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12 Jul 1996 : Column: 319

Written Answers to Questions

Friday 12 July 1996

TRANSPORT

West Coast Main Line

Mrs. Dunwoody: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the west coast main line will qualify for inclusion in the trans-European network high speed rail links. [36827]

Mr. Watts: The west coast main line is included on the current trans European network high speed rail map. The United Kingdom secured nearly £7 million of EU funding in support of the WCML modernisation in 1995 and we are confident of further sums during 1996 and beyond.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Scott Inquiry

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what was the total cost of the Scott inquiry. [36042]

Mr. Freeman: The total cost so far to public funds of Sir Richard Scott's inquiry is assessed as £6,945,000.

This figure includes the direct salary, legal and other estimated costs of the inquiry itself; the direct salary cost of officials wholly employed on matters relating to the inquiry--but not the cost of officials who have worked on inquiry-related matters from time to time as part of their normal duties, which is unquantifiable; the cost of providing external legal services for witnesses to the inquiry, and the value of legal services charged by the Treasury Solicitor's Department. Some legal advice has been provided by Government lawyers as part of their normal duties, which is also unquantifiable and therefore not included.

Some officials continue to work on inquiry-related matters, for example in taking forward the Government's response to Sir Richard Scott's recommendations. However, since this work is generally carried out as part of officials' other duties it is unlikely that there will be a significant increase in the costs set out.

Civil Servants (Improper Conduct)

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many allegations made by civil servants of improper conduct by Ministers are currently under investigation by the first civil service commissioner; and if he will make a statement on the nature of the allegations. [37132]

Mr. Freeman: The civil service commissioners' annual report for 1995-96 published on 4 June, stated that one appeal to them under the civil service code was currently under investigation; one case had been the

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subject of internal departmental investigation and the commissioners had not yet received an appeal; and one further case was still the subject of internal departmental procedures. I understand from the first commissioner that none of these cases involved allegations of improper conduct by Ministers and that no further approaches have been made to the commissioners since their report was published. The commissioners will report in general terms on the number, nature and outcome of all appeals made to them in their next report.

Occupational Health and Safety Agency

Mr. Patrick Thompson: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make an announcement on the progress of the sale of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency. [37549]

Mr. Freeman: The House was informed on 23 November 1995 that it was the Government's intention to sell the Occupational Health and Safety Agency. I announced the shortlist of four companies to the House on 26 June. It is the Government's intention to identify a preferred bidder by the end of July and to complete the sale as soon as possible thereafter.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Industrial Electricity and Gas Prices

Mr. Alan W. Williams: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what has been the change in real terms since privatisation in industrial electricity and industrial gas prices; and what estimate the DTI energy model has provided about the effect of these changes on consumption levels. [36815]

Mr. Eggar: Between privatisation--in the second quarter of 1990--and the first quarter of 1996 industrial electricity prices have fallen by 10.5 per cent. in real terms. Industrial gas prices fell by 55 per cent. in real terms between privatisation--in the fourth quarter of 1986--and the first quarter of 1996.

The DTI energy model estimates that in the short run, industrial energy demand is relatively unresponsive to changes in energy prices. In the longer term, for every 10 per cent. fall in energy prices, total energy demand is estimated to rise by around 4 per cent.

However, the price responsiveness of energy demand varies significantly across industrial sectors and types of fuel. For example, industrial electricity demand is estimated to be more price responsive than industrial gas demand.

Energy prices are just one of the many influences on energy demand and recent changes in demand for electricity and, particularly, gas will be affected by developments in technology and availability of supplies as well as prices.

Transhipment Licences

Mr. Tony Lloyd: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the British Government's policy on the issuing of transhipment licences relating to trade between two other countries for products supplied by British companies. [36485]

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Mr. Oppenheim [holding answer 10 July 1996]: A transhipment licence is used where controlled products enter the United Kingdom solely for transit to another country. Individual transhipment licences are no longer required for many such goods except to the most sensitive destinations and for certain military, security and paramilitary police equipment. Most transhipments, for both industrial and other military goods, are allowed under the terms of the open general transhipment licence.

Where applications for individual transhipment licences are required, they are considered against the same strict criteria as applications for other export licences.

In accordance with arrangements introduced on 10 November 1994, goods that remain on board a plane or ship or those on "through airway bills" or "through bills of lading" are not controlled provided that they leave the UK within 30 days of arrival, that the final destination has been decided before the goods left the country of original export and are not re-directed on their way through the UK. Additionally, the goods must have been exported in accordance with the original country's export laws.

WALES

Welsh Development Agency

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what discussions he has had with (a) the chairman of the Welsh Development Agency and (b) other bodies regarding amending his Department's guidelines for the work of the Welsh Development Agency in respect of inward investment; and if he will make a statement. [36597]

Mr. Hague: With the approval of the Treasury, my Department issued guidelines to the Welsh Development Agency for its inward investment activities in March 1995. An amendment to those guidelines, covering United Kingdom relocations, was agreed and issued in June 1995 and a copy placed in the Library of the House.

The guidelines are currently being reviewed with the agency. Should it be necessary to make further amendments, or issue revised guidelines, a copy will be placed in the Library of the House.

Planning Policy

Mr. Hain: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will give a timetable for the production of all technical advice notes to accompany "Planning Guidance (Wales) Planning Policy", published in May. [36550]

Mr. Gwilym Jones: The first group of technical advice notes was issued for public consultation on 25 June. The intention is that final versions of these will be published before the end of the year. The remaining notes are scheduled for public consultation in October with the intention of publishing them in final form by March 1997.

Mr. Hain: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what plans he has for mineral planning guidance in Wales. [36551]

Mr. Jones: My right hon. Friend is reviewing minerals planning guidance in Wales. Consultation on the draft guidance which results will take place later this year.

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Epilepsy Association

Mr. Watson: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what financial support he currently provides to the Epilepsy Association in Wales. [36859]

Mr. Gwilym Jones: None.

South and East Wales Ambulance Trust

Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what consultations he has had with the chairman of the South and East Wales ambulance trust concerning (a) the maximum expenditure allowed on capital projects without specific authorisations from his Department, (b) the cost of the new headquarters of the trust at Mamhilad, Pontypool and (c) the efficacy of the radio control system ordered for the trust. [37149]

Mr. Hague: None. All capital projects are subject to established planning and approval processes.

NHS Trusts (Car Leasing)

Mr. Morgan: To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will set out the minimum term of car leasing contracts in NHS trusts and health authorities under executive car leasing schemes approved by his Department; what consultations he has had with the chairman of the Gwent health authority concerning the annual renewal of the chief executive's car leasing contract; and if he will make a statement. [37133]

Mr. Hague: The provision of leased cars is governed by section 24 of the NHS General Whitely Council agreement for staff employed by health authorities and NHS trusts on national terms and conditions of service. I am placing a copy of section 24 in the Library. NHS trusts can determine their own leasing arrangements for staff employed on trust terms and conditions of service and they need to be satisfied about the propriety of expenditure on them. My Department does not approve individual schemes and I have had no consultations with the chairman of Gwent health authority.


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