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Sub-strategic Nuclear Capability

Lord Cochrane of Cults asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Henley: In 1993, we announced that in the longer term we would use the flexibility of the Trident system to undertake the sub strategic as well as the strategic nuclear role. I am pleased to say that the arrangements for this are progressing well. The Trident system will provide a continuously available sub-strategic capability when the second submarine—HMS "Victorious"—joins the patrol cycle around the end of this year, and the capability will be fully robust when HMS "Vigilant" enters service in 1998. In the light of this we have decided that the WE177 free-fall bomb should be withdrawn from service by the end of 1998.

Civil Service and Armed Forces: Relaxation of Entry Requirements

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): The review on the civilian side of the Ministry of Defence has been completed and from 1 April 1995 the nationality of the applicant's parents ceased to be a factor in the recruitment criteria for all but a few posts where national security considerations prevail. In the light of this the department will now consider whether a similar change should be made to the entry requirements for the Armed Forces.

The Cabinet Office review is progressing and is expected to be completed within three months.

Guernsey: Rejection of Proposed Law

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the implications of the recent refusal of the Chief Pleas of the Island of Sark to approve a projet de loi entitled The Economic Area (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): We are in touch with the authorities in Sark and Her Majesty's Attorney General for the Bailiwick of Guernsey about providing the Chief Pleas with further information about the projet de loi entitled the European Economic Area (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law, so that the Chief Pleas may reconsider it.

Jersey: Deportation Power

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the effect of Protocol 3 of the United Kingdom's Act of Accession to the European Communities upon the power of the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey to deport criminals from the island.

Baroness Blatch: The effect of Protocol 3 to the United Kingdom Act of Accession on the power of the Lieutenant Governor of Jersey in respect of deportation, which has not hitherto been the subject of a judicial decision, is currently before the Jersey Court. It would not be proper for the Government to comment further, pending the determination of those proceedings.

Professional Footballers: Bribery Allegations

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many cases of bribery involving professional footballers have been brought to the attention of the Attorney General since 9 May 1963; and whether the Football Association and the Football League have been consulted about such cases and, if so, with what result.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The information required could only be obtained by examining every case file relating to bribery or

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corruption allegations held in the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers dating back to 1963. Many of these will have been routinely destroyed but the exercise would in any case involve disproportionate expense. However, no serving official in the Legal Secretariat to the Law Officers can recall such a case involving a professional footballer.

Barristers: Legal Aid Fees

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their estimate of the number of barristers earning more than £300,000 annually from criminal legal aid; and what is their estimate of the number of barristers earning more than £300,000 annually from civil legal aid.

The Lord Chancellor: No barrister received payments totalling £300,000 or more from criminal legal aid in 1993–94, being the latest year for which figures are available. For civil legal aid, information is available only in respect of total payments made to barristers, and these will include VAT and travelling expenses in addition to counsel's fees. It is estimated that two barristers received payments of more than £300,000 in 1993–94.

The Local Plan Process

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to respond to the consultation paper entitled Improving the Local Plan Process, published in March 1994.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): The local plan process needs to operate more responsively and efficiently. There must be sound, up-to-date plans in place, capable of speedy review, if the plan-led system is to work well. The Government's aim is—

    (1) In the short term, to give more impetus to current plan preparation, in order to achieve the maximum practicable area-wide local plan coverage by the end of 1996; and

    (2) in the longer term, to speed up the entire process, so that local authorities are not discouraged from reviewing and updating existing plans because it is too time-consuming and costly.

The consultation paper prompted over 300 responses, which we have carefully considered.

We are already implementing the straightforward proposals, such as those concerned with the better management of the process, in liaison with the local authority associations and the Planning Inspectorate Agency. The inspectorate is taking forward a number of initiatives, such as shorter inspectors' reports, the use of assistant inspectors and the development of advisory services.

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In addition, we propose to introduce shortly—

    (1) revised planning policy guidance, providing for local planning authorities to carry out more effective consultation on their plans at the pre-deposit stage; and

    (2) substantial revision of the department's published code of practice on local plan inquiries, with the aim of helping planning authorities to manage the entire plan-making process more effectively and economically.

Fire Safety Legislation: Evaluation of Proposed Changes

Lord Howie of Troon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advantage in terms of cost benefits are likely to accrue from the transfer of the fire safety role of the fire authorities to determine fire safety standards in new, altered and extended buildings to building control authorities, as recommended by the Interdepartmental Review on Fire Safety Legislation and Enforcement, bearing in mind the need to recruit and train building control officers for such a task; and

    How the additional costs to UK business and local authorities of transferring the role of the fire authorities in determining fire safety standards in new, altered or extended buildings to the building control authorities, as recommended by the Interdepartmental Review of Fire Safety Legislation and Enforcement, will be determined and funded.

Viscount Ullswater: In considering the way forward on the review of fire safety legislation and enforcement, the Government recognise the need for the costs and benefits of any possible changes to be properly assessed. The Government hope to come to decisions on the report in the coming weeks, taking account of comments received during the consultation process.

Water Charges after 2000

Lord Stewartby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will comment on the basis of charging for water in England and Wales after March 2000, when the use of rateable value will no longer be possible.

Viscount Ullswater: It is for water companies to decide the basis on which they should calculate the bills of individual customers, though the Director General of Water Services has powers to prevent preferential and discriminatory charging of individuals and classes of customer. Companies may not however use rateable values after 31 March 2000, and there are limitations on access to information about the council tax banding of individual properties.

The Government believe that metering is in the long term the best basis for paying for water in many circumstances. It is fair and equitable, in that it relates charges directly to the amount of water used. It gives

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customers some control over their bills. Payment by amount used encourages customers to use only water they need and in dry areas it is important that we should develop patterns of water use that are sustainable in the longer term. The Government therefore believe that companies should extend the availability of meters as far as is reasonable. Compulsory transfer to meters for existing domestic customers in existing premises should not generally be necessary.

For practical reasons, wide extension of the use of meters will take considerable time to achieve. Meanwhile, companies will need an alternative basis of charging for many properties. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales have considered the representations they have received from the water industry that information about council valuation bands would be a suitable basis for charging for water. My right honourable friends have looked carefully at the evidence which has been put forward. They have concluded that a change to a system based on council tax banding would not be satisfactory. Such a charging system would not necessarily be more equitable than any other unmeasured basis and its introduction would give rise to widespread and arbitrary changes in bills, including the possibility of substantial increases in charges for many of those least able to pay. Further changes would also have to follow as customers moved to charging by metered consumption. My right honourable friends do not therefore intend to allow access to this information.

Companies will however need an alternative to metering as the basis of charging after 31 March 2000. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales have therefore decided that the best course would be to allow the use of rateable values after that date. The necessary changes to the legislation will be made in due course.

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