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Column 111Department has decided to make available, from its special grants programme, a grant of £78,711 to LEAS for 1995 96. This is an increase of 8 per cent. on the initial grant given to the service in 1994 95. The primary reason for the increase is to allow the service to increase its programme of publicity designed to make leaseholders and freeholders more aware of the new rights to enfranchisement and lease extension. At the same time, the Department will continue to make its booklets on enfranchisement freely available on demand. So far, over 145,000 copies have been issued.
The intention has been to provide funds from the SGP to the service over a three-year period. This means that, subject to a review of the service's performance, planned for later this year, further funding will be made available to the service in 1996 97.
Mr. Robert Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the current level of funding for the Energy Saving Trust which is raised from gas customers; and what this level is expected to be in each of the next three years.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: The finances of the Energy Saving Trust are properly a matter for the trust, which is an independent company. However, I understand that in the financial year 1994 95 the gas industry will pay the trust a total of £2.5 million, raised from gas customers by the so -called "E-factor" levy. Figures for future years are not available, as the Director General of Gas Supply has yet to reach a decision on proposals to finance, from the E-factor, trust schemes which were submitted to her by British Gas in July 1994.
Mr. Atkins: Local authorities have a range of powers to prevent or abate noise nuisance from premises and from vehicles, machinery and equipment in the street. An inter-departmental working party was set up in October last year to review the current controls over neighbour noise and to investigate options for swifter remedies. The working party expects to complete its review shortly and I intend to consult fully on its conclusions and recommendations.
Mr. Robert B. Jones: We have received two written representations from the West Yorkshire fire and civil defence authority about the proposed local government finance settlement 1995 96. In addition, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Urban Regeneration met a delegation from the authority on 10 January 1995. We will be considering these representations, together with those we have received from other authorities, in finalising the settlement for 1995 96.
Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list (a) the consultants, (b) the tasks for which they were employed and (c) the payments made to them from the budget of his Department in (i) 1992 93 and (ii) 1993 94.
Mr. Barnes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress he can report on the application by Derbyshire county council to his minerals division for funding under the Moynihan agreement in relation to the reclamation of the Erin void at Poolsbrook, Staveley, Derbyshire; and if he will make a statement.
Sir Paul Beresford: The Moynihan agreement relates to deep mines in England started before 1 July 1948 which closed within four years commencing 1 April 1990. Under the agreement, British Coal undertook responsibility for the restoration of those closed colliery sites to a soft end use. An application for funding by my Department would not be appropriate nor has such an application been received. However, Derbyshire county council has made representations to my Department about a dispute with British Coal as to whether the Erin void falls within the terms of the agreement. My understanding is that the Erin void is a former opencast coal site which is already subject to conditions requiring its infilling and restoration to a condition suitable for agriculture. As such, it would not appear to fall within the agreement.
Mr. Gummer: We have today published a revision of planning policy guidance note 2 on "Green Belts". This reaffirms our commitment to green belt policy, and makes limited changes to strengthen it to meet the challenges of the next century.
Following research which we published in 1993, we issued a draft revision of PPG2 for public consultation last year. We are grateful to the almost 700 organisations and individuals who responded. We have carefully considered their views in finalising the document, and made adjustments to take account of views expressed. The thrust of the revised PPG2 is similar to the consultation draft, which was broadly welcomed.
Compared with the present published PPG2, the revision incorporates six main amendments, within a framework of continuity.
(1) It reaffirms the Government's commitment to green belt policy, stresses the fundamental aim of preventing urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open, and points out that green belts can assist in moving towards more sustainable patterns of urban development. (2) It sets out positive objectives for the use of land in green belts, so as to secure greater benefits for the environment without compromising the overall restrictive approach.
(3) It further encourages proper consideration of the long-term direction of development, through the development plan system, to ensure long-term protection of green belts.
Column 113(4) It removes the former concession for new building in the green belt by institutions, so that they are subject to the same controls as other developers.
(5) It enables local planning authorities to make realistic provision in their development plans for the future of existing major developed sites in the green belt, such as pre-war factories and power stations, in such a way as to secure environmental benefits. (6) It introduces a new policy on the re-use of buildings, which includes specific safeguards for the green belt.
These modifications will reinforce the position of green belts as a cornerstone of the town and country planning system in England as we enter the 21st century.
A summary of responses to the consultation exercise has been deposited in the Libraries of the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Department of the Environment. Copies of all the responses have been placed in the DOE library.
Sir Paul Beresford: To support the objectives set out in the agency's corporate plan 1995 1997, and business plan 1995, we have set financial, productivity, customer satisfaction, environmental, and internal quality targets.
The financial targets are:
-- to increase sales by 10 per cent. or to £157 million whichever is the higher,
-- to achieve an overall surplus after interest of 1.5 per cent. on total sale.
Column 114The productivity targets are:
-- to increase sales/staff ratio from £1.27 million per employee projected for 1994 to £1.42 million in 1995,
-- to reduce the cost of £ of sales from 2.9p projected in 1994 to 2.6p in 1995.
The customer satisfaction targets are:
-- to ensure 90 per cent. of direct orders are delivered by the due date,
-- to resolve 90 per cent. of complaints within one month, the balance within three months.
The environmental target is:
-- to ensure that all new or revised catalogue entries contain information relating to the environmental impact of the product and, where appropriate, its production and disposal.
These targets require the agency to build on improvements in sales, efficiency, and customer service, made in 1994.
In addition, the agency is proposing new pay and grading arrangements and management delayering, and other measures in line with the White Paper "The Civil Service--Continuity and Change".
Mr. Atkins: Following further consultations with the local authorities through whose areas the route passes, the Secretary of State has today signified that he has decided to approve the Countryside Commission's report in respect of the Pennine bridleway, with the modifications to the route as submitted by the commission.
Mr. Dorrell: The first step is for such communities to notify the engineering department of the BBC or Independent Television Commission so that these bodies are aware of the situation. They jointly build about 25 new television relay transmitters each year. It is also open to communities to install their own television relay system at their own expense under the self-help television system.
Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is the cost of repairing the damage to the gates of Buckingham palace; what insurance covers the gates; and who will incur the bill for repair.
Mr. Dorrell: Investigations are taking place to assess the extent of the damage to the gates of Buckingham palace. Until these are completed, it is not possible to estimate the cost of the repairs. In line with general Government policy, the gates of Buckingham palace were not insured. It is hoped that the car driver's insurance company will meet the cost of the repairs. If not, the repairs will be funded from the royal household's current grant in aid provision.
Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when he expects to report on the allegations of double-funding of money from the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority S4C, and the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts via Pengwyn Pinc cyf to the Welsh Rock and Folk Music Council; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Dorrell: I have received a report from the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts on the circumstances of an award to the Welsh Rock and Folk Music Council under the business sponsorship incentive scheme. My consideration of that report will be informed by the findings of an internal inquiry which is currently being undertaken by S4C.
Mr. Bennett: To ask the Chairman of the Catering Committee when the stools for waiters and waitresses by their stations were first introduced into the Members' Dining Room; how many complaints there have been about their use; what considerations underlay their
Column 116removal before Christmas; and what proposals there are to return them.
Mr. Redmond: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will consider setting up a committee to consider the developing technology of card systems and the potential demand for such systems from Government Departments; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes: Cabinet Committee GEN34, which is chaired by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, already exists to consider the developing technology of card systems and the potential demand for such systems from Government Departments.
Mr. David Shaw: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make it his policy to present to the House during the current Session of Parliament a report on the progress and future plans for development of the government worldwide web server "open.gov.UK".
Mr. Robert G. Hughes: I have asked CCTA, the Government Centre for Information Systems, to prepare a report on the progress and future plans for development of the government worldwide web server "open.gov.UK", in three months' time, and quarterly thereafter. This report will be placed in the Library of the House, and it will, of course, be available over the Internet via the CCTA Government information service.
The CCTA Government information service was launched in November 1994 as a pilot service to make Government information available over the Internet, and to provide a means for Departments to develop expertise in this sector. It has proved a tremendous success. Over 14 Departments and agencies have already made information available, and most others have plans to do so. On average, there are over 35,000 requests for information each week. This month we have added two additional pilot services, "G-NET" and "GMAIL", and further improvements are planned for the coming months.
Mr. McAllion: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what proportion and number of non-industrial civil servants are currently (a) registered disabled and (b) disabled as defined by the Cabinet Office document "Focus on Ability".
Column 117service was 8,142, representing 1.67 per cent. of the total. Figures for the number and proportion of all disabled people employed in the civil service are not available, although surveys conducted by some individual Departments suggest that there may be at least as many non-registered disabled people in the civil service as there are registered.
The Prime Minister: Mr. Hugh Colver was employed as an information officer in the Ministry of Defence from December 1975 to July 1981 and again from September 1985 to June 1987 as deputy chief of public relations and from then until July 1992 as chief information officer. He was a press officer at: No. 10 from July 1981 to July 1982; at the Department of Education from July 1982 to January 1984; and at the Metropolitan police from January 1984 to September 1985. He is no longer employed by a Government Department.
Mr. Redmond: To ask the Prime Minister if he will consider setting up a committee to consider the developing technology of card systems, and the potential demand for such systems from Government Departments; and if he will make a statement.
Ministers who have given written and oral evidence :
In addition to myself,
The Right hon. Kenneth Clarke QC
The Right hon. Michael Heseltine RD
The Right hon. Douglas Hurd CH
The Right hon. Peter Lilley
The Right hon. Sir Nicholas Lyell QC
Column 118The Right hon. Sir Patrick Mayhew QC
The Right hon. Malcolm Rifkind QC
The Right hon. the hon. William Waldergrave
Former Ministers who have given written and oral evidence : The Right hon. Kenneth Baker CH
The Right hon. Sir Adam Butler
The Right hon. Paul Channon
The Right hon. Alan Clark
The Right hon. Tristan Garel-Jones
The Right hon. The Lord Howe QC
The Right hon. Sir Richard Luce
The Right hon. David Mellor QC
The Right hon. Timothy Renton
The Right hon. The Baroness Thatcher OM FRS
The Right hon. Lord Trefgarne
Ministers who have given written evidence only :
The Right hon. Jonathan Aitken
The Right hon. Douglas Hogg QC
Former Ministers who have given written evidence only : The Lord Glenarthur
The Right hon. the hon. Sir Archie Hamilton
The Right hon. the hon. Sir Timothy Sainsbury
The Prime Minister: In May 1993, we published the White Paper "Realising our Potential"--Cm 2550--which sets out the Government's policy for science, engineering and technology. It announced a number of new initiatives such as technology foresight and the restructuring of the research councils to carry forward the Governments strategy. That strategy is to improve the nation's competitiveness and quality of life by maintaining the excellence of science, engineering and technology in the United Kingdom.
In a speech to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee in February 1994, I underlined the importance of the White Paper and my commitment to the policy it sets out.
The White Paper recognised the important benefits of international collaboration. In September I visited South Africa and met President Mandela. I exchanged letters of intent with him, committing the United Kingdom and South Africa to continuing discussions with a view to concluding in due course a bilateral science, engineering and technology agreement.
In September I also met members of the Council for Science and Technology which the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster chairs on my behalf. We discussed the vital contribution of science, engineering and technology to the nation's prosperity and quality of life. I emphasised our determination to create a culture of partnership, where excellence in science and the development of new applications go hand in hand.