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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 5 February 1990

NORTHERN IRELAND

Student Loans

Mr. Hume : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) how many representations he has received to date supporting the introduction of student loans ;

(2) how many representations, including postcards, he has received to date opposing the introduction of student loans.

Dr. Mawhinney : Since the publication of the White Paper "Top-Up Loans for Students" (Cm. 520) in November 1988, a total of 472 representations expressing a variety of views have been received from various sources. Of these, 452 were postcards sent in pursuance of a campaign mounted by student unions.

Mr. Hume : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement indicating the estimated cost of the introduction of student loans in Northern Ireland and outlining the proposed administrative arrangements for such a scheme.

Dr. Mawhinney : There is Estimates provision of some £5.5 million for loans in 1990-91. The Student Loans Company Ltd. will have responsibility for the administration of loans to all eligible students in the United Kingdom and provision will be made for each of the Education Departments to meet its respective proportion of the running costs.

Students' Incomes

Mr. Hume : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information is available to indicate (a) the average student rent in Northern Ireland and (b) the average housing benefit received by students in Northern Ireland during term time.

Dr. Mawhinney : The information requested in (a) is not available. The information requested in (b) is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Hume : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information is available to indicate the average income levels in Northern Ireland received 12 months after graduation by (a) disabled graduates, (b) women graduates, (c) graduates over 26 years of age and (d) all graduates.

Mr. Cope : The information is not available for Northern Ireland.

Social Fund

Mr. Summerson : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will announce the budget available for payments from the discretionary part of the social fund in 1990-91.


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Mr. Needham : The total sum will be £21.32 million. The budget for small care grants will be £7.32 million and budget for loans will be £14 million.

Firearms

Mr. William Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many fees have been paid by applicants and for what total sums in respect of (a) applications for firearm certificates, (b) renewal of firearm certificates and (c) variation of firearm certificates ; and how much has been repaid in each case because the application was rejected, in each of the last three years for which figures are available.

Mr. Cope [holding answer 23 January 1990] : The Police Authority for Northern Ireland has informed me that the information is not available in the form requested and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. The total net amount received for all firearms certificate fees and the total refunds are as follows :

Table file CW900205.000 not available

PRIME MINISTER

Food Surpluses

Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister (1) if she will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the proposed expenditure by the EEC in 1990 of £9,000,000,000 on the disposal of food surpluses ;

(2) if she will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the sums being spent on the disposal of food surpluses.

The Prime Minister : I have at present no plans to do so. The provision of £9 billion in the European Community's budget for the storage and withdrawal of agricultural products and for export refunds represents a reduction in real terms on the Community's 1989 budget. Surplus stocks are now a fraction of what they were at their peak and the proposed expenditure is well within the legally binding guideline which was one of the measures agreed at the February 1988 European Council as part of the process of CAP reform.

I shall certainly continue to take every opportunity to impress upon our Community partners the need for this process of reform to be maintained and for agriculture to be reformed worldwide in the context of the current multilateral trade negotiations.

Trade Imbalance

Mr. Dunn : To ask the Prime Minister if she will indicate in the Official Report the representations made to the European Commission by Her Majesty's Government on the need to equalise the adverse imbalance of trade between the United Kingdom and the empire of Japan ; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The Government keep in close contact with the European Commission about measures to


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improve the Community's balance of trade with Japan. These include measures to sustain the recent shift in the balance of the Japanese economy from exports to domestic demand ; the encouragement of Japanese manufacturing investment in the Community ; the removal of the remaining barriers to access to the Japanese market ; the promotion of business awareness of the opportunities in the Japanese market ; and improvement of our business men's skills in the Japanese language.

While the United Kingdom's visible trade deficit with Japan remains high, its rate of growth declined to just 1 per cent. over last year compared with 20 per cent. in 1988 ; in 1989 United Kingdom exports to Japan almost doubled their rate of growth to over 30 per cent. while the rate of growth of our imports from Japan was more than halved to 9 per cent.

East-West Relations

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment she has made of the peace dividend accruing to the United Kingdom from changes in East- West relations.

The Prime Minister : The changes taking place in Europe have been made possible in good part by the strength and cohesion of NATO, which will remain the basis for our security. The negotiations in Vienna on conventional forces in Europe should lead to some reductions in NATO's forces. It will be for the Alliance itself to decide how these will be allocated between its members.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Jonathan Greenwood and Sara Coren

Mr. Fraser : To ask the Attorney-General if he will make a statement about the conduct of the Crown's case against Jonathan Greenwood and Sara Coren at Southwark Crown court on 23 January.

The Attorney-General : The legal issues arising from the case are under consideration.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Romania

Mr. George : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance has been given by Her Majesty's Government to Romania (a) directly and (b) indirectly since the revolution ; and if each item can be costed.

Mr. Waldegrave : We have donated a consignment of medical supplies on 24 December and several items of medical equipment since then. We are treating a number of seriously injured young victims of the December fighting for major surgery, at a cost which has yet to be determined. We are contributing about £5.8 million to the food aid and medical supplies packages sent or agreed so far by the EC. The British Council has committed £100,000 for new assistance projects in the cultural field. Further help is under consideration.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs announced on 22 January that the existing know-how fund for Poland and Hungary


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would be widened to cover other countries of eastern Europe once they are firmly committed to reform. I hope that Romania will qualify for assistance in that context.

Eastern Europe

Mr. Hannam : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how he proposes to ensure that an appropriate part of European Community financial support to east European countries is allocated to the needs of disabled people.

Mr. Maude : EC structural aid to eastern Europe is intended to create market economies and generate wealth to the benefit of all the population. In addition the Community has, responding to requests and needs, provided humanitarian, medical and food aid in particular circumstances, distributed through national authorities.

John McCarthy

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what initiatives the Government are taking in order to secure the release of John McCarthy following reports that he is alive and well ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waldegrave : I refer the hon. Member to the Prime Minister's answer of 30 January to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown). We are following up the recent reports about Mr. McCarthy.

Lebanon

Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether Her Majesty's Government maintain relations with (a) the Syrian-backed Hrawi regime and (b) General Aoun's regime in Lebanon ; and what information he has as to which regime controls the area in which the British embassy is situated.

Mr. Waldegrave : We maintain relations with President Hrawi and his Government, as the legitimate authority in Lebanon, and informal contacts with other political figures, including General Aoun. The British embassy is in the area controlled by General Aoun.

Syria

Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he has any plans to renew diplomatic relations with Syria.

Mr. Waldegrave : We could not consider restoring diplomatic relations without firm evidence that Syria has given up support for international terrorism.

Lebanese Embassy

Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Syrian interests section of the Lebanese embassy in London is manned by Syrians or Lebanese citizens ; and what proportion of the total staff of the Lebanese embassy are in this section.

Mr. Waldegrave : There are eight members of the Lebanese embassy in London with diplomatic status. Of


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these, three are Syrian nationals who form the Syrian interests section. There are three British nationals in the British interest section of the Australian embassy in Damascus.

Visa Applications

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if, when evaluating the visa application of a foreigner married to a British citizen, British immigration officials assess the integrity of the British spouse ; and if he will make a statement ;

(2) what questions British immigration officials ask visa applicants who are married to British citizens, when deciding on the primary purpose of the marriage ; and if he will make a statement ; (3) whether the desire of a foreigner married to a British citizen to be reunited with his or her spouse and children constitutes sufficient grounds for the granting of a visa ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maude : In considering an application for entry clearance from a foreign spouse of a British citizen, the entry clearance officer must be satisfied that the relevant requirements of the immigration rules are met. Depending on whether a visit or settlement was intended, these requirements are set out in paragraphs 22 and 50 of the Immigration Rules (HC 388).

Entry clearance officers have discretion to ask whatever questions are necessary to establish whether an applicant qualifies for admission under the immigration rules. However, in pursuing any particular line of questioning, entry clearance officers are instructed to be at all times alert to the sensitivities of applicants (and sponsors) and to treat them all with courtesy, tact and respect.

Environmental Concerns

Mr. Jack : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what activities the Government are pursuing through the United Nations to address world scale environmental concerns.

Mr. Waldegrave : We are pursuing through the United Nations, and its organs, a number of activities to protect the global environment. These include matters that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister raised when she addressed the United Nations General Assembly on 8 November 1989, not least preparations for the 1992 United Nations conference on environment and development and the work of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organisation). In June we will host the second meeting of the parties to the Montreal protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer which, with its parent convention, is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme.

Namibia

Mr. Hunter : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his assessment of the current political situation in Namibia.

Mr. Waldegrave : The Constituent Assembly has agreed that independence day will be 21 March. Agreement on the constitution is expected shortly.


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British Exhibition, Kiev

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in which papers the advertisement on 24 January for Russian speakers for the British exhibition at Kiev was placed ; why these were chosen ; why it was decided to make the deadline for applications 26 January ; how many applications he received ; and whether he will take late applications.

Mr. Maude : The FCO placed advertisements for Russian speakers for the British exhibition at Kiev in The Times Educational Supplement of 12 January and in The Independent of 18 January. The Independent repeated the advertisement on 24 January. The two newspapers were chosen for their advertising rates and national circulation.

The deadline for applications was set in order to provide sufficient time to select candidates and to give those chosen adequate notice before they are required for the exhibition. The FCO has to date received 211 applications and will consider late applications from suitably qualified candidates.

ENVIRONMENT

Housing (Research)

89. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to conduct research into the causes of the present numbers of those sleeping rough or in poor-quality temporary accommodation but who are not at present legally classified as homeless.

Mr. Chope : Suitable questions to give further insight into the numbers are to be included in the next (1991) census and decisions will then be made on any necessary further research.

Homelessness

90. Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to extend the priority need category of homeless to include those aged 18 years and under.

Mr. Chope : Our review of the homeless legislation concluded that the existing priority need categories were adequate and appropriate to cover the homeless in genuine need. Decisions are for local authorities ; they must judge whether young people aged 18 or under are in priority need.

Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for the Enviroment if he will make a statement on progress in the allocation of £250 million for the homeless and the relief of homelessness.

Mr. Chope [holding answer 1 February 1990] : Of the £250 million additional resources announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 15 November, £148 million will be made available for schemes to relieve homelessness in London and the south-east in 1990-91 and £102 million in 1991-92. Housing associations were invited to submit bids for 1990-91 to the Housing Corporation by 22 January and local authorities to my Department by 31 January. The applications are now being assessed and decisions will be issued before the start of the next financial year. A total of £112 million will be allocated to local authority schemes and £36 million to housing associations.


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Mr. Hawkins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps the Government are taking to reduce the problem of homelessness, especially among young people and those with a record of mental illness ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Chope : Following our review of the homelessness legislation, additional resources of £250 million are being made available in those areas with the greatest homelessness pressures, in particular to reduce the numbers in bed and breakfast. Local authorities have a duty to secure accommodation for those homeless whom they deem to be vulnerable as a result of mental illness or other special reason, including young people, and some of the additional resources will go to assist these groups. The problems young homeless people face are often complex and are addressed by a range of Government policies. Departments are now looking at how these work together to ensure appropriate assistance is available.

Community Charge

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will introduce regulations to prevent the use of information by a charging authority for purposes other than those associated with the management or collection of the community charge which has been disclosed to a charging authority by a community charges registration officer for the purposes associated with the community charge ; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Chope : No, because such regulations are unnecessary. A charging authority may make use of information provided by a community charges registration officer only in accordance with its powers under the Local Goverment Finance Act 1988, and is bound by the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1984.

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the level of non-payment of the poll tax in the first year it is due.

Mr. Chope : In the light of the very high level of registration achieved by almost all local authorities, improved arrangements for paying by instalments, and more flexible enforcement powers, the level of payment of the community charge should match or exceed that for domestic rates.

Social Services, Humberside

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the cost to Humberside county of implementing sections 5 and 6 of the Disabled Persons Act ; and what was the extent of the allocation for this in central funding for Humberside.

Mr. Chope : The provision we have made in the settlement for local authority personal social services (PSS) takes account of the additional costs of implementing sections 5 and 6 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986. The PSS element of each authority's standard spending assessment is its share of the PSS provision and is calculated in accordance with section 3 of the Revenue Support Grant Distribution Report (England), which was approved by the House of Commons on 18 January 1990.


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Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the impact on the community charge on Humberside to (a) compensate for the cut in social services spending allocation for 1990-91 over 1989-90 while maintaining social services at the same level and (b) to meet the criticisms in the inspection of child care by social services.

Mr. Chope : Humberside county council's standard spending assessment (SSA) represents an appropriate level of spending for the council to provide a standard level of service consistent with the Government's view of the amount of expenditure which it would be appropriate for authorities generally to incur. The community charge in Humberside would be £278, before safety net adjustments, if the county and districts all spent at the level of their SSA.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was his Department's social services spending allocation for county Humberside for 1990-91 ; what was the grant-related expenditure allocation for 1989-90 ; and what are the reasons for the changes between the years.

Mr. Chope : The 1990-91 standard spending assessment (SSA) for social services for the county of Humberside is £60.234 million. The 1989-90 grant-related expenditure assessment (GREA) for social services in Humberside was £61.637 million.

There are several reasons for the difference in the two assessments. The GREA includes a small element for pre-1981-82 debt charges which is covered elsewhere in the SSA formula ; the assessment formula has been substantially revised ; and the information used in the assessment has been updated.

Housing Demand

Mr. Hawkins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if any estimates have been made of the likely effects on the demand for houses and flats of the future decline in the population of marriageable age together with the effects of the continuing increase in both the number of single parents and the number of broken marriages ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Chope : My Department has published estimates of the future number of households, most recently in "1985 Based Estimates of Numbers of Households in England". These estimates are derived from the official projections of the population, analysed by sex, marital status, and age. They therefore take account of the change in the population of marriageable age, and in divorce rates. They take account also of the proportion of never-married women who head lone-parent households. These demographic influences interact, so their effect on the number of households cannot be estimated individually. The number of households will be a strong influence on the future demand for separate dwellings, but there are other important influences as well, notably changes in income. No estimate has been made of total demand for separate dwellings. The Government have however accepted from the London and south-east regional planning conference a figure of 570,000 for the increase in the housing stock in the south-east region between 1991 and 2001.


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Local Government Finance

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will state the reasons why, following the publication of table 67 by his Department which illustrated community charges implied by levels of local authority spending then current for 1987-88 and for 1988- 89, his Department changed the basis of its estimates for 1989-90 to include only income from rates and Government grants.

Mr. Chope : The illustrative charges for 1989-90 were calculated after the Government had made it clear that income from rates and grants was the likely basis of the expenditure assumption needed for safety nets in 1990-91. The 1989-90 illustrative charges were therefore calculated on this basis, which also gave a consistent comparison between actual average rate bills in 1989-90 and illustrative charges. Figures calculated on the previous basis were placed in the Library on 19 July 1989.

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has issued the guidance, referred to in his written answer to the hon. Member for Taunton, Official Report, column 27 of 13 November 1989, on the boundary between domestic and non-domestic property ; and whether he will place such guidance in the Library.

Mr. Chope : I hope to be able to issue the guidance later this month ; a copy will be placed in the Library.

Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what estimates he has made of the number of people who will be liable to pay standard community charge on unoccupied domestic property.

Mr. Chope : No estimates have been made of this particular category, but we intend to collect information about the standard charge in the regular statistical returns which authorities will be making under the new system.

Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) which local authorities have stated that they will provide relief from the standard community charge on unoccupied property for a period in excess of three months ;

(2) which local authority councils have declared their intention to levy standard community charge at less than twice the personal community charge.

Mr. Chope : This information is not available centrally at present.

Ms. Armstrong : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what amount and proportion of the education component of the standard spending assessment for each authority benefiting from an area cost adjustment factor greater than one derives from the operation of that factor : and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Chope : The information requested is shown in the table.


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Table file CW900205.001 not available

Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what reply the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities will be sending to the letter of 29 January on Manchester and the poll tax from the leader of Manchester city council ; whether the Minister's claim that the city council seems intent on setting the highest poll tax it can get away with represents Government policy ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Hunt : I have not yet received any such letter. If authorities spend at the level of their standard spending assessments, the community charge everywhere before safety net adjustment and certain special grants would be about £278. Higher charges will be a consequence of authorities' spending decisions, and authorities will be accountable to their electorate for the level of community charge they introduce.


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Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) further to his answer to the hon. Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) of 17 January, Official Report, columns 252 -53, if he will make it his policy to bring forward a community charge capping scheme between the February cycle of local authority meetings and the end of the financial year ;

(2) if he will make it his policy to cap local authorities that propose a 1990-91 community charge which is more than 10 per cent. above the Government's target figures for charges.

Mr. Chope : I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, North-West (Mr. Stern) on 17 January.

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice he has given local councils as they settle their community charges for the forthcoming financial year.

Mr. Chope : My right hon. Friend has made it clear that if some of the horrendously high figures for the community charge being bandied about are in fact set next year, he will have no hesitation in capping the authorities concerned.

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give his estimates of (a) grant towards local government spending to the Exchequer and (b) the total contributed or to be contributed by non-domestic rates for 1988-89, 1989-90, and 1990-91, in a manner consistent with the figures given in the reply of 15 November 1989, Official Report, column 242.

Mr. Chope [holding answer 23 January 1990] : The available information requested is as follows :

Table file CW900205.002 not available

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the percentage and absolute increase in community charge for every 1 per cent. increase in expenditure incurred over the levels that are covered by central Government grant ; and what is the level of charge for (a) Northampton and (b) Northamptonshire at that level of grant ; and if he will tabulate the information also for every district/county in England and Wales.


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