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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 17 November 1994


Service Housing

Mr. David Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on plans to improve service housing.

Mr. Rifkind: We indicated some time ago that our original proposal to improve the quality and management of the married quarters estate by establishing a housing trust had encountered difficulties. We have therefore been considering alternative options for achieving our underlying objectives of improving housing and management and transferring the married quarters estate to the private sector. NatWest Markets, the merchant bank, has been engaged to help us develop proposals. We believe that there is considerable latent value in the estate which could be realised with the introduction of private sector capital and expertise, for the benefit of service families, the taxpayer and investors alike.

Meanwhile, we intend to improve the way in which our married quarters are managed. I intend to set up a new, integrated, tri-service housing organisation to manage the married quarters estate as an entity rather than on the single-service lines on which it is currently managed. This organisation will be known as the Defence Housing Executive; and Mr. Michael Robinson, whom we appointed as chief executive designate of the housing trust, has taken charge of planning its formation.

The Defence Housing Executive will assume responsibility for managing the estate and its maintenance on 1 April 1995, bringing together the various separate staffs. It will be able to maximise efficiencies and provide a better service to service families occupying the houses. The organisation will be established in the first instance as a budgetary unit within the Ministry of Defence, but with a remit to move towards autonomous operation as a likely candidate for privatisation in due course. Much of the work we had already done in planning for the housing trust will be relevant to the new organisation, and I am confident that its establishment will work to the advantage of service families.


Chessington Computer Centre

Mr. Tracey: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement about the future of Chessington Computer Centre.

Mr. David Hunt: When Chessington was launched as an agency and trading fund in April 1993, my predecessor announced that it was a clear candidate for privatisation, but that a decision would be deferred to allow Chessington to develop a commercial track record, and to

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give time for private sector competition to become established. Chessington has been very successful as an executive agency, for example, achieving all its performance targets in its first year. Over the coming months, I will be reviewing the case for privatisation and how it might best be achieved in the light of developments since April 1993.

I would welcome contributions to this review from those with an interest in Chessington and its work by January 1995. Further details are in the December issue of the Market Testing Bulletin to be published on 21 November.



Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the most recent Council meeting of the Economic and Finance Ministers of the European Union.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: I represented the United Kingdom at the Economic and Finance Council--ECOFIN--of the European Union in Brussels on 7 November.

The Council discussed the follow-up to the White Paper on growth, competitiveness and employment. On financing of trans-European networks-- TENs--the Council accepted that there was a need to deal with projects on a case-by-case basis, with no need for any additional new sources of funding. The chairman of the European investment bank--EIB--stated that he believed that existing requirements could be met through EIB and private sector loans. There were also discussions of the Economic Policy Committee reports on employment aspects and on growth and environment aspects of the White Paper follow-up. On the basis of all these discussions, the presidency agreed to prepare draft ECOFIN conclusions for the European Council.

The Council discussed presidency reports on the progress of the Commission's proposal for a tax relief for biofuels and the draft directive on taxation of savings. There will be further discussion at the next ECOFIN meeting on 5 December.

The Council discussed the proposed directive on taxation of interest and royalties payments. In view of the continued lack of agreement on this issue, the presidency agreed to discuss the next steps with the Commission.

The Council agreed to a presidency non-paper expressing scepticism about Commission suggestions for new forms of financial co-operation with the central and eastern European Countries as part of the pre-accession strategy to be agreed at the Essen European Council. No formal votes were taken at the Council meetings.

Double Taxation Treaties

Mr. Matthew Banks: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will outline policy on the negotiation of double taxation treaties; and if he will make a statement on recent developments.

Sir George Young: The Government are committed to expanding the network of double taxation treaties and modernising existing ones. In this way, we minimise

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barriers to international trade and investment --objectives stressed in the competitiveness White Paper.

Double taxation treaties are of major importance for United Kingdom business, as they assist taxpayers to trade or invest abroad without the impediment of double taxation or excessive compliance problems. The United Kingdom has led the way in this field by negotiating the largest network of double taxation treaties; we now have treaties with about 100 countries-- reflecting our role as a major trading nation.

Most recently, the House has approved 10 double taxation treaties, including those with Vietnam, Mexico and the Russian Federation. At least another dozen treaties have been signed or are at an advanced stage of negotiation, including those with France, Malta and Argentina.

Looking to the future, I have approved an Inland Revenue programme of negotiations covering the period to March 1996. This targets, in particular, the fastest developing economies offering greatest growth potential for United Kingdom business. These priorities have been determined following extensive consultation between the Inland Revenue and business, commercial and professional representatives bodies and other Government Departments. This is an excellent example of the benefits of close co-operation between business and the Inland Revenue.


Bathing Water

Mr. David Shaw: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will announce the results of this year's bathing water quality monitoring; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins: The monitoring carried out during the 1994 season shows that 82 per cent. of the 457 identified bathing waters in the United Kingdom met the mandatory coliform bacteria standards of the EC bathing water directive. This compares with 80 per cent. in 1993 and 79 per cent. in 1992.

During the season, over 97 per cent. of the 18,000 coliform samples were within, and in most cases well within, the required standards. It is encouraging to see that the continuing improvement in the overall standard of our bathing waters is being maintained. I look forward to further increases in compliance in the near future as more and more schemes in the bathing water improvement programme begin to have an effect. Although we still have some way to go, it is especially encouraging that some waters which have repeatedly failed year on year have this season for the first time achieved the EC standards.

The main results for the United Kingdom are summarised as follows with details for English and Welsh bathing waters. This information will be placed in the Library of the House today and will be supplemented by a report with more detailed results in due course.

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Bathing Waters Survey-1994 Results for England, Wales,                                    

Scotland and Northern Ireland. (Compliance with Bathing Water                             

Directive (76/160/EEC): Coliform Standards)                                               

                  |Pass             |Fail             |Total                              

England and Wales                                                                         


NRA Regions                                                                               

Northumbrian<1>   |29(25)           |5(9)             |34(34)                             

Yorkshire<1>      |20(21)           |2(1)             |22(22)                             

Anglian           |27(28)           |6(5)             |33(33)                             

Thames            |2(3)             |1(0)             |3(3)                               

Southern          |53(58)           |14(9)            |67(67)                             

Wessex<1>         |40(35)           |2(7)             |42(42)                             

South West<1>     |111(107)         |22(26)           |133(133)                           

North West        |24(13)           |9(20)            |33(33)                             

Welsh             |39(42)           |12(9)            |51(51)                             


Total             |345(332)         |73(86)           |418(418)                           

Scotland          |16(18)           |7(5)             |23(23)                             

Northern Ireland  |15(15)           |1(1)             |16(16                              


Grand Total       |376(365)         |81(92)           |457(457)                           

(Results for 1993 are in brackets)                                                        

<1> Northumbrian and Yorkshire, and South West and Wessex NRA regions have amalgamated,   

but results are recorded separately here for the purpose of comparison.                   


Learning Disabilities

Mr. Kynoch: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what decision he has taken on Lothian health board's strategy for people with learning disabilities; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang: I am today announcing my approval of Lothian health board's strategy for people with learning disabilities and the consequent closure of Gogarburn hospital in Edinburgh before the end of the century. The strategy was developed by Lothian health board and other agencies last year and went out to public consultation in the summer. I have considered the proposals carefully and I am satisfied that they will provide for the development of a comprehensive community care service which will enhance the quality of life for people with learning disabilities in Lothian and, in particular, those currently at Gogarburn hospital. I applaud the collaboration between the key agencies that has made the agreement on Gogarburn possible, and their joint commitment to provide the resources needed.

The board's strategy is for the provision of support, care and treatment services for people with learning disabilities away from hospitals and into the community. The planning and purchasing of long-stay care accommodation, day-time activities and other social care services will become the responsibility of Lothian regional council. Lothian health board will continue to purchase specialist health care, support and treatment services for this group of people as an integral part of the comprehensive network of services proposed. Two NHS units--a challenging behaviour unit and a dual diagnosis unit, for those with both a learning disability and a mental health problem--will be built to provide short-stay, specialist assessment and intensive treatment for in-patients, together with day hospital facilities. The board will also purchase medical and paramedical services

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provided in the community, and these services will be expanded above current levels.

The public consultation demonstrated wide support for the aims of the strategy and for the closure of Gogarburn hospital which, it is now recognised, is an inappropriate and inaccessible place for the care of people with learning disabilities. There will be a carefully planned and phased rehousing, between now and the end of 1999, of more than 300 residents into supported accommodation in the community. A strong message from the consultation was the importance of ensuring that there was proper alternative accommodation in the community and that all placements would be based on a thorough assessment of the needs of Gogarburn residents.

I am satisfied that these issues have been fully addressed. A comprehensive network of alternative services will be developed with an emphasis on achieving domestic style accommodation in ordinary housing where possible. This will mean considerable adaptation of properties, the provision of social care and, in some cases, paramedical support, and carefully planned day activities. Each of the residents will be rehoused only after a detailed assessment of his or her social and health care needs has determined exactly what kind of care and accommodation he or she needs. Full account will be taken of the wishes of users and their carers, and particular attention will be given to the needs of the more profoundly handicapped of the residents who will need the most intensive support.

The board and other agencies have addressed the need to ensure that carers delivering support in the community are appropriate trained and skilled. As far as possible, staff of Gogarburn hospital will be offered the opportunity to deploy their skills in the community and much effort is already being put into identifying new job opportunities and providing retraining where necessary.

There will be considerable transitional costs incurred in maintaining Gogarburn hospital while alternative provision is being developed and relocation of residents gets under way. I am therefore pledging a substantial amount of bridging finance to meet these double running costs. This will amount to £1.4 million in this financial year, up to £2.8 million in 1995 96 and a further sum in the ensuing years, bringing the total sum up to £14.14 million. In addition, I will provide £2.5 million, spread over the first two years, to help with the capital costs of supported accommodation. These substantial Government contributions are a measure of our commitment to ensuring that community care for this vulnerable client group is a success.

Items in Lieu of Tax

Mr. Kynoch: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what new items, accepted in lieu of inheritance tax, have been allocated in Scotland.

Mr. Lang: I am pleased to announce that I am allocating a collection of items, accepted in lieu of

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approximately £108,000 of inheritance tax, to theNational Trust for Scotland. The collection of items, mainly consisting of furniture and fittings, was accepted in March 1994 in lieu of tax arising from the death of Major Charles Smiley. The items are historically associated with Castle Fraser, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, and will remain on display at Castle Fraser in accordance with the condition on which the offer was made.


Local Government

Mr. Sweeney: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he received in response to his Department's letter of 7 April "Local Government Reorganisation: Lead Authorities for Certain Financial Matters"; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Redwood: I received several representations on the arrangements for administering superannuation and Welsh Church Act funds from 1 April 1996; and on the closure of the accounts of district and county councils, including their residual loan debt and insurance matters.

I have considered all the representations carefully and have reached the conclusions set out in the three following tables, which will be given effect by secondary legislation in due course. In the case of superannuation funds, regulations will be made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Table 1: Superannuation funds                                                   

Current             |New administering  |Covering areas of                      


authority           |new authorities    |following authority                    


Clwyd               |Flintshire         |Flintshire,                            




Dyfed               |Carmarthenshire                                            




Gwent               |Torfaen            |Torfaen, Blaenau                       

                                        |Gwent, Caerphilly,                     




Gwynedd             |Caernarfonshire and|Caernarfonshire and                    

                    |Merionethshire     |Merionethshire,                        

                                        |Aberconwy and                          

                                        |Colwyn, Anglesey                       


Mid Glamorgan       |Rhondda, Cynon,    |Rhondda, Cynon,                        

                    |Taff               |Taff, Bridgend,                        

                                        |Merthyr Tydfil                         


Powys               |Powys              |Powys                                  


South Glamorgan     |Cardiff            |Cardiff,                               

                                        |The Vale of                            



West Glamorgan      |Swansea            |Swansea, Neath and                     

                                        |Port Talbot                            

Table 2: Welsh Church Act funds                                         

Each of the new authorities will be vested with and responsible for     

administering its own Welsh Church Act fund, except in the              

following cases:                                                        

Current           |New authority to |Covering areas of                  


authority         |be vested with   |following new                      

                  |fund             |authorities                        


Gwent             |Monmouthshire    |Monmouthshire,                     





Mid Glamorgan     |Rhondda,         |Rhondda, Cynon,                    

                  |Cynon, Taff,     |Taff, Bridgend,                    

                                    |Merthyr Tydfil                     


South Glamorgan   |The Vale of      |The Vale of                        

                  |Glamorgan        |Glamorgan,                         



While the funds would be vested in the three authorities listed in the  

second column, it would not prevent the other authorities listed in the 

third column from taking decisions about how to apply income from the   

funds, whether jointly or individually.                                 

Table 3: Closure of accounts (includes responsibility for residual                           

loan debt and insurance matters)                                                             

New authority                  |to close accounts of                                         


Aberconwy and Colwyn           |Aberconwy, Colwyn                                            


Anglesey                       |Anglesey                                                     


Blaenau Gwent                  |Blaenau Gwent                                                


Bridgend                       |Ogwr                                                         


Caernarfonshire and            |Arfon, Dwyfor, Meirionnydd,                                  

Merionethshire                 | Gwynedd                                                     


Caerphilly                     |Islwyn, Rhymney Valley                                       


Cardiff                        |Cardiff, South Glamorgan                                     


Cardiganshire                  |Ceredigion                                                   


Carmarthenshire                |Carmarthen, Dinefwr, Llanelli,                               



Denbighshire                   |Rhuddlan, Glyndwr                                            


Flintshire                     |Delyn, Alyn and Deeside, Clwyd                               


Merthyr Tydfil                 |Merthyr Tydfil                                               


Monmouthshire                  |Monmouth                                                     


Neath and Port Talbot          |Neath, Port Talbot                                           


Newport                        |Newport, Gwent                                               


Pembrokeshire                  |Preseli Pembrokeshire, South                                 



Powys                          |Brecknock, Radnorshire,                                      

                               |Montgomeryshire, Powys                                       


Rhondda, Cynon, Taff           |Cynon Valley, Taff Ely,                                      

                               |Rhondda, Mid Glamorgan                                       


Swansea                        |Swansea, Lliw Valley, West                                   



Torfaen                        |Torfaen                                                      

The Vale of Glamorgan          |Vale of Glamorgan                                            


Wrexham                        |Wrexham Maelor                                               


Cash Limits

Mr. Mans: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what changes have been made in the 1994 95 cash limit for expenditure by the Overseas Development Administration.

Mr. Baldry: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit on the external assistance vote-- class II, vote 5--will be increased by £11,068,000 from £1,912, 875,000 to £1,923,943,000. The increase includes £10,205,000 in respect of rollover of underspending against the 1993 94 external assistance vote. The gross running costs limit for the ODA has been increased by £863,000 from £73,930,000 to £74,793,000. This includes £860,000 in respect of an end of year flexibility entitlement and a transfer of £3,000 from HM Treasury to pay for the average property price list. The increase will be offset by a transfer and a claim on the reserve and will not, therefore, add to the planned total of public expenditure.


Agriculture Council

Mr. Brazier: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 14 November; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waldegrave: The only decision taken at this Council, at which I represented the United Kingdom, was the adoption by a qualified majority of a measure laying down rules on the definition and designation of butter, margarine and similar spreads. I voted against the measure, on the grounds that it was unnecessary, likely to confuse rather than inform consumers and, through its requirements on the use of designations, liable to inhibit the development of low-fat spreads. Luxembourg also voted against.

The Council had a general discussion of the Commission's proposals for implementing the agricultural aspects of the Uruguay round settlement, and a further discussion of the Commission's proposals for reforming the wine regime.

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Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, what proposals he has for the frequency of payments of incapacity benefit.

Mr. Hague: Incapacity benefit will normally be paid fortnightly in arrears in line with the arrangements for benefits to unemployed people. Fortnightly payments will also apply to severe disablement allowance and income support for those incapable of work. The new payment frequency will apply to new claims only.


Sixth Form Colleges

Mrs. Angela Knight: To ask the Secretary of State for Education if she has received the report of the inquiries conducted into affairs at Derby tertiary college, Wilmorton and St Philip's Roman Catholic six form college, Birmingham, and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard: I have received recommendations from the Further Education Funding Council concerning the governance of Derby tertiary college, Wilmorton and St Philip's Roman Catholic sixth form college, Birmingham following the inquiries conducted respectively by Mr. Michael Shattock and Sir John Caines. I am most grateful to the Council and to Mr. Shattock and Sir John for having carried out the inquiries. Copies of the reports and the recommendations have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Those affected by the recommendations should have the opportunity to comment on them and on the reports. We have written to all those concerned to invite them to do so. I am mindful of the need to take appropriate action in the interests of sound governance of the colleges. I shall also wish to consider, in consultation with the Further Education Funding Council and others involved, what

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action should be taken to apply any lessons arising from these reports more generally across the further education sector. I have been glad to see that, despite their difficulties, the colleges have been providing effective education for their students and I am satisfied that they can continue to do so.

Common Funding Formula

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what decision she has made as to where and how the common funding formula will operate in 1995 96.

Mr. Robin Squire: My right hon. Friend announced on 14 November 1994 the Government's decision to extend the common funding formula for secondary schools in 1995 96 to all areas where, as at 30 September 1994, 30 per cent. or more of secondary school pupils were being educated in grant-maintained schools. This will mean a further 17 areas on top of five in which the CFF is operating this year. A copy of a letter sent by the Department to all grant maintained schools and local education authorities, explaining the 1995 96 CFF arrangements in more detail, has been placed in the Library.

Administration Expenditure

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what further changes she proposes to make to the announced 1994 95 cash and running cost limits on class X, vote 4, administration, within her responsibility.

Mrs. Gillian Shepherd: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the announced cash limit for class X, vote 4, administration, will be revised from £98,943,000 to £94, 922,000.

The revision to the announced cash limit reflects the decision not to take up my Department's running costs end-year flexibility entitlement of £4,021,000 at this time.

As a consequence, the announced running costs limit for my Department will also be revised from £94,400,000 to £90,379,000.

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