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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 11 December 1992

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Unconventional Medicine

Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, what consideration his Department has given to COST project B4-- "Unconventional Medicine", originated in Switzerland ; and if he will make it his policy to consider supporting any formal proposal submitted to the United Kingdom Government.

Mr. Jackson : My Department has recently been notified that COST project B4 is now formally open for signature. The proposal has been circulated and we have already received a response from an interested party. As with all COST projects, the United Kingdom will need to be satisfied that prospective participants will be able to fulfil their commitment for the full term of the project before undertaking to sign the memorandum of understanding.

Royal Family

Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what publicity services relevant to the royal family are covered by the Central Office of Information ; when COI became responsible for this expenditure ; and from what sources it was financed before it became a charge on the COI.

Mr. Waldegrave : The Central Office of Information currently provides press liaison facilities to the royal household under class XVIII vote 15.

The chief executive of the Central Office of Information informs me that he has established that such services have been provided since financial year 1948-49 but that without disproportionate cost he has been unable to establish what arrangements, if any, existed before that year.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Retrials

Dame Angela Rumbold : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what new arrangements have been put in place to ensure that section 8 of the Criminal Appeals Act 1968 is complied with so that retrials are listed within two months.

Mr. John M. Taylor : No new arrangements have been made by the Lord Chancellor's Department because I am satisfied with the existing procedures by which the Registrar of Criminal Appeals himself immediately notifies the chief clerk of the Crown court centre concerned of retrials ordered by the Court of Appeal and of the necessity to arraign the defendant within two months. Existing departmental instructions are that defendants in


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such cases must be arraigned within two months. Listing guidelines to be issued in the new year, which will cover a wide range of subjects, will re-emphasise the necessity of dealing with such cases expeditiously.

Private Prosecutions (Legal Costs)

Mr. Morley : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what are the hourly rates which apply to the taxing of legal rates when costs are awarded to individuals who successfully pursue private prosecutions ; what account is taken in such cases of the actual rates charged for legal costs ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John M. Taylor : There are no set hourly rates applied to these cases. Determining officers have to assess what is considered to be reasonably sufficient to compensate the applicant for any expenses properly incurred by him in the proceedings. Thus an order that a private prosecutor's costs be paid from central funds may not be a complete indemnity against all the costs incurred, whatever their nature.

Repossession Proceedings

Mr. Battle : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what were the numbers of (a) actions entered for repossession, (b) possession orders made and (c) suspended orders made for the years ended (i) April 1979, (ii) June 1987, (iii) October 1991 and (iv) October 1992 by (x) court circuit in England and Wales and (y) county court in England and Wales.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The 1978-79 and 1986-87 figures are not available. Because of the lengthy nature of the other material, I will separately write to the hon. Member with the information requested and place a copy of the data in the House of Commons Library.

Mr. Battle : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what were the numbers of (a) actions entered for repossession, (b) possession orders made and (c) suspended orders made for (i) November 1991 to 1992 and (ii) May to October 1992, (x) by court circuit in England and Wales and (y) by county court in England and Wales.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Because of the lengthy nature of the material, I will separately write to the hon. Member with the information requested and place a copy of the data in the House of Commons Library.

Domestic Violence

Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to his oral answer of 30 November, Official Report, columns 19-20, when he is proposing to introduce legislation on the matter of domestic violence ; and which organisations he is consulting on this matter.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor is considering the Law Commission's recommendations for reform of the law governing civil remedies for domestic violence in consultation with other interested Departments. He has no immediate plans for legislation but he welcomes any views on the appropriate response to these recommendations.


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Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to his oral answer of 30 November, Official Report, columns 19-20, what inquiries his Department is making into the question of domestic violence and its effects on women ; and what consultations he has had with law centres on this matter.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor is considering the Law Commission's recommendations for reform of the law governing civil remedies for domestic violence and how they would affect women in consultation with other interested Departments. The Law Commission consulted widely before reporting and the Government have received some further comments since the publication of the Law Commission's recommendations. The Lord Chancellor welcomes any views, including those of law centres, on the appropriate response to these recommendations.

Legal Aid

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what are the estimated savings from figures previously projected for 1993-94 of the cuts proposed to expenditure announced in his answer of 12 November, Official Report, columns 863-64, in respect of (a) the reduction of the civil legal aid lower disposable income limit, (b) the increase from one quarter to one third in the contribution taken from income above the lower disposable income limit and below the upper disposable income limit, (c) the proposed changes from1 April 1993 to green form legal advice and (d) the proposed changes in financial eligibility to criminal legal aid announced in the same parliamentary answer.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Government's expenditure plans 1992-93 to 1994-95 for the Lord Chancellor's and Law Officers Departments [Cm. 1910, published 14 February 1992] showed planned expenditure on legal aid in 1993-94 of £885 million. Estimated outturn for 1992-93 is £1100 million. The new plan for 1993-94 is for expenditure of £1285 million. Without the changes to the financial eligibility conditions for civil legal aid and to the level of contributions which were announced on 12 November 1992 [House of Commons Official Report, columns 863-64 ] expenditure in 1993-94 would have risen by a further £39.5 million and without the changes to legal advice and assistance by a further £3.7 million. I do not expect the changes to criminal legal aid to have a significant effect on expenditure.

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will give the timetable for the Lord Chancellor's review of financial eligibility for legal aid following the announcements in his answer of 12 November, Official Report, columns 863-64 ; what is the current composition of the review team ; and on what dates the review team has met since 1 January.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor will shortly issue a consultation paper on changes to criminal legal aid regulations. This consultation will complete the criminal stage of the financial conditions review. The responses to the consultation paper issued at the end of the civil stage of the review indicated that there was no consensus in favour of the proposals put forward. In the light of that, and of the plans for legal aid eligibility generally which


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were announced on 12 November, the Lord Chancellor has decided that it would not be appropriate to pursue the civil proposals for the time being. The third stage of the review was to have covered financial eligibility for advice and assistance and legal aid in matrimonial cases. Against the current background, including the Lord Chancellor's consideration of the report of the Law Commission on the ground for divorce, he has decided that a separate review of financial eligibility in this area would not be appropriate. The team conducting the review is composed of officials of the Lord Chancellor's Department, who work together on a regular basis.

Domicile Law

Mr. Renton : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department whether, following the representations he has received, he will consider not proceeding with changes in the law of domicile.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Only a few of the representations on the Law Commission report on the law of domicile call for it not to be implemented, and the Government's intention to introduce legislation, which was announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, when he was Attorney-General, Official Report, 17 October 1991, column 177, is unchanged. My noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor is considering the representations which have been made on specific aspects of the report.

EDUCATION

Private Sector Colleges

Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will make a statement on his Department's policy on the Higher Education Funding Council funding for private sector colleges.

Mr. Forman : Under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 the Higher Education Funding Council for England is empowered to fund only universities, higher education corporations and designated institutions. My right hon. Friend does not currently designate new institutions because public funding for them would have to be found at the expense of existing higher education institutions.

Royal Holloway College

Mr. Trend : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what information Royal Holloway college supplied to his Department through the court of the university of London in respect of its financial needs for preservation, refurbishment and reservicing of its grade 1 listed buildings for the period 1989 to 2000.

Mr. Forman : My right hon. Friend has received no financial information about the Royal Holloway college's grade 1 buildings, either from the college or through the court of the university of London. This is a matter for the university of London and the college, involving the Universities Funding Council as necessary. Higher education institutions are autonomous bodies responsible for their own financial affairs.


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Engineers

Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what studies his Department has carried out to assess future demand by (a) British industry and (b) the teaching profession for (i) engineers in general and (ii) electrical engineers in particular ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Forman : The Department has not carried out a specific study to assess future demand for engineers by British industry or the teaching profession. As announced in the Government's White Paper "Higher Education : Meeting The Challenge" (Cm 114, 1987), the Department participated in the Interdepartmental Review which reported on prospective needs for new graduates in general by industry, commerce and the public services ("Highly Qualified People : Supply and Demand" HMSO 1990). The Engineering Council is currently undertaking a review of the formation of engineers. One part of this review will address needs, demands and supply of engineers, and concentrate on industrial and economic issues. I look forward to the report of this work--expected in spring 1993.

ACCOMMODATION AND WORKS COMMITTEE

Energy Bill

Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee what steps have been taken to reduce the energy bill for the Palace of Westminster and its precincts.

Mr. Powell : As part of a continuing programme of energy-saving measures in the Palace of Westminster and the parliamentary estate, low- energy light fittings have been installed in many areas. Where these have been installed they have contributed over the past two years to savings of some 65 per cent. in the consumption of electricity. During the same period, over 300 "occupancy sensors" have been installed, which automatically switch off lights when areas are vacated. Old style steam radiators are being replaced by modern low-temperature hot-water radiators. All new radiators are fitted with thermostatic valves ; and all pipework, fittings and valves are being insulated to reduce heat loss.

EMPLOYMENT

Redundancy Pay

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the level of the current redundancy payment recoverable from Government funds ; and what it would be if it had been increased each year since its introduction by the levels of (a) earnings and (b) prices.

Mr. McLoughlin : The rebate recoverable by employers against statutory redundancy payments was abolished in January 1990.


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SOCIAL SECURITY

Benefit Claims (Ex-service Personnel)

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of the implications of the development of commercial agencies which propose to charge fees in order to pursue claims for benefit from ex-service personnel.

Miss Widdecombe : There is nothing to prevent an individual or commercial agency charging a fee to ex-service personnel for the provision of advice on claims for benefit. However, such advice on social security benefits is available free from the Benefits Agency and on war pensions from the War Pensions Directorate and a number of ex-service organisations. It is a matter of personal choice which service is used.

Benefit Disqualification

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of those disqualified from receiving benefit because of dismissal from their jobs were refused benefits for less than the maximum period in the latest year for which figures are available.

Mr. Burt : The information requested is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Disability Allowances

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the total spent on advertising of the disability living allowances and the disability working allowances (a) before their introduction and (b) in every month since then.

Mr. Scott : The total cost of advertising in the press and on television before the introduction of the new benefits in April was £3,044,909.

The latest figures for advertising month by month since then are in the table.


          |£              

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

April     |Nil            

May       |Nil            

June      |240,740        

July      |Nil            

August    |Nil            

September |587            

October   |2,144          

Ms. Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) when the chief executive of the Benefits Agency will reply to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford's letter concerning the delay in processing the disability living allowance claim of (a) R. Collumbell, (b) Ms. McVitie, (c) P. Morgan, (d) R. Edwards, (e) B. Siblon, (f) L. Heat and (g) S. Goodwin ;

(2) when the chief executive of the Benefits Agency will reply to the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford's letter concerning the delay in processing the disability living allowance claim of the people with NI numbers (a) SM290692B, (b) JE542286C, (c) WK555651A, (d) KB331945D, (e) JE466288A, (f) ZW558243D and (g) ZX002165B.


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Mr. Scott : The administration of disability living allowance is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member and a copy will be placed in the Library.

Letter from M. Bichard to Ms. Joan Ruddock, dated 10 December 1992 :

As Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, it is my responsibility to answer questions about relevant operational matters. I am therefore replying to the points raised in your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security concerning your correspondence about claims to Disability Living Allowance for R. Collumbell, Ms. McVitie, P. Morgan, R. Edwards, B. Siblon, L. Heat, S. Goodwin and those with NI numbers SM290692B, JE542286C, WK555651A, KB331945D, JE466288A, ZW558243D and ZX002165B.

I am now in a position to confirm that adjudication officers have made decisions on all but one of the claims. The case outstanding is waiting for further evidence from the customer. I have already replied separately, and in greater detail, about each case. I offer my sincere apologies for any delay in dealing with the claims and also for the delay in replying to your correspondence. My letter of 19 October to all MPs set out the problems we have encountered since the successful launch of the new benefit and the positive steps taken to improve the situation.

I hope you find this reply helpful. A copy will appear in the Official Report. Copies are also being placed in the Library.

NATIONAL HERITAGE

Television Licences

Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many people were affected by the change in television licence rules for those living in sheltered housing ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Brooke : This is a matter for which the Department of National Heritage is now responsible. People who had the concession when the regulations were changed in 1988 have kept it. The regulations included a provision which preserved the rights of existing beneficiaries for their lifetime, provided they continued to live in accommodation which would have qualified under the old regulations.

PRIME MINISTER

Agencies

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list all Next Steps agencies currently operating and all new agencies expected to be introduced before the end of 1993.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. Full information on all existing agencies and currently announced candidates was included in the NextSteps Annual Review 1992, published on 2 December (Cm. 2111), a copy of which has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

EC Council Agendas

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will ensure that the agenda for each meeting of the EC Council is published in detail at least seven days in advance, and that this information is made available to hon. Members.


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Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. The monthly business statement printed in the Official Report gives details of all forthcoming Council meetings that month and the items likely to be on the agenda of each.

This generally provides a reliable guide, particularly on the main issues to be discussed, although the final agenda may be subject to change up to the day of the meeting itself.

Council of Europe and WEU

Sir John Hunt : To ask the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of the information bulletin on the activities of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of Western European Union.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. I have done so today.

EC Regional Funds

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has held with his counterparts in the European Council on the possible ways of disbursement of funds under the proposed committee on the regions to be established under the treaty of European Union.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. Article 198(a) of the Maastricht treaty makes it clear that the Committee of the Regions is an advisory body. It will therefore have no responsibility for disbursing funds.

Disclosure of Information

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment Her Majesty's Government have made of the treaty on European Union in regard to its proposals to increase provisions for prohibition on the disclosure of information from the institutions of the European Community.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. The Maastricht treaty says nothing on the question of disclosure of information. A declaration adopted at Maastricht calls on the Commission to report to the Council of Ministers on measures designed to improve public access to information held by Community institutions.

In February 1992 the Commission proposed a Council regulation on the security of classified information. As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told the hon. Member on 7 July, the Government consider the draft regulation in its present form to be unworkable.

Somalia

Mr. Michael : To ask the Prime Minister what offer of help in Somalia his Government have made in the light of President Bush's offer of military intervention on the subsequent decision of the UN Security Council.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. We are providing two RAF C130 transport aircraft, accompanied by supporting personnel, to the unified military task force in Somalia. On 4 December, my noble Friend Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, the Minister for Overseas Development, announced a further £4.5 million of


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bilateral humanitarian aid to Somalia for immediate disbursement once conditions permit. This brings United Kingdom aid to Somalia this year to nearly £31.5 million, including our share of EC aid.

Ministers (Legal Costs)

Mr. Morley : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment is made of value for money provided by the level of legal charges to Ministers in connection with personal matters where part of the costs are met from public funds ; and if he will make it his policy to limit reimbursement of expenses in such cases to the limits applied by taxing authorities in legal aid cases.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. The Government are always concerned to ensure value for money in all their activities.

Ministerial Dress

Sir Nicholas Fairbairn : To ask the Prime Minister what advice is given to ministers concerning appropriate standards of dress for Ministers representing Her Majesty's Government in acts of remembrance for service men and women killed on active service.

Mr. Newton : I have been asked to reply. There is no general guidance. The normal practice is for Ministers to follow whatever indication is given by the organisation responsible in each case.

HEALTH

Homeopathic Medicines

Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will provide a comparative average costing of an NHS homeopathic medicine prescription with that of an NHS standard drug prescription.

Mr. Sackville : The net ingredient cost per prescription of a national health service homeopathic medicine prescription in 1991 was £3.33 compared with £6.20 for an NHS standard drug prescription. These figures are for prescriptions dispensed by community pharmacists and appliance contractors, dispensing doctors and prescriptions submitted by prescribing doctors for items personally administered in England.

Financial Information Project Systems Ltd.

Mr. Burden : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list the payments made to Financial Information Project Systems Ltd. by the West Midlands regional health authority.

Dr. Mawhinney : The question of payments to Financial Information Project Systems Ltd. is currently under investigation by the district auditor.

Paediatric Neurologists

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many paediatric neurologists there are in the West Midlands regional health authority ; and if she will make a statement.


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Dr. Mawhinney : There is one paediatric neurologist in the West Midlands regional health authority, according to the Department of Health's medical and dental census at 30 September 1991.

There is currently a rapid expansion in the number of consultants specialising in paediatrics, of which paediatric neurology is a small sub- specialty. Appointment of medical staff is a matter for local employing authorities.

Dr. Kypros Loucas

Mr. Soley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on her Department's policy concerning reports from the Mental Health Act Commission on the employment of Dr. K. Loucas as psychiatrist at Broadmoor hospital and Horton hospital ; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Yeo : I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Members for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) and for Rochdale (Ms. Lynne) on 10 December.

NHS Management Executive

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what were the production and distribution costs of the NHS Management Executive's annual report for 1990, 1991 and 1992 ; and how many reports were printed in each of those years.

Dr. Mawhinney : The chief executive of the National Health Service Management Executive, in describing the operations of the £26 billion NHS, produced an annual report at a total cost including design, printing and distribution amounting to £107,241. 35,000 copies of the report were distributed, mostly in the NHS. No report was published in 1990 or 1991.

Private Sector Work

Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the updating of the survey of private sector work across the country.

Mr. Sackville [holding answer 9 December 1992] : I assume that the hon. Member is referring to research into the number and type of operations carried out in the independent sector. We have no plans at present to commission further research into clinical activity in the independent sector.

Health Promotion

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on her proposals for the funding of health promotion among general practitioners from July 1993 showing (i) the cash limit on health promotion, (ii) the maximum income available under her proposed banding scheme, (iii) her assumptions on the number of general practitioners qualifying for payment in each band and (iv) her plans for consultation.

Dr. Mawhinney [holding answer 30 November 1992] : The profession has been consulted, initially on proposals in principle and subsequently on the details of new health promotion arrangements in the general practitioner contract, and has agreed to the proposed new scheme. Action is now in hand to finalise arrangements for implementation. We expect funding of the order of £80


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million for Great Britain to be available for the scheme on a full year basis from the totality of resources available for GP remuneration. Payment levels within this will be finalised in the light of further consultation between the Health Departments and the profession once better information is available on take-up of the new scheme.

DEFENCE

Cheshire Regiment

Mr. Miller : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has received from members of the Cheshire Regiment serving in Bosnia, whose families are in Germany, regarding the reduction of allowances ; and what action he intends to take.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : Service personnel based in Germany are paid an allowance in view of the high cost of living there. A similar allowance is not necessary in Bosnia, where food and accommodation charges are waived, but members of the Cheshire Regiment retain a significant element (70 per cent. for married personnel, 40 per cent. for single personnel) of the German allowance in recognition of their continuing financial commitments in Germany.

RAF Chivenor

Mr. Harvey : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many sorties have been flown from RAF Chivenor in each of the last six years.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence will write to the hon. Member.

Army Training Land

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what response he has given to the National Audit Office report entitled "Ministry of Defence : Management and Control of Army Training Land" ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : By convention, National Audit Office reports are agreed with Departments before publication. The report is to the House of Commons and it is for the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in the first instance, to decide whether to take evidence from the Department and report further. The Accounting Officer will speak for the Department should the PAC call him to give evidence.

Operation Granby

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, pursuant to his answer of 16 November, Official Report, column 47, what were the original amounts of money expected from each country contributing towards the costs of Operation Granby.


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