Mr. John M. Taylor : The majority of staff employed by the Department are eligible for statutory sick pay under the relevant provisions. There are certain employees, for example those over minimum state pension age or those employed for a period of less than three months, who are not covered. It has not proved possible to obtain detailed figures in the time available. I will, however, write to the hon. Member as soon as I can with the relevant figures.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to his answer of 20 January, Official Report, column 719, under what statutory authority the arrangement regarding the passage of information on divorce cases was established.
Mr. John M. Taylor : As I stated in my answer of 20 January, an arrangement was made last November between officials from my Department and from the Home Office immigration and nationality department to provide the information specified in my earlier answer.
This was an informal arrangement arrived at between officials. No legal advice was sought at the time. When the matter subsequently became known to senior officials, legal advice was sought which showed that the informal arrangement was entered into without statutory authority, and it was therefore terminated immediately. As I stated previously, no information supplied to the Home Office has in fact been used by it. The Home Office has destroyed all notifications in its possession and has confirmed that it has neither made nor retained any separate record of the information from the courts.
Mr. Nelson : The Treasury's responsibilities for making rules and regulations under the Financial Services Act have been transferred to the Securities and Investments Board. It is primarily for the Securities and Investments Board to monitor the effect of its rules. The Diretor General of Fair Trading is responsible for reporting to the Treasury any significant anti-competitive effects.
Sir John Cope : None. All member states within the EC have agreed that reduced rates of VAT may be applied only to the specific list of goods and services in the EC VAT rates directive. Launderette services do not appear in this list. Furthermore, the directive does not allow for the introduction of any new zero rates.
Sir John Cope : The extension of VAT to domestic fuel and power is estimated to raise £950 million in 1994-95. The effect on the public sector borrowing requirement will be offset in part by increases in Government spending, announced in the last Budget, which are designed to provide help for pensioners and low income households in meeting increased fuel bills.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the cost to the Treasury of having a facsimile machine installed at the home of his Department's head of information ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nelson : The Treasury keeps one spare portable fax machine for contingencies such as senior officials having to work from home because of illness. This machine was temporarily installed in the home of the head of information.
Mr. Allen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what are the reasons for differences in the way DTELS staff have been treated in respect of redundancy protection from the way PSA and Forward Catering staff were treated ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Dorrell : The Government's policy is that there should be a clean break between the public and private sectors when civil service activities are privatised. There is therefore a general presumption against offering Government guarantees of redundancy entitlements to staff transferred to the private sector. In certain circumstances, however, where because of market testing or because of the climate in the relevant sector of the economy the prospects for the business were uncertain, guarantees in the event of bankruptcy have been given. Each case has been considered on its merits in consultation with the representatives of the staff concerned.
Mr. Dorrell : In 1992-93 the Inland Revenue standard was to reply to all letters within 28 days and to deal substantively with correspondence in at least 90 per cent. of cases. In the remaining cases the response tells the taxpayer when the letter will be dealt with. In fact, the network of tax and collection offices recorded that 99 per cent. of correspondence has been dealt with substantively within 28 days.
Dr. Wright : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer which appointments since 1979 to public bodies or posts for which he is responsible have included candidates nominated by the Chief Whip's office ; if any nominees by this source have been appointed ; and if he will give details.
Mr. Luff : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what fiscal measures he will take to assist the competitive position of the British shipping industry following the German Government's decisions to extend tax concessions for investors in shipping companies.
Mr. Dorrell : The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget that shipping companies will benefit from a special higher limit of £5 million for the amount which they can raise annually from investors under the new enterprise investment scheme. Other measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport on 15 December 1993 include an extension of the Government's existing support for training to cover junior officers.
Mr. Burns : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action is being taken in response to the recommendation by the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee that the Central Statistical Office conducts a special review of the Intrastat system covering visible trade with other EC countries.
Column 122In view of the importance of statistics on international trade, Customs and Excise and the Central Statistical Office have been monitoring carefully the operation of the Intrastat system since its introduction in January 1993. In the light of the results of this monitoring considerable efforts have been made, successfully, to improve the accuracy and speed of response.
Following a slow start in the early part of 1993 response rates for the first nine months, to September 1993, are now in excess of 95 per cent. by value for both arrivals and dispatches. There has also been a substantial improvement in the speed on response with 90 per cent. of the trade by value being submitted within seven weeks of the due date, an improvement of 20 weeks over the early months. Customs are working strenuously to obtain further improvements.
Discussions have also been held with Customs authorities and statistical offices in other EC countries to identify and investigate changes in the pattern of recording following the introduction of Intrastat.
Further investigations are being carried out to validate the register of traders which is being used, to make checks against data reported on the VAT forms and elsewhere, and to examine the recording of trade where the movement of goods involves intermediaries or transit through other member states.
The procedures used for deflation to constant prices and conversion to the balance of payments basis are also being checked.
A report on these investigations will be published as soon as they are complete. The statistics which have been released remain the best available estimates. If however the investigations point to revisions, these will be made at the earliest opportunity.
Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith) of 14 January, Official Report, column 305, if he will set out the reasons why a ban on arms sales to Indonesia would not be appropriate.
Mr. Goodlad : Our policy on arms sales to Indonesia is based on the principle that all sovereign states enjoy the right, under article 51 of the United Nations charter, to defend themselves. This is a right we claim for ourselves and it would be inconsistent and discriminatory to deny it to others.
The export of defence equipment is controlled through our domestic export licence system.
A ban on arms sales to Indonesia would not in our view bring about a change in the circumstances of East Timor.
Dr. Wright : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which appointments since 1979 to public bodies or posts for which he is responsible have included candidates nominated by the Chief Whip's Office ; if any nominees by this source have been appointed ; and if he will give details.
Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what action Her Majesty's Government are taking to raise the persecution of the Iranian Church with the Iranian Government ; what information he has on the closing of churches and intimidation of Christians ; and if he will urge the Iranian Government to allow people from the United Nations Human Rights Commission into Iran to investigate the situation of the Church ;
(2) what action Her Majesty's Government will be taking to urge the Government of Iran to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the murder of Bishop Haik Hovsepian Mehr and to allow observers from the United Nations Human Rights Commission to take part in such investigations.
The European Union, with our full support, expressed concern to the Iranian authorities at the reported death sentence on Reverend Mehdi Dibaj. We understand that Reverend Dibaj was subsequently released pending further investigation by the court.
We and our European partners have also told the Iranian authorities that we were disturbed at the circumstances surrounding Rev. Hovsepian's recent death. The Iranians have said that Rev. Hovsepian's death is still being investigated.
We have received several reports about the position of Christians in Iran from Christian groups in the United Kingdom and the United Nations special representative. Our embassy in Tehran also monitors the situation. We are concerned at recent reports of persecution, especially of members of "The Assemblies of God".
We have co-sponsored resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights reflecting the reports of the United Nations special representative on human rights in Iran, Mr. Galindo- Pohl. We have urged the Iranian authorities to co-operate with him fully.
Mrs. Golding : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action his Department is taking to persuade the Governments of (a) Sri Lanka, (b) Thailand and (c) the Philippines to charge and prosecute British paedophiles who commit offences in those countries.
Mr. Goodlad : We abhor the abuse of children wherever it occurs and take every suitable opportunity to encourage the authorities in Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Philippines in their efforts to address this problem.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on the European Council code of conduct on public access to Council and Commission documents.
Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps are being taken by the Governor of Hong Kong to ensure that legislation prohibiting trade in rhinoceros horn is effectively enforced, and to ensure that any existing stockpiles of horn are immediately destroyed.
Existing endangered species legislation in Hong Kong is as tight as it can be as regards rhino horn.
The Hong Kong Government have set up an endangered species liaison group to co-ordinate local enforcement operations and to liaise with international agencies concerned with environmental issues, including non-governmental organisations.
At the end of 1993, in response to a report by the Environmental Investigation Agency--EIA--the Agriculture and Fisheries Department of the Hong Kong Government carried out a series of searches of 58 shops. Suspected rhino hide was seized from two shops, together with a number of packets of medicine claiming to contain rhino ingredients. This enforcement activity will continue.
Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the protocol agreed in March 1988 between the then Secretary of State for Defence and the Government of Malaysia contained figures relating amounts or percentages of civil aid to amounts of arms purchases.
Mr. Goodlad : Yes. But as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs made clear in his reply to the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) on 25 January, at column 145-46, the Secretary of State for Defence, after consultation with ministerial colleagues in London, wrote to the Malaysian Minister of Finance in June 1988 to say that aid could not be linked to defence sales. As a result, the issue was not taken up in the memorandum of understanding on defence procurement signed in September that year.
Over the past five years, debts due from Jordan have been rescheduled twice. A total of £190 million has been rescheduled including debt owing to both ECGD and ODA. The reschedulings were concluded as part of general agreements between Jordan and its Paris club creditors. Some of these debts were rescheduled over an extended period under Paris club terms available for lower-middle
Column 125income countries. Interest is charged at market rates on ECGD-insured debts but no interest is charged on rescheduled ODA debts.
Baroness Park of Monmouth CMG (Chairman)
Professor Richard Bradley
Dr. Derek Keene
Professor Geoffrey Martin CBE
Dr. Richard Gem
Professor Martin Biddle
Professor Charles Thomas CBE
Professor Gwyn Meirion-Jones
Dr. Malcolm Airs
Professor Michael Fulford
Dr. Marilyn Palmer
Mr. Jeremy Thomas (Chairman)
Ms Jan Ashdown
Dame Jocelyn Barrow OBE
Lord Brabourne CBE
Mr. Kenneth Branagh
Mr. Bob Cryer MP
Mr. Charles Denton
Sir Anthony Durant MP
Mr. Matthew Evans
Ms Brenda Ferris
Ms Premila Hoon
Ms Linda James
Mr. Steve Morrison
Ms Lynda Myles
Mr. Simon Relph
Mr. Allan Shiach
Mr. Anthony Sloman
Mr. Brian Tesler CBE
Mr. Alexander Walker
Ms Andrea Wonfor