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Submarine Reactor Flasks

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the submarine reactor flasks being built by Rolls-Royce and Associates. [31327]

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Mr. Arbuthnot: A contract for the design and build of purpose-built used fuel flasks for the transportation of used submarine reactor fuel was awarded to Rolls-Royce and Associates in May 1995. Manufacture of the flasks is sub-contracted to BNFL Engineering Ltd. Delivery is currently planned for the end of 1998.

Upholder Submarines

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what receipts from the sale of his Department's Upholder class submarines will be retained by (a) his Department and (b) the Treasury; and if he will make a statement. [31173]

Mr. Arbuthnot: I currently expect that all the receipts accruing from the sale of the Upholder class submarines will be retained by the Ministry of Defence. In the event that actual receipts exceed voted provision, Government accounting regulations stipulate that the excess goes to the Consolidated Fund.

Married Housing Estate

Dr. David Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what guarantees on future standards of repair and maintenance will be sought from private sector institutions which purchase leases on his Department's married housing stock. [31171]

Mr. Arbuthnot: As I told the hon. Member for Warley, West (Mr. Spellar) on 23 April, Official Report, column 83, my Department will retain responsibility for the management and maintenance of the quarters which we lease back. This responsibility will continue to be discharged by the Defence Housing Executive after the sale.

Dr. Clark: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence who will be responsible for setting the rent levels and what account will be taken of local pay levels and circumstances after the sale of the married housing stock. [31172]

Mr. Arbuthnot: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 4 June to the hon. Member for Warley, West (Mr. Spellar), Official Report, column 344.

Army Technical Support Agency

Dr. Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what key targets he has set for the Army Technical Support Agency in 1996-97. [32148]

Mr. Soames: The chief executive of the Army Technical Support Agency has been set the following key targets for 1996-97:

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Disabled Employees

Mr. Llywd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many registered disabled people are employed by his Department; and what percentage this is of the total figure. [30768]

Mr. Arbuthnot: At I October 1995, the number of registered disabled people employed by the MOD and its agencies was 1,333. This represents 1.2 per cent. of the total staff.

Disposal Sales Agency

Mr. Merchant: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what key targets he has set for the Disposal Sales Agency in 1996-97. [32147]

Mr. Arbuthnot: Since its launch in October 1994 the agency has brought in substantial revenues and has made significant efficiency savings. The key targets which have been set for the chief executive of the Disposal Sales Agency for this financial year are aimed at maintaining the momentum achieved in previous years through industrial participation and other efficiency measures.

National Enterprise Board

Mr. Waller: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement about the National Enterprise Board. [32070]

Mr. Lang: On 5 June 1996 I signed an order under section 11(2) of the British Technology Group Act 1991 dissolving the National Enterprise Board with effect from 1 July 1996.


Industry Council

Mr. Hargreaves: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the outcome of the EU Industry Council held on 20 May. [30816]

Mr. Eggar: The Council adopted a resolution on industrial co-operation with third countries, particularly the Mediterranean region. The Council also agreed conclusions on shipbuilding which noted the state of ratification of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development agreement.

The Council also reached political agreement on a basis text of a Council decision implementing a third multi-annual programme for small and medium

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enterprises which incorporated a United Kingdom request for additional wording highlighting value for money considerations. I placed a parliamentary reserve on the text as a whole.

The Commission made oral presentations on its proposal for a new steel aid code to replace the current one which expires on 31 December, developments in the EU competition policy during 1995; its communications on the competitiveness of the chemical industry and on the textile and clothing subcontracting sector. The latter was referred back to COREPER for further consideration.

Finally, under any other business, the Commission gave a brief report on last week's G7 information society conference in South Africa.

Post Office Security Equipment

Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what contributions were made by his Department for the provision of security equipment in local post offices in each of the last five years. [31138]

Mr. Oppenheim: The provision of security equipment in sub-post offices is a matter for Post Office Counters Ltd. and sub-postmasters.

Telecommunications (Liberalisation)

Mr. Nigel Evans: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what are the results of his consideration of responses to his consultation document on the liberalisation of international telecommunications services. [32167]

Mr. Ian Taylor: The Government will be inviting applications from today for further licences to provide international service from the UK, on the same terms enjoyed up to now by only BT and Mercury--that is, on telecommunication facilities owned and controlled by the company providing the service. These companies will be able to offer services on any route they choose.

This is another step in ensuring the continued competitiveness of the United Kingdom, both as a hub for telecommunications traffic worldwide, and as a place where the increasing number of companies for whom telecommunications play a major role in their business will choose to base their operations.

I believe that this further liberalisation will benefit users by bringing down international rates more quickly, and benefit the UK economy by attracting new investment, both by telecommunications operators and user companies, to the UK.

In parallel, we will be continuing to press for improved access for UK operators, both within the EU through strict application of new Community liberalisation rules, and in other countries through the World Trade Organisation.

I am also pleased to announce that the UK will, on 1 July, be lifting the "equivalency" rules which at present limit international simple resale services to certain routes. We will allow the provision of telecommunications services over leased line capacity on any route. I stress, however, that while we wish to open the UK market to full competition, we will ensure that such competition is fair.

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I believe that liberalisation in Europe and other major markets reduces this risk of abuse by overseas companies which enjoy a monopoly or are inadequately regulated in their home market. One-way bypass--where companies might continue to charge UK-based carriers above-cost accounting rates, while delivering their own traffic more cheaply here--is an example of such abuse. We will be taking steps to deter such behaviour in the licences we shall be issuing.

The licences will contain many of the provisions already in public telecommunications operator licences and in those for international simple resale. In particular, we will wish to give the Director-General of Telecommunications powers to prevent one-way bypass or discriminatory practices between affiliate companies.

Where there is no overseas competition, provisions will be applied immediately requiring "proportionate return" both for resale and international facilities-based traffic. This will avoid rapid traffic imbalances occurring as a result of one-way bypass. Operators on these routes will also have to charge the same accounting rates as each other.

However, on the six routes which have already been found equivalent, and for EU routes, these obligations will be only reserve powers, and will not be applied unless market developments dictate. As other routes become more competitive, we will waive these last two requirements for those routes.

The new licences will be public telecommunications operator licences, and we will undertake the usual public consultations, and address any further issues which arise in the course of these applications. I aim to be able to issue the first licences from July.

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