Home Page

Column 397

Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 12 December 1990

ENERGY

Spent Nuclear Fuel

Mr. Cryer : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what consideration he has given to the application of nuclear safeguards to spent nuclear fuel designated for direct disposal.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The United Kingdom applies the requirements of the international safeguards authorities to all civil spent nuclear fuel.

Electricity Privatisations

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will estimate the breakdown of individual to institutional shareholders in the 12 regional electricity companies (a) on first dealings day and (b) one year hence.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Approximately 54.6 per cent. of the shares in each company have been made available to the general public and to employees and pensioners. The balance has been sold to United Kingdom and overseas institutions. Figures for a year hence are obviously not available.

TRANSPORT

Pelican Crossing, Kibworth

Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to commence work on the A6 trunk road pelican crossing between Kibworth Harcourt and Kibworth Beauchamp in Leicestershire before Christmas.

Mr. Chope : I regret that it will not be possible for work to begin before spring 1991. But the detailed design is almost complete.

School Buses

Mr. Ian Bruce : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what examination his Department has made of the American example of stopping traffic when children are alighting from school buses ; and whether he has any plans to introduce such a system in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Chope : The Department has no wish to emulate the position in the United States of America where in spite of special regulations some 40 children are killed and 800 injured each year in school bus loading zones.

We do, however, intend to require school buses to display special signs and regulations will be made as soon as possible.


Column 398

Belfast-Gatwick Air Route

Mr. Beggs : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will seek to increase competition and service to customers on the Belfast- Gatwick air route ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : The pattern of services on individual routes is a matter for the commercial judgment of airlines, which may apply to the Civil Aviation Authority at any time for a licence in accordance with statutory procedures.

South Manchester Study

Mr. Sumberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will make available to the public the south Manchester study which he commissioned in 1988.

Mr. Chope : No. The study was a background paper and not prepared for publication.

MFV Antares

Dr. Godman : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will outline the structure and status of the proposed inquiry into the recent loss of the MFV Antares ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : The inquiry into the loss of MFV Antares, which is now well advanced, began on 23 November and was given the status of an inspector's inquiry, under the Merchant Shipping (Accident Investigation) Regulations, on 26 November. The inspectors appointed have extensive powers under the Merchant Shipping Acts, including the power to call witnesses before them, require witnesses to answer their questions and produce documents, and to carry out any examination of ships or equipment they deem necessary.

The inspectors will report to the chief inspector of marine accidents who will in turn report to the Secretary of State. The chief inspector's report will include the inspectors' findings and whatever recommendations he considers will help to avoid a similar accident in the future. The regulations require the report to be published unless the Secretary of State orders a formal investigation or there is good reason not to publish.

In addition, a Royal Navy inquiry is taking place ; and there will be a fatal accident inquiry before the sheriff, in preparation for which the Strathclyde police is carrying out an investigation. All three groups of investigators--Royal Navy, police and inspectors--are fully co-operating with each other, but they will each arrive at their conclusions and make their respective reports independently.

Specialist Advisers

Mr. Cryer : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has any plans to increase the number of specialist advisers to his Department concerned with environmental and global warming issues.

Mr. McLoughlin : No.

M23 (Signals)

Mr. Soames : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he intends to announce the appointment of a consulting engineer to report on the design of traffic signals at junction 10 on the M23.


Column 399

Mr. Chope : Tenders have been invited for the appointment of a consulting engineer to report on the traffic signals at junction 10 of the M23. The tender period closes on 21 December and the appointment will be made in the new year.

Speedlink Freight Service

Mr. David Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what proposals he has received from the chairman of British Rail about the future of the Speedlink freight service ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : British Rail has today announced its plans following its consultations with Speedlink customers. I have arranged for a copy of the announcement to be placed in the Library of the House.

South Yorkshire Supertram

Mr. David Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will make a statement about the funding of the South Yorkshire Supertram project.

Mr. Freeman : The South Yorkshire passenger transport authority has now provided the assurances about the project to which I referred in my answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) on 28 November, column 406. I have accordingly informed the authority that grant under section 56 of the Transport Act 1968 together with credit approvals will be provided to enable it to implement the scheme.

Safety Belts

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward proposals to change the law to make safety belts compulsory in minibuses used for the transport of children.

Mr. Chope [holding answer 11 December 1990] : Minibuses first used on or after 1 October 1988 are already required to have seat belts fitted to all front seats. We have been pressing for agreement in the European Community to enable us to require the fitting of seat belts in all seats in minibuses. As a result, the European Commission is now committed to bringing forward proposals for consideration by the Community by the end of 1991.

HOME DEPARTMENT

International Friendship Club

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has had any representations about services offered by the International Friendship Club, of Regents park, Southampton, in the context of immigration by Filipino citizens ; and whether he has any proposals to curb efforts by such agencies to obtain fees from United Kingdom citizens for these services.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The Government receive representations from time to time about the activities of international marriage agencies but have received no specific representation about International Friendship Club. Such agencies neither have nor confer any special status : they and overseas national using their services have at all times to observe the requirement of the immigration rules. There are no present plans for legislation.


Column 400

Electoral Registers

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many expatriates have now had a vote registered in the United Kingdom under the 1989 Act ; and if he will give a breakdown of the countries where they are now resident, following the publication of new draft electoral registers for 1991-92.

Mrs. Rumbold : Lists of overseas electors were published by individual electoral registration officers on 28 November. We shall make the figures known to the House in due course. A breakdown of the number of overseas electors by country of residence could be published only at disproportionate cost.

Firearms Certificates

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many firearm certificates were currently valid in each police authority area of England, Scotland and Wales for 1988, 1989, and 1990, respectively ;

(2) how many shotgun certificates were currently valid in each police authority area in England, Scotland and Wales for 1988, 1989 and 1990, respectively.

Mr. John Patten : The number of firearm and shotgun certificates on issue on 31 December of both 1988 and 1989 is shown for each police authority in England and Wales in tables 2 and 4 of Home Office statistical bulletins 18/89 and 26/90. A copy of these bulletins is in the Library.

Figures for 1990 are not yet available. I am informed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland that the number of firearm and shotgun certificates on issue on 31 December of both 1988 and 1989 was as follows :


Number of firearm and shotgun certificates in                 

Scottish police force areas 1988 and 1989                     

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

Central Scotland      |1,380  |4,837  |1,364  |4,626          

Dumfries and Galloway |3,033  |6,702  |2,637  |6,496          

Fife                  |1,801  |6,307  |1,754  |6,152          

Grampian              |6,183  |14,221 |6,144  |14,132         

Lothian and Borders   |4,575  |12,494 |4,418  |12,256         

Northern              |9,928  |13,696 |8,037  |13,391         

Strathclyde           |6,642  |21,116 |5,513  |20,167         

Tayside               |4,799  |10,120 |3,673  |9,829          

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

Total in Scotland     |38,341 |89,493 |33,540 |87,049         

Note: Figures are at 31 December each year.                   

Road Fund Licence Discs

Mr. Hill : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Hampshire on the outcome of the latest survey carried out in the Southampton area on display of road fund licence discs by motorists.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I understand from the chief constable that Hampshire constabulary, in conjunction with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, conducted a vehicle excise campaign in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight between 1 and 30 November. Information about the outcome of the campaign is not yet available because offence reports are still being processed.


Column 401

Game Licences

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many game licences were issued in the 1989-90 season ; and what were the net revenues to his Department from the issue of such licences.

Mrs. Rumbold : 47,432 game licences were issued in Great Britain in the financial year 1989-90 and £245,812 was raised in revenue. The costs of issuing game licences are borne by the Home Office and came to a total of £172,406, but the revenue passes to local authorities.

Data Protection

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the meeting of the Council of Ministers on 27 November in relation to the proposal for a directive on data protection from the European Commission.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I understand that this meeting was cancelled and that the draft directive is not on the agenda for the Council's meeting later this month.

Convicted Murderers

Mr. Butcher : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many convicted murderers have committed further murders after being released from a prison sentence for that offence ; and how many people have been murdered by such ex-prisoners since 1965.

Mr. John Patten : Information on the number of persons convicted of murder who had previous murder convictions is published annually in Criminal Statistics, England and Wales--table 4.10 of the latest issue, for 1989, Cm. 1322--copies of which are available in the Library. During the period from 1946 to 1989, 10 persons in England and Wales were convicted of a second murder after previously being convicted of murder and being released on life licence. In addition, one person was convicted of murder in England and Wales, released, and was then convicted of a second murder in Scotland and one person was convicted of murder in England and Wales, released, and was then convicted of a murder in prison in Northern Ireland.

Since the abolition of the death penalty in 1965, there have been eight persons in England and Wales who have been murdered by persons previously convicted of murder. Of those previous murder convictions, four were committed before abolition of the death penalty ; only one of the others might have attracted the death penalty under the terms of the Homicide Act 1957. In addition, one person was murdered in Scotland by a person who had previously been convicted of murder in England and Wales, and one person was murdered in Northern Ireland by a person who had previously been convicted of murder in England and Wales.

Racism

Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he received a copy of the European Parliament's report on "Xenophobia and Racism" ; and what response he intends to make.


Column 402

Mrs. Rumbold : The report of the European Parliament's committee of inquiry into racism and xenophobia was received in September and its recommendations are being studied.

Asylum

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many applicants for asylum in the United Kingdom have been held in detention for longer than three months in (a) 1989 and (b) 1990 ;

(2) how many people seeking asylum in the United Kingdom have been detained in Her Majesty's prisons for more than seven days since (a) 1 January 1989 and (b) 1 June 1990 ;

(3) how many people by nationality were held in detention on the first day in each month in 1990 pending their seeking asylum.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The information requested is not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. On 7 December, 51 persons who had claimed asylum had been detained under Immigration Act powers for three months or more.

Mr. Cartwright : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many staff are currently employed in the asylum and special cases division of the immigration and nationality department ; how many of these are processing applications for asylum ; and what were the comparable figures in each of the preceding five years.

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the staff complement at the Home Office refugee unit in each year since 1980.

Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 11 December 1990] : Figures are not available for years before 1984. In subsequent years the number of staff in post or in training dealing with asylum matters was as follows :


                |Numbers        

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

1 April 1984    |39             

1 October 1985  |48             

1 October 1986  |47             

1 October 1987  |52             

1 October 1988  |57             

1 October 1989  |67             

6 December 1990 |100            

The figures for 1990 include three senior managers, two personal secretaries, and three members of the research unit, none of whom is directly engaged in processing applications ; a similar number of staff were engaged in these duties in previous years. The asylum and special cases division, which was established as a separate division on 12 November 1990, is also responsible for the issue of Home Office travel documents and re-entry visas on which 17.6 staff are employed, in addition to those dealing with asylum matters.

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what specialist training relating to asylum issues is given, upon appointment, to officials in the public inquiry office of the immigration and nationality department.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Staff in the public inquiry office receive training which lasts about 11 weeks. The course


Column 403

covers immigration law and practice, interviewing and communication skills and customer care. No specialist training on asylum policy is given as the staff in the public inquiry office do not take decisions in such cases. Their role in asylum cases is confined to receiving applications and interviewing applicants to obtain details of their claim on behalf of the asylum and special cases division who provide guidance on specific geographical areas as necessary.

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish all written instructions for officials dealing with asylum applications, including immigration officers and officials in the public inquiry office and refugee unit.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : No. It is not the usual practice to publish such internal management instructions.

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether written reasons of refusal of asylum are given, at the time of refusal, to those seeking asylum in the United Kingdom who are refused asylum but granted exceptional leave to remain.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Written reasons are given only when the applicant is to be removed to the country in which he claims to fear persecution.

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he intends to take to ensure that the procedures used by his Department for dealing with applications for asylum in the United Kingdom comply with internationally recognised standards for the protection of refugees and asylum seekers.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I am satisfied that asylum procedures in my Department meet the United Kingdom's obligations under the 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees.

Immigration

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he has taken to recover sums due by airlines under the Immigration (Carriers' Liabilities) Act 1987 ; how much has been received to date ; how much is outstanding ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : A total of £22.792 million had been incurred by carriers--that is, airlines and sea operators--to 13 November 1990. Of this sum, £8.135 million had been paid and £1.142 million waived on the basis of representations in individual cases, leaving £13.515 million outstanding.

Vigorous action is being taken to enforce payment of outstanding liabilities. In July, writs were issued against four airlines ; three have since settled out of court. In October and November final demand letters were sent to all carriers with outstanding debts. These have produced a mixture of payments, promises of payment and requests for urgent meetings. Early meetings are being arranged, where requested, to discuss the scope for resolution without recourse to the courts. But the Treasury Solicitor will be instructed to institute civil recovery proceedings where payment or satisfactory proposals for payment are not forthcoming promptly.


Column 404

Refugee Unit

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what specialist training is given, upon appointment, to officials in the Home Office refugee unit ; what follow-up training is given to such officials ; and if he intends to take steps to improve such training.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Officials in the asylum and special cases division of the Home Office specialise in geographical areas and they are trained by working under close supervision on individual cases ; additional training on general determination matters is being developed with UNHCR ; and seminars are held on particular geographical areas with outside academics.

Bradford Magistrates Court

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will arrange for facilities at Bradford magistrates court to be extended to include a creche, interpreters, and refreshments.

Mr. John Patten : It is for the Bradford magistrates courts committee, in consultation with its paying authority, to decide whether to pursue the provision of creche facilities. I understand that arrangements for interpretation are already in place, and that there is a restaurant at the court house which provides refreshments thoughout the day.

Prisoners (Suicide)

Mr. Andrew Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he plans : (i) to strengthen the efforts made by the prison service to prevent suicides by inmates and (ii) to ensure that the families of inmates who die in custody receive the support which they require following the death.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : I regard suicide and self-injury in prison as an extremely serious problem. I have asked the Director General of the Prison Service to give very high priority to it. Prison staff already make very considerable efforts to identify and care for inmates at risk, but I want to ensure that the necessary lessons are learned from past tragedies and consistently applied in future. The recent reorganisation of the prison service has presented the opportunity to reinforce existing guidance and secure more effective implementation of the prevention strategy set out in circular instruction 20/1989. Under a new addendum to CI 20/1989, area managers and governors are being required to institute more regular and thorough reviews of the measures being taken at their establishments. The suicide prevention management group within the establishment will be mainly responsible for such reviews : a thorough checklist of suicide prevention measures has been issued to ensure that all aspects of this complex and distressing problem are properly tackled.

In addition, governors are being given fresh guidance in circular instruction 52/1990 on support for bereaved families. Wherever practicable, visits will be made to close relatives of deceased inmates to offer sympathy, to respond to their questions and concerns and to pass on information, as appropriate, about specialised counselling and support services in the community.

I am conscious, too, of the traumatic effects which suicides can have on prison staff, particularly those who


Column 405

had responsibilities for the care and supervision of the inmate concerned. CI 52/1990 also stresses the need for support to be given to any member of staff who may need it.

The addendum to CI 20/1989, together with CI 52/1990, will be issued tomorrow, 13 December, under cover of a letter to managers in the prison service from the Director of Inmate Administration and the Director of Prison Medical Services. Copies of all these documents are being placed in the Library.

We shall be reviewing our suicide prevention policies in the light of the report on this subject by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons which will be published very shortly.

WALES

Cardiac Surgery

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many open heart operations have been undertaken this year at the University hospital of Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : I understand from South Glamorgan health authority that 544 open heart operations were undertaken at the University hospital of Wales between 1 January and 30 November this year.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will provide the capital allocation his Department is making in the current financial year to enable South Glamorgan health authority to reach its target of open heart operations to be performed yearly at the University hospital of Wales as a regional service.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : As part of the Department's continuing commitment to increasing the number of open heart operations per year capable of being achieved by the University hospital of Wales, capital allocations of approximately £1.2 million are being made available to South Glamorgan health authority in the current financial year for adult cardiac services and £1.5 million for paediatric cardiac services.

Work in the course of the current financial year to enhance cardiac service facilities at the University hospital of Wales has included upgraded catheter laboratories, additional intensive care facilities and a new paediatric cardiac unit at a cost to central funds of some £4 million. Our officials are currently discussing with South Glamorgan DHA further developments to ensure that targets are reached.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what was the cost to Clwyd health authority and South Glamorgan health authority of referring patients for open heart surgery outside Wales between 1 April and 31 October this year.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : I understand from Clwyd health authority that the cost of referrals between 1 April and 31 October this year was approximately £160,000 and from South Glamorgan health authority that the costs were in the region of £260,000.

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the target date by which 120 open heart operations will be undertaken on children at the University hospital of Wales.


Column 406

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Building work on the paediatric cardiac unit at the University hospital of Wales having been completed, the unit is being commissioned to come into service during 1991. The date by which capacity will be approached will depend upon the nature and timing of referrals.

Alcohol Misuse

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the organisations in Wales which have received funding to help the development of local programmes within Welsh counties to combat alcohol misuse ; and if he will give the amount given to each organisation for 1990 -91 and the figure projected for each organisation for the 1991-92 financial year.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : No allocations have yet been made. Allocations will be made early in the new year.

Epilepsy

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make it his policy to provide financial support to the Wales Epilepsy Association to enable it to develop services of advice, guidance and support network for epileptics and their families throughout Wales.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Health and social services authorities are responsible for assessing the needs of their local populations and for securing such services as they feel are appropriate to meet them.

The Wales Epilepsy Association has submitted an application for financial assistance in support of headquarters and project development costs under section 64 of the Health and Public Services Act 1968. I am shortly to see a delegation from the association, led by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) to discuss their work. A decision on the application for section 64 funding will be made as soon as possible in the light of our consideration of all applications made for the available funds.

Snowdonia National Park

Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will take steps to protect the environment of Snowdonia national park from acidification caused by the burning of orimulsion fuel at Ince power station.

Mr. Baldry : I have been asked to reply.

There has been no increase in sulphur dioxide emissions from Ince power station as a result of the burning of orimulsion. Under agreements made between Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution and Powergen, the operators of Ince, less than half of the station's 1, 000 megawatts capacity is being used for the burning of orimulsion. Power production from the remaining 500 MW boiler has been curtailed to keep the sulphur dioxide emissions within the previous level for the plant as a whole.

Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the operator of every large combustion plant will be required to apply to HMIP by 1 May 1991 for an authorisation to continue operating the plant. In setting conditions in an authorisation, HMIP must aim to ensure the use of batneec to prevent or minimise releases of prescribed substances including SO2, and compliance with any plans set by the Secretary of State. These will include the plan for


Next Section

  Home Page