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European Commissioners: Pensions and Benefits

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Simon of Highbury: The arrangements for the remuneration of Commissioners, including their pensions, are laid down in EC Regulations, and are therefore already publicly available in that form. Broadly, and subject to the specific provisions of the regulations, the position is as follows.

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(a) Commissioners qualify for pensions at age 65 at the rate of 4.5 per cent. of salary for each year of service, up to a maximum of 70 per cent. In addition, Commissioners who cease to hold office before age 65 may be eligible for a transitional allowance of between 40 and 65 per cent. of salary, depending on their length of service, payable for up to three years. (b) Benefits are paid from the budget. (c) There may be some enhancement of benefits, under weighting arrangements to maintain equivalent purchasing power with Belgium, if the recipient lives in a different country where the weighting is positive. Similarly, benefits would be reduced if the weighting were negative. These arrangements apply generally, not just to retiring Presidents.

Loan Guarantee Contract Terms

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider it reasonable that, where a limited company remains solvent only by virtue of guarantees given by third parties to its bankers, those bankers should (in the event of the company then going into receivership) have a claim on the assets of the company to satisfy their debt without first deducting from their debt the amount which they could receive by claiming against the guarantors to the limit of the guarantees.

Lord Simon of Highbury: The terms of any contract between a bank and a company which borrows from it and any guarantee entered into by a third party to guarantee that lending are entirely a matter for the respective parties to agree before entering into them. In the event of a default by the borrower, the terms of the contract to lend and guarantee to support that borrowing will determine the rights and obligations of the parties involved.

Jubilee Line Extension: Canary Wharf Contribution

Lord Sefton of Garston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the developers of Canary Wharf were required by the previous Government to provide £400 million towards the cost of the Jubilee Line Extension before its construction was begun; and, if so, why this requirement was not insisted upon.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment and Transport (Baroness Hayman): The first payment of £100 million by the Canary Wharf developers was made in 1993. The

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remaining £300 million is to be paid over a 24-year period starting one year after the first day of operation of the Jubilee Line Extension. The JLE funding agreement did not require the Canary Wharf developers to make their contribution before construction started.

Vehicle Statistics

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many vehicles there are on United Kingdom roads today, what percentage of these are motor cars and how many of these are company cars.

Baroness Hayman: The most recent figures are for the end of 1996, when a total of 26.9 million vehicles were licensed for use in the United Kingdom. Of these vehicles, nearly 85 per cent., or 22.8 million, were motor cars, including an estimated 2.3 million which were company owned.

Schools, etc: Wiring to Information Superhighway

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect British Telecom and the cable companies to have fulfilled their promise to "wire up schools, libraries, colleges and hospitals to the information superhighway free of charge" (to quote from the Labour Party manifesto); whether this promise will allow those being connected to choose the data capacity of the link without restraint; and how they intend to judge whether access charges are "as low as possible".

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): The Government are developing plans to implement a National Grid for Learning. As part of these plans, they are in discussion with BT as to how it may best fulfil its commitment to wire up schools, libraries, colleges and hospitals to the information superhighway. BT has bought forward its first proposals to Oftel, who will be undertaking the necessary consultation as quickly as possible. The cable companies already cable up all schools passed by their networks, free of charge. They also offer schools a competitive flat monthly fee for unlimited Internet access. ISDN or equivalent high-speed 64k connection is available for as little as £1 per pupil per year, and this can be upgraded to cable modem connection--allowing true broadband capacity when the technology becomes available in the next few months. An estimated 17,000 schools will be able to benefit from this service by the turn of the century, when build in current cable franchise areas is complete. A thousand schools have already been cabled.

Oftel will continue to work in consultation with the Government and the industry to ensure that access charges remain as low as possible.

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