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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 5 February 1992

HOME DEPARTMENT

Mr. Malde Modhwadia

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he received the letter dated 24 January from Mr. Noon, the solicitor to Mr. Malde Modhwadia ; and when he will be in a position to award compensation.

Mr. John Patten : The application for compensation was received on 27 January. A decision will be reached as soon as possible.

British Legion Medals

Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will authorise police officers to wear on their uniforms the national service medal issued by the Royal British Legion.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I will write to my hon. Friend.


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Police (Recorded Incidents)

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what were the number of recorded incidents per uniformed police officer in (a) the Metropolitan police area, (b) Surrey and (c) the Northumbria police authority area in 1991.

Mr. John Patten : The latest available figures, in terms of notifiable offences recorded by the police, per police officer, in the 12 months to September 1991 are (a) 32 offences in the Metropolitan police area, (b) 30 offences in Surrey, and (c) 63 offences in Northumbria.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Board

Mr. Campbell-Savours : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many people have been employed by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and in what capacity for the past 12 years ;

(2) what are his future plans for funding the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board ;

(3) how many claims the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board has dealt with on an annual basis, for the past 12 years ;

(4) what has been the cost incurred by the operation of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board expressed annually, for the past 12 years.

Mr. John Patten : The available information for the last 12 financial years is shown in the table.


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Financial Year        |Number of staff                            |Number of Board      |Number of            |Total compensation                         

                      |employed by the      |Members (including   |applications resolved|paid (£ millions)    |costs (£ millions)                         

                      |Board (average in    |Chairman)                                                                                                    

                      |post during year)                                                                                                                  

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

1979-80               |156                  |18                   |21,113               |15.7                 |1.9                                        

1980-81               |155                  |20                   |26,277               |21.5                 |2.9                                        

1981-82               |163                  |20                   |22,557               |21.9                 |3.2                                        

1982-83               |163                  |21                   |26,098               |29.4                 |3.7                                        

1983-84               |182                  |20                   |29,705               |32.8                 |3.8                                        

1984-85               |189                  |22                   |27,450               |35.3                 |4.2                                        

1985-86               |203                  |29                   |29,965               |41.5                 |4.4                                        

1986-87               |214                  |29                   |29,605               |48.2                 |5.5                                        

1987-88               |267                  |31                   |29,150               |52.1                 |6.8                                        

1988-89               |312                  |38                   |38,830               |69.4                 |7.5                                        

1989-90               |332                  |39                   |38,620               |72.7                 |9.1                                        

1990-91               |368                  |43                   |53,384               |109.3                |10.3                                       

1991-92<1>            |380                  |44                   |61,000               |144.6                |13.1                                       

<1> All estimated figures.                                                                                                                                

Most of the board's staff are seconded civil servants graded from administrative officer to higher executive officer, and engaged in the preparation of applications for decision by the board and associated administrative tasks. There are also small numbers of senior managers and legal and secretarial staff.

Plans for funding for the board for the next three years are as follows :


£ million                                       

                |1992-93|1993-94|1994-95        

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

Compensation    |143.5  |157    |161            

Administration  |15.3   |17.4   |17.4           

Total provision |158.8  |174.4  |178.4          


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Polish People

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to review immigration procedures for Polish people ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : As with other nationalities, Polish nationals must meet the requirements of the immigration rules for entry to the United Kingdom. In common with the citizens of 81 other countries or territorial entities, Polish nationals are subject to a United Kingdom visa requirement.

A recent review of the visa requirement has led my right hon. Friend to conclude that it is too soon to assess the experience of some of our European partners who have abolished visas for Polish nationals. My right hon. Friend has decided therefore to look once more at the need for


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this requirement in the summer when the impact of visa abolition on other member states of the Community may have become more apparent.

Immigrant Population (Funding)

Mr. Bernie Grant : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the total Government expenditure on funding under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 for 1991-92, itemised by borough and district identifying for each borough and district the amount of expenditure ; how much of that expenditure was for education itemised by borough and district ; and how much was for each of the other service areas eligible for grant, itemised by borough and district.

Mrs. Rumbold : The figures for grant to be paid in 1991-92 are not yet available.

Convicted Criminals' Admissions (Northumbria)

Mr. Mullin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Northumbria as to what proportion of the crime clear-up rate for 1990-91 in Northumbria is accounted for by voluntary admission made by convicted criminals ; how many detectives were employed to obtain these admissions ; and when the practice ceased.

Mr. John Patten : The available information, for 1990, shows that, of the 77,000 notifiable offences cleared up by the police in Northumbria, 29.4 per cent. were cleared up by an interview of convicted offenders in custody. It is estimated that the equivalent of 40 officers were engaged in such interviews. The practice ceased at the beginning of December 1991.

Caring for Children

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the effect of the Disqualification for Caring for Children Regulations 1991 on police practice on disclosure of criminal records.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The police continue to disclose criminal records for the purpose of protecting children in accordance with Home Office circular 102/88. The regulations do not require a change of police practice.

Police, Hampshire

59. Mr. David Martin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the increase in the authorised establishment of police officers in Hampshire in each year since 1987.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The information requested is set out in the table and is provided on the basis of financial years :


Year     |Increase         

         |approved         

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

1987-88  |Nil              

1988-89  |23               

1989-90  |20               

1990-91  |25               

1991-92  |27               

1992-93  |67               


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Court Escort Service

Sir John Wheeler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the standard of service which will be expected of a private sector company contracted to operate the court escort service in the area comprising the east midlands and Humberside.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : Work has now been completed on the specification for the operation under private sector management of the court escort service in the east midlands and Humberside. This forms part of the invitation to tender being issued to potential contractors today and a copy has been placed in the library. Subject to the receipt of satisfactory tenders, and value for money considerations, we would aim to award a contract in the summer ; with the service in the area becoming operational under a private sector contractor early next year.

Magistrates Courts (Fees)

Sir John Wheeler : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has to increase fees for civil proceedings in the magistrates courts.

Mr. John Patten : I have today laid before Parliament a draft order varying the fees now prescribed in part I of schedule 6 to the Magistrates Courts Act 1980. The increases proposed are in many cases substantial because the present fees have not been varied for a substantial number of years and fall far short of recovering the full economic costs of the services provided in accordance with general Government policy on fees and charges. It is our intention that the new fees should be kept under regular review in future to avoid the need for major variations of this kind.

We recognise the need to ensure that access to magistrates courts is not closed off for financial reasons, and the draft order therefore makes it clear that no fees are chargeable from any person who is a legally assisted person within the meaning of section 2(11) of the Legal Aid Act 1988 or is in receipt of income support or family credit. Nor do the new fees affect the discretion of magistrates courts to remit fees conferred by section 138 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1980 where they judge this to be appropriate. We have also taken the opportunity to simplify the current schedule of fees and to abolish those which are no longer in general use.

ENVIRONMENT

Armstrong Bridge, Newcastle

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what considerations he has given to the representations of Jesmond Residents Association, Newcastle upon Tyne, about the public safety considerations of a further postponement in the restoration of the listed structure known as the Armstrong bridge.

Mr. Yeo : The Department's northern regional office has asked Newcastle city council, which owns the Armstrong bridge, for information about its current state of repair and its plans for carrying out work to it. Once the council's response has been received, consideration will be given as to whether intervention by the Secretary of State is necessary.


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Housing Stock

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the councils which transferred their housing stock to new housing associations in 1989-90 and 1990-91.

Mr. Yeo : In 1989-90, Newbury borough council and Swale borough council transferred their housing to new housing associations. In 1990-91, 11 councils completed transfers. These were

Broadland District Council

North Bedfordshire District Council

Medina Borough Council

Rochester City Council

South Wight Borough Council

East Dorset District Council

Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council

Ryedale District Council

South Bucks District Council

Christchurch Borough Council

Mid Sussex District Council

Housing Revenue

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many councils have been required to transfer funds from their housing revenue account to the general fund.

Mr. Portillo : I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Planning to the hon. Member for Sheffield Brightside, on 16 January 1991, Official Report, column 647.

Local Government (General Funds)

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the highest amount paid by any council to the general fund in 1989- 90 and 1990-91.

Mr. Portillo : The highest amount transferred by an English local housing authority from its housing revenue account to its general rate fund in 1989-90 was £30,023,050 by Rochester upon Medway city council. The highest amount transferred by an English local housing authority from its housing revenue account to its general fund in 1990-91 was £7,299,863 by the London borough of Barking and Dagenham.

The figures are taken from housing subsidy claim forms and are not audited.

Housing Corporation

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the level of his Department's funding of the Housing Corporation (a) nationally and (b) in the south-west region, for each year from 1989-90 to 1992-93.

Mr. Yeo : These are as follows :


£ million                                               

              |The Housing  |Corporation's              

              |Corporation  |west region                

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

1989-90       |935          |n.a.                       

1990-91       |1,063        |73                         

1991-92       |1,614        |136                        

1992-93       |1,770        |178                        

Prior to 1990-91 the Corporation did not set regional cash limits and therefore, regional expenditure figures were not available.

Sports and Leisure Management

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice he is giving to local authorities to assist them in avoiding becoming victims of cartels in the field of sports and leisure management ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Portillo : General advice on ways of promoting competition for services subject to compulsory competitive tendering is contained in Departmental circulars 19/88 and 1/91. Local authorities that suspect that there may be cartels operating in any area of activity should refer to the guidance note "Cartels : detection and remedies--A guide for local authorities", published by the Office of Fair Trading and describing the steps that authorities should take.

Planning Applications

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will announce the outcome of the consultation exercise on giving effect to his commitment to publicity for all planning applications.

Mr. Yeo : I am pleased to announce today arrangements for compulsory publicity for all planning applications. The new procedures will ensure that interested parties have the opportunity to comment on all planning applications affecting them.

The new arrangement will allow local planning authorities the maximum possible discretion to continue using the procedures which many of them have had in place for a long time. They are as follows :

(a) local planning authorities will be responsible for publicising planning applications ;

(b) the list of so-called "bad neighbour" developments in Article 11 of the General Development Order 1988 will be abolished, and the link with environmental statements, required under Regulation 12 of the Environmental Assessment Regulations, will be severed ; (

(c) developments requiring environmental statements, departures from the development plan, and those affecting rights of way will be subject to compulsory site notices and newspaper advertising ; (

(d) for other major development, site notices or neighbour notification (as appropriate) and newspaper advertising will be required ;

(e) for minor development, site notices or neighbour notification (as appropriate) will be required ;

(f) publicity for reserved matters and amendments to planning applications will be at the discretion of local planning authorities ;

(g) the same procedures will apply to development by the Crown, and to local authorities' own development ;

(h) my Department will issue a circular in advance of the new legislation. It will give advice on best practice, including what constitutes "major" and "minor" development, and on notification of decisions to those who have commented on planning applications. I am making this announcement in advance of the new arrangements taking effect on 4 May, to allow local authorities time to digest the changes. But I look to them to implement the new procedures as soon as possible, and not just to wait until the new legislative requirements come into force.


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Since most local planning authorities already undertake some form of publicity for planning applications, I do not believe these new procedures will represent a significant increase in costs overall. However, they will be taken into account when we next review planning application fees.

Landfill Directive

Mr. Robert B. Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to respond to the seventh report of the Environment Select Committee (HC-263) on the EC draft directive on the landfill of waste.

Mr. Baldry : I have today laid before the House copies of the Government's response to the seventh report from the House of Commons Select Committee on the Environment ; the EC draft directive on the landfill of waste. Copies are also available in the Library. The Government broadly welcomes the Committee's report, which makes a number of useful points both about the draft EC landfill directive and about the management of waste in general. However, the Government take issue with the Committee on some points, most notably concerning a suggested strategic role for the proposed environment agency and the adequacy of the Department of the Environment's programme for waste-related research. Command Paper 1821, which is published today, seeks to clarify the Government's position on these and other issues raised by the Committee.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Beith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much he estimates will be raised from standard community charges on empty properties and second homes in England in 1992-93.

Mr. Portillo [holding answer 4 February 1992] : This information is not available.

Sports and Leisure Management

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to temporarily halting the process of compulsory competitive tendering in local authority sports and leisure management ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Portillo [holding answer 4 February 1992] : There is no evidence to suggest that the vast majority of local authorities have not been able to meet the statutory timetable. However, my right hon. Friend is prepared to consider any requests which he might receive from individual authorities to defer in exceptional circumstances the relevant dates for compliance with the legislation.

TRANSPORT

Catamaran Crews

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those qualifications required by port and sea-going general purpose staff employed as crew members of a catamaran.

Mr. McLoughlin : No qualifications are required for port staff engaged in the operation of catamarans. The qualifications required by the operating crew of a


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sea-going catamaran carrying more than 12 passengers are deck and engineer officer certificates of competency and qualified category 1, 2 or 3 seamen. Other general purpose staff are classified as "adult seafarers", in addition to attending an approved basic sea survival course and periods of sea service they also undertake in-house company training on vessel familiarisation and emergency procedures. The appropriate number of persons practised in the handling and operation of liferafts must be carried.

Channel Tunnel (Access)

Mr. Callaghan : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on proposals for direct access from the north-west region to the channel tunnel.

Mr. Freeman : British Rail plans to run passenger and freight services between the channel tunnel and the north-west. It has announced that there will be freight terminals at Trafford Park in Manchester and Seaforth in Merseyside. A substantial programme of major road improvements, which will improve access between the north-west and the tunnel, is also under way.

Seat Belts

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what plans he has to standardise seat belt design for all passengers ; and if he will make a statement ;

(2) if he will require vehicle manufacturers to replace straps with standard seat belts.

Mr. Chope : Seat belt design is already standardised under European Community directive 77/541/EEC as amended and adapted by directives 81/576/EEC, 82/319/EEC and 90/628/EEC. These standards do not specify three -point belts in all cases since for many in-board seating positions it is only technically possible for two anchoring points to be fitted.

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what research his Department is carrying out into the potential dangers of the wearing of single strap seat belts ;

(2) what statistical information he has on injuries associated with the wearing of single strap seat belts.

Mr. Chope : Statistics on injuries caused by the wearing of lap belts in the United Kingdom are not available, but research in the United States indicates that lap belts reduce death and serious injury by 25 to 40 per cent. and three-point belts by 40 to 50 per cent. Although there is no current research specifically into this topic, the Department is monitoring the effectiveness of all seat belts, in its accident crash investigations.

Class 158 Trains

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport on how many occasions class 158 trains have failed to activate track circuits ; what the reasons were ; on how many of these occasions they also failed to activate automatic signals ; and if he will make a statement on the safety implications of these incidents.

Mr. Freeman : British Rail has informed me that its record show 52 occasions on which class 158 trains have failed to activate track circuits. It has no information on


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how many of these related to track circuits controlling automatic signals. A build-up of leaf mulch on the train wheels is the principal cause. BR assures me there has been no equipment failure. The problem causes a momentary loss of indication of the train on signalbox panels, but because the loss is apparent to the signalman, safety is not jeopardised. BR is addressing the matter urgently and the Health and Safety Executive's railway inspectorate is keeping closely in touch with developments.

High-Speed Trains (Accidents)

Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consultations he has had with representatives from the railways inspectorate concerning accidents caused due to falls from high-speed trains.

Mr. Freeman : Her Majesty's railway inspectorate is leading a Health and Safety Executive investigation into the pattern of falls from passenger trains at the request of the Health and Safety Commission. I expect to receive advice from the commission on this matter when the report of the investigation is published in the spring.

Train Doors

Mr. John Browne : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport to what extent British Rail has implemented the recommendations made early last year by Knight Wendling Consultants in the report of its investigations into BR slam-shut doors.

Mr. Freeman : The Knight Wendling report made seven recommendations calling for further action or investigation by the British Rail Board. I understand from British Rail that action has been taken as follows :

Recommendation 1 which called for a thorough statistical review has been acted upon and is nearing completion.

Recommendation 2 called for revised safety notices. New notices have been designed for Mark II and Mark III stock and the programme of installation is largely completed.

Recommendation 3 which called for a computer simulation, has been undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive in co-operation with the BR Board. The results of this will be published in the report of the HSE investigation.

Recommendation 4 required BR to consider and evaluate various engineering steps to improve safety. Much work has been done on this already and further work is being undertaken.

Recommendation 5 which called for BR to undertake a thorough examination of all locks and doors has been fully implemented. Recommendation 6 which required BR to provide a special gauge for checking locks has been implemented.

Recommendation 7 which called for a safety campaign has been implemented through the provision of posters at stations and spoken announcements on trains.


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