Mr. Fraser : To ask the Attorney-General if he will meet the Charity Commissioners to discuss the expenditure of the Foundation for Business Responsibilities on political campaigns ; and if he will make a statement.
The Attorney-General : The trustees of the Foundation for Business Responsibilities have been invited by the Charity Commissioners to supply them with information as to the activities of the charity, its expenditure and receipts. I have asked the Charity Commissioners to send me a copy of the findings resulting from their inquiries.
The Attorney-General : The criteria for the grant of bail is contained in the Bail Act 1976 and its application to individual cases is a matter for judicial determination by the relevant court having heard representations from both prosecution and defence. In the case to which the hon. Member refers the Crown prosecution service made representations that bail should be withheld.
Mr. Heseltine : The Government introduced legislation to cut all headline community charges for 1991-92 by £140, and made various improvements in the community charge reduction scheme. It used its powers to protect community charge payers from excessive charges by capping 14 authorities and twice extended those powers through primary legislation. Legislation was also enacted to exempt caravan owners from payment of the standard community charge. In April the Government issued a consultation paper "A New Tax for Local Government", proposing the introduction of a council tax to replace the community charge. The Government introduced the Local Government Finance Bill which provides for the new tax to be introduced from 1 April 1993. It is working closely with the local authority associations and others to ensure that the arrangements for the new tax operate efficiently. Contracts for the allocation of all dwellings in England to bands of value are presently being let, and work will begin next month.
Column 494The Government continue to promote the efficiency of local authorities through the encouragement of competition in the provision of local services. To this end I have, on a number of occasions, used my powers to restrict local authorities' ability to carry out certain services using their own work forces where it appears that the local authority concerned has acted anti-competitively, or has failed to meet the required financial objective. The Government have published a consultation document "Competing for Quality--Competition in the Provision of Local Services", which sets out proposals for developing compulsory competitive tendering for local authority services. It has introduced the Local Government Bill which contains enabling powers so that the outcome of that consultation can be reflected in secondary legislation.
The Bill also provides for the establishment of a new local government commission to review the structure of local government in England area by area. It will consider the case for moving to a new structure involving unitary authorities outside London and the metropolitan areas. It will be required to have regard to the need to reflect the identities and interest of local communities. It will make recommendations to the Secretary of State who may implement them by order, subject to parliamentary approval. The Government have issued a consultation paper on the internal management of local authorities.
Good progress is being made in regenerating inner city areas under the action for cities initiative. In partnership with the private sector, substantial investment is taking place in new factories, housing, shopping centres, roads and other infrastructure, all aimed at improving the quality of life, and creating new employment and training opportunities. Since October 1990, the Government have announced increased resources for inner city regeneration totalling over £180 million, for the period 1991-92 to 1993-94.
The city challenge competition was launched in May with the aim of targeting priority areas to improve opportunity and the quality of regeneration. It offers local authorities, in partnership with businesses and the voluntary sector, the opportunity to tackle some of their worst economic, social and environmental conditions. The 11 successful city challenge pacemakers, announced on 31 July, will each receive £7.5 million a year for up to five years, from urban and housing programmes, to take forward their winning plans. These resources, together with the contributions by the local authorities and their private, voluntary and community partners, will be directed at achieving the comprehensive and lasting regeneration of the key localities.
The Government are continuing with their housing reforms, including deregulation of new private lettings, new housing association financial arrangements, and tenants choice. A growing number of local authorities are transferring or considering the transfer of housing stock to housing associations, so opening up their management to the disciplines and opportunities which the private sector can provide. More local authority tenants are continuing to exercise their right to buy their own homes, while the Government's three year, £96 million initiative continues to provide accommodation for rough sleepers in central London.
The Government also announced two new initiatives in July--a new approach to local authority housing capital allocations through competitive bidding which should improve the quality of public housing for tenants ; and an
Column 495enhanced estate action programme for which an extra £350 million is to be made available over the next three years. The estate action initiative, together with housing action trusts, will increasingly concentrate resources on the most run-down local authority estates. Following the publication of the environment White Paper at the end of September 1990, the Government have carried forward its strategy for the environment at home and abroad. A full account of progress over the first year was published in "This Common Inheritance : The First Year Report" Cm 1655 on 25 September 1991. A major achievement has been the creation of new and unique mechanisms within government, including "green Ministers" in each Department ; two standing committees of Ministers on the environment ; guidance on policy appraisal and on green housekeeping ; the Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment--whose first report was published in November 1991 ; and joint fora with the voluntary sector and local government.
In environmental protection, public access to information has remained a priority. The drinking water inspectorate published its first annual report in July 1991 showing the high quality of much of Britain's water. In April 1991 my Department issued through major food retailers a free popular guide to action the individual can take to protect the environment, "Wake Up to What You can do for the Environment" ; 3,500,000 copies have so far been distributed. Air quality information is now widely available on weather forecasts, teletext and helplines and the anniversary report on the White Paper contained proposals to strengthen the system of public registers of information on major industrial emissions by the creation of aggregate registers on types and sources of emission.
In the two public expenditure rounds since the White Paper's publication, the Government have demonstrated their commitment to provide the resources needed to tackle environmental problems. Specific borrowing approvals have been available to local authorities for investment in new recycling plant and to clean up old tips. Staffing levels in the pollution inspectorate have increased by over 25 per cent. to meet the demands of integrated pollution control and my Department is supporting 41 projects under the new fund for the voluntary sector, the environmental grant fund, set up to promote White Paper objectives.
International work continues to be a major Government priority. Following the commitments made in the White Paper, the Government reached EC agreement in March 1991 to earlier dates for the phasing out of ozone depleting substances, bringing forward the date for CFCs to July 1997. Britain is playing a leading part in work towards agreements on climate change and biodiversity and in preparations for the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development. In October 1991, on behalf of the Government, I signed the international protocol which provides for protection of Antarctica for the next half century.
The Government are setting new standards in pollution control at home. Europe's first full system of integrated pollution control came into effect from 1 April 1991 under powers provided in the Environmental Protection Act 1990. The Act has also provided for tougher standards for waste disposal, increased fines for all types of pollution offenses and the creation of new expert groups to advise on standards. In October 1991, the Government published
Column 496their consultation paper with proposals for a new single environment agency, controlling pollution to land, air and water. The Rural Development Commission has continued its efforts to diversify the rural economy, concentrating on those rural development areas with the greatest needs and the rural coalfields of the east midlands. In October 1990 my Department announced agreement to the Countryside Commission's proposed initiative to create a new national Forest. A director has been appointed and a business plan is being prepared as the basis of considering how the proposal might best be carried forward. My Department also agreed in February this year to proposals by the Countryside Commission to prepare business plans for a further nine community forests near major towns and cities in England. A 39th area of outstanding natural beauty in England and Wales, the Blackdown hills, was established in June.
In June, the countryside stewardship scheme was launched. It seeks to encourage the improvement and extension of habitats which are of wildlife and landscape importance and which contribute to public enjoyment of the countryside. The scheme closed for applications on 31 October, by which time almost 1,200 valid applications had been received, well in excess of the target for the first year of between 600 and 900.
The Government have improved the delivery of nature conservation through the establishment of new country councils in place of the Nature Conservancy Council. English Nature, the successor body in England, will receive over £2 million of new money in the current year and a further increase of almost £4.2 million in 1992-93. In April, the protection given to wild birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 was enhanced by the introduction of amended regulations controlling the registration of captive birds of prey and the trade in dead birds. With the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my Department launched a campaign to stamp out the illegal poisoning of birds of prey and other wildlife. In September an information package was introduced to deter the use of poison baits for predator control and to encourage the public to report instances of suspected abuse.
Following consultation, my Department announced in September additional safeguards for sites of special scientific
interest--SSSIs--in England and Wales : they will no longer be able to be used for war games, motor sports and clay pigeon shooting unless the local authority has granted planning permission ; local authorities will be required to consult English Nature or the Countryside Council for Wales about planning applications in areas adjacent to SSSIs ; there will be a clearer policy on calling-in planning applications for determination by the Secretary of State ; and additional advice has been given on when environmental assessment may be required in sites of national and international importance. As a result of finalising the first quinquennial review of protected British wild animals and plants, three more species of animal have been given protection--the allis shad, the adder and the freshwater pearl mussel--bringing the total number of species of animal and plant given statutory protection to 207. My Department has given support to English Nature's "Recovery" programme which, in its first year, includes reintroduction, translocation, habitat management and research involving six endangered species. The Government took the lead in
Column 497preparing the text of an agreement to protect European bats under the Bonn convention on migratory species was finalised in Geneva in September 1991.
The Government have made an important contribution to the protection of internationally important habitats including the designation of five wetlands under the Ramsar convention and two special protection areas under the EC birds directive. They have also taken an active role in negotiations on the proposed EC habitats directive and the EC regulation on the importation of certain furs which was formally adopted earlier this month.
The Government have increased to £12 million a year the grant in aid to the National Heritage Memorial Fund, enabling it to build up investment funds in order to preserve historic properties, objects and collections for the nation. Within the past few weeks the fund has purchased Chastleton house in Oxfordshire and presented this 17th century mansion to the National Trust to preserve with its contents. The cathedral repair grant scheme, to be run by English Heritage, was launched in April, with funding of £11.5 million over three years. The Planning and Compensation Act 1991 made important and widely welcomed reforms to planning law. It reforms the development plan system, requiring the extension of local plans to cover all areas, simplifying the procedures for the preparation and adoption of plans, and emphasising the importance of plans in development control. It makes planning procedures more efficient and effective, and in particular strengthens enforcement provisions. It provides more generous compensation, especially for home owners subject to compulsory purchase. Much of the Act has already been implemented ; the rest will follow in the early part of next year.
The Government have continued to produce more accessible planning guidance to local authorities in the form of planning policy guidance notes and circulars on issues including planning and affordable housing, and sport and recreation. A conference on regional planning for the south-east was held in March.
My Department has completed a substantial revision of the building regulations, which includes improvements to the provisions on structural and fire safety, on protection from radon and methane gas and for disabled people ; extends the requirements for sound insulation to flat conversions ; and introduces a new requirement for safe glazing. I will be laying revised regulations before Parliament next month. The United Kingdom has become one of the first EC member states to implement the provisions of the construction products directive ; the regulations come into force on 27 December this year. This will open the way for free trade in construction products throughout the European Community.
Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how the units of production will be defined to which the exemption limits for (a) degreasing solvent and (b) paint solvent will be applied.
Exemption limits, expressed in terms of specified levels of annual usage of certain substances by processes
Column 498concerned, are set out in section 6.5 of schedule I to the Environmental Protection (Prescribed Processes and Substances) Regulations 1991. These are to be interpreted in the light of rules set out in schedule 2 to the regulations.
Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what the community charge would be in the current year in each local government area if local authorities were required to raise 20 per cent. of their costs from community charge payers.
Mr. Key : After taking into account community charge benefit, the community charge reduction scheme, and the income support element relating to community charges, the average community charge actually paid in England for 1991-92 is estimated to be £172. The income from this charge represents 15 per cent. of English local authorities' budgeted gross revenue expenditure.
If the proportion of income from community charges were to rise to 20 per cent., the average community charge for 1991-92 actually paid in England would increase to £229.
Average charges for individual areas are not available on this basis.
Mr. Robert B. Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will set out in tabular form the expenditure of Hertfordshire county council in 1978-79 and for the latest available year in (a) cash terms and (b) constant price terms.
Hertfordshire County Council Expenditure<1> |Outturn |Budget |1980-81 |estimate |1991-92 |£ million|£ million -------------------------------------------------------------------- Cash terms |266.8 |558.1 Constant price terms (1991-92 prices) |524.2 |558.1 <1> In 1980-81 expenditure is total expenditure, while in 1991-92 expenditure is net revenue expenditure. These derive from two different systems of local government finance and are therefore not directly comparable. Comparable information is not available for earlier years on an individual authority basis.
Mr. Burns : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many individuals failed to pay all or some of their community charge in the Chelmsford local authority area in 1990-91 ; and what percentage this represents of the total number of charge payers in the Chelmsford local authority area ;
Column 499(2) how many individuals failed to pay all or some of their community charge in the Chelmsford local authority area between (a) 1 April 1990 and 30 September 1990 and (b) 1 April 1991 and 30 September 1991 ; and what percentage these figures represent of the total number of charge payers in the Chelmsford local authority area ;
(3) what was the total percentage amount of community charge paid in the Chelmsford local authority area in 1990-91 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Key : The number of individuals in Chelmsford who failed to make any payment of community charge in 1990-91 was 3,500--3 per cent.of all individuals liable in Chelmsford. Information on individuals making partial payments is not available.
The authority reported the same figure--3,500--for the number of individuals who had failed to make any payment between 1 April 1990 and 30 September 1990. It should be noted that the number not making any payment can increase as well as decrease during the year, as it will include those who have recently become liable by moving into the area or becoming 18.
The figure for the corresponding period in 1991 is 7,188--6 per cent. of chargepayers.
The authority had received 97 per cent. of its budgeted community charge income for 1990-91 by 30 March 1991.
Mr. Morley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the EC has initiated proceedings against the United Kingdom Government concerning the rate of designation of special protection areas under the EC directive on the conservation of wild birds ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry : Government officials have held meetings with representatives of the European Commission following the issue of a reasoned opinion concerning the rate of designation of special protection areas under the EC birds directive. The United Kingdom provided the commission with details of the protection afforded to SPAs and potential SPAs. The Government have identified a firm forward programme of sit designation, of which the recent designation of Rutland Water and the extension of Skokholm SPA to include the islands of Skomer and Middleholm is a part.
Column 500by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Discharges must enable receiving waters to meet relevant environmental quality standards--EQSs. EQSs have already been set for 10 red list substances : proposals for EQSs for the remaining red list substances are set out in a consultation paper to be issued shortly, and copies of which I have placed in the Library today.
Mr. Heseltine : I am delighted to announce that Mr. John Banham, currently the director general of the CBI, is to be the chairman of the new local government commission when, subject to Parliament, it is set up next year.
Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many dwellings each local authority has sold under the right-to-buy legislation, or voluntarily, since 1979 ; and what percentage of the total local authority stock they represent.
Mr. Yeo : I have placed in the Library two tables giving available information on local authority sales up to June 1991. Table 1 shows year by year information for each local authority during the years 1979-80 to 1986- 87. Table 2 shows year by year information for each local authority since 1886-87 together with cumulative figures since April 1979 and the proportion of their stock sold since April 1979.
Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what plans he has to extend to areas outside London the emergency measures for people sleeping rough in snow and extreme cold ; (2) what extra measures he intends to take this winter to provide help for homeless people sleeping rough in Leicester in snow or extreme cold.
Mr. Yeo [holding answer 26 November 1991] : In 1991-92, the Government are providing just under £6 million in grants to voluntary organisations outside central London for 122 practical projects to prevent and relieve homelessness. Among those being funded is the Leicester night shelter project which last winter provided additional facilities and medical care during the worst of the cold weather. I understand that it plans to provide the same services this winter.
Mr. Gould : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library a copy of the auction catalogue for the sale of property held by British Waterways on 21 November, together with a list of prices realised for any property sold.
Mr. Heseltine [holding answer 26 November 1991] : My Department does not have a copy of this catalogue. Nor will we receive details of the prices received until the board's annual accounts are submitted.
Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will bring forward proposals for a scheme to give owner-occupiers the option of converting from mortgage to rent to avoid home repossessions ;
(2) if he will make it his policy to introduce a scheme for owner-occupiers who fall behind on mortgage payments to enable them to transfer their mortgages to shared ownership with local authorities.
Mr. Yeo [holding answer 26 November 1991] : Local authorities may already acquire property from a defaulting borrower where they are themselves the lender and, if they choose, leave the former owner in place as a tenant. Authorities may also acquire property with a view to disposal including disposal of a shared ownership lease. Authorities may further provide resources to housing associations to enable them to purchase property so that the previous owner remains on shared ownership terms or as a tenant. Details of these arrangements and procedures are currently set out in schedule 3 to the Housing Revenue Account Subsidy Determination 1990.
Mr. Yeo [holding answer 26 November 1991] : My hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning has been in frequent consultation with the Council of Mortgage Lenders. As a result of those continuing discussions, the CML has published statements of practice on the treatment of arrears, new arrangements have been announced on the payment of mortgage interest for borrowers eligible for income support and lenders, insurance companies and housing associations are arranging for empty property to be made available for families in need.
Mr. Forman : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list for himself, and for each of the Ministers at his Department, details of (i) the number of visits made during the past month to destinations outside the United Kingdom but within the European Community on official business related to the European Community, (ii) the number of visits made to Brussels within the past month on official business related to the European Community
Column 502and (iii) the number of nights spent over the past month away from the United Kingdom on official European Community business.
|(i) |(ii) |(iii) -------------------------------------------- Chancellor |2 |2 |2 Chief Secretary |0 |0 |0 Financial Secretary |1 |1 |0 Minister of State |0 |0 |0 Economic Secretary |0 |0 |0
Mr. Simon Coombs : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) of 5 November, Official Report, column 33 , whether the zero-rating of magazines, in addition to books, is safeguarded until at least December 1996.
Mr. Maples : Some future North sea projects may involve the landing of gas outside the United Kingdom, or its initial treatment or storage outside the United Kingdom or the United Kingdom continental shelf. At present, the petroleum revenue tax--PRT--and "ring fence" corporation tax-- CT--rules do not cater for these situations. To ensure that these tax rules do not distort the economics of such investments, we propose bringing forward legislation in the next Finance Bill to take account of new developments of this kind. In particular PRT relief, and CT relief within the "ring fence", will be given for the cost of transporting oil or gas to the nearest reasonable place of delivery outside the United Kingdom ; and relief for initial treatment and storage costs will similarly be extended to costs incurred outside the United Kingdom or the United Kingdom continental shelf. Relevant expenditure already incurred will qualify for this new relief.
A double charge to both PRT and gas levy could arise if gas were sold, under a new contract, from a reservoir which was previously exploited under a contract which pre-dated PRT and so was subject to gas levy instead. Although production under the new contract would be within the scope of PRT, gas levy would under the present law still be payable. To remove this unintended double charge, the proposed legislation will cancel gas levy when a PRT exempt gas contract which already contains a single fixed termination date comes to an end at that date, and gas from the reservoir begins to be sold under a new contract which is not exempt from PRT.
These changes should encourage companies to proceed with worthwhile and substantial North sea investments.
Column 503to investigate public attitudes towards public services ; and if he will indicate (a) how much he envisages the survey will cost, (b) how many members of the public are expected to be involved in the survey, (c) when he expects the questionnaire to be finalised, (d) when he expects the sampling and questioning to begin, (e) when he expects the survey to be completed and (f) when he expects the results to be published.
Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much expenditure has been incurred in centralising the register of fishing vessels at the Registrar General of Shipping's office in Cardiff.
Mr. Speed : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is the existing capacity on channel tunnel rail routes ; and what estimates he has made of total domestic passenger traffic by the year 2005.
Mr. Freeman : I refer my hon. Friend to British Rail's route comparison report, a copy of which is in the Library. Section 6.2.4 of the report presents details of capacity on existing lines between the channel tunnel and London. The report also describes BR's approach to forecasting domestic passenger demand and the conclusions it draws.
Mr. Speed : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if it is still his intention that the whole easterly channel tunnel rail link route will be brought up to the same stage of detail and development as the southerly route by July 1992.
Mr. Freeman : No deadline has been set for developing the easterly route to the stage at which it can be published for public consultation and safeguarding. However, I confirm that British Rail still expects the work to take about nine months once the framework and the mapping base for it have been established.
Mr. Freeman : Details of the Ove Arup and Rail Europe proposals are included in the reports published by British Rail on the comparative appraisal of the route options ; copies have been placed in the Library. British Rail does not intend publishing other material since this is based on commercially confidential information.
Mr. Chope : A wide range of parking control systems is available to local authorities under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. The main systems and methods of payment are set out in a discussion document "Paying for Parking" issued by the Department last year and circulated to all local authorities in England.
Guidance is also available in "Roads and Traffic in Urban Areas"--1987--and "Highways and Traffic Management in London"--1985--both of which are available from HMSO.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many separate types of parking control he has authorised in the London boroughs of (a) Camden and (b) Wandsworth ; and what information he has on the types of parking control in operation in each of those boroughs.
Mr. Chope : London boroughs have direct responsibility for the parking schemes they introduce. There is no systematic collection of data by the Department on controls operating in the boroughs. In the last three years, special approvals of parking equipment have been given in connection with schemes in Camden and Wandsworth as follows :
22 October 1990
Special approval for electronic parking meters in London borough of Camden.
22 November 1991
Special approval for Hampstead parking vouchers (London borough of Camden)
2 March 1990
Special approval for electronic parking meter in London borough of Wandsworth.
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what requests his Department has received from the London borough of Camden for approval of parking control schemes since January 1990 ; and what response his Department has made.
Mr. Chope : Generally, the Department's approval of parking control schemes is only required in respect of special approval for parking equipment, including vouchers, and any related special authorisation of non -prescribed traffic signs.
The only special approvals for parking equipment issued to Camden in the last three years have been those referred to today in my previous answer to my hon. Friend.