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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 23 November 1989



Mr. Summerson : To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he will respond to the report by the Social Services Committee on AIDS.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : My right hon. and learned Friend will tomorrow present to the House the Government's observations on the report from the Social Services Committee on AIDS. The committee's report covers a number of important issues raised by HIV infection and AIDS, and the Government's response sets out the strategy which they have adopted to meet the challenge of AIDS.


Mr. Summerson : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether the expansion rate of 2 per cent. in "Achieving a Balance" has been reached in the 1988 consultant expansion figures.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : I am pleased to report that these figures are now available and expansion for the year 1987-88 was 3 per cent. This shows that in the first year since the introduction of "Achieving a Balance" the rate of expansion has exceeded the projected level.


Mr. Key : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the financial support available for haemophiliacs who have become infected with HIV.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The Government share the universal sense of shock at the unique position of haemophiliacs who have been infected by the AIDS virus, as a result of NHS treatment which they require in order to survive. It was for this reason that the Government made an ex gratia grant to the Haemophilia Society to enable them to establish a special trust fund, now called the Macfarlane Trust, so that special payments could be made to meet the needs of the individuals affected and their families throughout the United Kingdom.

When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, who was then the Minister for Health, announced the grant in 1987 he explained that the Government had chosen this course of action because we thought that it would enable help to be given with greater flexibility than could be achieved in any other way. He also made it clear that while the Government regarded the sum involved as appropriate at the time, it would be kept open to review. The trust has been able to give significant and valuable help to a large number of infected haemophiliacs and their families. But the time has now come to reassess the total sum available to it. The true nature and extent of the needs

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of the infected haemophiliacs have become much clearer now that the trust is in operation and has been able to examine individual cases in detail. I am satisfied that the Government should now make extra resources available to the trust.

The Government are therefore proposing to make an additional ex gratia payment totalling £19 million bringing to £29 million the total payments made. The House will appreciate that, as before, this is not compensation but a payment which responds to a particular and tragic situation.

In making this new allocation the Government have two objectives in mind :

First, to enable the trust, if the trustees see fit, to make individual payments of £20,000 this year. These would go to each person with haemophilia who is infected with the AIDS virus as a result of treatment with blood products in the United Kingdom or to the family of such a person who has died.

Secondly, to enable the trust to continue on a more generous scale its help to families in particular need.

The Government accept the need to ensure that the fund has adequate resources both to meet its existing commitments and to give more generous help to families in particular need. We will be discussing further with the trust how these objectives should be met.

The ex gratia payment of £19 million is being charged to the Reserve this year. Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the cash limit for Department of Health administration, miscellaneous health services and personal social services, England will be increased accordingly.

Payments from the trust will continue to be completely disregarded for the purposes of social security. So any social security payments will be on top and may add significantly to the overall financial support available to particular families.

I am sure that hon. Members will be very grateful, as the Government are to those serving on the Macfarlane Trust for agreeing to serve on the trust and for their excellent work as trustees.


Police Establishments

Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is able to announce his decisions on increases in police establishments for 1990-91.

Mr. Waddington : I am able to approve 1,100 additional police posts for 1990-91 ; 950 of these are to be allocated to the provincial forces and 150 to the Metropolitan police. In addition I can approve up to 60 posts where I am satisfied that the full cost would be reimbursed by a third party.

Applications from police authorities for increases in establishments have exceeded the number of posts available for allocation and I have therefore had to set priorities. With advice from Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary I have approved increases, with effect from 1 April 1990, as shown in the following table. In a number of cases my approval of extra police posts for forces is conditional on the police authorities' confirmation that their share of funding is available.

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Force                 |Number       


Avon and Somerset     |10           

Bedfordshire          |8            

Cambridgeshire        |7            

Cheshire              |20           

Cleveland             |13           

Cumbria               |19           

Derbyshire            |19           

Devon and Cornwall    |17           

Dorset                |14           

Essex                 |55           

Greater Manchester<1> |54           

Gwent                 |2            

Hampshire             |25           

Hertfordshire         |18           

Humberside            |15           

Kent                  |50           

Lancashire            |28           

Leicestershire        |53           

Lincolnshire          |14           

Norfolk               |46           

Northamptonshire      |20           

Northumbria<1>        |38           

North Wales           |21           

North Yorkshire       |25           

Nottinghamshire       |26           

South Wales           |31           

South Yorkshire       |20           

Staffordshire         |14           

Suffolk               |18           

Surrey                |10           

Sussex<1>             |39           

Thames Valley         |65           

Warwickshire          |15           

West Mercia           |32           

West Midlands         |63           

West Yorkshire        |20           

Wiltshire             |13           


Total                 |957          

<1> Includes approval for 23 posts  

for Manchester Airport; 25 for      

Gatwick Airport and 10 for the Tyne 

and Wear Metro where the costs are  

reimbursed by a third party.        

Over 90 per cent. of the posts approved will be deployed on operational duties identified by chief constables, mainly at constable level.

I have also retained 51 posts for allocation to regional crime squads specifically for their work in connection with drugs. I await the advice of Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary before I decide on their specific allocation.

In addition to police posts, provision has been made for 1,200 additional civilian posts (150 for the Metropolitan police) which it is intended should help forces to continue to obtain police officers through civilianisation.

Magistrates Courts

Mr. Wood : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the diploma in magisterial law is sufficient to qualify the holder of act as clerk to a magistrates court ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waddington : Yes. I am not persuaded that there is any need to insist that all clerks are professionally qualified as barristers or solicitors. More are not. The diploma course is, however, being improved and given a stronger practical element. At the same time the Home Office will continue to support members of the courts service wishing to qualify as barristers or solicitors, recognising the need to ensure a good supply of candidates for its senior posts.

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British Coal

Mr. Andy Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether British Coal's external financing requirement for 1989-90 is expected to remain within the external financing limits of £720 million announced on6 February.

Mr. Wakeham : British Coal's external finance requirements this year have risen sharply. Restructuring and redundancy costs are around £220 million higher than expected, including the payment of around £80 million in respect of redundancies that took place at the end of 1988-89. Mild weather and improved nuclear performance have reduced power station demand for coal. Interest rates are higher than anticipated. Offsetting savings have been achieved ; in particular the capital expenditure allocation for 1989-90 has been trimmed from £550 million to £520 million. Taking all these factors into account, I have agreed to raise the corporation's external finance limit by £423 million from £720 million to £1,143 million. This increase will be charged to the Reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure. British Coal's temporary borrowing limit has been increased from £2,500 million to £2,910 million. To finance these additional requirements a Supplementary Estimate for additional voted loans of £250 million was presented and approved in July, and a further Supplementary Estimate for voted loans of £200 million will shortly be laid before the House.


Royal Mint

Mr. Couchman : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has any plans for the Royal Mint to become an executive agency under the Next Steps initiative.

Mr. Ryder : I am pleased to announce that my right hon. Friend has considered whether the Royal Mint should become a Next Steps executive agency and has decided that it should. Executive agency status would help the Mint further to develop its business on sound commercial lines. The aim will be to give the mint agency status by 1 April 1990.


The Road User and the Law"

Mr. Hayward : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on progress in implementing proposals contained in the White Paper "The Road User and the Law".

Mr. Atkins : Many of the proposals announced in the White Paper "The Road User and the Law" (Cm 576) will require legislation. This will be brought forward as soon as time is available.

The further consultation outlined in the White Paper on the details of the legislative changes and administrative arrangements for key proposals is well advanced. Copies

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of the papers on driver retesting, vehicle prohibition and the use of technology for enforcement have been placed in the Library. The White Paper also identified a number of areas where action can be taken to improve the operation of the road traffic legal system without any change in the law. Further discussions are planned, in particular with the police and other interested organisations, on how these proposals are being taken forward. A number of projects have been added to our research programme to follow up those aspects of the North report which require further research.

Powers were taken in the Road Traffic (Driver Licensing and Information System) Act 1989 to enable the scope of the high risk offenders scheme, which deals with drivers whose dependence on alcohol presents a serious road safety risk, to be extended. Regulations will be introduced to enable the extended scheme to commence in 1990.

One of the key problems identified in the North report was the public concern about the inadequacy of penalties imposed by the courts for the most serious bad driving offences. Under powers introduced in the Criminal Justice Act 1988, the Appeal Court has recently decided to increase the sentences of two drivers convicted of causing death by reckless driving to include a period of imprisonment to reflect the very serious nature of the behaviour involved.

We welcome the announcement by the Magistrates Association of its intention to produce guidelines for sentencing road traffic offenders designed to achieve greater consistency in sentencing.

We aim to strike the right balance between the need to come down hard on those who commit the more serious road traffic offences while acknowledging the scope for use of alternatives to prosecution for minor offences which are designed to educate drivers about the need for safer and more responsible conduct on the road.

Motorway Services, Iver

Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement about the provision of a motorway service area at Iver.

Mr. Atkins : I have now decided to ask consultants to undertake a fresh search for a site to satisfy the need for a motorway service area on the western quadrant of the M25. This is because of the very complex problems which make the provision of a full single-sided site at Iver very unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Street Works

Mr. Carrington : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he intends to introduce legislation to reform the Public Utilities Street Works Act 1950.

Mr. Atkins : It remains our intention to introduce legislation to reform the Public Utilities Street Works Act 1950 along the lines of the proposals contained in the consultation paper issued in May, a copy of which is in the Library. A Bill will be introduced as soon as a suitable opportunity can be found.

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Nature Conservancy Council

Mr. Mans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement about the proposed reorganisation of the Nature Conservancy Council.

Mr. Chris Patten : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I very much welcome the advice that we have received from the Nature Conservancy Council on the arrangements that it would be appropriate to make, within the context of three independent councils for England, Scotland and Wales, to ensure the continuation of a strong and consistent science base for their work, and to address issues that have a Great Britain and international dimension. The Government have also taken account of the wide range of advice received from the conservation and scientific communities and the NCC's paper on "Policy and Science" which was published earlier this month.

I am glad to note that there is no disagreement with the NCC on the main elements of the organisational structure that will be required. The Government intend to place on the successor bodies to the present NCC a statutory duty to form a joint committee comprising the chairmen and other representatives from those bodies to which they will be required to remit matters calling for collective consideration. They will have joint statutory responsibilities, in addition to those which they will exercise for their respective areas, to :

(a) provide advice (including advice to Government) and disseminate knowledge about nature conservation issues with a Great Britain or international dimension ; and

(b) establish common standards for designation, research, monitoring and data analysis and to commission or support research on matters affecting Great Britain and international responsibilities. The councils will be required to ensure that adequate and appropriate resources are provided to undertake the committee's identified tasks.

These arrangements complement our determination to ensure that each council is adequately provided with scientific advice for its individual responsibilities. They will ensure that effective scientific and co- ordination services are available to enable the councils to meet those responsibilities which can best be discharged collectively and that they are able to tender authoritative advice to Government on Great Britain, United Kingdom and international matters.

The Government intend to make appropriate arrangements for participation by organisations in Northern Ireland to secure full coverage of the United Kingdom.

The NCC has suggested that the joint committee should have an independent chairman appointed by the Government. In our view, however, such an arrangement would detract from the concept of the collective responsibility of the successor bodies jointly to ensure a coherent scientific basis for their work and agree the advice to be tendered to Government. The arrangements for chairing the committee will, therefore, be a matter for the committee to determine. We intend, however, that the committee should be assisted by independent assessors appointed by the Government. It is our intention to seek nominations for assessors from leading scientific institutions.

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I am sure that these arrangements will secure the advance of nature conservation in all four countries, from a sound scientific foundation, and take forward the work of the present council (to which tribute is due for the splendid work it has done) in a manner that is appropriate to the 1990s.


Hanoi (Visit)

Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement, with reference to humanitarian aid, about the visit to Hanoi by his officials.

Mr. Chalker : An official from the British embassy in Bangkok, accompanied by an adviser from ODA, will visit Cambodia in the early to middle part of December. The main object will be to review the humanitarian aid programmes being conducted by British

non-governmental organisations and international agencies such as UNICEF with Cambodia, and to consider how best Her Majesty's Government could increase their input into these programmes through the joint funding scheme with the NGOs.


Farm and Countryside Initiative

Sir Michael Shaw : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has for the farm and countryside initiative ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : The value of the farm and countryside initiative in encouraging rural-based projects of benefit to local communities is now widely recognised. In order to ensure that the initiative continues to met that objective, I have decided that it should be reconstituted. From 1 January 1990, the scheme will operate through agricultural colleges which will be given the opportunity to develop suitable projects in their areas. I am sure that this will be welcomed with enthusiasm.

In addition, I am pleased to announce that the National Westminster bank has generously agreed to continue to act as the national sponsor for the farm and countryside initiative, and has offered to double its previous funding.

I am confident that these new arrangements will provide fresh impetus for the initiative to go forward into the 1990s and, in stimulating activity at local level, to continue to make a valuable contribution for the benefit of rural communities.


Advisory Committee on Business Appointments

Mr. Brandon-Bravo : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list the members of her advisory committee on business appointments.

The Prime Minister : The present membership of the advisory committee on business appointments is as follows :

Lord Carlisle of Bucklow--Chairman

Sir Patrick Nairne--Deputy Chairman

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Sir Trevor Holdsworth

Admiral Sir Anthony Morton

Sir David Orr

Mr. Merlyn Rees

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

Lord Thomson was appointed to the committee on 1 November. He replaced Lord Barber of Wentbridge whose second term of appointment had come to an end.


NHS (Competitive Tendering)

Mr. Allan Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland by how much the figures previously announced of savings from competitive tendering in the National Health Service will be affected by requirements to pay value added tax.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : The figures already given will not be affected by requirements to pay VAT. Value added tax will continue to be recoverable for contracts awarded up to 1 December 1989. For contracts awarded from that date VAT will also continue to be recoverable where the cost of a private contract plus VAT, after taking account of redundancy costs, exceeds the cost of an in-house contract. Except in a few cases I expect therefore that VAT will continue to be recoverable but where it is not the proportion of unrecoverable VAT to overall savings will be small.

Mr. Allan Stewart : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the total amount of moneys released for use by health boards as a result of competitive tendering in Scotland since December 1987.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : Since December 1987 more than 150 contracts have been awarded estimated to release over £59 million during the periods of the contracts and this money is available for investment in direct patient care. Savings of this order could buy over 5,500 kidney dialysis machines or pay for 19,500 hip replacement operations or about 9,000 heart by-pass operations.


Key Training

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many employees of his Department, and of what grades, have been seconded to Key Training of 10 Eaton place, Reading, in each of the last five years ; and how many of these have since left the Department.

Mr. Eggar : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him on Monday 13 November (Official Report, column 55 ).

Health and Safety Executive

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many new managerial posts, with no workplace inspection duties, will be created as a result of the implemention of the Martin report on reorganisation of the Health and Safety Executive senior management.

Mr. Nicholls : Seven new regional director of field operations posts will be created through reallocation of the functions of existing senior staff.

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Seven new regional support manager posts at senior executive officer level will also be created to improve the support given to the Health and Safety Executive's professional staff in the regions. Their creation will be offset by a reduction in headquarters staff.

Mr. Andrew Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he expects the target of 100 construction inspectors to be in post for the Health and Safety Executive by 1990 to be achieved.

Mr. Nicholls : The HSE already has 100 inspectors regularly engaged in construction activities.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if it is planned to publish the Health and Safety Executive plan of work for 1990.

Mr. Nicholls : The Health and Safety Commission's plan of work for 1989-90 and beyond--which covers the work of the executive, as the commission's operational arm--was published in May 1989. The commission's plan for 1990-91 and beyond will be published in the spring.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if it is planned to publish the Martin report on the reorganisation of Health and Safety Executive senior management.

Mr. Nicholls : This report on a review of the HSE's field operations was commissioned by the executive for internal management purposes. Copies were distributed widely among HSE staff at the time the executive received it in February this year, but there are no plans to publish the report.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment (1) what is the average length of time elapsing between basic inspection visits by the factory inspectorate and subsequent written communications with employers and employees, for each area office, for the last year for which figures are available ; (2) what is the average length of time elapsing between receipt of (i) a verbal and (ii) a written complaint, and the subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive, at each area office, for the last year for which figures are available.

Mr. Nicholls : The wide variety of circumstances covered by the terms employed would make comparisons

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of the kind requested meaningless, and the information is therefore collected as part of the HSE's monitoring systems.

The majority of complaints made to the executive, and all which are serious in nature, are investigated and most are cleared within a month of receipt.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current average amount of training, in days, received by inspectors in the Health and Safety Executive, to enable them to deal with (i) the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, (ii) the Control of Noise at Work Regulations and (iii) the new Electricity at Work Regulations.

Mr. Nicholls : Information on the current average amount of training in days received by inspectors to enable them to deal with the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations is not available.

Training is ongoing and is underpinned by written guidance produced for inspectors.

Training for inspectors in respect of the forthcoming regulations on noise and electricity will follow a similar pattern.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the current estimated cost of implementation of the Martin report on reorganisation of Health and Safety Executive senior management, in fiscal years 1990-91 and 1991-92.

Mr. Nicholls : Final details of the reorganisation are still being discussed within the HSE. It is expected that extra costs will be offset by savings from integration of certain functions currently carried out in several HSE divisions.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the number of premises currently awaiting fire certification by the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr. Nicholls : At 31 March 1989, the number of premises awaiting fire certification by the Health and Safety Executive under the Fire Certificates (Special Premises) Regulations 1976 was 205. A majority of the outstanding premises already have valid fire certificates issued under either the Factories Act 1961 or the Fire Precautions Act 1971. The HSE has given priority to those premises which had no existing certificates.


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