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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 1 November 1991

HOME DEPARTMENT

West Midlands Serious Crimes Squad

Sir John Wheeler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has received a report from the Police Complaints Authority on their supervision of the investigation of the West Midlands serious crimes squad ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : I have received a report from the Police Complaints Authority made under section 97(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 which I am required to lay before Parliament and publish under section 97(5) of the Act. Copies of this report have been placed in the Library and will be made available by my Department to anyone seeking a copy.

In August 1989 the chief constable of the West Midlands police disbanded the serious crimes squad and asked Mr. Shaw, an assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire police, to conduct an investigation into its activities. At the same time he invited the Police Complaints Authority to supervise the investigation under section 88 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The Police Complaints Authority has issued a statement in accordance with section 89(10) of the Act confirming that the investigation has been conducted to its satisfaction.

The Police Complaints Authority report falls into two parts. The first part describes the investigation of complaints relating to cases handled by the serious crimes squad. The main investigation covered the period between 1 January 1986 and the disbandment of the squad. In that period 694 arrests were recorded in the serious crimes squad's arrest book. Seventy of the people arrested as well as 16 other people, made complaints to the investigating officer. Complaints from 11 people relating to the period between 29 April 1984 and 1 January 1986 were also investigated. One case was subsequently withdrawn.

The 1984 Act requires that the report on any complaint against a police officer where criminal behaviour may have taken place must be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions. All the complaints just mentioned have therefore been so referred but the fact of referral does not imply that criminal offences have necessarily been committed. It is for the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether or not the evidence suggests that any criminal proceedings should be taken.

The second part of the PCA report describes management practices prevalent during the period in question which may have contributed to the problems described. I am glad to be able to report to the House that these management practices have already been addressed by the chief constable of the West Midlands, in consultation with the west midlands police authority. A copy of a report which he has sent to me describing the action which has already been taken has been placed in the Library with the report of the Police Complaints


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Authority for the information of hon. Members. Her Majesty's inspectorate of constabulary will be monitoring the action taken in respect of all the points raised.

Decisions as to whether any disciplinary action would be appropriate in respect of particular officers cannot be taken until the Crown Prosecution Service has completed its consideration of the possibility of criminal charges.

OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT

Indochina

Mr. Jim Lester : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make a statement on aid to Indochina.

Mrs. Chalker : On the occasion of the signing of the Cambodian peace settlement on 23 October we announced a number of new aid commitments for Indochina. These commitments are targeted on the needs of the countries concerned and take into account the changed circumstances in the region.

In Cambodia a key element in our aid strategy is to encourage a responsible and co-ordinated approach to the tasks of reconstruction and development, with due regard to local institutional, social and environmental factors. The success of the reconstruction and development effort will be critical to the economic progress and political stability of the country and therefore to the durability of the peace settlement. With these considerations in mind we intend to post an experienced aid administrator to our diplomatic mission in Phnom Penh as well as making available a senior medical adviser from the Overseas Development Administration to the World Health Organisation Office there. The main components in our aid programme to Cambodia will be :

English Language training for local administrators and others involved in the development process ;

a continuation of the support we have already provided for programmes and projects directed to help vulnerable groups. This will include continued support for non-government organisations development and health projects, for volunteers and for a World Health Organisation anti-malaria programme ;

support for economic development activities related to Cambodia sponsored by the Mekong committee.

For these purposes we are making an initial allocation of £3 million. We shall also be contributing £2 million to the appeal by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for financial support for the repatriation of the people in camps on the Thai/Cambodia border. We stand ready to consider, with other donors, provision of additional financial support.

For Vietnam, we shall be providing £3 million bilaterally towards the international reintegration programme for returned economic migrants. We are also contributing substantially to this programme through our share of the EC budget. We shall also offer a training project to support the economic reform process that is now under way in Vietnam. This project would involve training in such subjects as finance, banking, enterprise restructuring and environmental economics. British non-Government organisations working in Vietnam with Overseas Development Administration support have already put in place a number of sound development projects. We shall continue to support their activities through Overseas Development

Administration's joint funding scheme.


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I have also approved a small projects scheme for Laos to finance projects designed to help the poorer members of the community.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Tax Returns

Mr. Beaumont-Dark : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he can announce the figure below which from next April taxpayers will be able to submit simpler accounts to the Inland Revenue.

Mr. Maude : From next April a further half million people will be able to save themselves the time and expense of preparing detailed accounts for the Inland Revenue.

The level of business turnover or gross rental income below which taxpayers may submit three-line statements instead of full accounts is to be increased from £10,000 to £15,000. The new amount will apply to accounts received by the Inland Revenue on or after 6 April 1992. This increase follows an announcement by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget, and reflects the Government's commitment to reduce taxpayers' costs by cutting down paper work where they can.

Official Report (Price)

Mr. Beaumont-Dark : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the price of the Official Report.

Mr. Maples : Following a review by Her Majesty's Stationery Office I have authorised increases of £1.50 in the prices of the Daily Parts and Standing Committee debates, with broadly proportionate increases in the prices of the Weekly Part, Bound Volumes and Indexes. Subscription rates will be adjusted accordingly and the scale of charges for reprints of Members' speeches appearing in the Official Report will also be raised. These increases, coupled with plans to enable the reports of proceedings to be "machine read" by the HMSO presses, should permit the final elimination of the revenue subsidy, which has been progressively reduced from £6.0 million in 1983-84.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Resettlement Units Executive Agency

Mrs. Peacock : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when the annual report and accounts of the Resettlement Units Executive Agency for 1990-91 will be available.

Miss Widdecombe : Copies of the annual report and accounts for 1990- 91 have today been placed in the Library.

Information Technology Services Executive Agency

Mr. Amess : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether the annual report and accounts of the Information Technology Services Executive Agency for 1990-91 are yet available.

Miss Widdecombe : The annual report and accounts have today been placed in the Library.


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Child Support Act 1991

Mr. Burt : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he plans to consult interested organisations about the content of the regulations to be made under the Child Support Act 1991.

Mr. Jack : The consultation document containing the Government's detailed proposals for the contents of the regulations arising from the Child Support Act 1991 has been published today. Copies have been placed in the Library of both Houses, and are available from the Vote Office and from the Department. Some 100 organisations with a particular interest in the subject will be sent a copy of the document and invited to submit their views by 16 December 1991.

HEALTH

NHS Trusts

Mr. Lee : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the names of those people appointed to be chairmen and non-executive directors of the second wave of national health service trusts.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : I have today placed in the Library a list of those people appointed as chairmen and non-executive directors of the trusts established today.

Nursing and Midwifery Staff

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many nursing and midwifery staff there were in each broad pay group in 1989 and 1990 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The information is shown in table 1. The fall in the number of senior nurses is largely attributable to the voluntary transfer of more than 600 senior nurses to the senior manager pay structure.

The fall in the number of nurse learners is largely attributable to the cessation of enrolled nurse training and to the introduction of Project 2000. The estimated number of Project 2000 students in training in 1989 and 1990 is shown in table 2. Because of their supernumerary status, Project 2000 students are not included in statistics relating to staff in post.

Table file CW911101.000 not available

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Table 2                       

Estimated number of Project   

2000 students in training     

As at 30  |As at 30           

September |September          

1989      |1990               

Number    |Number             

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

200       |4,700              

Table 2

Estimated number of Project 2000 students in training

As at 30 September 1989 As at 30 September 1990

Number Number

200 4,700

Census (Confidentiality)

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether subsequent to its main review of confidentiality arrangements for the computer processing of 1991 census data, the British Computer Society has reported on the documents for later completion which it wished to scrutinise.

Mr. Dorrell : The British Computer Society has completed this work and reported its results in the document "report of the Supplementary Review". Copies of this Report were issued with an OPCS press notice on 16 September and a copy was placed in the Library. This supplements the society's main report, published in the White Paper "1991 Census of Population : Confidentiality and Computing" (Cm 447) and completes its review. The "Report of the Supplementary Review" records that the documents reviewed meet the society's objectives, and commends the care demonstrated by the census offices' staff with regard to confidentiality.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Foreign Affairs Council

Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council on 21 October.

Mr. Hurd : The Foreign Affairs Council met in Luxembourg on 21 October to pursue its negotiations on the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA is intended to extend the single market to the seven countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) from 1 January 1992. My hon. Friends the Minister for Trade, the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and the Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom. Representatives of the EFTA countries were in Luxembourg. The two sides reached political agreement on all the key outstanding issues in the negotiations.

On fish, the two sides agreed that under the EEA the EFTA countries will remove all tariffs on imports from the EC of fish species and products. The Community will reduce or remove tariffs on imports from EFTA of most species and products. Full tariffs will remain on certain sensitive species such as salmon, mackerel and herring. The EFTA countries have also undertaken to adapt their national legislation to avoid distortion of competition in the fisheries sector.

Norway will guarantee the EC's share at north Norway of the total allowable catch for north east Arctic cod and increase it from its present level of 2.14 per cent. to 2.9 per cent. This will continue to be allocated within the Community in accordance with the present arrangements. The United Kingdom will thus receive around two thirds


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of this allocation. Norway will also make available to the Community a separate fixed quantity of north Norway cod : 6,000 tonnes in 1993, rising to 11,000 tonnes in 1997. The United Kingdom will not benefit from this. Iceland will make available to the Community a quantity of redfish or redfish equivalent as an exchange of fishing opportunities. The allocation of this within the Community will be decided later, though we have made clear that our historic rights in the area should be taken into account. The arrangements for allocation within the Community of fish obtained under the EEA will not prejudice the principle of relative stability or the 1992 review of the common fisheries policy.

The two sides reached agreement on the cohesion fund, through which EFTA will give financial support to less favoured regions of the Community. The fund will comprise 500 mecu in grants and 1.5 becu in soft loans. Northern Ireland will be eligible. The other recipients will be Spain, Portugal, Greece and the Republic of Ireland. The Community also reached agreement in principle with Austria and Switzerland in the negotiations on Alpine transit. There will be a limited increase in the numbers of Community trucks permitted to pass through the two countries, in exchange for measures to reduce pollution and encourage the use of alternative means of transport. The two sides will now aim to complete work rapidly on the text of the draft EEA agreement, with a view to signature later this year. A statement will be made to the House prior to signature.

This meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council has thus cleared the way for the conclusion of the EEA agreement. I warmly welcome this. The EEA will create the largest single market in the world and facilitate membership of the Community for those EFTA countries who wish to join. I believe that the EEA will be good for the United Kingdom, good for the Community, and good for the wider Europe.

Mr. Favell : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish a statement on forthcoming business in the EC Council of Ministers.

Mr. Garel Jones : The Telecommunications Council will meet on 4 November. Ministers will discuss the draft directive on high definition television ; a proposal to harmonise radio frequency bands as from 1 January 1992 for the introduction of digital short range radio ; the draft directive on the harmonisation of leased lines ; and the harmonisation of the internal telephone access code to 00. Ministers will also discuss the satellite communications work programme, and will make a statement on the postal services Green Paper.

The Foreign Affairs Council will meet on 4 November. It will discuss EC/Jordan relations in preparation for the meeting of the EC/Jordan co- operation Council which will take place that evening. It will review the successful negotiations of the comprehensive settlement agreements signed by the Paris conference on Cambodia on23 October. The Council will also discuss EC immigration issues possible measures against Yugoslavia and the GATT Uruguay round. Ministers will review progress in the Inter- Governmental Conference on Political Union. Ministers will also meet the Arab Maghreb Union. The Labour and Social Affairs Council will meet on6 November. Ministers may discuss the proposed directives on the protection of pregnant workers, and working time. Ministers may also discuss the Commission report on poverty.


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The Internal Market Council will meet on 7 November and Ministers will discuss the proposed sweeteners directive. Ministers are also likely to discuss vehicle type approval, and the European company statute. Ministers may also discuss food irradiation ; the pensions fund directive ; trans European networks ; and the Presidency situation report on the state of Internal Market Council work. The Health Council will meet on 11 November. Ministers may discuss an amending proposal for a Council directive amending Directive 89/622 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the member states concerning the labelling of tobacco products, and on the prohibition of the marketing of certain types of tobacco for oral use ; and a Commission draft directive for a ban on tobacco advertising. In the absense of opinions from the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Affairs Committee there will only be an "orientation" debate on this issue. Ministers are likely to discuss the link between health and the environment in the context of a draft resolution to request the Commission to draw up an inventory of initiatives in national and international forums. Ministers might also discuss the critical choices in health policy which face member states ; needs of drug addicts in prison ; and of proposals for an integrated system for future licensing of medicines for human veterinary use in the EC. Ministers may also discuss overall health policy concerning drug abuse ; the Commission proposal that 1995 should be European Code on Doping in Sport Year. There will be a Commission presentation on measures to control AIDS.

The Economic and Finance Council will meet on 11 November and will consider member states' programmes for economic convergence as part of the Council's regular multilateral surveillance ; the remaining tranches of the balance of payments loans to Bulgaria and Romania ; the new 1.25 billion ecu food credit package for the Soviet Union ; the Commission proposal for the revision of the financial perspective ; and measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions including a possible carbon/energy tax in the Community. Ministers will discuss the abolition of fiscal frontiers and hope to reach agreement on the legal text of the excise movements directive. Ministers may also discuss the investment services directive.

The Budget Council will meet on 12 November and Ministers may discuss the European Parliament's amendments and modifications as a result of their first reading of the draft budget for 1992. The Justice Council will meet on 13 November. Ministers are likely to consider the results of work on the relationship between Community law and national criminal law, particularly in respect of fraud against the Community budget. Ministers may also consider data processing for legal purposes, and judicial training within the member states.

The Cultural Affairs Council will meet on 14 November. Ministers are likely to agree two Presidency resolutions promoting cooperation over cultural networks and conservation and access to archives. Ministers will also discuss the Commission's paper on future cultural priorities and an Italian paper on the promotion of theatrical events in 1993. Ministers may also consider the Commission's proposals on national art treasures. The Agriculture Council will meet on 18 and 19 November and Ministers will discuss reform of the common agricultural policy ; the agricultural aspects of the GATT Uruguay


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round ; welfare of pigs and calves, and the transitional reform of the oilseeds regime. Ministers may also discuss meat products ; foot and mouth disease vaccine banks ; a co-ordination centre for foot and mouth disease ; classical swine fever and non-harmonised animals. The Industry Council will meet on 18 November and Ministers will consider the Commission communications on biotechnology, textiles and maritime industries. Ministers will also discuss a draft resolution on the electronics and information technology industries ; and state aids.

The Education Council will meet on 25 November and Ministers are likely to discuss the teaching profession and the Commission's memorandum on higher education, covering quality assessment and mobility. Ministers may also discuss the statute for the European Schools ; and the European Dimension in education.

The Fisheries Council will meet on 26 November and Ministers will consider EC negotiations with third countries ; and 1992 fish guide pricing. Ministers may also discuss technical conservation measures. The Development Council will meet on 28 November and Ministers are likely to consider Presidency proposals for operational guide-lines on human rights and democracy for all EC aid ; the Commission report on the progress of the programming of Lome IV and on the evaluation of Community aid ; the Presidency report on the fact finding missions to Ethiopia and Bangladesh ; and the Commission proposals for the coordination and management of emergency aid. Ministers may discuss the EC aspects of the preparations for the 1992 United Nations conference on the environment and development ; and the administration of the next five year programme for Asia and Latin America. Ministers may also discuss the rehabilitation plan for Angola ; and the untying of aid. Ministers may consider Commission proposals for a new period of the programme for the stabilisation of export earnings ; and a further pilot stage of the EC investment partners scheme.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Mr. Quentin Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what change he is making to the framework document for the veterinary medicines directorate.

Mr. Gummer : As part of a recent reorganisation of the duties of senior officials in my Department, the responsibility of chairing the ownership board for the veterinary medicines directorate (VMD) has been transferred from the grade 2, food safety to the chief scientific adviser. This has necessitated a minor revision to paragraph 4.3 of the VMD framework document, copies of which amendment have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


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ENVIRONMENT

Business and the Environment

Mr. Burt : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has responded to the initial report of the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment.

Mr. Heseltine : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and I have received a first report from the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment, and we have today sent the chairman our response.

I shall place copies of both the report and our response in the Library of the House.

Buying Agency

Mr. Paice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made towards establishing the Buying Agency as an executive agency.

Mr. Heseltine : I am pleased to announce that yesterday I established the Buying Agency as an executive agency within my Department. It is the fourth agency to be set up within the Department of the Environment under "next steps".

The Buying Agency--TBA for short--is a public sector procurement agency. Its primary purpose is to provide the means for Government departments to obtain a wide range of engineering, building, maintenance and domestic products and services under arrangements that provide quality assurance and value for money, and which comply with public purchasing policy and regulations. Other TBA customers include the national health service and other non-departmental public bodies.


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Last year TBA became an independently accountable division of the Crown Suppliers, under whose wing it had operated for a number of years. Earlier this year, after the closure of its parent body, the House agreed that TBA should operate its business within its own trading fund. I am confident that the combination of this financial regime, the additional management freedoms resulting from TBA's new status as an executive agency and the scope it has to develop its business on sound commercial lines will enable the agency to deliver increasing improvements in its service to customers and better value for money to the taxpayer.

The agency is already well on the way to meeting the financial targets I have set to the end of 1991. These are :

--in respect of each financial year, to make a profit after interest in current cost terms of 1.5 per cent. of the total value of goods and services procured ;

--to increase the total value of goods and services procured, in a customer driven away, from £97 million in 1990 to £111 million in 1991, and to progressively higher levels in successive years. In addition, I also propose targets for improving the quality of service, in line with the aims of the citizens charter :

--to answer complaints on poor service/late delivery within three working days ;

--to ensure quoted delivery times are met in 90 per cent. of cases. I have appointed Mr. Roger Powell to be chief executive of TBA for the next three years. He will be directly accountable to me for the management and performance of the agency. I wish him and all the staff of The Buying Agency every success for the future.

The arrangements for the agency are described in full in its framework document, copies of which have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


 

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