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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 14 March 1995

TREASURY

Exchange Rates (Irish Punt)

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the constitutional implications of the severing of the link between the Irish punt and the British pound.

Mr. Nelson: The link between the Irish punt and British pound was severed when Ireland joined the European monetary system. This step had no constitutional implications for the United Kingdom.

Capital Gains Tax Reinvestment Relief

Mr. Barry Field: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if investments in companies listed on the unlisted securities market qualify for the reinvestment relief.

Sir George Young: No. Capital gains tax reinvestment relief is available for investment in shares in qualifying unquoted trading companies. As the relevant legislation makes explicit, companies whose shares are dealt in on the unlisted securities market are not unquoted companies for this purpose.

Draft Legislation

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what will be the inter-relationship between (a) Ministers and private sector lawyers, (b) hon. Members, (c) Government Whips and (d) Select Committees in respect of the contracting out of the drafting of Treasury legislation;

(2) what measures he will take to prevent legal firms operating at below- cost prices to acquire contracts to draft Treasury legislation;

(3) what safeguards will apply (a) for ensuring security on Budget details and forecasts and (b) for ensuring standards of confidentiality and propriety in respect of the Finance Bill following the contracting out of the drafting of Treasury legislation;

(4) if the costs of trial contracting out of Treasury legislation will appear as (a) running costs or (b) programme costs; how such costs will be shown when there are changes of dates in respect of policy; and how such costs will be controlled when there is a change in drafting instructions;

(5) which parts of the Finance Bill he plans to contract out and what plans he has for other forms of financial legislation to be contracted out;

(6) what are the criteria by which the success of the exercise in contracting out the drafting of Treasury legislation will be judged; who will assess the success of


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the exercise; and what quality controls there will be in respect of the drafting of the legislation;

(7) what proportion of contracted-out Treasury legislation will comprise (a) primary legislation and (b) secondary legislation; (8) what proposals he has to market test (a) market-sensitive and (b) non-market-sensitive Treasury legislation;

(9) what discussions he has had with (a) the Law Society and (b) the Bar Council in respect of the contracting out of the drafting of Treasury legislation;

(10) what will be the relationship between those in the private sector instructed by him and advisers from the Inland Revenue in respect of the contracting out of the drafting of Treasury legislation;

(11) what have been the costs for each of the last five years for drafting legislation in his Department;

(12) how many staff in his Department and at what grade are engaged in drafting legislation;

(13) what are the total annual wages and salary costs in his Department in respect of those engaged in drafting Treasury legislation;

(14) what proposals he has (a) to market-test, (b) to go to outside contractors without market testing and (c) to employ outside contractors as civil servants on short-term contracts in respect of the contracting out of the drafting of Treasury legislation;

(15) if he will list (a) his proposals for quality assurance, (b) his proposed methods for testing this assurance and (c) his proposed penalties for (i) under performance and (ii) loss of revenue as a result of inadequate drafting in respect of the contracting out of the Treasury legislation;

(16) what guarantees his Department will demand of private sector lawyers engaged in the drafting of Treasury legislation to ensure that they do not have any dealings with clients on issues relating to their work for his Department; and what safeguards he will impose to prevent conflicts of interest arising between these lawyers and (i) past and (ii) prospective clients;

(17) what measures he will take to ensure that there is public confidence in the contracted-out Treasury legislation in respect of potential conflicts of interest between those employed to draft legislation for the Government who are also advising private clients.

Sir George Young: My right hon. and learned Friend's plans to involve the private sector in drafting legislation for Treasury Ministers are as follows:

Present practice is that most primary legislation in the areas of responsibility which fall to Treasury Ministers is drafted by Parliamentary Counsel. Officials in the Chancellor's Departments provide Parliamentary Counsel with instructions from which legislation is drafted, but none of the Chancellor's Department employs staff who themselves draft primary legislation.

There have been occasions in the past where lawyers outside Parliamentary Counsel have been engaged in the drafting of primary legislation. My right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now setting up a pilot project to gain further experience of using the private sector in this area. Potential benefits could include: reducing time pressures caused by the volume of work facing existing draftsmen; widening the range of talent available to departments; bringing relevant specialist


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skills into the drafting process, and providing fresh thinking as to how our laws should be drafted.

The pilot scheme will cover some aspects of the 1996 Finance Bill, and possibly also some secondary legislation.

Treasury Ministers are still considering exactly which topics will be chosen for the pilot, but the bulk of the 1996 Finance Bill will continue to be drafted by Parliamentary Counsel in the usual way. Once the topics are selected, the contract or contracts will be let through competitive tender.

Before the contract or contracts are signed, Treasury Ministers will need to satisfy themselves that the contractors chosen will be capable of doing the job well, that sensible financial arrangements are made, that adequate security measures are in place to protect classified information, and that potential conflicts of interest are avoided.

The intention is that Inland Revenue and customs officials will deal directly with the contractors in much the same way as they deal with Parliamentary Counsel. It will be for the Revenue departments to give instructions to the contractors and for those departments to satisfy themselves that the draft legislation that is produced is of a satisfactory standard.

Parliamentary Counsel will be responsible for the rest of the Finance Bill and for ensuring that the clauses and schedules drafted by the contractors are fitted into the Bill in the appropriate place.

When the legislation comes before Parliament, Ministers will look to the contractors, working on instructions from officials, to draw up any Government amendments that are necessary, and to provide advice, for example, on the implications of any other amendments that are tabled. Contractors will be judged on the full range of services they provide.

The fact that part of the Bill will have been drafted by private sector lawyers will not affect the relationships between Ministers and the House or Committees of it.

The experiment will be closely monitored and will be subject to a full evaluation to consider the quality of drafting, other advice, whether timetables were met, security issues, and cost. The analysis of the cost will cover not only the fees for the pilot project, but also an assessment of any differential burden on Revenue department officials compared with using parliamentary counsel. One of the purposes of the pilot will be to look at the overall resources employed by the contractors on the project to improve our understanding of the costs to the private sector of drafting legislation.

The costs of the pilot will fall on departments' running costs. If necessary, the terms of the contract will deal with the possibility of late changes in policy or drafting instructions.

Brays Detective Agency

Mr. Denham: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list all the schemes, activities and projects in which Brays Detective Agency has been retained and, in each case, the Government Department sponsoring the scheme and the total expenditure to date.

Mr. Nelson: The Treasury has no schemes, activities or projects on which Brays Detective Agency has been


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retained; and it does not maintain records of other Government Departments' use of detective agencies.

VAT (Church Repairs)

Mr. Burden: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what consideration he has given to changing the rate of VAT on repairs to churches.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: Repairs to all buildings, including churches, have been liable to the standard rate of VAT since 1973. The Government are opposed to further reduced rates as a matter of principle.

The introduction of any zero rates, or reduced rates in this area, would also contravene the EC sixth VAT directive.

Select Committee on Sustainable Development

Mr. Dafis: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the reason for the decision that officials from the Treasury would not give oral evidence at the House of Lords Select Committee on Sustainable Development meeting on 7 February.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 9 March 1995]: The Government's strategy for sustainable development is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. I was therefore not persuaded that it would be appropriate for Treasury officials to give oral evidence on the subject as a whole to the Committee on 7 February. Since then, the Committee has provided me with a list of questions relating to specific Treasury responsibilities and I have authorised my Department to submit a memorandum in response.

The accountability of Ministers and the Government to Parliament has always been based on the principle that each Minister answers for subjects within his or her own departmental responsibilities.

TRANSPORT

Transport Research Laboratory

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what are his objectives in the sale of the Transport Research Laboratory, and if he will make a statement.

Dr Mawhinney: I shall be seeking bids for the Transport Research Laboratory from a wide range of interests. My objectives are: to secure the continued provision of high-quality, independent research and development at good value for money across the range of my Department's inland surface transport needs;

to transfer the laboratory to the private sector as soon as reasonably practicable;

to optimise the net proceeds to the taxpayer.

In pursuing these objectives, I shall have full regard to the need to help promote a competitive market for the supply of research services to my Department and obtain reassurance that the purchaser has the capacity to meet transferred obligations and liabilities. The work of our financial advisers, Price Waterhouse, has confirmed that there is interest in acquiring the TRL business as a whole, with a lease or freehold interest in the land and buildings required for the operation of the


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Laboratory. I shall be seeking competitive bids for the laboratory on this basis. I have not ruled out any sale option including the possibility of a proposal from TRL's management and staff to take over the Laboratory as a non-profit-distributing company. To emphasise the Government's continuing commitment to TRL as it moves into the private sector, I have decided to provide the laboratory with guarantees of future research work for a number of years. The guarantees will be subject to the delivery of high-quality, independent and impartial research at competitive prices. Bidders will be asked to demonstrate that the supply of scientific advice and research to Government will not give rise to conflicts of interest with their other operations.

I am aiming to complete the sale of TRL during 1995.

Airports

Mr. Hendry: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what conclusion he has reached on his Department's review of the system of economic regulation of airports; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Norris: The review considered how the system of economic regulation established in the Airports Act 1986 had worked to date, and whether there was scope for improving the process of regulation. It was not concerned with the principles or methodology of regulation.

Following consultation, my Department has identified a number of measures to improve the way the system works, including clarification of the procedures for regulation of airports and for handling of complaints, improved availability of information, and clarification of the criteria for designating airports under section 40 of the Airports Act 1986 for closer economic regulation. In addition, some measures have been identified which will require legislation; these will be taken forward when the opportunity arises. The main such change concerns the roles of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority in the regulation of the designated airports; it is proposed to adopt a regime based on what has become the "standard" model for the regulation of utilities. It is expected that the next quinquennial reviews of BAA's south-east airports and Manchester airport will proceed under the existing system. In the light of recommendations from the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs, we have also considered whether Glasgow and Edinburgh airports should be designated for the purposes of economic regulation. We have found no evidence of abuse of monopoly position or inefficiency and we have therefore concluded that there is no case at present for designating these airports.

I am placing the report of the conclusions in the review in the Library.

Ministerial Visits

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has to visit the Newbury constituency in the current year.

Dr. Mawhinney: At present, I have no plans to do so.

Lockerbie

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of whether Pan


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Am flight 103 was under special guard at Heathrow airport from the time of arrival from San Francisco at 12.10 hours on 21 December 1994 until take-off for JFK airport, New York at 18.25 hours as described in page 14 of the fatal airport inquiry on the Lockerbie air disaster report.

Mr. Norris: From the evidence given to the fatal accident inquiry, and the earlier investigation by the Metropolitan police into the handling of this flight at Heathrow airport, my Department is satisfied that the Maid of the Seas was under constant supervision by security guards while between flights at the airport on 21 December 1988.

Rail Privatisation

Mr. Austin Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those parts of the railway system which will have been privatised or put out to contract by April 1996.

Mr. Watts [pursuant to his reply, 6 March 1995, c. 53]: Union Railways Ltd. and European Passenger Services Ltd. were omitted from the list of sales intended to April 1996.

Detained Ships

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list by classification society the number of ships detained by the Marine Safety Agency in the last two years.

Mr. Norris: This is an operational matter for the Marine Safety Agency. I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from R. M. Bradley to Ms Joan Walley, dated 14 March 1995 :

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your Question about the number of ships, by classification society, detained by the Marine Safety Agency in the last two years; I attach two tables. The first table gives the number of detentions following port state control inspections in UK ports for 1994. This includes a detention rate based on the total number of inspections carried out on ships classed with the classification society. Equivalent figures for 1993 are not available without undue expenditure but the number of detentions without the amplifying detention rates are listed in the second table.

The figures must be treated with some care as ships may be detained for items which are not the responsibility of a classification society. Also some fish factory ships, klondykers, although in a detainable condition could not be detained because the ships were anchored outside the port when inspected. In a small percentage of cases the classification society has not been recorded because it did not issue the certificates.


Port state control detentions by the marine safety agency listed by                          

classification society                                                                       

                                 |Number of                                                  

                                 |detentions in                                              

Classification                   |1994               |Percentage detained                    

Society                                                                                      

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

HINSIB (Honduras)                |1                  |50                                     

Turku Lloyd Vakfi                |1                  |50                                     

Hellenic Register                |12                 |40                                     

Bulgarian Register               |7                  |35                                     

Romanian Register                |3                  |25                                     

China Corporation Register of                                                                

  Shipping                       |1                  |25                                     

RINAVE (Portugal)                |1                  |20                                     

American Bureau of Shipping      |20                 |18                                     

Croatian Register                |1                  |14                                     

RINA (Italy)                     |6                  |14                                     

Nippon Kaiji Kyokai              |13                 |14                                     

Russian Register                 |43                 |13                                     

Bureau Veritas                   |35                 |13                                     

Register of Shipping of People's                                                             

  Republic of China              |1                  |12                                     

Indian Register                  |1                  |11                                     

Lloyd's Register                 |26                 |7                                      

Germanischer Lloyd               |24                 |7                                      

Det Norske Veritas               |16                 |6                                      

Polish Register                  |1                  |4                                      

Un-classed or class unknown      |12                                                         


Port state control detentions by the marine safety agency in 1993 

listed by classification society                                  

                            |Number of                            

Classification              |detentions in 1993                   

society                                                           

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

Bureau Veritas              |34                                   

Lloyd's Register            |26                                   

Germanischer Lloyd          |24                                   

Russian Register            |19                                   

American Bureau of Shipping |17                                   

Nippon Kaiji Kyokai         |12                                   

Hellenic Register           |11                                   

Det Norske Veritas          |10                                   

HINSIB (Honduras)           |5                                    

Romanian Register           |3                                    

Panama Bureau of Shipping   |2                                    

RINA (Italy)                |2                                    

Indian Register             |1                                    

Un-classed or class unknown |8                                    

Rail Track Renewal

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what contracts have been agreed by Railtrack for each section of the Great Western mainline, and each branch line, for track renewal, re-sleepering and re-ballasting, for 1995 96; and what has been the value of each contract and track length covered.

Mr. Watts: These activities form part of the track renewal work carried out under contract for Railtrack by that part of British Rail infrastructure services which the British Railways Board expect to offer for sale as the Western track renewal unit later this year. In light of the expected sale, details of the contracts and their value are therefore commercially confidential.

Channel Tunnel Freight

Mr. David Nicholson: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how much freight by tonnage has been transferred from road to the railway system (a) since 1 January 1992 and (b) since the opening of the channel tunnel rail link.

Mr. Watts: This information is not available in the form requested. Information on tonnages carried by rail can be found in table 1.12 of "Transport Statistics Great Britain 1994", a copy of which has been placed in the Library.


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Railfreight Distribution has moved over 2,000 trains through the channel tunnel to date.

Mobile Crane Operators

Mr. Chidgey: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what restrictions currently exist on the maximum working and driving hours for mobile crane operators.

Mr. Norris: Drivers of mobile cranes are subject to national rules on drivers' hours in part VI of the Transport Act 1968, as amended. These limit driving to 10 hours a day. The rules also limit drivers to 11 hours duty each day, but not on days when they do not drive or when they drive for less than four hours on each day of the week.

School Vehicles

Mr. Win Griffiths: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make it his policy to ensure that vehicles hired for the transport of children to and from school have the appropriate licence or that local education authorities be empowered to issue a new form of licence specifically for school transport purposes.

Mr. Norris: All motor vehicles, including those used for school transport, are subject to the requirements of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 and to annual roadworthiness testing. Public service vehicles must also satisfy additional construction requirements and be licensed through the operator licensing system under which their operators are subject to sanction by traffic commissioners if standards are not maintained. We do not consider further controls to be necessary.

Pollution

Ms Walley: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those sites where he is currently monitoring vehicle pollution stating in each case (a) what monitoring he is undertaking and (b) whether PM10 is counted.

Mr. Norris: This is an operational matter for the Highways Agency.

I have asked the chief executive to write to the hon. Member. Letter from Lawrie Haynes to Ms Joan Walley, dated 14 March 1995:

The Minister for Local Transport and Road Safety, Steven Norris, has asked me to write to you in reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those sites where he is currently monitoring vehicle pollution stating in each case (a) what monitoring he is undertaking and (b) whether PM10 is counted.

We do not routinely monitor vehicle pollution but the Highways Agency has a number of monitoring stations in operation either for research purposes to aid the development of air quality techniques or to inform environmental assessment of specific highway proposals where appropriate. For most situations involving road schemes we use mathematical modelling to assess pollution levels. Where the modelling techniques cannot adequately reflect the characteristics of a particular location monitoring work is undertaken.


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The table below contains our current active sites.                                                  

Road Name                |Location                |Emissions monitored                              

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

M4                       |Theale                  |Carbon monoxide                                  

                                                  |Nitric oxide                                     

                                                  |Nitrogen dioxide                                 

                                                  |Total oxides of nitrogen                         

                                                  |Ozone                                            

                                                  |Total hydrocarbons                               

                                                  |Non-Methane                                      

                                                  |  hydrocarbons                                   

                                                  |Methane                                          

                                                  |  Range of poly-aromatic                         

                         |  hydrocarbons                                                            

                                                                                                    

Victoria St              |London                  |Carbon monoxide                                  

                                                  |Nitric oxide                                     

                                                  |Nitrogen dioxide                                 

                                                  |Total oxides of nitrogen                         

                                                  |Ozone                                            

                                                  |Total hydrocarbons                               

                                                  |Non-methane                                      

                                                  |  hydrocarbons                                   

                                                  |Methane Range                                    

                                                  |  of poly-aromatic                               

                                                  |  hydrocarbons                                   

                                                  |Benzene                                          

                                                  |Toluene                                          

                                                  |Xylene Range                                     

                                                  |  of carbonyl                                    

                                                  |  compounds                                      

                                                                                                    

M4 London                |Between Junctions 3     |Carbon monoxide                                  

                         |  and 4B                |Nitric oxide                                     

                                                  |Nitrogen dioxide                                 

                                                  |Total oxides of nitrogen                         

                                                  |PM10                                             

                                                  |Benzene                                          

                                                  |Toluene                                          

                                                  |Xylene                                           

                                                                                                    

M4 London                |Junction 4              |Carbon monoxide                                  

                                                  |Nitric oxide                                     

                                                  |Nitrogen dioxide                                 

                                                  |Total oxides of nitrogen                         

                                                                                                    

M62                      |East Junction 17        |Carbon monoxide                                  

  Manchester                                      |Nitric oxide                                     

                                                  |Nitrogen dioxide                                 

                                                  |Total oxides of nitrogen                         

                                                                                                    

M2 Kent                  |Junction 3 Area         |Carbon monoxide                                  

                                                  |Nitric oxide                                     

                                                  |Nitrogen dioxide                                 

                                                  |Total oxides of nitrogen                         

                                                  |Benzene                                          

                                                  |Toluene                                          

At present PM is measured at one location on the M4 but our intention is to commence monitoring of this emission at new sites on the M62 (Manchester) and the M25 (Surrey) shortly.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Disability Living Allowance

Mr. Mike O'Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many pages of forms an applicant for a review of a refusal of an application for disability living allowance has to peruse; and how many pages an appellant has to peruse when making an appeal for disability living allowance, having being rejected on first consideration and review;


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(2) how many pages the average applicant for disability living allowance has to peruse in order to make an application.

Mr. Hague: The administration of disability living allowance is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will reply to the hon. Member.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Mike O'Brien, dated 13 March 1995:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about Disability Living Allowance (DLA) forms.

For an initial claim to DLA there are 60 pages which comprise the claim pack:-


                                                    |Pages      

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

Notes                                               |8          

Section 1 "Your claim for DLA"                      |12         

Section 2 "How your disability/illness affects you" |28         

Additional Section                                  |12         

The additional section was introduced to gather information following recent caselaw. Customers must complete section 1; other sections are optional.

A customer is able to request a review of an initial decision whether this was successful or not. The review pack has a total of 48 pages:


                             |Pages      

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

Section 1 (Personal details) |8          

Section 2 (Mobility needs)   |8          

Section 2 (Care needs)       |20         

Additional section           |12         

A review pack is not usually issued      

where similar information has been       

obtained within the preceding three      

months.                                  

A customer can appeal against a review   

decision by writing to the Benefits      

Agency. There is no pack for appeal      

purposes.                                

I hope you find this reply helpful.

Fraud Investigation Costs

Mr. Frank Cook: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much the Government have spent on the detection of benefit fraud for each year sine 1979.

Mr. Arbuthnot: Benefit fraud is investigated by the Benefits Agency, Employment Service and local authorities. Details of local authority expenditure on benefit fraud investigation are not held centrally.

The Benefits Agency's expenditure on fraud investigation is only available for the last two years. Prior to the formation of the Benefits Agency, most anti-fraud work was integrated with benefit claims processing, and other mainstream local office activities, and separate cost data was not kept. However, the bulk of investigations are now carried out by separately managed units for which costs are known.


          |£ million          

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

1992-93   |66                 

1993-94   |69                 

These figures include staff and running costs, but not accommodation. Benefit savings for the same periods were £558 million and £654 million respectively.


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The cost of Employment Service fraud investigations is available for the past seven years. The figures (including benefit savings for the same periods) are:


,

           |Costs     |Savings              

           |£ millions|£ millions           

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

1987-88    |15.9      |70.5                 

1988-89    |18.7      |81.27                

1989-90    |20.6      |70.72                

1990-91    |21.4      |64.94                

1991-92    |21.5      |55.88                

1992-93    |26.4      |71.15                

1993-94    |26.8      |80.12                

These figures include staff, accommodation and running costs.

War Widows

Mr. Duncan: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many post-1973 war widows have subsequently re-married in each year for which figures are available.

Mr. Arbuthnot: The information is not available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


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