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Information Technology

Sir Ivan Lawrence : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will announce the result of the market test of IT services in his Department.

Mr. Howard : The market test of ED5, the Home Office administrative IT services division, has now been concluded and it has been decided to award a contract to Sema Group plc, whose bid was judged to represent the best value for money.

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Victim Support Schemes

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will place in the Library a copy of the report of the value-for-money survey by Coopers and Lybrand into the National Association of Victim Support Schemes commissioned by his Department.

Mr. Maclean [holding answer 8 July 1994] : I have done so today. The report, which was commissioned and paid for by the Home Office, was a value for money audit of the national office of victim support. It makes a number of recommendations about the relationship between victim support and the Home Office which require, and are receiving, careful consideration. They have still to be fully discussed with victim support. Our intention is to disseminate the report more widely when that consideration is further advanced.

Blakenhurst Prison

Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, pursuant to his answer of 5 July, Official Report, column 48, which alterations at Blakenhurst prison were paid for by United Kingdom Detention Services ; how much was paid for each of these alterations ; which alterations were paid for by the Prison Service ; and how much was paid for each of these alterations.

Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 11 July 1994] : Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from Derek Lewis to Ms Joan Ruddock dated 19 July 1994 : The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about who has paid for the alterations to Blakenhurst Prison. United Kingdom Detention Services Limited have paid for a number of major alterations to the prison including providing prisoner shops (canteens) in four houseblocks ; modifying the holding cells in reception ; altering one spur of a houseblock to create a Vulnerable Prisoner Unit ; and changing the majority of spy holes to polycarbonate. I understand that the cost of these and other minor alterations was greater than £200,000, including VAT, and has been met solely by UKDS.

In their bid to run Blakenhurst, UKDS included proposals for a number of security enhancements. These included additional electronic locking and closed circuit television cameras. The cost of these was included in the price of the contract and paid for from the start-up costs which UKDS received in five monthly instalments before the prison opened.

The Prison Service have paid for essential alterations to the water supply system ; the kitchen ceiling ; sports hall modifications and a small number of other projects. The total cost of these works was £91,500 including VAT, of which £80,000 was for the water supply system. The Prison Service would have incurred these costs regardless of who managed the prison.


STEP Programme

Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what commitment in terms of expenditure and person years of staff time has been given to the STEP--standard for exchange of product data--programme in

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1993-94 ; what similar commitment has been outlined for 1994-95 ; and what report has been made to Parliament on its progress.

Mr. McLoughlin : The main United Kingdom commitment to the internatioinal development of STEP--ISO 10303 ; standard for the exchange of product model data--is undertaken through BSI/DISC. Within the DTI innovation budget, spend on STEP projects in 1993-94 was £336,444. For the current year, 1994-95, the forecast is £371,253, of which £88,181 has been committed. STEP is not specifically identified within the DTI manpower returns and no specific report has been made to Parliament.

Civil Aircraft

Mr. Cousins : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the future market for civil aircraft ; and in what way he discusses those market prospects with British industry.

Mr. Sainsbury : The Department of Trade and Industry currently estimates that around 12,000 commercial jet airliners and around 4, 000 commercial turbo-prop airliners will be required over the next 20 years. The Department estimates that those sales will be worth in excess of £450 billion at current prices.

This market opportunity is frequently discussed with the United Kingdom firms in this sector, both to promote the interests of the United Kingdom aerospace industry and in response to the Department's financial sponsorship commitments. The Department also uses a market panel, with members drawn from manufacturing and transport industries to advise on future civil aircraft issues.

Business Links

Mr. Fatchett : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list the business links established, their location, the partners involved in each business link, the current list of applications, the location of the current applications and the partners involved in the current application.

Mr. McLoughlin : Plans have been approved for 33 areas in England, providing for 110 business link outlets. Some 34 business link outlets are currently operational. I expect around 60 business links to be open by the end of the year. The aim is that by the end of 1995, every firm in England will have access to a business link. I have today placed a list of established business links, current applications and partners involved, in the Library of the House.

Isle of Man (Fraud)

Mr. Redmond : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to protect British investors from fraud operated from the Isle of Man.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : I have no new measures in mind. Any fraud perpetrated in the Isle of Man is subject to the laws and courts of the island. There is close co-operation between United Kingdom and Manx enforcement agencies in the detection and prosecution of fraud offences.

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Nuclear Electric (Staff)

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) how many full-time, part-time and contract staff have been employed by Nuclear Electric for each year since 1989 ;

(2) how many former full-time employees of Nuclear Electric have subsequently been re-hired by the company on a contract basis in each year since 1989 ; and if he will make a statement ;

(3) how much has been spent by Nuclear Electric on contract staff in each year since 1989.

Mr. Eggar : These are commercial matters for Nuclear Electric.

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on his assessment of the effect of recently announced job losses of 2,000 personnel by Nuclear Electric on (a) safety, (b) design work and (c) export potential.

Mr. Eggar : I understand that the company has yet to decide where the reductions will be made. The Health and Safety Executive's nuclear installations inspectorate will not allow the company to operate its nuclear facilities unless it is satisfied that they can be operated safely. Resources on design work and exports are commercial matters for the company.

Telecommunications (Deregulation)

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received regarding the regulations preventing BT and Mercury transmitting entertainment ; what plans he has for deregulating this area ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 22 June 1994, Official Report, column 227.


Mr. Meacher : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will estimate (a) the volume of United Kingdom trade lost and (b) the number of jobs lost as a result of the collapse of Ferranti/ISC ; and if he will list in full the communications between his Department and departments of the United States Government in Ferranti/ISC ; and what action by way of reports, surveys or other specific measures his Department has taken as a result of the collapse of Ferranti/ISC.

Mr. Sainsbury : My Department has made no estimate of the effect on trade or jobs of the ISC fraud, discovered in 1989. In January 1990, reference was made to the fraud at a meeting with the United States Treasury, and a request to DTI for United States officials to visit the United Kingdom was dealt with by the Serious Fraud Office. Since Ferranti International plc went into receivership last December, about 850 jobs have been lost, but over 1,050 have already been saved through disposals and the Department continues to keep in close touch with the receivers, who are seeking to dispose of the remaining businesses.

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Companies House

Mr. Lidington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the future of the Companies House agency's fees for inspection and filing annual returns and targets for 1994-95.

Mr. Heseltine : In October 1992, as part of our policy of reviewing the status and performance of next steps agencies, my Department appointed consultants to look at the options for the future of Companies House. The object of the review was to consider how best to ensure that Companies House continued to build on its record of improvements in efficiency, value for money and standards of service in the future.

The consultants' report described a number of ways in which closer private sector involvement in the activities of Companies House could help those aims. I have now asked them to explore one of them by consulting further with the market on how best to contract out most of the services of Companies House in order to gain the commercial discipline and investment in technology skills of the private sector. Under this option, responsibility for the registrar's functions and ownership of the register would remain with my Department. On the distribution of information, the consultants will consider whether, and if so how far, the new Companies House should withdraw from those activities where it might compete with other parts of the business information industry. The consultants will seek the views of Companies House, its customers and users, and the business information industry.

This work is due to be completed in the early autumn. I will make a further announcement about the future of Companies House in the light of the consultants' findings. In the meantime, however, I am pleased to announce that the fees for incorporating a company and for submitting annual returns to Companies House will be reduced to approximately half their current level. I propose that these reductions should be implemented in respect of those documents due after 1 October 1994. A statutory instrument will be laid before Parliament shortly.

I have set Companies House executive agency the following targets for 1994- 95 :

to make all statutory documents available for public inspection within a maximum of five working days of receipt in Companies House ;

to ensure that 31 March 1995 a minimum of 90 per cent. of fiche provided to customers are error free ;

to reduce real unit costs by an average of 5 per cent. in 1994-95 ;

to achieve a 6 per cent. average annual rate of return based on operating surplus expressed as a percentage of average net assets employed at current values ;

to answer 90 per cent. of incoming telephone calls within six rings (20 seconds) ;

to achieve an overall compliance rate for Companies filing annual returns and accounts of 90 per cent. by 30 June 1994 ;

and for the remainder of the year

to achieve, on average during the period July 1994 to March 1995, a monthly compliance rate for accounts submitted of 94 per cent. and for annual returns submitted of 91 per cent.

In addition, I expect the chief executive of the agency to continue to reply within 10 working days to all letters from Members of Parliament delegated to him for reply.

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Mr. Lidington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce legislation on phasing out the use of imperial units following the adoption of the 1989 amendment to the units of measurement directive ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Heseltine : My noble Friend Lord Strathclyde has today laid before Parliament the following instruments which implement the units of measurement directive in relation to the authorisation of units of measurement, and their use for weights and measures and price marking purposes :

the Units of Measurement Regulations 1994 ;

the Weights and Measures Act 1985 (Metrication) (Amendment) Order 1994 ;

the Weights and Measures (Metrication) (Miscellaneous Goods) (Amendment) Order 1994 ;

the Weights and Measures (Packaged Goods and Quantity Marking and Abbreviations of Units) (Amendment) Regulations 1994 ;

the Weights and Measures (Metrication Amendments) Regulations 1994 ; and

the Price Marking (Amendment) Order 1994.

The first three SIs have been laid in draft for approval by resolution of each House of Parliament. The last three have been made before laying and are subject to the negative resolution procedure. The legislation provides that the doorstep pint of milk and the pint of draught beer or cider in the pub will be allowed without time limit as well as the mile for road traffic signs, speedometers and odometers.

For many purposes, the United Kingdom has already switched to the metric system. From 1 October 1995, almost all goods sold by quantity, including food pre-packed in variable weights such as cheese and meats that are not already traded in metric will have to be so traded. The principal exception is in respect of goods sold loose from bulk by the pound and ounce-- primarily foods, such as meat, poultry, cheese, fish and fresh fruit and vegetables--which will not have to switch to metric until 1 January 2000.

Retailers who price food sold loose from bulk or pre-packed in variable weights in metric during the transitional periods will be required to display a price conversion chart or to dual price items. The British retail consortium has agreed to adopt a code under which retailers will supplement this with further charts at any place where consumers select such food which is priced in metric. My Department is discussing with the trade other publicity measures.

Insurance Intermediaries

Mr. Lidington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the Government's response to the European Commission's recommendation on insurance intermediaries.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : The Commission issued its recommendation in December 1991 as part of the single market programme. My Department issued a consultative document on it in November 1992. Most comments focused on the protection afforded to UK consumers by the current UK regulatory arrangements. Little evidence emerged to suggest that there are significant barriers to trade affecting insurance intermediaries which need to be addressed through Community legislation.

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As regards the sale of most life insurance policies, the regulatory regime established under the Financial Services Act 1986 already meets the detailed provisions of the Commission's recommendations. As regards the activities of registered brokers, the rules of the Insurance Brokers Registration Council are also in accord with the recommendations. However, a number of respondents criticised the non- statutory arrangements under the Association of British Insurers' general business code of practice, "the ABI Code", which covers the sale of general insurance by company representatives, tied agents and independent intermediaries who are not registered brokers.

The ABI Code was last revised in 1989 and its operation has since been monitored by an independent code monitoring committee chaired by Sir Kenneth Clucas. In January 1993, the committee recommended several changes to the code. The committee concluded, however, that overall the code provided reasonable protection to consumers and should continue rather than being replaced by statutory regulation. The ABI has expressed its willingness to act on the committee's recommendations. In those circumstances, I see no need to introduce more statutory regulation in this area. The most appropriate and cost-effective response to the Commission's recommendation is to build on the arrangements we already have.

The ABI is today announcing a number of improvements in the operation of the code. These will clarify the code's provisions and will lead to more detailed procedural guidance for practitioners. The association has also agreed that changes in the IBRC's code of conduct and accounts rules will be reflected in the code. Further changes may be made to reflect aspects of the Commission's recommendation. There will be a publicity campaign to heighten awareness of the code and its application will continue to be monitored by the code monitoring committee, now under the chairmanship of Sir Terry Heiser. My Department will encourage non-members of the ABI to abide by the code's principles. The completion of the single market in insurance will undoubtedly increase competition in the sale of insurance products throughout the Community. I shall maintain a close interest in developments, and shall be sensitive to any emerging evidence of significant barriers to trade in this area.

Export Market Information Centre

Mr. Lidington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will announce the results of his review of the Department's export market information centre ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Needham : Twelve organisations expressed initial interest in running an export market information centre--EMIC--and I invited six to make formal bids. I have selected the offer from the management of the existing centre. The other bids, from the British library and the joint venture headed by the Institute of Export, included, however, a number of attractive ideas capable of enhancing the services which EMIC could offer its customers. I am pleased to say that both organisations have agreed to offer services in a form of partnership with EMIC. Precise arrangements are being negotiated. The new combined services should commence in the autumn and allow EMIC to be fully integrated with market branches, export promoters and business links.

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Compliance Cost Assessments

Mr. Lidington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a further statement about the arrangements for publishing compliance cost assessments to show the cost impact on business of complying with legislative proposals.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : Further to the answer I gave in my written reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin) on 19 October 1993, Official Report, column 202, the Government have revised the arrangements for publishing compliance cost assessments for domestic legislative proposals which impact on business as follows :

in the case of Government Bills, a summary of the CCA will form part of the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill and will include a reference to where the full CCA can be obtained.

in the case of Statutory Instruments, the Explanatory Note will contain a note that a CCA is available and where it can be obtained. in the case of Private Members' Bills, where the Government considers it is appropriate to prepare a CCA every effort will be made to produce it by the date first set down for second reading of the Bill.

in the case of Private Bills the Government are still considering how the system can be extended to such Bills.

In all cases, a copy of the CCA will be available in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be made available to the Vote Office and/or the Printed Paper Office for selected pieces of draft legislation, and to Committees considering Bills or statutory instruments where the Government judge it to be appropriate. The Government will also publish a command paper at six-monthly intervals to place on record those CCAs published over the preceding six month period and where they can be obtained.

Milk Marketing

Mr. Lidington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what changes he proposes to competition law in the context of the impending reorganisation of milk marketing arrangements.

Mr. Neil Hamilton : I have today laid before the House the Monopolies References (Alterations of Exclusions) Order 1994. The order, which amends part II of schedule 7 of the Fair Trading Act 1973, will enable the Director General of Fair Trading to refer to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission the wholesale supply of milk in areas which are no longer covered by a statutory marketing scheme. This fulfills the commitment which the Government gave in 1993 during the passage of the Agriculture Act that, once the milk marketing schemes were revoked, milk trading should be fully subject to competition law in the same way as any other sector.

The order comes into force on 31 October 1994. As each statutory scheme is revoked, the market it covered will become subject to scrutiny by the Director General of Fair Trading, who will be able to make a reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission if he considers it appropriate.

Power Losses

Mr. Hain : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many losses of power at the Rheola relay station have occurred in each year since 1990 ; and what is the average across Britain.

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Mr. Brooke : I have been asked to reply.

The information is not available in the form requested. The Independent Television Commission has determined national standards of reliability, measured in terms of service availability to viewer. For relay stations such as Rheola the minimum standard is 99 per cent. In 1993, there were seven periods in which electrical power was lost at the Rheola transmitter, of which five were for maintenances, resulting in transmissions being available to viewers for 99.5 per cent. of the time.

Colliery Closures

Mr. David Lidington : To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement about the measures taken so far to help those areas in England affected by recent colliery closures.

Mr. Eggar : The Government provided a total of £200 million in regeneration funds to help the areas affected by pit closures. This funding was designed both to provide direct help and to encourage other public and private-sector investment in those areas : attracting new jobs, filling the funding gap for strategic projects and providing for other key activities such as retraining. Training and enterprise councils and the Employment Service play a key part in regenerating coalfield areas. That is why the £180 million package announced in October 1992 including £75 million for training and enterprise councils and the Employment Service for special training and employment measures, £75 million for a three-year English Partnership's programme of factory and site provision, and a number of other measures. The additional £20 million announced in March 1993 was to allow major strategic projects to go ahead.

Since we announced the initial package, eight pits which were scheduled to close have been leased or licensed to the private sector. That means that the total number of collieries now operating is substantially more than would have been the case had the original closure proposals made in October 1992 gone ahead. That has further improved the prospects of the coalfield areas.

Lord Walker was asked to co-ordinate this major effort to assist the coalfield areas and advise on the strategic projects. I am grateful for the effectiveness and enthusiasm with which he has carried out this task. He has established a network of contacts in each region. He has monitored and co-ordinated the various agencies responsible for delivering the original £180 million package and has made the necessary judgments on the allocation of the approximately £20 million made available for strategic projects. His role as chairman of English Partnerships gives him a continuing close interest in the regeneration of the coalfield areas.

The main regeneration initiatives in each region are in the list. These will provide significant support in themselves, but they will also help attract further investment in the coal areas.

North East Assisted Areas

Restoration of Development Area status to Morpeth and Ashington TTWA.

English Partnerships

£16 million for the provision of industrial and commercial sites, in particular at Seaham Grange and Ashington. £1.75 million as a strategic project for improvements for site access in the Wansbeck area.

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TECs and Employment Service

£12.7 million additional budget allocation for coalfield areas. Coalfield Areas Fund

£250k for regeneration projects in Easington.

Enterprise Zone

An Enterprise Zone comprising six sites to be designated in East Durham.

Tyne and Wear Development Corporation

£2 million for inward investment promotion and £2 million for development of strategic sites in Tyneside.

Regional Selective Assistance

Five large projects creating over 2,000 jobs (EMC Magnetics, Cramlington ; Onwa Electronics and Interconnection Systems, South Tyneside ; Lucas SEI and Goldstar, Wearside).

Regeneration Partnerships

The Government Office for the North East plays an active role in coalfield regeneration taskforces in East Durham and Northumberland and also in the Wansbeck Initiative.

Yorkshire and Humberside English Partnerships

£24 million for the provision of industrial and commercial sites. Plans announced :

Barnsley--192,000 square feet of additional factory/workshop space and 7.5 acres of land for further industrial schemes. Extra £6 million funding for Barnsley.

Doncaster--110,000 square feet of factories and workshops. Extra £8 million funding for Doncaster.

Rotherham--30,000 square feet of factories. Extra £6 million for Rotherham.

Wakefield--Proposals to bring forward an industrial and commercial development of £4 million.

Further and Higher Education

Up to £2 million to support further and higher education provision in the Dearne Valley subject to the completion of negotiations. Road improvements

Up to £3.75 million in Doncaster and Barnsley : contribution to Denaby on main diversion, access from the M18 into Doncaster Carr and design and preparation of access to Grimethorpe.

TECs and Employment Service

£25.3 million additional budget allocation for coalfield areas. Coalfield Areas Fund

£1.2 million for regeneration projects.

Enterprise Zone

A 360 acre Enterprise Zone to be designated in the Dearne Valley. Department of Transport Main Programme

Work is underway on the Dearne Towns Link Road and the Wath Manvers Spine Road.

Assisted Area Status

Barnsley and Doncaster upgraded from Intermediate to Development Area status.

Wakefield & Dewsbury and Castleford & Pontefract upgraded from Non-Assisted to Intermediate Area status.

Regional Enterprise Grants

Regional Enterprise Grants extended to specific wards around Sharlston.

Regional Selective Assistance

Tunstall project in Barnsley : 600 jobs eventually, £11 million project.

North West EC Objective 1 status

Parkside Colliery has been identified as a key area for regeneration through targeted investment under the Objective 1 programme for Merseyside.

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