reduction in:                                

  fatalities         |239    |226            

  serious casualties |908    |866            

  slight casualties  |1,234  |1,211          

Mr. Thornton : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport with reference to the transport and road

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research laboratory calculations illustrated in the Government's Green Paper, "Summertime", Cmd. 722, what would be the estimated effect on figure 3 on page 10, tables 1 and 2 on page 11 and table 3 on page 12 of an extra 1.5 million workers joining the morning and evening commuter rush hours.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : When roads are congested, accidents occur at lower speed, leading to lower risk of injury, and less serious injuries. Thus, transferring substantial numbers of trips to the peak periods could lead to fewer--and less serious--casualties among these travellers. While there could be more casualties in the less congested pre-peak period, the net effect on the results quoted in the Green Paper is likely to be negligible.

Orange Badge Scheme

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will initiate a pilot survey to investigate the extent and nature of the abuse of the orange badge scheme ;

(2) if he has made any estimate of the extent to which abuse of the orange badge scheme has contributed to any overloading and ineffectiveness of the scheme.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : Any research into abuse of the orange badge scheme, no matter how carefully handled, could well be seen as questioning the parking concessions which many genuinely disabled people quite properly enjoy. That could spread unjustified alarm and lead to allegations of harassment of disabled people.

Advice from organisations representing disabled people and letters to the Department by members of the public show that abuse of the scheme is widely perceived to be a problem.

It is at present difficult for police and traffic wardens to spot misuse of orange badges by able-bodied people.

We have proposed that the orange badge should be redesigned in the form of a personal passport-type document. There would be space for a photograph of the holder. We believe that this will do much to deter abuse and aid enforcement.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it an offence for non-disabled drivers to display an orange badge whilst driving, unless the person to whom it was issued is in the car, and whilst parking, unless the car is being used to pick up or drop off the badge holder.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : It is already an offence for an able-bodied person to misuse an orange badge. The maximum penalty is £400. We believe that our proposal to redesign the badge with space for a photograph of the holder will deter misuse.

We do not rule out further changes to the operation of the scheme should they be necessary to preserve its value to severely disabled people.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport approximately how many people now possessing an orange badge were awarded it at the discretion of the local authority ; and what is the estimated number of these who would lose entitlement if the recommendations of the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee were implemented.

Mr. Bottomley : Information on the criteria under which local authorities issue badges is not held centrally.

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Soundings of a number of local authorities in 1986 suggested that about three quarters of badges were being issued under regulation 5(d) of the Disabled Persons (Badges for Motor Vehicles) Regulations 1982.

We do not want to restrict badges only to those who receive mobility allowance. We propose to tighten the criterion in regulation 5(d). We shall consult widely on detailed proposals.

There is no proposal to withdraw existing badges. Our aim is to ensure that in future only severely disabled people who most need badges will qualify for them.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many people currently receive mobility allowance ; how many of them also have orange badges ; and if any study has been made of the reasons why those with the mobility allowance who do not have the orange badge have not claimed it ;

(2) if his Department has collected evidence on whether people without mobility allowance, who have an orange badge awarded under the discretionary powers of the local authority, might be eligible for mobility allowance were they to apply.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : Some 580,000 people currently receive mobility allowance.

We have no reason to find out how many mobility allowance recipients hold orange badges ; why those recipients without badges have not claimed them ; or how many people with badges might be eligible for mobility allowance were they to apply.

We do not propose to restrict eligibility for orange badges only to those who receive mobility allowance.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has received any advice regarding the maximum and minimum number of orange badges that would give a fair balance between the needs of severely disabled people and the requirement to have a scheme that is not so overloaded that it becomes unworkable.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : Our proposals for the eligibility criteria are designed to ensure that people with severe mobility problems continue to qualify for a badge in accordance with the original aims of the scheme.

We have no quota or target in mind for the number of badges on issue. There will be no rationing of badges.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will consider the proposal that all applications for orange badges to be issued under the discretionary powers of local authorities should be accompanied by a medical note from a doctor who is not the applicant's personal general practitioner nor from the same practice.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The introduction of independent medical assessments was considered in the Department's 1986 consultation paper which looked at possible changes to the orange badge scheme. Opinions on this idea were divided.

We shall in due course be considering with interested bodies how eligibility criteria could be framed and how assessments could be handled.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if there has been any investigation of the contribution to the variation in the number of orange badges per capita issued by local authorities that is made by (a) variation in the local incidence of disability and (b) local authorities' differing interpretations of the guidelines.

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Mr. Peter Bottomley : The different issuing rates of certain comparable and neighbouring local authorities provide a strong indication that authorities do not apply the rules uniformly.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what evidence he has regarding the proportion of the people receiving an orange badge issued by local authorities under their discretionary powers, who supply a medical note from their own general practitioner with their application ; and what proportion are examined by or supply a note from a doctor who is not their own general practitioner.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : It is for local authorities to decide how to assess applications for orange badges.

This information is not held centrally.

National Bus Company Subsidiaries

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Workington of 10 July, whether he will list the 18 properties in which mortgage charges were placed as part of the sale of 14 National Bus Company subsidiaries ; and whether he will state at what price each of the National Bus Company subsidiaries was sold.

Mr. Portillo : Details of such properties are regarded as commercially sensitive. For similar reasons the proceeds of individual sales are not being disclosed, although details of the overall proceeds from NBC's disposal programme were provided to the House on 25 January in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Mr. Shaw).

Driving Licences

Mr. Boswell : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to improve the acceptability abroad of British driving licences ; and if he will take steps to press for an extension of the validity of international driving permits.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : From next april DVLC will begin issuing a new- style pink driving licence which will in due course show all of an individual's driving entitlement--motor cycles, cars, lorries and buses--on a single licence. The vehicle categories on the driving licence will broadly conform to the categories used on international driving permits (IDPs), and the design of the licence will correspond very closely to the Community model prescribed in the first directive on driver licensing. Although we are unaware of any significant problems with international recognition of the current pink driving licence, the new licence should be even more acceptable and intelligible to overseas authorities.

The maximum period of validity of an IDP is laid down in the international conventions governing their issue. It is not within the United Kingdom's competence to extend the validity of IDPs unilaterally.

A1-M1 Link

Mr. Boswell : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will give the average daily flow of vehicles for the A1-M1 link road projected for its first year of opening and the comparable current and projected figures for the M45.

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Mr. Peter Bottomley : The required estimates, in terms of annual average vehicles per day, are :

(a) projected flow on A1-M1 link in 1991-92--19,000.

(b) projected flow on the M45 in its year of opening (1959) was 16,000.

(c) the estimated flow on the M45 in 1987 was 7,900.

The projected figure for the M45 was made before the opening of the M6, after which the traffic flow on the M45 declined considerably.


Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what study his Department has made of the agreements reached between the United States Government and other European states on access to their airports for United States carriers ; when he now expects negotiations with the United States Government on access to Manchester airport to be re-opened ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : We understand that some European states' bilateral agreements automatically give United States carriers wide access to their airports. But our agreement requires the maintenance of balanced opportunities for the parties. The United States Government have indicated that they will soon propose a package of new rights for their carriers, including rights into Manchester. They are unlikely to be ready to negotiate before October, however.

Scottish Lowland Airports

Mr. Allan Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he intends to revise the traffic distribution rules for Scottish lowland airports before the House rises for the summer recess.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The Government are appealing against the recent ruling in the Scottish Court of Session, and understand that, pending the outcome of that appeal, the effect of the judgment is suspended. Scottish lowland airports policy remains as set out in the 1985 White Paper "Airports Policy" and confirmed by my right hon. Friend in his parliamentary answer of 8 May 1989, at column 343.

Mr. Allan Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what have been the total costs incurred by his Department resulting from court action in relation to the implementation of Scottish lowland airports policy.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : The Government have yet to be advised of the legal costs they have incurred in relation to the proceedings in court.

South Circular Assessment Study

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on how many occasions since 1 August 1988, his officials have met Travers Morgan to discuss the south circular assessment study.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : Officials have held monthly progress meetings and other meetings as necessary.

Used Vehicles (Roadworthiness)

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will outline the steps taken by his Department to empower trading standards officers to inspect used vehicles for sale on garage forecourts for roadworthiness.

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Mr. Peter Bottomley : The Director General of Fair Trading has submitted proposals on these lines on behalf of a number of organisations. These are being considered in the light of existing responsibilities and powers of the Department's vehicle examiners. Any purchaser of an older second-hand car, whether from a forecourt or elsewhere, would be well advised to seek a recent MOT certificate and consider employing a qualified independent third party to inspect the vehicle.

HGV Wheel Loss

Mr. Roger King : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if, following the talks with the Institute of Road Transport Engineers, future funding of research into heavy goods vehicles wheel loss has now been determined.

Mr. Peter Bottomley [holding answer 17 July 1989] : The principal reason for heavy goods vehicle wheel detachment is ineffective maintenance. The Department supports the initiatives being taken by the IRTE to remedy this including advice to operators.

Further research into wheel and fixing design is a matter for the industry and is being considered by the appropriate BSI committee.


Pressurised Water Reactor, Wylfa

Mr. Malcolm Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy why the standard consultation period of six months prior to a public inquiry has not been provided in the case of the application to build a third pressurised water reactor at Wylfa in North Wales ; if he will reinstate a consultation period of six months ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Spicer : My right hon. Friend needs to set time periods in which objectors can make their views known to him. The statutory obligation on him is to give a period of not less than 21 days in which objections from the public can be made to him. I believe that the three months period which he has set in this case provides ample time for anyone who wishes to object to the proposal to do so. In the light of all the representations he receives, my right hon. Friend will then decide whether a public inquiry is necessary. If he calls for an inquiry to be held all objectors, registered pursuant to section 34 of the Electricity Act 1957, will be sent details of the inquiry, including the procedures to be followed if the objector wishes to give evidence.

Mining Subsidence

Mr. Heddle : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) if he will publish in the Official Report details of the recommendations of the Waddilove committee on coal mining subsidence which have so far been implemented and the timescale in which he expects the remaining recommendations to be implemented, together with details thereof ;

(2) when he proposes that British Coal's code of practice in respect of compensation for coal mining subsidence will be brought into statute.

Mr. Michael Spicer : I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere

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Port and Neston (Dr. Woodcock) on 12 January, at columns 739-41. This lists those recommendations of the Waddilove committee which have been implemented wholly or in part by British Coal. The Government's proposals for legislation to deal with the remaining recommendations were set out in a consultation document circulated in April 1988, copies of which are in the Library of the House. These proposals, which include putting British Coal's code of practice on a statutory footing, will be implemented as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits.

Fiddlers Ferry

Mr. Hoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what information he has on when the Central Electricity Generating Board is going to install a flue gas desulphurisation plant at Fiddlers Ferry ; and what is its estimated cost.

Mr. Michael Spicer : This is an operational matter for the CEGB, and I have asked the chairman to reply to the hon. Member.

Energy Efficiency

Mr. Hannam : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement on the campaign to promote energy efficiency in the public sector.

Mr. Parkinson : The Government are leading a campaign to improve energy efficiency within the public sector.

The campaign will start with Government Departments and then extend to the public services. The aim for Government Departments is to achieve savings rising to £45 million per annum--15 per cent. of the current total bill--over five years.

A Minister within each Department has been given specific responsibility for energy efficiency. A list of these Ministers will be placed in the Library. My Department's Energy Efficiency Office is creating a small team to brief each Minister, enabling them to set targets for their Departments and agree plans for achieving these targets. This team will monitor progress and report to me, and targets and measures of performance will be published.

Departments will be able to count these new gains towards their targets for efficiency improvements in three year running costs management plans.

Mr. Hannam : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has given further consideration to the requirement for electricity suppliers to promote energy efficiency.

Mr. Parkinson : I have today placed copies of a revised condition 18 of the public electricity supply licence in the Library.


ODA Videos

Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give the print run, production and distribution costs of the Overseas Development Administration publication, "British Overseas Aid, Anniversary Review 1989" and the two associated videos with details of their distribution.

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Mr. Chris Patten : On the Anniversary Review I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr. Davis) on 14 July at column 648 .

The two new videos form part of the Overseas Development Administration's annual information programme. With supporting material the videos cost a total of £175,000 to produce and, like the Anniversary Review, were given the ODA's usual distribution for such publicity material.


Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the recently published African alternative framework and structural adjustment programmes endorsed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Mr. Chris Patten : We agree with the ECA's objectives to ensure that economic growth in Africa proceeds hand in hand with the development of Africa's human resources and the alleviation of poverty. Spending in these areas should not be made the scapegoat in times of fiscal austerity.

However, some of the policy measures and instruments recommended in the report would not, in our view, help the cause of "growth with equity". They would have the effect of slowing growth down and perpetuating distortions. They appear to represent a partial return to the kind of dirigiste policies from which increasing numbers of African countries have been successfully moving away.

It must remain a matter of priority to bring down the excessively high levels of inflation and unsustainable budgetary deficits in many African countries which only hamper growth prospects and the ability to tackle longer-term issues--including poverty alleviation--in a sustainable manner.


Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the total of bilateral aid given to Nicaragua by Her Majesty's Government in the year 1988-89.

Mr. Chris Patten : Final figures of bilateral aid for 1988-89 are not yet available. Provisional figures indicate that our aid to Nicaragua in that financial year was £260,000. This does not include our contribution through the European Community or to development projects jointly funded with British voluntary agencies.

EC Budget

Sir John Stanley : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will be taking steps to try to secure an increase in the total expenditure under line 941 of the Community budget and in the percentage share of that expenditure going to United Kingdom non -governmental organisations ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Chris Patten : Member states are at present considering allocations under the 1990 Community budget

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including line 941 which has increased substantially in recent years. We shall keep in mind the popularity and success of this programme during budget discussions.

There are no set percentage shares for member states' NGOs, but United Kingdom NGOs have consistently received more support than those from other member states.


Child Care Facilities

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service, pursuant to the answer of 7 July, Official Report, column 321, to the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) concerning child care facilities, if he will publish in the Official Report the total number of whole-time equivalent child care places currently organised in Government Departments and the percentage of Government Departments offering full-time child care facilities.

Mr. Luce [holding answer 18 July 1989] : The information is not held centrally as Departments have discretion to set up and support child care schemes. As far as I am aware, there are currently 42 full-time home-based child care places directly supported by the Department of Social Security in Newcastle. There are firm plans for three value-for-money nurseries at Home Office (Croydon), Ministry of Defence (London) and Civil Service college (Sunningdale). Fifteen departments are running holiday schemes for school-aged children for between three and 10 weeks a year and the number of schemes is increasing. In February this year, Government Departments were given the freedom to provide ongoing financial support for child care schemes where these offer good value for money. Real progress is now being made to expand child care arrangements to help our recruitment and retention needs in the 1990s.



Mr. Barry Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the female chairpersons of quangos appointed by him in Wales.

Mr. Peter Walker : Since taking office in June 1987 I have appointed the hon. Mrs. Lindy Price to chair the advisory group for breast cancer screening and Mrs. Sara Reeve to the Glamorgan agricultural dwelling house advisory committee panel of chairmen. I have reappointed the following :

Mrs. Edith M. Herbert--Dyfed family practitioner committee Lady Crawshay-- Local Government Boundary Commission.

I also extended Ms. G. L. Thomas' period of office as chairman of the Powys agriculture dwelling house advisory committee's panel of chairmen for a further year

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