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Local Government Finance

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish in the Official Report a table showing his estimate of the amount of transitional relief to be paid in each local authority area in 1990-91.

Mr. Chris Patten : I have made no estimate of the amount of transitional relief to be paid in each local authority area in 1990-91. I estimate that about £300 million will be paid to chargepayers in England in 1990-91.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he had before 11 October with the computer industry about the feasibility of his proposals for transitional relief.

Mr. Chris Patten : Our assessment of the feasibility of the proposals was based on the Department's knowledge of the computing arrangements for implementing the community charge, but it was necessary to wait until the scheme was announced before discussion of the specific proposals could begin. The present discussions with representatives of the computer industry will be fully taken into account in finalising the details of the scheme.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the number of persons in each local authority area who will benefit from the proposed transitional relief.


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Mr. Chris Patten : I have made no estimate of the number of people in each local authority area who will benefit from transitional relief. I estimate that of the order of 6 million adults in England will benefit from transitional relief.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to monitor the implementation of (a) poll tax and (b) transitional relief ; and if he will make a statement on his assessment of local authorities' present progress in setting up poll tax with particular reference to problems of interfacing poll tax soft ware with rebates software.

Mr. Chris Patten : Throughout the past year, Ministers and officials have been pursuing a programme of visits to charging authorities. Authorities were asked to provide a report of their plans at the beginning of the year and a questionnaire about progress with preparations was sent to authorities in May. A report based on the response will be placed in the Library shortly. In general authorities appear to be making good progress with implementation, including with their computing arrangements.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether community charge bills for persons benefiting from transitional relief will be required to show (a) 1990-91 community charge for spending in line with government assumptions (national community charge), (b) 1990- 91 community charge for spending in line with standard spending assessment and (c) 1990-91 community charge actually levied by the charging authority.

Mr. Chris Patten : We shall be consulting very shortly the local authority associations and local authorities on the form of the community charge bill.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether community charge registration officers will be permitted to demand information as to whether poll tax payers are pensioners or disabled for the purposes of administering transitional relief.

Mr. Chris Patten : No. The administration of transitional relief will be a function of the charging authority, not the registration officer.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make it his policy to discuss the feasibility of his proposals for transitional relief with the Audit Commission in order to gauge the effect of his proposals on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness of local authority financial administration.

Mr. Chris Patten : Yes.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the criteria to be used in defining a couple for the purpose of operating the community charge transitional relief scheme ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the criteria to be used in defining a person as disabled for the purpose of making an application under the community charge transitional relief scheme ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the community charge transitional


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relief entitlements of those people hitherto exempt from poll tax discharged after 1 April 1990 from residential homes and hospitals and hitherto in order to be cared for in the community.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the community charge transitional relief entitlements of those people who move house after1 April 1990 (a) within their existing local authority area and (b) to another local authority area.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance has been given to general practitioners about the definition of severe mental impairment for the purposes of exemptions from poll tax.

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether his proposals for transitional relief for two person households will apply exclusively to husbands and wives and to persons of different sex living together as husband and wife.

Mr. David Hunt [holding answer 17 October 1989] : The Government have issued a consultation document on community charge transitional relief, a copy of which has been placed in the library. Consultations are now taking place with the local authority associations and full details of the scheme will be published as soon as possible.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement listing (a) all those degenerative conditions which can now be assessed for the purpose of granting community charge exemptions, (b) the procedures to be followed for assessment and (c) the advice to be issued on this matter to community charge registration officers and general practitioners.

Mr. David Hunt [holding answer 17 October 1989] : It is intended to amend the provisions of paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Local Government Finance Act 1988 to add attendance allowance and constant attendance allowance to the list of benefits in sub-paragraph (2). The definitions in sub-paragraph (3) will also be amended to remove the provisions limiting the exemption to those whose development of mind is arrested or incomplete, or who have suffered an injury to the brain. It will still be necessary for a registered medical practitioner to state that the individual is severely mentally impaired. Advice to registration officers and general practitioners will be issued as soon as possible.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the extent of his discussions with representatives of local government on the operation of the community charge transitional relief scheme before announcing the new scheme on 11 October.

Mr. David Hunt [holding answer 17 October 1989] : The announcement on 11 October was made first to Parliament. Discussions were held with local authority representatives immediately afterwards. Further discussions on the operational aspects of the scheme will take place shortly.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish a table showing for each charging authority the safety- netted community charge for 1990-91 assuming a service distribution based on 1989-90 budgets and total spending of £32.8 billion.


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Mr. David Hunt [holding answer 17 October 1989] : This information is not at present available.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish a table showing the likely effects of the new community charge transitional relief scheme on (a) the total amount of community charge benefit to be paid in 1990-91, (b) the numbers of people who will be eligible for benefit and (c) the savings which will result in 1990-91 from calculating benefit after relief has been given.

Mr. David Hunt [holding answer 17 October 1989] : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security who is responsible for community charge benefit, will write to the hon. Member in due course about the effect of the community charge transitional relief scheme on expenditure on community charge benefit.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish his best estimate of the costs of administering the community charge transitional relief scheme in 1990-91, 1991-92 and 1992- 93.

Mr. David Hunt [holding answer 17 October 1989] : My officials are discussing the costs of setting up and administering transitional relief with the local authority associations. Estimates will be made in the light of these discussions and an urgent study by consultants of the likely costs. It is the Government's intention that a reasonable level of costs will be met in full.

Water Pollution

Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether his announced proposals for tax on products which damage the environment will include polluted drinking water and waters which adversely affect wild -life.

Mr. Howard : Careful consideration including consultation documents on particular cost recovery charging systems, is being given to the possible use of charges of various kinds to improve the efficiency of our environmental protection policies. Proposals for specifying charges have not so far been developed, but the philosophy underlying their use has been set out in the report produced by Professor Pearce of London university and my officials are currently reviewing the use of charges and other instruments in a number of other industrialised countries.

London Docklands Development Corporation(House Sales)

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many homes were sold on London Docklands Development Corporation land in 1988 ; and if he will give details of the numbers in each price range ;

(2) what was the medium price pact for new homes on land owned by the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1988.

Mr. Moynihan : This information is not immediately available in the form requested. I shall write to the hon. Member shortly.


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Downing Street (Railings)

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if any proposals are being considered for the erection of railings at either end of Downing street ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Chope : Plans are in hand to erect demountable railings at the eastern end of Downing street to replace the existing unsightly barrier. Plans were approved by Westminster City Council on 28 September.

CITES Meeting

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement regarding the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species meeting in Lausanne.

Mr. Trippier : The time for a full statement will be after the Conference is concluded at the end of this week. In the meantime, however, we very much welcome the decisive votes in favour of transferring the African elephant to appendix I and so banning trade in ivory.

Song Thrushes

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what efforts have been made by Her Majesty's Government to secure an end to the killing of song thrushes in France ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : EC directive 79/409 on the conservation of wild birds requires all member states to protect migratory and other birds, including song thrushes. It is for member states to introduce their own legislation implementing the directive, and to ensure that it is applied effectively.

The Government fully support the directive and its enforcement. It is primarily the responsibility of the EC Commission to monitor that adequate measures have been taken by each member state to comply with the terms of the directive. A dispute over these matters may be settled by the European Court of Justice.

Ivory

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has regarding the ivory imported from Zaire without licence by Mr. Shivaz Virji of Ealing, London.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The information held by the Department is part of an application for a CITES re-export licence. Information contained in licence applications is regarded by the Department as confidential and cannot be released.

Crown Suppliers (Privatisation)

Mr. Favell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made in the privatisation of the Crown Suppliers.

Mr. Chris Patten : Samuel Montagu and Co. Ltd., who are advising the Government on the sale, are today writing to all organisations and buy out teams which have expressed an interest and to other major firms in the contract furnishing, vehicle hire and document delivery


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sectors. These organisations, and any others which subsequently express interest, will be given the opportunity to be considered for selection for the list of those invited to bid.

Homelessness (Legislation)

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his review of homeless persons legislation ; and when he expects to bring forward amendments to the Homeless Persons Act 1977.

Mr. Howard [holding answer 17 October 1989] : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment is reviewing the homelessness legislation and hopes to announce conclusions shortly.

Road Schemes (Newham)

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will tabulate the capital cost of each of the authorised road schemes completed or programmed within the area of the London Docklands development corporation in the London borough of Newham and for each state the date of actual or expected completion and his estimation of the annual cost of maintenance to a named highway authority.

Mr. David Hunt [holding answer 17 October 1989] : I will write to the hon. Member.

SCOTLAND

Crash Barriers

18. Mr. Bellingham : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what percentage of Scotland's motorways and rural carriageways are still without crash barriers ; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Subsequent to my answering a similar question from the hon. Member on 5 July, I am pleased to announce that I have allocated a further £2.23 million to the provision of central reserve safety fencing on Scotland's trunk roads. The total expenditure is now expected to be some £3.5 million during this financial year. This will allow for the provision of approximately 29km of safety fencing on trunk road motorways and 24km on trunk road dual carriageways.

By the end of this financial year, some 57 per cent. of trunk road motorways and 61 per cent. of trunk road dual carriageways will be without central reserve safety barriers.

CBI

19. Mr. Adams : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next intends to visit Scotland to discuss the economic situation in Scotland with the Confederation of British Industry.

Mr. Lang : I refer the hon. Gentleman to my reply earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell).

23. Mr. Ernie Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he plans to meet representatives of the Scottish Confederation of British Industry to discuss the Scottish economy.


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Mr. Lang : I refer the hon. Member to my reply earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell).

Drinking Water

21. Mr. Graham : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many drinking water supplies in Scotland will not meet the Economic Community water directive by 1991.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Of all the public water supplies in Scotland present information indicates that 102 will not comply with all of the 66 parameters of the EC drinking water directive by the beginning of 1991.

The majority of those which will not comply with the EC directive by 1991 are in Strathclyde and Highland regions and about half of them are small rural supplies.

Devolution

24. Mr. Leigh : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from Scottish businessmen about devolution and independence.

31. Mr. Allan Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent discussions he has had with representatives of the Scottish business community on constitutional matters.

44. Mr. Roger King : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from business leaders about devolution or independence.

45. Mr. Bill Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from businessmen about devolution and self-rule.

47. Mr. Andy Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from industrialists about devolution.

Mr. Lang : I have received no such representations recently, but there is evidence among top companies in Scotland of real concern at the detrimental consequences that would arise from constitutional change.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from the Confederation of British Industry in Scotland about devolution.

Mr. Rifkind : I have not received any representations from the CBI. I am, however, aware of the findings of a research study by the Scottish Business Insider magazine which showed that there is serious concern among top companies in Scotland at the detrimental effect on the Scottish economy which constitutional change in Scotland would bring.

Community Charge

25. Mr. Watson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what attempts he has made to quantify the effects of the industrial action taken by NALGO on the implementation and collection of the poll tax in Scotland ; and what action he has taken as a consequence.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The responsibility for collecting the community charges lies with local authorities.


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26. Mr. Douglas : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the numbers of people who have failed to pay the poll tax and who have had served on them notices that the whole year's tax is due.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The responsibility for collecting community charges and for the recovery of arrears lies with local authorities. Information on the number of people against whom action is being taken to collect arrears is not held centrally. Indications are, however, that very good progress in collection is being made, with over 90 per cent. having paid in some areas.

28. Mr. Canavan : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his latest estimate of the number of people in Scotland who have not yet paid at least the first instalment of the poll tax.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Local authorities have reported good progress in the collection of the community charge with over 90 per cent. of payers having paid in some areas. This is very encouraging given that the community charge is a completely new tax with many more people paying it than paid domestic rates. I am confident that payment levels will continue to rise as local authorities issue their reminder letters.

43. Mr. Steel : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will change the calculation of the revenue support grant from his Department to local authorities to assume no multiplier on the standard community charge.

Mr. Rifkind : I will consult the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities shortly, in the usual way, on proposals for distributing revenue support grant for next year.

51. Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what consultations he has undertaken as part of policy formulation for community care in Scotland.

Mr. Lang : Sir Roy Griffiths' report on community care was drawn to the attention of local authorities and health boards when it was published and a wide range of representations was received from them and from the voluntary sector. Since my right hon. and learned Friend's statement on 12 July 1989, I have had a meeting with the social work committee of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. Further consultation with local authority, voluntary and private sector interests will take place as appropriate.

52. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to discuss the provision of community care in Scotland ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang : I met representatives of the Convention's social work committee on 8 September 1989 to discuss the Government's proposals for the provision of community care. It was a constructive meeting at which it was agreed that further consultation would take place as appropriate.

Nirex

27. Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the managing director of Nirex ; what matters were discussed ; and if he will make a statement.


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Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend and the Secretary of State for the Environment met the managing director and other officials of the executive on 15 March 1989 to discuss their report on sites for investigation for the deep disposal of low and intermediate- level radioactive wastes.

Scottish Homes

29. Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairman of Scottish Homes ; and what matters were discussed.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : My right hon. and learned Friend and I met Sir James Mellon, chairman of Scottish Homes, and board members on 4 September. Our discussions covered the range of functions and responsibilities of Scottish Homes.

Mr. Sillars : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new houses Scottish Homes expects to complete in 1989 and 1990.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Scottish Homes assumed its full powers on 1 April 1989, when it also took over the responsibilities of its predecessor bodies. The figures for housing completions below relate to the first two full years of Scottish Homes' operations. The enabling programme is the housing association programme funded by Scottish Homes and the completion figures include housing totally rehabilitated by associations.


                    |1989-90|1990-91        

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

Enabling programme  |3,500  |5,950          

Own stock programme |550    |310            

Fishing Industry

30. Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from the processing and catching sectors of the Scottish fishing industry about the state of the industry and its current financial difficulties.

Mr. Lang : My right hon. and learned Friend has received a number of recent representations from various interests about the current state of the industry. My noble Friend Lord Sanderson, as the Minister responsible, is in regular contact with all sections of the industry.

Constitutional Convention

32. Mr. Lambie : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is willing to take steps to allow regional, district and island councils to contribute towards the funds of the Scottish Constitutional Convention ; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : I have already written to the hon. Member about this matter and have nothing to add.

New Towns

33. Mr. Ingram : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will reconsider the decision not to allow new town development corporations' tenants a choice of landlord on the dissolution of the new towns.


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