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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 16 January 1991

TRANSPORT

Urban Clearway

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list any differences between the regulations applying to the existing clearways in the Greater London area and those being used in the current red route experiment.

Mr. Chope : Urban clearways are subject to a blanket prohibition on parking and loading at peak periods. Drivers can stop at any time to pick up and set down passengers. Clearway regulations are applied only to stretches of road where this uniform treatment is appropriate. The pilot red route traffic orders provide for differing treatment along the whole of the route to fit road conditions and local requirements. Where necessary, there is a total ban on stopping. Elsewhere, there is provision for parking, waiting and loading at certain times. Waiting and loading bays are marked in the road, with frequent signs indicating times of application.

Channel Tunnel

Sir Russell Johnston : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will make it his policy to require the operators of the channel tunnel to segregate passengers and vehicles during transit.

Mr. Freeman : Responsibility for the design, construction and safe operation of the tunnel system rests with Eurotunnel. All of Eurotunnel's designs and operating procedures are subject to the approval of the Channel Tunnel Intergovernmental Commission--IGC--which is advised on safety matters by the independent Channel Tunnel Safety Authority--SA. Both are binational bodies established by the treaty of Canterbury.

In December 1989 the IGC decided that Eurotunnel could continue to develop its transport system on the basis that coach and private car passengers would not be segregated from their vehicles during transit through the tunnel. With regard to safety aspects of their decision, the IGC took the advice of the SA that non-segregation would be acceptable subject to a number of binding requirements. Copies of the IGC's decision and the SA's note of March 1990 reviewing the principal factors on which their advice was based, were placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on what date he expects to initiate the red route experiment in east London ; over what lengths of road it will operate ; and how many person hours per day or per week he estimates will be spent in its operation.

Mr. Chope : The red route pilot scheme in east London is entirely on local authority roads, from the Angel to Butcher row. A distance of some 3.5 miles is involved plus certain measures on adjacent roads. The local authorities


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concerned are expecting to install the scheme over the next few months beginning in February on the Aldgate and Commercial road stretch. The effort to be applied to enforcement maintenance, and fine tuning of the measures will depend on experience of their operation. Estimating the resource requirements is one of the objectives of the pilot scheme.

High-speed Rail Link

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will now take active steps to ensure or to investigate the options that would provide a high-grade, high-speed rail link to the City and the west end, in addition to that already planned for Paddington.

Mr. Freeman : The east-west crossrail, which was given approval by the Department of Transport on 9 October 1990, will link the City and the west end to Paddington and the express link to Heathrow. BR and its partners are also considering whether crossrail might be used to provide through services from the City and the west end to Heathrow.

Cross-London Rail Tunnel

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will now take steps to ensure that land in the areas of Stratford and Paddington which could be used for a cross-London railway tunnel is safeguarded for planning purposes by the relevant planning authorities as part of their responsibilities for strategic planning.

Mr. Freeman : Directions to safeguard the alignment of the proposed east-west crossrail were issued by authority of the Secretary of State on 5 November 1990.

Road Widening, Brixton

Mr. Fraser : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to widen the main London-Brighton road at Brixton road near the junction with Atlantic road.

Mr. Chope : None. This is a local road for which the London borough of Lambeth is the highway authority.

ENVIRONMENT

Local Authority Borrowing

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the policy objective of central Government control of local authority capital borrowing.

Mr. Key : Local authority capital expenditure, which is mainly financed by borrowing, amounts to nearly one third of all public sector capital expenditure. Regulation of local authority borrowing is, therefore, an important factor in the Government's control of public expenditure.

Community Charge

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the number of extra staff taken on by local authorities in England and Wales for the collection and administration of the community charge ; and if he will provide a breakdown by local authority.


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Mr. Key : It is estimated that about 15,000 extra staff have been taken on by local authorities in England and Wales for the collection and administration of the community charge. No individual authority breakdown is available.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his replies of 26 November 1990, Official Report, column 259 and 12 December 1990, Official Report, column 434, if he will publish the information for those local authorities for which information is missing from the material deposited in the Library.

Mr. Key : One local authority has sent in information to my Department and another has revised its figures since the previous answer I gave to the hon. Member.


                                  Authority                          

                                 |Blaby      |Mid Suffolk            

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

Number of people who have made                                       

  a payment in respect of a                                          

  personal community charge by                                       

  30 September 1990              |45,000     |55,693                 

                                                                     

Number of people liable who have                                     

  not made a payment in respect                                      

  of a personal community                                            

  charge by 30 September 1990    |17,000     |2,939                  

                                                                     

Proportion of charge payers                                          

  making a payment (per cent.)   |72.6       |95.0                   

Sir Ian Gilmour : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment by how much the estimated 1991-92 average community charge would be reduced if (a) education and (b) education, fire and police were financed through central Government funding, with no change in the grants paid by central Government to the local authorities.

Mr. Portillo [holding answer, 15 January 1991] : On 31 October 1990 the Secretary of State issued a consultation paper on revenue support grant for 1991-92 and related matters. The Secretary of State's proposals included net revenue expenditure to provide a standard level of service of £17,135.7 million for education, £2, 352.9 million for police and £1,020.6 million for fire and civil defence services. If all authorities spent at the level of their standard spending assessment, he proposed that their income from community charges should be £12,972 million.

If central Government were to fund education spending in line with these proposals, with no change in the amounts on non-domestic rates, and revenue support grant paid to local authorities, there would be no need for a community charge as the extra government funding would exceed the proposed community charge income.

Correspondence

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich, dated 26 July 1990, regarding the National Association of Chimney Sweeps.

Mr. Yeo : My right hon. Friend's office wrote to the hon. Member on 14 August pointing out to her that her


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letter had been transferred to the Department of Trade and Industry as the subject was primarily a matter for that Department.

DEFENCE

The Gulf

Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what contribution is being made by Saudi Arabia and other states towards the maintenance of the British forces in the Gulf.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : An agreement was signed with Saudi Arabia yesterday, confirming the provision of free food, water, fuel, accommodation and transport for our forces. Other countries in the Gulf where our forces are stationed, our allies in the Western European Union, and other nations are providing a range of practical assistance and we are continuing to discuss what further support might be made available.

Royal Navy

Mr. Latham : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is in a position to announce any measures affecting Royal Navy establishments arising from his statement to the House on 25 July 1990.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : Detailed work on the future structure of the Royal Navy support area is continuing. At this stage in our considerations, however, it has already become clear that it will be possible to achieve significant savings through rationalisation of some functions. As a consequence of these measures, it is our intention to close, by 31 March 1992, the RN leadership school--HMS Royal Arthur--the RN Diesel repair depot, Blackbrock Farm, and, within the next 12 to 18 months, the accommodation and administrative headquarters at Furse house, London--HMS St. Vincent.

The leadership training functions presently carried out at HMS Royal Arthur will be transferred to an existing training centre at Whale island, Portsmouth--HMS Excellent. The resulting collocation of leadership training with management and divisional training will produce savings in terms of service and civilian manpower, as well as other running costs. The closure of HMS Vincent should produce worthwhile savings in similar areas, as well as receipts from the disposal of Furse house, assuming that no other defence use for the building is found. There will, however, be some costs in terms of lodging and subsistence allowances for those personnel currently accommodated in the establishment.

An independent review of the strategy for the repair and overhaul of RN marine diesel engines has concluded that there is no need to retain the in- house repair facility at Blackbrook Farm. Significant savings will be achieved through putting the whole repair task to industry, which already deals with some 70 per cent. of the work. Consultations with the trade unions will take place, in accordance with normal department practice, and we hope to be able to offer alternative employment to the majority of the civilian staff affected by these closures.


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Iraqi Trainees

Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Iraqi military personnel underwent training in the United Kingdom in each of the years 1981 to 1990 inclusive.

Mr. Archie Hamilton [holding answer 14 January 1991] : Details of military assistance provided to individual countries are normally confidential between Governments. In addition, statistics are normally collected on the number of places allocated to foreign students not on the number of individuals trained, who may attend more than one course. A total 430 places on MOD training courses were allocated to Iraqi students between 1981 and the cessation of training, following Mr. Bazoft's execution, in March 1990.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Immigration

Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Attorney-General what is the expected time it takes for an appeal against refusal of (a) a visitor's visa and (b) an entry clearance to be heard ; what were the comparable figures three, six and 12 months ago ; and what plans he has to reduce this time.

The Attorney-General : The Lord Chancellor's Department and the Immigration Appellate Authorities--IAA--do not keep detailed statistics on the expected times for appeals to be determined in the form requested, but it is possible to provide an informed estimate. Over the past 12 months the average time taken for the IAA to deal with visit visa and settlement appeals to Adjudicators has been six to seven months. This does not include the time which appeals are in the hands of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Home Office and appellants' representatives. This can take from 2 months upwards depending on the nature and complexity of the case.

In addition, the average for appeals from a determination by an Adjudicator to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal over the same period has been 4-6 months, depending on the length of time taken by the parties to prepare their case.

The Lord Chancellor's Department is seeking to keep waiting times for hearings to a minimum and has authorised the IAA to increase the number of staff from 85 to 96 .

Social Security Appeals

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Attorney-General what are the most recent figures for the number of appeals received by the Social Security Commissioners concerning (a) mobility allowance and (b) attendance allowance.

The Attorney-General : The number of appeals received by the Social Security Commissioners in 1990, the last year for which figures are available, concerning (a) mobility allowance and (b) attendance allowance are 268 and 573 respectively.

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Attorney-General what are the most recent figures for the number of decisions by social security commissioners regarding the award of


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either mobility or attendance allowance that found the decisions of (a) delegated medical practitioners and (b) medical appeal tribunals to be erroneous in law.

The Attorney-General : The number of decisions by Social Security Commissioners in 1990, the last year for which figures are available, regarding the award of Attendance Allowance that found the decisions of the Delegated Medical Practitioner to be erroneous in law is 535. Medical appeal tribunals become involved in attendance allowance appeals very infrequently. The number of decisions by Social Security Commissioners in the same period regarding the award of Mobility Allowance that found the decisions of medical appeals tribunals to be erroneous in law is 235.

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Voluntary-aided Schools

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what account is taken in determining the 1991-92 voluntary-aided capital programme of the academic results of a school ; and how many voluntary-aided schools have a better academic record than Hasmonean high school, Barnet.

Mr. Fallon : Information on academic performance of individual voluntary-aided schools is not held in the Department and is not taken into account in determining the voluntary aided and special agreement capital programme.

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what percentage of the 1991-92 voluntary-aided capital programme is being allocated to (a) Church of England schools, (b) Roman Catholic schools and (c) Jewish schools.

Mr. Fallon : The percentage of new major voluntary aided and special agreement building projects approved to start in 1991-92 has been allocated as follows :-- (a) 41 per cent. for Church of England schools, (b) 41 per cent. for Roman Catholic schools and (c) 0 per cent. for Jewish schools. The remaining 18 per cent. was allocated for new projects in non- denominational voluntary aided and special agreement schools. Percentages are not available for expenditure on minor projects--£5,000 to £120,000--since it is for local education authorities to determine how best to distribute their minor works allocations after consulting the associated bodies within their area.

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science when Barnet council first included the rebuilding of the Hasmonean high school in its voluntary-aided capital programme submission.

Mr. Fallon : Barnet local education authority first included the rebuilding of the Hasmonean high school in its plans for 1984-85.

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what account is taken in determining the 1991-92 voluntary-aided capital programme of the extent to which schools are oversubscribed ; and how many of the schools which received funding were more heavily oversubscribed than Hasmonean high school, Barnet.


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Mr. Fallon : No account is taken of oversubscription in determining the 1991-92 voluntary-aided capital programme, except in the case of projects which result from statutory proposals to provide new school places in the absence of spare capacity in neighbouring schools. The information requested in the second part of the question is not available.

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what percentage of Barnet schoolchildren are educated in voluntary- aided schools ; what is the comparable percentage for other London education authorities ; and what correlation there is between these percentages and the scale of new projects approved for the voluntary-aided sector 1991-92 capital programme.

Mr. Fallon : A total of 34 per cent. of Barnet school children were educated in voluntary aided schools as compared with 22 per cent. for Greater London. There is no significance in any correlation between these percentages and the scale of new projects approved for the voluntary-aided sector 1991-92 capital programme.

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science in how many of the submissions for the 1991-92

voluntary-aided capital programme the sponsors offered to provide more than 15 per cent. of the cost.

Mr. Fallon : None.

Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science with whom were discussions held during the passage of the Hasmonean High School Bill and what was the then estimated cost of the proposals contained in the Bill.

Mr. Fallon : Discussions were held with officials of the Department acting on instructions from Ministers. The total estimated cost of rebuilding the boys' school on the girls' school site and enlarging it to six forms of entry was £5.96 million at April 1990 prices.

Teacher and Pupil Numbers

Mr. Ralph Howell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science further to his answer to the hon. Member for Norfolk, North dated 17 December 1990, Official Report, column 26, if he will show the number and change in the number of (a) teachers employed by local education authorities, in full-time equivalents and in percentage terms in each year, and (b) pupils in similar terms since 1970.

Mr. Fallon : The information requested for local education authority maintained and grant-maintained nursery, primary and secondary schools in England is given in the table.



                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

                                                                                

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Mr. Ralph Howell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is (a) the number of teachers employed by local education authorities and (b) the number of local education authority pupils in each year since 1979 ; and if he will show the percentage increase or decrease in each case.

Mr. Fallon : The information requested for local education authority maintained and grant-maintained nursery, primary and secondary schools in England is given in the table.


January        Teachers                    Pupils                                                 

              |(fte         |percentage   |(fte         |percentage                               

              |thousands)   |change from  |thousands)   |change from                              

              |previous year              |previous year                                          

1979          |440.8        |1.2          |8,347.9      |-1.3                                     

1980          |438.1        |-0.6         |8,183.0      |-2.0                                     

1981          |429.2        |-2.0         |7,969.5      |-2.6                                     

1982          |420.0        |-2.1         |7,752.0      |-2.7                                     

1983          |414.6        |-1.3         |7,524.4      |-2.9                                     

1984          |410.5        |-1.0         |7,345.0      |-2.4                                     

1985          |405.3        |-1.3         |7,201.5      |-2.0                                     

1986          |402.9        |-0.6         |7,073.7      |-1.8                                     

1987          |402.3        |-0.2         |6,954.6      |-1.7                                     

1988          |401.5        |-0.2         |6,832.3      |-1.8                                     

1989          |397.4        |-1.0         |6,761.6      |-1.0                                     

1990          |398.5        |0.3          |6,753.2      |-0.1                                     

Air-conditioning Systems

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will state, or provide references to, the conditions made in school building regulations concerning the circulation and regular replacement of air in school classrooms, workshops and laboratories and any study made of the relations between these requirements and the incidence of cross-infection.

Mr. Fallon : Regulation 25 of the 1981 Education (School Premises) Regulations refers to the main recommendations for thermal environment set out in the current edition of the Department's design note 17 :


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"Guidelines for Environmental Design and Fuel Conservation". The design note itself includes recommendations on ventilation of schools. We are not aware of any studies made of the relations between the requirements for schools and the incidence of cross- infection.

Teachers, Norfolk

Mr. Ralph Howell : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the average number of (a) holidays and (b) sickness leave taken by teachers employed by Norfolk education committee in each of the years 1961, 1971, 1981 and 1989.

Mr. Fallon : The data requested are not held centrally.


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Further and Higher Education

Mr. Straw : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will set out in greater detail the statistical basis of his statement in his speech to the north of England education conference on 4 January, that only one country in the European Community exceeds the United Kingdom's present figure of 33 per cent. of the relevant age group achieving higher education qualifications, including his definition of qualification for these purposes.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The figures on which the statement are based are given in the table :


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Higher education qualifications awarded                                                    

                    Qualifications awarded per 100 of relevant age group<1>                

                            qualifications                                                 

                    1980<2> 1986<3>                                                        

                            All levels<4>           Level 5     

                                                                                           

                           |Persons|Men    |Women                                          

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

Australia<5>       |26     |27     |27     |28     |9      |16     |26     |2              

Belgium<6>         |<7>10  |33     |32     |34     |18     |15     |33                     

Canada             |34     |45     |42     |49     |13     |27     |41     |5              

Denmark<6>         |24     |24     |21     |26     |11     |13     |24                     

France             |32     |<8>36  |<8>37  |<8>36  |<8>15  |15     |30     |6              

Germany (FRG)<6>   |21     |22     |23     |21     |8      |14     |22                     

Italy              |11     |10     |10     |9      |-      |8      |8      |1              

Japan<9> (a)       |37     |39     |32     |11     |23     |34     |1      |586            

(b)                |<10>49 |47     |48     |45     |22     |23     |46     |1              

Netherlands<6>     |21     |23     |25     |21     |16     |7      |23                     

Spain              |13     |15     |14     |17     |-      |15     |15     |-              

Sweden             |37     |33     |30     |36     |20     |12     |32     |1              

United Kingdom<11> |23     |33     |34     |31     |13     |15     |28     |5              

USA<12> (a)        |41     |45     |44     |46     |11     |24     |35     |10             

(b)                |<13>31 |34     |34     |33     |24     |9      |33     |1              

<1> The relevant age group is considered to be the age group identified as including 70    

per cent. of new entrants increased by the typical duration of course.                     

<2> 1982 data for France.                                                                  

<3> 1985 data for Germany; 1987 Belgium, Canada, Sweden and the United Kingdom.            

<4> Level 7=post-graduate; level 6=first degree; level 5=sub-degree higher education.      

<5> Level detail based on 1985 data. 1986 data excludes TAFE.                              

<6> Level 6 includes level 7 data.                                                         

<7> Universities only.                                                                     

<8> Increased by level 5 diplomas awarded on the completion of the first two years of a    

level 6 course.                                                                            

<9> Including data for private colleges and correspondence courses.                        

<10> Includes advanced students in special training schools (senshus) some of whose        

courses may be equivalent to level 5.                                                      

<11> Includes estimated public sector professional qualifications and nursing and          

paramedical qualifications gained at DH establishments. Excludes private sector.           

<12> Includes private colleges.                                                            

<13> Excludes students on two year courses (some of which may be below level 5), and,      

where appropriate, transfers bachelor's and master's degrees to levels 5 and 6             

respectively.                                                                              

Source: International Comparisons of Higher Education, unpublished DES report.             

The qualifications included are all higher education qualifications--sub- degree, first degree and post-graduate--including nursing and paramedical qualifications and estimates of professional qualifications.

The calculation is based on OECD methodology for calculation of participation indices. The total number of qualifications awarded is divided by the average population of the age-group at which the qualifications are typically obtained. Further information is available in statistical bulletin 4/87, a copy of which is in the Library.


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University Funding

Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science how much he has made available for capital purposes for the universities in every year since 1979 expressed in 1990-91 prices.

Mr. Alan Howarth : Capital grants to universities in Great Britain paid since April 1989 by the Universities Funding Council and, before then, on the advice of the University Grants Committee were :


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Financial  |Cash     |1990-91            

year                 |prices<1>          

           |£ million|£ million          

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

1979-80    |87.8     |190.1              

1980-81    |97.9     |179.2              

1981-82    |103.1    |172.1              

1982-83    |106.8    |166.4              

1983-84    |103.1    |153.6              

1984-85    |106.7    |151.2              

1985-86    |118.2    |158.9              

1986-87    |130.2    |169.2              

1987-88    |128.8    |158.8              

                                         

140.7      |161.6                        

<2>1989-90 |161.2    |174.1              

<2>1990-91 |175.3    |175.3              

<1> 1990-91 prices are derived using the 

GDP deflator.                            

<2> Estimated, and includes provision    

for minor capital works which, in        

1988-89 and before, formed an            

undifferentiated element of recurrent    

grant.                                   

HOME DEPARTMENT

Civil Defence

Mr. Bill Michie : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in respect of his powers under section 156 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, how many applications from fire and civil defence authorities regarding expenditure on civil emergency co-ordination he has received ; how much expenditure each application was in respect of ; how much expenditure was agreed to by his Department in each case ; and whether his Department has any plans to issue guidance concerning the application of section 156 of the Act.

Mr. John Patten : Section 156 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 enables a fire and civil defence authority, with the consent of the Secretary of State, to incur expenditure within the existing resources of principal councils in co-ordinating planning by principal councils with respect to emergencies or disasters. With the exception of an initial approach from the London fire and civil defence authority for the expenditure of £8,000 which has not yet been decided, no applications have been received. We have no plans at present to issue guidance about the application of this section of the Act.

Asylum

Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will review the procedures for receiving asylum seekers and refugees in the light of experience following recent changes to these procedures ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : There have been no recent major changes in procedures and I am not clear to what changes the question refers. In view of the sharp increase in numbers of asylum applications in the United Kingdom, the Government are urgently reviewing arrangements for dealing with asylum seekers.

Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received concerning procedures for dealing with refugees and asylum seekers ; what was his response ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We receive representations from time to time on many aspects of our procedures for receiving


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asylum seekers. Representations are made by hon. Members, interested organisations and the public. Many of the issues raised are being considered in the Government's current review of asylum arrangements.

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list for each month from September 1989 to the nearest available date the number of asylum applications, by country (a) at ports of entry, (b) after entry and (c) at British ports overseas made in each case for (i) principal applicants and (ii) their dependants.

Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 12 December 1990] : Information is not available in the form requested. The available information records dependants by the date and location of the application of the principal asylum applicant and also does not generally include dependants who join a principal applicant after the principal application has been decided.

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in respect of dependants granted permission to join family members in the United Kingdom (a) who themselves had refugee status under the 1951 convention and (b) who had exceptional leave on the basis of family reunion, if he will give for 1989 and 1990 so far (i) the numbers of each nationality, (ii) how many cases and for which nationalities were required by the embassies abroad to pay visa charges and how much was paid in each case, (iii) for each nationality the numbers by reference to the familial relationship to the convention refugee in the United Kingdom and (iv) the delay between application and date of issue of visa in terms of three months, six months, nine months, and over one year.

Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 12 December 1990] : Information is not available in the form requested. The available information on asylum applicants records dependants by reference to the data on the principal applicant, and does not record the location of the dependants, or the date, whey they applied. It also does not generally include dependants who join a principal applicant after the principal application has been decided. Information on visa applications by dependants to join a person recognised as a refugee or granted exceptional leave in the United Kingdom is not available centrally. I understand that overseas posts have standing instructions that visas for dependants joining a person who has been recognised as a refugee under arrangements made by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or its partner the intergovernmental committee for migration--now the International Organisation for Migration--should be issued free of charge.

European Citizenship

Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the concept of European citizenship following the agreement of the European Council that the matter should be examined ; and which body will be undertaking the examination.

Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 14 January 1991] : The concept of European citizenship, separate from national


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citizenship, needs considerable refinement and clarification before any decisions on its precise implications and acceptability could be made. Work on this is going ahead in the intergovernmental conference on political union.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Electricity Privatisation

Mr. Beith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether input tax will be recoverable by privatised electricity distribution companies on the costs arising from the sale of their own shares on a basis which differs from normal VAT practice ; and whether he will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Input tax incurred by a business in relation to the issues or sale of its own shares, an exempt supply, is not recoverable. However, shares in the electricity distribution companies were issued and sold on behalf of the Secretary of State for Energy, not the electricity distribution companies and the benefits of the sale accrued to the Government. Costs incurred by the electricity distribution companies in their privatisation were regarded as general overheads of their business-- mainly the taxable supply of electricity--and any associated VAT was recoverable in accordance with the provisions of the VAT Act 1983.

Coinage

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, pursuant to his statement of 7 December 1990, Official Report, column 639, he will list the organisations which were consulted in respect of the shape and size of the new five pence coin, indicating those who approved of its introduction ; what further consultations he has in hand, or has completed, concerning the proposal to phase out the 10p and 50p coins, respectively ; when replies to such consultations must be made ; and when he expects to make any relevant decisions.

Mr. Maples : In July 1987 the Royal Mint issued a consultative pamphlet, "The United Kingdom Coinage". This set out four options for making the coinage lighter together with the option of "no change". The consultation was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the Trial of the Pyx on 1 May 1987 and in a Treasury press notice. It was widely reported in the press at the time. Comments were received from the general public and from a wide range of organisations representing :

1. The handicapped, the blind and the elderly.

2. Manufacturers and operators of coin-operated machinery. 3. Bulk handlers of cash such as banks, supermarkets and retail outlets.

4. Local Government, education and Chamber of Trade.

A substantial majority of those who commented favoured change and preferred the option in which the 5p was replaced by a coin similar to the old sixpence, and the 10p with one similar to the then existing 5p.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, having carefully considered all the responses to the consultation, announced on 17 December 1987 that he had decided to introduce the most popular option. The precise specifications of the new coins were decided later following consultations with the blind and with manufacturers of coin-operated machines. As a result of the discussions with


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