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Mr. Heseltine : Information on the latest figures, in index form, for output of the United States, United Kingdom and EC is regularly published in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's "Main Economic Indicators", a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.
Corresponding information for the whole economy on output per hour and unit labour costs is not readily available and could be produced only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 15 June, Official Report, column 603, what was the average increase in output per head in manufacturing in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Germany and Japan from 1979 to 1989 and from 1989 to the latest available date ; by how much United Kingdom unit labour costs in manufacturing fell relative to those of the other three countries in each period as a result of the increase in output per head ; by how much the exchange rate would have to change to offset the differences in the rate of change in the unit labour costs in United Kingdom manufacturing in each period as a result of the change in productivity ; and what equivalent information he holds on (a) France, (b) Italy and (c) other EC countries on average.
Information on the United Kingdom's relative unit labour costs in manufacturing is published regularly in Central Statistical Office's "Economic Trends", a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.
' Percentage/per annum |1979-89|1989-93 --------------------------------------- United Kingdom |4.0 |2.9 USA |3.6 |3.2 Germany |2.0 |-1.4 France |2.5 |0.3 Italy |3.4 |-1.3 Japan |3.4 |-2.5 Sources: OECD, CSO.
Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 14 June, Official Report, column 421, if he will make a statement on how his Department calculates whether collating information in relation to answering parliamentary questions constitutes disproportionate cost.
Mr. Heseltine : If the preparation of an answer is likely to cost more than the cost threshold, Ministers will consider whether to refuse to answer it on the ground of disproportionate cost. The current threshold of £450, calculated by the Treasury, was announced to the House by my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council, on 25 October 1993, Official Report, column 425. In respect of my earlier reply, the information requested is not readily available and could be obtained only with a great deal of staff effort.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what monitoring of consumer satisfaction will be undertaken for future and current procedures dealing with claims relating to mining subsidence ;
(2) how current claims for mining subsidence will be dealt with in active coalfields where coal extraction continues after August ; (3) how private mining companies will compensate persons suffering from subsidence caused by their activities ; and what action will be taken to ensure the rights of persons suffering damage ;
(4) how he will protect home owners' interests in future subsidence compensation cases involving private companies ;
(5) what plans he has to consider bringing forward amendments to the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991 ;
(6) if he will make a statement on the arbitration procedure for coalfield subsidence matters after August.
Mr. Eggar : I refer the hon. Member to the Coal Industry Act 1994 and to the extensive documentation which my Department has made available, in particular : the draft subsidence regulations, the draft guide to claimants' rights, the revised coal authority explanatory note, and the revised draft model coal authority licensing documents.
Mr. Hinchcliffe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how current case loads of mining subsidence claims will be dealt with after August; and what continuity arrangements have been set up for this work.
(2) what projections he has for the number of persons dealing with mining subsidence claims after August;
(3) in what circumstances tenders for coal mining subsidence work were accepted from loss adjusters, estate agents and insurance companies.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what insurance arrangements are available for persons who have suffered, are suffering or may suffer from subsidence damage from coal extraction.
Mr. Eggar : Decisions on the terms and conditions of insurance cover, and whether to offer cover at all, are matters solely for insurers to determine in the light of their commercial judgment. Where a property has been affected by coal mining subsidence damage, the statutory provisions for dealing with coal mining subsidence damage mean that the cost of such damage is borne by the coal industry. Coal mining subsidence should not therefore be pertinent to decisions on whether or not to offer insurance cover so long as satisfactory repairs have been carried out. The Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991 provides those affected with a right to require that repairs are carried out to their reasonable satisfaction.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what discussions have taken place on subsidence compensation between officials of his Department and British Coal property division management ; when these meetings took place ; what was the outcome ; and if he will put their minutes in the Library.
Mr. Eggar : Officials of my Department have had discussions with British Coal on a wide range of issues, including subsidence matters. The Government's policy with regard to subsidence in future is set out in the Coal Industry Act 1994, and in the documentation which my Department has made available, in particular the draft subsidence regulations, the draft guide to claimants' rights, the revised Coal Authority explanatory note, and the revised draft model Coal Authority licensing documents.
Mr. Eggar : Under the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991, British Coal is responsible for the repair of, or compensation for, all damage caused by coal mining subsidence in the United Kingdom. The age of mining does not affect claimants' rights, provided that any claim is made within six years of the damage first being noticed.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the President of the Board of Trade where extra costs are identified by companies undertaking repairs to properties suffering subsidence damage ; and what safeguards are available to ensure that these are reported and undertaken.
Mr. Dalyell : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what terms apply to assistance from the DTI overseas project fund to studies by United Kingdom firms directed to securing contracts abroad in South America.
Mr. Needham : The overseas projects fund is available to assist United Kingdom companies with the costs of pursuing major projects overseas. The fund can help meet the costs of feasibility studies, consultancies and other pre-contractual activities with the object of increasing the number of contracts United Kingdom companies can pursue and win. The maximum amount of assistance offered is 50 per cent. of the costs involved. Where a contract is won with its help, overseas projects fund assistance is repayable.
Mr. Eggar : This is a matter for the Director General of Electricity Supply. Disconnection of premises both commercial and domestic are covered by provisions contained in schedule 6 of the Electricity Act 1989.
Mr. Parry : To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many warrants in respect of electricity disconnection have been issued by Manweb during the last 12 months ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Eggar : Under schedule 6 of the Electricity Act 1989, an electricity company can disconnect premises no earlier than 20 working days after the issue of a bill in the case of a domestic customer. For non- domestic customers, the period is 15 working days. In both instances, two working days notice is required before disconnection occurs.
The Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954 does not require notice to be given to customers before application by an electricity company to a magistrate for a warrant of entry. All companies do, however, notify customers that this may happen where a bill remains unpaid and there is the possibility of disconnection occurring.
Mr. Spearing : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what requirement is made of licensed suppliers of gas to retain storage facilities for a given proportion of their supply obligations over any given period, to be held in land storage.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : Under the Airports Act 1986, the CAA is required to refer designated airports to the MMC every five years before setting a formula which governs the amount which may be raised annually through charges. BAA's three London airports are to be reviewed in 1995-96.
Mr. Neil Hamilton : Decisions to prepare assessments under the fiche d'impact system are made by the European Commission. The basis for such decisions was most recently restated in a resolution on administrative simplification for enterprises, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, made by the Council of Ministers Industry Council meeting under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade during the British presidency on 24 November 1992. This invited the European Commission to prepare an assessment on all Commission proposals which may give rise to substantial burden for enterprises. My Department is assiduous in urging the Commission to undertake an assessment of every proposal relevant to our responsibilities which may give rise to a substantial burden for United Kingdom businesses. The deregulation unit also keeps watch on the Commission's operation of the fiche d'impact system, and concerts pressure from United Kingdom Departments for an assessment of every proposal which may give rise to a substantial burden for United Kingdom businesses.
Mr. Parry : To ask the President of the Board of Trade what are the legal obligations to ensure that premises entered by force in accordance with section (2) of the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954 are left in a secure and safe state after such entry has been gained.
Mr. Eggar : Section 2(5) of the Rights of Entry (Gas and Electricity Boards) Act 1954 requires any person who is authorised to enter premises by force under a warrant granted under section 2 of the Act to leave the premises as effectually secured against trespassers as he found them, if the premises are unoccupied or the occupier is temporarily absent.
Mr. Soley : To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 18 July, Official Report, column 23 , regarding damage by cabling companies, if he will in future monitor and publish a list of incidents of damage; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Heseltine : Enforcement of the street works requirements of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 is the responsibility of the street authority concerned. Instances of damage arising from street works would normally come to their attention during the exercise of their functions under the Act, and it would be for individual authorities to decide whether to publish a list of incidents.
Column 532however, empowered by the Electricity Act 1989 and Electricity Act 1989 (Fees) Order 1990 to recover its full economic costs through the levying of fees for electricity meter examination and certification, electricity licence application fees and the granting of annual licences to electricity generators, transmission companies and public electricity and second-tier suppliers.
Mr. Heseltine : As I stated in my written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), on 14 April 1994, Official Report , columns 251-53 , reporting the outcome of the review into the future options for my Department's research laboratories, the Laboratory of the Government Chemist, the National Engineering Laboratory and the National Physical Laboratory all have good records of meeting the targets that they have been set and improving their performance from year to year. Their results for last year, which will be made available when their annual reports and accounts for 1993-94 are laid before the House, all show that improvements continued to be made : these have been achieved despite the tougher competition which the laboratories faced in winning and retaining work from public and private sector customers.
The targets that I have set LGC and NEL for 1994-95, together with the five -year targets that were set for NPL on becoming an agency on 3 July 1990, Official Report , columns 499-500 are set out in the tables. In addition, I expect the chief executives of the agencies to continue to reply within 10 working days to all letters from Members of Parliament delegated to them for reply.
Primary Financial Targets
LGC Recovery of full costs from income for customer work. NEL Recovery of full costs through "arms-length" contracts from customers by 1994-95.
NPL Recovery of full costs from income for customer work. Secondary Targets
LGC To achieve an average rate of 90 per cent. for completion of reports on analysis of (or research into) samples by the date agreed with customers for the year as a whole.
To achieve more than 85 per cent. of contract research milestones within the timescale agreed with the customer.
To maintain NAMAS accreditation for the categories of work in which the Laboratory operates, registration for Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) and Laboratory-wide registration to BS5750 (ISO 9001). NEL To increase the number of non-DTI clients who provide revenues of more than £100k per annum by 50 per cent.
To introduce by September 1994 a revised Divisional base organisation designed to facilate privatisation.
To arrange training programmes to ensure the managers in the revised organisation acquire the new competences needed for a transition to private sector working practice.
By September 1994 to introduce an improved version of the contract completion questionnaire to reflect the input from all clients in 1993-94.
To carry out customer consultation post-completion reviews of 20 per cent. of all contracts in excess of £250k.
By September 1994 to achieve laboratory-wide ISO9001 accreditation for those eligible areas which did not receive accreditation by the end of 1993 -94.
NPL To improve to 90 per cent. by 1994-95 the percentage of calibrations completed within six weeks.
To complete at least 95 per cent. of contract research investigations on time over the period 1990-91 to 1994-95.
Column 533To increase by at least 3 per cent. the number of research milestones achieved annually per scientist over the period 1990-91 to 1994-95.
To reduce the cost of administrative support so that by 1994-95 it represents no more than 20 per cent. of NPL's full economic cost. To increase the proportion of staff time attributed to programme-related work by 5 per cent. over the period 1990-91 to 1994-95.
To reduce the cost of NPL per member of project staff by2 per cent. per annum over the period 1990-91 to 1994-95.
To secure a combination of output efficiency and cost reduction measures which, taken together, represent a requirement on NPL to improve its overall efficiency by more than 2 per cent. a year over the period 1990-91 to 1994-95.
Mr. Heseltine : In my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) on 14 April 1994, Official Report, columns 251-53, I undertook to make a further announcement on the future of the National Weights and Measures Laboratory.
I am today placing in the Library of the House the report on NWML by the consultants KPMG Peat Marwick.
I have decided that NWML should remain a next steps agency within my Department. I am giving further consideration to moving the agency onto a financial control regime which will provide it with the scope it needs to utilise its expertise and facilities more fully in meeting a wider range of its customers' needs on a self-financing basis.
I have set NWML the following targets for 1994-95 :
to ensure that its fee earning activities remain self-financing ; to increase their output per person employed by 2per cent. ; to reduce the real cost of a programme hour by 2per cent. ; to complete 92 per cent. of all type examinations within 14 weeks and
to complete 96 per cent. of all calibration jobs (including preparation of certificates) within 4 weeks of acceptance of the work.
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.
Mr. Heseltine : My Department's Invest in Britain Bureau announced in its annual report published today that 1993-94 was another very successful year for attracting inward investment into the United Kingdom.
Some 404 direct investment projects were recorded by the IBB for the period 1 April 1993 to 31 March 1994. This is an increase of 101 projects over the previous year's recorded figures and demonstrates quite clearly just how attractive the United Kingdom continues to be to overseas investors. It is also worth noting that, based on information supplied at the time of the announcements, 28,727 new jobs are expected to be created--an increase of 12,009 over last year's figures--out of a total of 96,009 jobs linked to the 404 projects.
These results provide strong evidence that, despite ever-increasing competition from elsewhere in the European Community, the United Kingdom has retained its No. 1 spot in Europe for attracting inward investment.
Column 534The results are also an indication of the effective partnership that the Invest in Britain Burea has with the many public and private sector organisations involved in the promotion of inward investment at home and, along with colleagues in the overseas posts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in existing and emerging markets abroad.
I am arranging for a copy of the report to be placed in the House of Commons Library.
Mr. Heseltine : Government Departments and their agencies are required to monitor their payment performance and publish the results in their annual reports. The following table lists by Department the proportion of bills paid within the agreed credit period, or within 30 days where no credit period has been agreed, for 1993-94. The Government recognise that late payment is a serious problem, particularly for small businesses, and it is essential that the Government set an example. Though Government payment performance continues to improve overall, there remains room for further improvement.
New measures were announced in the White Paper on competitiveness. Government Departments and their agencies will now be required to : abide by the CBI prompt payers code ;
set out in their annual reports their payment policies and to state whether they have observed the principles of the CBI code, and publicise their arrangements for handling complaints of failure to pay on time.
The Government expect all other public sector bodies to follow their lead.
Department/agency |Per cent. invoices |paid within target -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Benefits Agency |94.0 Cabinet Office/OPSS |78.0 Central Statistical Office |77.0 COI |83.0 Crown Prosecution Service |82.0 Customs and Excise |90.0 Defence |99.9 Education |80.0 Employment Department/ACAS |95.6 Employment Service |85.4 Environment |90.0 Foreign and Commonwealth Office |95.0 Health and Safety Executive |89.6 Health |87.1 HMSO |80.0 Home Office |72.0 Inland Revenue |86.0 Lord Chancellor's |89.4 MAFF |85.0 National Heritage |85.0 National Savings |97.6 Northern Ireland Office and NICS |92.0 Overseas Development Administration |88.0 Paymaster General |96.3 Registry of Friendly Societies |95.0 Scottish Office |89.0 Social Security |94.0 Trade and Industry |90.0 Transport |93.6 Treasury |93.0 Welsh Office |87.0
Mr. Heseltine : The market test of the IT services branch of the Department has now been concluded and it has been decided to award a contract to Hoskyns Group plc whose bid was judged to represent the best value for money.