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Single Claimants

Mr. Davidson: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans she has to review the regulations restricting the eligibility of single claimants other than young people to accommodation costs; and if she will make a statement. [4205]

18 Jun 1997 : Column: 216

Ms Harman: I gave a commitment before the last election that I would review the regulations which extend the single room rent to people aged 25 or over. These limit housing benefit to the average market rent for a single non-self contained room.

I have considered carefully the view of the Social Security Advisory Committee that without a thorough review of the effect of the existing single room rent rules--which were only introduced in October 1996--the Government should not extend them. I have also taken account of representations from hon. Members, the Local Authority Associations and others.

In order to avoid local authorities incurring unnecessary costs, I can announce today that I propose to revoke the extension of single room rent to those aged 25 or over.

In line with the manifesto commitment, the cost of this change will be met in full by other measures from within the Department's programme. A further announcement will be made at the time of the Budget.


Water Jets (Sheep's Eyes)

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the findings of the Porton Down research programme into the effect of high pressure water jets on sheep's eyes. [2785]

Mr. Spellar: This is a matter for the Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency. I have asked the Chief Executive to write to the hon. Member. Letter from John Chisholm to Mrs. Ann Clwyd, dated 18 June 1997:

I am replying to your Question to the Secretary of State for Defence about the findings of the Porton Down research programme into the effect of high pressure water jets on sheep's eyes as this matter falls within my area of responsibility as Chief Executive of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.


Mr. McAllion: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what will be the cost to his Department of ordering Trident missiles from the United States of America in US Fiscal Years 1998 and 1999. [3339]

Mr. Spellar: Final decisions have yet to be taken on further UK orders for Trident missiles. For an indication of missile costs, I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) on 11 June 1997, Official Report, columns 486-87.

18 Jun 1997 : Column: 217

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans his Department has to order Trident missiles from the United States of America in US Fiscal years 1998 and 1999. [3340]

Mr. Spellar: The present planning assumption is that the UK will order 7 missiles in each of US Fiscal years 1998 and 1999. This assumption will be tested during the Strategic Defence Review before final decisions are made.

Caerwent Military Base

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) if he will make a statement about contamination at the Caerwent military base; [3574]

Mr. Spellar: No decisions have yet been taken on the future of the RAF Caerwent site. Consideration of the way forward will include an assessment of the contamination of the site and take into account the wishes of the local community. The site contains some residual contamination resulting from its former use as a propellant factory and ammunition depot and some buildings contain asbestos. A land quality assessment is currently being conducted.

My Department has received numerous representations regarding the future use of the RAF Caerwent site; notably from the previous hon. Member for Monmouth and the Monmouthshire county council as well as from local interest groups, land owners and private companies.

COPEX Exhibition, Farnborough

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will identify by name, rank and unit, such Indonesian (a) military, (b) security, (c) police, (d) paramilitary and (e) special forces personnel invited by the British Government or private companies to attend the forthcoming COPEX Exhibition at Farnborough in September 1997. [3590]

Mr. Spellar: The Society of British Aerospace Companies (SBAC) have a licence from the Ministry of Defence to put on exhibitions at Farnborough Airfield. The Ministry of Defence is playing no part in organising the COPEX Exhibition, or in issuing invitations to the Exhibition. The Ministry of Defence has sought and received assurances from the organiser of COPEX that nothing will be allowed at the Exhibition which runs counter to the Government's policy regarding the sale of military or dual-use equipment to countries under a United Nations or European Union embargo or restriction. COPEX has confirmed that it upholds all national, local and international laws and conventions regarding these matters and that any exhibitor that is found to be acting in contravention of these laws would be reported to the relevant authorities.

Portsmouth Naval Base

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to visit Portsmouth dockyard; and if he will invite local hon. Members to accompany him on future visits. [3283]

18 Jun 1997 : Column: 218

Dr. John Reid: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State currently has no plans to visit Portsmouth Naval Base.

British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list for each of the last five years the sums the Government have paid to (a) British Aerospace and (b) Rolls-Royce for defence products. [2183]

Mr. Spellar: Sums paid to British Aerospace and Rolls-Royce for each of the last 5 years by the Defence Bills Agency on behalf of the Secretary of State for Defence are shown in the following table. These figures do not include any sums which may have been paid locally including by those Defence Agencies for which figures are shown separately.

British AerospaceRolls Royce
£ million£ million

These figures were the amounts paid in the years in question and include VAT, and were obtained from the annual Expenditure With Industry Report produced by Defence Bills Agency.

British AerospaceRolls Royce
£ million£ million

Total sums for goods and services.

British AerospaceRolls Royce
Hydrographic office

For provision of consultancy support.


Fishing Vessels

Mr. Savidge: To ask the Minster of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what measures the Government intends to introduce to ensure that United Kingdom-registered fishing vessels comply with the law; and if he will make a statement. [4296]

Dr. John Cunningham: The Government propose to take a range of initiatives designed to ensure that all fishing vessels in the UK abide by the rules.

18 Jun 1997 : Column: 219

The Fisheries Departments will continue to give priority to fair and effective enforcement. In 1997-98 some £24 million will be spent on enforcement, including surface and aerial surveillance. We are determined to bear down on those who disregard the law. If fish stocks are to be conserved fisheries regulations must be respected.

We have considered whether the existing conditions of fishing licences need to be strengthened to assist enforcement. A matter of particular concern is the practice of allegedly discarding, after inspection at sea but prior to landing, marketable fish which have been sorted, stowed on board and recorded in EC logbooks. This practice appears to be used to evade the proper operation of quotas and is inconsistent with the conservation of fish stocks. Subject to consultation with the Commission and our fishing industry, we propose to introduce as soon as possible a new licence condition which addresses this problem.

The Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen has powers to terminate a fishing vessel's registration if, taking into account any requirement of merchant shipping legislation relevant to its safety or that of its crew, he considers that it would be inappropriate for the vessel to remain registered. In the interests of safety, it is proposed that the Registrar General will serve notice of the intention to terminate the registration of any fishing vessel which fails to hold a valid safety certificate.

In addition, we shall be making arrangements for British Sea Fishery Officers to assist the Department of Transport by detaining in port fishing vessels which do not have valid fishing vessel safety certificates, as well as checking that fishing vessels are manned by crew holding the appropriate certificates, including UK Certificates of Equivalent Competency (CECs) in the case of foreign qualified crew.

Finally, the Department of Transport and Fisheries Departments have reviewed the requirements for masters and officers of larger fishing vessels to be competent in the use of English. It has been concluded that these provisions are adequate. Certificates of competency, including CECs, already require a sound knowledge of English. The more rigorous checking of officers' certificates will help to ensure that these requirements are properly complied within the interests of safety.

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