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PRIME MINISTER

Investors in People

Mr. Allen: To ask the Prime Minister which Departments (a) have already met the Investors in People standard and (b) are aiming to meet it. [6147]

The Prime Minister: All Departments are meeting, or aiming to meet, the Investors in People standard. The White Paper "Development and Training for Civil Servants: A Framework for Action", Command Paper 3321, issued in July 1996 announced the target that


As at 31 March this year, 58 Departments and agencies, or parts of them, had achieved the standard. These accounted for 12 per cent. of civil servants. This compared with 5 per cent. of the national work force employed in recognised organisations at that time. Figures for the position at the end of September will be available shortly.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Digital Television

Mr. Hendry: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how he intends to take forward the regulation of conditional access for digital television. [6884]

Mr. Ian Taylor: Regulations--1996/2185--were brought into effect on 23 August 1996 governing the licensing of proprietary conditional access technology to manufacturers of consumer equipment--that is, set-top boxes. These provide that licensing of conditional access technology must take place on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. They also prohibit anyone granting such a licence from discouraging the manufacturer from including, in the same equipment, another conditional access system or a common interface.

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I have today published, for a final round of consultation, our proposals covering the provision of conditional access services--that is, the services which allow broadcasters access to the set-top boxes, once they are available in the market. These near-final documents take account of comments we have received during representations on the previous drafts, published in June.

Given the extensive consultation already undertaken, comments are invited within two weeks. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House. The final draft of the regulations will then be made available to the House for consideration, together with the final text of the Telecommunications Act 1984 licence which will govern service provision.

The basic approach of these regulations is to ensure that all broadcasters can gain access on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, to any digital set-top boxes which can receive their signal. We have made provision for a range of powers to allow the director general of the Office of Telecommunications to move quickly to firm and effective enforcement action in the event of any anti-competitive behaviour which may significantly distort competition. We have also sought to retain incentives to invest early in the development of new services by making it clear that these powers will be triggered by anti-competitive behaviour. In this way, we aim to strike an appropriate balance in regulation, avoiding over-implementation of the underlying directive, and encouraging the early development of a competitive market in digital television services.

Small Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme

Mr. Gunnell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the cost of the small firms loan guarantee scheme schemes to the Exchequer in 1996-97; what it was in 1994-95 and 1995-96; and what he estimates it will be in 1997-98. [4815]

Mr. Page: Net expenditure in 1994-95 and 1995-96 was £16.2 million and £27.6 million respectively. The forecast net expenditure for 1996-97 is £39.8 million, and for 1997-98 planned net expenditure, based on the 1995 public expenditure survey, is £53.1 million.

Research Establishments

Mr. Ingram: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what contingency funding has been provided within the science budget to meet the full costs arising from the disposal of public sector research establishments within the current financial year and the next financial year. [4584]

Mr. Ian Taylor: The allocations of the science budget for 1996-97 did not include any specific contingency funds. The cost implications for PSREs are considered on a case-by-case basis of evaluation. My right. hon Friend the President of the Board of Trade expects to announce the allocation of the science budget for 1997-98 early next year.

Arms Exports

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he is taking to ensure that Government guidance on arms exports is up to date, and that industry is informed of changes immediately. [6000]

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Mr. Lang [holding answer 25 November 1996]: Guidance on the interpretation of arms embargoes and details of the destinations concerned is set out in "A Guide to Export Controls," published by the export control organisation of the Department of Trade and Industry, from which copies are available. The guide is currently being revised and a new edition will be published shortly. When there is a change in policy or in the legislation, every effort is made to notify those affected by, for example, the publication of notices to exporters in Lloyd's List and elsewhere.

Balance of Payments

Mr. Caborn: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list those industries in the United Kingdom which make a positive contribution to the balance of payments. [5604]

Mr. Greg Knight [holding answer 26 November 1996]: All industries which export make a positive contribution to the balance of payments.

Aerospace Research and Development

Mr. Caborn: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list for each of the past three years the amount spent on civil aerospace research and development in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) the United States of America, (c) France and (d) Germany. [5602]

Mr. Greg Knight [holding answer 26 November 1996]: It is not possible to provide the figures requested as data for total national expenditure in each country are not available.

SCOTLAND

Computers

Mr. Hoon: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many separate computer programmes his Department operates. [5350]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: There is no universal definition of what constitutes a computer programme. A formula or a simple line of executable code could be said to be a programme. The Department is at present responsible for 19 major software systems.

Business Rates

Mr. Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the cost of excluding from liability for business rates (a) the first £2,500 and (b) the first £5,000 of rateable value for business premises in Scotland; and if he will make a statement. [5135]

Mr. Kynoch: The loss to the non-domestic rating pool of excluding from liability for business rates the first £2,500 and first £5,000 of rateable value of business premises is estimated at £140 million and £240 million respectively. The Government have provided support of £137 million for businesses in Scotland since 1995-96, with special protection extended to small businesses, through the transitional arrangements which phase in the effects of the 1995 revaluation. This support will continue until 1999-2000.

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Additional support for small rural shops and post offices will be provided by the proposed village shops rate relief scheme proposed in the Local Government and Rating Bill, currently before the House.

Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Bill

Mr. Stewart: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the impact on the numbers of those employed in (a) the public sector and (b) the private sector if clause 45 of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Bill were implemented. [5494]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: It is anticipated that the Scottish Legal Aid Board will employ six solicitors and 14 administrative staff in the pilot planned under the proposals set out in clause 45.

It is not possible to guage the impact of the pilots on the private sector as the location, volume of business and method of allocating clients have still to be established.

Judicial Process

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what statistics the Government collect on the interval between a report being made to, or received by, the procurator fiscal and a court appearance for offences or groups of offences in Scotland. [6104]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: My noble and learned Friend the Lord Advocate informs me that the Crown Office collects information in summary proceedings on the average time between (1) receipt of a report and service of a complaint and (2) service of the complaint and the pleading diet. Between April and September 1996 the average time taken to serve a complaint was 5.1 weeks in the sheriff court and five weeks in the district court. Between April and October 1996 the average time between service of the complaint and the pleading diet was four weeks in both the sheriff and district courts.

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the maximum permissible time between a charge being made by the police, or a report being made to the procurator fiscal on the procedure for a court appearance being otherwise inactivated and the case reaching court for (a) murder, (b) assault, (c) class A drug trafficking, (d) burglary, (e) lesser drug offences and (f) other. [6105]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : There is no statutory time limit within which proceedings for common law offences such as murder, assault and theft by housebreaking must be taken. A plea in bar of trial may be sustained, however, where there has been undue delay which has caused grave prejudice to the accused. Section 136 of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 makes provision for the commencement of proceedings for statutory offences triable only summarily. Proceedings must be commenced within six months after the contravention occurred, unless the enactment fixes a different time limit. Summary proceedings for contraventions of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 must be commenced within 12 months from the time when the offence was committed--section 25(5).

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