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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 22 November 1994

HOME DEPARTMENT

West Midlands Police

Mr. Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the chief constables of West Midlands police and West Mercia police regarding the implications of the Frankley area coming under the jurisdiction of West Midlands police rather than West Mercia; and what plans he has to increase West Midlands police resources to cover the Frankley area.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: Boundary changes in the west midlands have been the subject of correspondence between officials at the Home Office and West Midlands police. The police funding formula for 1995 96 will assess the need for policing partly on the basis of resident population. The formula will also take account of the Frankley boundary changes. The funding level for West Midlands police in 1995 96 will be issued shortly after the Budget statement.

Timberwolf Crossbreed Dogs

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to amend the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 to include timberwolf crossbreed dogs in its provisions; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Baker: None. Wolves and wolf hybrids are already listed on the schedule to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

Open Government

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the charging policy of his Department and the agencies for which he is responsible in respect of inquiries under the code of practice on access to government.

Mr. Howard: In line with guidance on charging under the code of practice on access to government information produced by the Office of Public Service and Science, which recognises the diversity of cost and operational structure across the range of bodies implementing the code, the Home Office has developed the following arrangements for charging for information under the code of practice.

A charge is not normally made for the work involved in meeting straightforward requests from most inquirers for information, providing it takes less than an hour. A charge is made for dealing with more complex requests which take more than one hour. This is calculated at an hourly rate of £20, reflecting average staff costs.


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In addition, a charge may be made for photocopying, supplying a video or tape, for disk or computer runs and for postage. There are no standard charges for these but a charge would not normally be made for costs amounting to less than £10.

No charge is normally made for answering inquiries from journalists. However, journalists may be charged if the cost of providing information to them exceeds the current limit for a parliamentary question.

As regards charging by the Department's agencies, the Prison Service and the United Kingdom Passport Agency have adopted a similar approach to the Home Office. The Forensic Science Service and the Fire Service college charge on a full-cost recovery basis. The arrangements in the Home Office for charging for information are set out in "Departmental Procedures on Open Government". A copy of these has been placed in the House of Commons Library.

Speed Limits

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to make full use of new technology to enhance enforcement of speed limits.

Mr. Michael Forsyth: The enforcement of speed limits is an operational matter for chief officers of police.

Local Government Finance

Sir Ivan Lawrence: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what has been the response to the current bidding round under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Howard: There has already been an enthusiastic response to the current section 11 bidding round, and the available funds look set to be significantly oversubscribed. I have therefore decided, in view of the importance of the work funded under this scheme, to double the funding available in the first two years covered by the current bidding round, bringing to £30 million the central funding available in respect of each of 1995 96 and 1996 97.

The additional funding will be provided jointly by the Home Office, the Department of the Environment and the Department for Education and has been made possible by adjustments to spending priorities. The deadline for applications and revised applications will be extended until 30 December and local authorities and others who are eligible to apply are being informed.

New Prisons

Mr. Byers: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many companies and consortia have submitted tenders to construct and manage the new prisons planned at (a) Fazakerley and (b) Bridgend; and if he will identify the companies and consortia and indicate when the contracts are likely to be awarded.

Mr. Michael Forsyth [holding answer 21 November 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.


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Letter from Derek Lewes to Mr. Stephen Byers, dated 22 November 1994:

The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the companies and consortia which have tendered for the contracts for new prisons at Fazakerley and Bridgend.

Five companies submitted tenders to design, construct, manage and finance new prisons at both Fazakerley and Bridgend. They are Group 4 Tarmac Ltd, United Kingdom Detention Services Ltd, Premier Prison Service Ltd, Securicor Seifert Atkins Consortium and Secure Care Services Ltd. I expect contracts to be awarded by the end of March 1995.

Remand Prisoners, Hull

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many young people are at present on remand at Hull prison; what are their ages; and what is the nature of the alleged offences for which they are being prosecuted.

Mr. Michael Forsyth [holding answer 21 November 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 Lewes to Mr. Kevin McNamara, dated 22 November 1994:

The Home Secretary has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the number of young people on remand at Hull prison.

On 17 November this year nine young prisoners were being held in the separate young offenders' wing at Hull, of whom five were on remand and three were convicted and awaiting sentence. Eight of these prisoners were aged 16 years and one was aged 15 years. The offences with which they were charged are burglary, robbery, criminal damage and taking and driving away a motor vehicle.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Research

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what recent assessment he has made of the distribution of public investment in research between civil and military projects.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: The "Forward Look of Government funded Science, Engineering and Technology", published in April 1994, and available in the House of Commons Library, sets out for scrutiny the current balance of public expenditure on civil and defence research, and changes in this balance during the period 1986 87 to 1996 97.

ENVIRONMENT

Playing Fields and Open Space

Mr. Alton: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what circulars or directives he has issued to local authorities concerning the retention of playing fields and public open spaces in urban areas.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: National planning policy for open spaces and playing fields in urban areas is set out in planning policy guidance note 17, PPG 17, "Sport and Recreation", published in September 1993, and in planning policy guidance note 3, PPG 3 "Housing", published in March 1992.


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Negative Equity

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the number of households with negative equity in each of the last two years.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: Estimates of the number of households affected by negative equity are calculated on a quarterly basis. Based on Department of the Environment house price data, around 644, 000 households were affected by negative equity in the third quarter of 1994, compared with around 801,000 in the same quarter last year.

Open Government

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the charging policy of his Department and the agencies for which he is responsible in respect of inquiries under the code of practice on access to government.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: In line with guidance on charging produced by the Office of Public Service and Science, which recognises the diversity of cost and operational structure across the range of bodies implementing the code, my Department has developed its own scheme of charges for information under the code of practice on access to government information. Generally, no charge will be made for processing a request for information unless it would cost more than £50 to fulfil in terms of additional work. Where a charge is liable, it will cover the whole cost of the work done, including the first £50. My Department made available last July an explanatory leaflet on its charging arrangements. A copy was placed in the Library of the House. A revised leaflet confirming that the arrangements also applied to my Department's agencies was issued earlier this month and a copy placed in the Library.

Timberwolf Crossbreed Dogs

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to list timberwolf crossbreeds under the provisions of the Dangerous Animals Act 1976; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins: Wolves and wolf hybrids are already listed on the schedule to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976. A licence is required to keep any animal of a species listed on the schedule.

Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many timberwolf crossbreed dogs there are in England.

Mr. Atkins: The information is not held centrally since licensing under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 is the responsibility of district councils in England.

Flue Gas Desulphurisation

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what powers are available to Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution to require electricity generating plant fitted with flue gas desulphurisation to be operated in preference to more polluting plant;

(2) what assumptions are now made by his Department about (a) the total electricity generating capacity fitted with flue gas desulphurisation, (b) the average load factor of plant fitted with FGD and (c) which plant will be so fitted;


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(3) what assumptions were made by his Department about (a) the total electricity generating capacity fitted with flue gas desulphurisation and (b) the average load factor of plant fitted with FGD, in calculating the United Kingdom's ability to meet the terms of (i) the EC large combustion plants directive during negotiations on the directive and (ii) the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe sulphur protocol during negotiations on the protocol.

Mr. Atkins: The United Kingdom's programme and national plan for the implementation of the EC large combustion plants directive, published in 1990, assumed the fitting of FGD to 8GW of generating capacity. At present, 4 GW of FGD are operating or under construction at Drax power station and 2 GW at Ratcliffe. The 1993 emissions inventory under the LCPD showed that National Power and PowerGen together emitted less than 80 per cent. of their national plan allocation of sulphur dioxide emissions for that year.

In negotiating and assessing the feasibility of the agreed reduction target of 80 per cent. by 2010, against 1980 figures, under the UNECE sulphur protocol, the Government took account of a variety of possible abatement options, including the fitting of FGD. The Government will be consulting in due course on the national strategy required to give effect to the sulphur protocol. That strategy will reflect assessment at the time of the most cost-effective measures to deliver our environmental targets, and will take into account such developments as the industry's significant investment in cleaner combined cycle gas turbines to replace older plant.

Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution is currently in discussion with the generators both about the operation of their FGD-equipped plant in the context of each company's overall generating operations and more generally about improvement programmes for all of the companies' stations. Decisions on those questions will be taken in the light of an assessment of what constitutes BATNEEC--"best available techniques not entailing excessive costs".

Packaging

Mr. William O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what discussions his Department has had with the food packaging industry as to a possible levy on packaging; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what plans he has to introduce a packaging levy on produce that generates waste; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins: The Government have no plans to introduce a statutory levy to finance the recovery of value from packaging waste. However, after extensive consultation with the packaging industry and users of packaging, the Government have announced that they are prepared to respond to requests from industry to legislate at the earliest opportunity. They propose to create a statutory framework within which industry-led schemes may operate in order to achieve increased recovery and recycling of packaging waste.

Recycling

Mr. William O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assistance his Department gives to help the disposal of recycled material.


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Mr. Atkins: The creation of markets for recycled materials is primarily a matter for industry. The Government's producer responsibility initiative provides incentives to this end by requiring companies to bear the extra cost of making greater productive use of waste. However, the Government also play their part--for example, through the implementation of departmental "green housekeeping" strategies; through a current review of British standards with a view to removing discrimination against the use of recycled materials; and through direct support to industry research into new uses for recycled materials.

Housing Safety

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will publish the consultation paper on licensing of houses in multiple occupation announced by the then Minister for Housing, Inner Cities and Construction, the right hon. Member for Ealing, Acton, (Sir G. Young) 8 July, Official Report, column 327; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry: I have today placed copies of my Department's publication "Houses in Multiple Occupation--A consultation Paper on the Case for Licensing" in the Library. It has also been circulated to all local authorities in England and to other interested parties. Additional copies can be obtained from my Department. The period for comments will close on 18 February 1995.

I share the widespread concern about the poor conditions and fire risks in some houses in multiple occupation. However, I have an open mind about whether licensing of all HMOs is the most effective way forward, and before contemplating legislation we need to consider the cost implications for both landlords and tenants and be convinced that licensing is both essential and practical. Alternatives to full-scale licensing, including the tightening of existing fire safety regulations for HMOs, are also considered in the consultation paper.

The issue of hostels in resort areas catering mainly for benefit recipients is covered largely as a separate issue in the paper. They are already subject to additional planning controls but it is for consideration whether these powers should be replaced by an HMO licensing system which would also cover these hostels.

Countryside Stewardship Scheme

Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much has been paid or will be paid to landowners and occupiers under the countryside stewardship scheme for (a) linear access and (b) open access in each year from 1991 92 to 1994 95.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer 21 November 1994]: Total commitments for annual access payments agreed as a consequence of agreements are given in the table below. Payments are made annually in arrears.


                    |Commitments for                                            

Financial year when |Open access        |Linear Access                          

payments to                                                                     

be made             |(£ cumulative)     |(£ cumulative)                         

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

1991-92             |-                  |n/a                                    

1992-93             |337,250            |-                                      

1993-94             |575,200            |32,267                                 

1994-95             |646,250            |62,954                                 

Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was or will be the total cost of all operations, except payments to landowners and occupiers, under the countryside stewardship scheme in each of the years 1991 92, 1992 93, 1993 94 and 1994 95; and, in each of the four years, how much of this was connected with the additional public access component of the scheme.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer Monday 21 November 1994]: The total management cost of the scheme including administration, provision of advice and monitoring and evaluation, but excluding payments to agreement holders for each of the financial years 1991 92, 1992 93 and 1993 94 was £1 million, £1.8 million and £2.15 million respectively. The projected cost on the same basis for 1994 95 is £2.1 million. The cost of managing the access element is not accounted for separately because many of the costs incurred are an integral part of overall scheme management.

Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much of the land which was subject to additional access payments under the countryside stewardship scheme took the form of linear access and how much took the form of open access in each of the years 1991 92, 1992 93, 1993 94 and 1994 95.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer Monday 21 November 1994]: The information requested is given in the table below. Linear access payments were not available in 1991 92. Payments are made annually in arrears. Figures for 1994 95 are not yet available as some contracts remain under offer.


                     |Amount of land      |Length of linear                         

                     |subject to open     |routes subject to                        

                     |access                                                        

                     |payments (hectares) |access payments (km)                     

                     |agreed in that      |agreed in that                           

Financial Year       |financial year      |financial year                           

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

1991-92              |6,745               |n/a                                      

1992-93              |4,759               |188.6                                    

1993-94              |1,421               |155                                      

1994-95              |n/a                 |n/a                                      

Mr. Tipping: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many of the successful applications made under the countryside stewardship scheme involved additional payments for access in each year since 1991 92.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer Monday 21 November 1994]: The information requested is given in the table below. Payments are made annually in arrears. Figures for contracts for 1994 95 are not yet available as some remain under offer.


<

                    |Number of                              

                    |Countryside                            

                    |Stewardship                            

                    |contracts entered                      

Financial Year      |for access                             

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

1991-92             |320                                    

1992-93             |373                                    

1993-94             |197                                    

1994-95             |n/a                                    

AIDS HIV

Ms Ruddock: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when his Department will publish the research it has jointly funded with the Department of Health on the housing aspects of AIDS and HIV infection.

Mr. Robert B. Jones [holding answer Monday 21 November 1994]: I hope to publish the results of the research shortly.

Directorships

Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many officials in his Department have to his knowledge had over the past 10 years directorships in public limited companies while at the same time continuing in post in the civil service.

Mr. Robert B. Jones [holding answer Monday 21 November 1994]: Some 30 serving officials have held company directorships over the past 10 years as part of the Government's programmes for developing senior staff through contact between Whitehall and business. Records are not kept of which directorships are of public limited companies.

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Fees

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Lord President of the Council in how many cases of employees of right hon. and hon. Members paid via the Fees Office the employer has failed to deposit a contract of employment at the Fees Office.

Mr. Newton: There are currently 312 employees of right hon. and hon. Members who do not have a contract of employment lodged with the Fees Office--that figure includes part-time and other staff who are not required to have a contract.

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Lord President of the Council how many right hon. and hon. Members take advantage of the payroll giving scheme by deduction from their parliamentary salaries.

Mr. Newton: There are 43 Members who have authorised deductions from their parliamentary salaries under the payroll giving scheme.

OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION

Nuclear Energy Research

Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the individual Overseas Development Administration contributions to the nature and locations of each of the 23 Overseas Development Administration-funded research projects into nuclear energy to which he refers in his answer of 2 November, Official Report , column 1182.

Mr. Baldry: A list of those projects, with 1992 calendar year expenditure figures, has been placed in the House of Commons Library.


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TREASURY

Public Borrowing

Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what definition he currently uses for public borrowing.

Mr. Nelson: The Government's fiscal policy objective is expressed in terms of the public sector borrowing requirement. Forecasts of the PSBR are presented twice yearly, and outturns are published monthly. The Government also look at other measures of fiscal stance, including the current balance and the general Government financial deficit, the measure which is used to compare budget deficits throughout the EU.

VAT (Sports Clubs)

Mr. Pendry: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the value of payments made to sports clubs since 1 April for value added tax refunds.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Payments of £47 million had been made to non-profit making organisations supplying sporting services by the end of September 1994.

Economy

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the overall effects on the non-oil United Kingdom economy of sterling leaving the European exchange rate mechanism in 1992.

Mr. Aitken: It is not possible to assess the precise effects of sterling's departure from the ERM, but during sterling's membership of the ERM inflation fell sharply and the economy began to recover from recession. The Government's policies of securing sustainable growth based on low inflation have built on this foundation, and the economy is now showing strong well-balanced growth, falling unemployment, the lowest inflation for 27 years and a better balance of payments.

Vehicle Excise Duty

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his policy to graduate vehicle excise duty for cars, based on the certified fuel efficiency of a car when new.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will announce any decisions on vehicle excise duty, as with other taxes, in his Budget next week.

Document (Disclosure)

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what inquiries he has made about unauthorised disclosure of a Treasury document on 16 November.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke: I assume that the hon. Member is alluding to the "confidential Treasury papers" mentioned in The Daily Telegraph article of 16 November on the financing of the European Community budget. There was no unauthorised disclosure of any such document. The figure of about £800 million for the increase in the United Kingdom net contribution to the end of the century, quoted in the article, was provided as a normal response to a routine inquiry by an official Treasury press officer. It was wholly consistent with


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everything that Treasury Ministers have ever said on the subject. There has never been any secret that the United Kingdom's net contribution to the Community budget is going to rise in cash terms between now and the end of the century, whether or not the Edinburgh settlement is ratified. Growth is shown in the figures in table 11.1 of the Treasury's last departmental report. The trend is, however, obscured by the large annual variations in our net contribution, which make the precise figures for any one year difficult to predict.

Our latest estimate is that the increase in the underlying level of the United Kingdom public sector net contribution--that is, after smoothing out the annual fluctuations--will be about £850 million between 1995 and 1999, from about £2,700 million in 1995 to about £3, 550 million in 1999.

This growth is nominal--that is, not real, terms--and results mainly from the effects of (i) inflation, and (ii) real GNP growth. On the assumption that annual inflation and GNP growth will each be 2 per cent. a year on average over this period, the existing own resources ceiling--1.20 per cent. of GNP--would have allowed an increase in own resources of about 22 per cent. in nominal terms between 1995 and 1999, implying an increase of around £600 million in our net contribution. The effect of the Edinburgh future financing settlement, and the EC (Finance) Bill, will be to increase nominal growth in the own resources ceiling to about 29 per cent. over this period. The cost in cash terms to the United Kingdom of the change resulting from the Edinburgh settlement and the EC (Finance) Bill is estimated to be £75 million in 1995 96 and £250 million in 1999 2000.

Those figures still look large because they are presented in cash terms for consistency with the rest of our public expenditure arithmetic. But the real scale of the Edinburgh settlement can be seen in the fact that it increased the own resources ceiling, over seven years, by only /10,000ths of Community GNP.

Milk Quotas

Sir Teddy Taylor: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer why he agreed to back date to 1991 Italy's milk quota increase which was agreed in December 1993 to take effect in 1993 94.

Mr. Heathcoat Amory [holding answer 21 November 1994]: I have nothing to add to the reply that my right hon. and learned Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. Banks), 25 October 1994, Official Report, columns 510 11 .

SOCIAL SECURITY

Child Support

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what is the proportion of child support cases involving absent parents who are self-employed for which a maintenance assessment is (a) calculated and (b) paid regularly for at least three months; (2) what is the proportion of child support cases involving absent parents who are paying income tax under


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PAYE for which a maintenance assessment is (a) calculated and (b) paid regularly for at least three months.

Mr. Burt: There is no business need for the CSA to collect such specific information on the number of absent parents who are self-employed or paying income tax under PAYE, and those details could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Blunkett: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the rules under which the Child Support Agency operates in respect of employees of that agency representing their own partners at tribunal hearings, where the former spouse of the partner is seeking redress under the appeal process; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Burt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Miss Ann Chant, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. member.

Letter from Ann Chant to Mr. David Blunkett, dated 21 November 1994:

I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question about the Child Support Agency's rules about members of staff representing their own partners at tribunal hearings.

Under the terms of their employment, all employees of the Agency are bound to comply with the Department of Social Security Staff Rules. Under these rules, employees are required to obtain permission from a member of senior management before they can represent a person in the course of an appeal at a tribunal hearing or application concerning any matter for which the Department is responsible. Permission would be granted only where the representation would not be open to misunderstanding on the part of the public and there is no conflict of interests within the Agency.

Open Government

Mr. Rooker: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the charging policy of his Department and the agencies for which he is responsible in respect of inquiries under the code of practice on access to Government.

Mr. Hague: No charge is made for simple requests for information, where the information can be collected within half a day or less. For more detailed requests which would take more than half a day to process, a charge may be made to recover the actual cost of collecting the information in staff time, photocopying costs and so on. The charges are based on the hourly rate for the grade of staff engaged in retrieving the information.

The Department has always, and continues, to provide information free of charge on benefit entitlements and the standards and availability of services.


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