Problem communicating with remote server...
  Home Page

Column 119

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 22 March 1994

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Disabled Employees

Mrs. Roche : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many registered disabled people are employed in his Department ; and what percentage this is of the total.

Mr. John M. Taylor : At 14 March 1994 the number of staff registered as disabled was 185, representing 1.5 per cent. of the total. A further 2 per cent. of staff who have classified themselves as disabled have chosen not to register.

Magistrates

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will publish a charter for magistrates to encourage applications to the bench from the widest possible cross section of the public.

Mr. John M. Taylor : No. Steps are already taken through national and local initiatives such as press notices and articles, posters and leaflets in public places, and contact with employers and other organisations, to reach out to people of all backgrounds so that they are aware that it is open to anyone eligible to apply for appointment. Last year 2,062 appointments were made by the Lord Chancellor and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct

Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if the Lord Chancellor has decided whom he proposes to appoint to the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct to replace the outgoing members.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The Lord Chancellor has today appointed the following people to serve as new members of the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Conduct :

Lee Bridges

Dr. Bob Hepple

Neville March Hunnings

Ian McNeil

Charles Plant

Professor Peter Scott

David Steel QC

Mary Tuck

The new members will commence their work for the committee on 1 April 1994.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Ministerial Instructions

Mr. Rowlands : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to her answer of 25 February, Official Report , column 494, about overriding the


Column 120

accounting officer's objections, what were the circumstances concerned, the amount of public money involved, and in what way the Public Accounts Committee and hon. Members were informed.

Mr. Jack : The Minister overruled the accounting officer's advice in February 1992 on a question of the location of the Ministry's divisional offices. The sum of public money involved was of the order of £70,000 per annum. This was a question of value for money, rather than of propriety or regularity, and it is standard Government procedure that such accounting officer memoranda are not automatically drawn to the attention of the Public Accounts Committee nor to that of the National Audit Office, unless they are conducting any relevant inquiry.

Norway (Fishing)

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what provision is being made in the common fisheries policy aspect of negotiations with Norway for entry into the European Union for (a) national negotiations with third parties, (b) Norwegian enforcement of catches by other EU countries, (c) Norwegian allocation of catches to other EU countries and (d) limited derogations from the common fisheries policy principles of access to all EU members.

Mr. Jack : The answers to the hon. Member's questions are as follows :

(a) Norway has been authorised, in close association with the Commission, to maintain its fisheries agreement with Russia and to establish total allowable catches at north Norway for a transitional period until 1 July 1998.

(b) North of 62 deg north, Norway can maintain its current control system for a transitional period of three years, in a way which does not discriminate between member states.

(c) Cohesion countries will benefit from adjustments to the European Economic Area provisions and from a transfer of Norway's cod quota in the North West Atlantic Fisheries Organisation's Division 3M.

(d) Before 1 January 1995 the Council will discuss and decide upon adjustments to the measures relating to the conditions of access to waters and resources referred to in the Act of Accession of Spain and Portugal and these adjustments will enter into force from 1 January 1996. Until then, equivalent constraints to those to which Spain and Portugal are subject will apply to Norway in certain EU waters.

Mr. Harris : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will make a statement on the outcome of the negotiations for Norway's accession to the European Union as they relate to fishing.

Mr. Jack : The outcome of the negotiations on fisheries between the European Union and Norway, which were concluded on 16 March, was satisfactory to the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom should receive some additional 2,000 tonnes of north- east Arctic cod quota in 1997, if Norwegian stocks rise as predicted. Increased flexibility over where the western mackerel stock may be caught will also benefit United Kingdom fishermen. The common fishery policy rules applying within the waters of the Twelve generally, and the special rules


Column 121

applying to Spain and Portugal under their accession treaty, are unchanged by the agreement. Reciprocal arrangements for access to Community and Norwegian resources, including the setting of total allowable catches and quotas, fully respect the principle of relative stability. There will be no disruption to member states' shares of existing TACs and no increase in fishing effort.

The negotiations encompassed the following main topics : (i) Access to Waters

The areas to which Norway and the EU grant each other access are unchanged by the agreement.

For so long as Spain and Portugal are subject to the restraints on their access to the waters of the other 10 member states which are set out in their accession treaty, Norway will be subject to equivalent constraints in certain EU waters.

The Council will decide, by 1 January 1995, on the rules which will apply to Spain and Portugal from 1 January 1996.

(ii) Access to Resources

EU access to Norwegian resources and Norwegian access to EU waters will be governed strictly by relative stability, generally with a five-year track record. However, Norway has conceded that one third of the western mackerel stock may be fished in any of the three management areas, giving increased flexibility, inter alia, to United Kingdom fishermen.

Norway has agreed to make additional quantities of cod available to the "cohesion" countries--effectively, for this purpose, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. This will predominantly be achieved by phasing in from 1995 the quota agreed in the EEA negotiations for 1997 ; by transferring 1,000 tonnes of Norwegian cod for NAFO area 3M in the north-west Atlantic, and by the purchase of fishing opportunities from third countries.

(iii) Management North of 62 deg north

Norway has a special management scheme and rigorous controls in north Norwegian waters as well as a bilateral agreement with Russia, much of which she has been authorised to maintain until 1 July 1998. During the transition period the Community will be examining how best to incorporate Norwegian experience and practices into the CFP.


Column 122

(iv) Access to Markets

For a four-year period there will be a system of indicative ceilings for the quantities of salmon, herring, mackerel, shrimps, scallops, Norway lobsters, redfish and trout entering the EU Twelve from Norway. If the ceilings are exceeded, or the EU market disrupted, the Commission is empowered to take action to restore stable trade.

Parliamentary Questions

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

Mr. Jack : Ministers in this Department answer parliamentary questions in accordance with paragraph 27 of "Questions of Procedure for Ministers".

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if she will list for the last 12 months how many parliamentary questions she has referred to one of her Department's agencies for answer ; and what percentage of parliamentary questions to her Department this represents.

Mr. Jack : Between 1 March 1993 and 28 February 1994, this Department received 2,375 parliamentary questions. Of these, 13 were referred to agency chief executives. This represents 0.54 per cent. of the total.

Raptors

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information she has, by species, concerning the number of raptors killed in Humberside and in each of the three counties of Yorkshire in each of the last four years by (a) shooting, (b) poisoning or (c) other means.

Mr. Soames : No licences have been issued by this Ministry to kill raptors. Cases reported to this Ministry of raptors killed by poisoning are given below :


Column 121


                |Humberside     |North Yorkshire|South Yorkshire|West Yorkshire                 

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

1990            |0              |0              |3 Kestrels     |0                              

                                                |1 Sparrowhawk                                  

1991            |0              |1 Hen Harrier  |0              |0                              

1992            |0              |2 Kestrels     |0              |0                              

1993            |0              |0              |0              |0                              

Information held centrally by the Home Office on prosecutions for illegal activities cannot separately identify the killing of raptors from other illegal activities against them because the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 does not separately identify an offence of killing wild birds from the offence of injuring or taking them.

Correspondence

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many letters were received from, and written to, hon. members by her and her ministerial colleagues during February.


Column 122

Mr. Jack : Some 936 letters from hon. Members and peers were received in MAFF during February 1994 and 902 letters were sent to hon. members or peers by Ministers in this Department in the month of February.

Set-Aside

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps she is taking to ensure that extensive grazing and late cropping for hay should be part of the non-rotational set-aside regime for environmental reasons.

Mr. Jack : The EC regulation governing set-aside under the arable area payments scheme prohibits agricultural


Column 123

production, including grazing and hay- cropping, except between 1 September and 14 January when farmers may graze their own animals to take a late harvest of hay for their own use. While both grazing and hay-cropping would be beneficial in environmental terms, allowing them more generally would risk undermining the effectiveness of set-aside, since this would enable mixed farmers to reduce their area of grass without reducing their arable area. My right hon. Friend is not therefore seeking any change in this respect.

Public Interest Immunity Certificates

Mr. Darling : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many public interest immunity certificates she has signed in each year since 1990.

Mr. Jack [holding answer 15 March 1994] : As far as we can establish, the Minister has signed one public interest immunity certificate since 1990, in 1993.

ENVIRONMENT

National Spring Clean Week

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what support his Department is giving to the national spring clean week, 15 to 24 April, organised by the Tidy Britain Group.

Mr. Atkins : National spring clean week is funded from within the Department's grant to the Tidy Britain Group. We have recently given the group a further £93,000 to spend on additional publicity for this campaign, making the total 1993-94 grant to the Tidy Britain Group £2,968,000.

In addition, the Department will be looking to support publicity events and other activities connected with the campaign.

Global Warming

Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 15 February, Official Report, columns 733-34, what is the budgeted and actual cost to date of the research assessing the energy efficiency global warming campaign.

Mr. Baldry : The budgeted costs to date of the research assessing the energy efficiency global warming campaign are £235,836.40. The figures for the actual costs to date are identical to those of the budgeted costs to date : £235,836.40.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list for the last 12 months how many parliamentary questions he has referred to one of his Department's agencies for answer ; and what percentage of parliamentary questions to his Department this represents.

Mr. Baldry : During the past 12 months, four parliamentary questions were referred to agencies in my Department for answer. Three of these were referred to the Ordnance Survey agency and one to the Planning Inspectorate agency. They represented 0.025 per cent. and 0.075 per cent. respectively of the total number of parliamentary questions answered by my Department during that period.


Column 124

Toxic Waste

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how Her Majesty's Government implement the policy of "polluter pays" in regard to consignments of toxic waste exported for treatment.

Mr. Atkins : The costs associated with the export of hazardous waste are generally met by the exporter. Under the EC Waste Shipments Regulation, which will apply in May, specific powers are provided which will enable competent authorities to charge exporters for the costs of implementing the notification and supervision procedure, together with usual costs of appropriate analyses and inspections. Exporters who are not themselves the producers of the waste will no doubt wish to reflect the impact of those charges in the cost of the service they provide to waste producers. Moreover, it is a requirement under the Waste Shipments Regulation that wastes shall be exported only where the process for which they are destined is environmentally sound. The costs of these processes are a matter for the terms of the contract between the exporter and the consignee.

Bolivia

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations Her Majesty's Government have received from (a) Bolivian citizens, (b) the Bolivian Government or (c) non-governmental organisations in regard to the local pollution effects in Oruro in the Bolivian Andes arising from the toxic slag exported to the Funestano processing plant from the Capper Pass smelter in Humberside between October 1992 and March 1993.

Mr. Atkins : No Bolivian citizens have made representations to Her Majesty's Government. The Bolivian Government sought clarification of Bolivian newspaper reports from the British Government in May 1993 in the light of complaints from Greenpeace. In response, our charge d'affaires met officials of the Bolivian Ministry of External Affairs on 2 June 1993 and confirmed the export had been in accordance with the United Kingdom law and procedures.

Christian Aid expressed concern at the export of wastes to Bolivia in a letter to the President of the Board of Trade on 10 June 1993. The Government have also received a number of representations from Greenpeace.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the actual spending per capita by each county, borough and metropolitan local council for the last 10 years for which figures are available.

Mr. Baldry : I have arranged for the information to be placed in the Library of the House.

Waste Regulation

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make it his policy to implement section 61 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 before 1 June.

Mr. Atkins : The future of section 61 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 is among the matters


Column 125

raised in our consultation paper "Paying for Our Past" which I announced to the House on 8 March in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), Official Report, column 110. We will decide what to do, and when, in the light of the responses we receive.

Environment Agency

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to receive from Touche Ross consultants the report he commissioned on options for the proposed environment agency.

Mr. Atkins : Touche Ross is expected to complete the study on options for the geographical and management structure of the proposed environment agency by mid-May.

Council Tax

Mr. Henderson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the average waiting time for appeals against valuation to be heard (a) in England as a whole, (b) in each standard region and (c) in each local authority area since the introduction of the council tax.

Mr. Baldry : A meaningful figure cannot yet be given on the average length of time taken to hear appeals, since a great many cases are being settled by agreement between the taxpayer and the Valuation Office agency, and relatively few have been heard as appeals by valuation tribunals.

EC Sprint and Valve Programmes

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of the implications for environmental research of the merger of the EC Sprint and Valve programmes under the fourth framework programme 1994 to 1998.

Mr. Atkins : Until the Commission brings forward its formal proposal for the third activity-specific programme, it is not possible to assess the impact of the new arrangements. However, in negotiations on this programme, Her Majesty's Government will be looking to ensure that the strengths of the two former

programmes--Sprint and Value--are sustained.

Water Quality Objectives

Sir Cranley Onslow : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to introduce statutory water quality objectives on English rivers.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer 21 March 1994] : Regulations are to be made soon to set in place a national scheme for classifying water quality. This will open the way for consultation to start on the first batch of proposals for statutory water quality objectives.

Homeless (Definition)

Mr. Robert Ainsworth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his definition of "unintentional" as it will apply to those being assessed as homeless under his legislative proposals.

Sir George Young : The consultation paper "Access to Local Authority and Housing Association Tenancies" states in paragraph 13.1 that


Column 126

"the Government believes that the present provisions on intentionality remain appropriate, although they will require some modification to reflect the new legislation".

We will decide on the revised definition of intentionality in the light of the responses to the consultation.

Out-of-town Shopping Centres

Mr. Lewis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer on 16 March, Official Report, column 683, on out-of- town shopping centres, what are the implications of planning policy guidance note 13 for his support for the proposed Dumplington scheme in Greater Manchester ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry : PPG13 has no implications for Dumplington. Planning permission was granted for Dumplington on 4 March 1993, before PPG13 was published.

The grant of permission has been challenged by a group of local planning authorities in the courts. The group has suggested that given recent changes in policy a decision made on a similar application today would be to refuse. However, this argument is not relevant to the legality of the decision to grant planning permission for Dumplington. The Secretary of State had to consider matters as they were at the time of his decision.

Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre

Mr. Hargreaves : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the outcome of the triennial review of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre.

Sir George Young : The triennial review of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre executive agency has now been completed, and a summary of the evaluation report has been placed in the Library. In 1992-93, the centre was voted "Best UK Conference Centre" by members of the industry for the sixth year in succession, and was awarded one of the first chartermarks. However, there is still room for improvement in meeting the agency's key objectives of securing a progressive reduction in its net costs to the Exchequer and of encouraging optimum occupancy levels. The target operating deficit in 1993-94 is £900,000, but when rent for occupation of the building is added the deficit is some £7 million. The target occupancy level for 1993-94 is 49 per cent. over 365 days for the main letting areas. While I have decided that there should be no immediate change to the centre's status as a "next steps" agency, I have asked the agency to continue the search for further efficiencies and improvements in its financial and operational performance. In addition, I propose to test the value for money of the present arrangements by including a contract for management of the centre in my Department's market -testing programme for 1994-95. I intend that any resulting contract should come into effect from April 1996.

Leeds City Council

Mr. Knapman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has considered the response by Leeds city council to the notice served on the authority on 10 September 1993 under section 13 of the Local Government Act 1988 ; and if he will make a statement.


Column 127

Mr. Baldry : My right hon. Friend has considered carefully the response which Leeds city council has made to the notice served on the authority, and has today given the authority a direction under section 14 of the Local Government Act 1988. The effect of the direction is to require the authority, when it next re-tenders the work which was the subject of the notice, to seek my right hon. Friend's consent should it wish to reassign the work to the direct services organisation. The direction also requires the authority to ensure that future contracts allow contractors the opportunity to rectify any default in performance before penalties are incurred.

TREASURY

Bank of England

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many Bank of England staff are analogous to the civil service grades of assistant secretary, grade 5, and above ; how their pay scales differ from those of their civil service analogues ; and what assessment he has made of the way in which limits which have been placed by the Government on civil service pay increases have been and will continue to be applied by the Bank.

Mr. Dorrell : The Bank of England does not employ civil service grades or grades that are directly analogous. Under the approach to public sector pay in 1994-95, Government Departments will be expected to offset pay increases for their staff with efficiency savings, and we would expect the Bank of England to follow a similar course. The previous approach to public sector pay, limiting settlements to the range zero to 1.5 per cent., has been implemented successfuly throughout the public sector including the civil service and the Bank of England.

Iran (Arms Exports)

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what communications Her Majesty's Customs and Excise has had with the United States Justice Department in regard to allegations made by Mr. Ian Smalley, about arms exports to Iran.

Sir John Cope : Customs and Excise advises me that it has had no communications with the United States Justice Department in regard to allegations made by Mr. Ian Smalley.

VAT on Fuel (Advance Payments)

Mr. Hanson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what advice his Department has given to utility companies with regard to advance payments of VAT prior to the introduction of VAT on fuel from April.

Sir John Cope : In meetings with British Gas and the electricity suppliers, customs has confirmed that such advance payments create a tax point under VAT law. Consequently, payments made before 1 April are subject to VAT at the zero rate.


Next Section

  Home Page