Mr. Cohen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will bring the January 1987 service requirement for a Government data network that is currently in the Library up to date with current development.
Mr. Ryder : The service requirement for the Government data network was produced for procurement purposes and it would not be appropriate to update it as a record of development. I have placed a copy of the annual report of the GDN central support staff for 1988-89 in the Library. Since that report was prepared, 10 more Government users, Her Majesty's Treasury, Office of Population Censuses and Surveys, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, Department of Energy, General Register Office (Scotland), the Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce, Department of Trade and Industry, Welsh Office, Department of Transport and Ordnance Survey, have signed access agreements to use the network.
Mr. Amos : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what provisions are being made in all the offices and other places under his Department's control for the convenience and comfort of non-smokers ; and if he will make a statement on his Department's policy for non-smokers.
Mr. Ryder : Her Majesty's Treasury is a member of the "Look After Your Heart" scheme, and, in that context, is reviewing its workplace policies, including that on smoking, which will contribute to the prevention of heart disease. I will write to my hon. Friend when that review has been completed.
Mr. Ryder : In the 12 months to April 1979, the all-items retail prices index rose by 10.1 per cent., and the corresponding rate for April 1989 was 8.0 per cent. For the RPI excluding mortgage interest payments, the equivalent inflation rates were 9.1 per cent. and 5.9 per cent. in April 1979 and April 1989 respectively.
Mr. Bermingham : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress has been made with respect to the European Commission's 1992 value added tax approximation proposals ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 2proposals, the main changes being the suggestion of an (unspecified) minimum standard rate of VAT and an acknowledgement that some existing zero-rating could be continued. Subsequent discussions in successive Economic and Finance Ministers Councils agreed that the Council should decide on the tax approximation issue by the end of 1991. For further details of discussion at December ECOFIN, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) on 20 December at column 244.
The United Kingdom view remains that centrally fixed approximation of VAT rates is neither necessary nor appropriate to achieve the single market. While the Government have welcomed the Commission's acceptance of the need to continue zero-rating, they have continued to make clear that they could not accept any proposals which would restrict their ability to apply zero rates.
Useful progress has, however, been made on technical arrangements for removing fiscal frontiers. The decisions taken largely reflected the United Kingdom approach and should ensure reduced compliance costs for businesses, while maintaining adequate controls against fraud.
Mr. Bermingham : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received in relation to amelioration in the value added tax treatment of charities ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ryder [holding answer 26 January 1990] : My right hon. Friend has received various representations from charitable bodies and individuals. The concerns expressed are being carefully considered, but any changes in taxation would be a matter for my right hon. Friend's Budget statement.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service if he will list by location, where creche facilities are provided for working mothers employed in his Department ; and if they have to make any payment for this service.
Mr. Luce : The Civil Service college at Sunningdale is planning to open a workplace nursery later this year for which users will make payment, and staff have access to a holiday playscheme financed by both parental and departmental contributions. My Department is considering the need for and feasibility of providing creche facilities.
Mr. Luce : No, but subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, the cash limit for the Office of the Minister for the Civil Service (class XX, vote 1) will be increased by £728,000 from £35,189,000 to £35,917,000 for 1989-90. The increase will be charged to the reserve.
The increase is required to cover the additional cost of making physical security improvements ; increased expenditure on fees, etc ; additional administrative support
Column 3for the Government Whips ; promoting and implementing the "next steps" initiative ; administering a revised discretionary pay system for the Civil Service senior open structure ; and increased recruitment advertising by the Civil Service Commission.
The foregoing increases in provision are partially offset by decreases resulting from a reassessment of capital provision, the grant in aid to the European Institute of Public Administration, and from savings in staff costs.
Some of the foregoing changes in provision have a consequent effect on the Department's running costs limit, which will be increased by £791,000 from £31,248,000 to £32,039,000.
In addition, the following amounts will be transferred to the Departments and agencies shown to meet part of the cost of increased management development training under the challenge funding scheme initiated by my Department. This will be met from existing but unallocated public expenditure provision.
|£'000 ------------------------------------------------------------ Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food |34 Central Statistical Office |5 Her Majesty's Customs and Excise |98 Ministry of Defence |34 Department of Education and Science |19 Department of Employment |365 Department of Health |26 Home Office |9 Inland Revenue |200 Her Majesty's Land Registry |1 Northern Ireland Civil Service |31 Ordnance Survey |2 Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys |1 Property Services Agency |1 Department of Social Security |25 Vehicle Inspectorate |13 Welsh Office |8 Office of Arts and Libraries |1 |------- Total |873
Class and |Current Cash|Change |Revised Cash |Vote |Limit |£ |£ |£ ----------------------------------------------------------------- XIII, 1 |157,599,000 |-61,000 |157,538,000 XIII, 2 |178,466,000 |+2,800,000 |181,266,000 XIII, 4 |1,561,000 |+61,000 |1,622,000
Additional provision of £2,800,000 is being sought in a spring Supplementary Estimate on class XIII, vote 2, to augment the main estimate provision for assets accepted in lieu of tax. The increase of £2,800,000 will be charged to the reserve and will therefore not add to the planned total of public expenditure.
Additional provision of £61,000 is being sought on class XIII, vote 4. The Office of Arts and Libraries running costs
Column 4provision is to be increased by £75,000 to meet additional staff costs. That increase is partially offset by economies on capital expenditures of £10,000 and an increase in appropriations in aid of £4,000. The net increase of £61,000 will be offset by savings on research, surveys and other services on class XIII, vote 1, so there will be no addition to the planned total of public expenditure.
The Prime Minister : We welcome the recent political changes in eastern Europe. NATO's policy of pursuing dialogue with the East whilst maintaining sufficient defences to preserve security has played a major part in promoting these changes. The Alliance is a force for stability in Europe at a time of great uncertainty, and our commitment to it is undiminished.
The Prime Minister : We contribute actively to international co- operation against terrorism in every way we can. Our starting point is to seek the widest possible agreement to our own policy, based on no substantive concessions to terrorists' demands. We also exchange effective, practical measures to prevent and counter terrorism.
We are prominent in the Trevi Group in Europe, where we are currently strengthening procedures for communicating information about terrorist activities, and examining the scope for action against the funds that sustain terrorism. Elsewhere, we are contributing to the International Civil Aviation Organisation's work on devising an international regime for marking explosives for detection.
We provide advice, assistance and training in counter-terrorism to many overseas Governments and agencies ; and our police forces are in daily contact with their counterparts in the common effort to prevent terrorist acts and to bring terrorists to justice.
Column 5hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Wales and for Northern Ireland ensure that these matters are effectively co- ordinated within Government.
The Prime Minister : I officially opened the advanced technology centre at Warwick university during my visit on 8 January. I was much impressed by the excellent facilities and the commitment of the staff. The centre is an outstanding example of what can be achieved through co- operation between higher education and industry.
Sir Trevor Skeet : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment she has made of the level of transfer of direct responsibility to the European Community since the passage of the Single European Act ; and if she will make a statement.
The Prime Minister : The Single European Act's main objectives, in particular the programme to complete the single market, are being fulfilled, but the SEA did not fundamentally affect the institutional balance in the Community. The final word remains with member states in the Council of Ministers, who remain accountable to their national Parliaments.
The Prime Minister : "Strategic Deception" by Professor Sir Michael Howard is being prepared for publication as volume V of the series entitled "British Intelligence in the Second World War". The current position is that the text has now been returned to Her Majesty's Stationery Office for printing and binding. Publication is expected to take place in the summer.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, further to his reply of 13 December 1989, Official Report, column 702, relating to the appointment of an inspector, what was (a) the name of the inspector and his firm, (b) the company he investigated, (c) the investigations being simultaneously undertaken and (d) the date on which his Department became aware that one of its inspectors was being investigated.
The answers to the hon. Member's questions are :
(a) Mr. P. L. Ainger FCA of Messrs. Price Waterhouse. (b) Gilgate Holdings Limited.
Raybourne Group Limited.
Desadean Properties Limited.
(c) Those at (b) and Ramor Investments Limited.
(d) I cannot say.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is his policy on appointing inspectors from accountancy firms found wanting by his Department.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry whether any individual from Thornton Baker, now Grant Thornton, has been appointed a Department of Trade and Industry inspector since September 1981.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what representations he has received on the brake systems of children's bicycles with a saddle height of less than 25 in. ; what representations he is making to the EEC Commissioner on this matter ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Forth : Representations have been made by the cycle industry about the level of safety and appropriateness of the European harmonised standard EN71 in respect of the braking performance tests specifically in relation to cycles with saddle heights between 435 mm and 635 mm. I am concerned by the suggestions that the tests may not provide the level of safety required by the essential requirements of the European directive on the safety of toys. The United Kingdom delegation to the European Committee for Standardisation sought to have the braking test specified in the International Standard Organisation standard 8098 incorporated into the harmonised standards, but there was insufficient support for this from other CEN delegates.
The matter is being urgently considered. If the Department concludes that any harmonised standard does not meet the essential requirements the procedure is for the Government to refer the matter to the standing committee set up under the directive for re-consideration. If appropriate, we will proceed accordingly. In the meantime, my officials have told the manufacturers that, when toys do not conform in whole or in part to harmonised standards, type approval may be obtained from an approved body. The approved body is concerned to establish that the model submitted for approval meets the essential requirements, and in so doing may, if the harmonised standard is inappropriate, have regard to other appropriate tests.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will give full publicity to the arrangements offered by supervisory bodies seeking recognition under the Companies Act 1989 ; and if he will give the public an opportunity to comment on the acceptability of such arrangements.
Mr. Redwood : My right hon. Friend can give no undertakings to publicise the details of any application he receives, since this would rule out the possibility of a body including information supplied in confidence in its application. He will, however, carry out such consultation as he thinks necessary to enable him to reach a view on an application. He will take into account any comments he receives.
Mr. Murphy : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will take steps to instigate an inquiry under the Companies Acts of alleged insider dealing in the shares of Rechem International.
The surveillance division of the stock exchange looks at cases of price movements before price-sensitive announcements, and where appropriate it passes information to my Department for consideration of whether further investigation, in particular by the appointment of inspectors, is desirable. Such appointments are not normally announced.
Mr. Fisher : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many applications have been made for newspaper acquisitions under the terms of the Fair Trading Act 1973 since 19 December 1980 ; and how many of these were refused.
A number of applications have also been received which have been withdrawn before any final decision has been taken.
Mr. Paice : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the Government's policy on the export to eastern European countries of carbon technology with regard to filtration systems for emissions from industrial processes.
Mr. Redwood [holding answer 24 January 1990] : The Government's policy is to encourage export of goods and technology which do not give rise to strategic or other concerns. Applications for export licences are considered case by case on their merits.
Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1) if he will make a statement about BOM Holdings plc and the extent to which his Department is monitoring the company under the Companies Acts ;
(2) what representations he has received about proposed land sale transactions and other activities by BOM Holdings plc in the past three months ; and if he intends any action in respect of this company.
Mr. Redwood [holding answer 25 January 1990] : BOM Holdings plc has not filed its first accounts by the due date, 31 August 1989, nor has it filed an annual return due on 1 November 1989. The Registrar of Companies is taking appropriate action.
My Department has received a number of representations about the company's recent activities including a contract for the sale of an area of land which is a major asset. We are considering urgently whether action is appropriate, but I cannot indicate whether any action will be taken.
Mr. Redwood [holding answer 26 January 1990] : The British Government do not trade with Somalia. Trade by United Kingdom companies with Somalia is published in the "Overseas Trade Statistics" book held in the House of Commons Library.
Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales following his recent announcement of his intentions to upgrade land communications in north Wales, what is the latest estimate for the commencement date for work on the Felinheli bypass ; and what is the target date for this road to be open.
Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what provisions are being made in all the offices and other places under his Department's control for the convenience and comfort of non-smokers ; and if he will make a statement on his Department's policy for non-smokers.
Column 9Mr. Grist : The Department operates a "no smoking" policy which aims to provide a smoke-free environment for the health and comfort of all staff. Smoking is mainly restricted to special designated areas where those who wish to smoke are free to do so. The policy is working well.
Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he next expects to meet the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency ; and if he will raise the future status, staffing and funding of Wintech.
Mr. Peter Walker : I meet regularly with the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency to discuss matters concerning the whole range of its activities, including the work of its technology development arm, which is now known as Welsh Development Technology.
Mr. Peter Walker : Yes, the cash limit for class XVII, vote 2, regional and industrial development Wales, is being reduced by £3 million from £89,448,000 to £86,448,000 in order to take account of lower than expected demand in the current financial year for regional enterprise grant. At the same time gross expenditure by the Welsh Development Agency is being increased by a similar amount to allow it to retain an additional £3 million of grant in aid receipts. The cash limit for class XVII, vote 8, hospital and community health services, etc., Wales, is being reduced by £600,000 from £835, 510,00 to £834,910,000. This will meet the Welsh share of the additional assistance to be paid from class XIV, vote 3, to haemophiliacs infected with HIV, as announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health on 23 November 1989 at columns 11-12.
Finally, a token Supplementary Estimate will shortly be presented for class XVII, vote 13. A parliamentary answer giving full details of the cost of water privatisation will be given soon.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what was the total cost of staging the one-day conference, "Strategic Intent and Direction for the National Health Service in Wales", held on 17 November 1989 at the Angel hotel, Cardiff.
Mr. Grist [holding answer 25 January 1990] : The total cost of preparing for and staging this major conference of 260 delegates was £21,000, with a further £4,600 spent on the production of materials which are continuing to be used. Of the total cost, £3,000 was met from the Department's NHS budget, and the balance from the Department's publicity budget.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : The site is regarded as of great archaeological importance. It is a circular enclosure, recognised from aerial photography and interpreted as an ecclesiastical settlement of the early Christian period (5th to 12th centuries AD). Such enclosures are not common in Northern Ireland.
Early 19th century records of human remains and stone-lined graves confirm the presence of an early graveyard within the enclosure. A medieval parish church was recorded on the site in 1306 AD. The ruins of a later church, built in 1622 AD, still stand within the enclosure and have been scheduled for protection under the Historic Monuments Act (Northern Ireland) 1971.