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Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the amount by which the exchange rate would have to fall to enable the United Kingdom to bring the current account back into balance (a) including and (b) excluding North sea oil at the current level of employment, all other things being equal.
Mr. Nelson: The latest figures show that the current account is no longer in deficit. In the third quarter of 1994 there was a current account surplus of £800 million and the current account excluding oil was close to balance at--£200 million.
Sir Russell Johnston: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a table showing the value of the pound sterling against the deutschmark and the French franc in December of the years 1970, 1980, 1990 and 1994.
Mr. Nelson: Monthly data on exchange rates are published by the CSO in table 7.1A of financial statistics. These data are also available on the CSO database which can be accessed through the Members' Library.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the annual rate of increase in consumers' real expenditure and real disposable incomes (a) since 1979 and (b) between 1964 and 1973; and if he will account for the difference.
Mr. Nelson: The annual rate of increase between 1979 and 1993 as 2.6 per cent. in consumers' expenditure and 2.7 per cent. in personal disposable income, both measured at constant--1990--prices. Between 1964 and 1973 the rates of growth were 3.0 per cent. and 3.2 per cent. respectively.
A large number of factors, both domestic and international, influence the growth of consumption and real personal disposable income. There is no simple explanation that can account for developments in these variables over such a long period of economic history.
The residual difference between personal disposable income and consumers' expenditure constitutes saving. Saving at constant prices is not published, but the principle is the same and the difference between real personal disposable income and real consumers' expenditure may be regarded as "real" saving.
The proportions of disposable income devoted to expenditure and saving vary constantly.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the extent to which the improvement in the current account deficit in 1994 forecast in the Red Book is due to (a) an improvement in the balance of visible trade less oil and erratics; and (b) an improvement in the balance of trade in finished manufactures (i) with the EEC and (ii) with other countries.
Mr. Nelson: The Treasury does not publish forecasts of the balance of visible trade less oil and erratics or of the balance of finished manufactures. Nor does it publish forecasts separately for trade with other EC countries and
Column 191with non-EC countries. Forecasts of the balances of trade in manufactures, oil and other goods are shown in Table 3.3 of the "Financial Statement and Budget Report". Figures for the first three quarters of 1994 are available on the Central Statistical Office database, which can be accessed through the House of Commons Library.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the amount by which the exchange rate would have to fall to enable the United Kingdom to bring the current account back into balance in conditions of full employment at the maximum sustainable rate of growth, all other things being equal.
Mr. Nelson: Achieving the maximum sustainable rate of growth depends on continuously improving all aspects of performance across the whole economy--on competitiveness in a broad sense.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage share of gross domestic product was accounted for by manufacturing output in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) Germany, (c) France, (d) Italy, (e) Holland and (f) Belgium in (i) 1968, (ii) 1973, (iii) 1979, (iv) 1990 and (v) 1993.
Mr. Nelson: Such information as is available is published in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development publication "National Accounts", detailed tables, volume II, which is available in the House of Commons Library.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, what is the rate of growth of exports of United Kingdom finished manufactures to (a) the EEC and (b) the rest of the world for each year since 1979.
Mr. Nelson: Information about exports of UK manufactures from which rates of growth may be derived can be found on the CSO database which may be accessed through the Library of the House. Volume information is available only from 1988, but information at current prices is available from 1972.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will show the net operating surplus of manufacturing as a percentage of net capital stock in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) the USA, (c) Japan and (d) Germany in (i) 1968, (ii) 1973, (iii) 1980, (iv) 1987, (v) 1990 and (vi) 1993; what was the corresponding increase in manufacturing output based on 1968 = 100; and what was the relationship between the two series.
Mr. Nelson: Information on United Kingdom net rates of return for manufacturing industrial and commercial companies since 1970 is available from the CSO's shared database and is published in the CSO "First Release", (94)205--"Profitability of UK Companies". Information on manufacturing activities relating to all economic sectors is unavailable. Information on rates of return for OECD countries since 1980 is published in Table 14 of OECD's national accounts, volume II. Rates of return achieved in different countries are not directly comparable because different assumptions are used in their calculation. Both publications are available from the Library of the House.
Column 192Index numbers of manufacturing output are available back to 1974. Using 1980 as a base year they are:
|West |UK |USA |Japan |Germany ------------------------------------------------ 1968 |99 |n/a |n/a |n/a 1973 |114 |n/a |n/a |n/a 1974 |113 | 84 | 81 | 90 1980 |100 |100 |100 |100 1987 |108 |127 |122 |107 1990 |121 |139 |149 |124 1993 |115 |142 |135 |n/a Source: United Nations Industrial Statistics Yearbook.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the profitability of United Kingdom, United States and German companies in manufacturing each year since 1980.
Mr. Nelson: Information on United Kingdom net rates of return for manufacturing industrial and commercial companies is available from the CSO's central shared database and is published in the CSO First Release, (94)205--"Profitability of UK Companies".
Information on profitability by United States and West German companies is published in table 14 of the OECD's national accounts, volume II. Rates of return achieved in different countries are not directly comparable because of different assumptions used in their calculations. Both publications are available from the Library of the House.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the effect of changes in interest rates and the exchange rate or the rate of return in manufactures; and if he will publish a table setting out the figures for each year since 1979.
Mr. Nelson: No estimates are available of the effects of interest rate and exchange rate changes on the real rate of return on capital for manufacturing. The latest figures for the rate of return on capital for manufacturing companies are available in table 1 of CSO "First Release" (94)205, a copy of which is available in the House of Commons Library.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the fall or rise in the average capital employed in manufacturing in real terms between 1979 and 1993 and the corresponding figure for the average capital employed in other non-North sea industrial and commercial companies.
Mr. Nelson: Information on average capital employed at current replacement cost by industrial and commercial companies is published in the CSO "First Release", (94)2025--"Profitability of UK Companies". This is available from the Library of the House. Constant price data are not readily available.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the change in the volume of exports of finished manufactures to the EEC in the first quarter of 1993 together with his estimate of the effect of any under-recording.
Mr. Nelson: The information requested and more recent figures are available from the Central Statistical Office database, which can be accessed through the House of Commons Library, and are published in the "Monthly Review of External Trade Statistics", also available in the
Column 193House of Commons Library. The figures incorporate adjustments made as a result of the recent quality review of the Intrastat system carried out by Customs and Excise and the Central Statistical Office.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the current ratio of the national debt to gross domestic product; and what was the average figure for the 1970s.
Mr. Nelson: At end-March 1994, the national debt was 46 per cent. of gross domestic product. The average ratio for the 1970's was 52 per cent. of GDP.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish the net rate of return in 1993 for manufacturing, financial service, North sea oil and gas, and non-North sea industrial and commercial companies less manufacturing.
Mr. Nelson: Information on United Kingdom net rates of return for manufacturing industrial and commercial companies is available from the CSO's central shared database and is published in the CSO "First Release", (94) 205--"Profitability of UK Companies". The net rate of return on capital employed by non-North sea industrial and commercial companies in 1993 was 17 per cent. The net rate of return on capital employed by non- North sea non-manufacturing industrial and commercial companies in 1993 was 9 per cent. Rates of return for the financial services industry are unavailable.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what action he proposes the Bank of England should take to reduce the rate of profit made by firms in the City of London to the same level as the import competing and export industries.
Mr. Nelson: None. Financial services are themselves import competing and exporting. They made a positive contribution of £15.6 billion to the United Kingdom balance of payments in 1993.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the rate of return the Government apply in the case of data processing equipment; and how much of that is accounted for by depreciation and how much by the cost of borrowing.
Mr. Nelson: The Government specify a standard rate of discount, which serves as a cost of capital, to ensure that the use of resources by central government is no less efficient at the margin than resources used by the private sector. The rate of 6 per cent. in real term is applied to the internal costing of all central government activities, including acquisition of data processing equipment.
The rate of depreciation will depend on the expected life of the equipment, and will vary from case to case.
In industrial assistance cases, including assistance to manufacturers of data processing equipment, a discount rate of at least 8 per cent. in real term is applied, depending on the commercial rate considered appropriate for the particular investment.
Mrs. Bridget Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what measures his Department is taking to encourage the education and training of the long-term unemployed for re-entry into the workplace; and what programmes are available to them.
Mr. Paice: Training is one of the options on the menu of opportunities made available to long-term unemployed people to help them back to work.
Training for long-term unemployed adults is delivered through training for work.
Additionally, the Employment Service offers a wide range of help to provide the individual advice and support that people need to get back to work as quickly as possible.
Restart interviews encourage long-term unemployed people to search for jobs actively; jobclub and the job interview scheme help them to find jobs more effectively; jobplan workshops and restart courses provide opportunities for self-assessment, confidence building and action planning; community action provides work experience for people who have been unemployed for more than 12 months. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor's Budget statement on 29 November 1994 set out plans for further help including the extension of workwise and 1-2-1 which offer help to 18 to 24 year-olds who have been unemployed for more than one year.
Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what contribution Her Majesty's Government have made or intends to make to the preparatory maritime conference of the International Labour Organisation; and if he will make a statement.
Miss Widdecombe: The International Labour Organisation replaced the preparatory maritime conference with a tripartite meeting on maritime labour standards. This took place in Geneva from 28 November to 9 December 1994 and was attended by a full United Kingdom delegation.
Mr. Spearing: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will state the nature of, and give references to, the statutory obligations of (a) British Gas plc to maintain standards of safety of all gas supplies and (b) the obligations on owners of property or householders in respect of safety of all gas equipment on their property; and what steps he expects to take to vary current statutes consequential to his proposed reorganisation of the gas industry.
Mr. Oppenheim: British Gas plc must comply with the general duties of the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974. In addition, it must comply with the following specific legislation: the Gas Act 1986, schedule 5, which imposes duties on the public gas supplier to take immediate remedial action when there is a reported escape of gas; the Gas Quality Regulations 1972 and 1983, which impose duties concerning the pressure, odour and purity of gas supplied to consumers; the Gas Safety (Rights of Entry) Regulations 1983, which allow British Gas plc
Column 195employees to enter premises to prevent danger, in respect of gas escapes and dangerous gas appliances; the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994, which include duties on those who install and maintain gas appliances and fittings; and the Notification of Installations Handling Hazardous Substances Regulations 1982, which require gas transmission and distribution pipelines to be notified to the Health and Safety Executive.
The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1994 also impose duties on owners of property and householders. This includes a duty on landlords to maintain appliances which they own in a safe condition, and for such appliances to be checked for safety each year. Householders' duties include, for example, not using appliances which are known or suspected to be unsafe, not searching for gas escapes with a naked flame, and reporting leaks or suspected leaks to the public gas supplier.
The Health and Safety Commission is considering its response to the safety implications of the Government's proposals for liberalisation of the gas market and will respond shortly.
Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how many violent crimes were committed on London Underground during each of the past seven years.
Mr. Norris: This information is set out in the table.
London Underground: incidence of violent crime |Number of Year |incidents ------------------------------ 1988 |1,048 1989 |1,018 1990 |750 1991 |685 1992 |636 1993 |601 1994 |613 Source: British Transport police figures supplied to London Underground. Note: <1> Figures include assaults on passengers, staff and police.
Mr. Spearing: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the changes in the regulations setting down the maximum hours per day or per week which he, or persons whom he has appointed, relating to drivers holding public service vehicle licences for bus services in the area of London Regional Transport, made since 1 January 1985, stating in each case by whom they were made and what consultations preceded changes in those conditions.
Mr. Norris: Regular bus services on routes of less than 50 km are subject to national rules on drivers' hours in part VI of the Transport Act 1968, as amended. Regular services on routes exceeding 50 km are subject to European Community regulations on drivers' hours and tachographs which came into force in 1986.
Column 196Since 1985 there have been no changes to either the EC regulations or the national rules which affect the maximum hours per day or per week which an individual may drive. But the introduction of the EC regulations resulted in a number of minor consequent changes to the UK legislation. These changes were all made by statutory instrument and representatives organisations were informed about them. Those which affected bus operations are as follows:
The Community Drivers' Hours and Recording Equipment (Exemptions and Supplementary Provisions) Regulations 1986 SI 1986/1456. The Community Drivers' Hours and Recording Equipment Regulations--SI 1986/1457.
The Drivers' Hours (Harmonisation with Community Rules) Regulations 1986 SI 1986/1458
The Community Drivers' Hours and recording Equipment (Exemptions and Supplementary Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 1986 SI 1986/1669.
The Community Drivers' Hours and recording Equipment (Exemptions and Supplementary Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 1987 SI 1987/805.
The Community Drivers' Hours and Recording Equipment (Exemptions and Supplementary Provisions) (Amendment) Regulations 1988 SI 1988/760.
Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) if he will publish the text of penalty clauses included in contracts between Trafalgar House and the Government regarding the Birmingham northern relief road;
(2) what penalty clauses would be brought into force by (a) a decision to withdraw Government support for the Birmingham northern relief road and (b) a decision to oppose the road; and what would be the cost to the Government.
Mr. Watts: The concession agreement between the Department and Midland Expressway Ltd. is commercially confidential. Provisions for early termination of the concession by either parties are contained in the agreement.
Mr. Mike O' Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if the Government will meet the cost of blight to homes or businesses as a result of the construction of the Birmingham northern relief road.
Mr. Watts: Payments for land compensation, including those relating to blight, are made by the Department in the normal way. The concession agreement provides for Midland Expressway Ltd. to reimburse the Department.
Mr. Mike O' Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if the projected western orbital route around the west midlands will be a tolled road.
Mr. Watts: The trunk roads review, published in March 1994, indicated that the western orbital route would be considered for its suitability to be taken forward under a design, build, finance and operate contract which does not require the payment of tolls by road users.
Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 14 December, Official Report, column 694 , about the sale of rail
Column 197businesses, what is the target date for the sale of each of the businesses listed; and if he will specify the nature and target date for the sale of each of the businesses described as "various businesses in BR central services".
Mr. Watts: It is intended that the rolling stock leasing companies will be offered for sale during 1995. The sale of all of the other businesses listed will be handled by BR's vendor unit.
These businesses will be marketed as soon as they are ready for sale, as speedily as practicable and, in the case of the various central services businesses, using the most appropriate method of sale. It is intended that the majority of these businesses will be offered for sale during 1995 and 1996.
Mr. Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn) of 1 December, Official Report, columns 800 01, if he will make a statement regarding his Department's expenditure on special advisers in each of the last three financial years and for the financial year 1979 80.
Mr. Norris: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary on 19 December, Official Report, column 937.
Mr. David Howell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list his Department's current obligations relating to road noise arising from the construction of new trunk roads.
Mr. Watts: This is an operational matter for the Highways Agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to my right hon. Friend. Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Mr. David Howell, dated 12 January 1995:
As you know, since the creation of the Highways Agency, it falls to me as Chief Executive to write to MPs who have tabled questions on matters which relate to operational matters of the Agency.
The Noise Insulation Regulations 1975 require highway authorities to carry out or pay grant towards the cost of insulation of qualifying residential property against traffic noise arising from the use of new or altered roads. Dwellings, or other buildings used for residential purposes, within 300 metres of a new or altered road are eligible for insulation if it is calculated that within 15 years of opening the noise level will increase by 1 dB to a level of at least 68 dB.
The Regulations also allow highway authorities discretion to carry out or pay grant towards the cost of insulation of residential property against noise arising from the construction of new or altered roads.
Mr. David Howell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what decibel readings his departmental officials are receiving from within 300 of the A3 in the region of Ash Grove, Guildford; (2) what decibel readings his departmental officials are receiving from within 300 m of the A3 in the region of Weston road, Guildford; (3) what decibel readings his departmental officials are receiving from within 300 m of the A3 in the region of Burpham and Abbotswood.
Mr. Watts: These are operational matters for the Highways Agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to my right hon. Friend.
Column 198Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Mr. David Howell, dated 12 January 1995:
I have been asked to reply to your recent Parliamentary Questions asking what decibel readings we are receiving from within 300 metres of the A3 at several locations within Guildford.
There is no general monitoring by the Agency of noise levels on the trunk road network and I regret, therefore, that the information you require is not available.
You know that the section of A3 which passes Ash Grove, Weston Road, and Abbotswood (and Burpham) is a post 1969 road. It forms part of the A3 Burpham to Ladymead scheme which opened to traffic in 1981. In his letter of 23 November, Dr. Mawhinney explained that the obligations placed on the Department of Transport by the Land Compensation Act 1973 and associated regulations, both in terms of the noise mitigation measures and compensation for depreciation in the value of property caused by noise, were fully discharged in respect of that scheme. He also explained in some detail why existing unaltered roads in this category could not be reassessed and retreated for noise mitigation.
It follows that no purpose would be served in taking noise measurements along this section of the A3.
Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on proposals for an airport between Abingdon and Wantage.
Dr. Mawhinney: Pleiade Associates has undertaken work on a proposal for such an airport. It has not been the subject of a planning application. If one were made, it would be subject to normal planning procedures.
Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make a statement on the "Runway Capacity to Serve the South East" report.
Dr. Mawhinney: I expect to be responding shortly to the consultation on the report of the RUCATSE working group.
Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what complaints have been received by the traffic commissioners in respect of the operations of the Stagecoach bus company or any of its subsidiaries; what routes or services have been the subject of such complaints; what action has been taken by the traffic commissioners as a result of such complaints; what has been the outcome of each action taken; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Norris: Traffic commissioners receive a wide variety of complaints about bus operations, including those relating to the Stagecoach bus company and its subsidiaries. Most are of a minor nature. Where the complaints relate to matters within the jurisdiction of the traffic commissioner they are investigated; the companies are notified and steps taken to rectify any deficiencies. Complaints about matters not within the traffic commissioners' jurisdiction are passed on to the appropriate authority to deal with.
More serious complaints involving potential disciplinary action are normally dealt with at a public inquiry. In July 1993 a public inquiry was held into allegations made by Orion Transport Ltd. of intentional interference into their operations by Fife Scottish Omnibuses, a Stagecoach subsidiary. At the inquiry, Fife Scottish Omnibuses Ltd. was given a warning about its future conduct; Orion Transport Ltd. was banned from operating local services. A further public inquiry has been
Column 199set for February 1995 to look into complaints about the activities of Western Scottish Buses Ltd., a Stagecoach subsidiary.
Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to his answer of 19 December to the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) Official Report, column 875, whom he saw and who accompanied him when he made his private visit to Newbury.
Dr. Mawhinney [holding answer 10 January 1995]: I met no one on my private visit to Newbury. I was accompanied by my private secretary and the chief executive of the Highways Agency.
Mr. Spearing: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport for what reasons Her Majesty's Government have withdrawn support for the specialist maritime conference of the International Labour Organisation; what representations he has received from ship-owning or crew representative bodies in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.