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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 21 March 1994

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Social Security Appeal Tribunals

Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, pursuant to his answer of 11 March, Official Report, column 405, if the 433 days mentioned as average waiting time between an appeal against a social security appeal tribunal's decision and its determination by a social security commissioner are working days ; and what steps he is taking to reduce this waiting time.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The number of days referred to are calendar days. The chief commissioner is making full use of existing deputy social security commissioners to help reduce waiting times. He has also arranged for the transfer of some cases to commissioners in Scotland, where waiting times are shorter. A committee is also examining ways to improve the appeal procedures.

PRIME MINISTER

Open Government

Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Prime Minister what will be the implications for the operation of the Cabinet Office of the code of practice on open government.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, today.

Ministers (Legal Action)

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list each occasion in the past five years when Ministers of the Crown have requested financial assistance in legal actions, on the grounds that these impinged upon their ministerial duties ; and how each of these applications was determined.

The Prime Minister : No central record is kept of such requests.

Correspondence

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister how many letters were received from, and written to, hon. Members by him in February.

The Prime Minister : A considerable number.

Car Industries

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 14 February, Official Report, column 581 , concerning the sale of indigenous car industries, what assessment he has made of the effect of the takeover of Rover on output and employment in the United Kingdom.


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The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman is aware of the assurances given by BMW to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 31 January. Nothing has happened since then to change our view that the acquisition offers good prospects for Rover and for output and employment in our vehicle industry.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 14 February, Official Report, column 581, concerning the sale of indigenous car industries, if he will publish the source of his information concerning the intentions of French Government, together with the timetable for the sale.

The Prime Minister : The French Government have stated publicly on several occasions that they intend to privatise Renault, and the company was one of 21 firms, banks and insurance companies listed in an annex to their privatisation Bill in July 1993. Mr. Longuet, French Minister of Industry and International Trade, has recently indicated to the press that, despite the breakdown of the planned merger of Renault and Volvo, it is still intended to privatise Renault, although this is understood to be unlikely to take place before the presidential elections in May 1995.

Trinidad Terms

Sir Thomas Arnold : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the progress to date on the implementation of the Trinidad terms ; if he will raise this matter at the next G7 summit ; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : A total of 20 of the poorest and most indebted countries have benefited from Trinidad debt reschedulings by the Paris club. These are Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Republic, Guyana, Honduras, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. Over $5.5 billion of debt has been restructured under the terms and over $2 billion of debt and debt servicing has been reduced.

We shall continue to work for full Trinidad terms, including increasing the level of debt reduction for the poorest and most indebted countries from 50 to 80 per cent. on a case-by-case basis, and for earlier action on reducing the whole stock of official debt. The summit of G7 Heads of Government later this year will provide such an opportunity.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions in the last five years he has knowingly provided incomplete information to answers to parliamentary questions other than on grounds of disproportionate cost ; and on what subjects.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 15 March 1994, Official Report, column 645.

India

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister if he raised the matter of the proliferation consequences of India's nuclear capability with his Indian counterpart during his recent visit.


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The Prime Minister : No. The Indian Government are well aware of our concerns about nuclear proliferation in south Asia, which were raised with the Indian Foreign Secretary during Mr. Narasimha Rao's visit.

Parliamentary Bills

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he would support a measure that would introduce a block on parliamentary Bills in the British Parliament if 27 per cent. of hon. Members opposed them.

The Prime Minister : No.

Official Gifts

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister what rule applies to Ministers ; and who is responsible for registering gifts received by (a) himself and (b) other Ministers.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 2 March 1994] : Gifts received by Ministers who are Members of the House of Commons have to be registered in the Register of Members' Interests if they exceed £125 in value and if they relate in any way to membership of the House. Registration is the responsibility of the individual Member. "Questions of Procedure for Ministers" provides separately that all gifts accepted by Ministers in their official capacity should be reported to the permanent secretary of the Department. In addition, it provides that any gift exceeding £125 in value must be surrendered or purchased at its cash value abated by £125. Since such gifts accepted by Ministers in their official capacity must be either purchased or surrendered, there is no interest to register.

Orsett Hospital

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister if, on his next visit to Basildon, he will meet officers of the Basildon and Thurrock community health council to discuss the possible closure of Orsett hospital.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : When I next visit Basildon, I look forward to meeting a wide range of people.

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister if he will visit Orsett hospital, Thurrock in addition to his proposed visit to the maternity unit at Basildon hospital.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : I have no current plans to visit Thurrock.

Serious Crime Criteria

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out in a form which does not jeopardise national security the criteria used by the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service to assess what constitutes a serious crime.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : No. The term "serious crime" is widely understood and, in the context of the Intelligence Services Bill, does not require further definition.

Economic Well-being Criteria

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out in a form which does not jeopardise national security the financial criteria used by the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service to assess matters which relate to the economic well-being of the country.


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The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : The term "economic well being of the United Kingdom"

is a well-known provision, used in the Intelligence Services Bill, the Security Service Act 1989 and the European Convention on Human Rights without definition.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave two examples of where the Secret Intelligence Service might act in this area in his speech introducing the Intelligence Services Bill on 22 February 1994 Official Report, column 157.

Shoot-to-kill Policy

Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister what is Her Majesty's Government's policy towards a shoot-to-kill policy arising from terrorism ; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : We have no such policy. What is normally implied by a "shoot-to-kill" policy would not be consistent with section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 or section 3 of the Criminal Law (Northern Ireland) Act 1967.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Information Technology Services Agency

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many bridging and relocation loans are outstanding with the staff of the Information Technology Services Agency ; what is the total sum of such loans outstanding ; and what will be the status of such loans in the event of transfer to the private sector.

Mr. Hague : The information available as at 18 March 1994 is as follows :


Number      |Total sum              

outstanding |outstanding            

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

Bridging                            

loans<1>                            

20          |£1,008,144             

Advances of                         

Salary<2>                           

231         |£840,112.84            

<1>Bridging loans include all       

bridging and relocation loans as    

they are, essentially, the same     

thing-short term loans which are    

repaid when an individual's former  

property is sold.                   

<2>Advances of salary are long term 

loans used to purchase property and 

are repayable over a maximum of 15  

years.                              

The status of these loans in the event of transfer to the private sector is still being considered.

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the terms of reference guiding the competition to choose a strategic partner for the Information Technology Services Agency in his Department.

Mr. Hague : The ITSA plans to transfer its day-to-day computer and output handling operations to the private sector. A project team is taking forward the detailed work required in preparation for the tendering process. The objectives of the project team are as follows :

To improve IT service provision to ITSA.

To make recommendations to ministers.


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To negotiate terms and conditions which will support the smooth transfer of civil servants to the private sector.

To ensure security of service supply whilst generating ongoing competition.

Disabled Employees

Mrs. Roche : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many registered disabled people are employed in his Department ; and what percentage this is of the total.

Mr. Hague : The information requested is contained in the magazine "Independent", a copy of which is in the Library.

Child Support Agency

Sir Thomas Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which changes recommended by the Social Security Select Committee in its first report of 1993-94, and agreed by the Government, have still to be implemented by the Child Support Agency.

Mr. Burt : All the recommendations made by the Select Committee that were accepted by the Government have now been introduced.

War Pensions

Mr. Allen : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what provisions exist to uprate war pensions for individuals whose circumstances have changed since their last assessment.

Mr. Hague : Any war pensioner who feels that his pensioned disablement has deteriorated since it was last assessed can request a review of that assessment at any time.

Housing Benefit

Mr. Darling : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the number of people claiming income support who are aged 25 years or under who are having deductions made from their benefit in respect of rent arrears because they failed timeously to renew their claim for housing benefit ; and what is his estimate of the value of housing benefit thus unclaimed.

Mr. Burt : The information requested is not available.

Mr. Rooker : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the circumstances in which a full-time mature student in higher education is eligible for housing benefit for any part of the year.

Mr. Burt : Mature students in higher education are eligible to claim housing benefit throughout the year if they are within one of the specified vulnerable groups, which include single parents, student couples with dependent children and disabled students. Non-student partners can also claim on behalf of the couple if they satisfy the normal qualifying conditions.

Council House Sales

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what has been the implications for his Department of right-to-buy legislation and increases in service charges for tenants who have taken advantage of such legislation ; and if he will make a statement.


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Mr. Burt : Former council tenants who buy their homes under right-to -buy legislation while receiving income support have the amount of housing costs included in their assessment restricted to the eligible rent payable immediately before the purchase of their properties.

In such cases, income support is adjusted to reflect subsequent changes in mortgage interest rates and in the amount of eligible service charges levied.

Social Security Expenditure

Mr. Jenkin : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the current share of gross domestic product taken by social security expenditure in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) each of the other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

Mr. Hague : The customary measure used when making international comparisons is public social protection expenditure, which includes public health care costs, personal social services and compulsory occupational pensions as well as social security spending. The figures for social protection for the United Kingdom and OECD countries are in the table.


Social protection expenditure as a 

percentage of GDP                  

Country        |1990               

               |Per cent.          

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

United Kingdom |23                 

Belgium        |27                 

Denmark        |30                 

France         |28                 

Germany        |27                 

Greece         |<1>21              

Ireland        |20                 

Italy          |24                 

Luxembourg     |26                 

Netherlands    |32                 

Portugal       |17                 

Spain          |21                 

Australia      |13                 

Austria        |25                 

Canada         |<2>19              

Finland        |27                 

Japan          |12                 

Norway         |29                 

New Zealand    |19                 

Sweden         |34                 

United States  |<2>15              

<1> 1989.                          

<2> Estimate.                      

Source: Eurostat, OECD.            

Invalidity Benefit

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the totals of claimants receiving invalidity benefit in (a) Wales, (b) Scotland and (c) England in each of the last 15 years.

Mr. Scott : The available information is in the table.


District Council |1988-89         |1989-90         |1990-91         |1992-93         |1993-94         |Projection                                        

Area                                                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                       |for three                        

                                                                                                                       |years                            

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

Antrim           |-               |6               |323             |13              |17              |13              |56                               

Ards             |14              |-               |50              |45              |-               |-               |70                               

Armagh           |2               |24              |10              |3               |7               |1               |-                                

Ballymena        |-               |5               |13              |29              |-               |2               |130                              

Ballymoney       |-               |4               |-               |-               |-               |-               |47                               

Banbridge        |36              |21              |41              |2               |1               |-               |3                                

Belfast          |1,321           |911             |734             |645             |514             |-               |1,653                            

Carrickfergus    |34              |1               |-               |6               |69              |4               |28                               

Castlereagh      |-               |-               |1               |2               |-               |11              |-                                

Coleraine        |6               |3               |2               |8               |-               |-               |80                               

Cookstown        |3               |-               |-               |-               |17              |-               |4                                

Craigavon        |117             |139             |145             |16              |54              |-               |29                               

Derry            |38              |123             |52              |14              |3               |63              |84                               

Down             |10              |10              |32              |1               |-               |-               |85                               

Dungannon        |5               |13              |2               |10              |2               |4               |24                               

Fermanagh        |13              |-               |-               |-               |-               |2               |16                               

Larne            |1               |-               |4               |-               |59              |-               |19                               

Limavady         |-               |-               |1               |-               |-               |-               |-                                

Lisburn          |7               |2               |2               |-               |4               |-               |61                               

Magherafelt      |-               |-               |-               |-               |-               |-               |-                                

Moyle            |1               |1               |-               |1               |-               |-               |26                               

Newry and Moyle  |60              |61              |31              |8               |-               |10              |-                                

Newtownabbey     |3               |43              |16              |95              |152             |15              |335                              

North Down       |-               |-               |-               |-               |-               |-               |5                                

Omagh            |6               |-               |-               |-               |-               |-               |-                                

Strabane         |1               |19              |7               |13              |1               |-               |2                                

Mr. Bradley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people received invalidity benefit following an award of non- contributory sickness benefit (a) between April 1992 and April 1993, (b) since April 1993 and (c) in total since April 1983.

Mr. Scott [pursuant to his reply, 25 January 1994, c. 188-89] : The figures of 4,000 in the period 2 April 1990 to 31 March 1991 and 1,000 in the period 1 April 1991 to 4 April 1992 should read 3,000 and 2,000 respectively.

Market Testing

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the total cost of market testing work carried out in his Department.

Mr. Hague : The information requested is published in the "Citizen's Charter White Paper : Second Report", a copy of which is in the Library.

Sickness Benefit

Mr. Bradley : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people (a) claimed and (b) were awarded non-contributory sickness benefit (i) between April 1992 and April 1993, (ii) since April 1993 and (iii) in total since April 1983.

Mr. Scott [pursuant to his reply, 25 January 1994, c. 187-88] : The figure of 6,000 for the period 2 April 1990 to 31 March 1991 should have read 3,000.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Open Government

Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what will be the implications for the operation of his Department of the code of practice on open government.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : The code of practice on Government information will reinforce and build the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's existing arrangements for the provision of information. I see it as an important element in our commitment to open government, which has been demonstrated during recent months by the release of unprecedented quantities of previously withheld material into the public domain.


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Disabled Employees

Mrs. Roche : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many registered disabled people are employed in his Department ; and what percentage this is of the total.

Mr. Goodlad : I refer the hon. Lady to the annual disability report contained in the 18 March issue of "Independent" magazine, a copy of which has been placed in the Library of the House.

Students (Military Training)

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the countries from which foreign students visited the United Kingdom for military training and the countries that United Kingdom military personnel visited to train military students, to which reference is made at paragraph 30 of his departmental annual report and expenditure plans 1994-95 to 1997-98, Cm. 2502.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : The countries from which foreign students visited the United Kingdom in 1992-93 for military training are : Antigua

Bahamas

Bangladesh

Barbados

Belize

Botswana

Brazil

Bulgaria

Chile

Colombia

Czech Republic

Egypt

Fiji

Gambia

Ghana

Guyana

Hungary

India

Indonesia

Ireland

Jamaica

Jordan

Kenya

Lebanon

Malawi

Malaysia

Maldives

Malta

Mauritius

Morocco

Mozambique

Namibia

Nepal

Nigeria

Pakistan

Paraguay

Peru

Philippines

Poland

Romania

Russia

Senegal

Seychelles

Singapore

South Korea

Sri Lanka

St. Lucia

Swaziland

Tanzania

Thailand

Trinidad

Uganda

Yemen

Zambia

Zimbabwe

The countries that United Kingdom military personnel visited to train military students are :

Angola

Antigua

Bangladesh

Barbados

Belize

Chile

Dominica

Gambia

Ghana

Grenada

Indonesia

Latvia

Lesotho

Malaysia

Maldives

Mauritius

Mozambique

Namibia

Nigeria

St. Lucia

St. Vincent

Swaziland

Uganda

Zimbabwe


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