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Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Government will ensure that the successor bodies to the present NCC are able to provide appropriate advice on the designation of ramsar sites and special protection areas. NCC's present country headquarters submit the proposals for individual sites. Provision will also be made for the Government to maintain a Great Britain overview based on the best scientific advice. The details of how best to achieve this having regard to the new organisational structure will be discussed with the NCC. No changes are proposed to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give details of each item sold from the Greater London council's heritage collection by the London residuary body ; and how much was realised for each item.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give details of the agreement made between the London residuary body and the London borough of Harrow in respect of the Middlesex Guildhall collection.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give details of the number of occasions upon which the London residuary body has sought his consent to dispose of assets for less than the best consideration reasonably obtainable.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : In the last year the Department has processed 65 applications by the London residuary body for consent to dispose of properties by means of voluntary sales to licensee occupiers at discounted prices.
Column 346In addition the London residuary body has sought consent in relation to seven other disposals.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment in what form records are kept in respect of prices paid and the details of new ownership of former publicly owned assets sold by the London residuary body ; and what access is available to such records by members of the public and the press.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Power station operations vary greatly in their load factor throughout the year, depending upon demand from the grid system, and also in their coal supply pattern. It is not possible to categorise them uniquely in terms of pollution.
Mr. Clay : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new jobs in Sunderland have been created by the activities of the Tyne and Wear development corporation from its inception up to the latest available date about which he has information.
Mr. Trippier : Some 250 jobs have been created to date in Sunderland through the activities of Tyne and Wear development corporation. Further investment already in train is estimated to produce an additional 2,000 to 3,000 jobs.
Mr. Pendry : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to bring local authority rate relief for non-profit- making sports clubs in England and Wales into line with the situation in Scotland.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Local authorities levying rates in England and Wales, as in Scotland, have discretion to grant up to 100 per cent. rate relief to sports clubs and other non-profit-making organisations and will continue to do so after 1 April 1990. Paragraphs 20 and 21 of the consultation paper of 16 March 1989 on "Payments into the National Non- Domestic Rating Pool" set out the Government's proposals on the way in which the cost of any such relief should be met in England and Wales. The proposed approach, which differs from that in Scotland, is for the cost to be borne equally by community charge payers and by the national non- domestic rating pool. A number of representations on this point have been received and careful consideration is being given to the arguments advanced. I hope that a decision on this can be announced before too long.
Mr. Chope : It is the Government's intention that the Crown Suppliers should be privatised in the first half of 1990, and that parliamentary approval will be sought for the necessary arrangements for the transfer of the Crown Suppliers to the private sector. I expect to be able to launch a competition for the sale in the autumn.
We have taken a number of steps to move the Crown Suppliers towards a more commercial mode of operation, reorganising it on business lines, installing a new computer system and allowing it to begin to trade with the private sector. The board of the Crown Suppliers has recently been strengthened by the appointment of three non-executive members to add further private sector experience and particular skills in finance and marketing to the direction of the Crown Suppliers at a critical phase. They are Mr. Ralph Kaner, formerly international marketing director of Rowntree plc, Mr. David Pearl, chairman of London Securities plc, and Mr. Edward Stanger, formerly chairman of Ford and Weston Group plc.
Professional, technical and industrial grades will transfer to the purchaser by virtue of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 and benefit from the safeguards provided by them. However, in the particular circumstances of the Crown Suppliers' privatisation, consultations have been taking place with the trade unions about the details of a secondment scheme which I hope can be applied to the generalist staff of the Crown Suppliers, for whom we can expect to find alternative Civil Service posts if necessary.
Deloitte, Haskins and Sells has recently been appointed to act as reporting accountants for the sale, and Field, Fisher, Waterhouse as solicitors. They join Samuel Montagu and Co as the Government's advisers on the privatisation.
Mr. Ridley : We are determined to tackle vigorously the problems caused by litter and litterers. I am today, together with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Transport and for Wales, publishing details of our proposals for legislation designed to improve the appearance and standards of cleanliness of public places in England and Wales, and to enable and encourage local authorities, other landowners and individual citizens to take more effective action against litter and those who drop it.
Our proposals include :
An increase in the maximum fine for littering under the 1983 Litter Act from £400 to £1,000;
A power for local authorities to introduce a fixed penalty scheme for littering;
A duty on local authorities to keep clean all land in their beneficial occupancy or control, open to the air and to which the public have access (the duty to include both litter and dog faeces); A similar duty on certain landowners with statutory functions; A power for local authorities to extend by designation order a similar duty on owners of certain defined categories of land in other ownership (such as car parks, shopping precincts and forecourts of commercial premises);
Rationalising street cleaning responsibilities by making non-metropolitan district councils wholly responsible for cleaning of all roads (except motorways);
Column 348A statutory code of practice to which all those under the duty would be required to have regard, specifying standards of cleanliness and advising on the best means of achieving them;
A system of enforcement whereby (a) an aggrieved citizen will be able to apply for a court order directing a local authority, or any other landowner under the duty to keep clean, to discharge the duty; (b) the local authority has the power to issue a "litter abatement notice" requiring any other landowner under the duty to discharge that duty; and (c) the local authority has default powers to carry out cleaning work itself, and recover costs;
The extension of section 1 of the Litter Act to all areas covered by the duty to keep clean, and the widening of its scope. I am arranging for copies of the consultation document to be placed in the Library of the House. Copies are also being sent to interested parties inviting comments by 22 September. Subject to responses to the consultation, the Government intend to introduce the necessary legislation at the earliest opportunity.
Mr. Trippier : It is the responsibility of all local authorities to collect efficiently the rents due to them and most authorities do just this. But a number of authorities have irresponsibly allowed their rent arrears to rise to very high levels.
The Government consider that failure to collect rent due is wholly unacceptable, inevitably putting an unfair burden on others. Rent rebates are available for tenants on low incomes who might otherwise have difficulty in paying their rents. High arrears result from authorities' poor management and from tenants unjustifiably failing to meet their obligations.
At present the burden of any uncollected rent can fall on either ratepayers or tenants, or both, as the authority chooses. Under the proposals for the ring-fenced housing revenue account (HRA) in the Local Government and Housing Bill, authorities will from 1 April 1990 not be allowed to use community charge payers' money to meet their housing costs. So if in future authorities fail in their duty to collect the rents due, the cost, like any other housing cost, will have to be borne on the housing revenue account and will reflect itself in levels of rents or service. This will put councils in the same position as any other landlord, or as any other business, where the costs of bad debts have to be met by cutting back on the service they provide or increasing the charges to their customers. This is a significant change from the present system, and it would have been unfair in earlier days, when council tenants were effectively locked into dependency on their landlords. But council tenants are no longer captive customers. As well as the right to buy, the new tenants' choice scheme gives them the chance to transfer their custom elsewhere, to people who can provide a better service.
We also recognise that it would have been grossly unfair on those tenants who do pay their rents if at the outset of the new system, they were faced with having to make good other tenants' arrears which had accumulated under the existing system. We therefore announced on 26 June, that, exceptionally, the cost of any arrears outstanding at 31 March 1990 which councils do not
Column 349manage to collect should be met not from the ring-fenced HRA but from the community charge. We are also proposing that in the case of authorities with the worst arrears the cost on the community charge could be spread over three to five years. This will enable every council to start off its new HRA with a clean slate, while still providing an effective incentive on authorities to collect outstanding arrears. We hope tenants and council managers alike will strive to eradicate the irresponsibility which has allowed arrears in the past to build up to intolerable levels.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Taxation in the United Kingdom is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am aware, however, of a number of informal proposals for a carbon tax as a possible policy instrument for mitigating climate change. These are likely to be the subject of continuing discussions, particularly in the intergovernmental panel on climate change.
The Prime Minister : No. But we have a close relationship with the Republic of Ireland based on our many shared historical, cultural and family links. I last saw Mr. Haughey on 26 June and look forward to continuing to work with him and his new team of Ministers.
Q25. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister if she will institute a review of the 30-year rule on the release of Government papers ; what steps are taken to ensure the secure preservation of all prime ministerial papers ; and if she will make a statement.
The Prime Minister : I have no plans to institute a review of the 30 -year rule. The preservation of prime ministerial papers, as with all public records, is handled in accordance with the provisions of the Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967.
The Prime Minister : Yes. I periodically receive representations about a wide range of aspects of local government in London. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment made a statement yesterday about local government finance.
The Prime Minister : I have received a small number of representations from hon. Members and others, most in favour of privatisation. As I said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Riddick) on 29 June at column 1103, we are not yet ready to bring forward proposals for the privatisation of British Rail which would require careful preparation.
The Prime Minister : I do receive representations on this matter from time to time. I have recently received many representations deploring irresponsible industrial action in a number of public services.
The Prime Minister : I have met President Bush on several occasions in recent weeks which both of us have greatly valued and I am sure that there will be many more meetings in the future. No firm date has yet been fixed for my next meeting with President Bush.
The Prime Minister : We receive many representations which reflect the deep concern in this country about human rights in the Soviet Union. We are continuing to press the Soviet authorities over a range of individual cases, and over a wider need for institutionalised reform. These efforts do bear fruit. In the past year, 68 refusenik cases which we have raised have been resolved satisfactorily.
The Prime Minister : I have received a number of recent representations regarding energy conservation and energy efficiency. In cash terms the Government are this year spending six times the amount in energy efficiency programmes as was spent in 1979. Over the last four years for which figures are available, this country's ratio of energy use to GDP growth has improved at twice the average rate for the European Community.
Q176. Dr. Godman : To ask the Prime Minister what advice she has been given by the Nature Conservancy Council in relation to Her Majesty's Government's international obligations to protect sea birds' feeding and gathering grounds ; and if she will make a statement.
The Prime Minister : The Polish authorities and Solidarity have recently made specific requests to Her Majesty's Government for assistance to support reform. No such representation had been made on behalf of Hungary. We have joined in the economic summit's commitment to co-ordinate assistance to Poland and Hungary. The United Kingdom has already pledged some economic assistance, including an offer of £25 million to supply know-how to Poland.
Q213. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister if the European Economic Community Commission reported to the European Council meeting at Madrid the number of directives it proposed to present to the Council of Ministers arising out of the social charter approved by that Council on a majority vote.
The Prime Minister : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister if she will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the level of net contributions being made by member states to the European Economic Community.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Prime Minister if, during her meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada in London on 11 July, she raised (a) the issue of the fourth review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and (b) nuclear exports and safeguards on uranium.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list the heads of Government and heads of state of African countries with whom she raised the subject of the 4 review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty during her recent visit to Paris ; and what representations she made in each case.