Mr. Spellar : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what were the costs to the public purse of the abandoned case at Winchester Crown court in respect of conspiracy to defraud Wessex regional health authority.
Mr. John M. Taylor : I am not able to state the amount of the costs to the public purse as a re-trial was ordered by the trial judge and accurate figures will not be available until the case has been concluded and the bills of costs determined. In any event, not all these costs will have been wasted, as much of the preparation work by solicitors and counsel will not need repeating.
Mr. Mudie : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department if he will list the 1993-94 expenditure on the permanent bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law ; and how many staff are employed and paid under this expenditure vote.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The United Kingdom's expenditure on the permanent bureau of the Hague Conference in 1993-94 amounted in total to £55,931.03--Dfl. 158,115.73. This amount was paid as a lump sum contribution in August 1993 and represents the United Kingdom's contribution towards the permanent bureau's total budget of Dfl. 2, 317,418 for 1993-94.
There are currently 12 permanent staff employed by the bureau. The latest available figures show that the total salary bill for the financial year 1 July 1992 to 30 June 1993 was Dfl. 1,452,348.
Mr. Cox : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how many (a) men and (b) women from an ethnic community were members of a juvenile court magistrates' panel for courts covering the Greater London area as of 20 April.
Mr. John M. Taylor : Information is available only in respect of the Inner London Commission area in which there are currently 10 men and nine women from the ethnic minority community sitting as members of the youth court panel, formerly the juvenile court panel.
Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what analysis has been reached by his Department of the responses received to the consultation paper on the organisation and management of civil enforcement agents.
Mr. John M. Taylor : The response to the public consultation was positive ; the vast majority of consultees were pleased that the issues had been raised and agreed that the law should be simplified and procedural changes made to rule out abuses which might occur under the present system. A wide variety of views were received on the options set out in the consultation paper. The options are still being considered by the Lord Chancellor who will want to discuss his proposals with Government colleagues before making any further announcements.
Mr. John M. Taylor : I am examining the provision of criminal legal aid as a whole as part of the fundamental review of my Department's expenditure currently under way. But any changes that may be made will need to take account of the presumption of innocence.
Mr. John M. Taylor : Final figures are not yet available. However, provisional outturn figures show that the net cost of legal aid in 1993-94 was £1,210 million compared to a provision of £1,283 million. This represents an increase of £117 million on the previous year. Of the £73 million underspend against provision in 1993-94, £39 million related to criminal legal aid where the number of bills paid fell short of expectations, reflecting the fall in business in the criminal courts. Most of the remaining shortfall, £27 million, related to civil legal aid.
Payments to the legal aid fund, particularly in respect of costs and damages recovered, amounted to £21 million more than anticipated, which we believe is mainly because of speedier settlements resulting from the transfer of business from the High Court to the county court following from the civil justice review. In addition, the number of civil bills paid were some 3 per cent. lower than expected, resulting in a reduction in expenditure of around £6 million. The remainder of the shortfall was due to green form expenditure being some 2 per cent. lower than estimated and the number of assistance by way of representation bills being some 30 per cent. lower than expected, resulting in shortfalls in expenditure of £3 million and £4 million respectively.
Mr. David Shaw : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what are the key performance targets for Her Majesty's Land Registry and the Public Record Office executive agencies for 1994-95.
Her Majesty's Land Registry Executive Agency Key performance targets 1994-95 Indicator |Target ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Financial Return on average capital employed: |6 per cent. External Financing Limit: |0 per cent. 2. Efficiency Progressive reduction in unit costs in real terms: |To achieve at least 2 per cent. |reduction in the year. 3. Productivity Progressive increase in output per post: |To achieve at least 2 per cent. increase |in the year. 4. Speed of service Percentage of pre-completion : |No less than 98 per cent. applications handled in 3 days Average handling time for post- |Where no requisitions arise,no more completion applications: |than 5 weeks. 5. Quality of service Percentage of pre-completion |No less than 99.75 per cent. applications handled free of error: Percentage of post-completion |No less than 97.70 per cent. applications handled free of error: 6. Development of Land Registration Number of computerised registers: |To increase the number of registered |titles in computerised format to 10.50 |million. Note Fuller details of the Registry's performance targets are given in its "Business Plan", which is available from Her Majesty's Land Registry.
Public Record Office Executive Agency Key performance targets 1994-95 Indicator |Target -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. Efficiency Indicator: Unit cost of selecting and |To decrease the unit cost of selecting accessioning records | and accessioning records by 3 per | cent. Indicator: Unit costs of providing record |To reduce the unit cost of providing storage space, document productions and |records storage space by 1 per cent. reader services |To decrease the cost per document |produced to readers by 4 per cent. |To increase the reader service costs |per reader visit (Census microfilms) |by no more than 2 per cent. |To decrease the reader service costs |per reader visit (other records) by 2 |per cent. Backlog of records awaiting review: |To identify and quantify the backlog |in two departments. |To reduce the known backlog of |records over 30 years old which have |not been processed, by 1,500 feet |(current known backlog 5,500 feet). Storage of records: |81 per cent. of records to be stored to |an acceptable standard (standard as |recommended in BS5454). 2. Quality of service Reader satisfaction: |87 per cent. of reader satisfaction | survey forms returned to have an |overall assessment of "good", or |better. Response times for answering |To send replies to letters requiring a correspondence: |response by stock letter within one |week. |To send replies to other letters to |Reader Services and Reprographic, |Publishing and Publicity Departments |(including those requiring estimates |for copies) within three weeks. Document production times: |To make documents (excluding |documents produced on microform, or |stored at Hayes, or requiring special |handling) available to readers within |the following maximum times: |Kew: 35 minutes |Chancery Lane: 40 minutes Note: Fuller details of the Office's performance targets are given in its "Business Plan", which is available from the Public Record Office.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer to the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Mr. Callaghan) of 26 April, at column 101, concerning the actions and plans of Her Majesty's Government to fight drug addiction and related crime, what powers the Government possess to stop and search all cargo or persons wishing to enter the United Kingdom.
The Prime Minister : Her Majesty's Customs and Excise has powers to stop and search persons, vessels, aircraft, vehicles and their cargo, wishing to enter the United Kingdom, in respect of prohibited goods, including drugs and firearms. As a contribution to the fight against drug addiction and related crime, Customs uses these powers to combat the smuggling of prohibited goods.
Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Prime Minister what representations were made to him by the Royal British Legion to receive a deputation of war widows to discuss the Government's decision to reverse a decision of the High Court by amending the Service Pensions Order to restrict the pension entitlement of widows or ex-service men ; what reply he made ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Prime Minister what direct consultations Ministers had with (a) the Royal British Legion and (b) the Normandy Veterans Association about the Government's decision to reverse a decision of the High Court by amending the Service Pensions Order to
Column 336restrict the pension entitlement of ex- service personnel and war widows ; and if he will now himself directly consult the two organisations on the Government's decision.
The Prime Minister [holding answer 28 April 1994] : The customary mechanism for consultation on proposed changes to war pensions legislation is through the statutory Central Advisory Committee on War Pensions. The committee includes representatives of several ex-service organisations, including two members each from the Royal British Legion and the Royal British Legion (Scotland).
The Minister with special responsibility for war pensions at the Department of Social Security, my noble Friend, Lord Astor, consulted the committee on the recent proposals to amend legislation following a decision of the High Court which suggested that the law did not clearly reflect long-standing policy. We always consider, as we did on this occasion, any other points made by any individual or organisation.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many (a) members of the public and (b) organisations have sought a reference back to the boundary commission's revised proposals for South Yorkshire in respect of the boundaries for Barnsley, East and Mexborough, and Don Valley constituencies ; and on what date he hopes a decision will be announced.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : I understand that the parliamentary boundary commission for England has received representations concerning the revised recommendations for South Yorkshire in respect of the boundaries for Barnsley, East and Mexborough, and Don Valley constituences from 144 members of the public and from 17 organisations. These were evenly divided between representations in support of the commission's revised recommendations and those which objected to them. A further 1,249 signatures were put to petitions relating to the recommendations. A news release announcing a decision in respect of the boundaries of the Barnsley, East and Mexborough, and Don Valley constituencies will be issued in May 1994.
Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what measures he is taking to ensure that investigations into fraud in the EC are made immediately and publicly and that individuals are brought to account.
Mr. Maclean : I refer the hon. Member to the reply that my right hon. and learned Friend gave on 4 March 1994 to a question from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) at column 934.
Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, (1) pursuant to his oral answer to the hon. Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) of 21 April, Official Report, column 1034, if he will list any family relationship of the victims of the first and second murder to the murderer ;
(2) how many convicted murderers released from prison since 1979 killed again ; and if he will list the nature of the second conviction and any family relationship of the victims of the first murder and the second killing to the offender.
Mr. Peter Lloyd : Nine murderers released from prison on life licence since 1979 have been convicted of a further killing. Seven were convicted of murder on the second occasion and two of manslaughter. Another murderer released on life licence committed suicide while awaiting trial for a second murder.
In the cases of the seven double murderers, there were four where none of the victims were related to the offender. In one case, the victims of the first and second murders were members of the offender's family, his wife and sister respectively. In one case, the victim of the first murder was the father of the offender. In the remaining case, the victim of the second murder was the female partner of the offender.
The two released murderers convicted of manslaughter killed people unrelated to them.
Mr. Charles Wardle : Circus animals are protected against unnecessary suffering by the Protection of Animals Act 1911, and by the Welfare of Animals During Transport Order 1992 and other legislation governing the importation and transport of animals. Additionally, the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925 provides for the registration of trainers and the inspection of premises by local authorities. I have received no evidence to suggest that these provisions provide inadequate safeguards for circus animals.
Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the prisons in England and Wales at which physical restraints have been used on (a) men and (b) women inmates and the number of times such restraints were used in each establishment during 1993.
Letter from A. J. Butler to Mr. Tom Cox, dated 29 April 1994 : The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question asking if he will list the prisons in England and Wales at which physical restraints have been used on (a) men and (b) women inmates and the number of times such restraints were used in each establishment during 1993.
The number of applications of restraints under Rule 46 of the Prison Rules 1964 and Rule 49 of the Young Offender Institution Rules 1988 are given in the attached table.
The figures do not cover the use of restraints whilst prisoners are being escorted between Prison Service establishments, or between cells or to the governor's office within an establishment.
Restraints<1> applied to violent or refractory inmates of Prison Service establishments in England and Wales By establishment, 1993<2> Number of applications Establishment and |Male |Female type ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Local prisons/remand centres Bristol |4 |- Dorchester |1 |- Highdown |3 |- Holme House |1 |- Hull |6 |- Lincoln |3 |- Liverpool |13 |- Pentonville |10 |- Portland |6 |- Preston |1 |- Reading |1 |- Rochester |2 |- Shrewsbury |2 |- Swansea |1 |- Woodhill |6 |- Wormwood Scrubs |5 |- Training prisons Acklington |4 |- Camp Hill |1 |- Cookham Wood |- |1 Downview |1 |- Elmley |2 |- Featherstone |2 |- Full Sutton |4 |- Garth |1 |- Highpoint |2 |- Long Lartin |2 |- Maidstone |4 |- Norwich |2 |- Nottingham |1 |- Risley |1 |- Shepton Mallet |1 |- Swaleside |5 |- Wakefield |1 |- Wayland |2 |- Whitemoor |3 |- Winchester |3 |- Closed YOI Feltham |2 |- Wetherby |1 |- Total |110 |1 <1>Loose canvas jacket, body belt, handcuffs, ankle straps and leather wrist straps. <2>Provisional figures.
Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list all deaths that have occurred in 1992 and, if available, in 1993, of persons detained in prison department establishments, stating in each case the age and sex of the inmates and cause of death, the inquest verdict, whether the inmate was sentenced or on remand, the establishment where the inmate was detained, whether death occurred there or in an outside hospital and, where the death occurred within the prison, whether the inmate was segregated either in the hospital wing or in the punishment block.
Letter from A. J. Butler to Mr. Harry Cohen, dated 29 April 1994 :
The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about deaths in Prison Service custody in England and Wales.
Some of the information which you have requested is not held centrally and could not be obtained except at a disproportionate cost. The information that is available on self inflicted deaths in 1992 and 1993 is set out in the table. In each case the cause of death was hanging. We are also gathering together information on other deaths, including those from natural causes. I shall let you have this information as soon as it is available and also arrange for it to be published in the Official Report.
Self inflicted deaths 1992-93 Age |Sex |Verdict |Sentence |Establishment ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1992 30 |Male |Killed self |Sentenced |Hull 40 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Bristol 34 |Male |Open |Sentenced |Dorchester 21 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Durham 18 |Male |Open |Remand |Feltham 20 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Glen Parva 36 |Male |Open |Remand |Pentonville 20 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Feltham 25 |Male |Killed self |Remand |Pentonville 24 |Male |Killed self |Sentenced |Norwich 23 |Male |Open |Sentenced |Stafford 38 |Male |Killed self |Sentenced |Wakefield 16 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Deerbolt 22 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Liverpool 33 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Pentonville 23 |Male |Killed self |Remand |Hull 21 |Male |Accident |Remand |Leeds 23 |Male |Misadventure |Remand |Lewes 30 |Male |Misadventure |Sentenced |Swaleside 20 |Female |Misadventure |Sentenced |Styal 24 |Male |Killed self |Remand |Birmingham 19 |Male |Open |Remand |Brinsford 47 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Wellingboro' 21 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Ashwell 18 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Hindley 40 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Elmley 30 |Female |Misadventure |Sentenced |Holloway 21 |Male |Misadventure |Remand |Pentonville 37 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Maidstone 32 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Norwich 25 |Male |Suicide |Convicted but |Durham |unsentenced 51 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Gartree 43 |Male |Open |Sentenced |Parkhurst 30 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Ashwell 25 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Long Lartin 22 |Male |Killed self |Remand |Leeds 28 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Leicester 27 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Brixton 21 |Male |Open |Sentenced |Littlehey 41 |Male |Open |Remand |Wormwood Scrubs 28 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Bullingdon 1993 27 |Male |Open |Remand |Highdown 26 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Leicester 36 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Canterbury 37 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Durham 20 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Wetherby 41 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Hull 26 |Male |Open |Convicted but |Winchester |unsentenced 27 |Male |Open |Convicted but |Brixton |unsentenced 19 |Male |Open |Sentenced |Hindley 23 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Manchester 26 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Leicester 43 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Leeds 24 |Male |Suicide |Convicted but |Lindholme |unsentenced 37 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Bristol 48 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Wakefield 29 |Male |Misadventure |Sentenced |Exeter 25 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Belmarsh 25 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Leicester 23 |Male |Suicide |Convicted but |Leeds |unsentenced 36 |Male |Inquest verdict|Sentenced |Full Sutton |pending 26 |Male |Open |Sentenced |Parkhurst 24 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Wakefield 56 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Lincoln 26 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Liverpool 51 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Lincoln 34 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Lincoln 39 |Male |Inquest verdict|Remand |Manchester |pending 44 |Female |Inquest verdict|Remand |Holloway |pending 37 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Shepton Mallet 17 |Male |Open |Remand |Exeter 41 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Exeter 33 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Woodhill 38 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Nottingham 43 |Male |Inquest verdict|Sentenced |Wakefield |pending 23 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Long Lartin 25 |Male |Inquest verdict|Sentenced |Holme House |pending 22 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Exeter 26 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Norwich 29 |Male |Open |Remand |Bristol 33 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Norwich 25 |Male |Suicide |Convicted but |Wandsworth |unsentenced 28 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Wandsworth 31 |Male |Suicide |Sentenced |Dartmoor 34 |Male |Inquest verdict|Remand |Liverpool |pending 37 |Male |Suicide |Remand |Lewes 28 |Male |Inquest verdict|Sentenced |Holme House |pending 21 |Male |Inquest verdict|Remand |Wolds |pending 1992 total - 41 1993 total - 47
Mr. Charles Wardle : The fees for the grant and renewal of firearm and shotgun certificates are currently under review. In reviewing fee levels we are taking into account the 1991 report of the Home Office working group
Column 341on the administration of the firearms licensing system. This identified models of best practice for police forces in administering the licensing system. The result of the subsequent costing exercise, undertaken by the consultants Ernst and Young, will also be taken into account.
An announcement will be made as soon as possible.
Mr. Hardy : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to ensure that the treatment of detainees is not in breach of any convention which has been ratified by the United Kingdom.
Mr. Charles Wardle : The Government are committed to their obligations under the 1951 United Nations convention relating to the status of refugees, and the protocol to that convention, and are satisfied that United Kingdom legislation and practice do not breach these or other relevant international obligations.
Applications<1> received for asylum in the United Kingdom, excluding dependants, and decisions<1><2> 1993 Number of principal applicants and proportion of decisions (Per cent.) Decisions |Applications |Total |Recognised |Per cent. |Not recognised |Per cent. |Refused |Per cent. |for asylum |decisions |as a refugee |as a refugee |asylum and |and granted |but granted |exceptional |asylum<3> |exceptional leave |leave<4> ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 1993 January |1,960 |3,760 |90 |2 |2,250 |60 |1,420 |38 February |2,180 |5,240 |225 |4 |3,420 |65 |1,595 |30 March |1,765 |3,085 |420 |14 |1,615 |52 |1,050 |34 April |1,820 |2,305 |290 |13 |1,150 |50 |860 |37 May |1,865 |2,045 |145 |7 |1,150 |56 |750 |37 June |1,850 |1,150 |105 |9 |490 |43 |550 |48 July |1,995 |1,065 |65 |6 |260 |24 |745 |70 August |1,295 |685 |40 |6 |130 |19 |520 |76 September |1,990 |905 |55 |7 |145 |18 |605 |75 October |1,600 |885 |50 |6 |190 |21 |650 |73 November |1,805 |1,245 |55 |5 |210 |17 |975 |78 December |2,245 |1,125 |45 |4 |120 |11 |965 |86 <1> Figures are rounded to the nearest 5. <2> Decisions do not necessarily relate to applications made in the same period. <3> Excludes South East Asian refugees. <4> Figures comprise: those refused after full consideration, those refused on safe third country grounds, and those refused under para. 180F (para 101 prior to 26 July 1993) of the Immigration Rules 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.
Mr. Bennett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list total numbers of convicted and remand prisoners held in police cells in Greater Manchester since 1 January ; and how much they have cost.
Letter from A. J. Butler to Mr. Andrew Bennett, dated 29 April 1994.
The Home Secretary has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about the numbers of prisoners held in police cells in Greater Manchester since 1 January and the costs involved.
A sub-division into convicted and remands is not available centrally for the earlier part of the period from 1 January 1994. However, the total numbers of prisoners held in police cells in the Greater Manchester police area on each date from 1 January 1994 to 26 April 1994 are available and are set out in the attached table.
Column 342A total of £21,633 has been paid to Greater Manchester Police Authority. Further invoices, totalling some £488,000, have recently been received and are under consideration.
Date |Number ------------------------------------ 1 January 1994 |0 2 January 1994 |0 3 January 1994 |3 4 to 23 January 1994 |0 24 January 1994 |2 25 January 1994 |0 26 January 1994 |0 27 January 1994 |2 28 January 1994 |0 29 January 1994 |0 30 January 1994 |0 31 January 1994 |9 1 February 1994 |37 2 February 1994 |27 3 February 1994 |37 4 February 1994 |35 5 February 1994 |38 6 February 1994 |38 7 February 1994 |39 8 February 1994 |69 9 February 1994 |61 10 February 1994 |76 11 February 1994 |92 12 February 1994 |92 13 February 1994 |92 14 February 1994 |108 15 February 1994 |134 16 February 1994 |174 17 February 1994 |179 18 February 1994 |202 19 February 1994 |208 20 February 1994 |154 21 February 1994 |185 22 February 1994 |195 23 February 1994 |185 24 February 1994 |195 25 February 1994 |182 26 February 1994 |194 27 February 1994 |166 28 February 1994 |171 1 March 1994 |196 2 March 1994 |207 3 March 1994 |225 4 March 1994 |203 5 March 1994 |197 6 March 1994 |196 7 March 1994 |180 8 March 1994 |169 9 March 1994 |165 10 March 1994 |189 11 March 1994 |175 12 March 1994 |188 13 March 1994 |188 14 March 1994 |190 15 March 1994 |225 16 March 1994 |221 17 March 1994 |248 18 March 1994 |226 19 March 1994 |233 20 March 1994 |233 21 March 1994 |197 22 March 1994 |201 23 March 1994 |197 24 March 1994 |199 25 March 1994 |183 26 March 1994 |187 27 March 1994 |187 28 March 1994 |180 29 March 1994 |184 30 March 1994 |170 31 March 1994 |166 1 April 1994 |166 2 April 1994 |159 3 April 1994 |159 4 April 1994 |197 5 April 1994 |177 6 April 1994 |155 7 April 1994 |163 8 April 1994 |163 9 April 1994 |165 10 April 1994 |165 11 April 1994 |198 12 April 1994 |204 13 April 1994 |185 14 April 1994 |168 15 April 1994 |139 16 April 1994 |139 17 April 1994 |140 18 April 1994 |123 19 April 1994 |129 20 April 1994 |121 21 April 1994 |109 22 April 1994 |110 23 April 1994 |119 24 April 1994 |119 25 April 1994 |141 26 April 1994 |134
I regret that the information requested is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
Statistics of visas granted are recorded on the basis of the categories of visas issued at each post and not by the nationality of the applicant. In addition, visiting business men are granted a "visit" visa. There are no sub-divisions within this category.
The principle that the police co-ordinate the activities of all those responding at and around the scene, as described in the Home Office publication "Dealing with Disaster", was maintained in full throughout exercise Diver Mist.
Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he will be discussing with his European partners the implications of the EC proposals to harmonise the plugs and sockets of electrical appliances throughout the EC.
Mrs. Helen Jackson : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the dangers there are for United Kingdom consumers in any transitional period from the harmonisation of electric plugs and sockets ; and what steps he is taking to ensure that the safety of consumers in the United Kingdom is not compromised.
Mr. Heseltine : CENELEC--the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardisation--the relevant standards-making body, has not published a standard for a harmonised European plug and socket system against which an accurate assessment could be made. In considering whether any change to our present standards might be desirable at some future date, full account will be taken of consumer safety issues. There is no EC proposal for harmonisation.
Mr. Sainsbury : The main item on the agenda of the Industry Council held on 22 April was steel. Commissioner Van Miert gave an interim report, in advance of the full report expected on 1 May, on monitoring of the conditions attaching to the six state aid cases agreed by the Council last December--Ilva, Ekostahl, Freital, Siderurgia Nacional, CSI and Sidenor. I was supported by several other member states in underlining the importance the United Kingdom attaches to rigorous monitoring to ensure that the conditions agreed by the December Council are met.
Commissioner Bangemann gave a report on progress towards restructuring of the EC steel industry. There was agreement to prolong until the autumn the support measures--which include enhanced European Coal and Steel Community social aid, market monitoring, a more liberal approach to mergers and joint ventures, and external measures--agreed in February last year. I suggested additional references in the conclusions agreed by the Council to the importance of monitoring of the steel state aid cases and these were accepted. The Council reached a satisfactory agreement to reduce steadily ECSC lending activities in the run-up to the expiry of the treaty of Paris in 2002. Importantly, it also ensures progress towards phasing out of the ECSC levy before 2002. The agreement by the Council allowed certain loan applications, which have been blocked pending resolution of this issue, to be approved.
There was a wide-ranging debate on industrial competitiveness in the context of the follow-up to the Delors White Paper on growth, competitiveness and employment published last December. I underlined the importance of increased labour market flexibility and reduced labour costs as a means of improving competitiveness, as well as the need to minimise the burden of regulation on business.
The Council agreed conclusions on the textile and clothing industries and a resolution on the automobile industry.
Commissioner Vanni d'Archirafi presented an outline of an integrated programme for small and medium-sized enterprises which sets out areas for joint action with member states and a two-pronged Community contribution relating to improving the environment for SMEs, and some support measures. I reminded the Commission that the main responsibility for SME policy lies with member states but I undertook to consider the proposals when they are spelt out in greater detail. I was able to welcome the importance the Commission was now attaching to deregulation.
To end the Council there was a brief discussion of the Commission's annual report on competition. No votes were taken.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether operational budgets and targets have been agreed for (a) AEA Technology, (b) the national environmental technology centre, (c) the national physical laboratory, (d) the Laboratory of the Government Chemist and (e) the national engineering laboratory for 1994-95 ; and how those budgets and targets have changed from those for 1993-94.
Column 346Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority : they are not set separate budgets and targets by my Department. The UKAEA has been set a negative external financing limit of £8.8 million for 1994-95. Other financial targets have yet to be set. In 1993-94, the UKAEA was set a negative external financing limit of £2.1 million ; it was also set a 12.1 per cent. average annual return on net assets employed. Its internal budgets are commercially sensitive and are not published. In the light of the restructuring of the national physical laboratory, the Laboratory of the Government Chemist and the national engineering laboratory to match the downturn in forecast work load, the laboratories' budgets and targets for 1994-95 are still being finalised. A comparison with the budgets and targets that were set for 1993-94 cannot therefore be provided.
Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he proposes to implement his consultants' recommendation that an overall steering committee and project manager should be appointed for the DTI laboratories.
Mr. Meacher : To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether primary legislation would be required to fully privatise the laboratory of the Government Chemist ; and in what form the post of the Government Chemist would survive after privatisation.