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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 5 June 1992


Remand Prisoners (Plymouth)

Mr. Jamieson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he intends taking following the escape of six remand prisoners from the remand centre at Crownhill police station, Plymouth, on 29 May.

Mr. Charles Wardle : Responsibility for the security of police facilities used to hold remand prisoners lies with the chief officer of police concerned. I understand that the Devon and Cornwall constabulary is enquiring into the circumstances of the escape and reviewing the relevant security arrangements.

Crime, North Yorkshire

Mr. Bayley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will describe what action he proposes to take to combat crime in north Yorkshire.

Mr. Charles Wardle [pursuant to his reply, 14 May 1992 c. 730] : In answering the hon. Member's supplementary question to the above question, I passed on information which I now know to have been inaccurate. The average annual rate of increase in recorded crime in the North Yorkshire police area between 1974 and 1979 was 1.5 per cent. and between 1979 and 1991 7.8 per cent. I apologise to the hon. Member for any inconvenience caused by the earlier inaccurate information.


Benefit Disqualifications

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment (1) how many unemployed people were disqualified for unemployment benefit and for what periods, under each paragraph of section 20(1) of the Social Security Act 1975, in the area covered by the Newport, Gwent unemployment benefit office in the week commencing 8 June ; and if she will place this information in the Library ;

(2) what information is available to her, and from what sources, as to the lengths of periods of disqualification for unemployment benefit imposed under section 20(1) of the Social Security Act 1975.

Mr. McLoughlin : Questions on operational matters in the Employment Service Executive Agency are the responsibility of the agency's chief executive, to whom I have referred this question for reply.

Health and Safety at Work

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans her Department has to submit films on (a) well-being at work, (b) safety at work, (c)

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control of air pollution at work or (d) the control of noise and vibrations at work, for the European video film festival on safety, hygiene and health protection at work sponsored by the European Commission, to be held in Thessaloniki in October.

Mr. McLoughlin : We expect that the United Kingdom film and video industry will be well represented at the European video film festival.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has written to more than 250 film and video producers in the United Kingdom who are known to have made health and safety videos which may be eligible for entry to the film festival.

HSE will also select suitable videos made by its own film unit and videos commissioned from outside producers for submission to the European Commission by the 19 June deadline.

Training and Enterprise Councils

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if she will publish a table setting out the budget allocations to each TEC for each block of their expenditure for 1992-93.

Mr. McLoughlin : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) on 19 May 1992, Official Report, column 134.

EC Ministers

Mr. Burden : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what engagements she is planning to have with her European counterparts in the next three weeks.

Mr. McLoughlin : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment will be meeting European Community employment ministers at the Social Affairs Council on 24 June. Before the Council, she plans to met a number of her counterparts.


Works of Art (Exports)

Mr. Bellingham : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what decisions he has made on the recommendations of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art in its recent report ; and if he will make a statement on the proposal for the introduction of a very restricted list of heritage objects which could be prohibited from export.

Mr. Mellor : I share the view, expressed by almost all who made representations on the report, that the disadvantages of listing far outweigh the advantages. Listing would represent a diminution in the rights of owners to dispose of their property as they saw fit. And prohibition upon the export of outstanding heritage items would distort the market value, both for outstanding items and others. Therefore, I have firmly decided against the committee's recommendation, made most reluctantly, to list works of art. The protection of the heritage is one of my prime concerns. There are, however, ways of achieving that aim other than listing, such as the scheme for acceptances in lieu of tax. The recent acquisitions of the paintings

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"Portrait of a lady with a squirrel and a starling" by Holbein and "The Old Horse Guards, London from St. James's Park" by Canaletto demonstrate the role that both the private and public sectors can play. I have assumed responsibility for the controls on licensing the export of works of art, formerly undertaken by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, with effect from1 June 1992. I am considering the committee's other largely procedural recommendations.

Press and Public Relations

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will give an estimate for the total expenditure by his Department on press and public relations in 1992-93.

Mr. Mellor : Estimated expenditure by the Department of National Heritage on press and public relations for 1992-93 is likely to be in the region of £250,000 for running costs, and £500,000 on staffing costs.

Buildings at Risk Trust

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if the Buildings at Risk Trust has, directly or indirectly, received public funds from his Department ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Key [holding answer 2 June 1992] : The Buildings at Risk Trust has been offered a grant of £12,975 for 1992-93 towards the costs of running its Buildings at Risk Advisory Service. This grant was offered under the Department of the Environment's special grants programme, the heritage element of which is now the responsibility of my Department. No grant has yet been claimed.


School Sports Grounds

Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will estimate the number of schools sports grounds that have been sold by local education authorities each year since 1979.

Mr. Forth : The information which the hon. Member requests is unavailable, since local education authorities are not required to inform the Department of disposals of surplus land and buildings. However, the DES included a specific sum of £0.5 million in the Sports Council's grant- in-aid for 1991-92 for the preparation of a register of recreational land to monitor gains and losses in playing fields. The register is due for completion by June 1993.

School Closures

Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what process of appeal there is against the Minister's decision to close a school, when new or corrected information becomes available.

Mr. Forth : There is no statutory process of appeal. It is open to a party with an interest in the matter to challenge a decision in the courts.

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Physical Education

Mr. Steinberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will list the average number of hours per week devoted to physical education in secondary schools for each year since 1981.

Mr. Forth : This information is not collected centrally.

Grant-maintained Status

Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Secretary of State for Education (1) what educational criteria he is using to determine applications from schools for grant-maintained status ;

(2) what financial criteria he is using to determine applications for grant -maintained status.

Mr. Forth : My right hon. Friend determines each application for grant-maintained status on its merits, taking account of individual schools' circumstances. His main concern is that all grant maintained schools should be viable in both educational and financial terms.

Religious Schools

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many applications from religious schools for voluntary-aided status over the last three years have been (a) granted and (b) refused ; and if he will list the religious denomination of each such application, and of each application which is currently being considered.

Mr. Forth : The following table gives the information requested. (This excludes schools formed by the amalgamation of existing voluntary schools but includes applications for new voluntary aided schools where no independent school already existed.) There are no applications made within the last three years that are currently under consideration but following a judicial review my right hon. Friend is currently reconsidering an application made prior to June 1989 for the establishment of a Muslim voluntary-aided school.

                   |Number of   |Number      |Number                   

                   |applications|granted     |refused                  


                   |June 1989                                          


Church of England  |3           |0           |3                        

Church of England/                                                     

  Methodist        |2           |1           |1                        

Roman Catholic     |4           |1           |3                        

Jewish             |4           |2           |2                        

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

Total              |13          |4           |9                        

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will list the criteria he applies when considering applications from religious schools for voluntary-aided status ; and what changes or modifications have been made in those criteria over the past three years.

Mr. Forth : In reaching a decision, my right hon. Friend takes account of a number of factors, including :

(i) the need for additional places within the maintained sector ;

(ii) denominational need for a particular type of education ; (iii) whether the LEA supports the proposals ;

(iv) suitability of premises ;

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(v) the school's ability to deliver the National Curriculum. No changes or modifications have been made to these criteria in the past three years.

School Governors

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will take steps to quantify the increase of time devoted by voluntary governors of primary and secondary schools respectively consequent on (a) increased responsibilities arising from local management of schools and (b) further requirements of time on governors of grant maintained secondary schools.

Mr. Forth : A survey carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research in 1990 found that the average amount of time spent by governors on their duties was 10 hours a term rising to 20 hours for heads and 30 for chairmen. There was no substantial difference between primary and secondary school governors, and it is not evident that more governor time is necessarily needed in a grant-maintained school.

I pay tribute to the many parents, teachers, and others who voluntarily give of their time to run their local schools.

Equal Opportunities

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps are being taken by his Department to tackle the imbalance between women and men in promotional posts and at levels of senior management in both the teaching and lecturing professions.

Mr. Forth : Employers should be fully aware of the existing statutory requirements governing gender issues in employment. It is not for the Department to seek to influence the choices they may make in appointments to senior management posts.


Speed Control

Mr. Wells : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress has been made in developing measures to control vehicle speeds through villages ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : Since the announcement last July that the Department was to take action jointly with the County Surveyors' Society, a working group has been established on which the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office are also represented. The group has met several times, and has produced an interim report. A number of schemes have been identified in villages on trunk and county roads across England, Wales, and Scotland on which a variety of traffic calming and related measures are to be introduced to constrain vehicle speeds. These schemes will be monitored through the summer and autumn. The results will be evaluated, and will feed into a final report from the working group which I am expecting early next year. This work will provide the basis for detailed guidance to highway authorities on the measures which prove most effective.

A leaflet has been produced describing the main features of the working group's deliberations and its

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interim report. This has been deposited in the Library, and copies are available on request from the Department's traffic policy division.

Channel Tunnel

Mr. Bowis : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the research undertaken into the risk of fire in the channel tunnel will be placed before the House.

Mr. Freeman : Many of the tests and studies relating to the risk of fire in the tunnel shuttle trains are being undertaken by Eurotunnel ; publication of the results of any of that work is a matter for the company but the safety authority proposes to publish a general commentary on the work. It will not be possible to publish the commentary until the tests and studies have been completed ; this will occur next year at a later stage of commissioning.

In addition, Eurotunnel has commissioned a study of the overall safety of the tunnel system. The safety authority has employed consultants to review Eurotunnel's work and proposes, next year, to issue a report on the outcome.

Ports and Airports

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will set out his proposals for the privatisation of the principal trust ports and municipal airports in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Norris : Under the Ports Act 1991 four trust ports, Clyde, Forth, Medway and Tees and Hartlepool, have already successfully sought privatisation and a fifth, the Port of London Authority, has sold its commercial docks at Tilbury into the private sector. My right hon. Friend believes that the proper place for the major trust ports is in the private sector and he hopes that more of them will bring themselves forward for privatisation. He recognises however that the circumstances of the individual trust ports vary greatly. Before compelling a port to privatise itself under the powers in the Ports Act which will become available to him in July of next year he will consider its circumstances very carefully.

As regards municipal airports I refer my hon. Friend to the answer which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (Sir T. Arnold) on 18 May 1992, Official Report, 31.

Seismic Surveys

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what studies he has undertaken of the safety issues raised by the towed sonar/seismic survey being undertaken off the Needles in view of the congestion in these waters at this time of year from yachts and pleasure craft ;

(2) if he will undertake a special survey into the safety aspects of the towed seismic survey being undertaken off the Needles in respect of the congestion of these waters at the present time of year.

Mr. Norris : Ships engaged in seismic surveys are required to show the signals prescribed in the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea which indicate they are restricted in their ability to manoeuvre. Special surveys are undertaken if a need is clearly identified, but no approach has been made in respect of seismic surveys off the Needles.

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Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will set out the progress being made by the French authorities for the broadcast of NAVTEX information in English.

Mr. Norris : The international language for NAVTEX broadcasts is English. I understand that the French authorities have recently begun to issue NAVTEX broadcasts from Brest in English, but warnings broadcast by the French elsewhere in the English channel are not available through NAVTEX. However, the Hydrographic Office monitor these French broadcasts and arrange for them to be re-issued in English by NAVTEX where appropriate.

Cash Limits

Ms. Mowlam : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will give a breakdown of his Department's expenditure by the smallest geographic unit possible.

Mr. Norris : The latest estimates of general Government expenditure on transport by territory and region are given in appendix E of "Public Expenditure Analyses to 1994-95 : Statistical Supplement to the Autumn Statement", Cm. 1920.



Mr. Vaz : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many payments have been made by the Deposit Protection Board to depositors of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International in terms of (a) numbers and (b) value.

Mr. Nelson : I understand that up to close of business on 28 May 1992 payments have been made by the Deposit Protection Board to some 450 depositors of BCCI, involving total protection payments of some £1.6 million.

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a further statement on the Deposit Protection Board and payments to former depositors of BCCI.

Mr. Nelson : The amount which the Deposit Protection Scheme will pay out to former depositors of BCCI will depend on how many depositors make valid claims under the scheme. The Deposit Protection Board is anxious to make payments as soon as practicable, in line with its statutory duty.

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer on what date the first payment was made under the Deposit Protection Board to former depositors of BCCI.

Mr. Nelson : I understand that the Deposit Protection Board made the first payments to former depositors of BCCI on 16 April 1992.

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many applications have been made to the Deposit Protection Board for compensation by former depositors of BCCI.

Mr. Nelson : I understand that, as at close of business on 28 May 1992, some 15,000 applications for compensation have been made to the Deposit Protection Board by former depositors of BCCI.

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Customs Aircraft

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what evaluation Her Majesty's customs and waterguard service has made of the use of airborne radar surveillance to counter drug smuggling and illegal immigration ; and if he will list the aircraft available to Her Majesty's customs for these duties.

Sir John Cope : Her Majesty's Customs in association with other Government Departments carry out target-based and routine aerial surveillance over land, territorial and international waters. A procurement exercise is being evaluated to establish a managed aerial surveillance service uniquely for the Department using the best of modern technology including radar.

For security reasons, it is not the practice to identify specific aircraft used.


Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list his quoted shareholdings together with their value and the percentage of the issued share capital owned by Her Majesty's Government.

Mr. Nelson : The table shows the ordinary shares held by the Government, their market valuation and the percentage of the issued share capital that they represent.

Government ordinary shareholdings in private sector companies                       

Company                 |Number of     |Market        |Proportion of                

                        |shares        |valuation<1>  |issued capital               

                        |(millions)    |(£ million)   |(percent)                    


BAA                     |14.8          |95.0          |3.0                          

British Airways         |3.2           |9.6           |0.4                          

British Gas             |0.1           |0.2           |<2>-                         

British Petroleum       |101.2         |277.3         |1.9                          

British Steel           |<2>-          |<2>-          |<2>-                         

BT                      |1,352.7       |4,856.4       |22.0                         

Mersey Docks and                                                                    

  Harbour Company       |12.4          |29.9          |20.7                         

Anglian Water           |4.8           |20.9          |1.6                          

Northumbrian Water      |0.7           |3.0           |1.0                          

North West Water        |5.3           |23.2          |1.5                          

Severn Trent            |6.7           |26.7          |1.9                          

Southern Water          |2.7           |11.1          |1.6                          

South West Water        |0.7           |3.1           |0.6                          

Thames Water            |7.7           |33.8          |2.0                          

Welsh Water             |2.1           |10.1          |1.5                          

Wessex Water            |1.5           |7.5           |1.5                          

Yorkshire Water         |3.1           |14.1          |1.6                          

Eastern Electricity     |4.3           |14.9          |1.6                          

East Midlands Electricity{fill}2.3      8.7            1.1                          

London Electricity      |2.3           |9.1           |1.1                          

Manweb                  |1.9           |8.0           |1.6                          

Midlands Electricity    |2.9           |10.5          |1.4                          

Northern Electric       |1.9           |7.4           |1.5                          

Norweb                  |2.6           |10.6          |1.5                          

Seeboard                |2.4           |9.3           |1.9                          

Southern Electric       |3.2           |12.0          |1.2                          

South Wales Electricity |1.1           |4.6           |1.1                          

South Western Electricity{fill}2.3      8.7            1.9                          

Yorkshire Electricity   |2.5           |11.0          |1.2                          

National Power          |500.6         |1,156.5       |39.3                         

PowerGen                |317.9         |759.9         |40.7                         

Scottish Hydro-Electric |13.3          |34.8          |3.5                          

Scottish Power          |29.4          |74.5          |3.6                          

<1> Close, May 27                                                                   

<2> Negligible                                                                      

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Public Borrowing

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what contingency plans he has made to deposit funds in Europe if public borrowing exceeds the limit set by the Maastricht treaty.

Mr. Nelson : There is no need for such contingency plans. The Maastricht treaty does not set a limit on public borrowing. A member state would have to be judged to be running an "excessive" budget deficit for sanctions to be imposed, and such sanctions will not apply until stage 3 of economic and monetary union, and then only as a last resort. Although the United Kingdom has no obligation to move to stage 3, the Government's policies are designed to avoid running deficits that might be judged excessive.

CIS (Debts)

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his policy towards the proposal advanced in April by the treasurer of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, that the United Kingdom write-off debts inherited by countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States from the former Soviet Union in exchange for the provision to the United Kingdom of recoverable nuclear materials.

Mr. Nelson : The safety of nuclear materials in the republics of the former Soviet Union is a key concern, as is the whole process of economic adjustment in those republics, including the servicing of debts. The United Kingdom is working closely with other Governments and international institutions on these issues. Linking the two issues, which raise widely differing concerns, would not be helpful.

Value Added Tax

Sir Teddy Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what advice he has received from the European Commission about the levying of value added tax on food, electricity and children's clothing ; what proposals the Commission has made concerning the jurisdiction of the European Court in this matter ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir John Cope : None. All the United Kingdom's current zero rates are guaranteed by the Sixth VAT Directive which can be amended only by unanimous agreement of all member states.

EC Budget

Mr. John D. Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated (a) contribution to the European Community by the United Kingdom and (b) receipts from the European Community to the United Kingdom in each of the five last years for which figures are available.

Mr. Norman Lamont [holding answer 21 May 1992] : Information concerning United Kingdom contributions to and receipts from the Community Budget for the years 1987-91 is set out in the following table. The figure for receipts covers public sector receipts only : the Commission does not provide member states with details of payments made directly to the private sector.

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£ million                                               

Year          |Gross        |Public sector              

              |contribution |receipts                   




1987          |4,049        |2,328                      

1988          |3,544        |2,182                      

1989          |4,431        |2,116                      

1990          |4,658        |2,183                      

1991          |3,309        |2,765                      


Mr. Dobson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what printing contracts the company Hunterprint had or has outstanding with HMSO ; and if he will give the dates and details of the nature and subject matter of the printed material for each contract.

Mr. Nelson : The hon. Gentleman's question falls within the scope of the policy announced in Cm 1263 : arrangements have therefore been made for the Controller and Chief Executive of HMSO to respond direct. Copies of the letter will be placed in the House Library and with the Public Information Office.



Mr. Lester : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will make further funds available towards the costs of non-governmental organisation projects in Vietnam.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : In May 1990, we committed £1 million to help finance non-government organisations' development projects in the two provinces to which the majority of the boat people return. This money has now been fully allocated to 18 projects which are having a positive local impact. I have now decided to commit a further £1 million towards the cost of further NGO projects in areas to which the majority of migrants will be returning. This new tranche will be focused on job creation projects and projects which have a direct effect on the economic well-being of the communities. This £1 million will be additional to expenditure in Vietnam under the joint funding scheme.


Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what commitments to increase overseas development aid will be made by the United Kingdom to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The Government are willing to provide new and additional resources to the replenishment of the global environment facility, if other donors also do so. The GEF will help finance actions by developing countries, related particularly to climate change and biodiversity, which have benefits globally but which would not be justified in terms of their national benefits alone.

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Special Programme for Africa

Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what help he proposes to give to the second phase of the special programme for Africa which was set up by the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Sir T. Arnold) on 13 May at column. 141.


Nuclear Test Veterans

Mr. McMaster : To ask the Prime Minister if he has any plans to further consider awarding compensation to veterans of British nuclear tests and, or their families ; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The Government will consider sympathetically a claim for compensation on behalf of any ex-service man who can be shown to have suffered ill health from exposure to ionising radiation as a result of duties in connection with the nuclear test programme. An expert study conducted in 1988 by the National Radiological Protection Board conceded that the overall incidence of death and malignant disease among British nuclear test veterans has been no worse than for people who were not involved in the tests. A further report from the NRPB on more recent data on mortality and cancer evidence is expected later this year.

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