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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 25 February 1991

ENVIRONMENT

Crown Suppliers

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many contracts have been extended by the Crown Suppliers in breach of EC/GATT regulations.

Mr. Yeo : Some contracts appear prima facie to fall into this category, but the question of whether breaches have actually occurred can be conclusively established only by the European Court of Justice.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what restrictions exist, or he has placed, on the freedom of TCS board members to work for any of the companies which have been the beneficiaries of contract extensions in breach of EC/GATT regulations.

Mr. Yeo : The general rules applying to the acceptance of outside appointments by civil servants after retirement provide adequate safeguards against any suspicion of impropriety. In particular the assent of the Department is required before any non-industrial staff member may accept an offer of employment by a company with which they have been directly or indirectly involved.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment at which board meetings in 1990 the Crown Suppliers sanctioned a number of contract extensions in breach of EC/GATT regulations.

Mr. Yeo : Although in the course of considering future business, the question of extending contracts was discussed, at no point did the TCS main board sanction extensions in breach of EC/GATT regulations.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what legal advice was obtained by his Department during 1989 concerning possible breaches of EC/GATT purchasing regulations by TCS.

Mr. Yeo : In July 1989 the Department of the Environment provided legal advice that negotiated procedures were permitted by the EC/GATT regulations on certain grounds which did not include difficulties arising from privatisation. The legal adviser also pointed out the requirement to draw up a written report of any negotiated procedure. In September 1989 the legal adviser responded to a draft report relying on reasons of urgency of supply, or incompatibility or disproportionate technical difficulties resulting from a change in supplier. His advice was that none of the considerations given for further contract extensions could be justified under the EC directive.

No legal advice was sought by the Department from any other source.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) whether the payments made to the


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personnel director of the Crown Suppliers included moneys additional to the baseline statutory requirements on termination of his employment with the Crown Suppliers ;

(2) whether payments made to the business director of building management, Property Services Agency, included moneys additional to the baseline statutory requirements on termination of his contract with the Property Services Agency.

Mr. Yeo : Crown servants are excluded from certain parts of employment legislation providing for baseline statutory payments on termination of employment.

EC/GATT Regulations

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the total value of contract extensions granted to PENTOS and Ernest Gill in breach of EC/GATT regulations.

Mr. Yeo : Values of contracts with individual suppliers are a matter of commercial confidentiality.

Housing

Mr. Sumberg : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish details of the performance of cash incentive schemes operated by local authorities under section 129 of the Housing Act 1988.

Mr. Yeo : A report on the operation of cash incentive schemes in 1989-90, based on returns received from the local authorities, has today been placed in the Library. Local authorities will be reporting to the Department on the performance of 1990-91 schemes at the end of the financial year.

Severn Trent Water

Mr. Meale : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he last met the chairman of Severn Trent Water to discuss his company's financial strategy.

Mr. Baldry : As Severn Trent Water is a private sector company, it is the responsibility of its directors to deal with financial matters, within the framework of the obligations imposed on the company by its instrument of appointment as a water and sewerage undertaker. The Director General of Water Services ensures that the company complies with those obligations.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the Property Services Agency (a) has been and (b) is eligible to be contracted to carry out work for the United States air force in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Yeo : The Property Services Agency has carried out work for the United States air force in the United Kingdom for a number of years and continues to do so.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions have taken place on the post of the Property Services Agency chief executive following upon the decision to proceed with privatisation of the assets of the Property Services Agency.

Mr. Heseltine : It is envisaged that the post of chief executive, PSA Services will remain so long as PSA Services has the functions of a Government Department.


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Environmental Protection Act

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) when he intends to implement sections 49 and 50 of the Environmental Protection Act ;

(2) when he intends to implement sections 63 and 73 of the Environmental Protection Act.

Mr. Trippier : I shall announce a timetable for the implementation of part II of the Environmental Protection Act shortly.

Departmental Discipline

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps have been taken to ensure that disciplinary actions brought by his Department have been applied consistently at all levels of officials within his Department.

Mr. Heseltine : Both the Department of Environment and PSA Services maintain central registers of all disciplinary offences and the action taken. This is consulted by personnel officers before recommending penalties in each case to ensure uniformity of treatment.

Disabled Employees

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what arrangements will be made to ensure continuity of employment for those persons who are disabled in his Department.

Mr. Heseltine : The Department already operates an equal opportunities policy designed to ensure that disablement in itself is no bar to recruitment or advancement in the Department.

Assured Tenancies

Mr. Battle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the average rent of assured tenancies let by housing associations during 1989 and 1990 within each economic planning region.

Mr. Yeo : The available information comes from a survey by the National Federation of Housing Associations which provides average rents for assured tenancies let in each of the NFHA regions. Results for the fourth quarter 1989 to the third quarter 1990 have been published in the "NFHA CORE Quarterly Bulletin", and the relevant extracts have been placed in the Library.

Unleaded Petrol

Mr. Norris : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what further initiatives the Government are taking to promote the sale of lead- free petrol.

Mr. Baldry : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) on 4 February at column 40. Since then, we have commissioned a survey of motorists in order to find out what barriers there may be to the further uptake of unleaded petrol. Any further initiatives will be guided by the results of the survey.


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Local Government Finance

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment by how much he expects the 1991-92 community charge in Waveney to be increased from last year to take account of defaulters in 1990-91 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Key : Authorities should have as their aim the collection of 100 per cent. of the charges due to them, and we have provided them with extensive enforcement powers. It is for individual charging authorities, when setting their charges, to decide to what extent to make provision for arrears which they consider are likely to be ultimately uncollectable.

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many community charge payers in Waveney he expects will benefit from all the relief schemes in 1991-92 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Key : This information is not yet available. However, if Waveney borough council sets its community charge next year at or above £350, a couple who have not moved since 31 March 1990 living in a property of half average rateable value could look forward to a reduction of £395 between them.

Mrs. Ann Winterton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the effect that the community charge reduction scheme will have upon Congleton borough council and its charge payers.

Mr. Key : No information is yet available on the numbers of people in each charging authority area who will benefit from a reduction. However, if Congleton borough council sets its community charge next year at or above £388, a couple who have not moved since 31 March 1990 living in a property of half average rateable value could look forward to a reduction of £398 between them.

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to ensure that community charge payers in Waveney in 1991-92 are not penalised by non-payers in 1990-91 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Key : From 1 April 1990 local authorities were given widened and strengthened enforcement powers which we would expect them to use to minimise the amount of unpaid charges.

Mrs. Ann Winterton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what level of grant is to be paid by central Government to the Congleton borough council in the coming financial year ; and what were the amounts paid in each of the previous five years for which figures are available taking into account any relevant changes in local authority responsibilities.

Mr. Key : The following amounts of grant were paid to Congleton borough council or are due to be paid :



Year         |Amount £                 

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

Rate Support Grant                     

1986-87      |1,087,274.00             

1987-88      |883,317.00               

1988-89      |710,635.00               

1989-90      |619,947.00               

                                       

Revenue Support Grant                  

1990-91      |9,277,645.00             

1991-92      |8,348,987.00             

The figures for 1990-91 onwards are not comparable with previous years since the grant is now paid into the collection fund on which Cheshire county council is entitled to precept.

Revenue support grant like rate support grant is not paid in support of particular services and it is not possible to adjust the above figures for any changes in local authority responsibilities.

Mr. Burns : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment on what percentage of domestic properties for which rates were due domestic rates were not paid in the Chelmsford local authority area in the latest available financial year prior to 31 March 1990.

Mr. Robert Key : No information is collected centrally on the percentage of domestic properties for which rates were not paid.

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish information on (a) poll tax receipts and non-payment and (b) non-domestic rate receipts and non-payment for all those local authorities which have made their third quarterly returns to his Department.

Mr. Portillo [holding answer 20 February 1991] : I am arranging for copies of the information to be placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the community charge reduction scheme will only apply during 1991- 92 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Key [holding answer 22 February 1991] : Regulations laid before Parliament on 14 February 1990 provide that the community charge reduction scheme in England will initially apply to 1991-92 and 1992-93.

St. James's Park

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when the contract was placed for the rehabilitation of the lake in St. James's park ; when the work was scheduled to finish ; and on what date it is now expected to be fully completed.

Sir George Young : The contract for the rehabilitation of the lake was placed on 29 October 1990. The work was scheduled to finish on 29 March 1991, and is expected to be completed on about 12 April.

Bathing Beaches

Mr. Higgins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will approve a byelaw under the Public Health Act 1936 to designate beaches in Worthing as bathing beaches.

Mr. Trippier : Worthing is already a designated bathing water under the European Community Bathing Water Directive and has met European standards for the past two years.


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Fish

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the numbers of species of fish in the United Kingdom's coastal waters, and if he will list those species which are largely dependent upon estuaries for breeding and migration purposes.

Mr. Curry : I have been asked to reply.

There are about 125 species of fin fish in United Kingdom coastal waters of which about half are of interest to fishermen. Leaving aside the non- commercial fish species, the species which take advantage of estuarine conditions at some stage in their lifecycle are bass, flounder, herring, sprat, eel, smelt, salmonids, mullet species and sandeel species.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

East Timor

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he is making to the Indonesian Government on the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in East Timor.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : As my hon. Friend the then Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs informed the hon. Lady in reply to her question of 29 March 1990, column 289, the Indonesian authorities are well aware of our views on the need to respect human rights.

Iran

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Iran about executions in the past year ; and what representations he has made on the assassination of Dr. Kazem Rajavi.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : We remain concerned at the high level of executions in Iran. We have made clear to the Iranian Government that we expect them to respond promptly to all the allegations made in the reports of the United Nations special representative on human rights in Iran, including those relating to executions.

We have not raised with the Iranian Government the case of Dr. Rajavi, which is still under investigation in Switzerland.

Kenya

Sir David Steel : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he is making to the Kenyan Government on behalf of the British citizens of Asian origin who face difficulties with visa and entry regulations for that country.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Immigration procedures for entry into Kenya are a matter for the Kenyan Government. We make regular representations to the Kenyan Government on this issue in London and through our High Commission in Nairobi.

Arab and Islamic States

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings or telephone conversations he or ministers in his Department have had


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with Ministers or officials from foreign ministries in Arab and Islamic states since 15 January ; and what matters have been addressed in each case.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and officials of this Department have been in touch with Ministers and senior officials of almost all Arab and Islamic countries since 15 January. A very wide range of bilateral, regional and internal matters has been discussed, including the Gulf crisis. The great majority of Arab and Islamic Governments firmly support the United Nations resolutions on the Gulf and the requirement for Saddam Hussein to withdraw all his forces immediately and unconditionally from Kuwait.

Yugoslavia

Mr. Corbett : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what advice he is giving tour operators and individuals over the safety of holidaymaking in Yugoslavia in the current year.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Our current advice is that we see no reason to discourage travel to Yugoslavia. We point out, however, that there have been localised disturbances in Kosovo and in parts of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. British nationals are also advised to avoid the area of Knin where there have been blockades on roads and railways. Visitors staying longer than one month are advised to register with the British consulates in Belgrade, Zagreb, Split or Dubrovnik.

We are continually reviewing travel advice for all countries.

Security Policy

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the speech he made to the European Foreign Affairs Council on European security policy.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs set out our views on European security policy in his Churchill memorial lecture on 19 February, and in his speech in Berlin on 10 December. Copies are available in the Library.

Israel

Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many times the United States of America and the United Kingdom have vetoed proposed resolutions regarding sanctions against Israel in the United Nations Security Council.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : None.

The Gulf

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he or his officials have had any meetings this year with members of (a) Kuwait and (b) Iraqi opposition political parties.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : British diplomats in Saudi Arabia have kept in close touch with all strands of Kuwaiti society as represented, for example, at the Kuwait national


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conference held in Jedda on 13-15 October. Officials in London have held a number of meetings with the members of a variety of Iraqi groups.

Mr. Marlow : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effect of the deployment of Patriot missiles in the Occupied Territories on the cohesion of the coalition against Iraq.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : The coalition against Iraq remains firm. The deployment of Patriot missile launchers in defence of Israel is a matter for the Israeli Government.

The Gulf (Birds)

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assistance he has given to efforts to save birdlife in the Gulf area ; and if he will make a statement on progress with these efforts.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Squire) on 15 February at col. 609. The main aim of the visit of the RSPCA team to the Gulf was to train local volunteers in the techniques of cleaning oil-contaminated seabirds. Nevertheless, the RSPCA team treated more than 500 birds in Saudi Arabia during their time there.

Hong Kong

Mr. Lawrence : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his estimate of the number of managerial and professional persons resident in Hong Kong in each of the past five years ; and if he will make a statement on his current assessment of the likelihood of a drain of managerial and professional persons from Hong Kong.

Mr. Douglas Hogg [holding answer 20 February 1991] : The Hong Kong Government estimate that the number of managerial and professional people (including administrative and technical personnel) resident in Hong Kong in each of the past five years was :


        |Number         

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

1986    |262,000        

1987    |279,000        

1988    |302,000        

1989    |318,000        

1990    |328,000        

The Hong Kong Government estimate that the number of emigrants who fall into these categories in each of the past five years was as follows :


       |Number       

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

1986   |2,600        

1987   |7,400        

1988   |11,200       

1989   |9,800        

1990   |14,500       

The Hong Kong Government believe that, despite loss through emigration, the number of highly educated and professionally skilled persons in Hong Kong should not


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fall in future years if the present trend of local young people graduating overseas continues. Furthermore, Hong Kong's own tertiary institutions are rapidly expanding their output of new graduates. The figures are :


       |Number       

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

1986   |2,800        

1987   |3,000        

1988   |3,600        

1989   |4,300        

1990   |5,000        

It is estimated that by 1996 Hong Kong will be producing over 17, 000 new first degree graduates per year.

EDUCATION AND SCIENCE

Geography

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will list and give the reasons for his alterations to the recommendations of the geography working group and the National Curriculum Council's consultation report on geography.

Mr. Eggar : My right hon. and learned Friend published a draft statutory order for geography on 14 January together with draft attainment targets and programmes of study. At that time he published a statement giving his reasons for making changes to the documents, as he was required to do by the Education Reform Act. Copies of the drafts and the statement of reasons were placed in the Library. I shall send a copy of the texts to my hon. Friend.

Chief Inspector of Schools

Mr. Dunn : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will consider candidates for appointment to the post of chief inspector of schools from outside Her Majesty's inspectorate.

Mr. Eggar : The new senior chief inspector will be appointed after an open competition organised by the Civil Service Commission. External and internal candidates have already applied, and the post will shortly be readvertised to increase the field from which the appointment can be made.

Teacher Training Institutions

Mr. Dunn : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to reform teacher training institutions to take account of the Education Reform Act 1988.

Mr. Fallon : The Secretary of State already requires teacher training institutions to take account of the Act. The revised course approval criteria, which have been in effect since 1 January 1990, reflect the changing needs of schools, including the demands of the national curriculum. The Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education advises the Secretary of State on whether courses satisfy the criteria. It is keeping the criteria under review and will be offering my right hon. and learned Friend their advice on possible changes to them later this year.


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