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Column 595formula have been received from both magistrates courts committees and others and are being taken into account by the working group.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what representations he has received concerning the operation of the magistrates courts service inspectorate ; and when he expects its first annual report to be published.
Mr. John M. Taylor : In September 1992 my Department issued a consultation document on the role of the inspectorate, to which 92 substantive responses were received. A list of respondents was appended to Decision Paper No. 4, published in May 1993, available from the House of Commons Library. The Department has also received some 1,170 letters, direct or through hon. Members, on various aspects of the matters now encompassed in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Bill. Some of these touched upon the inspectorate. The chief inspector of the magistrates courts service published the inspectorate's first annual report on Tuesday 12 April. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the statutory obstacles mentioned in paragraph 126 of section A of his departmental report, Cm 2509, that led to the withdrawal of the county court bulk centre from the first round programme of market testing.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The statutory obstacle referred to is section 27 of the Courts Act 1971.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to close small courts processing 20,000 units of work or less or small courts within 15 miles of larger courts ; what number of county courts in London such a policy would leave in operation ; and if he will publish his Department's full accommodation plan for the next three years and his Department's specific plans for small courts.
Mr. John M. Taylor : Each case for closure is considered on its merits, taking into account the need to provide an acceptable standard of service in the area generally. The level of work load and proximity to larger courts with good facilities are factors which are taken into account. All closure proposals are subject to wide public consultation. My Department is not planning to close automatically all county courts processing 20,000 units of work or less, or small courts within 15 miles of larger courts. If such a policy were pursued none of the London county courts would be affected. It is not intended to publish the Department's provisional accommodation plan, because some of the elements it will contain are being reviewed as part of the fundamental review of public expenditure.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department which court has (a) received the most complaints and (b) had to pay out the most
Column 596compensation for errors and delays ; and what plans he has for regular publication of the figures for compensation payments.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The highest number of complaints was received by the Central London county court which also had to pay out the most compensation for errors and delays. In the period January 1993 to March 1994 1,563 complaints were received and £60,636.59 paid out in compensation. Central London county court was created, in 1992, by the merger of the Westminster and Bloomsbury county courts. The process of amalgamation was inevitably difficult and led to a marked reduction in the standard of service. These initial problems are now resolved, and the number of complaints fell to 85 in the first three months of this year.
There are no plans for regular publication of these figures.
Mr. Boateng : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what plans he has to (a) contract out, (b) place in the control of an executive agency or (c) privatise the functions of the Public Trust Office Agency ; and what reserch his Department has done into the impact of such reforms on (i) minors who have been awarded damages and (ii) private trusts serviced by the executorship and administration service.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The Public Trust Office will become an executive agency in the second half of 1994 as part of the Government's "next steps" programme. The Lord Chancellor made the decision following a study of the work done by the Public Trust Office and how best to meet the needs of users of its services. At the Lord Chancellor's request, further work is being carried out to examine the continuing need for a trustee service provided by the public sector and whether the functions undertaken by the court funds office are necessary.
Mr. Congdon : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the estimated cost to the Exchequer in a full year of allowing husbands and wives with insufficient income to absorb their personal allowance of £3,445 to transfer the unused balance of this allowance to their partner, assuming that the transferred allowance (a) may be claimed at the earning spouses' highest rate and (b) is restricted to the 25 per cent. rate.
Mr. Dorrell : The Exchequer cost in a full year at 1994-95 income levels is estimated to be about £3 billion if the transferred allowance were available at the recipient's marginal rate of tax and £2 billion if the transferred allowances were not available at the higher rate. This estimate does not take into account any behavioural changes which could result from such a measure.
Mr. Boyes : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total cost of official entertaining in his Department in each year since 1990-91 ; if he will list the receptions held in each year at his Department's expense ; and what was the cost of each reception.
Sir John Cope : Expenditure on official entertainment in 1990-91 was £51,424, in 1991-92, £85,873, in 1992-93, £303,523 and in 1993-94, £70,239.
Expenditure on receptions has been taken to mean formal hospitality provided largely for the benefit of people from outside the Department, excluding lunches and dinners. In those cases where the cost can be separately identified, expenditure was as follows :
|£ ---------------------------------------------- 1991-92 Press reception |1,048.21 1992-93 Press reception |622.50 Russian secondees reception |627.00
The large increase in total expenditure on official entertainment in 1992- 93 reflects the cost of the informal
Column 598ECOFIN Council during the United Kingdom Presidency of the EC and the cost of the 1992 conference of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions, for which the United Kingdom was the host. The bulk of the expenditure on these events was on conferences and related facilities. Opening receptions were held, but the cost is not separately identifiable.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 17 March, Official Report, column 820, if he will list the outstanding balance for the collection of the value added tax default surcharge for each year since 1988, including 1993, as a percentage of default surcharge collected.
Sir John Cope : Table of default surcharge outstanding at 31 March as a percentage of default surcharge collected :
Year |Amount collected |Amount collected |Balance outstanding |per year |year on year |year on year |(cumulative total) |(cumulative total) |£ million |£ million |£ million |Percentage ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1988 |25.1 |25.1 |50.7 |202 1989 |79.2 |104.2 |61.7 |59 1990 |82.1 |186.3 |74.9 |40 1991 |83.2 |269.5 |102.7 |38 1992 |92.5 |362.0 |132.3 |37 1993 |96.0 |458.0 |116.3 |25
The percentages shown for 1988-93 are based on year-on-year cumulative totals at 31 March of the default surcharge outstanding and the default surcharge collected.
Some of the payments collected during any given year may relate to assessments issued in previous years.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what information technology consultants his Department has employed in each of the last five years ; for what purpose ; and at what total cost.
Sir John Cope : I regret that information for years before 1991-92 is not available.
The number of IT consultancies and their total cost for 1991-92 and later years is given in the table.
Year |Number |Total cost (£) ------------------------------------------------------------ 1991-92 |0 |0 1992-93 |4 |26,000 1993-94 |4 |53,000
The main work covered is IT support, including software revision and systems development, including work related to the pensions administration system. The firms involved are Bywater plc, ERA Software Ltd., Ground Modelling Systems Ltd., IMS, Jerry Hughes, Moodey International Developments and Dunnit Shaw.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what assessment has been made of the effects of Cameroon's agreement with the International Monetary Fund for the health and education services in
Column 598Cameroon ; and what steps have been taken by the British director at the IMF to ensure that the structural adjustment programme does not damage health and education programmes ;
(2) how the structural adjustment programme recently concluded between the International Monetary Fund and Bulgaria safeguards the poor of that country and its health and education programmes.
Sir John Cope : The IMF and World bank are doing valuable work to help countries such as Cameroon and Bulgaria assess the possible impact that economic reform may have on vulnerable groups, in order that reform can be tailored to meet the needs of individual countries. In their design, IMF and World bank programmes pay particular attention to ensuring that sectors such as health and education are given appropriate priority within the reforming country's budget. The needs of the sectors were explicitly addressed in the cases of Cameroon and Bulgaria. The United Kingdom executive director at the IMF, along with representatives of all the fund's members, considers each proposal for a structural adjustment programme to ensure that the programme is appropriate to the needs of the individual country.
Mr. George : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many private security firms have been employed by his Department for each of the last 10 years ; what has been the annual value of the contracts ; and if he will estimate how many guards have been employed for each of those years.
Sir John Cope : No part of Her Majesty's Treasury currently employs private security firms. Private security firms have been employed by Forward, which is now in the
Column 599private sector, and the rating of government property department, which is now part of the Valuation Office. Details relating to Forward were provided in the answer my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) on 17 June 1993.
The rating of government property department employed two private security firms sequentially between 1987 and 1992. The contract for the first to 1 April 1989 was for £2,600 per annum ; the second was for £4,900 per annum. They involved the provision of one guard.
Mr. Mandelson : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the Government's target for underlying inflation in (a) 1996 and (b) 1997.
Sir John Cope : The Government's aim is to bring inflation down and then to hold it down. This is the only lasting basis for sustained growth. For the rest of this Parliament our objective is to keep underlying inflation, as measured by the RPI excluding mortgage interest payments, in the range 1 to 4 per cent. and for inflation to be in the lower part of this range by the end of the Parliament.
Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on balancing charges for ships and measures to assist the shipping industry.
Ms Walley : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what new measures he now proposes to assist the British merchant fleet.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke : The health of the merchant fleet is clearly a matter of great concern both inside and outside the House. The Government have made it clear that we recognise the very important contribution which shipping makes to the economy and the essential role which the industry can be called on to play in a national emergency and we have shown in the past our willingness to help with the problems which it faces.
We recognise that it is common for shipping companies overseas to benefit from special tax provisions. We believe that such special provisions introduce distortions which can inhibit competition and lead to the inefficiency allocation of resources. We will be raising these points forcefully with the European Commission.
However, we also recognise that, competitively, tax measures available overseas put our shippers at a particular disadvantage. We have therefore decided to introduce a provision which will allow capital allowance balancing charges for ships to be rolled over for a period of up to three years from the date on which the ship is disposed of, to be set off against subsequent expenditure on ships within that period. The amount of any balancing charge which can be rolled over will be limited to the amount needed to ensure that no tax liability arises as a result of a ship's disposal. We estimate that this measure will benefit the shipping industry by up to £20 million per annum in a full year. In drawing up this provision we will be considering whether it should be restricted to ships on the United Kingdom register ; and in doing so will take account of what our European Union partners do.
Column 600As with any measure of this sort we have an obligation to notify the Commission of the proposal. Subject to the outcome of discussions with Commission, we will be bringing forward the necessary legislation in next year's Finance Bill, with retrospective effect from today. The draft legislation will be made available by the Inland Revenue as soon as possible.
Dr. Bray : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he proposes to publish in 1994 the two or more forecasts which the Treasury is required to publish each year under schedule 5 of the Industry Act 1975.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke : I propose to publish the first Industry Act forecast of 1994 in the summer, probably around late June, in good time for the summer economic debate. The second forecast in 1994 will be published on Budget day.
Mrs. Roche : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what plans he has to ensure under the citizens charter that letters from hon. Members to Government agencies are dealt with speedily ; what discussions he has held as to a reasonable time limit in which to expect a reply ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Waldegrave : Reply times to correspondence are frequently covered by agencies' charters and statements of charter standards. Reply times and other charter standards are decided by the Minister responsible for the agency in consultation with the chief executive.
Mr. Gunnell : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, pursuant to his answer of 9 March, Official Report, column 256, if he will place in the Library those sections of the Permanent Secretary's handbook which do not relate to national security.
Mr. Waldegrave : I have carefully considered the hon. Member's request, but I have nothing to add to my reply of 9 March.
Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister what guidance has been issued to Ministers regarding the practice of replying to parliamentary questions in terms such as, "I will write to the hon. Member" ; and in what circumstances this practice is considered appropriate.
The Prime Minister : A reply in which a Minister says that he will write to the hon. Member may be given for a number of reasons. It may be used as an interim reply because it is not possible to provide a substantive answer within the time scale laid down, to provide information of specialist or local interest which is detailed or lengthy or where there is a need for discretion in making the full reply available because it concerns a confidential constituent's case.
Column 601Following a recommendation from the Procedure Committee, first report, Session 1992-93, guidance has been issued that such replies should also state, except where confidentiality is necessary, that copies of the Minister's reply will be placed in the Library.
Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 April.
Sir Peter Tapsell : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 21 April.
The Prime Minister : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister what is the latest information to Her Majesty's Government about malnutrition-related diseases, and the shortage of water-pumps, water-filters and pharmaceuticals in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates.
The Prime Minister : In addition to information given to me by the hon. Member himself, and obtained from non-governmental organisations with local knowledge, information is in the most recent reports from the United Nations and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House. The reports point out that reliable data are not generally available.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister what was the total cost to public funds of all his offices, duties, accommodation and expenses in 1993-94.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 April 1994] : The No. 10 budget includes the running costs of 10 Downing street and the costs associated with Chequers. A final outturn for 1993-94 is not yet available, but is likely to be some £9.2 million.
Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister if he will provide the final figure for 1993-94 for (a) the cost of maintaining and running No. 10 Downing street and additional costs at Chequers, (b) the grant-in-aid to the Chequers Trust and (c) the costs on a consistent basis expressed at 1984-85 prices.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 April 1994] : Final figures for 1993-94 are not yet available. The estimated outturn for the cost of 10 Downing street and Chequers borne on the vote of the Cabinet Office, OPSS, is as follows :
H 1993-94 £ million |Cash |1984-85 |prices ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Number 10 capital and running costs of Chequers |8.9 |5.5 Grant-in-aid to Chequers Trust |0.3 |0.2 |--- |---- Total |9.2 |5.7
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what proposals on environmental protection he plans to put to the Industry Council on 22 April.
Mr. McLoughlin : There are no issues relating to the environment on the agenda of the Industry Council on 22 April.
Mr. Thurnham : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the extent to which the work being carried out by Nynex CableComms at 28 Oaks avenue, Bolton is in accordance with its licence.
Mr. McLoughlin : The licence held by Nynex CableComms Bolton Ltd. provides for the standard of its street works to be governed by the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 and its associated regulations. I understand that the local highway authority has conducted a sample inspection of the street reinstatement outside 28 Oaks avenue, Bolton as provided for under that Act. The reinstatement was found not to be of the required standard and the cable operator, Nynex CableComms Bolton Ltd., has been asked to remedy this.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list those countries (a) which are signatories to the new GATT agreement and (b) which are not.
Mr. Needham : A total of 125 countries participated in the Uruguay round of multilateral trade negotiations, which culminated on 15 April in the signature of the final act at Marrakech. The names of the 125 countries are listed.
Antigua and Barbuda
Central African Republic
Co te d'Ivoire
Korea, Republic of