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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 3 December 1990

OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT

Jamaica

38. Ms. Abbott : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the Minister for Overseas Development next plans to visit Jamaica to discuss third-world deprivation.

Mrs. Chalker : I have no plans at present to visit Jamaica, but I hope to do so.

Cambodia

40. Mr. Mullin : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has for development aid to Cambodia ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker : The Government are providing humanitarian assistance to Cambodia by supporting the activities of British non-governmental organisations and United Nations agencies inside Cambodia and in the camps along the Thai border. We are ready to consider how Cambodia's needs for help with repatriation, reconstruction and development might best be met in the context of a comprehensive political settlement.

Amazon Rain Forests

41. Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on Britain's participation in the efforts to save the Amazon rain forests.

Mrs. Chalker : The United Kingdom is supporting a comprehensive approach towards protection of the Amazonian rain forests both by seeking reforms of the tropical forestry action plan and by helping in specific countries. We already have projects in place in Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Bulgaria

42. Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding United Kingdom aid to Bulgaria.

Mrs. Chalker : Bulgaria will become eligible for support from the know-how fund once the new Government have shown their firm commitment to economic and political reform, as we hope they soon will. We are already contributing to humanitarian aid through the Community's PHARE programme. We have encouraged the Commission to consider urgently Bulgarian requests for food assistance.


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Hungary

44. Mr. Ian Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proposals there are in Hungary to use the know- how funds to assist in the privatisation of industry.

Mrs. Chalker : We have provided two British advisers for the State Property Agency in Hungary, which manages the privatisation process. We are also discussing proposals with their Ministry of Industry for British consultants to assist in restructuring companies prior to their sale.

Sri Lanka

Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the items included in the reconstruction work being undertaken in Sri Lanka, to which Her Majesty's Government have pledged £20 million.

Mrs. Chalker : About £11 million of the £20 million reconstruction grant has so far been allocated to the projects listed below. Of this, about £6.5 million has been spent. Implementation of a number of agreed projects, and allocation of the remaining £9 million, has been delayed by the renewed civil conflict.

Completed Projects

40 reconditioned buses for Sri Lanka Transport Board

Rails and fittings for Sri Lanka Railways

Vehicles and road maintenance equipment for the Ministry of Rehabilitation

Equipment for Roads Development Authority's field laboratories Continuing Projects

Tractors for Ministry of Rehabilitation for use by farmers in Trincomalee district

Equipment for Jaffna university

Equipment for hospitals in Jaffna area

Support for humanitarian and relief activities of British and Sri Lankan NGOs

Furniture and equipment for schools in eastern areas

Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the governmental and non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka that received aid from the British Government in 1988 and 1989.

Mrs. Chalker : A wide range of governmental organisations in Sri Lanka benefited from the projects and training financed from our aid programme in the years in question. A complete list could be produced only at disproportionate cost. We also provided direct assistance to one Sri Lankan non-governmental organisation, Sarvodaya, and to a number of British non-governmental organisations operating in Sri Lanka.

Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the total value of aid given to Sri Lanka ; and what proportion is paid to (a) governmental agencies and (b) non- governmental agencies for 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Mrs. Chalker : Gross British bilateral aid, including capital aid, technical assistance debt relief, assistance under the aid and trade provision emergency aid, joint


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funding of non-governmental organisations' projects, and investment by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) totalled £22 million in 1988 and £23.5 million in 1989.

An exact breakdown of these totals between governmental and non- governmental organisations (NGOs) could be provided only at disproportionate cost. However, aid provided through British and Sri Lankan NGOs under our joint funding schemes, from our disaster and refugee unit and bilateral technical assistance programme amounted to about £0.7 million in 1988 and £1.5 million in 1989.

It is not yet possible to provide equivalent figures for 1990.

Third-world Countries (Debt)

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement concerning Her Majesty's Government's policy on debt failures by third-world countries.

Mrs. Chalker : The Government have taken the lead in international efforts to provide debt relief for the poorest countries. We are currently seeking the support of other creditors for the Chancellor of the Exchequer's recent "Trinidad initiative", which would involve a reduction of two thirds in the bilateral debt of the eligible countries.

We welcome the increasing willingness of banks to negotiate reductions in the debt owed to them, mainly by middle-income countries. We support the decision taken last year to allow the IMF and World bank to provide financial support for voluntarily negotiated debt reduction agreements, and are contributing our share of the necessary resources.

Lasting recovery from debt problems will depend on the pursuit of sound economic policies in indebted countries. The Government therefore believe that international assistance should be directed to countries implementing economic reforms.

Mr. Skinner : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the Minister for Overseas Development next expects to meet other countries' Ministers to discuss third-world problems, including indebtedness ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker : I meet regularly with my counterparts from other countries to discuss these issues.

ENERGY

Energy Efficiency

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what steps the Government are taking to improve the energy efficiency of pensioner and low-income households.

Mr. Wakeham : The new home energy efficiency scheme, which will come into operation on 1 January 1991 is aimed specifically at low-income households. Its primary purpose is to increase the take-up of basic energy efficiency measures and to provide advice on ways in which those on low incomes can use energy more efficiently.


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ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Birmingham Pub Bombings

31. Mr. Jim Marshall : To ask the Attorney-General when a date will be set for the hearing of the appeal of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings ; and if he will make a statement.

35. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Attorney-General when he expects a date to be set for the appeal of the six men convicted of the Birmingham pub bombings ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : Listing is a matter for the Court of Appeal. Listing of the case can be expected as soon as the grounds for appeal on behalf of six appellants have been lodged and the Crown has had an opportunity to consider them.

May Inquiry

32. Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Attorney-General when he last met the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss progress of the May inquiry.

The Attorney-General : I last met the Director of Public Prosecutions on 9 November, when we discussed matters of departmental interest. The subjects discussed on these occasions are not made public.

Legal Aid

Mr. Fraser : To ask the Attorney-General for the last five years for which figures are available what has been the cost of legal aid for criminal cases in the Crown court (a) in total, (b) paid to solicitors and (c) paid to counsel.

The Attorney-General : The information requested is as follows :


F

£ million                                                             

              |Amounts paid |Amounts paid |Total paid                 

              |to solicitors|to counsel                               

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

1985-86       |36.360       |38.932       |75.292                     

1986-87       |42.601       |49.226       |91.827                     

1987-88       |47.591       |52.494       |100.086                    

1988-89       |52.591       |66.706       |119.297                    

1989-90       |<1>59.193    |75.762       |134.956                    

<1> Provisional figures.                                              

Negligence Payments

Mr. Fry : To ask the Attorney-General if he will consider producing guidelines for Her Majesty's judges to allow structured payments to be ordered in cases where damages are awarded to victims of negligence by health authorities.

The Attorney-General : It is for the judiciary themselves to develop guidelines for damages.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Disability

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people receive severe disability premium (a) nationally and (b) in those departmental


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areas covering Islington ; and how many people receive income support and attendance allowance but do not receive severe disability premium (i) nationally and (ii) in those departmental areas covering Islington.

Mr. Scott : In May 1989, it is estimated that the severe disability premium was included in the benefit calculation of some 70,000 claimants to income support, housing benefit and community charge benefit. At that time some 187,000 claimants in receipt of income support and attendance allowance did not have the severe disability premium. A number of these people would have been refused the premium because someone was getting invalid care allowance in respect of their care ; and special benefit calculation rules apply to certain groups such as people in residential care and nursing homes. Information for Islington is not available.

Statutory Sick Pay

Mrs. Gorman : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what recent representations he has received from small business organisations regarding his plans to review statutory sick pay reimbursement regulations.

Mr. Scott : Such representations have been received from the following organisations representing small businesses.

National Federation of Self Employed and Small

Businesses ;

National Farmers Union ;

The National Chamber of Trade ;

The Retail Consortium ;

The Union of Independent Companies ;

The Electrical Contractors' Association.

Representations have also been received from the Confederation of British Industries and the Employers Engineering Federation, which will have small businesses within their membership.

Mrs. Gorman : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he has estimated the cost to business of moving to 80 per cent. reimbursement of statutory sick pay to business.

Mr. Scott : The proposals in the Statutory Sick Pay Bill reducing the amount of statutory sick pay (SSP) which employers can recover from 100 per cent. to 80 per cent. will produce savings in public expenditure of £181 million in 1991-92, rising to £190 million in 1992-93 and £197 million in 1993-94. In addition, the ending of the additional amount (currently 7 per cent.) which employers can recover as compensation for the national insurance contributions payable on statutory sick pay itself will result in an increase in national insurance income of £71 million, £75 million and £78 million in the three respective years.

My right hon. Friend has also announced reductions in employers' national insurance contributions, which will operate from the same date as the statutory sick pay changes. These are worth some £250 million to employers and have been particularly weighted to help small businesses. They will go a long way towards reducing the extra costs for employers of the statutory sick pay changes and in some cases totally offset them.

The precise effect of the combined statutory sick pay/National Insurance contributions package on individual businesses will depend on the sickness experience and pay levels within their work force, but bearing in mind


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both the contribution reductions and the fact that most spells of statutory sick pay are over very quickly--the average period is three weeks and 90 per cent. are over within eight weeks--the extra cost for small employers is not expected to be significant.

Attendance and Mobility Allowances

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for each year from 1979 what was the number of awards in payment for the mobility allowance ; what was the number of reviews called for by (a) the recipient and (b) persons other than the recipient ; what was the number of such reviews that led to the mobility allowance being withdrawn ; and what was the number of such withdrawals as percentages of the number of allowances reviewed and of the total number of allowances in payment.

Mr. Scott : Information on the results of reviews called for by the mobility allowance recipient is not available. Nor is any information on reviews available prior to 1985. The remainder of the information requested is set out in the tables.


Year       |Number of            

           |awards in            

           |payment<1>           

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

1979       |137,000              

1980       |185,000              

1981       |211,000              

1982       |253,000              

1983       |302,000              

1984       |353,000              

1985       |406,000              

1986       |461,000              

1987       |512,000              

1988       |556,000              

1989       |599,000              

<1> Number of awards in payment  

current at year end. Figures     

include awards made under the    

vehicle scheme beneficiaries     

regulations.                     


Year Number of reviews called for by

recipient Number of reviews called for by

persons other than the recipient

1985 274 173

1986 433 228

1987 350 438

1988 379 412

1989 453 500

Outcome of reviews called for by persons other than the recipient Number where Mob A withdrawn Withdrawn as

percentage of

reviews Withdrawn as

percentage of

awards

120 69.4 0.03

155 68.0 0.03

340 77.6 0.06

299 72.6 0.05

399 79.8 0.07

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security for each year from 1979 for (a) the attendance allowance at the higher rate and (b) the attendance allowance at the lower rate, what was the number of awards in payment ; what was the number of reviews called for by (i) the recipient and (ii) persons other than the recipient ; how many of each such reviews led to (1) the higher rate attendance allowance being replaced by the


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lower rate allowance and (2) the attendance allowance being withdrawn completely ; what was the number of such reductions as percentages of the number of allowances reviewed and of the total number of allowances in payment ; and what was the number of such complete withdrawals as percentages of the number of allowances reviewed and of the total number of allowances in payment.

Mr. Scott : The information requested is not available, but such information as is available is in the tables.


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Awards of attendance allowance-Table 1                      

1           |<1>2       |<1>3       |<1>4                   

                                                            

Year        |Higher rate|Lower rate |Total                  

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

1979        |123,000    |163,000    |286,000                

1980        |132,000    |182,000    |314,000                

1981        |147,000    |204,000    |351,000                

1982        |150,000    |214,000    |364,000                

1983        |177,000    |238,000    |415,000                

1984        |192,000    |277,000    |469,000                

1985        |222,000    |321,000    |543,000                

1986        |237,000    |348,000    |585,000                

1987        |259,000    |382,000    |641,000                

1988        |286,000    |426,000    |713,000                

1989        |311,000    |452,000    |763,000                

<1> Estimated awards in payment at a given time.            


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All decisions on review-Table 2                                                                   

1             |2            |3            |4            |5            |6                          

                                                                                                  

Year          |Successful<1>|Unsuccessful |Total        |Column 3 as  |Column 3 as                

                                                        |percentage of|percentage of              

                                                        |column 4     |column 4 in                

                                                                      |Table 1                    

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

1979          |12,536       |4,275        |16,811       |25.4         |1.5                        

1980          |16,288       |5,310        |21,598       |24.4         |1.7                        

1981          |14,849       |5,967        |20,816       |28.7         |1.7                        

1982          |17,443       |7,703        |25,146       |30.6         |2.1                        

1983          |19,819       |10,024       |29,843       |33.6         |2.4                        

1984          |23,184       |10,190       |33,374       |30.5         |2.2                        

1985          |30,252       |10,943       |41,195       |26.6         |2.0                        

1986          |30,492       |12,156       |42,648       |28.5         |2.1                        

1987          |44,104       |14,169       |58,273       |24.3         |2.2                        

1988          |40,538       |15,549       |56,087       |27.7         |2.2                        

1989          |45,778       |20,796       |66,574       |31.2         |2.7                        

<1> A successful review is one where there is a resulting increase in benefit.                    

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what events not set in train by a recipient trigger a review of the attendance and mobility allowances.

Mr. Scott : There may be a review at any time if there is evidence to suggest that a recipient's circumstances have changed.

Mrs. Rosalind Mackworth

Mr. Grylls : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he intends to reappoint Mrs. Rosalind Mackworth as social fund commissioner when her present appointment expires on 30 November.

Mr. Scott : I am pleased that Mrs. Rosalind Mackworth has agreed to continue to serve as social fund commissioner for a period of three years from 1 December 1990. I understand that Mrs. Mackworth has also agreed to act as commissioner for Northern Ireland for the same period.

NATIONAL FINANCE

North Sea Oil

Mr. Robert Hughes : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what discussions the Inland Revenue have had with offshore operators about whether the cost of safety improvements to North sea oil production platforms subsequent to the technical report of the Department of Energy and the Cullen report into the Piper Alpha disaster may be offset by oil companies against petroleum revenue tax.


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Mr. Maples : The Inland Revenue has had no discussions with oil industry representatives specifically on the likely tax treatment of future safety improvements made in accordance with these reports.

Privatisation Advisers

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, further to his answer to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras of 23 November 1990, Official Report, column 233, whether in assessing the suitability of firms to act as privatisation advisers he has access to the unpublished reports of the Department of Trade and Industry inspectors.


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