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Written Answers to Questions

Wednesday 20 April 1994

HOME DEPARTMENT

Prisoners (Police Cells)

Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many prisoners were being held in police cells in England and Wales at the latest date available.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Derek Lewis to Ms Lynne Jones, dated 20 April 1994 : The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the number of prisoners being held in police cells in England and Wales.

On 17 April 1994, the latest date for which complete information is available, 315 prisoners were held in police cells in England and Wales.

Crime Statistics

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many offences were reported to the police in each of the last five years involving sexual abuse or serious ill treatment of children aged under 16 years by stepfathers or men cohabiting with the child's mother.

Mr. Maclean : The information is not collected centrally.

Police Stop" Video

Mr. Mandelson : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what reasons he has been given for actuality film of police car chases being supplied by local police forces to the commercial producers of the video "Police Stop" ; and what form of payment was made for this transaction ;

(2) when the hon. Member for Hartlepool can expect to receive a reply to his letter of 21 March concerning the co-operation given by the police in the commercial production of the video "Police Stop" ; (3) if he will request local police forces in future to stop providing film footage of police car chases and crashes to commercial video producers.

Mr. Charles Wardle : My right hon. and noble Friend Lord Ferrers replied to the hon. Member's letter on 13 April. The supply of informaiton from police records, including video material, is an operational matter which is for the discretion of individual chief officers of police. The traffic committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers has take a close interest in the issue and will be considering it in full when the committee meets on 11


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May. I understand that the information was supplied for the purpose of promoting road safety and that none of the police forces concerned received money for the supply of footage.

Passports

Mr. Hunter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take measures to allow British citizens to continue to use a United Kingdom rather than a European passport if they so wish.

Mr. Charles Wardle : Old-style British passports remain valid until their normal date of expiry, but are then replaced by new-style British passports which are machine readable and in a common format agreed with our European Community partners. We have no plans to change the present arrangements.

Car Crime

Mr. Nigel Evans : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what steps the Home Office is taking to reduce car crime, with particular reference to new initiatives taken within the last six months ;

(2) what estimates the Home Office has regarding the likely incidence of car crime in 1994-95 and 1995-96 ;

(3) how many police hours were committed nationally to covering incidents of vehicle crime in each year since 1990 ;

(4) what was the estimated cost to British car owners of vehicle crime in each year since 1990.

Mr. Charles Wardle : The Home Office is continuing its car crime prevention campaign in 1994, with both media advertising and behind the scenes activities designed to reduce the opportunities for this type of crime.

In addition, the advisory committee on car crime prevention has now been brought under the auspices of the national board as a working group and continues to look at devising new ways of improving vehicle security. We are also continuing to promote the secured car parks initiative and I urged major car park operators to participate in the scheme when I met them on 2 February to discuss car park security. It is not possible to estimate what the likely incidence of car crime will be in 1994-95 and 1995-96, but I am pleased to be able to report that vehicle crime as a whole went down by almost 2 per cent. in 1993. I hope that this downward trend will continue.

Information as to how many police hours were committed nationally to covering incidents of car crime in each year since 1990 is not available.

Similarly, information as to the estimated cost of vehicle crime to British car owners over the same period is not available in the form requested. However, the British Crime Survey found that in 1991 the net losses to victims of all types of thefts involving cars was somewhere in the region of £775 million, excluding insurance and security costs.

Parish Constables

Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of Sate for the Home Department what was the total cost of advertising and promoting the parish constable initiative incurred by his Department.


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Mr. Charles Wardle : There has bneen no formal advertising or promotional activity. The parish constables initiative was promoted through exchanges between the Home Office and police forces and parish councils in the course of normal business.

Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what extra resources his Department has provided to fund the provision of parish constables.

Mr. Charles Wardle : I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave him on 18 April at columns 352-54.

Mr. Mike O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has had from councils to provide funding for the provision of parish constables ; and what has been his response.

Mr. Charles Wardle : The only representations of this kind that have been received from parish councils have suggested that the special constables serving as parish special constables, or the members of the public serving as wardens, should be paid either by the state or out of council funds. In the case of parish special constables, this would be contrary to the tradition of the special constabulary. Special constables volunteer their time and are not paid, although they receive allowances and out-of-pocket expenses for their hours of duty. This has not proved an obstacle to take-up of the initiative. More than 40 schemes are now up and running.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. McMaster : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many parliamentary questions to his Department in the last five years have not been answered because of disproportionate costr j 2-6 or because the information requested was not held centrally ; how many could be answered now due to computerisation and/or more effective operational systems ; and if he will list each such question along with the name and constituency of the hon. Member who tabled it.

Mr. Howard : The number of answers given to questions to my Department in the five calendar years 1989-93 which the POLIS database has been able to identify as fitting the hon. Member's criteria is 479. Information on how many of these questions could now be answered and details of the questions and the hon. Members who tabled them could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Police, North Yorkshire

Mr. Bayley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been (a) the establishment and (b) the number of police officers in post in North Yorkshire on 1 April 1974 and on the same date each year since then up to and including 1 April 1994.

Mr. Charles Wardle : Information on police strength is collected at the end of each month. The figures set out in the table give the information requested as at 30 April in each year. Data for April 1994 are not yet available.


Establishment and strength of the North Yorkshire police    

from 1974 to                                                

1994                                                        

Years as at 30 |Establishment |Strength                     

April                                                       

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

1974           |1,277         |1,183                        

1975           |1,277         |1,246                        

1976           |1,328         |1,309                        

1977           |1,328         |1,294                        

1978           |1,328         |1,271                        

1979           |1,328         |1,337                        

<1>1980        |1,368         |1,355                        

1981           |1,368         |1,352                        

1982           |1,368         |1,361                        

1983           |1,368         |1,362                        

1984           |1,368         |1,358                        

1985           |1,368         |1,348                        

1986           |1,368         |1,365                        

1987           |1,368         |1,362                        

1988           |1,368         |1,370                        

1989           |1,383         |1,363                        

1990           |1,408         |1,380                        

1991           |1,408         |1,380                        

1992           |1,418         |1,389                        

1993           |1,418         |1,384                        

<2>1994        |1,418         |1,326                        

<1> The North Yorkshire authority did not ask for an        

increase in establishment between 1980-81 and 1987-88.      

<2> Figures as at February.                                 

Polling Booths (Disabled Access)

Mr. Sheerman : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what new steps he is taking to ensure that disabled persons have full access to polling booths during local, national and European elections.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We regularly remind local authorities and returning officers about their obligation to choose, wherever possible, buildings which provide access for the disabled, and we have included further advice in our guidance for acting returning officers at the forthcoming European parliamentary elections. This matter is also being considered as part of our post-election review.

Temazepam

Ms Quin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in how many cases of violent crime abuse of the drug Temazepam has been found to be a factor in the last three years ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean : The information is not collected centrally.

Ms Quin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to reschedule the drug Temazepam in capsule and tablet form ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean : The Home Office carried out a public consultation exercise on this proposal last year. The advisory council subsequently considered the responses to this consultation, and I am currently considering the council's conclusions in consultation with ministerial colleagues. I plan to reach a decision shortly.

Bosnian Refugees

Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) how many people from Bosnia have sought refugee status ; and how many have been granted this in each year since 1992 ; (2) how many people from Bosnia are currently living in the United Kingdom because of insecurity in their homeland ; and if he will give a breakdown of their current status regarding their right to stay.


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Mr. Charles Wardle [holding answers 19 April 1994] : The available information on asylum applications by nationals of the former Yugoslavia, and on decisions made, for the period 1 January 1992 to 31 March 1994 are given in the attached table ; data for Bosnians are not separately identifiable in the statistics. The large majority of applications made in the period are under consideration and the applicants are being allowed to remain in the meantime. In addition to consideration of asylum applications, the Government have, under arrangements announced in November 1992 and June 1993, offered to receive 1,000 particularly vulnerable individuals from the former Yugoslavia, and their close dependants, an estimated total of 4,000 people in all. As at 12 April 1994, 626 particularly vulnerable individuals and 849 dependants had arrived under these arrangements. Prior to this, 68 sick and wounded ex-detainees from Bosnia arrived in September 1992.


Decisions<1> on applications<1> received for asylum in the United Kingdom                 

from nationals of the former Yugoslavia, excluding dependants,                            

1 January 1992 to 31 March 1994                                                           

Number of principal applicants                                                            

                                  |1992         |1993         |January 1994               

                                                              |to March 1994              

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

Asylum applications<1>            |5,635        |1,830        |390                        

Decisions<2><3>                   |130          |180          |270                        

  Recognised as a refugee and                                                             

  granted asylum                  |*            |55           |220                        

  Not recognised as a refugee but                                                         

  granted exceptional leave to                                                            

  remain<4>                       |*            |55           |220                        

Refusals                          |125          |125          |45                         

  Refused asylum and                                                                      

  exceptional leave after full                                                            

  consideration                   |-            |10           |25                         

  Refused under para 180F<5>      |65           |80           |10                         

  Refused on safe third country                                                           

grounds<6>                        |60           |30           |5                          

<1>Provisional figures rounded to the nearest 5 with *=1 or 2.                            

<2>Figures exclude information on applications made overseas.                             

<3>Decisions do not necessarily relate to applications made in the period.                

<4>Usually granted for a year in the first instance, subject then to further review.      

<5>For failure to provide evidence to support the asylum claim within a reasonable period,

 including failure to respond to invitation to interview to establish identity (para. 101 

prior to 26 July 1993).                                                                   

<6>Refused on the grounds that the applicant had arrived from a safe third country.       

TREASURY

VAT on Fuel

Mr. Betts : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what considerations led him to apply differential treatment to individual and district heating systems in regard to the levying of VAT on domestic fuel.

Sir John Cope : There is no special VAT treatment for supplies of heat made under a district heating scheme. However, where landlords supply their tenants with heat under such a scheme and make a flat rate charge for both accommodation and heat then, in VAT terms, there is only a single supply of heated accommodation. In such cases the VAT liability of this single supply will be determined by the principal element, the accommodation. This has always been the position and follows established VAT supply principles.


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Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what estimate he has made of the extent to which value added tax will be charged on any fuel used before 1 April, in bills sent out shortly after 1 April ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir John Cope : There are transitional arrangements that enable suppliers to apportion bills so that VAT is charged only on gas and electricity calculated as used after the new rate came into force.

Bank Notes (Design)

Mr. French : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans he has to change the design, size and colouring of £10 or £20 notes.

Sir John Cope : The design of Bank of England banknotes is the responsibility of the Bank. I understand that it has no plans to make any further changes to the £10 and £20 notes. New versions with clearer numerals were introduced last year. The size differences have been maintained in order to help the blind and partially-sighted. The colours are predominantly different, especially in the bold coloured symbols and around the portraits on the reverse of the notes.

Mr. French : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration is given when introducing new bank notes to the needs of the blind and the elderly.

Sir John Cope : Design of Bank of England bank notes is the responsibility of the Bank of England. The Bank consults representatives of the blind, the partially sighted and the elderly about the design. In the light of advice from these groups, the Bank has maintained differences in the heights and widths for each denomination in the new series of notes and introduced a different bold coloured symbol on the front of each note to assist the partially sighted.

Trinidad Terms

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the countries which have benefited to date from the Trinidad terms ; if he will specify for each of these countries how much debt has been written off in total, and how much has been written off by the United Kingdom ; if he will list the countries which will be coming up for debt relief under the Trinidad terms in the near future ; and if he will indicate which countries have started negotiating the second stage of their Trinidad terms agreement.

Mr. Nelson : To date, 22 countries have benefited from a reduction in the burden of their official bilateral debt under Trinidad terms. They are : Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote D'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Republic, Guyana, Honduras, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. Figures for the debts owed to individual creditors, or the debts cancelled for any individual country are confidential. We cannot publish these figures without the consent of the authorities in both the debtor and creditor countries. But in total, it is estimated that over the lifetime of these agreements over $7 billion of debt will be restructured and around $2 billion will be forgiven. The United


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Kingdom's share of the debt and debt service forgiven is estimated to be over $200 million. However, such estimates are liable to revision since, for several of the debtor countries, discussions over the detailed terms are still underway.

The merits of all future requests for debt rescheduling will be considered by the Paris Club creditors on a case by case basis. Thus it is not possible to say which countries might obtain debt relief under Trinidad terms in the future. As yet, no countries have begun negotiating for reductions of their stock of official bilateral debts with the Paris Club.

EC Central Bank

Sir Thomas Arnold : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about the recent meeting of EC finance ministers with EC central bank governors.

Sir John Cope : EC central bank Governors were invited to the informal meeting of EC Economic and Finance Ministers held in Greece on 9 April. The main item of discussion was follow-up work to the Commission's White Paper on "Growth, Competitiveness and Employment." As is the practice for informal meetings of this sort, there were no formal Council conclusions.

VAT Registration Fraud

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the amount saved or collected due to uncovering of value added tax registration fraud due to local knowledge of local registration staff in each constituency in England and Wales.

Sir John Cope : False VAT registration by bogus business for the purpose of obtaining false VAT repayments is treated as criminal fraud. Of the reported cases, Customs are unable to identify how many were detected specifically as the result of local knowledge of registration staff in local VAT offices.

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

British National Party

Mr. Shore : To ask the Attorney-General whether he has received a report from the Metropolitan police into the alleged electoral malpractices of the British National party in leaflets put out in Millwall on the 1 October 1992 and 16 September 1993 local by-elections ; and if he will make a statement.

The Attorney-General : The Crown Prosecution Service has been kept informed of the progress of the Metropolitan police inquiries following a complaint made by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). The investigation is continuing and the CPS expects to receive a report when it is concluded.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Computer Error, Benefits Agency

Mr. Cann : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the number of people not in receipt of severe disablement premium


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because of computer error by the Benefits Agency ; how long this problem has existed ; what is being done to rectify it ; what efforts are being made to trace those concerned ; what his Department's policy is towards backdating payments to the date when entitlement commenced ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hague : The administration of income support is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Jamie Cann, Dated 19 April 1994 :

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question in which you enquire about suggestions that Benefits Agency customers with entitlement to a severe disability premium (SDP) have not received it due to a computer error.

I would first of all like to explain that the problem did not arise from a fault with the Income Support Computer System (ISCS). It has always been possible to include the SDP in system produced payments of Income Support if entitlement existed. The problem arose because the complexity of the criteria necessitated staff making further enquiries in cases with potential entitlement.

This was because it was not possible to obtain all of the information to determine entitlement on the intial Income Support claim form ; inclusion of all the relevant questions would have increased its size and complexity unacceptably, particularly for the majority of customers from whom the information was not required. Inevitably potential entitlement was sometimes overlooked, further enquiries were not always made and as a result some awards of the SDP missed.

In order to improve the initial consideration of claims a change was introduced to the ISCS on 13 December 1993. It will now identify a case with potential entitlement to the SDP as claim details are entered and issue an appropriate enquiry to the customer, removing the need for staff to do this. Similarly, potential entitlement is also identified when reviewing existing cases.

Corrective action has been taken on all cases identified and full areas have been considered and paid as appropriate. Arrears are considered for any past period since 1988, when the premium was introduced, in cases where the award of the SDP was appropriate. We are considering what further action may be necessary to establish the extent of the problem and identify any further cases which may not have been correctly awarded the SDP. If any are identified enquiries will be made before they are referred to the adjudicating authorities who will consider whether, and from when, the SDP can be paid.

I should explain that all claims to social security benefits are decided in the first instance by an Adjudication Officer who applies statute and caselaw to a customers circumstances before making a decision about entitlement. If a person disagrees with their decisions they have the right of appeal to the Independant Tribunal Service. There is a further right of appeal, but only on a point of law, to the Social Security Commissioners.

These authorities, appointed in consequence of an Act of Parliament, are independant of both the Department of Social Security and the Benefits Agency. Consequently no Government Minister or official can comment on their decisions or intervene in matters for which they are responsible.

I hope that you find this reply helpful.

Appeal Tribunals

Sir Malcolm Thornton : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what action he is taking to remove legislative barriers to improved handling of appeals to social security appeal tribunals, disability appeal tribunals and medical appeal tribunals.

Mr. Hague : Amendments to the social security adjudication regulations have been laid today to make a


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number of changes which will streamline the handling of appeals by the independent tribunal service. The main purpose of these minor and technical amendments is to ensure that before a date is arranged for an appeal hearing all necessary preliminary work can be completed.

Pensions

Mr. Denham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the average value of weekly state pension paid (a) four weeks in arrears and (b) 13 weeks in arrears.

Mr. Hague : The information is not available.

Mr. Denham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of the population of working age in Britain is (a) currently contributing to the state earnings-related pension scheme or (b) currently opted out of SERPS and is earning above the national insurance minimum contributions level.

Mr. Hague : During 1991-92, the latest date for which information is available, of the population of working age in Great Britain with earnings above the national insurance lower earnings level : (

(a) 15.4 per cent. paid national insurance contributions to count towards the state earnings-related pension scheme ;

(b) 34.2 per cent. were contracted out of SERPS, including those who are members of an appropriate personal pension scheme ; (

(c) 3 per cent. worked in both contracted in and contracted out employments.

Source : 1 per cent. sample of the national insurance recording system and Office of Population Censuses and Surveys mid-1992 population estimates.

Mr. Denham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pensioners receive their state pension via automated credit transfer (a) four weeks in arrears and (b) 13 weeks in arrears.

Mr. Hague : At March this year, an estimated 2,550,000 pensioners received their state pension by automated credit transfer four weekly in arrears ; and an estimated 85,000 received their state pension by automated credit transfer 13-weekly in arrears.

Benefits (Habitual Residence Test)

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 12 April, Official Report, column 164, what views his Department's legal advisers have expressed on his proposals applying an habitual residence test to the payment of benefit.

Mr. Hague : The Department's legal advisers believe that the proposals are in accordance with Community law.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Aero-engine Development

Mr. Robert Ainsworth : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what analysis he has undertaken into the relative Government support received by Rolls-Royce, Pratt and Witney and General Electric concerning aero-engine development.

Mr. Sainsbury : The United States aero-engine industry receives no direct financial support from the United States


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Government. However, indirect support, primarily from NASA and the Department of Defence for research and development, is estimated by the United Kingdom industry to be approximately $760 million per annum. Due in part to the high level of indirect support provided by the United States Government to its aircraft industry, the United Kingdom has been seeking a new GATT agreement on trade in civil aircraft to provide strict and fair limits on all classes of Government support for the aerospace industry.

Currently Rolls-Royce receives around £5 million under a number of DTI schemes. The Ministry of Defence, including the Defence Research Agency, currently spends around £51 million with Rolls-Royce on aero-engine research technology demonstration and development contracts.

Rolls-Royce

Mr. Robert Ainsworth : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what level of repayments of launch aid have been made by Rolls-Royce to the Exchequer in each year since 1986.

Mr. Sainsbury : Launch aid repayments made by Rolls-Royce for each year since 1986 are as follows :


Year      |£ million          

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

1986-87   |22.2               

1987-88   |25.2               

1988-89   |21.5               

1989-90   |31.9               

1990-91   |17.3               

1991-92   |27.3               

1992-93   |33.6               

Mr. Robert Ainsworth : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how much Government assistance has been given to Rolls-Royce since 1986.

Mr. Sainsbury : Approximately £196 million has been provided to Rolls-Royce under a number of schemes since 1986.

Fireworks

Mr. Matthew Banks : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many firework-related injuries were referred to hospitals in the period around 5 November 1993.

Mr. McLoughlin : According to reports from accident and emergency units in hospitals in England, Wales and Scotland, 1,058 people required treatment for injuries caused by fireworks, an increase of 12 per cent. over the total number of injuries reported in 1992. A breakdown of the figures for 1993 and for the previous four years by region, type of injury and kind of firework involved is being placed today in the Libraries of both Houses of Parliament. Virtually half the injuries were due to illegal misuse of fireworks in the streets or public places--338--and to sparklers- -189. Injuries in the 16 to 20-year age group were 12 per cent. lower than in 1992. Notwithstanding annual average sales of 100 million fireworks, I remain concerned at the number of firework injuries.

My Department is in touch with representatives of the fireworks industry and of enforcement authorities to discuss ways in which firework injuries can be reduced.


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Export Credits Guarantee Department

Mr. Matthew Banks : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if the ECGD will become a next steps agency.


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