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Written Answers

Monday, 10th November 1997.


Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many mentally and physically disabled people are left on Montserrat and what plans are in place to move them.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): There are approximately 300 persons on Montserrat with physical or mental disabilities.

Her Majesty's Government does not wish to remove people from Montserrat by force. On medical advice, approximately 20 people with special needs have been evacuated since August, and a specially chartered aircraft with 33 others will arrive in the United Kingdom on 7 November. In addition, we are contributing towards new facilities for the elderly and infirm on the island and improving the psychiatric care available.

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many children and babies are exposed to ash on the north of Montserrat.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There are approximately 1,000 children under the age of 15 on Montserrat.

Sir Kenneth Calman, Chief Medical Officer, noted in his recent report that there was no risk in the north of silicosis from past exposure. Ash levels are affected by rainfall, the level of volcanic activity and wind direction. Falls in the north have been increased since the beginning of August due to explosive activity.

Her Majesty's Government have provided new ash-level monitoring equipment. The information obtained from it is made public on Montserrat, and monitored by air quality experts in the UK.

Bosnia: US Train and Equip Programme

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are content that the Bosniaks are now receiving new weaponry from the United States under the multi-million dollar United States Equip- and-Train program; and what are the implications for the United Nations force in Bosnia (S-FOR).

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United States and other sponsors accept that equipment given under the Train and Equip Programme must be consistent with the agreements on transparency and arms control negotiated under Articles II and IV of Annex 1B of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have underlined

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the importance of avoiding regional arms build-up and of not compromising SFOR's perceived impartiality or safety of SFOR troops.

Pocklington Canal

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Pocklington Canal Management Declaration dated 20 September 1995 and signed by English Nature and British Waterways will continue to underpin the future management of the Pocklington Canal.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): Yes. The declaration identifies the objectives of the various interested parties. British Waterways, as navigation authority, is working hard to balance those interests by agreeing a comprehensive management plan with those that have an interest in the canal.

PLA Pilotage Direction No. 5

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are concerned, following the recent incident involving the "Sand Kite" at the Thames Barrier on Monday, 27 October, where an experienced English speaking crew were present, that the Port of London Authority proposals for Pilotage Direction No. 5 will increase the likelihood of incidents elsewhere in the district by allowing poorly trained, inexperienced crews with little spoken English to navigate without a pilot; and

    Whether they will delay a decision on ratification of the Port of London Authority's proposals on Pilotage Direction No. 5 until after the review of the Pilotage Act 1987, as it could be seen that items in the proposals are relevant to the review; and

    Whether they are aware of the increased risk that the proposed Pilotage Direction No. 5 of the Port of London Authority will place upon the safety and environment of the Thames estuary, particularly in light of the recent incident at the Thames Barrier involving the "Sand Kite".

Baroness Hayman: The Pilotage Act 1987 does not require directions proposed to be made by the Port of London Authority to be ratified by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions. It is for the authority to decide when the directions should come into force. The accident involving the "Sand Kite" is being investigated by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch. The authority will no doubt consider whether it has any implications for the Pilotage Directions. I understand that this vessel is already subject to compulsory pilotage while in the authority's jurisdiction, and would continue to be if the new directions are made, and that its master and first mate

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have held exemption certificates from the authority for some years.

The review of the 1987 Act by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions is at a general policy level, and it is not intended to include case by case examination of pilotage directions.

Mine Closure Areas: Economic Support

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the cost of support over the last 10 years for the transformation of the environment and the promotion of economic recovery in those areas seriously affected by colliery closures and what was the average part of the total sum relating to each of the closed collieries.

Baroness Hayman: The information is not available in the form requested.

Colliery closure areas have benefited from funding from many government and EU regeneration programmes. In particular, the Urban Programme, City Challenge and the Single Regeneration Budget Challenge fund have made significant contributions to those areas seriously affected by colliery closures.

Funding targeted particularly at former coalfield areas includes £120 million from the EU RECHAR programme, and the previous administration's £200 million package of training, employment and regeneration measures aimed at alleviating the effects of the closures announced in 1992. These projects are expected to generate substantial private sector investment.

In 1996, English Partnerships, the Government's regeneration agency, took over 56 former British Coal sites and has announced a 10 year plan of area-wide regeneration, environmental improvement and long-term job creation. It is expected that this will generate over £1 billion of private finance.

The Deputy Prime Minister has recently set up a Coalfields Task Force to take forward his initiative to help former mining communities in England hit by pit closures. The purpose of the task force is to identify and develop a specific programme of action to assist coal

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closure areas by pooling the expertise of government departments and other partners in regeneration.

Mine Safety

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will review the effect of the changes in the regulations relating to safety in mines.

Baroness Hayman: The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) is carrying out a full review of existing mining health and safety legislation under Section 1(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Once the legislative review has been completed, HSC will evaluate the effect of the changes made as a result of the legislative review.

Hammersmith Bridge: Traffic Data

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the average weekday number of vehicles crossing Hammersmith Bridge before its closure to traffic; where, in the opinion of the Traffic Director for London, that traffic has dispersed to since its closure; and in particular what has been the effect on traffic volumes on (a) Fulham Palace Road, Fulham High Street, Putney Bridge, Putney High Street and Lower Richmond Road; and (b) the A.4 Great West Road between Hammersmith Broadway and the Hogarth Roundabout, and the A.316 at Chiswick Bridge.

Baroness Hayman: The average daily flow across Hammersmith Bridge prior to closure was around 30,000 vehicles.

The Traffic Director's office is chairing a group to share traffic data on the effects of the closure. The indications are that traffic appears to have been displaced mainly to routes over the adjacent crossings. The group has found that there is only a limited record of measured flows before the closure. Some guide figures are set out below but information providing a similar comparison for the other specified roads is not available.

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Average daily flows

BridgeAutumn 1994Autumn 1995Autumn 1996March 1997
Chiswick49,715no datano data51,352


Highway Authority one week counts.

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Benefits Agency: Performance Related Pay

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which category of Benefits Agency employees are not on performance related pay.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): All staff in the Benefits Agency are on performance related pay. The system in operation is in

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line with current government policy, requiring all progression through the pay band to be dependent on individual performance.

The running of the BA Performance Pay Scheme is an issue for the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, and I am asking him to write to you with further details of its operation.

Letter to Earl Russell from the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, Mr. P. Mathison, dated 10 November 1997.

I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary Question asking which category of Benefits Agency employees are not on performance related pay.

A key aim of the Benefit Agency pay system is that it should recognise the contribution that all staff make to the business and reward their effort and achievement.

All staff are covered by a performance related pay scheme which directly relates pay increases to individual annual appraisal ratings. These ratings reflect individual work objectives and competencies, which are agreed at the beginning of each appraisal year and which support the business objectives of the Benefits Agency. In addition, junior administrative and support staff are, for their first three years' service, guaranteed to receive increases of at least 5 per cent. as long as their performance is judged to be at least satisfactory.

I hope you find this reply helpful.

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