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17 May 1995 : Column WA37

Written Answers

Wednesday, 17th May 1995.

Hansard: Price Reduction

Lord Aberdare asked the leader of the House:

    Whether any change is proposed in the price of Hansard.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): Agreement has been reached with HMSO for a reduction in the price of the weekly Hansard from its present level of £9 to £5. This will enable purchasers to obtain Hansard at a price equivalent to £1.25 per sitting day, while for public libraries, which can take advantage of the government discount scheme provided for in Class XVIII, Vote 5 of the Supply Estimates, the price will be equivalent to 63p per sitting day. This price reduction will take effect when the House returns after the Whitsun Recess.

Discussions are continuing on a new, long-term agreement with HMSO for the printing and publication of the different categories of House documents. The price of the daily Hansard will be considered in the light of these discussions.

Local Authority Revenue Support Grant

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which metropolitan district received the highest rate support grant and which comparable metropolitan district received the lowest for 1995–96; what were the amounts; and how the difference was determined.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): The metropolitan district council which receives the greatest amount of revenue support grant in 1995–96 is the City of Birmingham (£531.204 million). The metropolitan borough of Bury receives the smallest amount of revenue support grant among the metropolitan district councils (£51.042 million).

The size of the authority accounts for a substantial part of the difference in these sums of revenue support grant: the resident population of Birmingham is 1,020,941 and the resident population of Bury is 181,821. Part of the difference is also due to differing numbers of clients for the main local authority services (eg. numbers of school pupils and numbers of the elderly). The remaining difference is largely due to differing social and economic circumstances.

The method for distributing Revenue Support Grant is described in the Local Government Finance Report (England) 1995–96 and, in greater detail, in the publication Standard Spending Assessment Handbook 1995–96, which has been placed in the Library.

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Construction Contracts

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in implementing the recommendations in Sir Michael Latham's report Constructing the Team on legislation for construction contracts.

Viscount Ullswater: We have today published a consultation document entitled Fair Construction Contracts containing proposals for taking forward the recommendations in Constructing the Team. These proposals are designed to help reduce the number of disputes in the industry and improve its performance.

Our paper contains proposals for rapid resolution of disputes, limitation of the right of set-off of debts, encouragement of prompt payment and protection against insolvency. It will be widely distributed and we expect both factual comment and informed views from all sectors of the construction industry.

Copies of the document have been placed in the Library of the House.

Industrial Tribunals: Reduction of Delays

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

    What steps they have taken to ensure that employment cases are decided within a reasonable time by industrial tribunals and by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, in accordance with Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lord Inglewood: Additional resources have been allocated to the industrial tribunals for extra chairmen, administrative staff and premises and for new technology. Legislative measures have been taken to help speed up the industrial tribunal system (such as increasing tribunals' powers to discourage cases with no reasonable chance of success). The Government are also currently considering responses to the Green Paper Resolving Employment Rights Disputes—Options for Reform, which included proposals for reducing delays at industrial tribunals.

Extra resources at the Employment Appeal Tribunal have reduced waiting times from 24 months in 1993 to 13 months at the end of 1994 and the Government aim to continue this progress.

Mr. Clive Froggatt: Views

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, when they took advice on the NHS reforms from Mr. Clive Froggatt, they were aware that he once held that "management and finances were much more important than the lot of the individual patient" (Sunday Times, 30th April).

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The Government took advice from a wide range of experts in the course of formulating and implementing their

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National Health Service reforms. Advice was sought from individuals because of their expertise in particular areas of healthcare. Seeking advice from particular individuals does not imply endorsement or otherwise of all the views they might hold in relation to the matters they have been asked to advise on. The title of the White Paper which introduced the NHS reforms—Working for Patients—and all the subsequent initiatives such as the Patient's Charter and reduced waiting lists, amply demonstrate that this Government put patients at the centre of their efforts to sustain and develop the health service.

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Legal Aid Reform Proposals

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish their Green Paper proposing reforms to the legal aid system in England and Wales.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): I have today published my Green Paper: Legal Aid—Targeting Need, The Future of Publicly Funded Help in Solving Legal Problems and Disputes in England and Wales. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library of the House.

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