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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 18 February 1994

ENVIRONMENT

Standard Spending Assessments

Mr. Robert Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much grant (a) Coventry city council, (b) Solihull metropolitan borough, (c) Walsall metropolitan borough, (d) Wandsworth borough council and (e) Westminster city council will receive this year as a result of homelessness being a factor in the standard spending assessment settlement.

Mr. Baldry : Indicators of homelessness contribute the following amounts to the specified authorities' standard spending assessments for 1994-95 :


Authority                     |£ million          

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

Coventry city council         |-1.483             

Solihull metropolitan borough |-0.155             

Walsall metropolitan borough  |-3.091             

London borough of Wandsworth  |-2.296             

Westminster city council      |-4.218             

Homelessness is one of a large number of indicators that are included within composite indices in the personal social services and the all other services service blocks.

Mr. Robert Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he received from (a) the Association of District Authorities, (b) the Association of County Councils and (c) the Association of Metropolitan Authorities about the use of nature of tenure as a proxy for disadvantaged for the purpose of standard spending assessment distribution.

Mr. Baldry : Since my right hon. Friend announced details of the provisional revenue support grant settlement for 1994-95, none of the local authority associations listed has made representations on the use of nature of housing tenure as an indicator in standard spending assessments.

Indicators of the nature of housing tenure are used in the personal social services and all other services standard spending assessments. We discussed these assessments with representatives of each of the local authority associations as part of the review of standard spending assessments for 1994-95.

School Maintenance and Equipment, Yorkshire

Mr. Robert Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many administrative staff were employed for school maintenance and equipment at (a) county hall and (b) elsewhere in the education department of North Yorkshire county council in each year since 1989.

Mr. Baldry : The information is not available centrally.


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Energy Saving Grants

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what response he has made to recent comments by the Director General of Gas Supply on funding for energy saving grants ; and what assessment he has made of the effect of reduction or abolition of these grant schemes on the Government's target for carbon dioxide reductions.

Mr. Atkins : I have not responded to the Director General of Gas Supply's recent comments as the funding of energy saving expenditure through the "E" factor is a matter for her and British Gas plc. The Government are fully committed to the Energy Saving Trust, and the target for reducing carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2000.

Condensing Boiler Grant

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on the effect of uncertainty about the continuation of the Energy Saving Trust's condensing boiler grant scheme on new equipment and installation orders ; and if he will make a statement regarding future funding for the scheme.

Mr. Atkins : I have received a number of representations about the funding of the Energy Saving Trust Ltd's condensing boiler grant scheme. This is a matter for the trust, British Gas plc and the Director General of Gas Supply.

Sunderland (Public Works)

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) how many council homes in Sunderland his Department estimates to have had the kitchen gas combustion air provision blocked off by fitted kitchen furniture ;

(2) how many complaints were (a) lodged and (b) substantiated against Sunderland public works department in each year between 1983 and 1993.

Mr. Baldry : This information is not collected by the Department.

City Challenge

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures his Department has taken since 1992 to extend city challenge.

Mr. Baldry : A second round of city challenge was held in 1992-- there were 20 winners bringing the total number of partnerships to 31. From April 1994 city challenge will become part of the single regeneration budget. Bids for support from the single regeneration budget will be invited in April.

Derelict Land

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress his Department has made in setting up an urban regeneration agency in order to clear up and develop derelict land since 1992.

Mr. Baldry : Following enactment of the Leasehold Reform, Housing and Urban Development Act 1993, the Urban Regeneration Agency was launched, under the name


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of English Partnerships, on 10 November 1993. At that point, it took over responsibility for the city grant programme. On 1 April 1994, it will also incorprate the derelict land grant scheme and the existing programmes of English Estates. These initiatives will in due course be combined within English Partnerships' unified financial regime.

Natural Gas Fires

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria are used when determining the return air zones when drilling ventilation holes through the front doors of council homes in the north- east for the purpose of ensuring adequate combustion in natural gas fires.

Mr. Baldry : The Building Regulations 1991 require heat-producing appliances to be so installed that there is an adequate supply of air to them for combustion and for the efficient working of any flue-pipe or chimney. Where combustion appliances are not room-sealed, the provision of an appropriately sized ventilation opening in the room or space containing the combustion appliance will satisfy the requirement. Where the opening is to an adjoining room or space, this should have an opening of the same size direct to external air. Ventilation openings should not be in fire- resisting walls. A fuller explanation of what provisions are satisfactory is given in approved document J which accompanies the regulations.

Clothes Drying Compartments

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many council homes in the north-east his Department estimates to have clothes drying compartments lined with unsealed amosite.

Mr. Baldry : This information is not available centrally and can be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Urban Regeneration

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures his Department has taken since 1992 to support urban development corporations in their task of urban regeneration.

Mr. Baldry : The Government have provided urban development corporations in England with a total of £895.8 million in grant in aid in the years 1992-93 and 1993-94.

UDCs have completed over 24,400 homes, more than 4,800,000 m of non-housing floorspace, created nearly 140,000 job opportunities, and have attracted £12.6 billion in private investment since inception to 31 March 1993. To the end of December 1993, UDCs had added to these achievements nearly 2,200 homes, over 315,000 m of non-housing floorspace, almost 14,000 jobs, and a further £368 million of private investment .

Two new UDCs have been established in partnership with the local authorities : at Birmingham Heartlands, to take over redundant inner-city sites in central Birmingham, including part of the former Leyland DAF site ; and at Plymouth, where the principal challenge is the productive use of the Royal William yard.

UDCs have been prominent in promoting the private finance initiative : for example, they have invited joint


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ventures for four further schemes in addition to those at Birmingham and Plymouth. London Docklands is promoting the establishment of a combined heat and power development and a housing- led mixed development for the royal docks ; Bristol UDC is seeking developers for Quay Point city centre site adjacent to Temple Meads station ; and Central Manchester UDC is seeking partners for commercial or residential development of a grade 2 listed Victorian warehouse.

The Department has clarified administrative arrangements with the UDCs by issuing a "Management Statment" setting out the respective responsibilities of the UDC board, Ministers, the accounting officers and the Department.

Figures included for 1993-94 are provisional.

Council Tax

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many households his Department estimate to be made up solely of a mixture of full-time students and people in receipt of income support or unemployment benefit ; and how much his Department estimates such households contributed to local government through the payment of council tax.

Mr. Baldry : My Department does not collect statistics on household composition and has made no such estimates.

Inner-city Programmes

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what measures his Department has taken since 1992 to bring together resources for targeted inner-city programmes into a single budget.

Mr. Baldry : My right hon. Friend announced to the House on 4 November 1993, Official Report, columns 515-25, details of the single regeneration budget which will bring together 20 inner-city and other programmes for regeneration and development from April 1994. On 10 November 1993 he launched English Partnerships, a new public body under the chairmanship of Lord Walker, which will unify three initiatives which benefit urban and other areas : English Estates, city grant and derelict land grant. The resources for English Partnerships will form part of the single regeneration budget. The budget will be worth some £1.4 billion in 1994-95. Details of the single regeneration budget and English Partnerships have been placed in the Library of the House.

Local Authority Housing (Wandsworth)

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish details of how local authority housing in Wandsworth was disposed of other than through the right-to-buy in the last 10 years.

Sir George Young [holding answer 16 February 1994] : Wandsworth council has reported to us the following disposals of council dwellings since 1983-84 :


           |Built for |Improved  |To sitting|Other     |Total                

           |sale      |for sale  |tenants                                    

                                 |(RTB)                                      

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

1983-84    |0         |0         |812       |521       |1,333                

1984-85    |128       |16        |1,065     |591       |1,800                

1985-86    |12        |0         |649       |1,141     |1,802                

1986-87    |7         |0         |724       |703       |1,434                

1987-88    |2         |0         |1,334     |635       |1,971                

1988-89    |0         |0         |1,788     |529       |2,317                

1989-90    |9         |0         |1,625     |628       |2,262                

1990-91    |0         |3         |627       |420       |1,050                

1991-92    |0         |0         |517       |323       |840                  

1992-93    |0         |0         |338       |334       |672                  

Local authority statistical returns on the sale of their housing do not enable us to provide an accurate breakdown of what is included in the "Other" category of disposals. More detailed information on such sales would have to be obtained from the local authority itself.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Legal Aid

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to extend the scope of legal aid to allow council tenants to gain an independent survey of the safety of their homes when the tenants find themselves in dispute with the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr. John M. Taylor : I will write to the hon. Gentleman about this matter shortly.

Arachnoiditis

Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what assessment he has made of the effect of changes in legal aid provision on the ability of arachnoiditis sufferers with a history of treatment with Myodil to pursue claims for compensation against the manufacturers of the dye ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John M. Taylor : No separate assessment has been made of the effect of the legal aid eligibility changes on litigants pursuing claims against the manufacturers of Myodil. The financial eligibility of any applicant for legal aid depends on his or her income and the expenses which may be allowed against it. The financial limits for pesonal injury actions remain higher than those for other categories of civil proceedings.

Solicitors

Mr. French : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to introduce statutory regulation for solicitors.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Act 1974, the Administration of Justice Act 1985, and the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990. The Government have no plans to extend any of this legislation at the present time.

Mr. French : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many complaints his Department has received concerning the solicitors complaints bureau ; and if he will make a statement about its future.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The figures are not centrally available, and could be acquired only at a disproportionate


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cost. The Law Society has the statutory powers to deal with complaints about solicitors, and in 1986 it delegated its powers in this respect to the solicitors complaints bureau. The future of the bureau is therefore for the Law Society to consider.

Law Society

Mr. French : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many complaints he received each year about the Law Society's regulatory function.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The figures are not centrally available, and could be acquired only at a disproportionate cost.

Mr. French : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is his assessment of the effectiveness of the self- regulatory system for solicitors.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Self-regulation is the most effective way of maintaining standards in professional life in general. It is particularly important that citizens with disputes, against other citizens, institutions or the state, have access to a completely independent legal profession. The Government are thus committed to the principle that in the first instance the maintenance of professional standards among solicitors should be the responsibility of the Law Society. To reinforce public confidence, the Government have also established the Office of the Legal Services Ombudsman, to provide independent scrutiny of the way the Law Society carries out its duties, and who may advise on the effectiveness of its complaints-handling procedures. His 1993 annual report contains a summary of recommendations.

Debt Repayments

Mr. Nicholas Brown : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many applications a debtor may make to pay a debt by instalments following a county court judgment ordinary payment.

Mr. John M. Taylor : A debtor may make as many applications for an instalment order as he wishes unless he is debarred--disqualified--from doing so by the court.

Mr. Nicholas Brown : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what proposals he has to amend the law relating to county court judgments, small claims and debt and the number of applications a debtor may make to pay debts by instalment.

Mr. John M. Taylor : There are currently no proposals to change the law in respect of any of the areas mentioned. A package of major changes to county court procedures was introduced in July 1991 and amendments to the small claims procedure came into effect in October 1992. Following evaluation of the 1991 changes and subject to public consultation, some minor amendments to debt recovery procedures are planned for later this year.


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TRANSPORT

Channel Tunnel

Mr. Dunn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what measures are proposed to protect people who live alongside existing railway lines to the channel tunnel from the effects of additional noise arising from international freight trains.

Mr. Freeman : As well as taking steps to reduce the effects of the international freight trains by the introduction of new locomotives and rolling stock, and continuously welded rail, British Rail has agreed jointly funded schemes with Kent and Surrey county councils and the London borough of Bromley for the provision of acoustic barriers alongside existing tracks at locations expected to be most affected at night. Kent county council has decided also to offer double glazing for certain isolated properties which cannot be protected by noise barriers.

Supplementary credit approvals have previously been allocated to Surrey and Kent. I have now agreed to provide further credit approvals of £375,000 to Kent, to cover the balance of their costs, and £336,000 to the London borough of Bromley.

I and my colleagues will be prepared to consider TPP applications for resources in 1995-96 from other authorities in London which agree appropriate schemes with BR. Such applications will be considered on their merits and in the light of the resources available.

Vehicle Registration Offices

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list by date and place all internal management meetings held by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to discuss the vehicle registration office review.

Mr. Key : There have been two meetings of the steering group set up to oversee the review and a third has been scheduled. Details as follows :

13 December at DVLA's London enforcement office

28 January at DVLA's Birmingham vehicle registration office 21 February at 123 Buckingham Palace road, London

In addition, a workshop meeting of DVLA management representatives was held on 24 January at DVLA's Bristol vehicle registration office.

Public Bodies

Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport who are the members currently appointed to the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment.

Mr. Key : The current membership of the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment is as follows :

Chairman :

Mr. D. Wood QC

principal of St. Hugh's college, Oxford

Vice Chairman :

Mr. R. H. Stewart

independent planning consultant

Members :

Dr. P. B. Goodwin

director of the transport studies unit, university of Oxford


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Professor P. J. Hills

professor of transport engineering, university of Newcastle upon Tyne

Mr. P. J. Mackie

senior lecturer in economics, university of Leeds

Miss A. M. Lees

environmental adviser, Formerly controllor of

transportation and development for the Greater London council Dr. D. Coombe

Director, the MVA Consultancy

Mr. D. A. Hutchinson

county surveyor, Dorset county council, Dorchester

Mr. M. E. G. Taylor

independent road haulage consultant

Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the purpose of the visit of the chief executive of the DVLA to the Department of Transport headquarters at Marsham street on 12 January.

Mr. Key : On 12 January, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport and I met departmental officials, including the chief executive, to discuss enforcement issues.

WALES

European Centre, Brussels

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is his policy on the future of the Wales European centre at Brussels ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Redwood : The Wales European centre is supported by a consortium of public bodies in Wales. I have no present plans to change it.

Speech Therapy

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many students are currently training in Wales for speech therapy qualifications ; and how many of these are Welsh speaking.

Sir Wyn Roberts : There were 76 students in further and higher education establishments in Wales including the University of Wales, whose subject of study was speech therapy, for the academic year 1992-93.

The number of these students who speak Welsh is not recorded. Source : "Further Education Student Record"--FESR--and "University Statistical Record"--USR.

Labour Statistics

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many people were employed in Wales in (a) 1979 and (b) at the latest available date in (i) the NHS,(ii) the civil service, (iii) HM forces, (iv) local government and (v) the police services.

Mr. Redwood : The information requested is shown in the table.


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