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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, pursuant to his letter of 13 May to the hon. Member for Linlithgow, if he will make an assessment of the background work and credentials of Mr. Max van der Stoel for making a report on Iraq.
The Prime Minister : Mr. van der Stoel is the United Nations special rapporteur on Iraq. It is for the chairman of the Commission on Human Rights to appoint special rapporteurs, who must be impartial. Mr. van der Stoel's international reputation and his wide experience of human rights issues make him an excellent choice as rapporteur on human rights in Iraq.
Mr. Gerrard : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish the summary of responses received by his Department as part of the consultation process following his proposal to merge English Nature and the Countryside Commission for England.
Column 632commitment to urban regeneration and will stress the importance of accommodating any necessary development within urban areas wherever possible.
Mr. Baldry : The West Midlands Forum of Local Authorities has recently submitted advice to the Secretary of State. The forum estimated that 275,000 additional dwellings would be required in the region between 1991 and 2011.
Sir George Young : The Secretary of State will set out his view of the need for new housing in the region in the forthcoming consultation draft of regional planning guidance. That need is based on a number of different factors and will be met by housing of a variety of tenures.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what instructions are given to security staff in his departmental offices in London for dealing with (a) those sleeping rough in departmental doorways and (b) beggars in the vicinity ; and how many problems have been experienced with each category in the last three months.
Mr. Atkins : We take advice on this matter from the quality of urban air review group and as priorities develop over the next three years, we will consult the review group on the location of monitoring sites.
Column 633£920,000 net contribution to the Exchequer
income to cover full economic costs on a trading basis
gross non-Exchequer income of £3.6 million
taking into account changes in BRE's charging policy, an improvement of 3 per cent. in the average daily cost of commissions.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what matters were discussed and what decisions taken at the European Transport Council on 13-14 June in Luxembourg ; and how the United Kingdom voted on matters decided by vote.
On the first day, the Council discussed a number of maritime safety issues and reached a common position on proposals on the training of seafarers, minimum standards for ship classification societies and lower port fees for environmentally friendly oil tankers. I gave a presentation on the Donaldson report into the Braer incident off Shetland. I emphasised three recommendations of special interest : port state control, improved ship identification using transponders and emphasis on the "polluter pays" priniciple. I received strong support from all member states and the Commission, which felt that the report was a very positive basis for future work on maritime safety and agreed to further detailed discussion by the Council.
Other items discussed included maritime competition, freedom to provide maritime services and maritime relations with west Africa. On the second day, the Council reached provisional agreement, subject to a United Kingdom parliamentary scrutiny reserve, on a common position on a directive harmonising conditions for transport of dangerous goods by road. The Netherlands and Spain entered abstentions.
The Commission presented a communication on the way forward for civil aviation in Europe, drawn up in response to the wise men's report published in January of this year. I welcomed the Commission's paper, while emphasising the importance of elimination of state aids and full implementation of the third package of aviation liberalisation measures.
Among the other items discussed was a proposed measure that aims to establish common criteria for allocating train paths to operators and charging for access to the railway network. I argued that the scope of the measure should be limited to international services and drew attention to the special treatment that would be needed where traffic rights had already been laid down--for example, the channel tunnel--or where necessary to get new infrastructure built. The Council also discusssed, but made little progress on, mandates for road transport negotiations with eastern Europe and transport negotiations with Switzerland.
Under any other business, I reported on the review recently undertaken by the United Kingdom into the provision of seat belts in coaches and minibuses. My
Column 634conclusion from this report was that there was now a good case for requiring the fitting of seat belts to new vehicles. I emphasised the importance of this issue for road safety and asked how work was progressing within the Commission. In its response, the Commission informed the Council that it was working on a directive that would introduce new roof rigidity standards and emergency exit requirements. Existing seat belt legislation was also being reviewed under the guidance of a group of experts and a separate proposal covering the fire resistance of materials was being examined. The Commission was committed to having all these proposals on the table by the end of 1994.
Two votes were taken. On the dangerous goods directive, as noted above, I entered a parliamentary scrutiny reserve and the Netherlands and Spain abstained. On the seafarers' training proposal, Italy abstained.
Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what is the estimated (a) demand and (b) cost to public funds of motorcycle tests over the next three years ; what is the cost to the Driving Standards Agency of providing personal protective equipment to each motorcycle examiner ; and what is the type and cost of the motorcycles used for the tests ;
(2) if he will list the reasons for which the block booking of heavy goods vehicle driving tests has been discontinued by the Driving Standards Agency ; and if he will make a statement. (3) if he will list the number of (a) motorcycle tests and (b) "L" tests conducted at Evesham during the last 12 months and the comparable period for the previous three years ; and for how many days a week examiners are employed at Evesham.
(4) what were the costs to public funds following the liquidation of the contractor employed to build the new driving test centre at Worcester ; what attempts have been made by the Driving Standards Agency to recover this ; and if he will list the reasons as to why these costs were not included in the financial report ;
(5) if he will list each driving test centre which currently operates a motorcycle test facility ; and which of these he intends to close.
Mr. Key : Responsibility for the subject of the questions has been delegated to the Driving Standards Agency under its chief executive, Dr. Ford, and I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given. Letter from S. J. Ford to Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody, dated 8 June 1994 :
Driving Standards Agency
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to the questions you have raised about DSA's operations.
You asked about the costs to public funds following the liquidation of the contractor employed to build the new driving test centre at Worcester, what steps were taken to recover this and why the figures were not included in the Agency's financial report.
Enquiries have been made with the Agency's Managing Agent for the Worcester scheme and with the Contractor Management Information System operated by the Department of the Environment Property Holdings. The Agency has no information to suggest that the contractors concerned with the Worcester scheme have been in receivership or liquidation.
Column 635PQ 2462/93/94
You asked which Driving Standards Agency test centres currently provide a motorcycle riding test facility and which of these are to close.
A list of the centres, with those scheduled for closure indicated, is below :
Aberdeen, Balgownie Road
*Bath (to close on 15 July 1994)
Birmingham, South Yardley
*Bridgwater (to close on 22 July 1994)
Bury St. Edmunds
Cambridge, Brooklands Avenue
Cardiff, Cathays Terrace
Coventry, Mason Road
Derby, Sinfin Lane