Mr. Mudie : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if a decision has yet been taken in respect of the link between the M65 and the A1(T) through Skipton by dual two-lane carriageway ; and if he will make a statement ;
(2) if his Department has received the transpennine strategy report ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : The transpennine study strategy report was published in September 1992. The consultation period on this document is now drawing to a close. No decisions on the options in the report will be taken until all responses to the consultation have been considered.
Mr. Freeman : I am fully aware of the importance of rail services generally to disabled people. That is why under our privatisation plans the regulator will have a duty to have regard to the interests of people with disabilities in performing his functions.
(2) what he estimates have been the proceeds of the Bernard Shaw estate accruing to the British museum in each year since 1990.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The Public Trustee does not normally disclose publicly information about the estates of private individuals. In particular, the Public Trustee is obliged by rule 29(2) of the Public Trustee Rules 1912 to observe strict secrecy in respect of every trust or estate in course of administration by him.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Attorney-General how many assistant directors are seconded from accountancy firms to the Serious Fraud Office ; what civil service pay grade they are paid at ; what pay they continue to receive from their accountancy firms ; and what arrangements are
Column 2in force to prevent conflicts of interest in inquiries into any business handled by the firms from which they are seconded.
The Attorney-General : Three assistant directors are seconded from accountancy firms to the Serious Fraud Office. Their firms are reimbursed at civil service grade 5 level--with an addition in respect of pension entitlement--and the pay they receive is a matter between themselves and their firms. The arrangements in force to prevent conflicts of interest are :
i. The secondees are subject to civil service provisions including the attendant duty of confidentiality.
ii On acceptance of a case, following the vetting procedure, the auditors and financial advisers to companies involved in the investigation will have been identified. The deputy director, who allocates the assistant directors and accountancy teams, will be aware of these and ensure that there is no conflict.
iii. Prior to a secondment, parent firms confirm that secondees will advise the SFO of any potential conflict of interest. Secondees have access to their firm's client lists to enable them to do so. They are also governed by professional rules relating to conflicts of interest. Such obligations continue after the period of secondment has expired.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Attorney-General if, pursuant to his reply to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) of 26 April, Official Report, column 262, he will set out the number of documents, and the number of pages they comprise in total, that have been sent to the Scott inquiry by his Department.
Mr. Purchase : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the revenue lost to bona fide shopkeepers by the activities of regular and frequent organised commercial car boot sales ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Leigh : The work undertaken by the Department's advisers has covered all matters relevant to the structure and ownership of the Post Office, and the prospects for greater competition in the postal market.
Mr. Leigh : As recorded in the 1991-92 Post Office report and accounts, at the date of the last full actuarial valuation of the Post Office staff superannuation scheme--31 March 1991--the market value of its assets was
Column 3£7.887 billion. This was considered sufficient to cover 122.4 per cent. of the benefits which had accrued to members of POSSS and represented a surplus of approximately £1.4 billion at the time of the valuation. The last full valuation of the Post Office pension scheme was at 31 March 1989. At that date, the market value of the assets of the scheme was £47 million ; this was sufficient to cover 130.8 per cent. of the benefits accrued to members and represented a surplus of approximately £11 million at the time of the valuation.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the recent practice, and what are the present intentions, of the Post Office with regard to holidays on employer contributions to the pension fund.
Mr. Leigh : The Post Office has been taking a holiday on its employer contributions to the Post Office staff superannuation scheme since April 1990. The most recent full valuation of this scheme was 31 March 1991. The Post Office has no contributions holiday in respect of the Post Office pension scheme ; the last full valuation of this scheme was at 31 March 1989 and a further valuation of the scheme at 31 March 1992 is currently under way. The Post Office's contributions to its pension schemes are made in full accordance with the schemes' trust deeds and actuarial advice.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what restrictions exist on the transfer of pension fund surpluses from the Post Office superannuation scheme in the event of the privatisation of Parcelforce.
Dr. Wright : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consideration he has given to the status of animals in relation to the proposed EC directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions.
Mr. Leigh : A revised version of the European Commission's draft directive was published in December 1992 and provides that inventions concerning living matter, including animals, shall in general be patentable. However, a number of exclusions are proposed, one of which concerns processes for genetically modifying animals. I am considering the revised draft together with the comments on it made by interested circles and expect it to be debated by an appropriate committee of the House in the near future.
In the United Kingdom, the use of animals in scientific procedures is controlled by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986, which complies with the relevant EC directive 86/609/EEC. It seems reasonable that inventions resulting from research carried out in conformity with the Act and directive should have the benefit of patents.
Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement about the future of the National Physical Laboratory, the National Engineering Laboratory, the Warren Spring Laboratory, the Laboratory of the Government Chemist and the National Weights and Measures Laboratory.
Mr. Heseltine : During the three years since becoming executive agencies, the DTI's five laboratories have made much progress towards becoming more commercial and customer-focused and more cost-conscious organisations. I am now undertaking a review, involving independent consultants, which will identify how best to build on this progress. It will complement the review of the Atomic Energy Authority which my hon. Friend the Minister for Energy announced on 1 April. The four larger laboratories--though not the NWML--are already required to operate on a business footing, financing themselves from contracts secured at arm's length from fee-paying customers. Most of their business comes, and will continue to come, from Government Departments, including the DTI itself, the Department of the Environment, the Department of Transport, and others. They also win contracts from private sector customers.
These disciplines are bringing about a major change in the culture of these organisations, and the question on which consultants will be asked to advise is how this process can be carried further, and whether putting some or all of them into the private sector would enable them to provide a better service to their wide range of customers, in and out of Government. The consultants will also be asked to consider intermediate options, short of full privatisation, such as the franchising of facilities to private sector contractors, and the possible need for rationalisation between the five laboratories.
A number of consultancy firms have now been invited to submit proposals. The chosen firm or firms should be appointed early this month, and report later this year. I will report to the House on my conclusions.
Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he plans to embark on further consultations on the proposals to allow large users to bypass the electricity pool outlined in the recent White Paper, "Prospects for Coal".
Mr. Eggar : My officials are now writing to holders of electricity licences, the Director General of Electricity Supply, representatives of consumers, the electricity pool and others to seek their views on the circumstances in which consumers might contract directly with generators outside the electricity pool.
At present, the majority of customers who use electricity generated on site do not use the integrated electricity system and therefore do not pay pool charges. Additionally, if no supply licence is involved no fossil fuel levy is paid.
The Government are considering whether it would be appropriate to extend these arrangements to consumers
Column 5who pair themselves with generating sets which are not located on site. These consumers would pay charges according to the benefits or services they take from the integrated system.
The Government are also considering possible relaxation of the current supply exemption class where electricity is generated and consumed on site.
I am placing copies of the consultation documents in the Library of the House.
Mr. William O'Brien : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what action his Department has taken to publicise to tour organisers their responsibilities under the EC directive on package holidays to ensure quality services ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Leigh [holding answer 27 April 1993] : My Department has published guidance notes to the package travel regulations which are available free of charge. My Department has also supported the work which has been done by the Association of British Travel Agents, the Institute of Trading Standards Administration, the British Tourist Authority and others to publicise and explain the regulations.
Mr. William O'Brien : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what monitoring his Department conducts to ensure that tour operators provide adequate quality of services on overseas holidays in accordance with the EC directive on package travel ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how he proposes to respond, and to inform Parliament of his response, to the national strategic technology acquisition plan submitted to him by his Department's aviation committee.
Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 27 April 1993] : The national strategic technology acquisition plan for aeronautics contains commercially sensitive information and will not therefore be published. Officials have discussed the NSTAP with the aviation committee ; these discussions will continue.
Sir Rhodes Boyson : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish the total amount of regional grants, support for industry and any other assistance given by his Department in (a) England, (b) Greater London and (c) the south east, excluding Greater London, for each year from 1982-83 to 1992-93, estimated, distinguishing between current and capital expenditure, though excluding local authority credit approvals and capital allocations.
Column 6Information on support for industry and other assistance in London and the south-east is not available except at disproportionate cost. Details of the total level of DTI expenditure on regional assistance, support for industry and other assistance are published following each financial year and are available from the Library.
Sir David Steel : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to the United Nations organisation to increase its involvement in the peace process in Sudan and to encourage an investigation into human rights abuses.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : We were a prime mover in securing the appointment by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva of a special rapporteur to investigate the human rights situation on a public basis throughout Sudan. We are in touch with our EC partners, the United States and others about further ways in which we might involve the United Nations on Sudan.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy to make available resources to assist non-governmental organisations to attend the forthcoming first preparatory committee meeting for the fifth review conference of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to be held in New York in May.
non-governmental organisations for assistance in attending this meeting.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he received a copy of the proposal from the 89th Interparliamentary Union assembly in New Delhi relating to a ban on arms sales.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs received on 27 April a copy of a resolution entitled "Transparency in Arms Transfers through a global Arms Register, notably as a means to check the growing use of violence to achieve political objectives". This resolution did not propose a ban on arms sales.
Mr. Barnes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) on 21 April, Official Report, column 108, what were the voting figures for each member state recorded in the meeting of the European Community's Foreign Affairs Council held on 5 April.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The International Year of the Family has our full support. We see our contribution as best channelled through those voluntary organisations which we already support, including the non-governmental co- ordinating body for the year, the United Kingdom Association for the IFY 94. In conjunction with our EC partners we are also working on plans for a European conference on the future of the family.
Mr. David Young : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the policy of Her Majesty's Government in respect of the application to the people of Gibraltar of the principle of self-determination and of the provisions of the treaty of Utrecht ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Douglas Hogg : The London conference made it clear in its statement of principles that we would not recognise advantages gained by force or fait accompli in the former Yugoslavia. We remain convinced that only a negotiated settlement by all parties will produce genuine and lasting peace.
Mr. Don Foster : To ask the Secretary of State for Education when the Higher Education Funding Council intends to publish the average units of council funding which formed the basis of the university funding allocations for 1993-94.
Mr. Forth : Two hundred and twenty-two maintained secondary schools have been awarded capital allocations as a result of competitive bids in the 1992-93 and 1993-94 rounds of the technology schools initiative. The
Column 8Department is taking steps to promote an active network of TSI schools, with a view to enabling them to share their experience in the teaching of technology and to feeding the benefits of the initiative into other secondary schools. The Government intend to maintain their support for TSI schools. Decisions on whether to invite further bids for 1994-95 or later years have yet to be taken.
Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will list the names, the salaries of the chief executives and the total wage bill for each next steps agency created since 1979 ; (2) what is the total wages bill for next steps agencies in the period 1992-93.
Mr. Portillo : The names of agencies and their chief executives are published in the "Next Steps Briefing Note, 1 April 1993", available from the Cabinet Office. Information about agency wage bills and the salaries of chief executives for 1991-92 is available from the published accounts of the agencies concerned ; copies are available in the House of Commons Library. For 1991-92 the total full-year wage bill of agencies in operation for all or part of that year is estimated at about £3.2 billion. The information requested is not yet available for 1992-93.
Mr. Portillo : There is no central provision specifically for redundancy costs. Within the limits set for spending on running costs, including redundancy costs, it is for Departments to decide how to allocate their administrative budget to meet their departmental priorities and objectives. Should they be unable to absorb the costs, the Treasury is prepared to look sympathetically at the scope for easing the burden of up- front redundancy costs within the limits of what can be afforded.
Mr. John Townend : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the average excise and VAT saving for an individual who buys in France his or her full indicative level of the following : 10 litres of mid-priced spirits, 20 litres of mid-priced fortified wine, 30 litres of mid-priced table wine and 60 litres of mid-priced sparkling wine.
Sir John Cope : Based on current exchange rates, an individual could save around £200 on excise duty. A further £34 would be saved from the consequential VAT applied to the excise duty. These figures are independent of the price of the goods.
Mr. Darling : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will request the governors of the European bank for reconstruction and development to make a statement on the bank's expenditure on administrative overheads ; and if he will make a statement ; (2) if he will take action to ensure that the European bank for reconstruction and development reduces its expenditure on administrative overheads ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nelson [holding answer 20 April 1993] : My right hon. Friend the Chancellor made clear in his statement to the European bank for reconstruction and development's annual meeting, on 27 April, the European bank for reconstruction and development's duty to use the taxpayer's resources as cost effectively as possible. The Government have always sought to secure the best possible value for money from all the international financial institutions.
Her Majesty's Government welcome the measures agreed by the bank's board of directors and recently announced by President Attali to strengthen budgetary procedures at the European bank for reconstruction and development.
Many governors made statements at the European bank for reconstruction and development's annual meeting on 26 and 27 April on the need for the European bank for reconstruction and development to make the most cost- effective use of the resources entrusted to it.
Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 22 April, Official Report , column 180 , if he will make a statement on the impact on the public sector borrowing requirement of (a) the decision to relax the rules governing national health service borrowing, (b) leasing arrangements and (c) the use of private sector services by the national health service.
Mr. Portillo [holding answer 29 April 1993] : The rules governing the measurement of the PSBR are unchanged. When the national health service leases from the private sector, the annual lease payments are a determinant of the PSBR. Payments by the public sector, including the national health service, to the private sector for services provided also continue to be a determinant of the PSBR. Any borrowing undertaken by the private sector to finance its own spending would not count against the PSBR.
Mr. Lilley : Redress for the citizen when things go wrong is at the heart of the citizens charter. I am therefore pleased to announce a significant improvement to my Department's arrangements for compensation payments when benefit claims have been excessively delayed. The new arrangements will take effect for all new claims paid from 1 April 1993.
Until now, compensation was only considered when the delay in payment of benefit in new claims was at least 12 months. I am now proposing to reduce this period. In future, compensation will be considered where a new claim is delayed for six months beyond the target set for clearing the bulk of claims--usually between 85 per cent. and 95 per cent. This will meet points which I know have been of increasing concern to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in cases which he has been investigating.
The effect will be to bring forward the date from which compensation may be paid and to link this date explicitly with the performance targets set for the Benefits Agency. In the case of income support, for example, where the relevant target in the BA business plan is to clear 90 per cent. of claims in 13 working days, compensation would be considered after around seven months from the date of entitlement, compared with 12 months today. No change will be made in respect of war pensions or industrial disability benefits, where the effect of the new formula would be to extend the current 12-month period.
The other criteria against which compensation is considered will remain the same : namely that the delay must be caused by official error and the arrears of benefit due must be £50 or more. I recognise, however, that the improvement I am announcing today will be too late for those people who claimed disability living allowance last yearm for DLA, attendance allowance or mobility allowance on or after 3 February 1992 ;
(ii) were paid benefit before 1 April 1993 ; and
(iii) suffered a delay in the payment of benefit of more than eight months.
The payment to this particular group of people will be at the rate of £10 per month for each month in excess of the eight-month period. The Benefits Agency is making the necessary arrangements to ensure that the payments are made as soon as possible. The agency will assess the amounts of compensation without the need for claims for compensation from customers. The task should be completed in the autumn.