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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 31 March 1993

DEFENCE

Depleted Uranium

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if any of Her Majesty's armed forces (a) have been equipped since 1963 or (b) are currently equipped with United States weapons tipped with depleted uranium ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The only equipment which falls into this category is the US-manufactured Vulcan phalanx close-in weapons system which uses US-manufactured depleted uranium tipped ammunition, and which has been fitted in some Royal Navy surface ships since 1982.

The Army has United Kingdom-manufactured depleted uranium tank ammunition which was procured for, and used during, the Gulf conflict.

Army Static Workshop Productivity Scheme

Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if Touche Ross was given the task of reviewing the Army static workshop productivity scheme by means of competitive tender.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : Yes. Touche Ross provided the winning bid from six competitors.

Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what was the cost of the Touche Ross Army static workshop productivity scheme review.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The fees paid for the report are a matter of commercial confidence between the Ministry of Defence and the company. It is not our practice to disclose such costs.

Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list the defence establishments which were covered by the Touche Ross Army static workshop productivity scheme review.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The review was conducted at a representative sample of three sites :

34 Base Workshop REME, Donnington

35 Base Workshop REME, Old Dalby

31 District Workshop REME, Catterick

A further seven sites will be affected by the review : 18 Base Workshop REME, Bovington

26 District Workshop REME, Stirling

27 District Workshop REME, Warminster

36 District Workshop REME, Colchester

43 District Workshop REME, Aldershot

44 District Workshop REME, Ashford

Engineer Resources Workship REME, Long Marston

Dr. Liam Fox : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about defence agency status for the Army static workshops.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The Army static workshops in Great Britain are to be established as a defence agency of


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the Ministry of Defence on 1 April 1993, under the new title of the Army base repair organisation. The Army base repair organisation comprises its headquarters at Andover, a contract repair branch and a network of base and district workshops. Together they employ some 3, 581 civilian and 219 military staff.

The role of the Army base repair organisation ranges from minor repair to full refurbishment of equipment for the Army. The chief executive has to ensure that the service is available in peacetime and that it has the capacity to cope immediately with increased workloads in times of crisis and war.

Strategically placed workshops will provide a 24-hour, 365 days a year recovery service in direct support of Army units together with a repair facility to effect repairs beyond the capability of local units. Four workshops will provide an in-depth refurbishment and modification service, which is essential to the operational readiness of Army equipment. In addition, a separate division of the agency will provide a complementary service by contracting with industry for repair and refurbishment of equipments.

As the first chief executive, Brigadier J. R. Drew will be offered new opportunities to build on the current organisation's professional expertise and high performance standards. Through a more commercial approach, the chief executive will actively seek to improve the efficiency and value for money of his organisation.

The chief executive has been set the following targets for 1993-94.

1. To complete the repair programme to plan.

2. By 1 April 1994, to conduct a customer survey of quality and to institute a system for measuring the timeliness of the agency's output and to set improving targets for both.

3. To complete the market test of 18 base workshop by 1 April 1994.

4. To reduce by 5 per cent. the ratio of labour costs to hours of production by 1 April 1994.

5. By 1 October 1993, establish the value and the proportion of risk price contracts placed by the agency, and by 1 April 1994 set targets for increases in 1994-95.

6. To operate a full cost, accruals accounting system by 1 April 1994.

I have arranged for copies of the agency's framework document to be placed in the Library of both Houses.

Management Consultants

Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence which expenditure heading within his Department's budget includes the cost of employing management consultants ; and what has been the total expenditure under this heading, for each of the last five years.

Mr. Aitken : The costs of management consultancy contracts can be attributed to various vote sub-items of the Defence budget. The total costs of employing management consultants for each of the last five years have been as follows :


Financial year |£ million                    

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

1987-88        |5.140                        

1988-89        |3.109                        

1989-90        |5.292                        

1990-91        |3.935                        

1991-92        |5.700                        


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Heavy Airlift Capability

Mr. George : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions his Ministry had with the United States Department of Defense on the latter's building up of military heavy airlift capability.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : We maintain regular routine contacts with the United States Department of Defense on a range of issues including discussion of plans for military airlift capability.

Nuclear-powered Warships (Safety Committee)

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now make it his practice to list the Departments and agencies of Her Majesty's Government which are represented on the nuclear-powered warships safety committee.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The membership of the nuclear-powered warships safety committee includes experts from the Ministry of Defence, Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department of Health, Her Majesty's industrial pollution inspectorate (Scottish Office), the Atomic Energy Authority, the National Radiological Protection Board and the nuclear installations inspectorate.

Married Quarters

Dr. Blackburn : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on future plans for the defence married quarters estate.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : In February 1992, my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for Defence announced that the Ministry of Defence's housing task force had recommended that in order to provide a more responsive and cost-effective housing service for service personnel, the ownership and management of the Department's stock of married quarters in mainland Great Britain should be transferred to a new, non-profit making body in the private sector. The prospective transfer offered the prospect of providing a better planned, better maintained married quarters estate for our service men and service women. Service men and service women would continue to pay rents for their married quarters at levels recommended by the Armed Forces Pay Review Body. My Department has been giving this proposal detailed consideration. I now propose to establish a non-profit making housing trust with a view to negotiating the terms of any eventual transfer to it of a long lease of the married quarters estate. Further detailed work will be required to evaluate and develop the concept before a final decision is taken on how best to proceed.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Landlord and Tenant Law

Mr. Hendry : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to implement the recommendations in the Law Commission's report "Landlord and Tenant Law, Privity of Contract and Estate" (Law Com. No. 174).


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Mr. John M. Taylor : The Government have decided to implement these recommendations for the future leases but not for existing leases. This decision will affect only those agreements entered into after the commencement date of the necessary legislation, which will also provide for a statutory requirement in respect of both future and existing leases to encourage landlords to act promptly when suing for arrears of rent or service charges. Notice of any such claims against a former tenant will in future have to be served within nine months after the money becomes due.

Commercial Court

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of how the dates set for commercial court cases are affected by the changes in the number of judges.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Day-to-day deployment of High Court judges in the Queen's Bench Division is a matter for the Lord Chief Justice, but dates set for cases are affected by a number of factors apart from the availability of judges, including the length of case, interruptions of unplanned emergency business and cases overrunning the time estimates of the parties. In the recent announcement of plans to appoint additional High Court judges it was made clear that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice had agreed that additional judge power would be made available to address any continuing problems in the commercial court.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what has been the number of commercial court judges in each of the last four years.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Under section 6 of the Supreme Court Act 1981, the Lord Chancellor nominates the High Court judges who may be deployed to sit in the commercial court. Apart from the commercial judge himself, who is in charge of the list and who sits full time, the others who sit there are drawn according to need and availability from that pool of nominated judges. The number in the pool fluctuates from time to time because of promotions or retirements. In January 1990 there were 11 nominees and in July 1991 there were 12. At the end of December 1992 there were 10 nominees and at the present time there are 11. Throughout the period the equivalent of either five or six nominated judges have been deployed from the pool by the Lord Chief Justice to sit in the commercial court.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will estimate the time it would take to recover the delays of cases taken from the commercial court list if there were available (a) five, (b) six and (c) seven specialist judges.

Mr. John M. Taylor : There is no fixed time within which cases before the commercial court are expected to come to trial. Dates set for cases are affected by factors beyond the number of judges sitting, including the readiness and availability of the parties and their witnesses. The commercial court operates a system of providing fixed dates and cases are generally listed for dates when parties have indicated they will be ready for trial. Though there has had to be some replanning of lists


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recently, in relisting cases the convenience of the parties has been taken into account, particularly as many parties and their witnesses are from overseas. It is planned to make additional judge power available to the commercial court and there will be additional flexibility in the range of dates which may be offered to parties.

Land Registration

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what estimate he has made of the percentage of land acreage in (a) England and (b) Wales which is not currently officially registered.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The hon. Member's question concerns a specific matter on which the chief executive of her Majesty's Land Registry is best placed to provide an answer and I have accordingly asked the chief executive to reply direct.

Letter from John Manthorpe to Mr. Dafydd Wigley, dated 30 March 1993.

As Chief Executive, it is my responsibility to answer questions on operational matters concerning HM Land Registry. The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, has consequently asked me to reply to your Parliamentary Question to him concerning the percentage of land acreage in (a) England and (b) Wales which is not currently officially registered.

I regret that statistics relating to registered land acreage are not maintained by the Registry. However, out of an estimated 19.7 million titles in England, 13.6 million are registered and out of an estimated 1.3 million titles in Wales 0.6 million are registered. The majority of registered titles relate to residential properties in urban areas.

I hope you will find this reply helpful. A copy will appear in the Official Report and a copy will be placed in the House library.

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make it his policy to bring forward legislation to secure that compulsory registration of all land is undertaken in England and Wales.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Under the existing provisions of the Land Registration Acts, land is compulsorily registered on sale throughout England and Wales. Over 14 million titles are now registered at Her Majesty's Land Registry and this will increase progressively as transactions occur.

In the citizens charter White Paper in November 1992 the Government announced their intention to explore


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ideas for completing the land register. Her Majesty's Land Registry has now issued a consultation document, "Completing the Land Register in England and Wales", which seeks views on whether the Land Registration Acts should be amended to speed up eventual completion of the register.

Market Testing

Mr. Batiste : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department which professional services within his Department have been subjected to market testing within the last 12 months and with what result ; and which will be subjected to market testing within the next 12 months.

Mr. John M. Taylor : In the last 12 months the Lord Chancellor's Department has let 29 commissions for the professional services required to manage its accommodation and develop new court buildings. Previously these services were provided by PSA Services. Lists of the commissions let follow.

The Department is currently market testing its internal audit services. The results will be known in the next few months. The Lord Chancellor's Department's plans for next year are still under consideration.

The Lord Chancellor is also responsible for two executive agencies, the Public Record Office and Her Majesty's Land Registry. These are separate Government Departments and questions should normally, therefore, refer specifically to them. In this instance, as the questions concern an operational matter on which the chief executives of the agencies are best placed to provide an answer, I have asked them to reply direct.


Court building                                                                                              

Scheme                     |Service                   |Company                                              

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

Docklands                  |Feasibility and design    |Kyle Stewart                                         

                           |Estate surveying          |Knight Frank and Rutley                              

                           |Quantity surveying        |C. F. Baker & Partners                               

                                                                                                            

Cardiff                    |Project management        |W. S. Atkins                                         

                                                                                                            

Crawley                    |Feasibility and design    |PSA Projects                                         

                                                                                                            

Staines                    |Feasibility and design    |Kyle Stewart                                         

                                                                                                            

Neath                      |Project management        |W. S. Atkins                                         

                           |Design                    |Powell Dobson                                        

                           |Civil engineering         |Travers Morgan                                       

                                                                                                            

Pontypridd                 |Project management        |W. S. Atkins                                         

                           |Design                    |Alex Gordon                                          

                           |Structural engineering    |Veryard and Partners                                 

                           |Civil engineering         |Hubert Jenkins                                       

                                                                                                            

Leicester                  |Project management        |CS Project Management                                

                           |Design and engineering    |W. F. Johnson and Partners                           

                           |Quantity surveying        |Silk and Frazier                                     

                                                                                                            

Newport, Isle of Wight     |Project management        |TT Project Management                                

                           |Design                    |Rainey Petrie                                        

                                                                                                            

Bournemouth                |Project management        |Widnell Project Management                           


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Court building                                                                                              

Scheme                     |Service                   |Company                                              

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

Docklands                  |Feasibility and design    |Kyle Stewart                                         

                           |Estate surveying          |Knight Frank and Rutley                              

                           |Quantity surveying        |C. F. Baker & Partners                               

                                                                                                            

Cardiff                    |Project management        |W. S. Atkins                                         

                                                                                                            

Crawley                    |Feasibility and design    |PSA Projects                                         

                                                                                                            

Staines                    |Feasibility and design    |Kyle Stewart                                         

                                                                                                            

Neath                      |Project management        |W. S. Atkins                                         

                           |Design                    |Powell Dobson                                        

                           |Civil engineering         |Travers Morgan                                       

                                                                                                            

Pontypridd                 |Project management        |W. S. Atkins                                         

                           |Design                    |Alex Gordon                                          

                           |Structural engineering    |Veryard and Partners                                 

                           |Civil engineering         |Hubert Jenkins                                       

                                                                                                            

Leicester                  |Project management        |CS Project Management                                

                           |Design and engineering    |W. F. Johnson and Partners                           

                           |Quantity surveying        |Silk and Frazier                                     

                                                                                                            

Newport, Isle of Wight     |Project management        |TT Project Management                                

                           |Design                    |Rainey Petrie                                        

                                                                                                            

Bournemouth                |Project management        |Widnell Project Management                           

Letter from Sarah Tyacke to Mr. Spencer Batiste, dated 25 March 1993 :

As part of his reply to your recent Parliamentary Question as set out below, the Parliamentary Secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department has asked me to write to you about market testing in the Public Record Office.

Parliamentary Question : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, which professional services within his Department have been subjected to market testing within the last 12 months and with what result ; and which will be subject to market testing within the next 12 months.

Date appeared : 24 March 1993. For Written Answer : 31 March 1993. PQ reference No. 93/261.

No professional services have been market tested at the Public Record Office within the last 12 months. The only professional service the Office is proposing to test within the next 12 months is internal audit.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to ask me.

Letter from John Manthorpe to Mr. Spencer Batiste, dated 30 March 1993 :

As Chief Executive, it is my responsibility to answer questions on operational matters concerning Her Majesty's Land Registry. The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department has consequently asked me to reply to your Parliamentary Question to him concerning the Agency's market testing of professional services. Within the last 12 months, market testing exercises have been concluded on professional Building Management and Estates services and on certain professional legal services provided to the Land Registry. In both cases, contracts were awarded to organisations from the private sector.

The surveying services provided by both the Ordnance Survey and the Land Registry are currently being market tested but the review has not yet been concluded.

No further professional services are the subject of market testing in the current programme which ends on 30 September 1993. The Registry's programme for the following twelve months has not yet been finalised.

I hope you find this reply helpful. A copy will appear in the Official Report and a copy will be placed in the House Library.

Legal Aid

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department within what period he expects to introduce competitive tendering for legal aid franchises.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Any such developments will be discussed with the Legal Aid Board and the legal profession. No timetable has been set.

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department on how many occasions the issue of competitive tendering for franchises to undertake legal


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aid work has been discussed with members and officials of the Legal Aid Board (a) by Ministers in the Lord Chancellor's Department and (b) officials.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The board has been kept in touch with the Lord Chancellor's thinking on the development of the legal aid scheme in the longer term, but no formal discussions have been held on competitive tendering.

Mr. Fraser : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department whether it is the intention of the Lord Chancellor to seek compulsory competitive tendering of legal aid work.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Competitive tendering may be an appropriate longer-term arrangement for the provision of certain publicly funded legal services. The Legal Aid Board and the legal profession will be consulted at the appropriate time.

Mary Winch

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (1) if he will order a full investigation into the case of Mary Winch previously of Caernarfon now of Eastbourne ; and if he will make a statement ;

(2) when he expects to be able to reply to letters concerning Miss Mary Winch dated June 1991, 12 August 1991, 26 September 1991, 11 October 1991, 26 October 1991 and 16 May 1992 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Miss Mary Winch has taken legal action against the public trustee which has not yet concluded. It would not be appropriate to comment whilst those proceedings are before the courts.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Prosecutions

Mr. Waterson : To ask the Attorney-General what amendment he proposes to make to the undertaking given by the Solicitor-General on 25 April 1986 in relation to the reinstitution of proceedings which have been terminated, consequent upon the post of deputy Director of Public Prosecutions being put into abeyance.

The Attorney-General : The hon. Member refers to an assurance given during the course of the debate on 25 April 1986, at column 640, on prosecution policy.

The fundamental consideration remains that individuals should be able to rely on decisions taken by the prosecuting authorities. The policy of the Director of


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Public Prosecutions is that a decision to terminate proceedings or not to prosecute should not, in the absence of special circumstances, be altered once it has been communicated to the defendant or prospective defendant unless it was taken and expressed to be taken because the evidence was insufficient. In such a case it would be appropriate to reconsider the decision if further significant evidence were to become available at a later date--especially if the alleged offence is a serious one.

Special circumstances which might justify departure from this policy include :

(1) rare cases where reconsiderations of the original decision show that it was not justified and the maintenance of confidence in the criminal justice system requires that a prosecution be brought notwithstanding the earlier decision ; and

(2) those cases where termination has been effected specifically with a view to the collection and preparation of the necessary evidence which is thought likely to become available in the fairly near future. In such circumstances the CPS will advise the defendant of the possibility that proceedings will be re-instituted. In the circumstances described at 1 and 2 the decision will be taken at chief crown prosecutor level with effect from 1 April 1993.

PRIME MINISTER

Public Appointments

Dr. Wright : To ask the Prime Minister if he will publish the report of the review of public appointments.

The Prime Minister : I will arrange for a copy of the latest report of the review of public appointments (1989) to be placed in the Library of the House.

Dr. Wright : To ask the Prime Minister if he will now publish the report of the Central Policy Review Staff in 1973 on the system of public appointments.


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The Prime Minister : I do not know of such a report. The hon. Member may have in mind an inter-departmental working party of officials in 1974 which studied certain aspects of appointments in the public sector. Their advice recommended the establishment of the public appointments unit. I will arrange for a copy of the working party's report to be placed in the Library of the House.


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