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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 5 February 1991


Oil and Gas, Wales

Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what are the results of the exploration programme for oil and gas off the Welsh coast.

Mr. Moynihan : One significant discovery of oil and one of gas have been made from exploration drilling undertaken to date in waters off the coast of Wales. Both discoveries were made in 1990 in block 110/13 of the United Kingdom continental shelf, for which Hamilton Brothers Oil and Gas Ltd. acts as operator. The company is planning further drilling to assess the likely extent of both discoveries.

Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is the number of wells drilled in waters off the Welsh coast for each year from 1970 to 1990 in the exploration for oil and gas.

Mr. Moynihan : A total of 15 exploration wells and one appraisal well were drilled in waters off the coast of Wales between 1970 and 1990. The appraisal well and four of the exploration wells were drilled in 1990 ; and there were four exploration well starts in 1976, two in 1978 and one in each of the years 1974, 1984, 1987, 1988 and 1989.

Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what is his latest estimate of oil resources in the oilfield discovered in Block 110/13.

Mr. Moynihan : The oil discovery in block 110/13 of the United Kingdom continental shelf announced by the operator, Hamilton Brothers Oil and Gas Ltd., in December 1990 will require further appraisal before an estimate can be made of the amount of oil which is potentially recoverable.


Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what information he has about safety precautions in operation to guard construction workers and other non-permanent staff from over-exposure to radiation at Sellafield ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : All people who are exposed to ionising radiations during their employment are subject to the requirements of the Ionising Radiations Regulations 1985. I am advised that all workers whether permanent or otherwise who are exposed to ionising radiations at the British Nuclear Fuels plc Sellafield plant receive appropriate training, medical checks, protective clothing and routine monitoring of dose uptake.

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Welsh Water

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what further action he now proposes to take in the light of the acquisition of a 10 per cent. stake in South Wales Electricity by Welsh Water following his letter of 22 January to the hon. Member for Cardiff, West.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : I have at present nothing to add to my right hon. Friend's letter to the hon. Member in question.

Electricity Generation

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what assessment he has made of the proportion of electricity generating capacity that will remain in the public sector for each of the next five years.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The nuclear electricity generating capacity in England and Wales will remain in the public sector. Under the terms of the non-fossil fuel obligation, the regional electricity companies are required to contract for amounts of nuclear generating capacity that decline from 8.553 GW in 1990-91 to 7.388 GW in 1995-96. In 1990-91 the nuclear obligation represented about 14 per cent. of the total generating capacity in England and Wales. The proportion that the nuclear obligation will represent in future years will largely depend on decisions within the private sector as to the amount of non-nuclear capacity.


United States President

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Prime Minister how many times he has spoken by telephone to the President of the United States of America since 1 January.

The Prime Minister : I have spoken to President Bush a number of times since the beginning of January and shall continue to do so.

The Gulf

Mrs. Fyfe : To ask the Prime Minister whether, based on the manufacturer's estimate of extent of damage beyond targets hit, he can provide a conservative estimate of civilian casualties to date in the Gulf war.

The Prime Minister : The targets being attacked by coalition forces are sites which could pose a threat to allied forces or facilities supporting Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. These attacks have been carefully planned, with the aim of keeping civilian casualties as low as possible.

Mr. Latham : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on progress on the liberation of Kuwait.

The Prime Minister : The allied air campaign continues to reduce Iraq's military capability and its ability to support the occupation of Kuwait. The campaign is proceeding as planned and air supremacy has now been achieved. Coalition forces have successfully dealt with Iraqi incursions into Saudi Arabia, and have largely destroyed Iraq's limited naval capability.

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Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the International Tropical Timber Organisation's timber projects in (a) Tefe's national forest, (b) Rio Preto's national forest and (c) Ibirama national forest in the light of policy towards commercial logging in tropical rain forests.

Mrs. Chalker : These Brazilian projects have three common objectives : (i) to help counter unsustainable exploitation of the forests in question while affording protection to fauna and water and soil resources, (ii) to expand markets for non-wood products both nationally and internationally, and (iii) to develop management models for the sustainable production of wood and other forest products.

At the last meeting of ITTO in Japan in November 1990, while not objecting to the projects in principle, the United Kingdom opposed them in the forest management committee proceedings on the grounds that they were not appropriate for ITTO funding. The United Kingdom argued that as the three projects involved the development of natural resources, it would be more appropriate to pursue these under Brazil's national plan, under which the Government of Brazil now provide stringent environmental safeguards.

In spite of these arguments, the consensus in ITTO's council was that the three projects justified ITTO funding and they were duly approved.


Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what proportion of the £8.75 million announced in Addis Ababa by the Minister for Overseas Development on 29 January last is to be paid from sums allocated to the year 1990-91 and for 1991-92, respectively.

Mrs. Chalker : Of the £8.75 million new humanitarian aid for Ethiopia announced by the Minister for Overseas Development on 29 January 1991, £3.75 million is available immediately. Orders for the remaining £5 million food aid placed shortly will be for delivery and payment in 1991-92.


British Youth Opera

Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Minister for the Arts what recent representations he has had from British Youth Opera ; what response he has made ; if there is any action he will be taking ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : I had the pleasure of meeting representatives of British Youth Opera, including my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Hannam), who is a member of the council, and Miss Valerie Masterson, its vice president, on 30 January. I very much welcomed the opportunity to learn more of the company's valuable work with young opera singers. The funding of individual arts organisations is a matter for the Arts Council, with which the company is in close touch.

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EC Internal Market Council

Ms. Quin : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list the matters to be discussed at the EC Internal Market Council on 18 February.

Mr. Redwood : It is highly likely that the 18 February Internal Market Council will be cancelled. If a Council is called, I will write to the hon. Member to let her know the items on the agenda.


Mr. Butler : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what progress he has made with dematerialisation.

Mr. Redwood : My officials are continuing to work closely with the International Stock Exchange and other regulatory bodies to determine the appropriate legal and regulatory structure of TAURUS. This work is in parallel with the ISE's work on compensation and software preparation. It is of key importance that the right investor protection environment and legal framework are created for the electronic recording and transfer of shares. All these tasks are proving to be more complex than originally envisaged. Draft regulations under section 207 of the Companies Act 1989 should be published for comment in the next few weeks. I expect to put revised draft regulations before the House later this year, in good time for the implementation of TAURUS by the ISE.

Export Credits Guarantee Department

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will list for the financial year 1989-90 in respect of the Export Credits Guarantee Department (i) the cumulative deficit for the year and the size of the change since 31 March 1989, (ii) the level and increase of premium income, (iii) the size and increase of the provision for claims, (iv) the turnover of exports guarantee by the ECGD, and (v) the premium income and trade results for insurance services and the project group for 1989-90, in a manner comparable with note 2 of the ECGD financial statement for 1988-89 (HC 153).

Mr. Sainsbury : The information is included in ECGD's Trading Accounts for 1989-90. These were laid in Parliament on 31 January and a copy has been placed in the Library.

Dr. Hampson : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what criteria he will use to calculate the selling price of the business of the Insurance Services Group of the Export Credits Guarantee Department.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 4 February 1991] : The criteria for evaluating the bids will be price, commitment, understanding and strong financial resources.

Dr. Hampson : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what information he has as to what policy EC member states intend to pursue on privatisation of their state export insurance services in the run-up to 1992 ; and if he will publish it.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 4 February 1991] : The existing status of European Community export credit

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agencies and the manner in which they administer short-term export credit insurance differ. Thus the changes necessary to bring their operations into line with the needs of the single European market will also vary.

A number of short-term export credit schemes are already operated primarily by companies in the private sector, but with some degree of government reinsurance, for example, in Germany (Hermes), Netherlands (NCM), Italy (SIAC) and Ireland (Insurance Corporation of Ireland). In Denmark, the agency (EKR) is an arm of central government but it is understood that there are plans for privatisation.

France (Coface) is now placing most of its short-term reinsurance in the private sector and Portugal (COSEC) is a public limited liability company where those shares not held by the private sector will be sold later this year. In Spain CESCE is a joint stock company with over 40 per cent. of its shares not held by the Government. There is increasing acceptance by appropriate authorities within the EC that action is necessary further to reduce state involvement in the short-term export credit insurance sector where business operations overlap with those of private sector credit insurers, but not all member states have yet finalised arrangements to put this into effect.


Mr. Michael Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he has any proposals for changes in the level of aid offered to the shipbuilding industry.

Mr. Leigh : Following the decision of the European Commission, which was notified to member states on 21 January 1991, I have decided to reduce the maximum level of support for merchant ships from 20 per cent. to 13 per cent. with effect from 1 January 1991. I have also decided that, in line with the Commission's ruling, maximum support for small ships will be reduced from the same date. Following the adoption of the seventh directive on aid to shipbuilding which amended the Community definition of small ship from one costing less than 6 million ecus to one costing less than 10 million ecus, the United Kingdom definition of a small ship has been extended to include all ships costing less than £13 million. The sliding scale used to determine the subsidy levels for small ships has been amended so that support for ships costing less than 10 million ecus will fall below the upper level of 9 per cent. set by the Commission. Shipbuilders relief of 2 per cent. is included in these figures.


Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what precautions are taken to prevent the theft of equipment from his Department ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Leigh [holding answer 30 January 1991] : All departmental staff have a duty to prevent and report loss. The measures prescribed in the Manual of Government Accounting are fully implemented. In addition a range of physical precautions is in force. Security guards are, for example, instructed to challenge persons leaving buildings with items of equipment. Some equipment is indelibly marked as the property of the Department.

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Mr. Oppenheim : To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what products from (a) Poland, (b) Czechoslovakia, (c) Romania, (d) Hungary and (e) Bulgaria are still subject to anti-dumping duties and import quotas, whether originating nationally or from the EC, or through the multi -fibre arrangement.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 4 February 1991] : I refer my hon. Friend to my reply of 17 January 1991 at columns 593-94. I have placed in the Library of the House a list of all definitive anti-dumping remedies in force on 31 December 1990.

All products requiring an individual import licence are listed in the open general import licence of 4 December 1987, as amended, which is published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. I have placed in the Library of the House notice to importers No. 2291 of 3 January which sets out the 1991 quota levels for restricted textiles from inter alia the five countries mentioned and notice to importers No. 2293 of the same date which includes the provisional 1991 arrangements for the United Kingdom's national restrictions on imports from Romania. Notices to importers are published in Thursday editions of Lloyd's List International .


Airedale Route

Mr. Waller : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he received the inspector's report following the public inquiry into stage 3 of the A629/A650 Airedale route ; and when he expects to make a further statement.

Mr. Chope : The inspector's report was received in May last year. The joint decision of the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Transport will be announced as soon as there has been a full consideration of all the issues.

Traffic Congestion, London

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what further plans he has for relieving traffic congestion in London.

Mr. Chope : The Road Traffic Bill provides for the establishment of a network of priority routes to help alleviate traffic congestion. The record levels of investment which we are supporting in London Transport and British Rail will help to make rail and bus travel increasingly attractive alternatives to car use in London, further helping to relieve traffic congestion.

Safety Restraints

Miss Lestor : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much money has been spent publicising the legislation which prohibits children from travelling in cars without safety restraint.

Mr. Chope : A total of £748,000 has been spent on advertising, posters and leaflets to publicise the legislation requiring children to wear seat restraints in cars where fitted.

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Carbon Monoxide Emissions

Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects to make an announcement about including carbon monoxide emission level testing in the MOT vehicle test.

Mr. Chope : I expect to make a further announcement soon.

Channel Tunnel

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he intends to take to ensure that the benefits of the channel tunnel are shared by people and industry in the Doncaster area.

Mr. Freeman : The Government have so far approved schemes valued at some £750 million of a total of £1.4 billion worth of improvements planned by British Rail. BR's plans include direct passenger services from the tunnel to the east coast main line. Pending availability of special trains for services north of London, the board is examining the possibility of running connecting services to Waterloo after the tunnel opens. The plans also include the provision of new international freight services to south Yorkshire. A number of major schemes in the Government's roads programme will improve access between Yorkshire and the channel tunnel.

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the major schemes that have been approved by his Department to improve (a) roads and (b) rail access to the channel tunnel from Doncaster and the north.

Mr. Freeman : The Department has a substantial programme of trunk road improvements at various stages of preparation, many of which will improve links between the north and the channel tunnel. These improvements include the M40 extension from Birmingham to Oxford which was opened to traffic on 16 January and will relieve congestion on the M1, and the following major schemes which have also been approved and are under construction :

A1 Bramham-Wetherby Improvement

A282 Dartford crossing approach roads

M20 Junctions 5-8 widening

M20 Maidstone to Ashford

The privately financed Dartford-Thurrock bridge is also due to be completed this year. Preparation has begun on schemes to upgrade the A1 to motorway standard between the M25 and Tyneside, to widen a large part of the M1, and on a study to increase the capacity of the M25. In addition the Department is giving a great deal of support to local road schemes which will serve channel tunnel traffic. British Rail plans to invest an initial £1.4 billion for channel tunnel services to enable international services to operate from London and the regions. To date approval has been given for the following schemes, among others :

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Scheme                                        |£ million            


Waterloo terminal                             |106                    

Maintenance depot                             |81                     

30 Intercapital Transmanche super trains      |378                    

Track and signalling improvements             |50                     

30 class 92 freight locomotives               |93                     

Electrification of the Tonbridge-Redhill line |19                     

There are a number of improvements for which the Secretary of State's approval is not required. These are not included in the list but form part of the overall £1.4 billion investment planned.

Traffic Accidents (Children)

Miss Lestor : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many primary school children were in cars involved in road traffic accidents in the last year for which figures are available.

Mr. Chope : In 1989, 6,193 children aged 5 to 11 were injured while travelling in a car which was involved in a road traffic accident. Of these, 27 were killed, 546 were injured and 5,620 were slightly injured. The number of uninjured persons travelling in vehicles involved in accidents is not available.

East London River Crossing

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether there has been an environmental impact assessment of the east London river crossing.

Mr. Chope : I refer the hon. Member to the reply to the hon. Member for Deptford (Ms. Ruddock) on 28 November, 1990 at col. 410.

Diesel Engines (Air Pollution)

Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he received the report from the Treasury Solicitor about the appropriate legal base for European Community document 6701/90 on air pollution from diesel-engined vehicles ; and when he will provide copies of the report to members of European Standing Committee A.

Mr. Chope : I passed this information to Committee Members on 4 February.

Cycle Routes, London

Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the progress of the network of cycle routes in London.

Mr. Chope : I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) on Friday 1 February at col. 701 .

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Thames River Services

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the piers on the Thames licensed for riverbus traffic and any such piers that could receive such traffic.

Mr. McLoughlin : The Port of London Authority (PLA) indicates that the following piers are used by Riverbus Partnership on the tidal Thames :

(a) Greenwich pier

(b) Festival pier

(c) Charing Cross pier

(d) London City Airport pier

(e) West India pier

(f) London Bridge City pier

(g) Swan lane pier

(h) Chelsea harbour pier

(i) Putney pier

(j) Westminster pier

The following could receive such traffic :

(a) Cadogan pier

(b) Barrier Garden pier

(c) Masthouse Terrace pier

(d) Greenland pier

(e) Butlers Wharf pier

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many licences have been issued for the operations of a river taxi service on the Thames.

Mr. McLoughlin : None on the tidal reaches of the River Thames. Passenger certificates have been issued by the Department for the eight Riverbus Partnership catamarans for the tidal reaches and 47 licences have been issued by the PLA (Port of London Authority) for other vessels carrying up to 12 passengers.

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