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Chlorofluorocarbons

Mr. McGrady : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps have been taken by the Department of Economic Development actively to encourage industries to reduce the use of CFC gases.

Mr. Needham : The industrial science division of the Department has been working with Northern Ireland companies wishing to replace CFC gases in their products and processes in evaluating suitable alternatives. In addition, any company seeking the advice of health and safety inspectors and fire officers concerning the use of CFCs or plant or equipment using CFCs, is encouraged to use a more environmentally acceptable alternative.

Private Nursing Homes

Mr. Mallon : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to introduce closer monitoring of the welfare of residents in private nursing and residential homes.

Mr. Needham [holding answer 16 January 1990] : We plan to bring forward proposals for a registered homes order later this year to consolidate and update the existing Northern Ireland legislation on the registration and inspection of private and voluntary residential and nursing homes. A policy paper on care in the community to be issued shortly by the Department of Health and Social Services will also address improvements in monitoring the quality of community care services, including those provided by the private sector.


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Firearms (Certificates)

Mr. William Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many (a) murders, (b) other deaths, (c) muggings, (d) woundings and (e) attacks on the security forces in which firearms were used have occurred in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years where the firearms (i) were being used by the person legally holding them, and (ii) were stolen from civilians.

Mr. Cope [holding answer 9 January 1990] : Statistics are not collated in the form requested, and the information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Audit Policy

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) how, and in consultation with what bodies, he formulates audit policy ;

(2) if he will list the governmental, non-governmental bodies, committees or institutes which make the audit policy in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Redwood : The audit of company accounts is carried out under the Companies Act 1985 which is to be amended by the Companies Act 1989 to reflect both European Community obligations and certain domestic considerations. Significant changes to this legislative framework are usually the subject of wide consultation. In addition, audit standards and guidelines are promulgated by the members of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies on the basis of proposals developed by its auditing practices committee. The professional accountancy bodies also issue technical guidance to their members.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether, at any time since June 1979, he has communicated concerns about the standards of auditing to any leader of the accountancy profession.

Mr. Redwood : As I explained in the reply I gave on 11 December at column 461 to a question by the hon. Member, my Department normally refers specific complaints about auditors' conduct of statutory audit to the relevant professional body. Last year my Department also took up with the accountancy bodies a number of general issues about the conduct of audit which had come to our notice.

Inspectors' Reports

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the unpublished inspectors' reports which, since June 1979, his Department has given to outside private interest organisations.

Mr. Redwood : No. Unpublished reports have been disclosed where appropriate under the Companies Act 1948 (as amended), under part XIV of the Companies Act 1985 and under the Financial Services Act 1986.

Accountancy

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what actions he takes to promote the accountancy profession.


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Mr. Redwood : My Department seeks to promote all United Kingdom business, including accountancy, by fostering a climate of enterprise and prosperity in which business and commerce can flourish.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what powers he has to regulate the accountancy profession.

Mr. Redwood : I have no powers to regulate the accountancy profession as such, although there are statutory provisions for the regulation of certain types of accountancy work, for example company audit, insolvency and the provision of investment advice.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will ask the Director General of Fair Trading to investigate whether major accountancy firms indulge in price fixing.

Mr. Redwood : No, I have no reason to make such a request. If the hon. Member has evidence to cause concern, he should provide it directly to the Director General of Fair Trading.

Peat Marwick McLintock

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether, in light of the banning of a Peat Marwick McLintock partner from practising by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States of America, he has any plans to examine the firm's standards of work in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Redwood : No.

Batteries and Accumulators

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many alkaline manganese batteries containing more than 0.10 per cent. of mercury by weight were sold in the United Kingdom in each of the last three years.

Mr. Forth : Sales of alkaline manganese batteries in the United Kingdom during the last three years have averaged 200 million units per year (based on an estimate for 1989). The mercury content of such batteries is being reduced in accordance with a European battery industry reduction programme which began in 1986 :

1986 from 1 per cent. to 0.5 per cent.

1988 from 0.5 per cent. to 0.3 per cent.

1990 from 0.3 per cent. to 0.1 per cent.

1992 from 0.1 per cent. to 0.025 per cent.

During 1987 and 1988 all these batteries contained more than 0.1 per cent. of mercury by weight but during 1989 batteries containing less than 0.1 per cent. were introduced to the United Kingdom market and by the end of 1990 all alkaline manganese batteries supplied to the trade are expected to be below this level.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the percentage of batteries and accumulators sold within the United Kingdom that are marked to indicate whether the battery or accumulator must be disposed of separately, can be recycled, or may be disposed of with household refuse.

Mr. Forth : The information is not available. There is at present no requirement for batteries and accumulators to


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be so marked, but a modified draft directive covering certain of these products and containing proposals for their labelling has recently been published by the European Commission. Negotiations have yet to begin on the final form of the directive.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he has undertaken to promote the marketing of batteries and accumulators containing smaller quantities of dangerous substances or less polluting substances.

Mr. Forth : Encouraging the production of batteries and accumulators containing lower levels of substances such as lead, mercury and cadmium is one of the objectives of a modified draft directive recently published by the European Commission. Negotiations have yet to begin on the final form of the directive, but it would not be sensible for the Government to act independently and in advance of its completion. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom primary battery industry has made good progress in voluntarily reducing the levels of mercury in many of its products.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) what steps he is taking to ensure that consumers are fully informed about the dangers of uncontrolled disposal of spent batteries and accumulators ;

(2) what steps he is taking to ensure that consumers are fully informed about the dangers of uncontrolled disposal of spent batteries and accumulators.

Mr. Forth : Consumer information programmes are proposed in a modified draft directive on batteries and accumulators containing dangerous substances recently published by the European Commission. Negotiations have yet to begin on the final form of the directive, but it would not be sensible for the Government to act independently in advance of its completion.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to inform consumers of the method of removing batteries and accumulators which are built into appliances.

Mr. Forth : The removability of batteries from appliances is one of the issues covered in a modified draft directive on batteries and accumulators containing dangerous substances recently published by the European Commission. Negotiations have yet to begin on the final


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form of the directive, but it would not be sensible for the Government to act independently in advance of its completion.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps he is taking to set up a deposit system for batteries and accumulators.

Mr. Forth : None. Deposit systems are mooted as a possible means of encouraging the return, for recycling or controlled disposal, of spent batteries and accumulators containing dangerous substances in a modified draft directive recently published by the European Commission. Negotiations have yet to begin on the final form of the directive.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what steps his Department has taken to reduce the heavy metal content in batteries and accumulators.

Mr. Forth : Reductions in heavy metal content are among the objectives of a modified draft directive on batteries and accumulators containing dangerous substances recently published by the European Commission. Negotiations have yet to begin on the final form of the directive, the environmental aims of which the Government welcome.

South African Offshore Industry

Mr. Caborn : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if the British Government have ever given grants or loans to enable South Africa to study the potential growth of the South African offshore industry.

Mr. Redwood : No.

Export Credits Guarantee Department

Mr. Caborn : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the overall extent of Export Credits Guarantee Department insured credit in pounds sterling supporting United Kingdom exports for the Mossel Bay oil from gas project in South Africa and for how long does Exports Credits Guarantee Department cover last.

Mr. Redwood : It has been the practice of successive Governments not to disclose information about ECGD support for individual cases unless the buyer and exporter wish it to be public.


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British Shipbuilders

Mr. Trotter : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on British Shipbuilders' external financing limit for 1989-90.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : British Shipbuilders' external finance limit for 1989-90 was provisionally set at £3 million as recorded in "The Government's Expenditure Plans 1989-90 to 1991-92" published in January 1989. I have now set a revised external finance limit for 1989-90 of £35 million to meet the costs associated with the disposal and closure of British Shipbuilders' subsidiaries over this year. This increase is being charged to the Reserve and is within the estimate for the planning total in the Autumn Statement.

Post Office

Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what financial and efficiency targets he has set for the Post Office in 1990.

Mr. Forth : The Secretary of State, in agreement with the Treasury, has set the Post Office a target to achieve an annual average 6.4 per cent. return on mean capital employed over the three years 1989-90 to 1991-92. The profit used when calculating the return will be struck after interest (excluding interest on past surpluses) but before tax. The Post Office, in agreement with the Secretary of State, has set corresponding targets of 6.4 per cent. for the letters business, 5.8 per cent. for the parcels business and 7 per cent. for the counters business.

At the Post Office's request, the form of the target has been changed from a return on turnover to a return on capital employed, in line with usual practice in the private sector.

The targets are calculated from the following expected returns in each of the three years :


            |1989-90  |1990-91  |1991-92            

            |per cent.|per cent.|per cent.          

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

Post Office |2.4      |6.3      |10.6               

Letters     |1.0      |6.3      |11.8               

Parcels     |2.5      |5.0      |10.0               

Counters    |6.0      |7.0      |8.0                

The returns in the last year of the period are approximately equivalent to the real rate of return of 8 per cent. of capital employed which the Government announced in March 1989 that public sector industries should aim to achieve on their investment. The Government accept that the Post Office should work up to profitability consistent with the new rate of return over the target period.

The Secretary of State has agreed that the Post Office does not need to set an efficiency target for parcels, which operates in a competitive market, although he will monitor published tariffs for parcels sent between private people, a market in which parcels is dominant. The Post Office, in agreement with the Secretary of State, has sent the following real unit cost (RUC) targets for the letters and counters businesses.


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Cumulative reduction by 1991-2 over 1988-9

Letters--1 per cent.

Counters--2 per cent.

The financial and efficiency targets for the counters business are set for the business as a whole in accordance with the principles of the 1978 White Paper on the nationalised industries (Cmnd. 7131). They are not intended to set a level for prices charged by counters to its individual clients, which are subject to agreements achieved through bilateral commercial negotiations by the parties concerned in the light of the particular circumstances.

Vietnam

Mr. Mullin : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the number of contracts between British and Vietnamese companies for which export credits guarantee cover has (a) been applied and (b) granted during each of the last three years.

Mr. Redwood [holding answer 15 January 1990] : Since 1982 Export Credits Guarantee Department cover for business with Vietnam has been available only for contracts where payment is to be made on terms of cash against documents out of an irrevocable letter of credit confirmed before shipment by a bank in the United Kingdom. On this basis exports insured in 1987 totalled £30,000 and in 1988, £20,000. No business was covered in 1989.

During the past three years only one inquiry for cover on a potential contract on extended credit terms has resulted in a formal application being submitted to ECGD. The United Kingdom company concerned has been advised that ECGD is not prepared to offer cover.

ENVIRONMENT

Pollution (Rivers Don and Rother)

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what fines were levied on companies and individuals responsible for polluting (a) the river Don and (b) the river Rother, over the last 10 years.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Detailed information on prosecutions and fines for water pollution offences is not held centrally. However, I understand from the National Rivers Authority (NRA) that prosecutions it has brought since its formation on 1 September 1989 in respect of polluting discharges to the Don and Rother systems have resulted in the following fine :

Name of offender : Yorkshire Water plc

Watercourse : Ewden Brook

Fine Imposed : £1,000

Prior to 1 September last year, the regional water authorities were primarily responsible for enforcement of water pollution controls. From the records kept by the Yorkshire Water Authority (YWA) the NRA has been able to provide the following details of prosecutions brought by the YWA in respect of pollution of the Don and Rother systems :


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(b) Prosecutions for Pollution of the Rother and its Tributaries (brought by the former Yorkshire   

Water Authority):                                                                                   

Name of offender            |Date of offence  |Watercourse      |Fine(s)                            

                                                                |imposed (£s)                       

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

British Steel Orgreave      |15 April 1981    |River Rother     |200                                

                            | 8 May 1981      |River Rother     |200                                

                            | 8 June 1981     |River Rother     |200                                

Glass Bulbs Ltd.            | 4 November 1981 |River Rother     |150                                

J. M. Whitaker/W. Rogers    | 7 June 1982     |River Drone      |300                                

                            |14 July 1982     |River Drone      |300                                

Northern Mining Strip       |28 March 1983    |River Rother     |125                                

Bradway Farms               |20 September 1984|River Drone      |750                                

                            | 1 November 1985 |River Drone      |1,000                              

                            |15 November 1985 |River Drone      |1,000                              

                            |25 June 1987     |River Drone      |1,500                              

Transorganics Ltd.          |28 February 1985 |Hooton Brook     |<1>800                             

Raymin Northern Ltd.        |31 July 1986     |River Drone      |200                                

Chesterfield Cylinders      |16 August 1988   |River Rother     |1,000                              

                            |23 August 1988   |River Rother     |1,000                              

British Steel Orgreave      | 5 July 1988     |Handsworth Brook |1,000                              

Coalite Fuels and Chemicals | 3 April 1989    |River Doe Lea    |1,500                              

<1> 2 offences                                                                                      


(b) Prosecutions for Pollution of the Rother and its Tributaries (brought by the former Yorkshire   

Water Authority):                                                                                   

Name of offender            |Date of offence  |Watercourse      |Fine(s)                            

                                                                |imposed (£s)                       

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

British Steel Orgreave      |15 April 1981    |River Rother     |200                                

                            | 8 May 1981      |River Rother     |200                                

                            | 8 June 1981     |River Rother     |200                                

Glass Bulbs Ltd.            | 4 November 1981 |River Rother     |150                                

J. M. Whitaker/W. Rogers    | 7 June 1982     |River Drone      |300                                

                            |14 July 1982     |River Drone      |300                                

Northern Mining Strip       |28 March 1983    |River Rother     |125                                

Bradway Farms               |20 September 1984|River Drone      |750                                

                            | 1 November 1985 |River Drone      |1,000                              

                            |15 November 1985 |River Drone      |1,000                              

                            |25 June 1987     |River Drone      |1,500                              

Transorganics Ltd.          |28 February 1985 |Hooton Brook     |<1>800                             

Raymin Northern Ltd.        |31 July 1986     |River Drone      |200                                

Chesterfield Cylinders      |16 August 1988   |River Rother     |1,000                              

                            |23 August 1988   |River Rother     |1,000                              

British Steel Orgreave      | 5 July 1988     |Handsworth Brook |1,000                              

Coalite Fuels and Chemicals | 3 April 1989    |River Doe Lea    |1,500                              

<1> 2 offences                                                                                      

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the companies currently given deemed consent to pollute (a) the river Don and (b) the river Rother, stating what pollutants they are empowered to discharge ; and on what scale.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I understand from the National Rivers Authority that the following two companies have deemed consents originally issued under the terms of part II of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, to discharge minewater :

(a) into the river Don and its tributaries--British Coal Corporation.


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(b) into the river Rother and its tributaries--British Coal Corporation ; Moorside Mining Company Limited.

Deemed consents were issued under transitional provisions for bringing many discharges which had not required consent under earlier legislation into the regulatory control system for the first time. As they are progressively reviewed by the National Rivers Authority, deemed consents are being revoked and where appropriate, replaced by a full, conditional consent granted under the Water Act 1989.


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The particulars of these consents are held on the register maintained by the Yorkshire region of the National Rivers Authority which is available for inspection by the public during normal office hours.

Nuclear Waste Disposal

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the implications of the findings of the European Commission's PAGIS study into the suitability of British geology for high-level radioactive waste disposal for the search by Nirex to establish a deep disposal facility for intermediate-level and low-level radioactive wastes.

Mr. Trippier : Nirex is not responsible for heat generating or high- level radioactive waste. However, it takes note of the results of studies such as PAGIS. The PAGIS report pointed out the long-term containment benefits that would stem from excavating a repository in hard rock with sedimentary cover as advocated by Nirex.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects Nirex to report on the results of its site investigation work at Dounreay and Sellafield.

Mr. Trippier : At present Nirex is awaiting the result of planning applications for the drilling of boreholes at both Dounreay and Sellafield. If permission is granted, Nirex will need to carry out a drilling programme of 18 months, alongside other detailed site investigation work, before any report is expected.

Mr. Malcolm Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish an outline timetable relating to the commissioning of a repository for radioactive waste.

Mr. Trippier : I understand that Nirex has a target date of 2005 for the commissioning of a deep repository. This assumes some eight years to excavate and contruct the repository. Therefore between 1990 and 1997 Nirex will have to undertake the necessary site investigations and obtain planning permission to construct a repository. There will be a public inquiry.

Council Homes, Corby

Mr. William Powell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many council house properties were sold by (a) Corby district council and (b) the New Towns Commission in the Corby district since April 1979 ;

(2) which local authorities have sold 30 per cent. or more of their council house stock since April 1979.

Mr. Chope : Between April 1979 and June 1989 Corby district council has reported the sale of 5,338 dwellings and the New Towns Commission sales of 12 dwellings in Corby. Corby district council has not yet submitted the return for September 1989.

In England 61 authorities have reported sales of 30 per cent. or more of their council house stock between April 1979 and September 1989. These authorities are listed below. In addition three authorities have recently transferred their complete stock to housing associations : Chiltern (in December 1988), Sevenoaks (March 1989) and Newbury (December 1989).

I have today laid a table in the Library giving available information on local authority sales up to September 1989.


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It shows year-by-year information for each authority since 1984-85 together with cumulative figures since April 1979 and the proportion of their stock sold since April 1979.

Authorities reporting sales of 30 per cent. or more of their stock between April 1979 and September 1989

Arun

Aylesbury Vale

Bournemouth

Bracknell Forest

Breckland

Bromley

Bromsgrove

Broxbourne

Broxtowe

Castle Point

Cherwell

City of London

Corby

Crawley

Dacorum

Daventry

Dover

East Hampshire

East Hertfordshire

Eastleigh

Eden

Epping Forest

Fareham

Fenland

Forest Heath

Fylde

Gelding

Havant

Havering

Huntingdonshire

Kingswood

Knowsley

Melton

Mendip

Poole

Ribble Valley

Rochester upon Medway

Rochford

Rushcliffe

Sedgemoor

South Herefordshire

South Lakeland

South Northamptonshire

Spelthorne

Surrey Heath

Tandridge

Teignbridge

Test Valley

Torbay

Torridge

Wandsworth

Wansdyke

Wealden

Welwyn Hatfield

West Devon

West Oxfordshire

Weymouth and Portland

Woking

Woodspring

Wychavon

Wycombe


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