Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Neil Hamilton : In 1990-91, 11 prosecutions were carried out by my Department for offences under section 216 of the Insolvency Act 1986. The figure for 1991-92 was nine and, for 1992-93, five. So far in this financial year, there have been eight such prosecutions.

Electricity Franchises

Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what further representations he has received from individuals and organisations expressing concern about the postponement of electricity franchises in the 1 Mw to 100 Kw bracket since his answer of 18 February 1993, Official Report, column 318.

Mr. Eggar : I received a number of representations during the coal review on this issue. In the White Paper "The Prospects for Coal", Cm 2235, published in March 1993, the Government confirmed that they did not intend to postpone the reduction of the electricity franchise to 100 Kw.


Column 617

Nuclear Material

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 11 January, Official Report, columns 184-85, how many of the (a) temporary and (b) permanent withdrawals from safeguards involved plutonium.

Mr. Eggar : There have been 70 notifications of withdrawal of plutonium from safeguards since May 1979. These were all either small amounts withdrawn as samples for analytical or research purposes or part of transactions, involving the temporary transfer of plutonium to or from the civil cycle, which did not involve the net transfer of any plutonium from safeguards.

Scott Inquiry

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he has made available to the Scott inquiry a copy of a letter by L. F. Byrne of Allivane International Ltd. to the export licensing branch of his Department dated 6 April 1988.

Mr. Needham : The Department has no record of this document.

Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what were the implications of THORP's beginning operations on 17 January for the delivery of spent fuel from Japan after 1 January under the terms of planning condition No. 9 of the amended planning permission of 6 April 1988 for receipt of spent nuclear fuel granted by Copeland borough council under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.

Mr. Eggar : This is a matter for Copeland borough council as planning authority and British Nuclear Fuels plc as operator of the Sellafield site.

Export Control Compliance

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many copies of his Department's code of practice on export control compliance have been distributed since 21 May 1993.

Mr. Needham : Some 3,500 copies have been distributed since 21 May 1993, making a total of 9,500 distributed since publication.

Departmental Directory

Mr. Fatchett : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will place in the Library a copy of the DTI "Functional Directory".


Column 618

Mr. Eggar : A copy is available in the Library of the House.

Electricity Pricing

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will undertake a review of the powers of the regulator in respect of electricity pricing.

Mr. Eggar : I have no plans for such a review. The Director General of Electricity Supply is free to seek a review of his powers in respect of electricity pricing if he is not satisfied that his existing powers are adequate.

Fraud

Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is his Department's policy for dealing with employees found guilty of fraud.

Mr. Eggar : Dismissal.

Mr. Menzies Campbell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many employees were judged to be guilty of fraud in his Department in each year since 1989 ; and how many were dismissed.

Mr. Eggar : The information is as follows :


Year    |Number       

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

1989-93 |Nil          

1994    |1            

The employee concerned was dismissed.

Cetaceans

Mr. Ainger : To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what steps he is taking to ensure maximum information on the effect of seismic activity on cetaceans is collected during offshore oil exploration ;

(2) if he will make it his policy to require holders of offshore oil exploration licences to invite independent researchers to carry out surveys of the behaviour of cetaceans during seismic operations.

Mr. Eggar : My officials encourage companies to offer facilities to environmental bodies to observe cetaceans. I understand that a number of seismic surveys conducted in blocks licensed during the 14th round have been accompanied by observers from such bodies.

It is not always possible to do this : adverse weather conditions can force changes to the dates of surveys at short notice, while the small size of some survey vessels means accommodation space is sometimes strictly limited.


Column 619

Mr. Ainger : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make it his policy to require operators to carry out preliminary surveys of the distribution and behaviour of cetaceans before carrying out offshore seismic operations or any source testing ; and if he will make these surveys publicly available before operations or testing begin.

Mr. Eggar : In the 14th round, applicants for blocks in areas frequented by cetaceans were asked to carry out a preliminary environmental survey of all local sensitivities including cetaceans. Before carrying out seismic operations in sensitive areas, licensees are, in any event, expected to consult with the sea mammals research unit. In addition, during the survey, the lowest possible energy settings should be used.

By seeking such environmental surveys prior to licensing, I have the opportunity to ensure environmental concerns are taken into account when deciding licence awards. Similar arrangements will apply in future. Such surveys are the property of the companies commissioning them.

Export Licences

Mr. Flynn : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list all occasions when hon. Members have sought assistance in obtaining export licences during the past five years to import items from overseas.

Mr. Needham [holding answer 20 January 1994] : My Department is only one of a number of Departments which operate import controls by issuing import licences. Before an import licence can be issued, it is often a pre-requisite that an export licence is provided by the competent authorities of the exporting country. My Department would not expect to know whether assistance had been sought to secure the provision of such an export licence ; and no instance are know of. The other Departments operating similar licensing controls are the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food--agriculutral products--the Home Office--drugs--the Department of the Environment--wildlife--and the Health and Safety Executive--explosives and fireworks.

Human Genes (Patenting)

Dr. Moonie : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what guidelines his office has produced on the patenting of human genes ; what discussions he has had on this subject with his European counterparts ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 28 January 1994] : In accordance with current practice, patents may be granted for inventions relating to human genes of identified function and outside the body if they comply with the usual requirements of patentability--that is, novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability.

Agreement has now been reached within the framework of the European Council on a draft EC directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions, which sets out to harmonise what is patentable in this area along the lines mentioned above. Council is expected to adopt a formal common position shortly.

I understand that the Office of Science and Technology supports the policy of the Medical Research Council in not filing any futher patent applications for DNA sequences of


Column 620

unknown function. The Office of Science and Technology has not, however, produced any guidelines on when patents on human genes should be sought.

Late Payment

Mr. Fatchett : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on his Department's consultation on late payment.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 31 January 1994] : On 30 November 1993, the Department of Trade and Industry issued a consultation paper "Late Payment of Commercial Debt". The consultation paper seeks views from interested parties on possible options to address late payment, including a statutory right to interest and a British standard for prompt payment. Responses have been requested by 31 March 1994.

Nora Heeren

Mr. Jamieson : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if his Department obtained a full cargo manifest of the Nora Heeren.

Mr. Needham [holding answer 31 January 1994] : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 24 January, Official Report , column 12 .

European Plug and Socket System

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment his Department has made of the safety implications of adopting a harmonised European plug and socket system ; what representations he has had from (a) trade and (b) consumer representatives about a harmonised European plug and socket system ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Sainsbury [holding answer 24 January 1994] : CENELEC, the relevant standards-making body, has not published a standard for a harmonised European plug and socket system against which an accurate assessment could be made. In considering whether any change to our present standards might be desirable at some future date full account will be taken of consumer safety issues and the many representations which we have received.

My Department is in frequent contact with the principal trade associations covering electrical appliances and fittings, and also with such bodies as the British Standards Institution, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Consumers Association. We have also commissioned an independent analysis of the possible costs and benefits for the United Kingdom. Work is continuing on the final report from the consultants and we expect to publish the full report in the spring to form the basis for a wider consultation.

NATIONAL HERITAGE

Grants (Remission of Debt)

Mr. Enright : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what guidelines are used for the remission of debt on grants issued by his Department.

Mr. Sproat : The guidelines used by my Department, and the bodies we sponsor, to determine whether or not to


Column 621

write off a particular grant are set out in "Government Accounting". These are that losses are to be written off only after a most careful appraisal of the facts ; that Departments satisfy themselves that there is no feasible alternative ; and that all reasonable action has been taken to effect recovery. I am satisfied that the control systems for authorising the write off of grants are working effectively in my Department.

For grants made by sponsored bodies, the decision to write off is, in the first instance, taken by the body, subject to delegated limits. For amounts above those limits, approval by my Department and the Treasury will be required, depending on the sums involved.

Theatres

Ms Mowlam : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what support his Department intends to give to signed performances in theatres.

Mr. Brooke : Each building-based theatre company supported by the Arts Council aims to provide at least one signed performance of each production. Touring companies are also being encouraged to do at least one signed performance at each venue. According to a recent report by the Royal National Theatre, approximately 40 theatres currently provide signed performances. One of the problems in this area has been the shortage of trained personnel. The Arts Council has now provided two training courses for signed theatre interpreters.

Regional Orchestras

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will estimate the minimum staffing of regional orchestras ; and if he will make a statement on the financial situation of those in receipt of public funds.

Mr. Brooke : According to the Arts Council, the minimum number of players in each of the major regional orchestras is as follows :


                                       |Number       

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

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra         |79           

Bournemouth Sinfonietta                |29           

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  |103          

Halle Orchestra                        |98           

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra |91           

Northern Sinfonia                      |37           

Depending on programmes, these numbers can be augmented through the employment of contract musicians. The numbers of administrative staff vary because of the differing situations of the orchestras. For example, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society is responsible for Philharmonic hall as well as the orchestra ; and the two Bournemouth orchestras are jointly administered.

The Arts Council carefully monitors the financial situation of all its clients and, in consultation with the orchestras themselves, would be able to provide the additional information requested.

Concessionary Television Licence Scheme

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will consider further expanding the concessionary television licence scheme to include those


Column 622

people who previously lived in sheltered accommodation or institutional care, but who now live at home in consequence of the community care policy.

Mr. Sproat : No. The Government have no plans to extend the regulations governing the concessionary television licence scheme.

Royal Palaces (Accommodation)

Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage, pursuant to his answer of 19 January, Official Report, column 652 , what accommodation consists of for the private secretaries and officials of the Queen's households and other households in the grace and favour accommodation at the occupied royal palaces.

Mr. Sproat [holding answer 27 January 1994] : The accommodation that is provided to serving members of the royal household and for which either rent is charged or the benefit of which is taken into account in determining wage and salary levels is as follows : St. James's Palace

17 apartments in total of which 5 have 1 reception room with 1, 2 or 3 bedrooms. 4 have 2 reception rooms with between 2 and 4 bedrooms and 5 have 3 reception rooms with generally 4 bedrooms. The remaining 3 apartments have 4 reception rooms and 4 bedrooms.

Marlborough House Mews

5 apartments of which 4 have 1 reception room and 1 to 3 bedrooms and 1 is a bedsit.

Kensington Palace

9 apartments of which 1 has 1 reception room and 2 bedrooms, 6 have 2 reception rooms and 2 or 3 bedrooms and 2 have 3 reception rooms with 3 or 4 bedrooms.

Windsor Castle

8 apartments within the curtilage of which 2 have 1 reception room with 1 bedroom, 1 has 1 reception room plus 3 bedrooms, 1 has 2 reception rooms with 4 bedrooms, 1 has 3 reception rooms with 4 bedrooms, 1 has 3 reception rooms and 5 bedrooms and 2 have 4 reception rooms with 5 bedrooms.

Windsor Castle Grounds

8 apartments, comprising 5 with 1 reception room each and 1 to 3 bedrooms. 2 have 2 reception tooms and 3 bedrooms and 1 has 4 reception rooms and 4 bedrooms.

Buckingham Palace Mews

4 apartments, 1 with 1 reception room and 1 bedroom. 2 have 2 reception rooms and 3 bedrooms and 1 has 3 reception rooms and 6 bedrooms.

Hampton Court Mews

1 apartment with 1 reception room and 1 bedroom.

Bushy Park

2 houses, 1 with 3 reception rooms and 5 bedrooms and 1 with 2 reception rooms and 4 bedrooms.

Back to Basics"

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what are the implications of the Government's "back to basics" policy for his Department during 1994.

Mr. Sproat : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 21 January, Official Report , column 849 .


Column 623

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage 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. Sproat [holding answer 20 January 1994] : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) on 21 January, Official Report , column 849 .

Statutory Sick Pay

Mr. Ingram : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will provide a figure for the number of staff in his Department covered by statutory sick pay.

Mr. Sproat [holding answer 31 January 1994] : The number of staff within the Department of National Heritage excluding its agencies, the Historic Royal Palaces and the Royal Parks, on 31 December 1993 who were eligible to receive statutory sick pay was 333.

Tower of London

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is the total cost of constructing the new jewel house at the Tower of London.

Mr. Sproat [holding answer 31 January 1994] : Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Historic Royal Palaces under its chief executive, Mr. David Beeton. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from David Beeton to Mr. Tony Banks, dated 27 January 1994 :

The Secretary of State for National Heritage has asked me to reply to your Written Parliamentary Question on what is the total cost of constructing the new Jewel House at the Tower of London.

The detailed estimate, which I approved before work started on site in October 1992 was £10,007,000. The latest estimate of that total cost is £9,753,819. Work will be completed on the original timetable and the Jewel House opened on the 24 March 1994.

This total cost has been funded from increased business income, generated by my Agency in the last three years, during which period the annual call on the taxpayer has fallen from £10.26 million (1991-92) to £7.6 million (1993-94). The scheme is forecast to increase the business income of the Tower by £4 million a year.

ENVIRONMENT

Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many representations he has received on the subject of the THORP project ; and if he will make a statement ;

(2) how many representations he has received in support of the THORP project ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : A total of 42,500 responses to the public consultation were received. About 15,000 respondents supported THORP. A detailed breakdown of responses is in the BNFL Sellafield further public consultation summary of responses document which is in the House Library.


Column 624

Environmental Approach (Launch Meeting)

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria were used in choosing to launch Her Majesty's Government's strategy documents on sustainable development, climate change, biodiversity and sustainable forestry, at the Banqueting house on 25 January ; and which hon. Members were given advance notice of the date and venue of the launch.

Mr. Atkins : The launch in the Banqueting house was primarily a press conference, although in the presence of individuals, or representatives of organisations, who had been associated with preparation of the documents. My right hon. Friend informed the House on 20 January, in answer to a written question from my hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs), Official Report column 844, that publication would be on 25 January.

Hotels (Change of Use)

Mr. David Atkinson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to announce an outcome to his review of the change of use of hotels and guest houses to hostels for social security claimants ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry : Shortly.

Environmental Conference

Mr. Hanson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the total cost of the environmental conference on Rio two years on held at the Mansion house on 25 January.

Mr. Atkins : The conference was held in the Banqueting house, Whitehall, not the Mansion house, and cost approximately £20,000.

Nuclear Waste

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how the present policy on high-level waste management is covered by Her Majesty's Government's commitment to meet the responsibility of nuclear waste management by the present generation.

Mr. Atkins : The Government's policy is that high-level radioactive wastes should be stored for at least 50 years to allow them to cool. As this is the most appropriate technical means of dealing with the wastes, it is the strategy which best meets our responsibilities to future generations.

Radioactive Waste Inventory

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what financial contribution is made by his Department to the radioactive waste inventory.


Next Section

  Home Page