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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 13 May 1993


School Leavers

Mr. Austin-Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if she will list for each year since 1988 the number of pupils in Greater London reaching the minimum school leaving age and the number who entered employment directly, entered a youth training scheme on leaving school, returned for a further period at school, or entered a further education college ; and if she will provide such estimates as are available for the same figures for 1993.

Mr. McLoughlin : The information requested is compiled by United Kingdom heads of careers services on behalf of the careers service. It is given in the table. This information is not yet available for 1992 and 1993. Information for 1988 could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Numbers of pupils leaving secondary school at       

minimum school                                      

leaving age in inner and outer London and their     


for the years 1989-91                               

                    |1989   |1990   |1991           


Full-time education |32,790 |31,800 |38,200         

Youth training<1>   |4,050  |3,070  |2,920          

Employment          |12,550 |9,030  |4,520          

Not in any<2>       |3,180  |4,300  |6,260          

Unknown<3>          |8,490  |6,130  |6,050          


  Total             |60,620 |54,160 |57,950         

Source: School Leavers' Destinations Survey.        

Figures rounded to nearest 10.                      

<1> Including those on YT with employed status and  

those using training credits.                       

<2> May be unemployed or not available for work for 

any of a wide range of reasons.                     

<3> Those who failed to let the careers service or  

school know what they were doing and who failed to  

respond to at least two attempts at follow-up by    

the careers office.                                 


Infant Schools

Mr. Straw : To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many four-year-olds were in classes in infant schools in England, excluding four -year-olds in nursery classes of infant schools or in nursery schools in 1987 and 1991 ; and what percentage this was of the age group.

Mr. Forth : The information requested is given in the table.

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Pupils aged 4 attending infant classes in maintained infant schools in      


Position as at January each year.                                           

                   |Number of pupils  |As a percentage of                   

                   |aged four<1>      |the four year old                    



1987               |71,025            |18                                   

1991               |76,703            |18                                   

<1> Ages as at previous 31 August-excluding the rising fives who by January 

will have reached the age of five.                                          

<2> Based on the estimated four-year-old population as at previous 31       

August-again excluding the rising fives.                                    

School Playing Fields

Mr. Pendry : To ask the Secretary of State for Education (1) when he intends to complete his consideration of the responses to his consultation letter on the sale of school playing fields ; (2) if he will publish a full list of the organisations and individuals to whom his consultation letter on the sale of school playing fields was sent, the date on which the letter was sent to each organisation and individual and the date on which a response from each organisation and individual was received by his Department ; and if he will place copies of each response in the Library ; (3) how many organisations have not responded to his consultation letter on the sale of school playing fields ; what action he has taken to pursue those organisations for responses ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Forth : My right hon. Friend expects to inform local education authorities and others of his conclusions arising from this exercise shortly.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble (Mr. Atkins), then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, wrote to the local authority associations on 19 December 1991 asking for their comments on his proposed letter to chief education officers by 28 February 1992. Copies of the consultation letter were also sent on 20 December 1991 to the Sports Council, the Central Council of Physical Recreation, the National Playing Fields Association and the regional councils for sport and recreation for information.

Following is a list of the bodies which commented on the consultation letter and the dates of their replies :



                                           |Association of District Councils                                 

Association of Metropolitan Authorities    |February 1992                                                    

Association of County Councils             |February 1992                                                    

Association of London Authorities          |24 February 1992                                                 

The Sports Council                         |28 February 1992                                                 

National Playing Fields Association        |5 March 1992                                                     

The Central Council of Physical Recreation |16 January 1992                                                  

Chiltern District Council                  |13 February 1992                                                 

Cornwall County Council                    |25 February 1992                                                 

Dorset County Council                      |26 February 1992                                                 

ACRE: The Rural Communities Charity        |28 February 1992                                                 

Somerset County Council                    |4 March 1992                                                     

It is not our normal practice to place responses to consultations in the Library.

No response was received from the London Boroughs Association. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ribble wrote to the chairman of the association, on 19 December 1991, and a further copy of his letter was sent

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to the association on 6 February 1992. Officials subsequently telephoned the association to ask whether a response would be forthcoming ; a representative confirmed that the association did not intend to respond.

Mr. Pendry : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will publish a full list of those local education authorities which have actively demonstrated that, in considering whether to retain playing fields released by a school proposed for closure, they have considered whether such playing fields should be retained to make up shortfalls at a neighbouring school, the method by which such consideration has been demonstrated, the total number of schools that have been subject to such consideration, the total number of schools at which the playing field has subsequently been released and the total number of schools at which the playing field has subsequently been retained.

Mr. Forth : The information requested is not available. Local education authorities are not required to provide such information when submitting proposals for school closure to my right hon. Friend.



Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 29 April to the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman), Official Report, column 508, if the representations he has received supporting the need to use the tax system to help fulfil the Government's Rio commitment have (a) specifically supported the use of value added tax as the instrument to do so, (b) supported the imposition of VAT on standing charges or (c) proposed alternative ways of using the tax system in this regard.

Sir John Cope : A number of representations my right hon. Friend received specifically supported the use of VAT as an instrument to help fulfil the United Kingdom's Rio commitment. For example, the Friends of the Earth said in its Budget briefing

"Friends of the Earth therefore welcomes the Chancellor's commitment to increasing domestic fuel and power prices over the next two years through the gradual imposition of VAT."

Standing charges were not mentioned in any representations, and alternative ways of using the tax system were proposed in some of the representations received.

Mr. McMaster : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to impose value added tax on newspapers, periodicals, books or other publications ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir John Cope : My right hon. Friend's plans for VAT changes are set out in the Budget and the Finance (No. 2) Bill and do not extend VAT in this area.

Tax Evasion

Mr. Spellar : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on Inland Revenue rules regarding taxation on those resident in the United Kingdom for more than 183 days a year ; and what steps are being taken to deal with evasion.

Mr. Dorrell : Under section 336 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988, an individual who is present

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in the United Kingdom for 183 days or more in a tax year is treated as resident for tax purposes for that year. The Inland Revenue reviews the residence status of individuals, where appropriate, as part of its general compliance responsibilities.

Profit-related Pay

Mr. Spellar : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his Department's policy in respect of companies cutting basic pay in order to increase the tax-free element through profit-related pay.

Mr. Dorrell : The Government's purpose in introducing tax relief for profit-related pay--PRP--was to encourage flexibility in pay determination arrangements. The tax relief, subject to certain limits, is available only for PRP schemes which satisfy certain legislative requirements. Responsibility for the detailed terms of specific employment contracts rests with the parties themselves.

Unitary Taxation

Sir Michael Grylls : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what response he has received from United States Treasury Secretary Bentsen to his representations about unitary taxation.

Mr. Lamont : United States Secretary Bentsen has explained the United States Adminstration's position. He and his colleagues recognise the importance the British Government attach to this issue, the strength of feeling in the United Kingdom and the risk of retaliatory action by the United Kingdom if a satisfactory solution is not forthcoming. He has assured me that the Administration are very keen to find a solution to this problem that is acceptable. I have said that the Government are ready to discuss how an acceptable solution could best be achieved. But I have informed him that the Government will have to take retaliatory measures in relation to United States based companies if there is not a satisfactory resolution of the problem of the internationally opposed unitary tax on foreign-owned companies in California by the end of this year. Meanwhile, I have instructed the Inland Revenue to obtain information from California- based companies in the United Kingdom on the probable impact of such retaliatory measures.


Low Frequency Noise

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment in which year his Department first became aware of the hum noise complaint relating to low frequency noise ; if he will make a statement concerning the action by his Department since that time to investigate this complaint ; and what results were obtained.

Mr. Maclean : My Department first became aware of the problem of low frequency noise in the late 1970s. The independent noise review conducted for my Department in 1990 observed that this was a difficult area in terms of measurement, individual sensitivity and identification of sources. It recommended full support for the programme of research being conducted for the Department by the Building Research Establishment which is due to be completed early next year. Complaints about low

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frequency noise are investigated by local authorities under part III of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in the same way as other noise complaints.

Fanfare for a New World

Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures he is taking to account for the losses incurred by the Merseyside development corporation in subsidising the Fanfare for a New World concert.

Mr. Robin Squire : The Department has asked Merseyside development corporation's auditors, in their examination of the accounts for last year, to look specifically at the issue of the corporation's sponsorship of the concert ; we await the outcome of this examination.

Merseyside Development Corporation

Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to restructure the Merseyside development corporation.

Mr. Robin Squire : In 1991 a financial management and policy review- -FMPR--was carried out at Merseyside development corporation, as part of the Department's role in sponsoring non-departmental public bodies. The FMPR was based on four studies covering management, staffing, audit and pay and conditions. As the FMPR resulted in changes within the MDC's structure, there are no further proposals for any more changes.

Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish an audit of the finances of the Merseyside development corporation.

Mr. Robin Squire : Merseyside development corporation is subject to an annual audit by independent external auditors, appointed by the Secretary of State. The auditors' report is published in the corporation's annual report. A full copy of the financial statements is available from the corporation on request.

New Housing

Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new housing starts there were for the first three months of 1993 and for the corresponding period in 1992.

Mr. Baldry : Provisional figures show that there were 43,900 housebuilding starts in Great Britain during the first three months of 1993 compared with 41,100 starts during the corresponding period of 1992.

This increase is an expression of growing confidence by the building industry in the market for new houses. Taken with recent evidence of rising house prices and increased activity by estate agents, there are now signs of a recovery in the housing market.

Association of Environmental Consultants

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has received from the Association of Environmental Consultants on its new code of practice.

Mr. Maclean : My officials have received a copy of the code of practice. I welcome this example of self-regulation by a group of prominent companies and I am sure that it will help to encourage public confidence in their work.

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Ozone Levels

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when and where World Health Organisation air quality guidelines for ozone levels have been exceeded since 1987.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 10 May 1993] : There are two World Health Organisation Guidelines for the protection of human health, a one-hour guideline of 76-100ppb and an eight-hour guideline of 50ppb. There are two guidelines for the protection of plants and crops, a daily mean of 33ppb and a growing season mean of 30ppb.

Ozone monitoring has been carried out since 1987 at 16 United Kingdom sites in the Department's network. Between 1987 and 1991 the guidelines were exceeded on at least one occasion at each site. Ozone levels in the United Kingdom are, however, among the lowest in Europe.

Affordable Housing

Mr. Winnick : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what response the Government have made to the proposals for policy objectives on affordable rented housing put forward by the Churches National Housing Coalition in its document circulated to hon. Members.

Mr. Baldry [holding answer 10 May 1993] : The Government have noted with interest the points made by the Churches National Housing Coalition. The coalition's proposals concerned supply and choice of housing ; homelessness and targeting resources. In all these areas we are already making significant progress.

The Government's aim is to ensure that a decent home is within the reach of every family.

We have taken steps to increase the supply of low-cost housing where it is needed. The housing market measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the autumn statement mean that the public resources available to housing associations, the main providers of new social housing, increased from £935 million in 1989-90 to £1.8 billion in 1993-94, making some 54,500 new homes available. In addition, the temporary relaxation of the rules governing local authority receipts, for the period November 1992 to December 1993, gives local authorities greatly increased spending power for projects such as the renovation of their housing stock. Greater choice and efficiency are key elements of Government policy. We have taken measures to encourage the revival of the private rented sector ; to give public sector tenants greater control over the management of their homes ; to encourage more efficient management in the social sector ; as well as promoting home ownership.

Under the rough sleepers initiative, £96 million was made available from 1990-91 to 1992-93 to provide additional hostel and longer-term accommodation in central London, where the problem is most acute. A further £86 million is available over three financial years, from April 1993- 94 to 1995-96 build on the success of this initiative. We believe that it is a more efficient use of resources to target subsidy towards people rather than simply into "bricks and mortar", so that the public subsidy reaches those individuals who need it most. Our policies on spending in the social sector reflect that.

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In addition, home ownership continues to hold a central place in our housing policy. The right to buy for council housing, as well as our rent-to-mortgages proposals ; cash incentive schemes to enable public sector tenants to move out into owner-occupation ; and shared ownership schemes are all important parts of our commitment to help those who want to own their own homes to do so.

River Safety

Mr. Illsley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps his Department is taking to publish an account of progress in the implementation of recommendations made after major disasters recommended in the Hayes report on river safety.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 11 May 1993] : I refer the hon. Member to the answer the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport gave on 11 May, Official Report, column 380.

Environmental Damage

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what study he is making of the legal liability resulting from transboundary environmental damage.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 12 May 1993] : This matter is considered whenever it is raised in the development, application or revision of the relevant international environmental legal instruments.

Crown Estate Commissioners

Mr. Devlin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will use the next appropriate legislative opportunity to give the Crown Estate Commissioners a statutory duty to further the conservation of the terrestrial and maritime environment.

Mr. Lamont : I have been asked to reply.

The Government have no plans to introduce such legislation.

Mr. Devlin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether the Crown Estate Commissioners are subject to the environmental provisions of section 11 of the Countryside Act 1968 ; and whether those provisions extend to their functions below the low water mark.

Mr. Lamont : I have been asked to reply.

The Crown Estate Commissioners' environmental and conservation policy applies the provisions of section 11 of the Countryside Act 1968 to their ownership both of land and of the sea bed below the low water mark.


Council Tax

Sir David Steel : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received concerning the overstepping of maximum charges for bands in the transitional reduction scheme of the council tax ; and what proposals he has to prevent such occurrence.

Mr. Lang : I have received a number of representations from MPs and members of the public about the difference

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between the actual council tax, set by local authorities, and the adjusted council tax used by local authorities to calculate entitlement to transitional reduction.

The sole purpose of the transitional reduction scheme is to moderate increases in local tax bills arising as a consequence of the change in tax system and it is not intended to protect taxpayers from increases arising for other reasons. The level of adjusted council tax used to determine relief is calculated according to a prescribed formula. This formula takes account of what each local authority might need to spend on services in 1993-94 but makes no allowance for past deficits and assumes a council tax collection level of 98 per cent. Where local authorities budget responsibly and have good records of tax collection, the actual and adjusted taxes should be very close to each other and may be identical. This is the case in a number of areas in Scotland. Where this is not the case, taxpayers may wish to ask their local authority for an explanation.

Skye Bridge

Mr. Charles Kennedy : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to waive or curtail the operation of the planning processes relating to planning and development proposals from Highland regional council in respect of work to be carried out in the Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin areas as a result of the building of the Skye bridge ; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : There are no plans to alter the planning processes in respect of Highland regional council's proposals.

Scottish Transport Group

Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans there are to privatise the Scottish Transport Group ; what estimate of asset proceeds he has made ; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The disposal programme covering the undertakings of the Scottish Transport Group was published on 6 February 1990. The major part of this programme, the disposal of the 10 former subsidiaries of the Scottish Bus Group, has been successfully completed. My reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) on 2 December 1991, Official Report, columns 45-46, gave details of the proceeds from the sale of the Scottish Bus Group. The Scottish Transport Group will be wound up in due course after the disposal of its remaining property assets and the winding up of its pension funds. Estimates of likely proceeds from the remaining assets are commercially confidential.


Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, pursuant to his answer of 20 April, Official Report, columns 89-90, whether any additional person or persons have attended or are expected to attend any meeting of the forestry review group.

Sir Hector Monro : Members of the forestry review group may be represented by alternates from their Departments. No persons other than members or their alternates have attended meetings.

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Oil and Gas

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the number of people employed in (a) onshore and (b) offshore oil and gas-related activity in (i) 1991 and (ii) 1992 ; and what is his estimate of the total at the latest available date.

Mr. Stewart [holding answer 10 May 1993] : The latest available information on the number of people employed offshore in the oil and gas sector in the northern North sea is for September 1991 when it was estimated at between 26,400 and 27,950.

There are no estimates of oil and gas related employment for onshore workers alone for either 1991 or 1992. The latest information available relating to the number of people employed onshore and offshore in companies with turnover in excess of 80 per cent. related to oil and gas sector is for June 1992. On that basis, the estimate was 82,800, compared to 83,400 in June 1990.


Exports to Iran

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what information he has received on the trading activities of Seaconsar Far East Ltd. of Hong Kong in relation to British exports to Iran.

Mr. Needham : Information supplied to my Department about the trading activities of companies is treated as commercially confidential.

Council of Industry Ministers

Mr. Congdon : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the European Community Council of Industry Ministers held on 4 May.

Mr. Sainsbury : I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of European Community Industry Ministers held in Brussels on 4 May. The most important item on the agenda was restructuring of the EC steel industry where I underlined the importance of keeping up the momentum of the discussions with industry to ensure that a definitive programme of capacity reductions is in place before the 30 September deadline set by the Industry Council in February. I emphasised that a successful restructuring plan is dependent on strict control of state aids to the industry, a point with which Vice-President Van Miert fully agreed. With support from a number of other member states, I argued for the European Coal and Steel Community levy to be phased out rapidly and the Danish presidency hoped that decisions could be taken by the end of the year.

The Council agreed in principle to extend the provisions of the seventh directive on aid to the shipbuilding industry to the end of 1994.

There was discussion of measures to support small and medium enterprises with a decision that a single programme should commence in July this year, subject to agreement on the detail of the text. The Commission, at the United Kingdom's instigation, made a presentation of the progress towards accomplishing the tasks set out in the Council resolution on

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administrative simplification agreed during the United Kingdom presidency. The United Kingdom had placed this important topic on the agenda to keep up the momentum of the Commission's work in this area. The Commission's action should help to ensure that burdens on British business are minimised.

We also tabled a paper, which was supported by a number of other member states, outlining our concern about the damage to the United Kingdom's recycling industry caused by German packaging waste legislation. The Danish presidency hoped that progress could be made at the June Environment Council on the packaging waste directive as a Community solution to some aspects of this problem.

The Council also held a wide-ranging debate on the link between industrial competitiveness and environmental protection. We consider this link to be important and will continue to work with the Commission and other member states so that the relationship between industrial competitiveness and environmental protection is taken into account when formulating policies.

BNFL Office, South Korea

Mr. Simpson : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the role of the BNFL office in South Korea ; and what reassessment has been undertaken of its role in the context of discussions on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Mr. Eggar [holding answer 5 May 1993] : It is for BNFL to decide on its commercial representation overseas. The Republic of Korea is a state party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and has concluded a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Any business undertaken by BNFL will take place in accordance with the United Kingdom's obligations under the treaty.

Assisted Area Status

Mr. Austin-Walker : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the impact on the number of areas in London eligible for assisted status if each London borough were treated as a tation paper issued in June 1992. These criteria will be considered for all travel-to-work areas. For very large travel-to-work areas, including London, the situation in their constituent parts is also being considered.

Mr. Milburn : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what proposals his Department has submitted to the European Commission for a new assisted areas map ; and when he plans to submit further proposals.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 12 May 1993] : The Government's full proposals for the new assisted areas map will be submitted to the European Commission shortly. Proposals for enhanced assisted area status for the Barnsley, Doncaster and Mansfield travel-to-work areas, which formed part of the package of support measures for coal closure areas announced by my right hon. Friend last October, were cleared with the European Commission beforehand. Additionally, my statement about Swan

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Hunter on 12 May indicated that the Newcastle and South Tyneside travel-to-work areas would remain as development areas, subject to European Commission approval : discussion with the Commission on this point is now under way.


Welsh Language

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the non-governmental public bodies operational in Wales indicating (a) the total number of Government appointees, (b) the number of Welsh-speaking appointees, (c) the total number of staff employed, (d) the number of

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Welsh-speaking staff and (e) the number of staff within each body that have received paid leave to attend courses to learn Welsh for the latest year for which figures are available.

Mr. David Hunt : I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths) on 23 March 1993 at columns 549- 50, listing the public bodies to which I make appointments. As some people hold more than one appointment, the number of appointees is 960. Of these, 129 have indicated on their nomination form that they speak Welsh. However, this information is not provided in all cases. Only executive non- departmental public bodies employ staff, and the information requested is shown in the table.

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Non-departmental                                                |Number of staff    |Number of Welsh    |Number of staff                        

public body (NDPB)                                                                  |speaking staff     |received paid leave                    

                                                                                                        |to learn Welsh                         



Cardiff Bay Development Corporation                             |86.5               |4                  |21                                     

Countryside Council for Wales                                   |299.0              |75                 |81                                     

Curriculum Council for Wales                                    |26.0               |10                 |4                                      

Development Board for Rural Wales                               |124.0              |36                 |<1>15                                  

Higher and Further Education Funding Councils                   |42.0               |8                  |0                                      

Housing for Wales                                               |75.0               |20                 |<1>2                                   

Land Authority for Wales                                        |43.0               |Not known          |0                                      

National Library of Wales                                       |215.0              |199                |3                                      

National Museum of Wales                                        |499.0              |157                |21                                     

Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales   |35.0               |10                 |6                                      

Sports Council for Wales                                        |147.0              |27                 |0                                      

Wales Tourist Board                                             |109.0              |46                 |3                                      

Wales Youth Agency                                              |10.0               |4                  |<2>-                                   

Welsh Development Agency                                        |442.0              |40                 |37                                     

Welsh National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting |31.0               |5                  |0                                      

<1>In-house tuition also provided.                                                                                                              

<2>Private tutor visits office weekly.                                                                                                          

Unitary Authorities

Mr. Win Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales, pursuant to his answer of 29 April, Official Report, column 523, what conclusions he has now drawn about travel times from the specified communities to Bridgend and Barry, following his discussions on 23 April.

Mr. David Hunt : The length of time taken for residents of these communities to reach Bridgend and Barry would vary according to such things as the route taken and the means of transport used.

Housing Needs Assessment

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make it his policy to establish a national housing needs assessment mechanism in Wales.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : No.

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make it his policy to make his Department's housing needs assessment research in Wales available for public scrutiny.

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