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Freephone and Freepost

Mr. Donohoe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the use of freephone and freepost facilities currently being operated by his Department ; how much these facilities are costing ; for what purposes these facilities are being used ; and how much his Department has spent on operating freephone and freepost facilities in each financial year since 1979.

Mr. Eggar : Comprehensive information about the Department's use of toll-free telephone lines is not collated centrally ; but the Department currently operates three national toll-free telephone inquiry services. Their purposes and costs are as follows : ENTERPRISE INITIATIVE HELPLINE (0800 500 200)

The line provides information and a single, comprehensive ordering point for literature about the Department's services for business. The service is bought in. Since its establishment costs have been as follows :

Year    |£              


1987-88 |67,000         

1988-89 |106,700        

1989-90 |163,600        

1990-91 |166,400        

1991-92 |120,500        

1992-93 |124,200        

1993-94 |118,000        


The line provides United Kingdom businesses with an information and signposting service on environmental issues.

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The service is operated by Warren Spring Laboratory. Its costs, excluding staff costs, since inception have been as follows :



1990-91 |2,076      

1991-92 |3,311      

1992-93 |4,184      

1993-94 |2,262      


The purpose of the line is to help raise awareness about innovation by providing a single telephone contact for those seeking information about the Department's innovation services, and to dispatch relevant literature and/or signpost inquirers to other sources of help. The line is operated in house. Its costs, excluding staff costs, since establishment have been as follows :



1991-92  |3,700            

1992-93  |<1>3,700         

1993-94  |5,400            

<1> (est)                  

Radio Spectrum

Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he will publish the report of the stage 3 radio spectrum review committee ; and if he will make a statement on the future management of the radio spectrum.

Mr. Heseltine : The stage 3 radio spectrum review committee, chaired by Sir Colin Fielding and examining use of the spectrum from 28 to 470 MHz, has completed its task and I am pleased to announce that, in agreement with my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Defence, Home Affairs, Scotland and National Heritage, I am today publishing the Committee's report. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

The review was initiated as part of a rolling programme recommended by the Merriman committee, to audit present use of the radio spectrum, to analyse emerging developments and to assess potential new demands. The report addresses both civil and military use of the spectrum, and builds on previous work by the stage 1 and stage 2 spectrum review committees which examined use of the spectrum from 470 to 3400 MHz and 3400 MHz to 30 GHz respectively.

I am sure that industry, commerce, service providers and users will all welcome this comprehensive analysis of the current uses and future demands of one of the most congested portions of the radio spectrum. Growth in mobile radio services and increasing competition in the provision of all manner of telecommunication services make this part of the spectrum of vital interest to the economic and social welfare of our nation.

Sir Colin Fielding and members of the committee are to be congratulated on completing a comprehensive analysis of a complex and heavily used part of the spectrum. I am especially pleased that they have included management aspects of the spectrum under review, and addressed the potential of new technology as a means of making more efficient use of this scarce and valuable resource.

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The Government will now give careful consideration to the Committee's recommendations and will respond to the report in due course. The recommendations on spectrum management and the role of the Radiocommunications Agency have implications that go beyond the part of the spectrum that was the subject of the review and the Government would now like to promote a wide-ranging discussion on these important matters. A consultative document on the future management of the radio spectrum will be published shortly. This will address the important issue of how to make more efficient use of the radio spectrum. This is the key to stimulating innovation and competition in the supply of radio services and boosting competitiveness through the increased use of radio technology. I will arrange for copies of the document to be placed in the Libraries of the House.

The decision to publish a consultative document means that it would not be appropriate for the Government to respond fully to the spectrum review recommendations until the end of the consultation period for the consultative document.

Letters (Delivery)

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many (a) first class and (b) second class letters were delivered by how many postmen or postwomen in the past year ; at what cost ; what were the comparable figures, five, 10 and 15 years ago ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 9 March 1994] : I understand from the Post Office that the information requested is as follows :

              |First        |Second       |Postmen/     |Total cost                 

              |class letters|class letters|women                                    

Year          |Million      |Million      |Thousands    |£million                   


<1>1993-94    |6,454        |9,456        |125.5        |3,968                      

1988-89       |6,067        |7,137        |132.9        |2,539                      

1983-84       |4,398        |5,790        |129.0        |2,661                      

1978-79       |3,620        |5,718        |125.5        |1,410                      

<1>Budget figures for 1993-94.                                                      

Prior to 1986-87 letters and parcels prepared combined accounts and it is therefore difficult to draw comparisons between the present business performance and that of 10 and 15 years ago.

The staff numbers given are for those actually in post at the financial year-end and are not the average number in post during the year. Part- timers have been included on the basis of a 0.5 full-time equivalent.

Direct comparisons of costs over the period could be misleading as there have been changes in accounting procedures and in the classification of costs during the period.

Cable Networks

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to ensure that extensions to cable networks in the United Kingdom are carried out in rural areas as well as business and urban areas.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 8 March 1994] : I am keen to see the benefits of cable TV and telephony extended to as many communities as possible. Some existing cable TV franchises, under which the franchisee

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must make services available to every home, already cover rural as well as urban areas. The new franchising arrangements in the Broadcasting Act 1990 were specifically designed to encourage the extension of cable TV to semi-rural and rural areas, by giving franchisees the option of using radio as well as cable to deliver services, and allowing applicants to tailor build programmes to local conditions. The Independent Television Commission advertises new franchises where a credible interest in providing services has been received.

Fibre Optic Cable System

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he expects that a fibre optic cable system will cover all areas of the United Kingdom.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 8 March 1994] : The Government's policy of promoting competition in telecommunications infrastructure is encouraging a large number of companies to install modern telecoms networks. The inter-exchange elements of the networks installed by BT, Mercury and Energis are already almost exclusively optical fibre. So are an increasing number of the links to individual businesses. Cable TV companies are installing optical fibre well down the network towards individual homes. I expect to see these trends accelerate. However, it is not for the Government to require the use of any particular technology. It is for telecoms operators to decide whether and when it is economic to use optical fibre or other technologies such as coaxial copper cable, copper wire, radio or satellite.


Ballots (Industrial Action)

Mr. Tony Lloyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the judgment between Blackpool and Fylde college and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education and its implications for trade union members and trade unions in conducting ballots for industrial action.

Miss Widdecombe : It is for the courts to decide, on the facts of each individual case, whether or not a union has complied with the requirements of the law on the organisation of industrial action.

Sheltered Employment

Mr. Burns : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what changes will be made to the funding arrangements for sheltered employment following the responses to the Employment Service's sheltered employment funding system consultative document ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Hunt : My hon. Friend the Minister of State announced to the House, on 28 June 1993, Official Report, columns 345-46, a consultation process on the funding of sheltered employment provided through local authorities and voluntary bodies. The arrangements for Remploy agreed in 1992 are unaffected. This consultation is now complete and we have received many helpful comments, which we have considered carefully.

The main changes that will now be introduced are :

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To set up formal contracts with targets, between the Employment Service and providers, to make explicit what is expected and to improve the effectiveness of our expenditure ;

Contracts will be for three years in principle, with annual renegotiation of details, and with arrangements for termination at six months' notice where specific reasons are given ;

Providers will be free to switch provision between factory places and placements, and between wage subsidies and other forms of support, provided minimum contract terms are met and cash limits are observed ;

Determining maximum grant by a formula derived from what it would cost to support someone with a specified productivity level at specified earnings in an employer placement ;

Increasing maximum grants per head to local authorities to the level offered to voluntary bodies ; this will involve a small transfer of resources from the revenue support grant ;

All clients to have development plans regularly reviewed with providers ;

Subsuming the sheltered workshop training budget, currently focused on a few people, into the general grant for the programme ; Host firms are to be allowed, and encouraged, to be legal employers of a client where this is in the client's interests ;

Encouraging better assessment, including more thorough exploration of alternatives, for those being considered for sheltered employment and, where appropriate, more progression to open employment ; Contracts will specify a minimum number of places overall for a block grant--based on a maximum revenue grant per head ; providers will be encouraged to offer more places and better quality through greater efficiency.

These changes will ensure that as many severely disabled people as possible are supported from the resources available, and that provision is better targeted.

As we discussed in our consultative document "Employment and Training for People with Disabilities", there is need to consider whether the balance of places in sheltered workshops should be moved more towards sheltered placements. Further details were promised once decisions were made on funding.

The balance between different forms of provision must respond to the assessed needs and the wishes of disabled people, and be decided in discussion between the ES and our local authority and voluntary body partners. Those needs and wishes can best be established locally. We intend, therefore, to proceed, not by setting national targets for different kinds of provision, but through the ES and providers discussing the right balance for particular localities when contracts are reviewed annually.

In deciding the balance between workshop places and employer placements, we propose that regard should be paid to the following principles :

The need to provide as many work opportunities, over as wide a range of occupations as possible and to the full range of eligible disabled people ;

The need to meet the wishes of very many severely disabled people to work alongside non-disabled people in integrated conditions ; The need also to provide work in sheltered conditions for those who require it.

We recognise that if, in a particular situation, it is agreed that the balance of provision should be changed in favour of placements, this might involve providers in extra costs in implementing the changes. We are prepared to help with these costs where the change is in the interests of disabled people, and more disabled people are helped as a result. Applications for capital grants to expand or improve workshop provision will continue to be dealt with under current arrangements, and we will continue to help workshops, where appropriate, through consultancy grants and through helping promote the products of sheltered industry.

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Since the programme is moving increasingly towards encouraging a wide range of ways of helping severely disabled people, we agree that the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on the Employment of People with Disabilities should be adopted and the name of the programme should be changed to the supported employment programme.

I believe that these decisions will create a modern framework within which we and our partners can work together successfully to help people with severe disabilities to obtain opportunities for productive work.


Ministerial Offices

Mr. Boyes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the cost of new furniture for his private office during the year 1993-94.

Mr. Goodlad : Such purchases are included within this Department's overall administration expenditure which is published every year in the annual report.

Mr. Boyes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many bottles of (a) whisky and gin and (b) sherry and port were consumed by his private offices in 1993-94.

Mr. Goodlad : Disaggregated information of this sort could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Ministerial Receptions

Mr. Boyes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the cost of receptions held by Ministers in his Department in 1993-94.

Mr. Goodlad : The cost of such receptions is included in the entertainment expenditure for this Department which is published in the annual report.


Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what visits have been made to East Timor by Her Majesty's Government's representatives in Indonesia.

Mr. Goodlad : As the United Kingdom does not recognise Indonesia's annexation of East Timor, the British ambassador in Jakarta does not visit the territory. Other members of staff visit whenever a suitable opportunity arises. Most recently, a member of the staff visited East Timor in January.

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings the military attache to the British embassy in Djakarta has had with the Indonesian military concerning operations in East Timor.

Mr. Goodlad : The defence attache in Jakarta is in regular contact with the Indonesian military authorities. He took part last year in an attache s'visit to East Timor organised by the Indonesian Defence Ministry.


Mr. Gallie : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what measures the European Union and its member states have taken in recent weeks in response to the continued conflict in Sudan.

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Mr. Douglas Hogg : On 21 February the European Union and its member states issued a declaration condemning the latest offensive by the Government of Sudan, pressing for adequate access for the civilian population to humanitarian relief, commending the peace initiative of the Kenyan, Ethiopian, Eritrean and Ugandan Governments, and urging the parties to the civil war to respond positively to it. A copy of this statement has been placed in the Library of the House.

On 8 March the Foreign Affairs Council agreed the establishment of a European Union arms embargo on Sudan as a further expression of our abhorrence of the continuing bloodshed. We were one of the prime movers behind this decision. The embargo covers weapons designed to kill and their ammunition, weapon platforms, non-weapon platforms and ancillary equipment. It also covers spare parts, repairs, maintenance and transfer of military technology. Contracts entered into force prior to the date of entry into force of the embargo are not affected. The text of the decision will be placed in the Library of the House.

In our national implementation of this embargo, we will apply it to all categories of goods prefixed "ML" in group 1, part III, schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1992, as amended. The United Kingdom will interpret the embargo as also applying to goods prefixed "PL" in the above- mentioned group 1.

European Union

Mr. Jonathan Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish a statement on the forthcoming business in the Council of the European Union.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : The following meetings are planned : 4 March : Research Council

7-8 March : Foreign Affairs Council

10 March : Internal Market Council

21 March : ECOFIN Council

23 March : Justice and Home Affairs Council

24-25 March : Environment Council

28-29 March : Agriculture Council

The following subjects are likely to be discussed :

Research Council : 4 March

Fourth framework programme


Joint Research Centre

Coal and steel research

socio/economic research programme


White Paper--follow-up

Foreign Affairs Council : 7-8 March

White Paper : Follow-up

Relations with Hungary

Relations with Poland

CFSP financing

Dual use goods

EEA : Interim acquis and implementing regulation


Middle east

South Africa

(poss) Relations with the EP

(poss) Cohesion fund

Budget discipline

Own resources decision

(poss) Russia

Steel imports from Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan

Trade policy

(poss) Anti-dumping : cement imports from Turkey, Tunisia and Romania

Asylum and immigration

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AOB : Relations with FSU countries

Enlargement, completing negotiations with Norway

First association councils with Hungary and Poland

Internal Market Council : 10 March

Operation of the internal market

progress report on strategic programme

progress report on trans-European networks

Counterfeit goods regulation

Amendment to directive 83/189 on technical standards

(poss) Vehicle coupling device

Legal protection of data bases

(poss) Motor cycle speed, torque and power

Novel foods

Food additives other than colours and sweeteners

Equipment for use in explosive atmospheres

ECOFIN Council : 21 March (draft agenda)

Danish convergence programme

Own resources decision

Court of Auditors 1992 report

Relations with central and eastern Europe

Planning for the IMF interim committee meeting

Taxation of savings

Transitional VAT system

Anti-fraud programme

White Paper follow-up

Justice Council : 23 March

agenda not yet available

Environment Council : 24-25 March (draft agenda)

Commission White Paper

VOCs--volatile organic compound--stage I

Birds directive


Large combustion plants amendment

Noise from earthmoving machinery

Four-year statistics programme

(poss) Car emissions

Coastal zones resolution

Integrated pollution control

Agriculture Council : 28-29 March

agenda not yet available

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