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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 18 October 1991


Science and Technology

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether his Department has yet made an evaluation of the 1991 report by the OECD, "Choosing Priorities in Science and Technology", in so far as it applies to the United Kingdom.

Mr. Alan Howarth : I was interested to read this report which summarises the experiences of 10 OECD countries, including the United Kingdom. The report rightly acknowledges the complexity of choosing priorities and emphasises that each country should have regard to its own traditions and political, economic, social and cultural characteristics. The report usefully contributes to the wider debate on these important questions.

Marine Science and Technology

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what current contracts have been awarded to United Kingdom organisations under the EC marine science and technology (MAST) research and development programme 1989-92 ; and what benefits have accrued to the United Kingdom from participation in MAST.

Mr. Eggar : United Kingdom organisations are participating in 29 of the 46 contracts awarded under the EC MAST programme (1982-92), and are acting as co-ordinators in 11. Although it is too early to assess the scientific and technical outcomes, this reflects the value which the researchers themselves expect to derive. It is also consistent with the Government's efforts to involve themselves as fully as possible in decisions about the scope and content of EC research programmes, so that UK researchers can achieve the maximum return from the available funds.

Sports Development Officers

Mr. Pendry : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will list the total number of sports development officers in England for each of the past 10 years.

Mr. Atkins : The information requested is not available centrally.

School Inspections

Mr. Straw : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will list the initiatives taken by his Department since 1987 to support or expand the inspection services of local education authorities, with a table for each year of grants made available under the education support grant schemes, or other schemes.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : My Department has supported the appointment of additional local authority inspectors

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through education support grants since 1989- 90. The local education authority expenditure supported by grant and grant payable for each year since then is shown in the table :

£ million                                                                   

Year               |LEA expenditure   |Grant                                

                   |supported by grant                                      


1989-90            |1.90              |1.33                                 

1990-91            |5.50              |3.30                                 

1991-92            |8.10              |4.86                                 

School Meals

Mr. Fatchett : To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will set out the recent representations he has received about the nutritional content of school meals ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Fallon : The Department has received a small number of letters in recent months about the nutritional content of school meals ; this is a matter for those who organise school meals in schools and for local authorities.


Channel Tunnel Freight

Ms. Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will estimate the number of daily journeys on the south London line of channel tunnel freight (a) between 8 am and 10 pm and (b) between 10 pm and 8 am in (i) 1993, (ii) 1998 and (iii) 2003, respectively.

Mr. Freeman : The only figures available were published by British Rail in March 1991. They envisage that by 1995 about half the channel tunnel freight trains (28 per day, taking both directions together) will use the south London line between Factory junction, Battersea and the Nunhead junction. Fourteen are expected to run between 0700 and 2300 hours and 14 between 2300 and 0700 hours.

North Downs Link

Ms. Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he has any plans to upgrade the North Downs link, and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : British Rail is currently refurbishing the trains on the North Downs line. The section between Tonbridge to Redhill is being electrified and BR plans to electrify the remainder in 1993.

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Ms. Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures will be taken to minimise the impact of the international trains using existing track in south London during the period between the opening of the channel tunnel and completion of the rail link.

Mr. Freeman : British Rail is replacing sections of jointed rail by continuously welded rail, eliminating the familiar wheel-on-joint noise of the traditional railway, and will use electric traction for all international trains. Both the passenger and freight trains will be powered by electric traction built to the latest noise specification applicable at the time the tenders were invited, and the new

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international wagons will also have to meet stringent noise specifications. In addition, as I announced on 19 June, British Rail and Kent county council are discussing what can be done to implement the council's proposals for protecting against noise the homes likely to be worst affected along the Kent stretches of the lines. British Rail is willing to hold talks on a corresponding basis with any other local authority whose area is likely to be similarly affected.

Nuclear Waste Transport

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether any special safety provisions were made for the transport by road from Dover to Dounreay in Caithness of highly enriched spent research reactor fuel, imported from Braunschweig in Germany at the end of September.

Mr. Chope : No special provisions were necessary as the flask was certified as fully complying with national and international transport safety regulations.

Train Doors

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what recent research has been undertaken by his Department into ways of improving safety in passenger train doors.

Mr. McLoughlin : With the agreement of my right hon. and learned Friend, the Health and Safety Commission has asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to undertake an independent investigation into the causes of falls from trains. The investigation, which is now well under way, is being led by Her Majesty's railway inspectorate and also involves HSE's scientific, technical and statistical resources. The results will be published.

Highway Authorities (Agreements)

Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what provisions he intends to make to ensure that agreements between highway authorities and statutory undertakers are adhered to.

Mr. Chope : I shall be happy to respond to the hon. Member if he lets me know which agreements he has in mind.

Eurofreight Rail Terminal

Mr. David Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects a decision to be announced on the location of a Eurofreight rail terminal in Scotland ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : I expect British Rail to make an announcement very shortly.

Bournemouth Station

Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on current and anticipated grant for, and levels of, investment in Network SouthEast, to include the financing of the restoration of Bournemouth station.

Mr. Freeman : In 1990-91 the British Railways Board received £600 million of public service obligation (PSO)

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grant for the supported sectors, of which £143 million was for Network SouthEast. In 1990-91, investment in Network SouthEast was £349 million. Total PSO grant provision in 1991- 92 will be at least £743 million. Planned investment by the British Railways Board in 1991-92 totals £1,095 million. It is too early at this stage to forecast the share of grant or investment for Network SouthEast. I understand from British Rail that it hopes to start restoration work on Bournemouth station in 1993-94.


Human Rights

Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what ways the criteria of good government and human rights are being applied in determining aid to individual countries ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker : Individual aid programmes are kept under regular review to ensure appropriate and effective use of resources. We take into account a number of factors which contribute to good government in the country concerned including respect for human rights. The Government announced in June a target of £50 million in new bilateral commitments for direct assistance on good government in the coming year.

Rain Forests

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his policy towards controls on the trade in rain forest timber ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Chalker : The Government do not support unilateral bans or restrictions in the import of tropical timber. However, they do support and adhere to trade restrictions which have been agreed in international fora-- such as appendix I of the CITES lists of endangered species.

The Government believe that bans would be counterproductive and would serve only to speed up the rate of deforestation. They would only rob forests of the value which presently affords them some protection against needless conversion to alternative land uses. The Government aim to persuade and help tropical timber-producing countries to manage their forests on a sustainable basis. The International Tropical Timber Organisation also has an important role in helping to promote national policies aimed at sustainable utilisation and conservation of tropical forests and their genetic resources. The Government are helping to strengthen ITTO to ensure that it works more effectively.

The Government are working towards the agreement of a declaration of principles for the sustainable management of the world's forest resources for endorsement by world leaders at the United Nations conference on environment and development 1992.

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if new logging activities in primary rain forest are currently funded under the bilateral aid programme ; and if he will make a statement.

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Mrs. Chalker : The Government do not finance commercial logging projects in primary rain forests. However, some timber extraction may be allowed in projects with wider objectives--for example, in studies of forest regeneration or in helping to promote sustainable management systems.


Pet Owners (VAT)

Sir John Farr : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what proposals he has to amend the rate of value added tax on veterinary services and veterinary supplies, for pet owners.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : None. VAT is intended to fall on a wide range of consumer expenditure. Moreover, our obligations under European Community VAT law preclude our introducing any new relief.


Sir John Farr : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has any plans to remove value added tax from boatway and slipway refurbishments needed for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Such refurbishments have been zero-rated for VAT since 1984. My right hon. Friend has no plans to vary the position.

Industrial Loans

Mr. Hain : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the proportion of loans given to industry by Britain's main clearing banks which had repayment periods longer than four years for each year since 1979.

Mr. Maples : Figures are not collected centrally by the Government. However, according to figures published by the British Bankers Association, the proportion of advances to United Kingdom residents (excluding persons) with a maturity of five years and over since 1982 are as follows :

          |Per cent.          


1982      |12                 

1983      |13                 

1984      |12                 

1985      |12                 

1986      |13                 

1987      |15                 

1988      |15                 

1989      |15                 

1990      |14                 

Gulf War

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the cost so far to the Exchequer of the recent Gulf war ; and how much of this has been offset by cash contributions from other countries.

Mr. Mellor : The additional defence costs of the Gulf conflict are currently estimated to be around £2 billion, spread over several years. The bulk of the costs, some£2 billion, will be covered by the cash contributions generously pledged by other Governments, of which£1.93 billion has so far been paid to the United Kingdom.

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Income Tax Avoidance

Mr. McMaster : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his most recent estimate of income tax avoidance for the financial year 1990-91 ; and the Government resources allocated to identifying individuals in that category.

Mr. Maude : It is not possible to make reliable extimates of income tax avoidance. Work on investigating avoidance schemes is continuous and widespread.

Civil Service Transfers

Dr. Godman : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if there are any proposals to transfer certain civil service functions and jobs from London to areas within Strathclyde ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Departmental Ministers announce their own decisions on relocation venues once the essential processes of assessment and consultation have been completed. However, I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) on 24 July at columns 603-5 which listed civil service posts located or relocated to Strathclyde since 1979 ; and identified future plans including a new PAYE office for East Kilbride.

Public Sector

Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list those industries, businesses and enterprises remaining in the public sector ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Mellor : The following enterprises are currently in the public sector :

Audit Commission

Bank of England Banking Department

British Broadcasting Corporation

British Coal

British Railways Board

British Technology Group

British Waterways Board

The Buying Agency

Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd.

Central Office of Information

Channel 4

Civil Aviation Authority

Commonwealth Development Corporation

Companies House

Covent Garden Market Authority

Crown Agents and Crown Agents Holding and Realisation Board Crown Estate Office

Development Board for Rural Wales

Driver Testing and Training Organisation

English Industrial Estates Corporation

Export Credits Guarantee Department

Forestry Enterprise

Her Majesty's Stationery Office

Highlands and Islands Enterprise

Horserace Totalisator Board

Housing Action Trusts

Housing Corporation

Housing for Wales

Industrial Training Boards

Land Authority for Wales

Local authority airports

Local authority Bus companies

London Regional Transport

National Health Service Trusts

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New Town Development Corporations and Commission

Northern Ireland Electricity Service

Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company

Northern Ireland Trust Ports

Nuclear Electric plc

Oil and Pipelines Agency

Passenger Transport Executives

Patent Office

Pilotage Commission

Post Office

Remploy Ltd.

Royal Mint

Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Homes

Scottish Nuclear Ltd.

Scottish Transport Group

United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority

Urban Development Corporations

Vehicles Inspectorate

Welsh Development Agency

Welsh Fourth Channel Authority

Also included in the public sector are local authority enterprises, other than those above, for which no comprehensive list exists centrally.

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