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WMD Underwriting Agencies

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what action he has taken against the auditing firm and partners criticised in the inspectors' reports on WMD Underwriting Agencies ; and what has been the outcome.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : A copy of the inspectors' report into the affairs of Minet Holdings plc and WMD Underwriting Agencies Limited was passed to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in August 1990. The matter was then referred to the joint disciplinary scheme. In December 1992, a joint disciplinary scheme committee of inquiry, noting that the events which were the subject of the inquiry took place prior to 1982, decided it would not now be able to reach a finding on the conduct, efficiency or competence of the members under inquiry.

Insolvency

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce legislation to impose on the regulatory bodies responsible for insolvency a duty care to individual shareholders, employees and unsecured creditors.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : I have no such plans.

Receivers

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce legislation to impose on receivers a duty of care to individual shareholders, employees and unsecured creditors.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : I have no plans to do so.


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EC Industry Council

Mr. Barnes : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Shoreham (Mr. Stephen) of 28 June, Official Report, column 467, what was the voting record of each member state on each item agreed and adopted at the meeting of the European Community's Industry Council held on 22 June.

Mr. Sainsbury : No votes were taken on any of the issues on the agenda of the Industry Council on 22 June.

Sanctions (Nigeria)

Sir Michael Grylls : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the impact upon British industry of those military and defence sanctions which have already been imposed against Nigeria ; when those sanctions will be lifted ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Needham [holding answer 30 June 1994] : It is not the intention of the measures we introduced to damage our economic relations with Nigeria. We and our partners are keeping those measures under review, and will modify them in the light of progress towards democracy in Nigeria.

Councils of Ministers

Mr. Barnes : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list all qualified majority votes on the single market programme at European Councils of Ministers since 1989, giving in each case the voting record of each member state.

Mr. Needham [holding answer 29 June 1994] : The information requested by the hon. Member is not readily available. I shall write to him with a substantive reply, giving as much information as possible, in due course and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.

TREASURY

Exchange Rates

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what importance he attaches to the exchange rate in determining the competitiveness of United Kingdom manufacturers at home and overseas ; and if he will publish his estimate of the amount by which unit costs of labour would have to fall in the import-competing and export industries to compensate for an increase of 5 per cent. in the nominal exchange rate ;

(2) what importance the Government attach to the exchange rate in the management of the United Kingdom economy ; and for what purposes the exchange rate is managed.

Mr. Nelson : I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 21 March 1994, Official Report, column 15. The United Kingdom's price competitiveness depends fundamentally on improving productivity and controlling costs. Policies directed at permanently low inflation and competitive markets provide the best environment in which to achieve this. A policy of continued devaluation would only raise inflation and would be damaging to long-run economic success.


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Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) to what extent the Government's monetary and exchange rate policies are designed to eliminate the deficit in the balance of payments on current account.

(2) to what extent the Government's monetary and exchange rate policies are designed to increase (a) employment and (b) output in manufacturing industry.

Mr. Nelson : It is the role of monetary policy to deliver low inflation. Decisions are based on an assessment of a range of monetary indicators and other data, in particular the growth of narrow and broad money and movements in the exchange rate and asset prices. Low inflation on permanent basis combined with sound public finances provide the stable and macro-economic framework needed for sustained growth in output and employment.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) if he will publish a table based on table 7.1A of "CSO Financial Statistics, May 1994", showing the pound sterling exchange rate index against non- European monetary system currencies on a 1985 basis for each year since 1975, the fourth quarter of 1976, the second quarter of 1979, the first quarter of 1981 and each quarter since the fourth quarter of 1986, together with the corresponding figures for the pound sterling exchange rate index ;

(2) whether it is the Government's policy to reverse the fall in the real exchange rate against the ecu between October 1990 and February 1993 ; and if he will publish a table showing the real exchange rate against the ecu and non-ecu currencies in the fourth quarter of 1976, October 1990, February 1987 and at the latest available date for countries for which figures are available measured in terms of (a) relative unit export values for manufactures and finished manufactures, (b) terms of trade for semi- finished manufactures, finished manufactures and manufactures, (c) relative producer prices and (d) relative average export values for manufactures and finished manufactures ;

(3) if he will publish a table based on table 13.1 of CSO Financial Statistics, July 1988, showing the pound sterling exchange rate index against non-EMS currencies on a 1975 basis for each year since 1975, the fourth quarter of 1976, the second quarter of 1979, the first quarter of 1981 and each quarter since the fourth quarter of 1986 together with the corresponding figures for the pound sterling exchange rate index ;

(4) if he will publish a table based on table 7.1A of CSO Financial Statistics, May 1994, showing the pound sterling exchange rate index against European monetary system currencies on a 1985 basis for each year since 1975, the fourth quarter of 1976, the second quarter of 1979, the first quarter of 1981 and each quarter since the fourth quarter of 1986 ;

(5) if he will publish a table based on table 13.1 of Central Statistical Office financial statistics showing the sterling exchange rate index against European monetary system currencies on a 1975 basis for each year since 1975, the fourth quarter of 1976, the second quarter of 1979, the first quarter of 1981 and each quarter since the fourth quarter of 1986.

Mr. Nelson [holding answers 28, 29, 30 June 1994] : Single sterling exchange rate indices for EMS and non-EMS currencies are not available. I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 11 January 1994,


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Official Report, column 19, where I gave a reference for the weighted composition and methodological construction of sterlin's exchange rate index.

The tables to which the hon. Member refers give figures for sterling's exchange rate index. Sterling real exchange rates defined in various ways can be found in "International Financial Statistics", published by the IMF, and in "Economic Trends", published by the CSO. Export and import unit values of manufactures and wholesale prices for the United Kingdom and its main trading partners can be found in "International Financial Statistics". Average export values of manufactures can be found in the "Monthly Bulletin of Statistics", published by the United Nations. The other data needed to calculate the information requested may be available from the national authorities of the countries concerned.

I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 21 March 1994, Official Report, column 15, where I made a statement about the role of the exchange rate in monetary policy.

Hydrocarbon Oil

Mr. Jonathan Evans : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 26 May, Official Report, column 306, what is the annual operating cost of the 17 regional road fuel testing units assigned to control the illegal use of hydrocarbon oil.

Sir John Cope : The latest figures available show that the annual operating cost of the regional road fuel testing units assigned to control the illegal use of hydrocarbon oil was some £1.6 million in the year ending 31 March 1993.

Mr. Jonathan Evans : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pursuant to his answer of 26 May, Official Report, column 306, how many vehicles were tested by the 17 regional road fuel testing units assigned to control the illegal use of hydrocarbon oil, in each of the last three years ; and what proportion were found to have illicit fuel.

Sir John Cope : The numbers of vehicles tested by the regional road fuel units, and the numbers found to be running on illicit fuel, are :

Year ending 31 March 1992 84,614 tested and 1,594 on illicit fuel

Year ending 31 March 1993 73,051 tested and 1,607 on illicit fuel Year ending 31 March 1994 66,259 tested and 1,682 on illicit fuel

Valuation

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is (a) the average and (b) the maximum time taken between the completion of a new dwelling and the completion of its valuation for council tax purposes.

Mr. Nelson : This information is not available.

Policies

Sir Teddy Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his speech to the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on 29 June represents Government policy.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : Yes.


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Recycled Paper

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of his Department's (a) press releases and (ii) written answers are printed on recycled paper.

Mr. Nelson : No Treasury press releases or answers to parliamentary questions are currently printed on recycled paper. However, most of the paper used by the Department is environmentally friendly paper which is total chlorine free. The Department's policy on the use of recycled and environmentally friendly paper is reviewed regularly.

Contracts

Mr. Byers : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many contracts the Inland Revenue has entered into with the computer company EDS -Scion or its predecessor EDS ; when the contracts were entered into ; what is their total value ; and what is the subject matter of each contract.

Mr. Dorrell [holding answer 1 July 1994] : On 23 May 1994, the Inland Revenue signed contracts with Electronic Data Systems Ltd. for the supply of information technology services to the Department over the next 10 years, starting on 1 July 1994. Over 100 agreements make up the contracts with EDS covering such matters as the pricing and regulation of the service arrangements, the transfer of assets from the Revenue to EDS, the transfer of staff, the leases and licenses to property which EDS will occupy, services which the Revenue will supply to EDS on shared sites, third party agreements allowing EDS the right to various services already supplied to the Revenue and various other documents and side letters.

The 10-year contract is estimated to be worth around £1 billion, and is expected to enable the Inland Revenue to make savings of 15 to 20 per cent. in the costs of its information technology support.

ENVIRONMENT

Public Bodies

Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will list his Department's advisory non-departmental public bodies which are required to publish their advice to Government ; (2) if he will list the advisory non-departmental public bodies sponsored by his Department what are required to lay their annual reports before Parliament ;

(3) if he will list his Department's advisory non-departmental public bodies which are required to produce annual reports ; (4) if he will list the advisory bodies he has set up in his Department since the publication of "Public Bodies 1993" ; (5) if he will list the advisory non-departmental public bodies sponsored by his Department which have a statutory basis ; (6) if he will list those of his Department's advisory non-departmental public bodies which the Government are required to consult prior to legislation proposals ; and in respect of which bodies the Government must publish their response to advice supplied by them.

Mr. Gummer : My Department currently sponsors 14 advisory non- departmental public bodies, information


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about which is in the table below. Publication of advice and reports is usually for the NDPBs and the Department to determine rather than a statutory requirement. "Going for Green" and the Government's panel on sustainable development have yet to determine their working methods. Those two bodies, plus the Assessment Panel for Construction Research and the Local Government Staff Commission (England) have been set up since the qualifying date for "Public Bodies 1993".

There are statutory requirements for Ministers to consult the Advisory Committee on Hazardous Substance,


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the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, the Inland Waterways Amenity Advisory Council and the Local Government Commission for England in specified circumstances. In addition, the Government regularly seek advisory NDPBs' views on a range of issues. There are no stautory requirements for the Government to publish responses to advice from advisory bodies, but responses are published, or other action taken, when it is appropriate to do so.


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Advisory                       |Date                         |Advice published             |Produces annual              |Report laid before           |Statutory basis                                            

non-departmental                                                                           |report                                                                                                                 

public                                                                                                                                                                                                             

body                           |set up                                                                                   |Parliament                                                                               

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

Advisory Committee on Business |1991                         |Yes                          |Regular progress reports     |Progress reports placed      |No                                                         

  and the Environment                                                                                                    |in the Library                                                                           

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Advisory Committee on          |1991                         |Available for public         |Yes                          |Placed in the Library        |Environmental Protection                                   

Hazardous Substances                                         |scrutiny                                                                                 |Act 1990, s.140                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Advisory Committee on Releases |1990                         |Available on public          |Yes                          |No                           |Environmental Protection Act                               

to the Environment                                           |registers                                                                                |1990, s.124                                                

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Assessment Panel for           |1994                         |No                           |Yes                          |No                           |No                                                         

  Construction Research                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Black Country Limestone        |1983                         |Yes                          |Yes                          |No                           |No                                                         

  Advisory Panel                                                                                                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Building Regulations Advisory  |1962                         |Some papers available        |No.                          |n/a                          |Building Act 1984, s.14                                    

  Committee                                                  |on request                                                                                                                                           

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Going for Green                |1994                         |-                            |-                            |-                            |No                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Government's Panel on          |1994                         |-                            |-                            |-                            |No                                                         

  Sustainable Development                                                                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Inland Waterways Amenity       |1968                         |Sometimes                    |Yes                          |No                           |Transport Act 1968, s.110                                  

  Advisory Council                                                                                                                                                                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Local Government Commission    |1992                         |Yes                          |Yes                          |Yes                          |Local Government Act                                       

  for England                                                                                                                                          |1992, s.12                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Local Government Staff         |1993                         |Yes                          |No                           |n/a                          |Local Government Act                                       

  Commission (England)                                                                                                                                 |1992, s.23                                                 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Property Advisory Group        |1978                         |No                           |No                           |n/a                          |No                                                         

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Radioactive Waste Management   |1978                         |Normally published           |Yes                          |Placed in the Library        |No                                                         

  Advisory Committee                                                                                                                                                                                               

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Royal Commission on            |1970                         |Yes - presented to           |No                           |n/a                          |Royal Warrant                                              

  Environmental Pollution                                    |Parliament                                                                                                                                           

Mr. Chris Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidelines he has issued as to the propriety of (a) chairmen of public bodies with a specific responsibility for the natural environment and (b) the chairman of English Nature in particular, holding paid advisory or managerial positions with (i) private companies involved in waste disposal or (ii) privatised water companies.

Mr. Atkins : Revised rules were drawn to the attention of the chief executives of the Department's sponsored bodies and discussed with them in April 1991. Following this, the board or council of each body was asked to review its arrangements and report the results to the Department. The essence of our guidance is that relevant interests should be declared on a register and members should refrain from discussion or decisions when matters affecting such an interest come before the board or council. I wish strongly to repudiate the inference in the hon. Gentleman's question that the chairman of English Nature might be


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acting improperly in holding advisory or main board non-executive appointments in private companies. Precisely the reverse--we expect the services of people we appoint to public bodies for their eminence and expertise to be sought by others in related spheres and I believe that it does nothing for good government to impugn their reputation when they have observed the rules about disclosure of interest in the letter and in the spirit.

Housing Vacancies

Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the vacancy rate in each housing sector.

Sir George Young : The latest available information on the numbers and percentages of vacant dwellings in England is set out below. For local authorities and housing associations, figures are also given for management vacants.


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Vacant dwellings at 1 April 1993                                    

                          |Number       |Percentage of              

                                        |dwellings                  

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

Local authorities<2>                                                

Management vacants<1>     |39,700       |1.1                        

All vacant dwellings      |70,900       |1.9                        

                                                                    

Housing associations<3>                                             

Management vacants<1>     |17,200       |2.4                        

All vacant dwellings      |27,600       |3.9                        

                                                                    

Government departments<4> |16,000       |15.0                       

                                                                    

Private sector<5>         |765,000      |5.0                        

<1>Those available for letting immediately or after minor repairs.  

Sources:                                                            

<2>Annual Housing Investment Programme (HIP1) returns.              

<3>Annual Housing Corporation HAR10/1 returns.                      

<4>Based on data collected from Government Departments by the Task  

Force on Government Department's empty houses.                      

<5>Annual Housing Investment Programme (HIP1) returns. Local        

authorities are asked to provide estimates of the number of private 

sector vacant dwellings in their area on these returns but there    

are doubts about the quality of the estimates provided by some      

authorities. Alternative survey information suggests that the       

numbers of private sector vacants reported on these returns may be  

an over-estimate.                                                   

The figure for housing association vacant dwellings includes around 10,500 dwellings purchased in the last weeks of the financial year under the housing market package announced in the 1992 Autumn Statement.

Recycling

Mr. McGrady : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made since his statement in 1991 that the Government intended to bring forward legislation to introduce recycling plans with firm targets.

Mr. Atkins : Section 49 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which came into force on 1 August 1991, places a duty on waste collection authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to prepare and issue waste recycling plans. The Department's guidance emphasises the value of local targets in those plans, to supplement the Government's national target of recovering 25 per cent. of household waste by 2000. Authorities in England were asked to prepare draft recycling plans by 1 August 1992. Some 98 per cent. of those plans have been approved by the Department as meeting the statutory requirements. A new waste management order for Northern Ireland is currently being prepared and will require district councils to provide recycling plans in line with section 49 of the 1990 Act.

Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant

Mr. McGrady : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps the Government will adopt fully to comply with the international recommendations from the Paris Commission in relation to BNFL THORP at Sellafield ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : The recommendations of the Paris Commission are not binding. The United Kingdom complies with those recommendations that it accepts. Since 1987, there have been nine Paris recommendations on radioactive issues. The United Kingdom has accepted all of those except for recommendation 93/5.


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The United Kingdom, together with other contracting parties, placed a reserve on recommendation 93/5 because it failed to meet the standard of clarity desirable in an international agreement and sought to give the Paris Commission an inappropriate role in the authorising of individual projects.

Fuel Emissions

Mr. Quentin Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what provisions Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution makes for testing emissions from the burning of a fuel which has a variable composition.

Mr. Atkins : HMIP requires all operators to use appropriate means to monitor emissions from their processes whatever the fuel.

Cemfuel

Mr. Quentin Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what consultations have taken place on the subject of Cemfuel between the north-west regional office and the midlands regional office of Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution.

Mr. Atkins : There have been extensive consultations between the two HMIP regional offices on the subject of Cemfuel.

Mr. Quentin Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what criteria will be used by Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution when assessing the results of the Cemfuel trials at Ribblesdale, Lancashire to decide whether to grant an authorisation for continued burning of the substance.

Mr. Atkins : No authorisation will be granted until HMIP is fully satisfied that the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 are complied with.

Mr. Quentin Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment at how many locations authorisation for trial burning of Cemfuel has been granted ; when these authorisations were granted ; and how long each of these trials is expected to continue.

Mr. Atkins : Only one plant is authorised to undertake trial burning of Cemfuel. An integrated pollution control authorisation for this plant was issued on 30 November 1993. These trials are scheduled to be completed by the end of 1994.

Hazardous Waste (Burning)

Mr. Quentin Davies : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the permitted level of dioxins which may be produced as a result of burning hazardous waste in (a) an incinerator and (b) a cement kiln.

Mr. Atkins : The permitted level of dioxins is lng/m for both types of plant.

Objective 1 Status, Merseyside

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on liaison between his Department and the officials of DGXVI of the European Commission representing the Commission in Merseyside.


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Mr. Baldry : The lengthy negotiations with DGXVI officials on the Merseyside single programming document were conducted constructively and in a business-like way, and have now been concluded. Liaison with DGXVI will continue, through its membership of the monitoring committee overseeing the objective 1 programme, and its membership of the two technical panels supporting that committee.

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to make copies of the agreed objective 1 programme for Merseyside available to those entitled to benefit from it.

Mr. Baldry : Extensive guidance material on the objective 1 programme, including simple question/answer sheets, more detailed general guidance, and special guidance for small and medium-sized enterprises is already available through the Government office for Merseyside and other agencies. Copies of the full document will become available once the Commission has completed its legal procedures on the document and a final text is available.

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what were the reasons for the refusal on 22 June of the application made by Mr. Peter Johnson, managing director of Rea Metal Windows (Liverpool) Ltd., on behalf of his company to the Merseyside task force for financial support to expand the business and increase its number of employees ; and what account was taken in considering the company's application of the company's rights under the agreed objective 1 programme, 1994 to 1999.

Mr. Baldry : The Merseyside objective 1 programme agreed with the Commission provides that grants will be paid to the private sector through intermediaries, to be designated by the monitoring committee. That cannot take place until the Commission completes its legal processes on the document. Mr. Johnson was seeking a form of assistance not provided there. Mr. Johnson was therefore encouraged by the objective 1 secretariat to speak to staff more directly concerned with business support, to see how his business might be assisted. He has now been sent an information pack about business support on Merseyside, which he is encouraged to follow-up with the Government office there.

Coastal Management

Mr. Wigley : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to make a full statement on the outcome of his consideration of his consultation on coastal management.

Mr. Atkins : I hope to make a statement shortly.

Local Government Finance

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the total capital grant funds to each metropolitan district in England in 1992-93 and 1993-94, and the projected allocation to be completed at the end of the financial year 1994-95.

Mr. Baldry : Capital grants are issued by a number of Government Departments.

The total amounts of capital grants for the various services for local authorities in England are published


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annually by Her Majesty's Treasury at the conclusion of each public expenditure survey. Outturn information for the years 1990-91 to 1993-94 and the plans for 1994-95 were published in February 1994 in the public expenditure statistical supplement to the "Financial Statement and Budget Report 1994-95".

Information for individual authorities about capital grants is not held centrally and could be collated only at disproportionate cost.

County Hall

Sir Terence Higgins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what powers he has to control the display of advertisements on the former County hall.

Mr. Baldry : Control over the display of outdoor advertisements is the local planning authority's responsibility. It is for Lambeth borough council to control advertisements on the former County hall.

Energy Saving Trust

Mr. Robathan : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what action his Department is taking to improve funding for the Energy Saving Trust.

Mr. Atkins : An inter-departmental group of officials has been asked to review options for the future funding of the Energy Saving Trust and its schemes.

Dog Fouling

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects his Department's advisory group on litter to make a recommendation on national legislation for dog fouling and the definition of dog mess as litter ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : Soon.

Local Government Commission

Mr. Rendel : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what weight he will give to the results of the Local Government Commission's current public consultation exercise in Cheshire in deciding the future structure of local government in that county.

Mr. Baldry : It is for the Local Government Commission to consider the results of public consultation on its draft proposals for Cheshire when drawing up its final recommendations to the Secretary of State.

All representations to the Secretary of State on the Commission's final recommendations will be taken into account before decisions about the implementation of any changes are made. Final decisions will be for Parliament.

Fire Advisory Panel

Mr. Robin Cook : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many members serve on the fire advisory panel ; and how many of those members are also members of the Institute of Fire Safety.

Mr. Baldry : The fire advisory panel has 29 members, of whom I understand 10 are also members of the Institute of Fire Safety.


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