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The Prime Minister : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Wareing : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 21 February, Official Report, columns 33-34, if Russia would be consulted and its approval need to be given before NATO air-strikes in Bosnia- Herzegovina were carried out.
The Prime Minister : United Nations Secretary Council resolution 836 authorises the use of air power in support of UNPROFOR in and around the safe areas in Bosnia-Herzegovina. There is no need for further decisions by the Security Council.
We nevertheless regard consultation with Russia as of the utmost importance. We welcome the Russians' positive contribution to lifting the siege of Sarajevo, which demonstrated their commitment to bringing the conflict to a peaceful end.
Mr. Wareing : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 21 February, Official Report, columns 33-34, if he will give President Yeltsin's response to his description of the specific terms of the North Atlantic Council's response to the United Nations Secretary-General's request for NATO asssistance at Sarajevo ; and if he will make a statement.
Mrs. Clwyd : To ask the Prime Minister in what circumstances gifts made to the Prime Minister which are state property may be used ; and, in the case of gifts of jewellery, who is entitled to wear it.
Mr. Robin Cook : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has, in the review of fire legislation and organisation of fire safety enforcement announcement by his Department on 17 January, to consult the representative bodies and organisations of the United Kingdom fire service.
Mr. Heseltine : The review team have now begun their consultations on fire safety legislation and enforcement with all known interested parties. These include the Fire Brigades Union, the Chief and Assistant Fire Officers Association, the National Association of Fire Officers and the Fire Service college. They are being assisted by a small contact group which includes a fire brigade chief officer and are also proposing to consult a selection of individual senior fire service staff.
Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will seek to amend the legislation which currently allows ticket agencies to take and hold people's money without giving a guarantee that they can provide tickets ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. McLoughlin : When a ticket agency takes money from a consumer it enters into a contract with him and its obligations will depend on the terms of that contract. If the agency is in breach of its obligations under the contract, the consumer can take action to recover the money paid. I see no need for any change in the law in this area.
Mr. David Marshall : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will give a list of current research contracts concerning any aspects of transport and the environment, giving costs and the names of consultants employed.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade why the CENELEC report of 1991 "Live with the Differences on Plugs and Domestic Wiring" was referred back to CENELEC by the European Commission ; and what representations he made on the reference back.
Mr. Sainsbury : The question of subsidiarity does not arise because the Commission has made no formal proposals. The harmonisation in question may emerge from discussions in the relevant standards body, CENELEC. It is uncertain whether a standard which emerged from this process would be enforced by an EC Directive, but if a new standard were to be agreed, it would be for the United Kingdom to decide whether to accept it or seek a derogation.
Mr. Heseltine : I have received a second application for my consent to acquire a controlling interest in Newspaper Publishing, owner of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. The application is made by Independent Newspapers plc (INP). INP currently holds 24.99 per cent. of the shares in Newspaper Publishing. It has agreed, subject to securing my consent, to acquire a further 5 per cent. shareholding in Newspaper Publishing. My consent is required if INP wishes to acquire 25 per cent. or more of Newspaper Publishing. I announced to the House on 17 February that I have received an application to acquire a controlling interest in Newspaper Publishing from a consortium including Mirror Group Newspapers. As with that application, I am considering whether I should give my consent to this second application without an inquiry by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission under section 58(3)(a) of the Fair Trading Act 1973.
This section gives me discretion to consent to a newspaper transfer without an MMC inquiry where I am satisfied that the newspaper concerned is not economic as a going concern and as a separate newspaper, and that, if the paper is to continue, the case is one of urgency. I am inviting comments from interested parties by 7 March on whether I should give my consent without an MMC inquiry.
I have placed in the Libraries of both Houses a note describing the main features of the proposed transaction and explaining how the newspaper merger provisions of the Act apply to this case. I expect to make a further statement to the House announcing my decision following the period of public consultation.
Mr. Rendel : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what differentiation in terms of the loan guarantee scheme exists between applications from firms in inner-city areas and from firms in other areas.
Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 18 February 1994] : Some eligible small firms with trading addresses within inner city task force or successful city challenge areas receive more favourable terms under the small firms loan guarantee scheme. The comparable terms are : Inner city task force and successful city challenge areas 85 per cent. guarantee on all loans ;
Column 3200.5 per cent a year premium on the outstanding loan paid by borrower ;
No minimum loan size.
85 per cent. guarantee on loans to businesses that have been trading for at least two years immediately prior to the loan application ;
70 per cent. guarantee on other loans ;
1.5 per cent. a year premium on the outstanding loan paid by the borrower for variable interest rate loans ;
0.5 per cent. a year premium on the outstanding loan paid by the borrower for fixed interest rate loans ;
Minimum loan size of £5,000.
Mr. Martlew : To ask the President of the Board of Trade which of his task forces on deregulation considered policies on (a) the planning system, (b) hedgerow legislation and (c) forestry ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Neil Hamilton [holding answer 23 February 1994] : The construction, retail, tourism and transport deregulation task forces considered planning issues. The food, drink and agriculture task force considered hedgerow legislation and forestry issues. Their recommendations were published as part of the overall recommendations of the business task forces on 19 January.
Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what financial support the port of Liverpool and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company has received from (a) his Department and (b) Liverpool city council in each financial year from 1990-91 to 1993-94.
Mr. Baldry : The port of Liverpool and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company received no direct financial support from my Department in the financial years 1990-91 to 1993-94. I have no information about the level of financial assistance offered in this period by Liverpool city council.
Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what financial support the port of Liverpool and the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company are expected to receive from (a) his Department and (b) Liverpool city council in 1994-95 and in subsequent years.
Mr. Baldry : The port of Liverpool and the Mersey Docks and Harbour company received no direct financial support from my Department in 1994-95 and there are no plans for such assistance in subsequent years. I have no information about the level of financial assistance offered in this period by Liverpool city council.
Mr. Henderson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide a table which lists (a) the non-local authority employers who employ staff covered by the local government superannuation scheme, (b) the numbers of (i) current and (ii) retired employees covered by the local government superannuation scheme attached to each such non-local authority employer and (c) the total number of non-local authority (i) current and (ii) retired employees covered by the local government superannuation scheme.
Mr. Baldry : There are 1,345 non-local authority employers classified as scheduled or admitted bodies under the local government superannuation scheme in England. I will send the hon. Member a list of their names shortly. The Department keeps no record of the numbers of active and retired scheme members of each non-local authority employer. That information is available only from the local authorities which administer the LGSS. The total number of employees of non-local authority employers in the LGSS, as at 31 March 1993, was 58,634 ; retired employees, including dependants and former members of the LGSS entitled to deferred benefits, totalled 67,773.
Mr. Baldry : The number of employees in the local government superannuation scheme (LGSS) in England as at 31 March 1993, totalled 948,663. The number of retired employees, including dependants and former members of the LGSS entitled to deferred benefits, totalled 999,794.
Sir Thomas Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has about an application by Coal Contractors Ltd. to mine opencast coal in the area of the Hazel Grove/Paynton boundary, Middlewood way ; whether one or more neighbouring local authorities are expected to receive revenue should planning permission be granted ; what entity owns the mineral rights ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Curry : My Department has received a copy of the environmental statement submitted with the planning application. From this it would appear that the proposal would involve the extraction of 250,000 tonnes of coal from a site known as Towers Farm and New House Farm over a period of approximately two and a half years. We have no information relating to any local authority receiving revenue should planning permission be granted. The mineral rights are owned by British Coal.
(2) what is the total amount of European funding that is allocated for uptake in England.
Mr. Baldry : The United Kingdom is to receive 2,430 million ECU for 1994-1999 for Objective 1 regions, including 840 million ecu for Merseyside, 2,142 million ecu for 1994-96 for objective 2 regions and 817 million ecu for 1994-99 for objective 5 (b) regions, from the EC structural funds. The amounts under objective 2 and 5 (b) have not yet been broken down between Scotland, Wales
Column 322and the English regions. In addition, further structural funds are likely to be available under Community initiatives, details of which have yet to be announced by the European Commission.
Funds allocated to objective 2 and 5 (b) regions in England for the years 1989 to 1993 totalled approximately 2,300 million ecu.
Mr. Atkins : We expect to publish the third year report on "This Common Inheritance" after the Easter recess. As well as the 1990 White Paper, this year we have to take account of the strategy for substainable development published on 25 January.
Mr. Baldry : These are matters for the board of the Urban Regeneration Agency, now known as English Partnership. English Partnership's board will shortly be submitting to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State its first corporate plan, which will include its proposals on structure and future programme.
It is anticipated that there will be a strong regional structure with a small London office.
Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proportion of socially rented houses are provided by (a) council houses, (b) housing associations and (c) private rented houses ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 323rented privately is shown in table 2.23 of the September quarter edition of "Housing and Construction Statistics, Part 2". This table also shows the proportion of the total dwelling stock represented by each category.
A copy of this publication is in the Library.
Mr. Morley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what actions he will take or policy changes he will make to implement the requirements of European Union directive 92/43 EEC on the conservation of natural habitats of wild fauna and flora ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Atkins : The Government are committed to the achievement of the objectives of the habitats directive. The Government set out their policies and proposals for legislative changes in a public consultation paper issued on 4 October 1993. We are currently considering the responses to the consultation. The wider objectives for the conservation of our natural heritage were further addressed in the biodiversity action plan, published on 25 January 1994. Copies of both documents were placed in the House Library.
Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to secure greater transparency in the affairs of non-elected bodies whose membership in whole or in part is appointed by him or who exercise functions previously carried out by local authorities.
Mr. Baldry : Since 1991 we have published Management Statements for many of the non-departmental public bodies--NDPBs--sponsored by the Department, and are preparing statements for others. These describe the bodies' roles and responsibilities, their aims and objectives, financial management arrangements and lines of accountability to Parliament, Ministers and the public. Copies of most statements are available in the Library. In December 1993 we issued guidance to the chairmen and board members of all executive NDPBs on the exercise of their responsibilities. Housing action trusts and urban development corporations, which currently exercise some functions previously carried out by local authorities in their areas, are statutorily required to consult the relevant local authorities about their key pains and they make strenous efforts to involve the local community in their activities. The boards of housing action trusts include representatives of tenants. All executive NDPBs publish annual reports and accounts and follow the principles of the citizens charter in their dealings with the public. The provisions of the White Paper on Open Government, Cm. 2290, July 1993, also apply to public bodies.
Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment in respect of which non-elected bodies whose membership, in whole or in part, is appointed by him (a) meetings are open to the public, (b) there is scrutiny of financial procedures by independently appointed audit and (c) there are rules governing the declaration of interest.
Column 324consulted on their activities. All housing action trusts consult their tenants frequently and allow them to attend their board and committee meetings, and most urban development corporations hold open planning meetings. The accounts and financial procedures of all the executive non-departmental public bodies--NDPBs--sponsored by the Department are subject to annual scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Audit Commission or external auditors appointed by the Secretary of State. All executive NDPBs have rules requiring board members to declare any potential conflicts between their public duties and other interests.
Mr. Trend : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide financial assistance to the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead under the Bellwin scheme towards their costs of dealing with the flooding incident which occurred between 12 and 14 October 1993.
Mr. Baldry : Yes. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that financial relief under the Bellwin scheme would be justified given the exceptional nature of this incident. A scheme of assistance will therefore be established under section 155 of the Local Government and Housing Act 1989. Grant will be paid to cover 85 per cent. of eligible costs which are above a threshold, and which have been incurred by the royal borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in respect of this flood damage.
Mrs. Bridget Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proportion of homes in (a) London, (b) the south-east of England, (c) the south-west of England, (d) the midlands, (e) the north- east of England, (f) the north-west of England, (g) Scotland, (h) Wales and (i) Northern Ireland were affected by flooding for each year from 1985 to 1993.
The information requested is not held centrally.
Mr. Cohen : To ask the Attorney-General, pursuant to his answer of 22 February, column 96, if he will place in the Library the report of the Metropolitan police into and transcript of the evidence at the inquest on the death of Omasase Lumumba.
The Attorney-General : No. Police reports relating to the investigation of alleged criminal offences and submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service are confidential. The coroner will, on application, and on payment of the prescribed fee, supply a copy of the transcript of proceedings to anyone who in his opinion is a properly interested person.
Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee what steps are proposed to secure the return to the House of Commons of the portrait of Lady Astor ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Waldegrave : In March 1993 I established an independent committee to advise me on how the potential, skills and expertise of women could best be used for national advantage and for the benefit of science, engineering and technology. The committee published its report, "The Rising Tide", this morning and I am arranging for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. The Government welcome the report as a valuable contribution to the debate and will now consider its recommendations.
Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will detail the amount of finance available to Freight Company West to modernise satellite and other depots ; and if he will list their locations.
Mr. Freeman : Trainload Freight West will exist as a division of the British Railways Board from 1 April. The allocation of finance for specific purposes such as depot modernisation is a matter for the Board.
Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 2 February, Official Report, column 763, where the police scientific development branch is located ; what is its annual budget ; and if he will publish a breakdown of its staff by grade and area of expertise.
The police scientific development branch--PSDB--is located at two sites ; Sandridge, Hertfordshire and Horsham, Sussex. PSDB's budget estimate for financial year 1993-94 is £5,533,000.
A breakdown of PSDB's staff as at 18 February 1994, by civil service grade, is as follows :
|Number --------------------------------------------------------- Scientific and technical staff Grade 5 |1.0 Grade 6 |2.0 Grade 7 |11.0 Senior scientific officer |15.0 Higher scientific officer |12.0 Scientific officer |7.0 Assistant scientific officer |2.0 Senior professional and technology officer |2.0 Higher professional and technology officer |5.0 Professional and technology officer |1.0 Administrative staff Grade 7 |1.0 Higher executive officer |1.0 Executive officer |2.0 Administrative officer |6.0 Administrative assistant |2.0 Personal secretary |3.0 Typist |1.0 Industrial staff |6.5 |-- Total |80.5
In addition, six police officers are seconded from their local forces to provide liaison, support and operational advice. They are ranked as follows :
|Number ----------------------------------- Chief superintendent |1 Superintendent |3 Inspector |1 Sergeant |1
The areas of expertise of the 58 scientific and technical staff are as follows :
|Number ---------------------------------------- Building and construction |1 Chemistry |5 Computer science |6 Electronic engineering |10 Materials science |3 Mathematics |1 Mechanical engineering |9 Photographic science |1 Physics |21 Statistics |1
Mr. MacGregor : Further to the reply that I gave to my hon. Friend on 4 February 1994 at col. 1004, subject to parliamentary approval of a revised spring supplementary estimate the cash limit for class VI, vote 2 will now be increased by £30,778,000 from £202,236,000 to £233,014,000. There is no change to the previously announced reduction of £309,000 in the Department's running costs limit. The additional £20,000,000 now sought on vote 2 is to provide a payment to the United States Government if, as expected, we are shortly able to conclude an agreement to settle a dispute with them over airport user charges. The addition on this vote will be offset by a further reduction in the cash limit on class VI, vote 1 of £20,000,000 from £2,249,797,000 to £2,229,797,000. The extra provision now sought on vote 2 will not therefore add to the control total of public expenditure.