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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 13 January 1994

ENVIRONMENT

Special Advisers

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what arrangements are made to ensure that special advisers to Ministers in his Department do not have access to the kind of information, and are not involved in the type of business, that would be likely to create suspicion of impropriety in relation to subsequent employment.

Mr. Gummer : I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on Tuesday 14 December 1993 at column 561.

Government Car Service

Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment who, other than Ministers, have individually allocated cars from the Government car service ; and at what cost for each person.

Mr. Baldry : The Government car service currently provides some 30 cars which are made available to Departments for first call use by individuals, in addition to the cars on which Ministers have first call. A number of these cars are provided for security reasons, but the majority are used by senior officials of Permanent Secretary or equivalent rank.

The cost per car varies according to the level of service provided. The average annual cost per standard car and driver is some £47,000.

Water Mains

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many miles of water mains are planned to be replaced by each of the water companies in England in 1994 because of poor water quality.

Mr. Atkins : The length of water mains which water companies plan to replace for water quality reasons in England during 1994 is estimated to be 1,100 miles. In addition, companies plan to reline approximately 1,380 miles. Replacement or relining may be carried out for reasons other than improvement in water quality, such as the structural condition of mains and to improve water pressure ; replacement for those reasons usually also results in an improvement in water quality.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Parry : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on local government finance ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry : My right hon. Friend announced his proposals for the local government finance settlement for


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1994-95 on 2 December. During the consultation period on those proposals, which ended on 10 January, we received representations from 134 local authorities and their associations and from 18 hon. Members. In addition, we have met some 30 local authorities to discuss the settlement and will be seeing further authorities this week. My right hon. Friend will present his final decisions shortly.

Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration was given to the option of permanent monitored dry storage of spent nuclear fuel as a nuclear waste management option in arriving at his judgment on THORP.

Mr. Atkins : The dry storage of spent nuclear fuel was addressed in the waste management section (paragraphs 98-108) of the decision by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in respect of an application from British Nuclear Fuels for authorisations to discharge radioactive wastes from the Sellafield site. Copies of the decision document are in the House Library.

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will set out the basis for his conclusion set out at paragraph 131 of his decision document on THORP of 15 December that the increase in costs of the Nirex waste repository would not jeopardise the economic viability of THORP.

Mr. Atkins : An estimate of the impact of a 10-year delay to the Nirex repository is given in section 6 of appendix 3 to the BNFL document, "The Economic and Commercial Justification for THORP", which was made available for public consultation. It is evident that such a sum would not jeopardise the commercial gains shown in that appendix.

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will place in the Library copies of the advice notes and other information made available to his Department, along with interdepartmental correspondence, by (a) the Department of Transport, (b) the Department of Trade and Industry, (c) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, (d) the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and (e) the National Radiological Protection Board as part of the consultation process on THORP referred to at paragraph 20 of his decision document on THORP of 15 December.

Mr. Atkins : No, other than copies of the advice from the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and the National Radiological Protection Board which have already been placed in the Library of the House.

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, when British Nuclear Fuels made available to his Department or to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, a full version of the Touche Ross accountants report on the projected profitability of THORP ; and what assessment was made of the robustness of the report in coming to the conclusion on the economic prospects for THORP as set out as paragraph 133 of his decision document on THORP of 15 December.

Mr. Atkins : No such report is, or has been, in our possession.


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Council Tax

Mr. Bayley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many appeals against council tax valuations in each district council area in North Yorkshire have been (a) received and (b) settled ; and of those settled how many resulted in a reduced council tax valuation.

Mr. Baldry : As at 31 December 1993, receipts and settlements of proposals to alter the valuation list for each billing authority in North Yorkshire are as follows :


H

Billing authority |Received         |Settled                            

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

Craven            |2,621            |374                                

Hambleton         |2,724            |496                                

Harrogate         |4,745            |872                                

Richmondshire     |1,613            |210                                

Ryedale           |2,980            |509                                

Scarborough       |2,775            |488                                

Selby             |2,702            |498                                

York              |1,425            |484                                

Statistics relating to settlements which have resulted in a lower council tax banding are not available centrally.

Hedgerows

Mr. Bayley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when the Government will introduce legislation to protect hedgerows.

Mr. Atkins : When parliamentary time permits.

Sweetloves Reservoir

Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to investigate whether North West Water Ltd. is acting in accordance with its statutory duties in relation to Sweetloves reservoir.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer 11 Janaury 1994] : North West Water does not consider that its plans for the redevolopment of Sweetloves reservoir are in conflict with its statutory duties in respect of conservation and recreation. I will write to my hon. Friend about the case.


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NATIONAL FINANCE

EC Budget Contributions

Mr. Cash : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his best estimate of member states' net contributions to the EC Budget, after the United Kingdom rebate, in respect of the calendar year 1993 ; and what is his best estimate, in respect of calendar year 1994, of member states' net contributions to the European Union budget for that year, on the basis of the latest draft proposed EU budget, after taking account of the latest estimate of the United Kingdom's rebate for 1994.

Mr. Nelson : EC budgets provide estimates of member states' gross contributions including the abatement of the United Kingdom's contributions. They do not, however, give a breakdown of each member state's expected receipts from that budget : this information becomes available only after the year in question, in the annual Court of Auditors' report on the implementation of the budget. The latest report, covering 1992, was published on 16 November 1993.

Civil Service (Management Functions) Act

Mr. Burns : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what delegations have been made since the Civil Service (Management Functions) Act received royal assent on 17 December 1992 ; to whom those delegations were made ; and what were the main conditions that were attached to them.

Mr. Dorrell : The table lists delegations made under the Civil Service (Management Functions) Act 1992 to date. In some cases, for staff appointed by statutory office holders, Ministers were statutorily required to give consent to terms and conditions of service. For such staff, delegation has been effected by waiving that requirement, subject to the conditions attached to the delegation. The first five delegations in the list apply generally across the civil service. The delegations relating to pay apply only to particular departments and agencies as shown in the table. In total, Departments and agencies employing over half of all civil servants will have assumed responsibility for their own pay and grading by April 1994. I expect other such delegations to follow in 1995 as further Government agencies and Departments bring forward proposals for their own pay and grading arrangements.


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List of Delegations made under the Civil Service (Management Functions) Act 1992                                                                                                                   

Delegation                             |Nature of Delegation                  |Recipients                            |Main Conditions                                                              

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

1. Delegation of Minimum               |Authority to set appropriate          |Ministers in charge of                |Managers must:                                                               

Recruitment Criteria                   |eligibility criteria (so far as they  |departments and statutory and         |(i) ensure that their recruitment                                            

                                       |relate to knowledge, ability,         |certain other office holders.<1>      |systems consistently deliver                                                 

                                       |professional attainment, aptitude or                                         |recruits who are appropriate                                                 

                                       |potential) for recruitment to non-                                           |to their needs and who are                                                   

                                       |scheduled grades in respect of                                               |able to do the work required                                                 

                                       |members of the Home Civil                                                    |in the grade to which they                                                   

                                       |Service.                                                                     | are appointed;                                                              

                                                                                                                     |(ii) maintain and make use of                                                

                                                                                                                     |adequate records of their                                                    

                                                                                                                     |recruitment activities and the                                               

                                                                                                                     |performance of successful                                                    

                                                                                                                     |candidates to demonstrate                                                    

                                                                                                                     |that (i) continues to be met;                                                

                                                                                                                     |and                                                                          

                                                                                                                     |(iii) observe Civil Service                                                  

                                                                                                                     |Management Code rules on                                                     

                                                                                                                     |age limits.                                                                  

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

2. Delegation of Personnel             |Authority to determine in respect of  |Ministers in charge of                |Departments must ensure that the                                             

 Management: Travel                    |Home Civil Servants:                  |departments and statutory and         |most efficient and economic means                                            

                                       |(a) the class of travel that may      |certain other office holders.<1>      |of travel is used, taking into account                                       

                                       |be given to staff travelling                                                 |the cost of travel and the cost of                                           

                                       |on official business in the                                                  |subsistence and savings in official                                          

                                       |United Kingdom and                                                           |time.                                                                        

                                       |overseas, and to staff and                                                                                                                                 

                                       |members of their household                                                   |All costs arising from the exercise                                          

                                       |where departments have                                                       |of this delegation must be met from                                          

                                       |discretion to offer                                                          |within agreed resources.                                                     

                                       |concessionary travel in the                                                                                                                                

                                       |United Kingdom and                                                                                                                                         

                                       |overseas; and                                                                                                                                              

                                       |(b) the conditions under which                                                                                                                             

                                       |financial assistance with                                                                                                                                  

                                       |overseas journeys is given in                                                                                                                              

                                       |respect of staff and members                                                                                                                               

                                       |of their household.                                                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

3. Overseas Accountable                |Authority for determining the         |Ministers in charge of                |All costs arising from the exercise                                          

Entertainment Allowance                |hospitality allowances to assist      |departments and statutory and         |of this delegation must be found                                             

                                       |members of the Home Civil Service     |certain other office holders.<1>      |from within existing cash and                                                

                                       |serving overseas.                                                            |running costs limits.                                                        

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

4. Delegation of United                |Authority to determine the rules on   |Ministers in charge of                |The terms offered in exercising this                                         

Kingdom Relocation                     |the expenses that may be paid to      |departments and statutory and         |delegation must be cost effective                                            

Expenses.                              |members of the Home Civil Service     |certain other office holders.<1>      |compared with the alternatives and                                           

                                       |who permanently transfer to another                                          |the expenditure must be found from                                           

                                       |office (or move on appointment)                                              |within existing running costs and                                            

                                       |within the United Kingdom and                                                |cash limits.                                                                 

                                       |who move their homes, or who                                                                                                                               

                                       |incur additional travelling costs, as                                        |The expenses must be based on                                                

                                       |a result.                                                                    |reimbursement, must not provide for                                          

                                                                                                                     |betterment and must not go beyond                                            

                                                                                                                     |what is provided by other                                                    

                                                                                                                     |employers. There are limits on                                               

                                                                                                                     |advances of salary and equity loss                                           

                                                                                                                     |compensation.                                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

5. Delegation of Rent for key          |Authority to determine a              |Ministers in charge of                |The rent must be consistent with the                                         

staff who occupy government            |departmental/agency rent.             |departments and statutory and         |market rent that the key member of                                           

owned residential properties.                                                 |certain other office holders.<1>      |staff and his or her family would                                            

                                                                                                                     |reasonably be expected to pay at the                                         

                                                                                                                     |same or similar location for                                                 

                                                                                                                     |accommodation which met their                                                

                                                                                                                     |normal requirements.                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                     |The rent may be adjusted if it is                                            

                                                                                                                     |necessary to encourage staff to                                              

                                                                                                                     |transfer to a key post, or attract new                                       

                                                                                                                     |staff to a key post, or to retain                                            

                                                                                                                     |existing staff.                                                              

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                     |Any additional expenditure which                                             

                                                                                                                     |results from exercising this                                                 

                                                                                                                     |delegation must be found from                                                

                                                                                                                     |within existing running costs and                                            

                                                                                                                     |cash limits.                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                   

6. Delegation of pay and certain       |Authority to determine pay and        |Ministers in charge of                |(i) The recipient must continue to                                           

pay-related conditions of              |certain pay-related conditions of     |departments and statutory office      |comply with certain sections of                                              

service.                               |service of civil servants below the   |holders,<1> as appropriate, for the   |the Civil Service Management                                                 

                                       |Senior Open Structure (with the       |following organisations:              |Code.                                                                        

                                       |exception of retirement and           |  Employment Service                                                                                                

                                       |redundancy, the reinstatement and     |  Fire Service College                |(ii)Changes made to terms and                                                

                                       |re-employment of persons in the       |  Inland Revenue                      |conditions must provide value                                                

                                       |service and the redeployment of       |  Ordnance Survey                     |for money and be made in a                                                   

                                       |staff between departments). Agency    |  Valuation Office Agency             |way which does not jeopardise                                                

                                       |Chief Executives are also excluded                                           |essential public expenditure                                                 

                                       |from the scope of the delegations.                                           |safeguards.                                                                  

<1> The statutory and certain other office holders are:                                                                                                                                            

First Parliamentary Counsel                                                                                                                                                                        

Government Actuary                                                                                                                                                                                 

Director General of Fair Trading                                                                                                                                                                   

Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies                                                                                                                                                              

National Debt Commissioners/National Public Works Loan Commissioners                                                                                                                               

Director General of Telecommunications                                                                                                                                                             

First Crown Estate Commissioner                                                                                                                                                                    

Director, Office of Gas Supply                                                                                                                                                                     

Director, Office of Electricity Regulation                                                                                                                                                         

Director, Office of Water Services                                                                                                                                                                 

Director, Serious Fraud Office                                                                                                                                                                     

Chief Inspector, Office for standards in Education                                                                                                                                                 

Director, Intervention Board                                                                                                                                                                       

Commissioners for the Board of the Inland Revenue                                                                                                                                                  

Commissioners for Customs and Excise                                                                                                                                                               

Director of Public Prosecutions                                                                                                                                                                    

Registrar General, Office of Population Censuses and Surveys*                                                                                                                                      

Chief Charity Commissioner, Charity Commission*                                                                                                                                                    

Registrar General, General Register office (Scotland)*                                                                                                                                             

Executive, Health and Safety                                                                                                                                                                       

The Service, Advisory and Conciliation                                                                                                                                                             

Those marked with a * received only the delegation in respect of Minimum Recruitment Criteria.                                                                                                     

Enterprise Zone Buildings

Mr. Burns : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about schemes which enable investors to get up-front tax relief on investments in enterprise zone buildings which they can subsequently sell without any clawback of that relief.

Mr. Dorrell : Capital allowances are available to the owners of buildings in enterprise zones and of industrial buildings elsewhere. Where a building is sold within the first twenty-five years of its life, a balancing adjustment is made which brings the tax relief into line with the actual depreciation. In this way any excess tax relief given can be recovered. There is, however, a defect in the capital allowances legislation which enables the owner of a building effectively to dispose of his interest through the granting of a long lease without triggering any recovery of excess allowances. This is a weakness of which some taxpayers are aiming to take advantage. We propose to bring forward legislation at Committee stage of the Finance Bill which will rectify this defect by imposing a balancing charge when a building on which capital allowances have already been claimed is leased for a capital sum. The new rules will apply to capital sums received by a taxpayer in respect of a relevant interest in a building which he has acquired on or after today.

European Investment Bank

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the Government guarantees loans received by the private sector from the European investment bank.


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Mr. Nelson [holding answer 16 December 1993] : The Government do not operate a guarantee scheme for private sector borrowers from the EIB. However, the Government do have a residual responsibility in respect of guarantees which it provided under a former scheme, which was discontinued in 1985. The residual contingent liability resulting from this scheme is now diminishing, and will ultimately disappear, as the loans guaranteed are progressively repaid.

WALES

District Elections

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales in which areas elections will take place during 1994 for those district councils in Wales which hold elections by thirds.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : Elections will take place in Swansea, Newport, Port Talbot and Rhondda on Thursday 5 May 1994.

Domestic Gas

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the estimated number and proportion of homes in Wales connected to gas mains supply.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : Information provided by British Gas, Wales, is published in table 5.13 of the Digest of Welsh Statistics No. 39, 1993. The number of domestic customers was estimated as 807,300 at December 1991. This represented 68 per cent. of dwellings in Wales.


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Housing Revenue

Mr. Richards : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects to make his housing revenue account subsidy determinations for 1994 -95.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : I made the determinations on 12 January and have placed copies in the Library of the House.

I have confirmed an average guideline rent increase of 7.5 per cent. (3.5 per cent. in real terms), with a minimum increase of £1.50 and a maximum of £2.90 per week. I estimate that the average guideline rent increase will be £2.19 per week and the resulting average weekly guideline rent £31.30.

For management and maintenance allowances, I have confirmed an average increase of 4 per cent. per dwelling overall, which will continue to be distributed through a system of targets reflecting authorities' relative need to spend. I estimate that this will raise the average allowance to £824 per dwelling, an increase of £31. The rent guidelines and management and maintenance allowances are the assumptions to be made for subsidy purposes. It is for councils themselves to set their rents and decide how much to spend on management and maintenance within their legal obligations. I have placed in the Library of the House estimates of the rent guidelines and management and maintenance allowance for each authority.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Heavy Goods Vehicles

Mr. Raynsford : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he intends to include provisions within the prospective legislation on deregulation which would alter the current powers available to local authorities to impose restrictions on the night-time movement of heavy goods vehicles within their area.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : Details of the contents of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will be made available in the usual way when the Bill is introduced later this month. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport has been considering whether restrictions on the night-time movement of heavy goods vehicles can be administered in a less bureaucratic way without reducing the environmental protection the restrictions offer.

THORP

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what basic technical characteristics of the THORP reprocessing line and associated facilities have been submitted to EURATOM ; what particular safeguards provisions for the THORP reprocessing line and its asssociated facilities have been agreed with EURATOM ; and on what dates in each case (a) information was first provided to EURATOM and (b) those agreements entered into force.

Mr. Eggar : Such documents on safeguards arrangements are confidential to the parties concerned. A general description of the interaction between BNFL and Euratom in agreeing safeguards arrangements for THORP was given in the paper, "THORP : The Route to a


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Safeguardable Plant", presented at the 15th European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA) symposium in Rome in May 1993.

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will set out the methodology adopted, including reference to any expert sources outside his Department, by which he came to the conclusion to offer the departmental advice on the economics of THORP to the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, referred to at paragraph 128 of the decision document on THORP of 15 December.

Mr. Eggar : The advice given by my Department to my right hon. Friends was prepared by reference to materials contained in the publicly available consultation documents.

Superconductivity

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what research into superconductivity is currently being sponsored by his Department.

Mr. McLoughlin : The Department is currently supporting four collaborative industrial research projects in high temperature superconductivity. Total costs are £3,215,231 and grant of up to £1, 607,615 has been offered.

Structural Funds

Mr. Streeter : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he is yet able to inform the House of the final outcome of the negotiations with the European Communities on the designation under the structural funds of objective 2 and 5(b) areas.

Mr. Sainsbury : The Commission announced on 21 December its proposed list of areas for objective 2 and the proposed population ceilings for objective 5(b).

For objective 5(b) areas, the Commission proposes to designate areas with a population coverage of 2.816 million in the United Kingdom. The precise geographical boundaries are expected to be finally determined by the Commission by the end of next week, but will certainly include large parts of South West England, East Anglia, Northern England, Wales and Scotland. Once the Commission's final decision is known I will provide the House with a list of the areas. For objective 2 areas, the Commission announced a proposed initial list of areas. The United Kingdom area on this list are listed at the end of this answer. The Commission will announce its final decision shortly, but it is unlikely to differ from the initial list. The definitive list will be published in the Official Journal and will give a fully detailed breakdown of the eligible areas, down to ward level where necessary.

The Commission's decisions mean that more areas of the United Kingdom than before will now be eligible for European funding. More than 24 million people live in areas that will be able to claim under objectives 1, 2 and 5(b) of the structural funds and the United Kingdom continues to have the highest population coverage under objective 2. Despite this advance, however, the Government regret the Commission's failure fully to reflect our national priorities in its final decisions for objective 2 areas--in particular, the case for much greater coverage of urban areas.


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United Kingdom areas on Commission's list for objective 2 County/Region and Eligible travel-to-work area (TTWA)

Central

Alloa (part)

Falkirk (part)

Glasgow (part)

Stirling (part )

Cheshire

Liverpool (part)

Widnes and Runcorn

Wirral and Chester (part )

Cleveland

Whole county

Cumbria

Barrow-in-Furness

Whitehaven

Workington

Derbyshire

Chesterfield

Mansfield (part)

Worksop (part)

Devon

Plymouth (part )

Durham

Bishop Aukland

Darlington (part )

Durham

Hartlepool (part)

Newcastle-upon-Tyne (part)

Sunderland (part)

Dyfed

Llanelli

Swansea (part)

Fife

Alloa (part)

Dundee (part)

Dunfermline (part)

Kirkaldy

Gibraltar

Whole territory

Greater London

London (parts of the Boroughs of Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest)

Greater Manchester

Bolton and Bury (part)

Manchester (part )

Oldham

Rochdale (part)

Wigan and St. Helens (part)

Gwent

Blaenau Gwent and Abergavenney (part)

Merthyr and Rhymney (part)

Newport

Pontypool and Cwmbran

Humberside

Doncaster (part)

Grimsby (part)

Hull (part )

Scunthorpe (part)

Kent

Thanet

Lancashire

Accrington and Rossendale

Blackburn

Bolton and Bury (part)

Burnley (part )

Liverpool (part )

Pendle (part )

Rochdale (part)

Wigan and St. Helens (part )

Lothian

Bathgate

Edinburgh (part )

Falkirk (part)

Mid Glamorgan

whole county

Northumberland

Alnwick and Amble (part )

Morpeth and Ashington

Newcastle-upon-Tyne (part )


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