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The information must remain commercially confidential while TECs are negotiating with their providers, and for this reason I am not prepared to give information about individual TEC budgets for 1994-95 until after the beginning of October.
With regards to TEC budgets since their inception, I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 13 December 1993, Official Report, column 512, to my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter). This provides details of TEC budgets agreed with the Employment Department for the last three years in cash and real terms using prices from the first year's funding.
Mr. Raynsford : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations he has received from the Consumers Association on the quality of advice available from local social security offices ; and if he will make a statement on the action he proposes to take in response.
Mr. Hague : The quality of advice available from local social security offices 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. Nick Raynsford, dated 20 April 1994 :
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the quality of advice available from local social security offices.
You will be aware of the recent article in the Consumer Association's WHICH magazine. The article drew conclusions
Column 617about standards of customer service available in Benefits Agency offices, based on a survey of their own members and on observations from a small sample of local offices. Although it cannot be said to be representative of the level of service provided by all Benefits Agency offices it is important that the comments are acknowledged. The Benefits Agency recognises that customers expect a professional, efficient, quality service which provides prompt and accurate benefit payment. Whilst there are areas in which improvements could be made, considerable progress in this area has already been achieved. One of the major contributing factors to this improvement is our willingness to listen to customers and to respond to their comments.
For this purpose the Agency have produced two leaflets ; "Let's be Fair" explains the Benefits Agency's policy on the customer's right to fair and equal treatment ; "Have your say" explains the complaints procedure to customers.
In addition, the Agency commission annually a national indpendent survey of its customers. In 1993, 3,428 customers were interviewed face to face, selected from a random postal sift of 17,000 households. The results of this survey are due to be published on 25 April 1994 and show that 84 per cent. of customers are satisfied with the standard of service provided by the Benefits Agency, against the Secretary of State's target of 85 per cent. This is an improvement on the corresponding figures for1992 when 82.3 per cent. were satisfied.
It is important, that as an Agency we are constantly aware of, and responsive to, the needs of our customers. The ongoing process of customer research helps to identify any improvements that are necessary and the areas highlighted by the WHICH article will be considered as a part of this process.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. Donald Dewar, dated 20 April 1994 :
I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the number of staff currently employed by the Child Support Agency.
At 31 March 1994, the Agency had 5,200 staff in post in Great Britain. You may also wish to know that at the same date there were also 626 Northern Ireland civil servants based in Belfast engaged in work relating to parents with care who live in mainland Britain. I hope this reply is helpful.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. David Blunkett, dated 20 April 1994 :
I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the placing of internal Child Support Agency bulletins in the Library of the House. Operational guidance for Agency staff is contained in the Child Support Manual, copies of which are already available in the Library. Relevant internal operational bulletins are incorporated as amendments to the Manual.
I hope this reply is helpful.
Column 618permanent maintenance orders in relation to deduction of earnings through the Child Support Agency ; and if he will make a statement ; (2) what guidance he has given on the use of deduction from earnings orders in relation to interim maintenance orders through the Child Support Agency ; and if he will make a statement.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. David Blunkett, dated 20 April 1994 :
I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Questions to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the guidance issued by the Child Support Agency on the implementation of deduction from earnings orders.
The imposition of a deduction from earnings order is a discretionary decision made by a Child Support Officer having considered the needs of the parent with care, and the children involved and any representations made by the absent parent. Instructions to staff in relation to deduction from earnings orders are contained in the Child Support Manual.
The Child Support (Collection of Enforcement) Regulations were amended in February specifically in relation to deduction from earnings orders on interim maintenance assessments. Detailed guidance for staff on deductions from earnings orders in such cases is in the course of preparation and will be incorporated in the Child Support Manual.
A copy of the Child Support Manual is available in the Library. I hope this reply is helpful.
Mr. Austin-Walker : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many community care grants were given from the Thameside office ; and how many were given to refugees in each financial year from 1991-92.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. John Austin-Walker, dated 20 April 1994 :
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the number of Community Care Grants (CCG) awarded by the Benefits Agency's Thameside office and the number awarded by the Benefits Agency's Thameside office and the number awarded to refugees.
I should clarify that the Benefits Agency does not have a Thameside office but does have a Thameside District which comprises of the offices of Woolwich and Bexley. I have, therefore, provided information relating to the Thameside District as a whole. The number of CCGs awarded in the District for each of the years 1991-92, 1993-94, which also include CCGs awarded on review, are given at Appendix A.
Information on the number of CCGs awarded to refugees in the District for the same periods is not collected as a matter of course. The information requested could only be gathered by the manual examination of all the Social Fund applications in the Thameside District and this would incur disproportionate cost.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Appendix A Number of Community Care Grants (CCGS) awarded in the Benefits Agency's Thameside District Financial |Number of CCGs Year |CCGs |awarded --------------------------------------------- 1991-92 |1,613 1992-93 |2,123 1993-94 |2,275
Mr. George : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security 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.
Mr. Hague : This Department and its executive agencies occupy over 500 sites throughout the country. Security at these sites is controlled locally and this includes the award of contracts to private companies either directly by the Department or, where appropriate, by facilities managers acting on our behalf. Information about contracts awarded is not collected centrally and therefore could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mrs. Fyfe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what arrangements have been made to pay pensioners allowances in respect of VAT on domestic fuel ; and what examinations he has made of the reasons where allowances have not been paid so far.
Mr. Hague : Extra help for pensioners in respect of VAT on domestic fuel is paid automatically as part of the 1994 increase in benefit rates which is effective from week commencing 11 April 1994. The date on which the first benefit payment at the increased rate is made available will depend on the method of payment chosen by the pensioner and the day of the week on which his or her pension is payable.
Mrs. Roche : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of how many claimants are expected to take up incapacity benefit within the Brighton borough council area from the introduction of the new benefit ; and what he expects the total benefits bill to be for incapacity benefit for claimants within the Brighton borough council area in the year following the introduction of the new benefit.
Mr. Hague : Responsibility for the administration of housing benefit lies with individual local authorities which are in the best position to undertake local publicity about it. Information about housing benefit is also available at all Benefits Agency offices and unemployment benefit offices.
Latest estimates of housing benefit take-up, which are for 1990 and 1991, indicate that between 93 per cent. and 97 per cent. of available benefit is being claimed by between 90 per cent. and 95 per cent. of those eligible. Further information on take-up estimates can be found in "Income Related Benefits--Estimates of Take-up in 1990 and 1991" published on 25 March 1994, a copy of which is in the Library.
Mrs. Ann Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Education (1) if he will list those schools outside the maintained sector that have approached his Department, the Funding Agency for Schools or the Grant- Maintained Schools Centre with a view to acquiring grant-maintained status ;
(2) how many inquiries his Department has received from independent schools seeking to become grant maintained ; and how many inquiries from parents' groups, or other groups, seeking to set up new grant-maintained schools.
Mr. Robin Squire : The Department has received over 370 requests for information about the establishment of new grant-maintained schools by promoters. Of these, one third have been from existing independent schools and two thirds from other groups. No formal proposals have been received from promoters, and it would be inappropriate to infer, from these initial inquiries, the promoters who may formally publish proposals for new grant- maintained schools in due course.
Mr. Forth : The estimated surplus capacity of primary schools in Wiltshire as at January 1991 is as set out in the reply to the hon. Member for Warwickshire, North (Mr. O'Brien) on 31 January 1994, Official Report, columns 517-21. The estimated number of surplus places in secondary schools at that date is 9,987, representing 23 per cent. of capacity. This corrects the figure in the previous reply. Up-to-date information on surplus capacity in all LEA areas will be collected under regulations to be made later this year.
Column 621disproportionate costs or because the information requested was not held centrally over the last five years ; 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. Hanley : My Department has answered nearly 14,000 parliamentary questions over the past five years, of which less than 250, or under 2 per cent., have not been answered because of disproportionate cost or because the information requested was not held centrally. No doubt as computer and operational systems continue to improve, there will be increased potential for this percentage to decline.
Mr. Hanley : Ranks in the Royal Naval Services, Army and Royal Air Force, and the number of personnel in each rank as at 1 January 1994, the latest date for which information is held, were as follows :
Royal Naval Services |Numbers --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Royal Navy Admiral of the Fleet |- Admiral |5 Vice Admiral |11 Rear Admiral |28 Commodore |37 Captain |328 Commander |1,125 Lieutenant Commander |2,369 Lieutenant |3,158 Sub-Lieutenant |1,067 Officer Designate |256 Warrant Officer |840 Chief Petty Officer |7,521 Petty Officer |6,624 Leading Rate |8,942 Able Rate |14,670 Ordinary Rate/Junior |1,364 Royal Marines General |- Lieutenant General |1 Major General |2 Brigadier |3 Colonel/Lieutenant Colonel |34 Major |102 Captain |195 Lieutenant |277 Officer Designate |105 Warrant Officer Class 1 |43 Warrant Officer Class 2 |222 Colour Sergeant |368 Sergeant |736 Corporal |1,658 Marine 1st Class |3,126 Marine 2nd Class/Junior |475 Queen Alexandra's Royal Navy Service Commandant Nursing Officer |1 Principal Nursing Officer |2 Chief Nursing Officer |5 Superintending Nursing Officer |26 Senior Nursing Officer |47 Nursing Officer |10 Warrant Officer RGN/Warrant Officer EN(G) |1 Chief RGN/Chief EN(G) |17 Petty Officer RGN/Petty Officer EN(G) |51 Leading RGN/Leading EN(G) |232 Student Nurse/Pupil Nurse/EN(G) |185 Probationary Nurse |70 Army Field Marshall |1 General |8 Lieutenant General |9 Major General |55 Brigadier |210 Colonel |552 Lieutenant Colonel |1,685 Major |4,851 Captain |4,776 Lieutenant/2nd Lieutenant |2,643 Officer Designate |471 Warrant Officer Class 1 |2,034 Warrant Officer Class 2 |5,304 Staff Sergeant |6,807 Sergeant |12,241 Corporal |19,222 Lance Corporal |19,458 Private Classes 1 to 3 |36,633 Private Class 4/Junior |7,790 Royal Air Force Marshal of the Royal Air Force |1 Air Chief Marshal |5 Air Marshal |6 Air Vice Marshal |39 Air Commodore |105 Group Captain |404 Wing Commander |1,329 Squadron Leader |3,603 Flight Lieutenant |6,220 Flying Officer/Pilot Officer |1,649 Officer Designate |343 Warrant Officer |1,719 Flight Sergeant/Chief Technician |5,088 Sergeant |10,381 Corporal |18,909 Junior Technician/Senior Aircraftman/Leading Aircraftman |26,857 Aircraftman |408 Notes: 1. Figures exclude 5 star officers who remain on the active list but do not hold an appointment. 2. Commodore (RN) and Brigadier (RM) are not substantive ranks but are appointments. Figures represent Captains (RN) and Colonels (RM) filling Commodore (RN) and Brigadier (RM) appointments. 3. RGN-Registered General Nurse; EN(G)-Enrolled Nurse (General). 4. Members of Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps (QARANC) and Princess Marina's Royal Air Force Nursing Service (PMRAFNS) hold the same ranks as other personnel serving respectively in the Army and Royal Air Force. 5. RN Chaplains do not hold Service Ranks, but have been included in the Naval rank equivalent of their class. 6. The term "Officer Designate" is used to describe university cadets and personnel under initial training or awaiting initial training at one of the Service officer training establishments. 7. I would also refer the hon. Member to the Tri-Service Personnel Statistics, a copy of which is placed in the Library of the House.
Column 623sonic booms were conducted. Of these, only one incident was established as a sonic boom, 15 were identified as sonic or possible sonic events, in 10 cases the report was either withdrawn by the complainant or no sonic event established. One report is still under investigation. Details of the 17 investigations covering sonic booms/events and possible sonic events and the one outstanding case are as follows :
Date Location Results of investigation --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1992 5 March |Off the coast of Blackpool|Sonic boom |BAe Tornado 11 March |Kings Lynn |Sonic event |F-111 aircraft suspected 18 June |Great Yarmouth |Sonic event |F4 aircraft suspected 24 November |Cambridge area |Sonic event |F15 aircraft 19-20 November |Lincoln area |Sonic events |F15 aircraft 1993 27 January |North Humberside |Sonic event |F15 aircraft suspected 2 February |Thurso |Sonic event |Tornado aircraft suspected 5 February |Scarborough |Sonic event |Tornado aircraft suspected 26 February |Bridgewater |Sonic event |Sea Harrier aircraft 8 March |Peterborough |Sonic event |F15 aircraft suspected 14 April |Peterborough |Sonic event |F15 aircraft suspected 16 July |Southwold |Sonic event |F15 aircraft 21 July |Lowestoft |Sonic event |F16 aircraft 11 August |St. Andrews |Sonic event |F15 aircraft 22 October |Morpeth |Possible sonic event |Tornado aircraft suspected 7 December |Norfolk |Still under investigation 1994 25 January |Peterborough |Sonic event |F15 aircraft suspected Notes: 1. A sonic boom is caused by an aircraft travelling at supersonic speed. 2. A sonic event is caused when a small part of the airframe (such as the wing tips) exceeds the speed of sound. This usually occurs when an aircraft is conducting high energy manoeuvres.
Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his response to the recommendations of the joint air miss working group report on the air miss between a Boeing 737 and three United States air force F 16s on 26 May 1993.
Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what briefing the pilots of the United States Air Force F 16 aircraft involved in an air miss with a British Midland Airways Boeing 737 on 26 May 1993 had received on United Kingdom airspace and air traffic control procedures (a) from British military personnel or (b) from United States air force personnel prior to their flight.
Mr. Hanley : The F-16 aircraft, operating from their base at Spangdahlen in Germany, were participating in a joint Royal Air Force/United States air force exercise in the United Kingdom. The aircrew received a full briefing on all aspects of the United Kingdom airspace control procedures from United States air force (Europe) personnel. The USAF aircraft are required to adhere to the same flying regulations as those of the RAF.
Mr. Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence from which airfield the United States air force F 16s involved in an air miss over Midlothian on 26 May 1993 took off for the sortie ; and where they landed on completion of the sortie.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much has been claimed in total in compensation to farmers in Wales for loss of livestock, abortion and loss of production caused by low-flying aircraft ; how much of this total is of disputed claims ; how much has been settled ; and how much remains to be settled for each year since 1980.
Mr. Hanley : There can be no meaningful total of amounts initially claimed, because many claims are unquantified at the outset and may be repudiated without valuation. Settlement is reached after a process of valuation, usually on independent advice, and in consultation with the claimant. Reliable data on settlements are available only from 1988 onwards and since then the Ministry of Defence has paid the following amounts of compensation to farmers in Wales for livestock losses which have been attributed to low flying military aircraft activity :
|£ --------------------- 1988 |30,228 1989 |31,584 1990 |47,953 1991 |59,160 1992 |33,153 1993 |30,000
Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement summarising the results of ground-level noise measurements for aircraft involved in low flying sorties ; and what changes there have been in the amount of noise nuisance since 1980.
Mr. Hanley : A series of trials, known as Exercise Luce Belle, to measure noise on the ground arising from military aircraft flying at low level has taken place at RAE West Freugh since 1990. The results of these trials have shown that at the speeds and heights normally flown in the United Kingdom low flying system no aircraft type generates a noise level on the ground in excess of 125 dB(A), a level at which research has indicated there is no significant risk to human hearing. A copy of the report on the first trial, which covered the main aircraft types, is available in the Library of the House. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) announced to the House on 14 October 1991, Official Report, column 115, we aim to have reduced the amount of low flying by jet aircraft in the United Kingdom by around 30 per cent. by the end of this year.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the mean (a) height above the ground and (b) velocity for aircraft during low flying sorties, and what change there has been in these figures since 1980.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the average length of time from initial receipt of a claim to its payment by his Department in processing claims for compensation to farmers in the United Kingdom for loss of livestock, abortion and loss of production caused by low-flying aircraft.
Mr. Hanley : The time from claim to payment can vary greatly and as the data required to calculate an average length of time is not readily available, the information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how much has been paid out in compensation to farmers in the United Kingdom for loss of livestock, abortions and loss of production caused by low-flying aircraft during each year since 1979.
Mr. Hanley : Reliable data are available only from 1988 onwards. Since then the Ministry of Defence has paid out the following amounts in compensation to farmers in Great Britain--United Kingdom excluding Northern Ireland--for livestock losses caused by low flying military aircraft :
|£ ------------------------ 1988 |273,934 1989 |160,039 1990 |254,683 1991 |293,301 1992 |230,312 1993 |299,503
Mr. Davidson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what steps are being taken to ensure that additional staff resources are provided to clear any backlog of claims for disability pensions owing to restricted access to the Public Record Office archive at Hayes.
Mr. Hanley : In addition to the normal, full, staffing levels, a futher nine full-time staff are currently employed on casual contracts and will remain so while a backlog of claims exist. In addition, overtime is being worked seven days a week.
Mr. Davidson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether there will be unrestricted access to the Public Record Office archive at Hayes to enable the backlog of claims for disability pensions to be progressed.
Mr. Davidson : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many claims for disability pensions have been delayed as a result of the asbestos contamination at the Public Record Office archive at Hayes ; how many of these claims have been outstanding for more than (a) six months, (b) 12 months and (c) 24 months ; and if he will make a statement.
Apart from a small number of individual cases of particular complexity which could be separately identified only at disproportionate cost, the archives' backlogs are now rather less than six months and already as little as two months in some areas.
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many staff are currently assigned to the defence debriefing team ; what consideration he has given to incresing the size of the defence debriefing team ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hanley : There are currently some 40 individuals serving with the defence debriefing team, all of whom are military personnel. This is considered sufficient to meet the team's present task and there are no plans to increase its size, although that position is kept under review. During the course of its work the team has acquired information on alleged human rights violations and war crimes committed in Bosnia. This information has been passed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for onward transmission to the United Nations commission of experts.
Column 628live sheep imports. For other animal types, data on live imports for slaughter are only separately available from the total of live imports for bovines and horses.
It is not possible to state the destination for the animals once they have been imported into the United Kingdom.
The table gives the total number of live imports by animal type for 1992, the latest year for which annual data are available. In addition, the second column gives the number of imports of live bovines for slaughter and the seventh column gives the number of imports of live horses for slaughter.