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Mr. Cousins: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to assist small firms who export to the United States of America to meet the requirements of US product liability laws.
Mr. Needham: My Department regularly provides advice to small firms on US product liability requirements.
A "North America Now" publication on US product liability was prepared earlier this year for DTI by an American lawyer practising in London, and is freely
Column 512available to British companies. DTI has also held, throughout the United Kingdom, a number of "North America Now" seminars, involving experts in legal and insurance aspects of US product liability.
Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how he proposes to implement in United Kingdom law the Council directive on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights, 93/98 EEC.
Mr. Ian Taylor: I intend to implement Council directive 93/98 EEC by regulations amending the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 made under the powers conferred by section 2 of the European Communities Act 1972. The regulations will take into account comments received in response to a consultative document recently issued by my Department on certain matters which the directive leaves to be decided by member states.
Mrs. Anne Campbell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade when he expects a national fibre optic network to be in place.
Mr. Ian Taylor: The Government's policy of telecommunications liberalisation has encouraged substantial investment in modern telecommunications networks. The promotion of competition between interconnected networks is essential if the full benefits of liberalisation are to be realised for consumers. The main fixed link telecommunications operators already have wholly fibre optic trunk networks, and provide fibre optic links to business customers. Cable TV operators are providing fibre closer to the home.
Optical fibre is one of a number of technologies which can be used to provide residential customers with access to communications networks-- including optical fibre, coaxial copper cable, copper wire, radio or satellite. For many residential consumers the superhighway applications now being developed are likely to be delivered through using advanced compression technologies over copper networks rather than through wholly fibre optic networks. This process is already underway.
Mr. Denham: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to develop the information superhighway.
Mr. Ian Taylor: The Government published a Command Paper, "Creating the Superhighways of the Future: Developing Broadband Communications in the UK", on 22 November, which set out the Government's vision for establishing information superhighways in this country, building on the billions of pounds of investment in telecommunications networks and infrastructure made by the private sector in recent years. Copies are available in the Libraries of both Houses and on the Internet.
Sir Cranley Onslow: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what recent representations he has made to the
Column 513European Commission on the subject of state aids to national steel industries, with particular reference to subsidies provided by the Italian and Spanish Governments; and with what result.
Mr. Eggar: I have urged the European Commission--most recently at the Industry Council on 8 November--to intensify its monitoring of the state aid cases agreed in December 1993 to ensure that the strict conditions agreed then are adhered to; and I obtained a firm commitment that they would take firm action against breaches, including repayment of the subsidy. I am determined that the highly efficient, unsubsidised United Kingdom industry should not be disadvantaged by illegally subsidised competition.
Sir Cranley Onslow: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what recent representations he has made to the European Commission on the subject of state aids to national aluminium industries, with particular reference to subsidies provided by the Italian and Spanish Governments; and with what result.
Mr. Eggar: My officials recently met the Commission to pursue the aluminium state aid cases which my right hon. Friend brought to our attention. When the Commission has completed its inquiries I will write to inform him of the result.
Sir Patrick McNair-Wilson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will publish details of the United Kingdom balance of trade with other members of the European Union for the years since the establishment of the single market.
Mr. Needham: The information requested is published in the 1994 issue of "The Pink Book--United Kingdom Balance of Payments", a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. Table 9.1 gives the UK balance of trade with other members of the European Union for each year from 1983 to 1993.
Mr. Milburn: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list those services that have been market tested by his Department and won by the private sector, indicating the organisation that won the tender and its value.
Mr. Ian Taylor: Of the services market tested, and where an in-house bid was made, the IT services contract was won by Hoskyns Group plc. The contract value will depend on the volume of work.
Mr. Denham: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what action he is taking to ensure that mortgage providers draw consumers' attention to sources of mortgage insurance other than that supplied by the said mortgage provider.
Mr. Ian Taylor [holding answer 8 December 1994]: I am not taking any such action; nor am I persuaded that it would be appropriate to do so. The protection which consumers need is to be told by any person who offers them insurance whether that person is an independent
Column 514intermediary or is offering only the products of a restricted range of insurers. Such disclosure is a requirement under the general insurance business code of practice of the Association of British Insurers.
Mr. Nigel Griffiths: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what advice he is currently giving retailers on the sale of cot mattresses.
Mr. Ian Taylor [holding answer 25 November 1994]: The Department has been in close contact with the Department of Health over recent claims that cot deaths have resulted from the use of fire retardant treatments in cot mattresses. The theory that flame retardants in cot mattresses released toxic gases, which caused sudden infant death syndrome, was thoroughly investigated by an expert working group set up by the Chief Medical Officer of Health in 1990. The working group concluded--the Turner report, 1991--that this theory was not supported by the experimental evidence.
The Department of Health has advised that there is nothing in the recent claims which invalidates the conclusions of the Turner report of May 1991 and that there is no reason for retailers to withdraw cot mattresses from sale.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has recently set up a working group of experts to study the questions which were raised by the current media speculation surrounding the research contained in the Rubens Institute study. The Department will be kept fully informed of their deliberations.
Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list the changes in ECGD premium rates for political risks, by country, for 1993 94, 1994 95, 1995 96 and 1996 97.
Mr. Needham [holding answer 8 December 1994]: ECGD premium rates are reviewed annually. As political risk premiums are set individually for each country, the type of cover required and the terms of individual transactions, it would not be cost-effective to calculate and detail the changes in rates for each country over this period. However looking at all countries overall, ECGD's political risk premiums have fallen on average broadly as follows in the years in question:
1993 by around 20 per cent.
1994 by around 7.5 per cent.
1995 by around 10 per cent.
Any changes to rates for 1996 will depend on the outcome of future reviews.
Mr. Sweeney: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales whether he has received the report on the Welsh Development Agency's action in relation to the development of certain sites in the Cynon valley.
Mr. Redwood: The Welsh Development Agency commissioned an inquiry, undertaken by Grant Thornton, into the actions of the agency in connection with the
Column 515development of sites in the Cynon valley, Mid Glamorgan. These arose from the establishment of a joint venture board in 1991 comprising the WDA, Cynon Valley borough council and Mid Glamorgan county council. I have received a copy of the report from the chairman of the agency.
The report notes that the inquiry team was granted full access to the agency and Welsh Office papers and also to those of a number of other organisations. It concludes that there is no evidence of improper pecuniary gain or collusion by any of the parties. It concludes, too, that conflicts of interest which arose were properly declared and dealt with by agency board members. But the report identifies weaknesses in the agency's procedures and serious lapses in management control over its joint venture activities. It also questions whether value for money was secured.
The agency chief executive has informed me that he is sending a copy of the Grant Thornton report and the agency's response to the recommendations to the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts. I note the comprehensive remedial action contained in the response of the new management and I will be discussing the report's findings and the proposed measures with the chairman. The chairman of the agency agrees with me that the former management's conduct fell short of the standards we expect.
The report examines a number of transactions which also involve Cynon Valley borough council. The council did not allow Grant Thornton access to certain papers, but I hope that those concerned will study the report carefully and, where appropriate, carry out their own investigation of these matters. It would, of course, be for the district auditor to respond to any requests for an inquiry into the council's activities.
The chief executive as accounting officer has also informed the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts about other matters which the new management of the agency has been investigating which go back many years. These concern redundancy and pension payments, the underwriting of share issues, the engagement of consultants, procurement issues and breaches of delegated authority. Some of these instances of non-compliance continued until earlier this year. I have considered the agency's past underwriting activities. The agency has not engaged in underwriting or sub-underwriting since 1991 and has no plans to do so. In my view, however, this is no longer an appropriate role for the WDA, even in relation to Welsh-based companies, and I have so informed the board.
The chairman has assured me that he will continue to investigate and expose all instances of non-compliance which the agency can identify, however long ago they might have occurred, and to continue to act swiftly wherever necessary to bring agency practice and procedures in line with the proper stewardship of public funds. The new management of the agency understands the standards which I and this House expect of it. The chairman has also assured me that he and his senior management team attach the highest importance to open communication between the agency and my Department.
A copy of the Grant Thornton report and the agency's response to the recommendations have been placed in the Library of the House.
Mr. Sweeney: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what changes he proposes to make to the cash limits for class XV, vote 2 and to the local authority capital cash limit for his Department for the current financial year.
Mr. Redwood: The cash limit on class XV, vote 2 will be reduced by £6,750,000 from £160,331,000 to £153,581,000. The local authority capital limit--WO/LACAP--will be increased by £6,750,000 from £476,465, 000 to £483,215,000.
The reduction in the cash limit for vote 2 results from a forecast underspend on urban regeneration schemes and lower than forecast costs for land reclamation projects on account of reduced inflation and competitive pricing.
The increase in WO/LACAP provides for expenditure on information technology for local government reorganisation.
Neither of the proposed changes will add to the planned total of public expenditure.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what steps his Department will be taking to enable Welsh railway lines to meet the required rate of return both before and after privatisation; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gwilym Jones: It is for Railtrack to determine Welsh rail investment priorities in the light of its commercial discussions with customers and the availability of resources. These resources might include any support for projects sponsored by local authorities under the strategic development scheme. I do not expect these arrangements to change after the privatisation of Railtrack.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what assessment he has made of the importance of a railway infrastructure in the overall process of encouraging inward investment and job creation in Wales; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gwilym Jones: Communications are important in the attraction of inward investment and to indigenous companies in Wales. The Government's proposal to transfer the responsibility for the railway to the private sector ensures that they develop in a way that is appropriate to the needs of the industry.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what guarantees his Department has sought on the subject of socially necessary services in the Welsh railway network; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gwilym Jones: The franchising director is responsible for deciding passenger service requirements to be included in franchise agreements. My right hon. Friend and I have recently met him and he is aware of the situation in Wales.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what is the latest estimate of the total number of people employed in the tourism industry in Wales; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gwilym Jones: The number of employees employed in tourism- related industries in Wales was 79,300 in September 1991 according to the 1991 census
Column 517of employment. Employment data at this level of industrial activity are only collected in the biennial censuses of employment and 1991 is the latest year for which data are available. The figure includes only those industries which are classified as tourism related in table 1.14 of Employment Gazette, copies of which are available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what safeguards are in place to protect dental services to the public where an area is not served by a dental practice taking NHS patients; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Richards: Family health services authorities are able to apply to the Secretary of State for permission to employ salaried dentists in areas where there is a shortfall in NHS provision. The community dental service acts as a safety net for those unable to obtain treatment under the general dental services.
In addition, a general practitioner may refer patients requiring emergency treatment to an oral surgery department of a general hospital.
Mr. Llwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many dentists there are in each Welsh constituency who are prepared to take new patients under the NHS; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Richards: The information is not held centrally. Dentists are independent contractors who are free to choose who they can accept onto their NHS dentist list. Most dentists have NHS patients on their lists but may open and close their books to new patients on a daily basis.
If any person has difficulty in obtaining treatment from a general dental practitioner, they should contact their local family health services authority, which is best placed to advise on local availability of dental treatment. This includes reference to the community dental service which offers a safety net provision for those unable to secure NHS treatment from a general dental practitioner.
Mr. Alex Carlile: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many fatalities have occurred in road accidents on the A483 trunk road at Pool Quay, Powys since 1 January 1988; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Redwood: Since 1 January 1988, there have been three fatalities on the A483 trunk road in the vicinity of Pool Quay, Powys. These fatalities occurred on 19 January 1988, 1 February 1993 and 26 November 1994.
Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what guidance he has given to district councils on the inspection of properties (a) prior to the award of housing benefit and (b) after it has been awarded.
Mr. Gwilym Jones: Housing benefit regulations do not require properties to be inspected.
Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what measures are in place to ensure that properties in multiple occupation do not present any safety or public health hazards.
Mr. Gwilym Jones: Houses in multiple occupation must meet standards of fitness for human habitation and fitness for the number of occupants. They must have adequate means of escape from fire and adequate fire precautions. Local authorities have powers to enforce these requirements.
Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many responses to his consultation paper on the re-organisation of health service administration supported his proposal to transfer the Bridgend and District NHS trust to the West Glamorgan area health authority; and from whom they were received.
Mr. Richards: The Bridgend and District NHS trust does not form part of any health authority. The following respondents to our consultation explicitly supported establishing a new health authority responsibility for commissioning health care for people in West Glamorgan and Bridgend: Clwyd DHA; Gwent Health Commission; Dyfed FHSA; Nevill Hall and District NHS trust; Swansea NHS trust; University Hospital of Wales and Royal Cardiff group; Swansea/Lliw Valley CHC; Children in Wales; MENCAP; and Health Promotion Wales.
Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had with the Assembly of Welsh Counties social services committee in relation to the adequacy of funding and the consistency of working arrangements with health commissioning authorities in relation to community care for (a) the prospective 1994 95 outturn and (b) 1995 96.
Mr. Redwood: Community care funding and the distribution of community care resources between county councils is discussed by the Welsh Consultative Council on Local Government Finance, which includes the Assembly of Welsh Counties. The resources are allocated to county councils in accordance with distribution formulae ratified by the WCCLGF.
Working arrangements between local authorities and health authorities are for local agreement. The White Paper, "Caring for People", Cm. 849, and subsequent guidance have stressed the need for joint working.
Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what were (a) the surpluses and (b) the deficits recorded by each health authority in each of the last tree years.
Mr. Richards: The information requested is as follows:
Health authority |1991-92 |1992-93 |1993-94 |£000 |£000 |£000 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Clwyd |2,703 |(3,312) |119 East Dyfed |(2,176) |(112) |(751) Gwent |500 |1,915 |4,434 Gwynedd |(231) |(998) |(1,002) Mid Glamorgan |(478) |1,687 |(573) Pembrokeshire |1,234 |(2,126) |94 Powys |(126) |116 |(1,593) South Glamorgan |1,103 |(906) |2,654 West Glamorgan |101 |566 |2,430 Source: Health authorities annual accounts. Notes: (i) 1993-94 figures are provisional. (ii) Figures in bracket indicate deficits.
Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received in relation to the setting up of a unified sea fisheries committee structure for Wales
Mr. Redwood: Along with other interested parties I have received a paper prepared by the South Wales Sea Fisheries Committee on options for the future structure of sea fisheries committees in Wales.
Dr. Marek: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what was the total cost of phase II of the Wrexham Maelor hospital, Wrexham.
Mr. Richards: The final construction cost of phase II of the Wrexham Maelor hospital was £21.035 million including fees and VAT.
Dr. Marek: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the prime contractor and sub-contractors on phase II of the Wrexham Maelor hospital, Wrexham.
Mr. Richards: The main contractor for phase II of the Wrexham Maelor hospital development was Alfred McAlpine Building North and the only nominated sub-contractor was Evans Lifts Ltd. Additionally there were a substantial number of sub-contractors engaged by the main contractor.
Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list those services that have been market tested by his Department and won by the private sector, indicating the organisation that won the tender and its value.
Mr. Redwood: The following list covers the period October 1992 to date:
Service |Organisation |Tender value ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Managing agents for |Kirkham, Williams |Not available. Fee building works |and Lewis of | based call-off |Newport, Gwent |contract. Staff training |Training Services |Total not available |(Wales) Ltd. of |Part call-off |Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan |contract. Fee for three |years non-call-off element |£286,750, excluding VAT.
Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what grant aid is available to pig producers in Wales to convert sow tether and stall accommodation.
Mr. Gwilym Jones: None. Producers have eight years from 1991 over which to spread these costs.
Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many people were employed in the farming industry in each of the last five years; and if he will make a statement about the unemployment rate among former farm workers.
Mr. Jack [holding answer 1 December 1994]: a) The number of people employed in the farming industry in the United Kingdom at June in each of the last five years is shown in the table:
Number of persons working on holdings in the United Kingdom -1989 to 1994-farmers, growers and worker Year |Number ------------------------ 1989 |646,300 1990 |644,600 1991 |630,500 1992 |624,400 1993 |622,300 1994<1> |615,600 Notes: (a) Source: Agricultural and Horticultural June census. (b) Includes estimates for minor holdings in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but not for Scotland. (c) In England and Wales figures exclude School children but include trainees employed under an official youth training scheme and paid at agricultural wages board rates or above. In Scotland and Northern Ireland school children and all trainees are excluded. (d) Figures include farmers, growers, partners, directors, spouses, managers, regular and hired workers, seasonal and casual workers. <1> Provisional figures only.
The labour force survey conducted in spring 1994--this is a sample survey of 65,000 private households in the United Kingdom carried out every spring since 1984--showed that there are approximately 31,000 unemployed people in the United Kingdom who recorded their last occupation as farming. This represents an unemployment rate for this socio-economic grouping of 7 per cent., which is significantly lower than the equivalent rate for all socio- economic groupings in the United Kingdom which at this time was 10 per cent.
Mr. Michael Brown: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will set up a working group of officials from his Department and representatives of the fishing industry to review the burdens of existing legislation on fishermen as it relates to bureaucracy;
(2) what representations he has received on deregulation relating to the burdens of bureaucracy on the fishing industry.
Mr. Jack: Following representations from the fishing industry, I secured last June a commitment from the
Column 521European Fisheries Commissioner that the Commission would examine how the body of regulation under the common fisheries policy could be simplified. We invited our industry to make suggestions for simplification but it has not yet been able to offer any. A meeting with the industry is now planned which I hope will be able to make some useful progress.
Mr. Morley: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what current legislation exists to protect the welfare of ostriches at slaughter;
(2) how many ostriches were slaughtered in each year since 1991; (3) what consideration he has given to introducing provisions to protect the welfare of ostriches at slaughter;
(4) if he will make a statement on the welfare of ostriches at slaughter.
Mrs. Browning: The welfare of ostriches at slaughter is currently protected by the general provisions of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 which make it an offence to cause unnecessary pain or unnecessary distress to livestock on agricultural land and the Protection of Animals Act 1911 which makes it an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any domestic animal. New welfare at slaughter legislation to implement the EC slaughter directive will be introduced next year and will provide additional protection for ostriches when slaughtered.
There is no commercial slaughter industry for ostriches at present in this country. Some small numbers will have been killed on farms since 1991 but no figures are available. Officers of the State Veterinary Service will monitor any developments in this area.