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Mr. Austin-Walker: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list all the companies currently running bus services in Hastings; what assessment he has made of the effectiveness and fairness of competition in this area; and if he will make a statement on the findings of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
Mr. Jonathan Evans: Bexhill Buses, Eastbourne Buses, Maidstone and District Motor Services Ltd., Rambler Coaches, and South Coast Buses Ltd. have services registered to operate in Hastings. Under the competition legislation it is for the Director General of Fair Trading to keep under review the effectiveness of competition and take action if appropriate. The acquisition by Stagecoach (Holdings) Ltd.--owners of South Coast Buses--of Formia Ltd. was referred in 1990 to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, which found that acquisition could be expected to lead to removal of competition, reductions in choice, service quality and frequency and higher fares. Stagecoach has since given undertakings on lines recommended by the MMC to remedy these adverse effects.
Mr. Austin-Walker: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many times Stagecoach South has been investigated by the Office of Fair Trading and by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission; if he will give details of the results of the investigations; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Jonathan Evans [holding answer 31 October 1994]: The Director General of Fair Trading has conducted one Competition Act investigation involving what is now known as Stagecoach South--"An investigation under Section 3 of the Competition Act 1980 by the DGFT: Southdown Motor Service Ltd.--the registration and operation of services 242 and 262 in Bognor Regis". The Monopolies and Mergers Commission has also reported on this matter--"Southdown Motor Services Ltd.--a report on the conduct of Southdown Motor Services Ltd. in respect of its operations of local bus services on route 262 and 242 in Bognor Regis". The MMC has also reported on two mergers: Stagecoach/Portsmouth Citybus and Stagecoach/Formia Ltd.
Full details of the findings are given in the reports. Copies of which are available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Austin-Walker: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will conduct an investigation into alleged predatory pricing practices of Stagecoach, with particular reference to similar routes at different prices.
Mr. Austin-Walker: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the efficacy of the Office of Fair Trading in halting anti-competitive practices by bus companies; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Jonathan Evans [holding answer 31 October 1994]: There is scope for increasing the effectiveness of UK competition law in general and the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill will do so. But my assessment is that action taken by the competition authorities to limit anti-competitive behaviour under existing law has been broadly effective.
Mr. Austin-Walker: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list all the companies currently running bus services in Bognor; what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of competition in this area; if he is satisfied that competition is working effectively; and if he will make a statement on the findings of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
Mr. Jonathan Evans [holding answer 31 October 1994]: B. Hand and Sussex Coastline Buses Ltd. have services registered to operate in Bognor Regis. Under the competition legislation it is for the Director General of Fair Trading to keep under review the effectiveness of competition and take action if appropriate. The conduct of Southdown Motor Services Ltd.--now Sussex Coastline Buses Ltd.--in operating certain routes in Bognor Regis was referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in 1992. The MMC found that the anti-competitive conduct of Southdown on one route was the main cause of the withdrawal of a competitor. Sussex Coastline Buses has since given undertakings relating to the operation of this and adjoining routes.
Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 26 October, Official Report , column 647 , regarding the visit to Cuba of the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Technology, if he will place in the Library a copy of the bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement.
Mr. Ian Taylor: On 14 September 1994 I initialled the English text of a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement with Cuba. The agreement is not yet signed. We are only awaiting a precisely matched Spanish text from the Cubans before proceeding to full signature and publication.
After signature of the text, the agreement will be presented to Parliament by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the normal way.
Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the President of the Board of Trade whether the former Minister for Corporate Affairs was party to the ministerial decision in respect of action on the report by DTI inspectors on alleged insider dealing by Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he expects British standard 4434 and the relevant European standards to be finalised for hydrocarbon refrigerants; and if he will make a statement on progress so far.
Mr. Ian Taylor: A meeting of a BSI committee to discuss an amendment to BS4434 to permit the use of hydrocarbons in refrigeration systems was held on 13 October. A proposed amendment to EN60335 2 24, which is the safety standard for domestic electrical refrigerators, to permit the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants will be debated in CENELEC, the European electrical standards body, in December.
Mr. Matthew Taylor: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he considers refrigeration systems that avoid the use of hydrocarbons to be best practice and therefore eligible for inclusion in his Department's best practice programme or demos programme.
Mr. Ian Taylor: DEMOS--DTI's environmental management options scheme --is no longer open to applications for grant assistance. The joint DTI/DOE environmental technology best practice programme, ETBPP, aims to promote better environmental performance and to increase the competitiveness of United Kingdom industry and commerce. Emphasis will be on waste minimisation and reducing pollution at source in the manufacturing process. In the selection of projects for inclusion in the programme, preference is given to those lying within the areas to which the programme is currently giving special attention. These areas are currently foundries, metal
finishing/surface engineering and releases of volatile organic compounds. However, any project encompassing the use of cleaner technology can be considered for inclusion in the programme if it has sufficient merit and satisfies the announced selection criteria, including those relating to potential for stimulating national cost savings.
Those wishing to propose technologies and techniques to the programme should in the first instance contact the environmental helpline on 0800 585794.
Mr. Eggar: Further to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade's announcement of 21 July, Official Report , column 538 , I shall be launching a round of consultation with a range of bodies in each of the eligible areas. A copy of the draft guidelines for regional challenge has been placed in the Library of the House. It is my intention that this special competition should encourage greater partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors and take full advantage of the talents and expertise of the local community in addressing the problems of the eligible areas. I look forward to receiving a wide range of views as a part of this consultation process.
As a result of currency movements and adjustments to the financial tables of the single programming documents during their negotiatin with the European Commission, the £160 million announce by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 21 July now represents 12 per cent. of the money available from the European regional development fund in each eligible area, plus 10 per cent. of that sum from the European social fund.
Column 1132from individual members of the public concerning the 16th round of offshore oil and gas licensing.
Mr. Charles Wardle: I have received more than 2,300 postcards and more than 500 letters from members of the public making representations about future offshore licensing rounds. The 16th round was mentioned specifically in only a few of these cases.
Mr. Elletson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he next expects to visit China; and if he will make a statement about the effect of the issue of Hong Kong on Sino-British commercial relations and prospects.
Mr. Needham: My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is hoping to visit China next year to promote our trade and commercial relations. We have no firm evidence that political differences with China over Hong Kong are having an effect on British commercial interests. Our exports to China rose by 72 per cent. in 1993, and by a further 21 per cent. in the first nine months of 1994; and the level of intended direct investment by British firms in China rose from £1 billion to £3 billion in 1993, which will make Britain one of the largest overseas investors there.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many companies with deficiencies of £500,000 or more were not investigated after receipt of an initial report highlighting misconduct under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 due to lack of resources; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many initial unfit conduct reports, pursuant to the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 have been received from (a) insolvency practitioners and (b) official receivers during each of the last three years; what was the source of each report; how many initial reports were rejected; and if he will give the reasons for rejection.
Mr. Jonathan Evans: The number of unfit conduct returns/reports pursuant to the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 received and rejected during each of the three calendar years and the current year (to 31 October 1994) are as follows:
|1991 |1992 |1993 |<1>1994 ------------------------------------------------------------------ Insolvency practitioners Received |3,479 |4,144 |4,093 |2,726 Rejected |<2>- |2,888 |3,322 |1,864 Official receivers Unfitted returns received |2,057 |2,317 |3,318 |2,308 Unfitted reports |208 |169 |78 |150 Rejected reports |26 |29 |19 |12 <1> To date. <2> Not known.
The main reasons for rejection were where the unfitted conduct alleged was not considered to be sufficiently serious or evidentially strong enough to justify disqualification proceedings in the public interest. Other reasons include cases where there was clear mitigation or
Column 1133where the case was linked to other proceedings which could result in disqualification or where the whereabouts of the directors were not known.
Mr. Jonathan Evans: The coming into force of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Bill, when enacted, will enable parliamentary approval to be sought for an order which will permit official receivers to contract out their functions.
I have no plans to introduce any further primary legislation in this regard.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the effects of the proposals of Stoy Hayward on contracting out part of the functions and duties of the official receiver on the official receiver's statutory duty to investigate the affairs of bankrupts and companies in compulsory liquidation; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Jonathan Evans: Stoy Hayward Consulting reported that the contracting out of official receivers' case administration work would enable official receivers to concentrate more on their investigative role. I am satisfied that this would be so.
Mr. Donohoe: To ask the President of the Board of Trade on how many occasions in the past year the spouse of a Minister in his Department has travelled abroad at public expense to accompany a Minister on public duties, and what has been the total cost to public funds; and on how many occasions such travel has been undertaken at own cost.
Mr. Heseltine [holding answer 26 October 1994]: In the past year, spouses of Ministers have travelled abroad at public expense six times. The total cost to public funds was £22,998.67. On three occasions in the past year spouses have travelled abroad at their own expense.
Spouses accompanied Ministers on the six occasions in order to take an active part in the official programme. Spouses' activities included attending official functions, as well as, for example, visits to education and welfare establishments.
Ms Corston: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what is his estimate of the numbers of children who would receive the (a) higher rate and (b) the lower rate of the mobility component of the disability living allowance if the age limit of five years was (i) removed altogether, (ii) reduced to age two and (iii) reduced to age three; and what is the estimate of the costs in each category; (2) how many awards of the care component of the disability living allowance are currently payable in respect
Column 1134of children aged under five years at (a) the higher rate, (b) the middle rate and (c) the lower rate, by main disabling condition;
(3) how many claims for disability living allowance care component have been made in respect of children aged under five years since 1992; and how many were refused, giving figures for each reason for refusal.
Mr. Hague: The tables set out the best available estimates of the caseload and expenditure implications of changes to the lower age limit for claiming the mobility component of disability living allowance; and information on current awards of the care component of disability living allowance to children aged under five years. No information is available on the number of claims made in respect of the care component of disability living allowance, the number refused or the reasons for refusal.
Changes to age limit for DLA mobility component: estimated numbers of gainers 1994-95 |Total |Age limit |Age limit |abolition of |reduced to |reduced to Mobility component |age limit |age 2 |age 3 ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Higher rate |9,000 |8,000 |6,000 Lower rate |10,000 |8,000 |6,000 Total |19,000 |16,000 |12,000 Note: These estimates are highly uncertain and subject to significant margins of error, therefore should be treated with extreme caution.
Changes to age limit for DLA mobility component: estimated additional costs 1994-95 (1994 prices) |Total |Age limit |Age limit |abolition of |reduced to |reduced to |age limit |age 2 |age 3 Mobility component |£ million |£ million |£ million ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Higher rate |16 |13 |9 Lower rate |6 |5 |4 Total |22 |18 |13 Notes: These estimates are highly uncertain and subject to significant margins of error, therefore should be treated with extreme caution.
DLA care component: number of awards to children under five by main disabling condition (thousands) Rate of care |Higher |Middle |Lower |Total component --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Muscle/bone/joint disease |1 |2 |- |3 Blindness |- |- |- |1 Stroke related |1 |- |- |1 Learning difficulties |2 |4 |1 |7 Epilepsy |1 |1 |- |1 Deafness |- |1 |- |1 Chest disease |1 |- |- |2 Heart disease |1 |- |- |1 Asthma |2 |2 |2 |6 Neurological Diseases |2 |1 |- |3 Skin Diseases |- |1 |- |2 Other causes |3 |3 |- |6 All causes |14 |16 |4 |34 Notes: As at 31 August 1994. Source: DSS analytical Services Division-based on a 5 per cent. sample. The figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand, so component parts may not sum to totals.
Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will give his best estimate of the number of claimants who will be worse off at any one time as a result of the introduction of the job seeker's allowance and the reduction in the contributory benefit from 12 months to six months
Mr. Roger Evans: It is estimated that at any one time 250,000 unemployed claimants would no longer be entitled to an adult dependency increase, or would receive the lower personal allowance for claimants under 25, or would receive no or less benefit after six months. However, claimants in those groups may benefit from other measures outlined in the White Paper. A further group of claimants could either gain or lose a small amount depending on whether the personal rate of unemployment benefit would have been higher or lower than the personal allowance of income support in 1996 97 for claimants aged 25 or over. Since the uprating factors will depend on the increase in the Rossi and RPI indices in the year to September 1995, it is not possible to provide firm estimates of the effects at this stage.
1. Estimates rounded to nearest 10,000 cases.
2. Estimates assume:
a) 2.55 million unemployed claimants;
b) 600,000 Unemployment benefit claimants.
3. Losers are estimated using the Policy simulation Model with 1990/91/92 Family Expenditure Survey data and 1994 Unemployment Benefit Statistics.
Mr. Roger Evans: The term "habitually resident" is not defined in the regulations. When deciding whether a claimant is habitually resident, among the factors that the adjudication authorities may take into account are the length and continuity of his residence in another country; his employment record; his reasons and intentions for coming to the United Kingdom and factors which show where his centre of interest is situated. The concept of habitual residence is well established in United Kingdom and European Union law.
Mr. Miller: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what conditions must be met by families who face serious financial difficulties as a result of visiting their sick child in hospital to qualify for any financial assistance towards these costs from the social fund.
Mr. Roger Evans: Community care grants from the Social Fund can assist people in receipt of income support to meet the cost of visiting a hospital patient. Social fund officers have to take account of all the circumstances of each application to the fund, but the Secretary of State's guidance provides that help with costs to visit a child in hospital should normally be given high priority. Those payments are designed to ensure that help is focused on those with the lowest income who are least able to meet the cost.
Mr. Burt: From April 1993 to the end of August 1994, 4,850 cases have been considered for the implementation of a reduced benefit direction. Details of the number of cases in which benefit was reduced is not available and could be obtained only at
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what powers are possessed by Child Support Agency officials to elicit financial information from those being pursued for payment; whether the agency is empowered to obtain copies of bank statements and other confidential financial information without permission; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Burt: The Child Support Information, Evidence and Disclosure Regulations place parties to an assessment, and other specified persons, under a duty to furnish information or evidence required by the Secretary of State for one or more of the purposes listed in the regulations. That duty does not extend to banks or other financial institutions and a child support officer cannot therefore request information from them.
The Secretary of State may, however, appoint inspectors for the purpose of acquiring information under the Child Support Act 1991. Those inspectors are not bound by the Information, Evidence and Disclosure Regulations and may ask banks or other financial institutions for information.
Mrs. Maddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of public appointments made by his Department were held by women at the most recent date for which figures are available.
Mr. Grocott: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which former hon. Members of this House have been appointed since 1988 by his Department to quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations; and if he will list, in each case, the title of the post, the salary, the duration of the appointment, and the party which each represented as an hon. Member.
Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what would be the effect on Treasury revenue in 1995 96, and in a full year, of (a) raising the national insurance ceiling to the same level as the higher- rate tax band and (b) abolishing the ceiling for national insurance contributions.
1995-96 Additional Yield (£ million) |Employees |Self-employed|Total ---------------------------------------------------------------------- (a) In Year |1,000 |50 |1,050 Full Year |1,150 |100 |1,250 (b) In Year |3,000 |200 |3,200 Full Year |3,350 |500 |3,850 Note: (1) The reply assumes that the upper earnings limit would remain in place at current levels for the purpose of calculating contracted-out rebates.
Mr. Betts: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate for 1994 95 or give the most recently available estimate of the number of (a) employees who pay national insurance contributions, (b) employees with earned income above the national contributions ceiling, (c) employees with earnings less than the income tax threshold who pay national insurance insurance contributions, (d) self-employed who pay class 4 national insurance contributions, (e) self-employed who pay class 2 national insurance contributions, (f) self-employed who pay class 3 national insurance contributions, (g) all self-employed paying national insurance contributions and (h) self-employed with profits above the upper profits limit for national insurance contributions.
(a) 18.1 million
(b) 3.2 million
(c) 0.5 million
(d) 1.6 million
(e) 2.4 million
(f) Reliable estimates are not available.
(g) In addition to those at (e) a number of self-employed earners pay Class 3 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) to make-up their contribution record or Class 1 NICs from concurrent employment as an employment earner. Reliable estimates of the numbers involved are not available.
(h) 0.35 million
Figures in the table (a-e) have been rounded to nearest 0.1 million.
Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claimants were deprived of benefit as a sanction for breaking benefit rules (a) in the latest year for which figures are available and (b) in each of the preceding three years; and what in each case this total represented as a percentage of the total number receiving benefit.
Responsibility for the subject of the question has been delegated to the Employment Service agency under its chief executive. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.
Letter from M.E.G. Fogden to Mr. Donald Dewar, dated 2 November 1994:
The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your question about the number of claimants deprived of benefit and the percentage this represents of the total number receiving benefit. I have assumed that the claimants to which you refer are those in receipt of benefits being paid to unemployed people.
Unfortunately the statistics you asked for are not available in the form you have requested. Information on the number of adjudication
Column 1138officers' decisions and disallowance rates (in respect of unemployment benefit (UB) and opinions (in respect of Income Support (IS) is contained in a published document entitled "Analysis of Adjudication Officers' Decisions". This provides information on all the main entitlement questions arising on claims, including those which might be regarded as sanctions. Copies of this document are held in the Library of the House. The latest available information relates to the quarter ending June.
I am also unable to provide information on the total number of claimants receiving UB or IS during any particular period. The number of people receiving benefit during a period is constantly changing, and a simple count would include those who received benefit for only one day as well as those who received it for the whole period. It is possible therefore that a person would be included in such a count more than once. For these reasons statistics relating to the number of people who are claiming benefit at a given time are more meaningful. These are, as you know, regularly compiled and placed in the Library on a monthly basis.
TEC administration costs for Wales 1993-94 TEC |£'000 ------------------------------- Gwent |1,796 Mid Glamorgan |2,665 North East Wales |1,340 North West Wales |911 Powys |539 South Glamorgan |1,467 West Wales |2,552 Total |11,270 Source: Published accounts.