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Written Answers to Questions

Friday 11 March 1994

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Social Security Appeal Tribunals

Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many appeals to the social security commissioner against decisions of social security appeal tribunals have taken over 12 months to resolve ; what percentage this represents of the total ; and what is the average length of time taken.

Mr. John M. Taylor : As of 31 December 1993, the average waiting time between an appeal against a social security appeal tribunal's decision and its determination by a social security commissioner was 433 days. The further information requested is not collected and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Jury Service (Deaf People)

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will make a statement regarding the banning of a deaf person from sitting on a jury at King's Lynn Crown court in January.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Section 10 of the Juries Act 1974 provides that if it appears to a member of the court staff that there is doubt as to the capacity of a person who attends for jury service to serve effectively, on the grounds of physical disability, the person may be brought before a judge. The judge shall then determine whether or not the person should serve as a juror and, if not, shall discharge the summons. That procedure was followed in the case of a juror at King's Lynn. I cannot comment on the judge's decision to discharge the summons.

TRANSPORT

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will make it his policy to exclude the company which the Government select to build the channel tunnel rail link from claiming tax relief on trading losses without taking account of the value of the written off debt of European Passenger Services Ltd. when it is incorporated within the new company.

Mr. Freeman : The company which builds the channel tunnel rail link will be subject to the same taxation rules that apply to any other company in the private sector. The Government have no wish to interfere with those rules.

Disabled People (Parking)

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will review arrangements for disabled people's parking bays ; and if he will consider extending the powers


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of local authorities to prevent parking across ramps to homes where access is required for disabled people's vehicles, other than cars.

Mr. Key : Local authorities already have wide powers to create disabled people's parking bays and I am not aware of any suggestion that these powers are inadequate and need to be reviewed. The Road Traffic Act 1991 contains provision which enable most non-endorsable parking offences, including the unauthorised use of disabled people's parking bays, to be decriminalised and enforced by local authorities. The expectation is that such arrangements will lead to higher levels of enforcement. They are already being introduced in London and they will be made available shortly to local authorities elsewhere.

Parking across ramps provided for disabled people can amount to obstructing the highway--which is an offence, even in streets where parking is not otherwise prohibited. Enforcement is a matter for the police.

Transport Research Laboratory

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much he paid the corporate finance section of KPMG for advice on the future of the Transport Research Laboratory.

Mr. Key : A total of £91,826.26 inclusive of VAT.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport which tenderers for the work of advising him on the future of the Transport Research Laboratory were individuals or groups with expertise in commissioning or completing casualty reduction, environmental, structural or mechanical research.

Mr. Key : All tenderers were free to structure teams as they judged best able to undertake the contract, KPMG Peat Marwick assembled a team which embraced a range of skills, including transport and research specialisms.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will publish the terms of reference and correspondence with the corporate finance section of KPMG on the future of the Transport Research Laboratory.

Mr. Key : I am placing copies of the terms of reference for the study in the Library. These terms of reference were the subject of consultation with the trade unions.

Exchanges between the Department and the contracted consultants during the course of such studies necessarily take place in confidence because they involve a range of sensitive issues which may be commercially confidential. It would not be appropriate to make such exchanges public.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he gave instructions that the corporate finance section of KPMG should advise on (a) whether it would be possible or (b) whether it would be sensible to have a clean break between the Transport Research Laboratory and his Department ;

(2) for what reasons he advocates a clean break between the Transport Research Laboratory and his Department.

Mr. Key : KPMG Peat Marwick's work was guided by the terms of reference for the study. The desirability of a clean break was identified by the consultants in light of the


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Government's wider policy for securing the complete transfer to the private sector of functions that need not be undertaken in the public sector, along with associated assets.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the competitive advantage of the corporate finance section over other sections, and the competitive advantage of KPMG over other consultancies, in respect of the future of the Transport Research Laboratory.

Mr. Key : KPMG Peat Marwick was appointed following a competitive process involving a written submission and a subsequent interview. They were judged best able to achieve the requirements of the study set out in the terms of reference. It was their decision to manage the work from their corporate finance section.

M62 Relief Road

Mr. Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the total number of (a) valid objections to and (b) indications of support received by his Department for the proposed M62 relief road.

Mr. Key : So far, over 17,500 representations have been received. Most are opposed to the proposals. The figure includes an element of duplication.

Mr. Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what effects his recently announced intention of accelerating the approvals procedure for new roads will have on the M62 relief road.

Mr. Key : Last August my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport announced a package of measures aimed at cutting the time it takes to prepare and build new roads and bypasses. A major element is the setting up of the Highways Agency which is to take on responsibility for the management and delivery of the roads programme on the 1 April. This does not mean that the rights of those opposed to the M62 relief road will be changed. Progress on this scheme will depend on its meeting objectives, the proper clearance of the approval procedures, and the availability of funds.

British Rail

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what guarantees have been provided for the operational telecommunications requirements of British Rail and successor companies following the transfer of British Rail Telecommunications to the private sector.

Mr. Freeman : Discussions are taking place between BRT and Railtrack with a view to agreeing contractual arrangements to protect requirements for operational telecommunications for the railway.

Lollipop Ladies

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to amend the law to permit lollipop ladies to assist pre-school children across roads.

Mr. Key : None. Sections 26 and 28 of the Road Traffic Act 1984 empower school crossing patrols to stop traffic at places where


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"children cross roads on their way to or from school, or from one part of a school to another".

The words "children" and "school" are not defined. The interpretation of the law is a matter for the courts, but it would seem that the legislation would not prevent school crossing patrols from escorting children to or from an educational institution that provides education or instruction to children of no pre-determined minimum age. This would include a nursery school or play group. It is, however, for appropriate authorities to decide their own policy in this matter, consulting their own legal advisers as necessary.

Coaches

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what percentage of coaches registered in other European countries checked by the Vehicle Inspectorate at the weighbridge on the A2 at Broughton in the latest convenient period exceeded 17 tonnes.

Mr. Key : Of those coaches registered in other European countries and check-weighed at Broughton, 18 per cent. were found to be overloaded by more than 5 per cent., or 1 tonne, whichever was the lesser. The figures, which are for the period 1 January to 31 December 1993, include those vehicles with a maximum permitted weight of more than 17 tonnes. Information on European vehicles weighed and found to be less than 5 per cent. overweight cannot be disaggregated from the data.

UK-US Air Services

Mr. Dunn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he is proposing to continue negotiations with the United States Government on the liberalisation of air services between the two countries, following the announcement by British Airways in respect of its plans for further investment in USAir.

Mr. MacGregor : I have this week made proposals to the United States Government on how we should take forward our discussions on air services following British Airways' announcement. Although the outcome of USAir's restructuring may well influence the shape of the new agreement, I have said that in my view talks should certainly continue on the framework of a new agreement--on which excellent progress has already been made. I have also said that I remain open to an interim limited exchange of new rights to maintain the momentum of the talks ; and have suggested that there should be an exchange of views on the economic significance of the code sharing rights granted to United Kingdom carriers under the 1991 agreement, whose renewal is due to be confirmed by the United States Government on 17 March.

Railway Drink and Drugs Law

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will publish a full list of all organisations to which his Department sent and from which it has received responses regarding the consultation paper on proposed railway drink and drugs legislation, together with the addresses of each such organisation.

Mr. Freeman [holding answer 18 January 1994] : My Department issued 42 copies of the consultation paper to transport operators, passenger transport executives, trade


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unions, the police, magistrates and the medical profession, and we received 27 responses. It is not our practice to identify those organisations or individuals who respond to consultation exercises.

SOCIAL SECURITY

State Earnings-related Pension Scheme

Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of continuing family credit and disability working allowance towards an individual's SERPS entitlement in the years (a) 2000, (b) 2010, (c) 2025 and (d) 2035 ;

(2) what estimate he has made of the (a) number and (b) proportion of (i) men and (ii) women who will see an increase in their SERPS entitlement as a result of counting family credit and disability working allowance awards towards SERPS in (1) 2000, (2) 2010, (3) 2025 and (4) 2035.

Mr. Hague : The Government Actuary's Department project that expenditure will gradually build up to about £0.1 billion in 2035. This figure must be treated with caution as it is based on current family credit and disability working allowance caseloads and does not allow for any future growth in the take-up of these benefits. Modelling of the costs of this measure does not track the cumulative effect on individuals over time and so it is not possible to provide an estimate of numbers of beneficiaries. Most families and disabled people who receive family credit/disability working allowance--approximately 0.5 million at present-- should be helped by this measure.

Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the cost of extending home responsibilities protection to SERPS entitlements in the years (a) 2000, (b) 2010, (c) 2025 and (d) 2035.

Mr. Hague : The Government Actuary's Department estimates the cost of extending home responsibilities protection to SERPS as about £0.5 billion in 2010, rising to about £1.5 billion in 2035.

Freephone and Freepost

Mr. Donohoe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security 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 its establishment on a separate Department.

Mr. Hague : This Department offers the following services by way of freephone :

Freeline 0800 666555 --The freeline social security telephone service gives general advice and information on the full range of Social Security benefits and covers all aspects of an enquiry, regardless of the circumstances. Its aim is to provide a confidential, speedy and expert advice service without access to any benefit files.

It originally started as a series of regional initiatives and became a national service in 1984 with 40 staff.

There are 10 freeline centres based at : Sutton ; Ilford ; Cambridge ; Birmingham ; Bootle ; Nottingham ; Leeds ; Edinburgh ; Cardiff and Newcastle, with an 11th Freeline centre due to be opened this year in Preston.


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Ethnic freeline-- Punjabi 0800 521360, Urdu 0800 289188 and Cantonese 0800 252451--services giving general advice and information on social security benefits in these languages ;

Welsh freeline-- 0800 289011--a service giving general advice and information on social security benefits in Welsh ;

Family credit freeline-- 0800 500222--a service is available 24 hours per day, to order information packs on family credit ; The benefit enquiry line -- 0800 882200--introduced in June 1991--a service giving advice and information to people with disabilities and to those caring for them. Extended in April 1993 to provide a form completion service for invalid care allowance, severe disablement allowance, disability living allowance, attendance allowance and disability working allowance.

Social security advice line for employers (SSALE)-- 0800 393539--introduced in August 1993--a service for employers which gives general advice and information on NI contributions, statutory sick pay and maternity pay.

Itsa service help desk-- introduced in late 1988--provides advice and help to users in DSS agencies, DSS or DH headquarters staff on approximately 250 systems ranging from the mainframe based operational strategy systems to small server based systems. This Department uses freepost to a very limited extent mainly in advertising campaigns aimed at increasing the knowledge of the general public, for example, council tax benefits, or alerting them to changes in their liabilities and rights under the law. We offer an extensive business reply service--pre-printed addressed labels--which enables our customers to reply free of charge. Business reply envelopes are issued to our customers to facilitate the return of information or where a reply is essential to our business needs. Costings for freephone and freepost are not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Rents

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the range of rents paid by those receiving housing benefit in each local authority area.

Mr. Burt : The latest available information is in the table.


Eligible rent (£/week)<1>                                       

Region<3>                      |<2>Minimum|<2>Maximum           

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

South East (excluding London)  |3.50      |165.53               

London                         |2.50      |431.22               

North (including Cumbria)      |3.00      |173.87               

Wales                          |1.00      |100.00               

Scotland                       |2.00      |250.87               

Yorkshire and Humberside       |0.78      |214.17               

East Midlands                  |3.25      |271.20               

East Anglia                    |3.32      |187.62               

South West                     |0.75      |130.52               

West Midlands                  |1.29      |168.70               

North West (excluding Cumbria) |3.00      |325.00               

National                       |0.75      |431.22               

Data Source:                                                    

The Housing Benefit annual one per cent. sample of May1992.     

Note:                                                           

As the figures are from a sample, which has alsoexcluded cases  

where the assessed amount of housing benefit isless than 50     

pence per week, there could be cases with rentshigher or lower  

than those selected in the sample.                              

<1>Data on rent paid is not available,therefore, the            

information relates to the amount of rent eligiblefor housing   

benefit.                                                        

<2>Range has been defined as the lowestand highest amount of    

rent eligible for housing benefit.                              

<3>The data relates to regions becausereliable information      

cannot be given for individual localauthorities from a 1 per    

cent. sample.                                                   


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Agency Chief Executives

Mr. Radice : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many agency chief executives in his Department are currently paid more than £82,925, excluding performance-related bonuses ; and whether such chief executives were recruited directly to their present post from outside the civil service.

Mr. Hague : None.

Child Maintenance

Mrs. Jane Kennedy : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many child maintenance assessments have been completed to date.

Mr. Burt : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by Ros Hepplewhite, the chief executive of the Child Support Agency to my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mr. Renton) on 8 March.

Service Delivery Directorate

Mr. Byers : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to outsource the service delivery directorate of his Department ; what consultations have taken place with the employees who will be affected ; and what analysis has been made of the benefits in terms of service and savings to be achieved from any such change.

Mr. Hague : On 31 January 1994, the chief executive of the Information Technology Services Agency announced proposals to transfer the bulk of day-to-day computer and output handling operations to the private sector with effect from April 1995. A programme of meetings was held immediately at which the chief executive, Ian Magee, explained to all ITSA staff the proposals. There have been further meetings to enable employees to discuss the outsourcing with senior management.

Information suggests that significant improvements in value for money and services to ITSA's customers can be achieved by transferring this work to the well-developed market that now exists for this type of work.

HOME DEPARTMENT

Prisoner Transfers

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when the last transfer to Northern Ireland of a prisoner was carried out ; how many prisoners who


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have applied for transfer are still waiting for a reply to their request ; and for what reasons these prisoners are still waiting for a reply ;

(2) how many prisoners have applied for transfer to prisons in Northern Ireland since 23 November 1992 ;

(3) how many prisoners have applied for transfer since 23 November 1992 following the findings of the inter-departmental review ; how many prisoners were transferred to Northern Ireland while the review was being undertaken ; and how many prisoners have been transferred to Northern Ireland since the release of the inter-departmental review.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : An interdepartmental review of the transfer of prisoners between United Kingdom jurisdictions was announced to Parliament on 4 June 1991. The recommendations of the review were accepted and reported to Parliament on 23 November 1992.

During this period 35 prisoners were transferred to Northern Ireland. Since the announcement of the outcome of the review 65 prisoners have applied for transfer to Northern Ireland ; 11 prisoners, including some who applied for transfer before the conclusion of the review, have been transferred to Northern Ireland. The last such transfer took place on 20 January. Fifty- eight requests by prisoners to transfer to Northern Ireland remain to be determined.

Two prisoners temporarily transferred to Northern Ireland challenged the basis of their transfer by application for judicial review. These applications were dismissed by the High Court in Belfast at the end of last year. It has been necessary to give further consideration to the legal implications of these challenges before determining the outstanding requests. We expect to make decisions on these cases shortly.

Firearms

Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people were killed in crimes involving (a) shotguns, (b) licensed firearms and (c) unlicensed firearms in (i) the north-east of England and (ii) the United Kingdom for each year since 1985.

Mr. Maclean : The available information is contained in the following table :


Number of offences of homicide in which firearms were reported to have been     

used 1985-1992                                                                  

         Cleveland       Durham          Northumbria     England andWales       

Year    |Shotgun|Other  |Shotgun|Other  |Shotgun|Other  |Shotgun|Other          

                |firearm        |firearm        |firearm        |firearm        

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

1985    |-      |-      |1      |-      |2      |-      |29     |16             

1986    |-      |-      |1      |-      |-      |-      |37     |14             

1987    |-      |-      |1      |-      |1      |1      |43     |34             

1988    |-      |-      |-      |-      |-      |-      |27     |9              

1989    |-      |-      |-      |-      |1      |-      |26     |19             

1990    |-      |-      |-      |1      |1      |1      |33     |27             

1991    |-      |1      |-      |1      |-      |1      |32     |23             

1992    |2      |-      |-      |1      |2      |1      |25     |31             

No information is available centrally on whether firearms used in offences are licensed or not. Figures for 1993 are not yet available.


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Figures for Scotland are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and figures for Northern Ireland are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Video Pornography

Mrs. Bridget Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will answer the letters of 2 December 1993, February 1994 and telephone calls from the hon. Member for Lewisham, East on the subject of unsolicited advertising of pornographic video material.

Mr. Maclean : I wrote to the hon. Member on 9 March 1994.

Criminal Injuries Compensation

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) when he intends to publish the rules under which the proposed new regime for criminal injury compensation is to operate ;

(2) if he will now place in the Library a copy of the draft regulations for the operation of the amended criminal injury compensation scheme.

Mr. Maclean : The publication of the detailed rules of the tariff scheme which comes into force on 1 April 1994, was announced on 9 March, column 224. Copies of the text of the rules and the accompanying guide, which explains to claimants how the new scheme works and the criteria adopted for deciding applications, have been placed in the Vote Office and the Library of the House.

Grand National

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what were the costs of policing the Grand National in 1990, 1991 and 1992.

Mr. Charles Wardle : I will write to the hon. Member.

Racial Attacks

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to commission a survey comparable to the British crime survey, to examine the occurrence of racial attacks and racial harassment.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I have no plans to commission a separate survey. The 1992 British crime survey involved some 10,000 households, and had a boosted sample of about 1,700 ethnic minority respondents. This produced a sufficiently large sample to compare rates and patterns of criminal victimisation between these groups and the white majority.

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to introduce new legal measures aimed at combating racial violence, racial discrimination or racial harassment.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The Government are considering recommendations for legislative change made by the Commission for Racial Equality in its second review of the Race Relations Act 1976 ; we will be looking carefully at the recommendations of the Home Affairs Committee inquiry into racial attacks and harassment.

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to require chief constables to publish annual clear-up rates for racial incidents as compared with other offences in each division.


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Mr. Charles Wardle : As part of the package of core performance indicators for the police, introduced in April 1993, each force will publish annual data on the total number of reported racial incidents in the force area, and the percentage of these in which further investigative action was undertaken. My right hon. and learned Friend has no plans to require the police to publish clear-up rates for racial incidents since in many instances the matters reported may not be ones for the police, but for other agencies, and may not involve criminal offences.

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to provide additional resources to enable the establishment of local multi-agency panels aimed at combating racism.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Many local multi-agency groups are already in existence to combat racial attacks and harassment. The racial attacks group, as part of its work programme, will be seeking to inform itself of the number of multi-agency groups that have been established locally, and to learn from their experience. The allocation of resources to support these groups must be a matter for local agencies in the light of local priorities.

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to investigate possible links between the activities of extremist organisations and incidences of racially motivated attacks.

Mr. Charles Wardle : The investigation of racially motivated attacks, and of organisations which might pose a threat to public order, is the responsibility of the police. There is no evidence to suggest that the role of extremist groups in racial attacks is anything but a very minor one.

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to recommend that in cases where race is an issue, the defence or prosecution be able to propose and the judge be empowered to direct, that the composition of the jury includes some ethnic minority representation.

Mr. Maclean : The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice recommended that, where compelling reasons are advanced, it should be possible for the defence or the prosecution to apply to the judge for the selection of a jury containing up to three people from ethnic minorities. This recommendation raises serious questions of both principle and practicality and the Government have yet to reach a conclusion on it.

Horserace Betting Levy

Sir Ivan Lawrence : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to announce his determination under section 1 of the Horserace Betting Levy Act 1969 of the horserace betting levy scheme beginning on 1 April.

Mr. Howard : I have today sent the following letter to the chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board and written similarly to the chairman of the Bookmakers Committee. A copy of the scheme has been placed in the Library of the House. The letter reads :

Following the Levy Board's and the Bookmakers'Committee's failure to agree the scheme for the 33rd Levy period last October, the scheme fell to be determined by me.

I have now reached my decision and I enclose a copy of the Scheme which I have determined.


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