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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 17th February 1992.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Parkhurst Prison

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the reasons for not implementing Judge Stephen Tumim's recommendations to install low-voltage electricity points in the cells of A and D wings at Parkhurst prison during refurbishment last August ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Rumbold : Work on the refurbishment of A and D wings at HM prison Parkhurst began in August 1990, ten months before Her Majesty's inspectorate of prisons made its visit, and too late to incorporate changes in the contract. I regret that, due to an oversight, my response to the report implied that the work began in August 1991. The inspectorate's recommendation will be implemented in future refurbishment work at the prison.

Data Protection Act 1984

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many certificates have been issued under section 27 of the Data Protection Act 1984.

Mrs. Rumbold : I am aware of none so far as the Home Office is concerned.

Mr. Salman Rushdie

Mr. Allason : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now instruct the Metropolitan police to withdraw protection from Mr. Salman Rushdie.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : It is not for the Home Secretary to instruct the police on an operational policing matter.

Elections

Sir David Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidelines are issued to town and parish councils about the use of polling cards supplied by borough councils in elections and by- elections.

Mrs. Rumbold : We issue no such guidelines to town and parish councils.

Sir David Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to require parish or town councils to display prominently, in more than one place, the notification of a by- election.

Mrs. Rumbold : We see no need to amend the existing requirements.

Sir David Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department by how much the expenses permitted to parliamentary candidates will rise for the 1992 general election over the amounts permitted at the general election of 1987.


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Mrs. Rumbold : My right hon. Friend hopes to lay proposals on this matter before Parliament shortly.

Sir David Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to require parish and town councils to advertise an election or a by-election by issuing poll cards to each voter, where such poll cards are offered without a charge to the parish or town council concerned.

Mrs. Rumbold : It is for the parish council to decide whether it wishes to issue poll cards for an election or by-election when the poll is not combined with the poll at another election. We can see no reason for any change.

Sir David Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidelines he has issued for town and parish councils on the publication of notices concerning by-elections.

Mrs. Rumbold : We issue no such guidelines. The requirements for giving public notice of a casual vacancy on a town or parish council and for giving notice of a by-election are set out in sections 87(2) and 232 of the Local Government Act 1972 and in the Representation of the People Local Elections (Parishes and Communities) Rules 1986.

Children (Section 11 Funding)

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any plans to extend section 11 funding to cover children from other than new Commonwealth countries ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Rumbold : We accept the need to bring forward legislation on this point when there is a suitable opportunity.

Royal National Institute for the Deaf

Mr. Rowe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what investigations the Charity Commission is undertaking into the sale by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf of equipment available free on the NHS ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The Charity Commission is not undertaking any investigation into the alleged sale by the Royal National Institute for the Deaf of equipment provided by the national health service. The commission knows of nothing to suggest that the Institute has carried out any such practice. The Charity Commission has received representations about the institute's subsidiary company Sound Advantage, which is not a charity, and the commission is considering the institute's investment in that company.

Tadley Town Council

Sir David Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received concerning the conduct of the recent by-election of Tadley town council, near Basingstoke.

Mrs. Rumbold : None.


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Credit Reference Agencies

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will launch an investigation into the use being made of credit reference agencies for purposes other than verification by a commercial organisation from which credit has been sought.

Mrs. Rumbold : No.

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make it his policy to introduce tighter controls over the access to information held by credit reference agencies.

Mrs. Rumbold : No.

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has to increase penalties (a) for misuse of credit reference agencies and (b) for release of information by such agencies other than after strict verification of the identity and purpose of any inquirer.

Mrs. Rumbold : None.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Conference on the Human Dimension

Mr. Trimble : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many requests have been made by countries involved in the CSCE process to initiate the involvement of independent experts as agreed at the Moscow conference on the human dimension ; and if he will list the subject matter of the problem and the outcome.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : None. The mechanism evolved at the Moscow conference on the human dimension has not yet come into operation.

Mr. Trimble : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the occasions when the United Kingdom has used the conference on the human dimension inquiry mechanisms agreed at the Vienna CSCE meeting in 1989, indicating the countries to which the inquiry was directed, the subject matter and the inquiry and the outcome.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The United Kingdom has made use of the CHD mechanism eight times. Prior to the fall of the communist regimes, the United Kingdom addressed the treatment of ethnic minorities in Bulgaria, the detention of human rights activists in

Czechoslovakia--three times--and Romania--twice. The mechanism was also used to raise two family-reunion cases with the Soviet Union, which was subsequently resolved.

Additionally, the United Kingdom has been associated with 14 uses of the mechanism by the member states of the European Community acting together.

Mr. Trimble : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reservations the United Kingdom entered concerning the independent expert procedure agreed at the Moscow meeting of the conference on the human dimension of the CSCE.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The United Kingdom made no reservations about the independent expert procedure, but


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did make an interpretative statement on the experts' access. A further interpretative statement on the use of this procedure was made jointly by Belgium, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. The text of both statements is attached to the copy of the concluding document of the Moscow conference, which is available in the Library of the House.

Yugoslavia

Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on the success or failure of the arms embargo on (a) Serbia and (b) Croatia ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : There are widespread and disquieting press reports of breaches of the embargo. We do not so far have independent evidence to substantiate them.

Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer of 4 February, Official Report , column 117 , to the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham), whether he has had any success in establishing the identity and activities of the team in Yugoslavia which was reported in The Guardian on 17 January.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : No. There are various unsubstantiated reports but no clear evidence.

Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the criteria by which Her Majesty's Government decided to recognise the independence of Slovenia and Croatia and declined to recognise the independence of Macedonia and of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We and our EC partners recognised Croatia and Slovenia on the basis of the report of the arbitration commission attached to Lord Carrington's conference. As for Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, there remain important matters which require further discussion among EC partners before a similar step is taken.

Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the current position respecting the accreditation of representatives of Slovenia and Croatia to the United Kingdom ; what is the position respecting United Kingdom representation in Ljubljana and Zagreb ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The Governments of Slovenia and Croatia have made no approaches concerning the accreditation of diplomatic representatives. There is currently a British consulate in Zagreb, but no representation in Ljubljana.

Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he has had discussions with representatives from Yugoslavia about the proposed referendum in Bosnia-Herzegovina on 28 February in respect of that republic's independence ; what Her Majesty's Government's policy is on the issue ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We await the outcome of the referendum with interest and will discuss its implications with European Community partners before establishing a firm policy.


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Iran

Mr. Parry : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the current human rights situation in Iran.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : As my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State told the House on 5 February, we remain very concerned about the human rights situation in Iran. The reports of the United Nations special representative, Mr. Galindo Pohl, following his visits to Iran in 1990, contain ample evidence to justify these concerns. A further report, following his visit last December, is due to be presented to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva later this week. We shall study this report carefully together with the response made by the Iranian Government to the allegations contained in Mr. Pohl's earlier reports before deciding on further action.

Westminster Foundation for Democracy

Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the proposed Westminster Foundation for Democracy ; and what funding is being made available by his Department.

Mr. Hurd : I have consulted the political parties represented in the House about establishing an independent foundation, to be known as the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to help strengthen political parties and other pluralist democratic institutions in emergent democracies. The proposal has been generally welcomed and the body will be established under prerogative powers once the parties have all nominated governors.

The foundation will receive £200,000 for the remainder of the financial year 1991-92, and £1 million in 1992-93.

Lebanon (Arms Sales)

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the Government permitted the restart of arms sales to the Lebanon.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Sale of military equipment to Lebanon, as to other countries not covered by a specific embargo, has always been assessed on a strict case by case basis. We do not at present sell arms to Lebanon.

Kuwait

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consideration was given to the human rights situation in Kuwait, prior to completing the bilateral military agreement with Kuwait under the defence co-operation memorandum of understanding of 10 February.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We keep a close watch on human rights issues worldwide. They are important considerations in our bilateral relations with all countries and we discuss them with other governments, including that of Kuwait, on a regular basis. There have recently been welcome improvements in Kuwait in this regard.


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Cash Limits

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes he proposes to make in his department's diplomatic wing cash limits and running costs limits for 1991-92.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd [pursuant to his reply, 6 February 1992, c. 215] : With regard to changes to this Department's diplomatic wing cash limits and running costs limits for 1991-92, the details for the running costs limit decrease on vote 1 should be by £1,781,000 from £480,241,000 to £478,460,000.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Shareholders

Mr. Andrew Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many shareholders there were in the United Kingdom in 1979 ; and what is his estimate of the equivalent figure today.

Mr. Maples : It is estimated that in 1979 fewer than 3 million adults in Great Britain owned shares. The latest Treasury-stock exchange survey showed that in 1991 share ownership had risen to more than 11 million adults in Great Britain. Information for the United Kingdom as a whole is not available.

Home Income Plans

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what submissions he has received from the Building Societies Commission or building societies ombudsman on the subject of investment bond-related home income plans ;

(2) if he has any plans to review the regulation of lending by building societies for (a) investment bond-related home income plans or (b) other lending ; and if he will make a statement ; (3) what action he proposes to take over the involvement of certain building societies in providing mortgage finance for investment bond-related home income plans.

Mr. Maples : The regulation of investment business, including investment bond-related home income plans, is a matter for the Securities and Investments Board and the relevant self-governing organisations. As regards the activities of building societies, the concern of the Building Societies Commission is to promote the protection of shareholders and depositors in societies. The prudential guidance to building societies on the subject of lending risks, and the corresponding capital adequacy requirements, were reviewed by the commission in consultation with the building societies during 1990 and set out in the prudential note on this subject in March 1991. Building societies have been required since March 1990 to provide additional capital to cover the risks associated with lending on a deferred interest basis, which is a feature of some equity release schemes. The commission has also recently required building societies to clarify and document their lending policies, which will assist in the maintenance of lending standards.


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Private Health Insurance

Mr. Steen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many people over 60 years have been told they will not receive tax relief on private health insurance premiums because they have claimed for treatment which the Government do not consider would have been available on the national health service.

Mr. Maude : I regret that I have no figures on the incidence of individuals losing relief because of their having claimed for treatments not allowed by the regulations. It is my understanding that such instances should be very rare, because, in order to be certified as eligible for relief, a private medical insurance contract must only offer such allowable treatments.

Mr. Steen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much tax relief has been paid to the over-60s who have taken out private health insurance during each of the past two years.

Mr. Maude : The relief has not yet been running for two full years. In 1990-91 the relief cost £55 million and I anticipate the cost for 1991-92 to be £60 million.

Mr. Steen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the treatments which the over-60s cannot use without losing tax relief on their private health insurance premiums ; and how many people, having claimed tax relief on their premiums, have had to repay those premiums.

Mr. Maude : Broadly speaking, no treatments are permitted unless they are already predominantly provided free under the NHS and are performed by a registered medical or dental practitioner in the United Kingdom to the insured as an in or out-patient of a private or NHS hospital. In addition general practitioner performed surgery is also permitted, as are various services such as physiotherapy or home nursing provided they form part of, or are consequent upon, an allowable treatment.

I regret that I have no figures on the number of claimants who have received unapproved benefits and who, as a consequence, have paid higher premiums because of a withdrawal of tax relief.

Government Shares

Mr. Beith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list what shares the Government hold in private sector companies and their market valuation on (a) 1 January and (b) 1 February.

Mr. Maude : The table shows the ordinary shares held by the Government in private sector companies with the market valuation of such holdings at the close of business on 1 January 1992 and 31 January 1992.



Government ordinary shareholdings in private sector companies         

Company                    Number of  Market Valuation (£           

                           shares     millions)                       

                          |(millions)                                 

                                     |1 January |31 January           

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

BAA                       |14.8      |78.7      |83.7                 

British Airways           |3.2       |7.4       |7.8                  

British Gas               |0.1       |0.2       |0.2                  

British Petroleum         |101.2     |296.6     |290.5                

British Steel             |<1>       |<1>       |<1>                  

BT                        |1,256.7   |4,122.1   |4,134.6              

Cable and Wireless        |<1>       |0.1       |0.1                  

Mersey Docks and                                                      

   Harbour Company        |12.4      |24.6      |24.1                 

Anglian Water             |4.8       |15.9      |17.2                 

Northumbrian Water        |0.7       |2.2       |2.5                  

North West Water          |5.3       |17.7      |19.4                 

Severn Trent Water        |6.7       |20.9      |23.2                 

Southern Water            |2.7       |8.3       |8.9                  

South West Water          |0.7       |2.2       |2.3                  

Thames Water              |7.7       |25.2      |28.5                 

Welsh Water               |2.1       |7.4       |7.9                  

Wessex Water              |1.5       |5.6       |6.0                  

Yorkshire Water           |3.1       |10.8      |11.6                 

Eastern Electricity       |4.3       |13.4      |13.0                 

                                                                      

East Midlands Electricity |2.3       |7.9       |7.5                  

                                                                      

London Electricity        |2.3       |7.4       |7.9                  

Manweb                    |1.9       |7.7       |7.4                  

Midlands Electricity      |2.9       |10.1      |9.8                  

Northern Electric         |1.9       |6.4       |6.5                  

Norweb                    |2.6       |9.7       |9.5                  

Seeboard                  |2.4       |8.1       |8.1                  

Southern Electric         |3.2       |11.2      |10.6                 

                                                                      

South Wales Electricity   |1.1       |4.2       |4.2                  

                                                                      

South Western Electricity |2.3       |7.5       |8.0                  

                                                                      

Yorkshire Electricity     |2.5       |9.7       |9.7                  

National Power            |500.4     |1,100.9   |1,136.0              

PowerGen                  |317.4     |730.1     |755.5                

                                                                      

Scottish Hydro-Electric   |13.3      |32.5      |32.5                 

                                                                      

Scottish Power            |29.4      |71.5      |71.5                 

<1> Negligible.                                                       

Company Debts

Mr. Beith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list debts over £100 million owed to the Government by United Kingdom private sector companies on 1 January 1992, not including debts arising from as yet unpaid tax bills.

Mr. Maples : The information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Merchant Shipping

Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to meet representatives of the United Kingdom merchant fleet to discuss the effect of Her Majesty's Government's policies on the future prosperity of merchant shipowners registered in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Maude : I will be meeting Michael Everard, president of the Chamber of Shipping, on 19 February.

Income Statistics

Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a table showing by what percentage the net take-home pay of a married man with two children on (a) half average earnings, (b) average earnings and (c) one and a half times average earnings has changed


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(i) between 1974 and 1979, (ii) between 1979 and 1992,(iii) annually between 1974 and 1979 and (iv) annually between 1979 and 1992, giving (1) the average figure for each year between 1974 and 1979 and (2) the average figure for each year between 1979 and 1992.

Mr. Maude [holding answer 10 February 1992] : The figures requested are shown in the table.


Growth in real take home pay at multiples of average earnings,        

1973-74 to 1991-92                                                    

Married couple with two children                                      

Financial year                 Multiples of average earnings          

                              |0.5      |1.0      |1.5                

                              |per cent.|per cent.|per cent.          

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1973-74 to 1974-75            |1.4      |0.1      |0.0                

1974-75 to 1975-76            |-3.7     |-3.9     |-3.5               

1975-76 to 1976-77            |-1.2     |-1.6     |-2.9               

1976-77 to 1977-78            |0.1      |-1.0     |-1.7               

1977-78 to 1978-79            |7.9      |7.6      |7.5                

                              |-------  |-------  |-------            

1973-74 to 1978-79                                                    

   Total growth               |4.3      |0.7      |-1.1               

   Average annual growth rate |0.8      |0.1      |-0.2               

                                                                      

1978-79 to 1979-80            |2.8      |4.1      |5.1                

1979-80 to 1980-81            |-0.3     |1.0      |1.6                

1980-81 to 1981-82            |-3.0     |-2.6     |-3.0               

1981-82 to 1982-83            |1.2      |0.4      |-0.1               

1982-83 to 1983-84            |5.0      |4.4      |4.3                

1983-84 to 1984-85            |3.9      |3.5      |3.5                

1984-85 to 1985-86            |1.3      |1.3      |1.5                

1985-86 to 1986-87            |3.6      |4.5      |5.0                

1986-87 to 1987-88            |4.0      |5.8      |7.1                

1987-88 to 1988-89            |2.8      |4.4      |5.6                

1988-89 to 1989-90            |1.1      |1.2      |1.4                

1989-90 to 1990-91            |-0.3     |-0.2     |-0.1               

1990-91 to 1991-92            |3.1      |3.0      |2.6                

                              |-------  |-------  |-------            

1978-79 to 1991-92                                                    

   Total growth               |27.9     |35.0     |40.1               

   Average annual growth rate |1.9      |2.3      |2.6                

CIVIL SERVICE

Working Methods

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Minister for the Civil Service what new proposals he has for changes in working methods in the civil service.

Mr. Renton : Under the next steps initiative, chief executives are given personnel management and financial flexibilities to enable them to deliver targets set by Ministers. Next steps is providing benefits to customers, taxpayers and staff.

THE ARTS

British Library

Ms. Gordon : To ask the Minister for the Arts if he will retain the reading rooms and storage space at the Bloomsbury site of the British Library for the next 10 years for use by the library ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Renton : No ; it is not the intention that the British Library should continue to use the round reading room or other storage space, at the Bloomsbury site after 1996. The British museum is considering options for the use of all the space to be vacated by the Library. The return of this is eagerly awaited and central to the museum's future plans.


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Library Authorities

Mr. Fisher : To ask the Minister for the Arts how many library authorities he has visited (a) since his appointment, separately specifying those he has visited (b) in the past six months and (c) in 1992.

Mr. Renton : I have visited six library authorities since I took office. In January 1992, I visited two libraries in Wiltshire and I am planning to go to Berkshire, Newham and Buckinghamshire libraries next month.

South West Regional Arts Board

Mr. Steen : To ask the Minister for the Arts what was the total budget of the South West regional arts board in each of the last three years ; and what percentage of the total budget was spent in the South Hams parliamentary constituency in each of the last three years.

Mr. Renton : The information requested is as follows :


                       |1988-89     |1989-90     |1990-91                  

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

South West Arts Total                                                      

   Budget              |£2,166,134|£2,280,090|£2,514,120             

                                                                           

Direct expenditure in                                                      

   South Hams as                                                           

   percentage of total |1.63        |1.43        |1.44                     

PRIME MINISTER

Disability

Mr. McMaster : To ask the Prime Minister what percentage of the work force of the Cabinet Office are disabled.

The Prime Minister : The percentage of registered disabled persons employed by the Cabinet Office is 1.3 per cent. The Cabinet Office is an equal opportunities employer, and continually seeks to encourage the employment of people with disabilities.

Mr. McMaster : To ask the Prime Minister what percentage of the work force of the Prime Minister's office are disabled.

The Prime Minister : None. For recruitment purposes, my office is part of the Cabinet Office which is an equal opportunities employer.

Radioactive Waste

Mr. McGrady : To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with the Director of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd. concerning the transportation of radioactive waste for re-processing at Sellafield in Cumbria.

The Prime Minister : None.


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