Previous Section Index Home Page

Vibration White Finger

Mr. Ruane: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what is the timetable for the compensation payments awarded by the High Court to be paid to the former miners diagnosed with Vibration White Finger; and how many people (a) are eligible for payments, (b) are awaiting payments and (c) have received payment in full. [87984]

Mr. Battle [holding answer 24 June 1999]: The Department proposes to settle the bulk of compensation payments awarded by the High Court to former miners diagnosed with Vibration White Finger (VWF) as soon as practically possible, the majority being settled by March 2001.

We have awarded the contract for the delivery of the medical assessments to the SEMA Group and are hopeful that significant offers of full and final payments will start flowing in the late summer.

Benefit Payments

Mr. Rendel: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what percentage of benefit payments made to pensioners were paid by automated credit transfer in the most recent year for which figures are available; and if he will provide a comparable figure for the payment of benefits by automated credit transfer to non-pensioners. [88109]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 24 June 1999]: I have been asked to reply.

In the year ending 31 March 1999, 14.5 per cent. of all Retirement Pension and Widows Pension payments were made by automated credit transfer (ACT). The percentage of Retirement Pension and Widows Pension clients receiving payment by ACT as at 31 May 1999 was 43 per cent.

In the year ending 31 March 1999, 15 per cent. of all benefit payments made to clients in receipt of benefits other than Retirement Pension and Widows Pension were

30 Jun 1999 : Column: 168

paid by ACT. The percentage of clients receiving benefits other than Retirement Pension and Widows Pension by ACT as at 31 May 1999 was 28 per cent.

The reason for the difference between the percentage of payments made by ACT and the percentage of clients being paid by ACT is that, in general terms, clients who are paid by ACT receive payments less frequently than those clients paid by order book or girocheque.

Supermarkets (Local Production)

Mr. Wigley: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make it his policy to seek means of encouraging supermarket companies to facilitate the sale of goods produced within the vicinity of their outlets; and if he will make a statement. [87996]

Mr. Rooker: I have been asked to reply.

The sourcing of supplies in supermarkets is a matter for the commercial judgment of retailers rather than Government. "Food from Britain" are working with the multiple retailers to encourage level sourcing and several major supermarket chains are now showing more interest in regional products.


FCO Establishment (Morwenstow)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many (a) UK personnel and (b) US personnel are based at his Department's establishment at Morwenstow, Cornwall; and what is the rank of the most senior (i) UK officer and (ii) US officer. [88637]

Mr. Robin Cook [holding answer 29 June 1999]: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave on 22 June 1999, Official Report, column 360. It is Government policy not to provide details about the staffing and organisation of the intelligence services. This information is withheld under Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Panel 2000

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, pursuant to the answer of 14 June 1999, Official Report, column 31, if he will list the detailed steps (i) taken, (ii) under consideration and (iii) rejected on the recommendations from Panel 2000. [88601]

Mr. Hoon: All the recommendations in the Panel 2000 Consultation Document have been accepted following a broad welcome during the consultation process. At its meeting on 17 December the Panel gave priority to the recommendations on one stop shops, showcasing, a campaign in Germany in 2000, and the opportunities offered by Millennium activities to promote Britain abroad. Progress has been made in all of these areas as well as on implementation of other recommendations. We remain engaged with individual Panel members about further ways of enhancing how Britain is perceived. The full Panel will meet in the second half of this year to assess progress.

30 Jun 1999 : Column: 169



Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assistance her Department is offering to (a) the Yugoslav authorities and (b) the Kosovar refugees and returnees to provide post-trauma counselling to children affected by the war. [88609]

Mr. Foulkes: The UK will play its part in international efforts to meet real humanitarian needs within Serbia. But we expect to provide assistance through intermediaries such as the UN agencies and non-governmental organisations, rather than directly to the Yugoslav authorities.

We are supporting the provision of psycho-social assistance to Kosovar refugee children in neighbouring countries. Part of our contribution of £2.25 million to United Nations Children's Fund's (UNICEF) regional programme will support help for traumatised children. We are also funding training for care providers in Macedonia through the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

Through our Humanitarian Assistance Field Office in Pristina, we will continue to identify further areas of support in accordance with the needs of the returning refugees and the displaced people of Kosovo.


Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment is being made of the environmental effects of NATO's military action in Yugoslavia; and if she will place in the Library copies of the work done in this area by the United Nations Environment Programme. [88653]

Mr. Foulkes: A team of environmental experts from the UN-sponsored Balkans Task Force on the Environment and Human Settlement will carry out a full scale assessment of the environmental impact of the conflict on the region. They paid a preliminary visit to Serbia and Montenegro earlier this month.

Reports of work already done in this area are available on the internet at, as will that of the full-scale assessment mission when it is available. We will arrange to place a copy of the full-scale report in the Library of the House.


Planning Procedures

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what proposals he intends to bring forward to clarify planning procedures where the planning authority has a possible conflict of interest over a piece of land. [88176]

Mr. Raynsford: The procedures to be followed when a local authority has an interest in land for which a planning application is made are set out in the Town and Country Planning General Regulations 1992, with guidance contained in DOE Circular 19/92. The general principle

30 Jun 1999 : Column: 170

underlying these Regulations is that local authorities must make planning applications in the same way as any other person applying for planning permission. The proposals must be advertised in the usual manner. However, applications may not be determined by a committee or officer responsible for the management of the land or buildings concerned. If it is intended to approve such a proposal, and it is not in accordance with the provisions of the development plan in force in the area, the application must be notified to the Secretary of State so that he can decide whether it should be "called in" for his own determination. We have no evidence to suggest that the procedures are unclear.

Housing Associations

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what checks he makes on the administrative overheads of housing associations; [88178]

Mr. Raynsford: The Housing Corporation, sponsored by my Department, is responsible for regulating the activities of housing associations, now known as Registered Social Landlords (RSLs). RSLs are independent bodies, and members of their governing bodies serve in a voluntary capacity. The setting of salaries for chief executives and other senior executives is a matter for each RSL's board.

The Housing Corporation measures RSLs' performance annually against performance standards which cover their propriety, probity, financial management and accountability. It requires RSLs to publish in their annual report and accounts details of the remuneration of any executive earning more than £40,000 per annum. As part of its performance review process, the Corporation assesses RSLs' accounts and other financial information and publishes performance indicators for England's 371 largest RSLs. These include specific indicators on management and maintenance costs and on staffing costs.

The Corporation has also put in place a Best Value framework for RSLs which expects them to hold down and reduce their running costs (including salaries) whilst improving the quality of services provided to their residents.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what monitoring he undertakes where housing previously under the control of a local authority has been transferred to a housing association, with particular reference to (a) rent levels, (b) repairs, (c) new building and (d) specialist provision. [88180]

Mr. Raynsford: Where local authority housing has been transferred to a registered social landlord, the Housing Corporation is responsible for monitoring the performance of the new landlord.

Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what discussions his Department has had with housing associations about rent levels during the last year. [88181]

30 Jun 1999 : Column: 171

Mr. Raynsford: My Department has discussed rent levels with the National Housing Federation, the representative body for registered social landlords (RSLs), on several occasions. We also meet representatives of individual RSLs from time to time, when rents may be one of the issues under discussion.

Next Section Index Home Page