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19 Jul 1995 : Column WA21

Written Answers

Wednesday, 19th July 1995.

Commonwealth Development Corporation

Viscount Davidson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What follow-up there has been to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the efficiency and costs of and the service provided by the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC).

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The Government's first response to the report on the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) by the MMC was reported to the House on 25 March 1993 (Hansard, cols. WA22-23). I have today placed in the Library of the House a further and final response by the Government and the CDC. This reports on progress in implementation of MMC recommendations and updates earlier responses to these taking account of the outcome of the quinquennial review of CDC as reported to Parliament on 3 May 1994 and the corporation's own reviews of strategy and management, and the passage of the CDC Act 1995.

Natural Resources Institute: Performance Targets

Viscount Davidson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What performance targets they have set in the 1995–96 financial year for the Overseas Development Administration's executive agency, the Natural Resource Institute.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: This is a transitional year for the institute, during which it will be undertaking a major restructuring exercise. It will be working during this period to the following principal targets.

Restructuring. To implement, by the end of the 1995–96 financial year, an agreed programme of restructuring measures identified in the light of a recently-completed study of the institute's future business prospects. Specifically:

(a) to reorganise the institute's management commands;

(b) to manage a voluntary severance programme aimed at reducing staff numbers to an indicative level of 360; and

(c) to formulate an accommodation strategy for the smaller institute.

Unit revenue. While implementing this programme, to maintain an average revenue of £67,750 per operational year of time charged to clients for a minimum of 260 operational years.

External business. To increase the number of operational years of work for non-ODA clients, and the value of retained income from this source, by 10 per cent.

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Rough Sleepers Initiative

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are planning any further capital funding for the Rough Sleepers Initiative.

Lord Lucas: The Housing White Paper (Our Future Homes, Cm 2901) confirms that the Government will continue the Rough Sleepers Initiative in central London beyond March 1996, when it had been due to end. When all the flats being funded under the second phase of the initiative are occupied, the Government will review the need for further capital funding to provide move-on accommodation.

Sheep Dipping: Protective Clothing

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of the studies conducted by Lloyd in 1976 and 1979 which demonstrated that PVA and PVC are not totally impervious, that they may offer protection against liquid chemicals for short periods only and that decreased work performance and thermoregulatory failure could result from the undertaking of physical activities when protective clothing made from these products is worn; and, if they were so aware, why they have continued to recommend clothing made from PVA or PVC for use when dipping sheep.

Lord Lucas: The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has long been aware of the limitations of protective clothing and has published guidance on the relative performance of different materials against various types of chemicals.

The Government's free guidance booklet on sheep dipping makes clear that use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is only one of a number of measures to prevent or control exposure to sheep dip. The guidance recommends the PVC or nitrile rubber (but not PVA) PPE. Together with the other measures, this gives adequate protection. The guidance also sets out how to use PPE properly, and includes several measures which will minimise stress to both sheep and dippers. It also points to the need to avoid dipping sheep in hot weather.

Rent Guarantees for Homeless People

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide further details of the rent guarantees for those who cannot raise a deposit mentioned on page 37 of Our Future Homes (Cm 2901).

Lord Lucas: Independent research commissioned by the Department of the Environment to evaluate the 1991 Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities has found that at December 1993 at least 97 local authorities were operating either a rent guarantee scheme or a rent deposit scheme. No details of the schemes are held centrally. The department hopes to publish the research towards the end of the year.

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Private Bills

Viscount Hanworth asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Whether he considers that separate hearings in each House of Parliament for private Bills is a justified expense; and if not, whether he will seek gradually to change the procedure so that, without barrister's interests being unduly harmed, better value for money is achieved.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): I have nothing to add to the reply which my predecessor gave to the noble Lord on 13 May 1992; namely, that there are arguments for and against joint committees and that these are examined in paragraphs 133–142 of the report of the Joint Committee on Private Bill Procedure, H.L. Paper 97, Session 1987–88. In the absence of general agreement, it would not be right to change the existing practice, although there might from time to time be opportunities for joint committees on particular Bills.

Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will expand on the Answer by Lord Henley on 30th March (HL Deb., WA 54) that "no significant arguments" have emerged against the proposed removal of the Royal Naval College from Greenwich when the long-term interests of the taxpayer, as opposed to the Defence budget, appear not to have been fully examined and before the future of these Grade 1 listed buildings has been satisfactorily determined.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): Although our main priority must be to consider the implications for the Defence Budget, we also had in mind wider issues of interest to the taxpayer. Other government departments with an interest in the matter, especially the Department of National Heritage, were closely involved in the decision. We also invited comments widely in a public consultation process which began on 18 January and ended on 10 March.

I am satisfied that there are no factors that we have not considered which are likely to cause us to reconsider the decision we have announced. Certainly, no such factors were drawn to the attention of my honourable friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces during the consultation period following the announcement of our proposals in another place on 8 December last year.

Joint Service Command and Staff College

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, further to the Answer of Lord Henley on 30th March (HL Deb., WA54) on location of the proposed Joint Service Command and Staff College, the costings referred to therein include the removal of the nuclear reactor currently installed in the college; and if not, why not.

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Earl Howe: The low power training reactor at the Royal Naval College Greenwich supports the naval Department of Nuclear Science and Technology. This organisation is not part of the staff colleges at Greenwich and therefore is not related to the decision to locate the Joint Service Command and Staff College at Camberley.

In reaching our conclusion on the best site for the Joint Service Command and Staff College, however, we were conscious of the potential costs of disposing of the reactor, if separate work in hand at present recommends this. We are confident that these would not affect our conclusion on the staff college.

Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment: Responsibilities

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the matters for which Mr. Eric Forth, MP, Minister of State at the Department for Education and Employment, now has ministerial responsibility.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): The Minister of State Eric Forth is responsible for the Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA); employment policy and benefit issues; labour market statistics; higher education (HE), including content and quality, structure and funding, building programmes, and Higher Education Funding Council matters; the Private Finance Initiative in higher education; student support, overseas students, and other student issues; European Union and international issues and the Careers service/education.

Those areas of work which were previously the responsibility of the former Department of Employment are shown in bold type.

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