Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding present United Kingdom relations with Cuba.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : Relations with Cuba are correct. We are in diplomatic relations with Cuba and are in favour of increased trade between the two countries.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which special advisers in his Department are seconded from other organisations ; and what are the organisations and the lengths and terms of the secondments.
Mr. Waldegrave : Neither of my two special advisers is serving on secondment terms.
Mr. Boyes : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans he has to buy or borrow photographs ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Waldegrave : I have no plans to buy or borrow any photographs for display in my ministerial office.
Mr. Boyes : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many (a) paintings and (b) photographs there are on the walls of his rooms.
Mr. Waldegrave : I have six paintings and three engravings on the walls of my ministerial office.
Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Attorney-General what contact took place between his Department and the journalist John Merry of Darlington about the case of Brian Charrington ; at what level this was authorised ; and if he will make a statement.
The Attorney-General : None. The contact between Mr. John Merry and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin), who had had no departmental involvement in the case at all, took place in my hon. Friend's capacity as a constituency Member of Parliament and without any reference to my Department.
Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Attorney-General for what reason a representative of his office met counsel for Brian Charrington ; and if he will make a statement.
The Attorney-General : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on Wednesday 26 January to the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris). The meeting which I held on 21 December 1992 followed a request by leading counsel for Mr. Charrington to see the Law Officers in order to make representations to them, in view of their general responsibility in relation to prosecutions, about the length of time his client had been in custody and the need for a final decision as to whether the case should proceed having regard to recent representations made by Mr. Charrington's solicitors in the light of the evidence.
The representatives of HM Customs and Excise at that meeting explained that further inquiries were already in hand. It was agreed that these should be expedited and a final advice obtained from prosecuting counsel as soon as practicable. The Commissioners of Customs and Excise, having received that advice, decided on 27 January 1993 to withdraw proceedings against Mr. Brian Charrington. Although the Attorney-General had been kept informed of progress he was not consulted about that decision.
Mr. Barry Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his plans to improve the environment and tackle dereliction on Deeside, Clwyd.
Mr. Redwood : Considerable resources are being devoted to improving the environment of Deeside. The WDA has already completed over 40 land reclamation schemes covering almost 1,000 acres at a cost of over £13 million. A further 28 schemes costing £6.6 million are in progress or planned ; these will lead to the reclamation of an additional 300 acres.
The agency also has a programme of environmental improvement projects to be carried out in partnership with the local authorities, the private sector and other bodies. Projects to be implemented this year include the landscaping of the bypasses at Bagillt and Ffynnongroyw and environmental improvements at the Greenfield business centre. Environmental enhancement will also be one of the aims of a planned joint venture currently being discussed by the agency, Alyn and Deeside district council and Clwyd county council. This will focus on north Deeside and encourage both economic and environmental regeneration.
Mr. Jonathan Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what changes there have been in the interpretation of expenditure incurred in the guidelines agreed between his Department and the Treasury for operation of the Farm and Conservation Grant (Variation) Order 1993.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement regarding the instructions given by Gwynedd health authority that all
Column 323future referrals for cardiological opinion of Gwynedd patients are to be made to the cardiology unit in Manchester.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : This is a matter for Gwynedd health authority, taking into account a number of factors, including the views of patients, the assessment of clinical quality as judged by general practitioners and consultants, the waiting time for a first diagnosis, cost and the distance between a patient's home and the hospital.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make it his policy to pay interest on all overdue sheep annual premium payments ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Redwood : No. Most of the 17 per cent. of payments outstanding cannot be paid until queries about their eligibility are resolved.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many farmers in Wales are still awaiting payments with respect to their 1993 sheep annual premium scheme ; and when he expects these payments to be made.
Mr. Redwood : A total of 17,442 eligible claims were received and 3,043 remain to be paid. As in earlier years, the majority of payments outstanding are awaiting the resolution of queries or farm visits by officials.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many outstanding claims there are to be processed with respect to the 1993 sheep annual premium scheme ; and when he expects the remaining claims to be processed.
Mr. Redwood : A total of 2,489 claims remain to be processed out of the 17,442 valid claims received. The balance will be paid as soon as outstanding queries about their eligibility are resolved.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his estimate of the total cash amount in sheep annual premium payments that has not yet been sent out to farmers with respect to 1993 payments.
Mr. Redwood : Over £80 million has been paid already and it is estimated that a further £10 million may be paid depending on the eligibility of the remaining claims.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his response to the conclusion of the Gwynedd health authority's contract review on the elimination of the 15 consultant beds at Machynlleth hospital ; and what estimate he has made of the annual savings resulting from the implementation of these recommendations.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : This is a matter for Gwynedd health authority and Powys health care NHS trust, following discussions with general practitioners, hospital doctors and local community health councils.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has to pay interest on overdue headage and grant support payments made to farmers under the 1993 scheme.
Mr. Redwood : There are no such plans.
Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with the chairman of the Cardiff Bay development corporation in relation to the number of working weeks required by the corporation to comment on the financial management and policy review of the corporation ; and what additional time he has allotted for consultation on the report prior to publication following the discussions.
Mr. Redwood : I have had no such discussions with the chairman. I have not set a detailed timetable : I will want the board of the corporation to have the opportunity to consider and respond to the draft report before its recommendations are published.
Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many clerks to valuation panels there are in Wales and what was the budget for the panels or tribunals administration in the years 1990-91, 1991-92 and 1992- 93 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : There are four valuation tribunal clerks. Gross provision for the Welsh tribunal service was £0.8 million for 1990-91, £0.876 million for 1991-92 and £1.921 million for 1992-93. The 1991-92 figure included a sum of about £1 million for the development and procurement of a new computer system.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the current number of staffed beds for use by hospital in-patients in Wales.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : There were 17,483 staffed beds in NHS hospitals in Wales at 30 September 1993.
Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will call for a report on (a) the fatal road accident at the Welshpool bypass on 18 January and (b) all earlier accidents since the opening of that bypass ; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Wyn Roberts : The fatality will be the subject of a coroner's inquest and the findings will be carefully considered by the Department. Accidents that have previously occurred on the bypass have already been investigated and additional road safety measures have been, or are being, introduced.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list those representations that have been made to him favouring the inclusion of Wick, St. Brides Major and Ewenny in the proposed new unitary authority of the Vale of Glamorgan.
Mr. Redwood : I have received 16 representations in favour of my proposal to establish a Vale of Glamorgan unitary authority as set out in the White Paper, "Local Government in Wales : A Charter for the Future".
Column 325Of these, the following organisations specifically expressed support for the inclusion of Wick, St. Brides Major and Ewenny in the Vale of Glamorgan authority :
Penllyn Community Council
Colwinston Community Council
Llandough Community Council
Cowbridge and District Conservative Club
The Vale Defence Committee
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will arrange for a copy of the file sent to him by Councillor G. O. Parry of Vallery containing allegations of corruption within Ynys Mo n borough council to be sent to the chief executive of that authority.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : I will be replying to the letter from Councillor Parry in due course and I am willing for him to show that to the chief executive.
Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what level of finance for police purposes is contained within the Welsh Office grant to each county council in Wales (a) for 1994-95, (b) for the current year and (c) for each of the past five years.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : For 1994-95, the current financial year, and for each of the last five years the level of finance is that 49 per cent. of budgeted expenditure is met by county councils from resources available to them under the annual local authority revenue settlement for Wales. Under the settlement, revenue expenditure is funded mainly from central Government sources, revenue support grant and redistributed non-domestic rates income, with the balance coming from council tax payers. None of this settlement funding is earmarked for police spending. Expenditure on police and other services is determined by county councils in the light of their statutory responsibilities, local needs and available resources. Fifty-one per cent. of actual police expenditure is met by Home Office police grant.
Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the standard spending assessment set for each police authority in Wales (a) for 1994-95, (b) for the current year and (c) for each of the past five years.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : The standard spending assessments for county councils in Wales includes provision for police services.
Mr. Ainger : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether the Welsh Development Agency has been asked for a reference by the Further Education Funding Council for applicants to the post of property controller.
Sir Wyn Roberts : I understand that the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency was asked to be a referee and provided information accordingly.
Mr. Barry Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his housing policy.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : Our policy is set out in "Housing in Wales : An Agenda for Action".
Mr. Barry Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what initiatives he proposes to tackle homelessness.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : In keeping with the policy framework set out in "Housing for Wales : An Agenda for Action" I have recently invited local authorities to bid against a £4 million reserve to complement their homelessness capital projects in 1994-95.
In addition the Welsh Office consultation paper of 20 January 1993, "Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies" has initiated discussion on the way local authorities should approach homelessness in the future.
Mr. Barry Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how he proposes to lessen reliance upon bed-and-breakfast accommodation where young families who are homeless are concerned ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gwilym Jones : The latest available figures are those for 30 September 1993. These show a significant reduction compared with September 1992 in the number of statutorily homeless families temporarily accommodated in bed and breakfast, from 331 to 176.
Mr. Ainger : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether he or anyone in his Department has been asked for a reference by the Further Education Funding Council for applicants to the post of property controller.
Sir Wyn Roberts : A senior official in the Department was asked to provide a reference and did so.
Mr. Richards : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he will announce his decision on the 1994-95 local government revenue settlement.
Mr. Redwood : I have given careful consideration to the representations I have received on the provisional settlement proposals I announced on 30 November. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has met the Assembly of Welsh Counties, and I chaired a meeting of the Welsh Consultative Council on Local Government Finance, at which settlement issues were discussed.
Having taken account of all the representations, I remain of the view that my proposals provide local authorities with an adequate level of funding for 1994-95, given the Government's view that local government should continue to pursue efficiency savings and meet the cost of pay increases from improved performance. I have therefore decided to set total standard spending--TSS--at £2,704.8 million and aggregate external finance--AEF --at £2,419.2 million for 1994-95. The settlement will increase the level of resources available to local government by over £100 million compared with 1993-94.
AEF will comprise £1,740.1 million in revenue support grant, £464.0 million in distributable non-domestic rates, and £215.1 million in specific and supplementary grants. My decisions are subject to the approval of the House.
The TSS I have announced for 1994-95 represents an increase of 4.2 per cent. on 1993-94, including £86.0
Column 327million for care in the community. My plans mean that 89 per cent. of all local authority revenue expenditure in Wales would be met by central Government and should ensure a reasonable level of council tax for local taxpayers in Wales.
I trust that local authorities will budget prudently and play their part in restraining public expenditure.
I propose to lay the Local Government Finance Report (Wales) 1994-95 before the House, for its approval, early next week. At the same time, I will be laying for the House's approval, the Local Government Finance (Amendment) Report (Wales) 1993-94. The amending report rectifies a deficiency in the description of the basis for distributing the distributable amount from the non-domestic rating account contained in the Local Government Finance Report (Wales) 1993-94--HC 412 of 1 February 1993. The amendment does not affect payments under the original report which have been made in the intended manner.
Dr. Howells : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what action is available to him in respect of magistrates who allow party political considerations to determine penalties.
Mr. John M. Taylor : In the declaration and undertaking made on appointment magistrates certify that they understand and agree that their conduct must be free from any sexual, racial, political or other bias. The Lord Chancellor may reprimand a magistrate for his conduct or remove him from office, as appropriate, if there is evidence to show that he appears to be allowing party political considerations improperly to determine penalties.
Mr. Riddick : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what guidelines are issued to magistrates in respect of the making of political comments in (a) assessing penalties and (b) delivering judgments.
Mr. John M. Taylor : No specific guidelines are issued. The judicial oath taken by all magistrates requires them to
"do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will".
On appointment magistrates declare that they accept their conduct should be free from any sexual, racial, political or other bias. This is reinforced in the training given to magistrates. The clerk to the justices will also advise them on the need to avoid bringing their impartiality into question.
Mr. Brandreth : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what guidelines are issued to magistrates by his Department on speeches in mitigation with particular reference to political objectives.
Mr. John M. Taylor : No specific guidelines are issued by the Lord Chancellor but magistrates are advised on the law by their clerks. Magistrates on appointment undertake to conduct themselves in a manner which is free from sexual, racial, political or other bias ; this is also covered in the training given to magistrates.
Mr. Pike : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he expects to legislate to introduce commonhold ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The Government intend to introduce this legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Mr. Rendel : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what working definition of "back to basics" is used by his Department ; and what his Department has done in the past three months to implement the policy.
Mr. John M. Taylor [holding reply 20 January 1994] : I refer to the answer given by the Prime Minister on 21 January at column 849 .
Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what are the implications of the Government's "back to basics" policy for his Department during 1994.
Mr. John M. Taylor [holding reply 20 January 1994] : I refer to the answer by the Prime Minister on 21 January at column 849.
Mr. Beggs : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) if owners of new cars requiring registration marks in Northern Ireland later this year will have the right to purchase all registration marks with the DAZ prefix ; and what arrangements will be made for new car owners who do not wish to use that mark ; (2) what negotiations are taking place with commercial organisations about the use of the prefix DAZ in vehicle registration marks ;
(3) what statutory provisions govern the withdrawal of motor vehicle registration marks from availability to the Northern Ireland public and offering these registration marks to the highest bidder.
Mr. Tim Smith : At present, there is no scheme in operation for the sale of registration marks in Northern Ireland and no arrangement could be made with any person or organisation for the use of any specific marks in issue by the Belfast local vehicle licensing office of Driver and Vehicle Licensing Northern Ireland. When CAZ is exhausted later this year, new vehicles registered at that office will be assigned registration marks from the DAZ series.
Each of the eight local vehicle licensing offices in Northern Ireland allocates registration marks within a different series. The owner of a new vehicle can register it at any local office and, in this way, exercise a degree of choice over the registration mark assigned to the vehicle. An owner wishing to avoid a registration mark in the DAZ series need only apply to another local office other than Belfast whilst DAZ marks are being issued by that office. The first registration number which will be issued from this new series will be DAZ 1000. In 1985 the Department
Column 329of the Environment for Northern Ireland, which was then responsible for the administration of vehicle registration, introduced a policy of withholding from issue the first 99 numbers in each new series. This was extended to the first 999 marks in 1989. These unissued marks would be available for sale to the public should a scheme for the sale of registration marks be introduced in Northern Ireland in the future.
Under the provisions of section 19 of the Vehicles (Excise) Act 1971 and regulation 10 of the Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1973, the form of any registration mark issued to a vehicle being registered for the first time is a matter for the Secretary of State for Transport. There is no statutory obligation to assign any specific mark or to use any specific series of marks.
Mr. Bayley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, pursuant to his answer of 17 January, Official Report, column 404, how many official Christmas cards he and his junior Ministers sent out in 1993 ; and how much this cost.