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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 23 February 1995



Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 23 February.

Sir Peter Tapsell: To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Thursday 23 February.

The Prime Minister: This morning, I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be having further meetings later today.


Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Prime Minister (1) how many letters were received from hon. Members last month;

(2) how many letters were sent to hon. Members last month.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 22 February 1995]: I received nearly 180 letters from hon. Members last month. Approximately half received responses.

Treaty of Rome

Mr. Cousins: To ask the Prime Minister whether he has under review any revision to article 223 of the treaty of Rome; and what requests he has received from British defence manufacturers to consider such a review.

The Prime Minister: In preparation for next year's

intergovernmental conference, the Government are considering the operation of the treaty as a whole.

I am not aware of any request by British defence manufacturers to review article 223 in particular.


Domestic Heating Costs

Sir Andrew Bowden: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the percentage of extra fuel which is required to heat identical houses in (a) London, (b) Manchester, (c) Cardiff, (d) Newcastle, (e) Leicester, (f) Norwich, (g) Birmingham, (h) Plymouth, (i) Edinburgh, (j) Aberdeen and (k) Brighton, taking Bristol as the base.

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Mr. Robert B. Jones: The percentage of extra fuel required to heat a typical semi-detached house with gas central heating is estimated to be as follows for each of the specified locations:

(a) London 1 per cent. (b) Manchester +16 per cent. (c) Cardiff 0 per cent. (d) Newcastle +17 per cent. (e) Leicester +17 per cent. (f) Norwich +10 per cent. (g) Birmingham +13 per cent. (h) Plymouth 13 per cent. (i) Edinburgh +28 per cent. (j) Aberdeen +41 per cent. and (k) Brighton 3 per cent.

These figures have been calculated using the Building Research Establishment domestic energy model and taking Bristol as the base case.


Mr. Morley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list those zoos which are owned by local authorities.

Sir Paul Beresford: According to our latest information, the following zoos in England, which are licensed under the Zoo Licensing Act 1981, are owned by local authorities:

Abbey Gardens zoo, Bury St. Edmunds

Animal world, Bolton

Battersea Park children's zoo, Wandsworth, London

Birmingham nature centre, Birmingham

Blackpool municipal zoological gardens, Blackpool

Aquarium, Bolton

Butterfly world, Bolton

Clissold park, Hackney, London

Crystal Palace park zoo, Crystal Palace, London

Harewood bird garden, Leeds

Lotherton Hall bird garden and deer park, Aberford, Leeds Newquay zoo, Newquay

Pudsey park, Leeds

Roundhay park, Leeds

Sir George Staunton country park, Leigh park gardens, Havant Stewart park, Marton, Middlesborough

War Memorial park aviaries and pets corner, Coventry.

Construction Contracting

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement regarding the implementation of the Latham report.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: My right hon. Friend announced on 7 February, Official Report , column 131 , that he had agreed with the construction industry that a construction industry board should be set up to take forward the proposals of the Latham report for restructuring the construction process. Sir Michael Latham has agreed to be the board's first chairman, and my right hon. Friend has agreed to be its president.

The board will oversee the working groups established in the wake of the report to look at specific aspects of the report's recommendations. It will also provide a channel for industry and client comment to Government on any legislative proposals--I hope to enter into public consultation on such proposals shortly.

Radioactive Waste

Miss Lestor: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish his Department's review of radioactive waste policy.

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Mr. Atkins: I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) on Tuesday 6 December, Official Report, column 132.

Single Regeneration Budget

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many civil servants in the north-west government office were involved in assessing each of the bids submitted under the single regeneration budget; and what was the average time spent reviewing each bid.

Sir Paul Beresford: In the two-stage process for submission of potential single regeneration budget bids, approximately 40 staff from the government office for the north-west were involved to some degree.

It is not possible, in hindsight, to give an average time spent on each bid.

Delegated Pay

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the non-departmental public bodies sponsored by his Department which will (a) follow the pay arrangements of the sponsoring Department and (b) pursue an independent and separate route under the delegated pay option (i) from April 1995 and (ii) from April 1996.

Sir Paul Beresford: Three of the Department's NDPBs need to change their pay arrangements as a result of civil service pay delegation. English Nature proposes to introduce its own pay system during 1996; the Countryside Commission and Rural Development Commission are still developing their proposals.

Housing Revenue Account Subsidy

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how much was spent on housing revenue account subsidy in each year from 1979 80 to 1994 95; and what the planned spending is in 1995 96, in (a) Greater London, (b) the metropolitan district areas and (c) elsewhere.

Mr. Robert B. Jones [holding answer 21 February 1995]: Provision for the pre 1981 housing subsidy system was:

Year      |£ million          


1979-80   |1,128              

1980-81   |1,869              

The amounts of housing subsidy paid in respect of the years 1981 82 to 1989 90 were as follows:

Year      |£ million          


1981-82   |1,216              

1982-83   |887                

1983-84   |324                

1984-85   |357                

1985-86   |484                

1986-87   |475                

1987-88   |451                

1988-89   |542                

1989-90   |644                

The amounts of housing revenue account subsidy paid in respect of the years 1990 91 to 1994 95 were as follows:

Year      |£ million          


1990-91   |3,550              

1991-92   |3,778              

1992-93   |3,983              

1993-94   |4,027              

1994-95   |4,043              

The increase in payments in 1990 91 was largely due to rent rebate costs being met from HRA subsidy instead of by the Department of Social Security. Most subsidy claims in respect of 1993 94 and 1994 95 are still subject to final validation checks.

Total expenditure on housing revenue account subsidy in 1995 96 is expected to be £4,119 million. Local authorities have still to submit their claims for 1995 96 and it is not yet possible to provide a reliable breakdown by area.

Air Pollution

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 15 February, Official Report , column 674 , what information his Department will be giving to the European topic centre of the European Environment Agency on air quality; and what plans he has for changes to the monitoring system of air pollution in United Kingdom cities and in measures to reduce pollution.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer 22 February 1995]: The European topic centre of the European Environment Agency on air quality has only recently been established. It is currently developing its work programme which includes preparing questionnaires for collecting relevant air quality information from member states. The Government will be co-operating fully with the topic centre in taking its work programme forward.

The Government published "Air Quality: Meeting the Challenge" on 19 January. This describes the Government's strategic policies for air quality management, including the Government's plans to expand their urban air quality monitoring programme. A copy is available in the House of Commons Library.

Local Government Reorganisation

Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations his Department have received (a) supporting and (b) opposing the proposed boundary change in his draft order to create a new York local authority from (i) individual members of the public (ii) local authorities (iii) parish councils and (iv) others.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: The figures are as follows:

Representation                   |Against       |For                          

received from                                                                 


Individual members of the public |1,066         |30                           

Local authorities                |7             |0                            

Parish Councils                  |26            |0                            

Others                           |15            |1                            

Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations the Local Government Commission received (a) supporting and (b) opposing its proposals for the boundary for a new local authority for York from (i) individual members of the public, (ii) local authorities, (iii) parish councils and (iv) others.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: This is a matter for the Local Government Commission.

Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list all the current electoral wards within the proposed new York local authority boundary, plus the parishes of Shipton, Overton, Upper Helmsley, Gate Helmsley and Warthill; how many residents in each of these wards made representations to (a) him or other Ministers and officials in his Department and (b) the Local Government Commission (i) supporting and (ii) opposing the inclusion of their own ward or parish in a new York local authority.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: Representations to the Department have been as follows:

Ward/Parish name                       |Opposing        |Supporting                       


Existing City of York                  |76              |8                                



Shipton                                |32              |1                                

Overton                                |5               |0                                

Upper Helmsley                         |2               |0                                

Gate Helmsley                          |140             |0                                

Warthill                               |40              |0                                


New Wards:                                                                                

Bishopthorpe with Copmanthorpe, parish                                                    

  of Acaster Malbis                    |172             |1                                

Askham Bryan, Askham Richard,                                                             

  Rufforth, Hessay, Nether Poppleton                                                      

  and Upper Poppleton                  |27              |0                                

Clifton Without                        |4               |1                                

Skelton, Rawcliffe                     |7               |0                                

Wigginton                              |102             |0                                

Haxby                                  |43              |3                                

New Earswick and Huntington            |199             |0                                

Strensall, Towthorpe, Earswick,                                                           

  Stockton-on-the-Forest, Holtby and                                                      

  Murton                               |136             |1                                

Heworth without                        |0               |0                                

Osbaldwick                             |5               |0                                

Fulford                                |7               |1                                

Dunnington and Kexby                   |10              |1                                

Elvington, Wheldrake, Deighton and                                                        

  Naburn                               |3               |2                                

The analysis of representation made to the commission is a matter for the commission.

Mr. Beith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what objections were received before the end of the statutory consultation period on 10 February to the Local Government Commission's proposal to set up separate parish councils for Ulgham and Widdrington Station, Northumberland.

Mr. Curry: No representations have been received objecting to this proposal.

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Housing (Negative Equity)

Mr. Milburn: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, pursuant to his answer of 30 November, Official Report , column 726 , if he will now update the table on negative equity.

Mr. Robert B. Jones: Estimates of negative equity are sensitive to the house price index used. Based on Department of the Environment house price data, an estimate of the number of households affected by negative equity in the fourth quarter of 1994 and the value of negative equity by region are as follows:

                   |No. of households                                    

Region             |(thousands)      |Value (millions)                   


South East         |334.68           |- 1576.97                          

Greater London     |96.80            |- 363.39                           

South West         |82.82            |- 282.18                           

East Anglia        |61.59            |- 238.33                           

East Midlands      |13.67            |- 19.02                            

West Midlands      |15.32            |- 15.99                            

Wales              |17.45            |- 45.94                            

Yorks & Humberside |30.54            |- 28.67                            

North West         |6.47             |- 1.46                             

North              |8.52             |- 10.12                            

Scotland           |8.52             |- 6.12                             

Northern Ireland   |1.06             |- 1.15                             


United Kingdom     |677.44           |- 2589.34                          

Black Country Limestone Advisory Panel

Mr. Anthony Coombs: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, if he will make a statement on the past work of the Black Country limestone advisory panel; and what is its future role.

Mr. Curry: The Black Country limestone advisory panel was appointed by the then Secretary of State in November 1983 to advise him on proposals for monitoring site investigations and remedial works in relation to old limestone mines in the black country which were to be funded by derelict land grant and, particularly, on the development of a practical programme of work and priorities within it.

The chairman, Sir Edward Parkes, and the five individual members, Professor David Blockley, Professor John Burland, Mr. Owen Gregory, Mr. Donald Reeve and Mr. John Trustram Eve, have served continuously since the panel's establishment until Mr. Reeve's death last year. With the assumption by English Partnerships of responsibility for derelict land grant, which is now subsumed within the agency's land reclamation programme, the Secretary of State's need for external advice is less than it was in the past. With the publication of its reports and the advice given over the last 11 years, the advisory panel has effectively completed its remit. The panel will therefore cease operations at the end of this financial year.

The Government recognise that, although much has been achieved in reducing the impact of old limestone mines in the black country, much remains to be done. The panel's contributions point the way forward to English Partnerships in carrying forward the programme of reclamation, which was identified as a priority in the guidance issued by the Secretary of State in April 1993.

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It is now for the agency to continue the programme, subject to the availability of resources, to enable the limestone problems to be solved.

I would like to thank the chairman and all members of the Black Country limestone advisory panel for the work which they have undertaken since 1983, without which the programme of remedial works to the old limestone mines in the west midlands would not have proceeded as smoothly as it has.

Freshwater Quality

Mr. Thomason: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what response he intends to make to the 16th report from the Royal Commission on environmental pollution on freshwater quality.

Mr. Gummer: The Government welcomed the commission's report as an independent and authoritative review of freshwater quality issues. It has made an important contribution to our understanding of the issues surrounding the control of water pollution; those remain essential as we seek to maintain progress in protecting the water environment. I am today publishing the Government's response.

We have accepted many of the recommendations made by the commission; others accorded with action and initiatives which were already under way. In developing our policies for water quality in the period since the report was published, we have taken careful note of its recommendations.

We share the concern expressed by the commission about the need to protect our best-quality rivers and to tackle those stretches of river which are currently of the worst quality. In implementing this approach, we have to take a wide view of priorities for improvement both in the water environment and the environment more generally and to make assessments of the associated costs and benefits so that the maximum benefit is obtained from the resources that are available for environmental improvement. The results are encouraging. In respect of England and Wales, the National Rivers Authority, the body that we have established to be the guardian of the water environment, estimates that there has been a net improvement in the quality of more than 15 per cent. of our rivers between 1990 and 1993. In Scotland, between 1985 and 1990, the proportion of class 1 rivers rose from 95 per cent. to 97 per cent. and in Northern Ireland 89 per cent. of river length is classified as of good or fair quality. Provision was made in the price limits determination announced last year by the Director General of Water Services for a major investment programme for maintaining and improving freshwater quality, including £522 million of expenditure in the period 1995 to 2000 specifically intended to secure discretionary improvements over and above statutory obligations. In Scotland, the water and sewerage programme currently amounts to some £240 million per annum, about 60 per cent. of which is directed towards sewerage investment programmes and the Government will be considering longer-term needs in the context of the establishment of the new water and sewerage authorities in 1996. In Northern Ireland, the Government are undertaking a major capital works programme of some £80 million over the period 1994 96 aimed at improvements to sewage treatment.

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I recently announced our intention to consult on proposals for a small set of statutory water quality objectives which will allow us to test the operation of the system on a pilot basis. We are also continuing to study whether the is a role for economic instruments in improving river quality. All these issues have, of course, to be seen in the broader context of the development of European legislation on water.

There is then good reason to believe that for the immediate future, with the work of the current environmental regulators being transferred to the proposed environment agencies for England and Wales and Scotland respectively and corresponding arrangements for Northern Ireland under consideration, the encouraging trends of recent years will be maintained and that the objective of the commission report--to secure an improvement in freshwater quality--will be achieved.

Buying Agency

Mr. John Marshall: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what has been the outcome of his review of the prior options for the future of his Departments's Buying Agency.

Mr. Gummer: The Buying Agency acts as a purchasing agent for Government Departments and other public bodies. It has an impressive record of securing favourable terms to the advantage of the Exchequer. Its costs are fully covered by commissions paid by its departmental clients.

I have conducted a review of its future in order to determine, after its initial period of operation, whether these functions continue to be necessary, whether Government need to be responsible for them and whether they might be better carried out by the private sector. This review, in which I was advised by consultants KPMG Corporate Finance, made an exhaustive study of the costs and benefits of this range of options.

The review confirmed that the work carried out by the Buying Agency secures significant savings in the costs of public sector procurement. It is important that savings continue, and that they should accrue to the Exchequer. I have decided therefore that to achieve the best value for money the Buying Agency should continue as a next steps agency for a further five years. The agency's chief executive has already implemented a number of efficiency gains identified by the consultants, and I have asked him to continue to examine the scope for further improvements in performance. I have also concluded that, subject to parliamentary approval, the Buying Agency should adsorb as soon as practical my Departments's fuel branch, which negotiates contracts for the public purchase of fuels on behalf of a wide range of public sector bodies, and has a successful record of securing advantageous terms for them. These functions are complementary to those of the Buying Agency, and I believe the two bodies will operate more effectively together. My Department is consulting with its trade unions on the staffing consequences of this proposed merger.

These conclusions and consequent adjustments to the financial controls of the agency will be reflected in the framework document which is to be reviewed and updated for the period ahead.

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Special Advisers

Mr. Dobson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list each of the past five years, and in total all advisers employed directly by Ministers in his Department and all staff employed in each private office giving the official post held by each person and the salary or fees paid to each member of staff or adviser.

Mr. Gummer: The following information covers staff in private offices of my Department on 1 April of each year:



Civil Servants   |59  |70  |66  |72  |69       

Special Advisers |4   |4   |6   |3   |4        

The four special advisers are my expert adviser on the environment, Tom Burke; my expert adviser on architecture, Liam O'Connor; my political adviser, Keith Adams; and the Ministers of State's political adviser, James Gray.

The salaries for permanent civil servants employed in the private offices in the financial year 1993 94 total £1,517,302 and in this financial year, to end December, £1,059,416.

The salaries for special advisers employed in the private offices in the financial year 1993 94 total £132,394 and in this financial year, to end December, £114, 373.

Information about previous financial years or on a calendar year basis is not readily available and could be assembled only at disproportionate cost.


Departmental Funding

Mr. Heald: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what proposals he has to change his Department's cash limits and running costs limits in 1994 95.

Mr. Portillo [pursuant to his reply, 2 February 1995, c. 770]: Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary revised supplementary estimate, the following change will be made: (a) the cash limit for class V, vote 1--Department of Employment: programmes and central services--will now be increased by £28,549,000 from £2,302,056,000 to £2,330,605,000. The increase in the cash limit arises from additional Employment Department group restructuring costs.

The increase will be offset by savings, transfers or charged to the reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.

Labour Statistics

Mr. Bell: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment (1) how many full and part-time jobs have been created between 1988 and 1994;

(2) how many full-time jobs have been lost to the united Kingdom economy since 1988;

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(3) what was the number of employed persons in 1988 and the number employed in 1994; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Oppenheim: Information is available only for the net change in jobs. Also, estimates of full and part-time jobs in 1988 are available only for Great Britain. In September 1988 the work force in employment in Great Britain stood at 25,760,000 compared to 24,755, 000 in September 1994--a net decrease of 1,005,000, or 3.9 per cent. Full-time jobs fell by 1,776,000, or 9.1 per cent., over this period, while part-time jobs rose by 771,000, or 12.6 per cent.

A more meaningful comparison can be made by comparing similar points in the economic cycle. Between 1979 and 1990--peak to peak of the cycle--the work force in employment grew by 1.5 million. Over this period, the United Kingdom was also the only major EU country which increased the proportion of its population of working age in employment.


Mr. Devlin: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people have been placed in work by jobcentres in the northern region in each year since 1979.

Mr. Oppenheim: The information requested can be obtained from the NOMIS database in the Library.

Modern Apprenticeship Scheme

Mr. Ron Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Employment which sectors the modern apprenticeship scheme will cover in 1995 96; and what funding he will make available for the scheme.

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