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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 5 December 1989


Offshore Workers (Safety)

112. Mr. Malcolm Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what provision his Department is making for safety and survival courses for offshore workers.

Mr. Peter Morrison : It is for an employer to ensure that his employees are adequately qualified and trained for the duties they are required to undertake. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 places a duty on an employer to provide the necessary instruction, training and supervision to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of his employees.

Renewable Energy

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of Statement for Energy (1) what encouragement he is giving to commercial organisations wishing to set up wind electricity generators on Welsh farms ; (2) what assistance has been given by the Government to commercial organisations in Wales to install wind energy generating capacity which can be sold to the grid.

Mr. Peter Morrison : My Department has not given any assistance to commercial organisations in Wales to install wind energy generators for the purpose of subsequent sale of electricity to the grid. Such installations will however be eligible for consideration under the non-fossil fuel obligation.

We have collaborated with a number of organisations in the design and construction of experimental wind turbine generators at the CEGB's test site at Carmarthen bay, and we are also collaborating with the CEGB in a project to construct an experimental wind farm at Capel Cynon.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy how much money has been spent in Wales on sources of renewable energy over the past three years.

Mr. Peter Morrison : The table includes expenditure by the Department of Energy over the past three years on projects based in Wales such as the 160 kW vertical axis wind turbine at Carmarthen bay, and work undertaken by Welsh contractors, for example, university of Cardiff.

Year    |£              


1986-87 |656,935        

1987-88 |854,459        

1988-89 |833,020        

Information is not available to say precisely how much of this expenditure was in Wales.

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Mining Statistics

Mr. Maxton : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will state the numbers of men employed underground in privately owned mines on 3 April 1989 as recorded in the registers which are required to be maintained under the terms of section 2(1) of the 1908 Act.

Mr. Michael Spicer : Daily tallies for the number of men working underground in licensed mines are not collected centrally. British Coal does, however, give a total figure for the end of each financial year in its annual report and accounts, copies of which are in the Library of the House.

Mr. Maxton : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what was the average number of hours worked below ground by mineworkers and deputies in 1978 and in 1988.

Mr. Michael Spicer : This is a matter for British Coal. I have asked the chairman of British Coal to write to the hon. Member.


Council Housing

Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those local authorities which have sold fewer than 10 per cent. of their council house stock.

Mr. Chope : Of those authorities which have provided a complete record of their sales from April 1979 to March 1989, only two authorities, Oldham and Blackburn, report sales of less than 10 per cent. of their stock. Six authorities--Arun, Bracknell Forest, Bromley, Crawley, Fenland and Havant--report sales of more than 35 per cent. of their stock.

There are 12 authorities where an incomplete total of sales between April 1979 and March 1989 shows that less than 10 per cent. of their stock has been sold, but who may have exceeded the 10 per cent. threshold if unreported sales were to be included.

I have today laid a table in the Library giving available information up to March 1989. It shows year by year information for each authority since 1984 -85, together with cumulative figures since April 1979.

Over 1 million local authority dwellings (about a fifth of the England 1979 stock) had been sold by the end of March 1989, the majority to sitting tenants, and sales are continuing at a high level. Information on total year by year sales of local authority houses and flats in England is listed in the following table. The number of flats sold in 1988-89 was greater than in any previous financial year and the number of houses sold was the largest since 1982-83.

Sales of local authority dwellings England<1>                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Year                                                                                        |Houses                                                                                     |Flats                                                                                                                                                                                  


1979-80                                                                                     |52,386                                                                                     |1,162                                                                                                                                                                                  

1980-81                                                                                     |66,946                                                                                     |1,282                                                                                                                                                                                  

1981-82                                                                                     |125,200                                                                                    |2,967                                                                                                                                                                                  

1982-83                                                                                     |175,334                                                                                    |5,902                                                                                                                                                                                  

1983-84                                                                                     |113,613                                                                                    |8,430                                                                                                                                                                                  

1984-85                                                                                     |85,487                                                                                     |5,885                                                                                                                                                                                  

1985-86                                                                                     |76,088                                                                                     |6,230                                                                                                                                                                                  

1986-87                                                                                     |77,677                                                                                     |8,454                                                                                                                                                                                  

<2>1987-88                                                                                  |90,852                                                                                     |16,728                                                                                                                                                                                 

1988-89                                                                                     |116,933                                                                                    |26,895                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                            |--------                                                                                   |--------                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                            |980,516                                                                                    |83,935                                                                                                                                                                                 




Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is taking to reduce methane being released into the atmosphere.

Mr. Trippier : The sources of methane emissions to the atmosphere are diverse. Some are natural, some man-made. Our understanding of the contribution from different sources and the way methane behaves in the atmosphere require further research, which is now under way. The Department of Energy has a programme to promote the use of landfill methane as an energy source.

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the relative impact of (a) methane and (b) chlorofluorocarbon gases on global warming.

Mr. Trippier : The relative importance of all the major greenhouse gases for global warming in the past, at present and in the future is discussed in detail in the booklet "Global Climate Change", published by the Department in association with the Meteorological Office in October. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Holt : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the factors in the 1989-90 scheme to determine community charge support which are different from or additional to factors used in earlier years to calculate local government support.

Mr. Chope : There are two main differences. First, the rate support grant system aims to equalise resources between authorities measured in terms of rateable values, whereas the new revenue support grant system equalises resources measured in terms of numbers of community charge payers in an area. Secondly, there has been a major review of the method of distributing grant between authorities and as a result the following additional factors will now be taken into account : the numbers of residents aged 11 or over, aged 65 to 74, aged 75 to 84 and aged 85 or over ; the proportion of children aged under 16 years living in private households in rented accommodation ; the number of residents aged 65 or over in independent registered residential homes whose primary function is reported as the care of elderly people, elderly people who are mentally infirm and elderly and other people who are handicapped ; the number of fire false alarm calls ; current expenditure on coast protection.

The full extent of the differences can be identified from a comparison of the GRE indicators given in appendix 2 to annex J of the Rate Support Grant Report (England) 1989-90 with those given in annex A to the draft Revenue Support Grant Distribution Report (England) issued on 6 November by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

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Mr. Wall : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what help will be available under the poll tax transitional relief scheme to students presently living in a hall of residence.

Mr. Chope : Full-time students will be liable to pay only one fifth of the community charge of the area where they live during term time. Students will be entitled to receive transitional relief, whatever type of accommodation they occupy, provided a comparison between rates and either one or two assumed community charges (depending on the number of community chargepayers in the property) shows an increase of more than £156 a year. Any student entitled to relief will receive it at the rate of one fifth of the normal rate to match the reduced community charge liability.

Football Membership Scheme

Mr. John Carlisle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress there has been on the preparation of the national membership scheme for football specators.

Mr. Moynihan : My right hon. Friend and I had a helpful meeting with the president of the Football League and the chairman of the Football Association on 14 November. They made it clear that it was still their wish that the football authorities should have first refusal to form the company that will be appointed as the Football Membership Authority. We confirmed that it was our hope and expectation that they would do so on the basis which had been agreed--that the Secretary of State would approve the composition of the authority ; that the body appointed was willing and able to produce a scheme which he could approve and which satisfied the requirements of the legislation and that he was satisfied about the implementation timetable.

We propose to hold further discussions shortly with the football authorities about the membership of the FMA. The FMA will be appointed following parliamentary approval of the commencement order bringing section 3 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 into operation. We intend that the commencement order should be laid and debated in the new year, after the publication of Lord Justice Taylor's final report on the Hillsborough inquiry.

I welcome the progress which the working party set up by the football authorities has made in its preparations for the national membership scheme. I understand that it has now issued an invitation to tender to the seven companies and consortia which are bidding for the contract to operate the scheme.

I share the hope of the football authorities that it will be possible, from a wide range of financial options, to meet the requirements of the national membership scheme, on a self-financing basis, at no direct cost to football clubs. If the clubs adopt a positive approach to promoting the scheme among their supporters, there is every prospect that this approach will be pursued successfully. The Government have provided a share of the costs incurred on the preparation of the scheme in advance of Royal Assent to the Football Spectators Act. The full funding of its implementation will be football's responsibility.

It will be for the Football Membership Authority, in conjunction with the chosen supplier, to come forward with an acceptable timetable for the implementation of the scheme. The Government want the scheme to be in place

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as soon as practicable. We will approve its introduction when we are satisfied that it will be effective, workable and safe. Before that can happen, both the Football Membership Authority and the Football Licensing Authority will need to be confident, among other considerations : that the technology has been tested properly ; that the flow of spectators through the turnstiles will proceed smoothly ; that the implications for the stewarding and policing of designated football matches have been fully assessed including the methodology for handling invalid cards, and that any structural alterations which may be needed at individual grounds have been made. The Football Licensing Authority will not license a ground to hold a designated match unless the requirements of the national membership scheme have been complied with and they are fully satisfied on safety requirements.

I look forward to continuing co-operation between the Government and the football authorities in preparing for the implementation of the scheme and to the major contribution which the scheme will make to break the link between football and hooliganism.

Planning Appeals

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many planning appeals have been made in each of the last three years ; if he will express these figures in terms of percentage increase ; how many planning appeal inspectors have been in post in each of the last three years ; and what percentage of appeals within the last 12 months have been heard within the time limit prescribed by the relevant legislation.

Mr. Moynihan : The information requested is as follows :

Salaried inspectors   

in post               

as at 31 December     



1987    |166          

1988    |173          

<1>1989 |190          

<1>As at 30 November  


Salaried inspectors   

in post               

as at 31 December     



1987    |166          

1988    |173          

<1>1989 |190          

<1>As at 30 November  


A total of 1,424 planning appeals have so far been processed under the Town and Country Planning (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1988 and the Town and Country Planning (Determination by Inspectors) (Inquiries Procedure) Rules 1988. In 724 cases (50.8 per cent. of the total) the inquiry was held within the timetable set out in the rules.


Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to ensure that local authority districts in which a large part of the income comes from tourism are not penalised for this in the revenue support grant calculations for 1990-91.

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Mr. Chope : In the proposals for revenue support grant for 1990-91, no account is taken of income from tourism in calculating individual authorities' standard spending assessments.

Elderly People

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to exempt from the community charge elderly people who are being looked after in private homes and who would otherwise require residential or nursing care at public expense.

Mr. Chope : No. Any elderly person being looked after in the community will be eligible for community charge benefit in their own right if they meet the income and capital requirements of the benefit scheme. Benefit can cover up to 80 per cent. of the community charge bill, and any elderly person receiving income support will have included in it an amount reflecting the fact that they have to pay the other 20 per cent. Thus, there should be no financial incentive for people caring for elderly relatives to seek to place them in residential or nursing care. We have recently announced changes in the regulations to ensure that people being cared for in the community will receive the same relief from the standard community charge as those in residential care homes.

Satellite Dishes

Mr. Janman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment which planning rules apply to the erection of satellite television dishes on blocks of flats ; whether he has any intention to change these rules ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Moynihan : Part 25 of the General Development Order 1988 gives permission for up to two satellite antennae up to 90 cm in diameter on blocks of flats over 15 m high, provided the antennae are sited to minimise their visual effect. That permission does not apply in conservation areas, national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty or the Broads. My right hon. Friend hopes to issue a consultation paper on planning controls over satellite antennas and other telecommunications development within the next 2 months.

Noise Control

Mr. Gerald Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he intends to give to local authorities on the control of noise pollution ; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Chris Patten : My Department is currently consulting local authorities about the adequacy of their powers to control noise nuisance under the Control of Pollution Act 1974, with particular reference to acid house and similar parties. We have already received helpful responses from the Association of District Councils, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the London Boroughs Association. Together with other Government Departments, we shall take whatever action is necessary to strengthen the law in relation to noise nuisance generally. We will also give clear guidance to local authorities about exercising their powers.

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College Green

Mr. Favell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has authorised the erection of the double-decker media hut on the green opposite the Palace of Westminster ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Adley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations he has had, concerning the erection of temporary huts on College green ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Trippier : Permission was given to ITV and Channel 4 to put up the hut for broadcasting purposes associated with the state opening of Parliament and the experimental televising of the House of Commons. Further permission was given for the hut to remain in place until after the election for the leadership of the Conservative party. It will be dismantled and removed on Thursday 7 December. It is usual to allow the media to put temporary facilities on Abingdon street gardens to cover important events.

European Environment Agency

Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the United Kingdom will participate in the proposed European Environment Agency ; whether United Kingdom statistics on environmental damage would be made available to East European countries through such an agency and vice versa ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Unanimous political agreement was reached at the Environment Council which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State attended in Brussels on 28 November. There is a firm commitment that the United Kingdom will participate in the agency's work. The EC regulation, endorsed at the Environment Council, makes specific reference to participation of non-EC countries, such as EFTA and the eastern bloc, in the work of the agency. Participation will be based on agreements drawn up between individual third countries and the agency, requiring unanimous agreement by the Council. Such agreements should allow for United Kingdom statistics on environment damage to be made available to east European countries through the agency and vice versa.

Forestry Industry Committee

184. Mr. Paice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met the chairman of the Forestry Industry Committee of Great Britain ; and what matters were discussed.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : My right hon. Friend has not held any meetings with the committee, but I have received a copy of its report on "Options for British forestry 1989-1990"; and the recommendations in this are being considered by the Forestry Commission and other relevant Departments.

Mersey Tunnel

Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to reply to the Mersey tunnel's case for Government assistance which has recently been sent to him.

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Mr. Atkins [holding answer 4 December 1989] : I have been asked to reply.

We are considering Merseytravel's request for Government financial assistance. A decision on the case it has presented will be made as soon as we have considered it fully.


Arts Council and Crafts Council (Merger)

Dr. Glyn : To ask the Minister for the Arts what representations he has received about the merger of the Arts Council and the Crafts Council ; and if he will take steps to ensure that the balance of funds available to the Arts Council and the Crafts Council will remain the same.

Mr. Luce : I have received many representations on this issue. No decision will be taken until the new year, but I have already given indicative figures of the level of support for the crafts for the next three years, in my grant announcement of 15 November.



Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when serious misdeclaration penalty and default interest for value added tax will be introduced ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ryder : Customs and Excise has been publicising, and traders have been preparing for, the introduction of the final phase of the Keith civil penalty regime from 1 January 1990. In the light of the recent consultation exercise of the VAT (Accounting and Records) Regulations, and of the technical arrangements for introducing the new regime, I have been giving further careful consideration to the timing.

The regulations, incorporating important changes beneficial to business, have been laid before the House today and will come into force as planned on 1 January 1990. As part of the procedures, traders will have the opportunity to make separate voluntary disclosure of their larger errors to Customs, thereby avoiding penalty, rather than, as at present, including them on their VAT returns or adjusting their VAT accounts. In order that all traders may become familiar with the new regime, I have decided that serious misdeclaration penalty and default interest will not be introduced until 1 April 1990.

Employee Share Ownership

110. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the provisions for encouraging employee share ownership in the United Kingdom and in other member states of the European Community.

Mr. Lilley : Major legislation providing tax reliefs to encourage the spread of employee share ownership in the United Kingdom was introduced in the Finance Acts of 1978, 1980, 1984 and 1989. These provisions have been improved or extended in most of the intervening years. By March 1988, they had resulted in more than 1.75 million employees receiving shares or interests in shares with an initial market value of £4 billion. The available

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information in other European Community countries is limited, but we are aware that Belgium, Denmark, France, the Republic of Ireland and the Netherlands also provide fiscal incentives to promote employee share ownership.

Civil Service (Southend)

111. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many persons are employed in Civil Service duties in Southend-on-Sea ; and what was the comparable figure 10 years ago.

Mr. Ryder : At 1 April 1989, there were 3,875 non-industrial civil servants (full-time equivalents) serving in Southend-on-Sea. This compares with a total of 4,924 at 1 April 1979.


Mr. Allen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the total tax burden (including value added tax and indirect taxes) on the average family at the present time ; and what was the burden in 1979.

Mr. Lilley : The total tax burden (excluding rates) on a married man with two children on average male earnings is estimated to be about 33 per cent. of gross earnings in 1989-90, compared with around 32 per cent. in 1978-79. The corresponding figures for a married man with no children on average male earnings are about 38 and 39 per cent. respectively. If real earnings had remained at their 1978-79 levels, both family types would now be paying a considerably lower proportion of their earnings in tax than in 1978-79 : down to 29er cent. for the married man with two children, and down to 36er cent. for the married man with no children.


Mr. Cousins : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans the Government have to review inequalities in occupational pension levels among retired public servants of the same grade or rank who retired in different years.

Mr. Ryder : None.

Interest and Exchange Rates

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what effect he estimates that the increase in interest rates and the exchange rate will have on incomes in the banking sector and in industries wholly or mainly engaged in producing importable and exportable goods.

Mr. Ryder : I have no sectoral estimates of the type requested.

Married Couples (Taxation)

Miss Emma Nicholson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what provisions he has made in the married couple's allowance to be introduced in April 1990 for those couples who choose to maintain independent financial affairs in marriage.

Mr. Lilley [holding answer 4 December 1989] : Under independent taxation, husbands and wives will be treated as individual taxpayers, and their incomes and gains will be taxed independently. The arrangements for giving the married couple's allowance enable couples to maintain independent financial affairs.

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Retail Prices Index

Mr. Wray : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list all the European Community countries which do not include (a) mortgage interest rates and (b) house rent payments in the calculations for their retail prices indices.

Mr. Lilley [holding answer 4 December 1989] : Of European Community countries, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Greece do not include mortgage interest payments in their calculation of the retail prices index. Only Portugal does not include house rent payments.

Mr. Wray : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what items have been (a) taken out and (b) incorporated into the calculations in the retail prices index, for each year since 1979.

Mr. Lilley [holding answer 4 December 1989] : Only minor changes have been made to the coverage of the retail prices index since 1979 the most important of which took place at the beginning of 1987 when, following recommendations of the Retail Prices Index Advisory Committee, the index was restructured to incorporate a number of items on which expenditure was relatively small and which had previously been excluded. The items in question were :

fees paid by households for educational and recreational courses ;

subscriptions to trade unions and professional associations ; non-food expenditure on pets ;

fees for medical, dental and optical treatment and the provision of spectacles ;

premiums for house contents insurance ;

expenditure on hobbies not covered by any other section of the index.

In addition housing subsidies, which used to be partly included in the calculation of the retail prices index, were excluded from 1987. At the begining of 1989, the coverage of fees was extended to take account of new charges for eye tests and dental checks, and in April 1989 community charge payments were brought into the retail prices index in respect of Scotland in place of domestic rates.

The methods by which the retail prices index has been compiled have remained essentially unchanged. Price changes are obtained for a selection of goods and services and this selection is continually updated in order to maintain the index as a reliable and representative measure of the change in prices across all the goods and services commonly bought by consumers.

Manufacturing Industry

Mr. Paice : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the extent of United Kingdom manufacturing companies' investment in research and development ; and how this has changed since 1979.

Mr. Norman Lamont [holding answer 4 December 1989] : Figures for United Kingdom manufacturing companies' investment in research and development from 1978 to 1987 are included in the relevant aggregates of intramural expenditure on research and development carried out in United Kingdom industry which were published in British Business on 3 February 1989, a copy of which is available in the Library. Figures for 1979 are not available. 1987 is the latest year for which figures are published.

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Wealth Tax

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what contribution is made by the annual wealth tax on housing in West Germany and by domestic rates in the United Kingdom in the last year for which figures are available ; and what would be the yield of a wealth tax in (a) housing and (b) other assets in the United Kingdom at the rate charged in West Germany.

Mr. Lilley [holding answer 30 November 1989] : The latest figures for receipts from the annual taxes on immovable property and on net wealth in West Germany are available in "Revenue Statistics of OECD Member Countries 1965-1988". The net payments of domestic rates in the United Kingdom were £7,553 million in 1987-88.

An estimate of the yield of a wealth tax applied to assets in the United Kingdom using the West German tax rate and system of allowances, exemptions, reliefs and valuation rules could only be provided at disproportionate costs.

Duty-free Allowances

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals he is making to the European Economic Community on the future of duty-free allowances for travellers within the European Economic Community ; what studies have been carried out by his Department of the costs of benefits of (a) increase and (b) abolition ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ryder [holding answer 30 November 1989] : The Commission recently proposed transitional increases in the travellers' allowances for goods obtained duty and tax-paid in another EC country. Between 1990 and 1992 limits would rise in three stages from 300 to 600 cigarettes, 1.5 to 3 litres of spirits and from £250 to about £1,000 for goods subject only to VAT.

The Government welcome these proposals and would indeed prefer to see a single early increase rather than three stages ; but decisions have not yet been taken by the Council. An immediate increase to the levels proposed would cost about £17 million a year.

The Commission has made no proposals affecting allowances for passengers arriving from outside the EC, where the Government would also like to see higher limits. Nor have proposals been made affecting goods obtained duty-- and tax-free within the EC, but the Commission's assumption is that duty- free shopping for intra-EC travel will cease after 1992.

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