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Mr. Donohoe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on criteria used by the Post Office for considering post offices for agency status and the extent to which the criteria vary for rural post offices.

Mr. McLoughlin : I understand from the Post Office that directly managed post offices, wherever located, are considered for conversion to agencies on the following criteria :

the service benefit of changing--longer opening hours, better location ;

financial benefits ;

ability to redeploy/reduce staff numbers voluntarily ;

availability of a suitable partner to become agent.

Mr. Donohoe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what safeguards are used by the Post Office to ensure the rights of existing staff in post offices which are transferred to agency status.

Mr. McLoughlin : I understand from the Post Office that all conversions have been achieved without compulsory redundancy. When a conversion occurs, staff are offered alternative jobs within the organisation or the opportunity to leave the business on voluntary redundancy terms.

Mr. Donohoe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what consultation procedures are adopted by the Post Office when considering franchising a post office.

Mr. McLoughlin : I understand from the Post Office that consultation is carried out in accordance with the code of practice agreed between Post Office Counters Ltd. and the Post Office Users National Council, and involves the local Member of Parliament, local government authorities and the appropriate post office advisory committee or chamber of commerce.

Tourism

Mr. Wigley : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will take steps to ensure that the implementation of the EU directive on forward selling will not prevent hoteliers and others involved in the tourism industry in the counties of Britain from requiring a deposit when accepting bookings ; and if he will make a statement on the Government's position on this issue.

Mr. McLoughlin : Negotiations on the proposed directive on distance selling are continuing in Brussels. The Government have made it clear that they will not support this directive while it contains provisions which would prevent payment in advance for goods or services.

Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill

Mr. Spearing : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he has taken to inform those of Her Majesty's civil servants currently occupied in the Departments, agencies or other bodies named in any part of his explanatory memorandum to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill of the liability of those organisations for partial or complete contractorisation of their services under the powers he seeks in clauses 57 to 64 of that Bill.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The explanatory guide to the Bill contains examples of areas where statutory obstacles to market testing or contracting out exist which could in


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principle be addressed using provisions in part II of the Bill. The list is illustrative and does not represent firm plans to market test or contract out particular functions except as indicated. In many cases further review would be required, taking into account all relevant considerations.

It is the responsibility of individual Ministers to manage the market- testing programmes in their Departments, including anouncements relating to any intention to use the provisions in the contracting-out part of the Bill if enacted.

In respect of my Department the heads of the management units concerned informed their staff about the implications for them of the Bill, and the explanatory material, when the Bill was introduced to Parliament.

Product Development Awards

Sir Thomas Arnold : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what British standards awards have been established for product development ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : The British Standards Institution has published a guide--BS 7000 part 1--to managing product design which offers guidance on product development. However, there are no specific British standards setting out detailed specifications against which companies' product development expertise can be measured or against which certificates may be awarded.

Radioactive Waste

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what information he has received on the project co-sponsored by the European Commission's research directorate-general to gain support in Cumbria for the planned radioactive waste repository near Sellafield.

Mr. Eggar : I understand that the project concerned relates to the provision of factual information in various forms to the public regarding the possible development of a radioactive waste repository near Sellafield and to assessments of the impact of those information flows on public opinion.

Bestwood Pension Fund

Mr. Frank Field : To ask the President of the Board of Trade when his Department's investigation into the theft of money from the Bestwood pension fund was completed ; when it was made available to the Department of Social Security ; and what were the reasons for the interval.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The inspectors appointed under sections 432 and 442 of the Companies Act 1985 to investigate and report on the affairs and membership of the Bestwood plc and on the affairs of Atlanta Fund Managers Ltd. submitted their report on 26 March 1991. The inspectors' report was disclosed to the DSS shortly before the report was published earlier this year.

At the time the report was submitted, the Serious Fraud Office has already commenced a criminal investigation into certain matters revealed by the report. Publication of the report did not take place until after the conclusion of the criminal proceedings.


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Markets

Mr. Milburn : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many representations he has received (a) in favour and (b) opposed to deregulating town centre markets.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : My Department has received 40 representations from individuals, local authorities, trade associations and businesses on the Government's proposals to deregulate market charter rights, of which eight express support. However, many of those opposed to the proposal do so under the misapprehension that charter rights provisions may be used to halt generally by way of permanent injunction other markets which may cause local nuisance. This is, only so in limited circumstances--where the rival market is held on the same day as the charter market or where, if not held on the same day, it can be demonstrated that direct financial loss has occurred thereby.

Deregulation

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will identify for each of the proposals put forward to Government by the business deregulation task forces, and represented by numbers 96, 99, 193, 196, 198, 199, 200, 201, 202, 203, 204, 206, 208, 209, 210, 211, 212, 229, 264, 273, 283, 287, 292, 309, 314 in the publication "Deregulation Task Forces Proposals for Reform" (a) which the Government have already taken action on, (b) which are under further consideration and (c) which are not being considered further.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : Government policy on the issues raised by business deregulation task force proposals 96 and 99 is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the remainder are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what response he has made to the letter sent to him on 10 December by the Campaign for Freedom of Information on the disclosure of information on THORP under the Environmental Information Regulations 1992.

Mr. Eggar : A reply was sent on 10 February 1994.

Chlorofluorocarbons

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer) of 4 February, Official Report, column 946, what is the reason for details of CFC exports from the United Kingdom being confidential only since 1990.

Mr. McLoughlin : Trade in any particular commodity may be dominated by one or two manufacturers or traders. In such a case, the companies concerned may request Her Majesty's Customs and Excise to suppress publication of detailed figures on the grounds of commercial sensitivity. In the case of CFC exports, suppression has been invoked since 1991.


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Contracting Out (Pension Rights)

Mr. Henderson : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what guidance he has issued about the effect of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 and the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 on the transfer of pension rights in services in his Department which are subject to contracting out.

Mr. Eggar : I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 18 February, Official Report, column 1010.

Insolvency

Mr. Wigley : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make it his policy to use bankruptcy and winding-up orders only as a last resort, and to negotiate payment by instalment of those affected, wherever possible.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : Where my Department is a creditor I would expect every effort to be made to effect recovery, including consideration of accepting payment by instalments, prior to commencing insolvency proceedings. I am sure that most creditors adopt this same, practical approach.

Mr. Wigley : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the number of bankruptcies and company winding-up orders for each year since 1987 ; and what percentage of these were carried out at the instigation of petitions by (a) the Inland Revenue, (b) Customs and Excise and (c) other Government Departments or official body.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The number of bankruptcies and company winding- up orders for each year since 1987 is set out in table 1. The number of bankruptcy or company winding-up orders obtained by various Government Departments since 1987 is set out in tables 2 to 5 :


Table 1                                                         

Number of Bankruptcies and Company Winding-Up Orders 1987-93    

England and Wales                                               

                |<1>Bankruptcies|Company                        

                                |Winding-up                     

                                |Orders                         

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

1987            |6,994          |4,116                          

1988            |7,717          |3,667                          

1989            |8,138          |4,020                          

1990            |12,058         |5,977                          

1991            |22,632         |8,368                          

1992            |32,106         |9,734                          

1993            |30,958         |8,361                          

Source: Department of Trade and Industry.                       

<1>Bankruptcies covers bankruptcy orders and administration     

orders on                                                       

bankrupt estates.                                               


Table 3                                                           

Company Winding-Up Orders following Petitions brought by          

Government Departments 1987-93 (where statistics recorded by      

calendar years)                                                   

England and Wales                                                 

           |Inland    |Percentage|Department|Percentage           

           |Revenue   |of total  |of Social |of total             

                                 |Security                        

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

1987       |254       |6.17      |n/a       |n/a                  

1988       |237       |6.46      |n/a       |n/a                  

1989       |314       |7.81      |n/a       |n/a                  

1990       |463       |7.75      |221       |3.70                 

1991       |786       |9.39      |162       |1.94                 

1992       |986       |10.13     |190       |1.95                 

1993       |812       |9.71      |289       |3.46                 

n/a = not available                                               

Source: Board of Inland Revenue; Department of Social Security.   


Table 4                                                               

Bankruptcy Orders following Petitions brought by Government           

Departments 1987-93 (where statistics recorded by fiscal years)       

England and Wales                                                     

              |Bankruptcy   |Customs and  |Percentage of              

              |Orders       |Excise       |total                      

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

1987-88       |7,365        |778          |10.56                      

1988-89       |7,597        |1,010        |13.29                      

1989-90       |8,680        |1,047        |12.06                      

1990-91       |14,379       |1,394        |9.69                       

1991-92       |26,186       |3,025        |11.55                      

1992-93       |33,152       |3,726        |11.24                      

Source: Department of Trade and Industry; Board of Customs and        

Excise.                                                               


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Table 5                                                                                           

Company winding-up orders following petitions brought by Government Departments 1987-93 (where    

statistics recorded by fiscal years)                                                              

England and Wales                                                                                 

              |Company      |Customs      |Percentage   |Department of|Percentage                 

              |winding-up   |and Excise   |of total     |Trade and    |of total                   

              |orders                                   |Industry                                 

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

1987-88       |3,952        |690          |17.46        |18           |0.56                       

1988-89       |3,554        |552          |15.53        |14           |0.39                       

1989-90       |4,289        |1,172        |27.33        |19           |0.42                       

1990-91       |6,786        |1,649        |24.30        |30           |0.40                       

1991-92       |8,911        |2,098        |23.54        |16           |0.19                       

1992-93       |9,542        |3,434        |35.99        |12           |0.14                       

Source: Board of Customs and Excise; Department of Trade and Industry.                            

Iron and Steel Exports

Mr. Jenkin : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will produce a table to show the value of United Kingdom iron and steel exports and the proportion thereof exported to the rest of the EC single market for each of the last 10 calendar years.

Mr. Needham : The information is provided in the table.


United Kingdom exports of iron and steel                                        

Year            |EC total       |World total    |Proportion                     

                |(£ millions)   |(£ millions)   |exported to the                

                                                |EC percentage                  

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

1983            |531.9          |1,330.7        |40.0                           

1984            |636.8          |1,528.9        |41.7                           

1985            |824.2          |1,856.2        |44.4                           

1986            |917.9          |1,866.5        |49.2                           

1987            |994.3          |2,153.4        |46.2                           

1988            |1,230.3        |2,392.0        |51.4                           

1989            |1,679.3        |2,893.8        |58.0                           

1990            |1,805.1        |3,036.0        |59.5                           

1991            |1,771.5        |3,011.3        |58.8                           

1992            |1,857.4        |3,004.4        |61.8                           

Source: Business Monitor MA20, overseas trade statistics of the United Kingdom. 

Accounts Services Agency

Mr. Flynn : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish the report on the Accounts Services Agency by the consultants PA Consultancy Group.

Mr. Eggar : The report by the PA Consulting Group "Options for the Accounts Services Agency" contains a considerable amount of commercially sensitive information whose publication could affect the tendering process. It has been decided, therefore, not to publish the report.

Regional Funding

Mr. Bates : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will place in the Library a copy of the list of United Kingdom objective 5(b) areas recently decided by the European Commission.

Mr. Sainsbury : Yes. A copy of the Commission's list has been placed in the Library today.

Batteries Directives

Mr. Bates : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if the Government will introduce regulations to implement the batteries directives.

Mr. McLoughlin : The Batteries and Accumulators (Containing Dangerous Substances) Regulations 1994--SI 1994/232--have been made and were laid in the House on 7 February 1994. They are now available from HMSO.


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These regulations relate to primary and secondary batteries which contain specified amounts of lead, mercury or cadmium, and implement certain provisions in directives 91/157/EEC and 93/86/EEC. Regulations, which prohibit the marketing of certain alkaline manganese batteries with specified mercury levels, and which relate to the design of certain kinds of appliances so that the battery or accumulator can be readily removed, are due to come into force in Britain on 1 March 1994. The regulation appertaining to the marking of the relevant batteries or accumulators is due to come into force on 1 August 1994. A consultation paper on these regulations was issued in October 1993--DTI press notice P/93/617.

British Coal Pensions

Mr. Duncan Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will announce the Government's proposals for British Coal pensions after privatisation.

Mr. Eggar [pursuant to his reply, 2 December 1993, c. 739-41] : On arrangements for British Coal pensions after privatisation, I am today placing copies of drafts of the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme (Modification) Regulations, British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme (Modification) Regulations, Industry-Wide Mineworkers' Pension Scheme Regulations, Industry-Wide Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme Regulations and Coal Industry (Protected Persons) Regulations in the Libraries of both Houses, together with copies of drafts of the modified MPS and BCSSS schemes, rules and guarantee deeds and drafts of industry-wide MPS and SSS trust deeds and rules.

These are working drafts which are under discussion with the trustees of the MPS and BCSSS and with British Coal. Copies are being made available to the Standing Committee of the House that is considering the Coal Industry Bill.

Energy Efficiency Week

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what contribution his Department has made in terms of publications, lectures, video tapes or other promotional material in support of energy efficiency week from12 February.

Mr. Atkins : I have been asked to reply.

My Department has organised energy advice week under the banner of its "Helping the Earth Begins at Home" campaign. Local authorities, voluntary groups and the local energy advice centres--run by the Energy Saving Trust- -have been involved in a variety of promotional activities including exhibitions, radio and press advertisements and special features, leaflets and posters. My Department has produced the material in conjunction with the Central Office of Information.


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Patent Office

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 3 February, Official Report, column 815, what are the commercial reasons for his refusal to give particulars of the fees paid to the consultants carrying out the review of the Patent Office ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 21 February 1994] : I do not intend to disclose the fees paid to the consultants working on the Patent Office review because this might set a benchmark for other consultants bidding for similar work. This could affect future competitive tenders and so constrain my Department's ability to achieve best value for money for taxpayers.

Private Medical Services

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what role his Department has in the regulation of private medical services.

Mr. Neil Hamilton [holding answer 21 February 1994] : My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is responsible for those decisions which fall to him under the Fair Trading Act 1973 in respect of reports by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission. One recent report concerned private medical services.

Korea

Mr. Cryer : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the time scale envisaged for the implementation by Korea of legislation to outlaw pirating of trade marks by the Korean Government under the general agreement on tariffs and trade ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 17 February 1994] : Trade marks are protectable by registration in Korea, as in other countries. Registration gives the right to take action against pirate marks. In addition, Korea plans to strengthen the powers of the customs authorities to impound imports or exports of goods which infringe trade mark rights.

As a developing country, Korea will have five years from entry into force of the agreement establishing the world trade organisation, which will replace the general agreement on tariffs and trade, to make such changes as might be necessary in its trade mark and other intellectual property laws and procedures to comply with the agreement. The WTO agreement is expected to enter into force at the earliest at the beginning of 1995.

NORTHERN IRELAND

Care in the Community

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many assessments were carried out in each unit of management within the health and social services boards in the last year for which figures are available ; and, of those assessed, how many were not referred for further care and how many were referred to institutional care in (a) the statutory sector, (b) the voluntary sector and (c) the private sector.

Mr. Ancram : Information in the form requested is not available. Figures for assessments of individual need for


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community care were not routinely collected prior to April 1993. In the six-month period from April to September 1993, 3,521 assessments were completed in Northern Ireland. Of those assessed, 2,258 had been provided with community care packages at 30 September 1993. One thousand and sixty-two--47 per cent.--of these were referred for domiciliary care, 483--21 per cent.--for residential care, and 713--32 per cent.--for nursing home care. One hundred and eighty-eight clients were placed in board-managed residential homes.

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many additional staff have been recruited by each of the health and social services boards ; and how many staff have been transferred to the community care role in the last year.

Mr. Ancram : There has been a reduction in the number of staff employed in each health and social services board over the period September 1992 to September 1993. The percentage reductions are as follows :


                                          |Per cent.          

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

Eastern health and social services board  |9.56               

Northern health and social services board |6.01               

Southern health and social services board |4.67               

Western health and social services board  |7.74               

Information on the transfer of staff to the community care role is not held centrally and could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Notes :

1. Directly managed units and HSS trusts within each board area are included in the calculations.

2. The Eastern ambulance trust, blood transfusion service, provider support unit and supplies distribution centre are excluded from Eastern board calculations.

3. Traditional nurse students who are employees of the boards are included. Project 2000 nurse students are not employees and are therefore excluded.

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are the reasons for deciding not to meet the Northern Ireland Care Homes Association and Crestacare to discuss the implications of the way community care has been introduced in the Province ; if he will now meet them ; and what role he sees for Northern Ireland Care Homes Association and Crestacare in the future management of community care.

Mr. Ancram : My noble Friend is to meet the chief executive of Crestacare in the near future. Although any future requests for meetings will be considered on their merit, it is not possible for my noble Friend to accede to every request for a meeting. Many issues are more usefully discussed with Department officials or health and social services boards.

My noble Friend believes that both Crestacare and the northern Northern Ireland Care Homes Association have an important contribution to make in providing residential and nursing home care to people for whom such care is purchased by boards. It is also expected that they will have an increasing role to play in the provision of domiciliary services.

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the extent to which current care provisions in the community


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need to be altered to comply with new EC requirements on lifting and handling ; and what funds he is making available for this.

Mr. Ancram : None. Health and social services boards are expected to comply with current EC regulations on lifting and handling within existing resources.

Hospital Beds

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what data he has on the current occupancy of hospital beds in all general medical units, geriatric units and psycho-geriatric units ; how many additional patients have been accommodated outside these wards ; how these have changed since 1 April 1993 ; and what are the budgetary implications of these figures.

Mr. Ancram : The occupancy rates for the hospital specialties requested for the two quarters from April 1993 to 30 September 1993, the latest dates for which information is available, is as follows :


Consultants main speAverage occupancy                                 

                   |Per cent        |Per cent.                        

                   |(1 April 1993-30|(1 July 1990-30                  

                   |June 1993)      |September 1993)                  

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

General medicine   |81.4            |78.3                             

Geriatric medicine |83.2            |83.5                             

Old age psychiatry |86.2            |82.7                             

<1> All patients under the care of the consultant are included in the 

above                                                                 

figures regardless of ward location.                                  

The other information requested is not available.

Down and Lisburn Unit of Management

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment he has made of the effect on parity of treatment of the secondment of officers from the Down and Lisburn unit of management to a new private company.

Mr. Ancram : No officers from the Down and Lisburn unit of management have been seconded to a new private company.

NHS Trusts

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has for training managers of trusts in entrepreneurial skills.

Mr. Ancram : Significant additional funds have been set aside specifically to support the development of managers in the purchasing and providing roles, including HSS trusts, to ensure an excellence of delivery of Northern Ireland health and personal social services. The assessment of individual training needs within HSS trusts is a matter for the trusts themselves, but where specific requirements are indentified, the HPSS management executive is empowered to co-ordinate or facilitate the provision of suitable packages. HPSS managers participate in a range of local and national training programmes.

Staff at director level in HSS trusts are eligible to participate in the top management development programme, an integral part of which is the formulation of a personal development plan. The plan aims to identify specific gaps in skills which can then be filled with appropriate training and development packages.


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Care of the Elderly

Rev. Ian Paisley : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what information he has available on the development of community care structures which would meet the needs of the elderly, with particular reference to day care, respite care, outreach and provision of meals.

Mr. Ancram : The Department regularly monitors health and social services boards' community care structures and services to ensure that they are capable of delivering the residential and non-residential care required by their resident populations. The social services inspectorate is also engaged in monitoring the development and quality of community care services.

Contracting Out (Pension Rights)

Mr. Henderson : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what guidance he has issued about the effect of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 and the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981 on the transfer of pension rights in services in his Department which are subject to contracting out.

Sir John Wheeler : I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 18 February at column 1010 , by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Public Bodies

Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who are the members currently appointed to the Northern Ireland Schools Examinations and Assessment Council.

Mr. Ancram : The information requested is as follows :

Professor D. Rea

Mrs. M. A. Adams

Mrs. M. Connolly

Professor P. Daws

Mr. R. Frost

Mrs. R. Greene

Dr. W. Hylands

Miss R. Jarman

Mr. J. G. Kelly

Mr. P. McConnellogue

Mrs. A. McFerran

Miss D. McNamee

Ms G. Pettigrew

Mr. J. Quinn

Miss R. Weir

Dr. B. Scott

Mr. R. Wilson


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