Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

3 Jun 1998 : Column WA29

Written Answers

Wednesday, 3rd June 1998.

Capital Gains Tax

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their proposals for the reform of capital gains tax.[HL2028]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The proposals are as set out in the Finance (No. 2) Bill, which is currently before the House of Commons.

Resuscitation Training Models: VAT

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they propose to impose VAT on resuscitation dolls used by St. John's Ambulance personnel; and what would be the cost of this to St. John's Ambulance.[HL1990]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Resuscitation training models have been subject to the standard rate of VAT since the introduction of the tax in 1973. Customs and Excise are unable to identify separately the VAT yield from these particular goods.

Tenant and Landlord Service Charge Disputes

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make a further commencement order in respect of the Housing Act 1996, enabling disputes over the reasonableness of service charges between landlords and long leaseholders on which court proceedings began before 1 September 1997 to be transferred to leasehold valuation tribunals.[HL2083]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): Today we are publishing for consultation proposals which should be welcome to a number of those leaseholders who have not so far been able to take advantage of the improved arrangements for dealing with service charge disputes under the Housing Act 1996.

Section 83 of that Act allows a residential tenant or landlord to go to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) rather than to a civil court when seeking a decision on whether or not service charges are reasonable. It also gives the court discretion to transfer to the LVT any question relating to the reasonableness of service charges which falls within the tribunal's jurisdiction. This provision came into effect on 1 September 1997 but it has not so far been applied to

3 Jun 1998 : Column WA30

cases where court proceedings had begun before that date. Representations have been made that this exclusion is unfair.

Under the further Commencement Order proposed today, the court's discretion would also apply to cases where proceedings had begun before 1 September 1997. This would allow the courts to consider whether the interests of justice would best be served by transferring a service charge dispute in such a case to the LVT.

Subject to consultation, the proposed further Commencement Order should bring these new measures into effect in August 1998. Tenants involved in proceedings which started before 1 September 1997 may wish to take legal advice about the implications of these proposals.

Index of Local Deprivation

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the updated Index of Local Deprivation.

Baroness Hayman: We have today placed in the Library copies of a summary of the 1998 Index of Local Deprivation. The Index of Local Deprivation combines 12 up-to-date measures on different aspects of deprivation into a single indicator for all local authority districts in England. The index will be used as background information for the development of regeneration policy and programmes. A further review of the index will be commissioned later this year to take account of new data sources relevant to deprivation, which will include income support statistics for areas smaller than local authority districts.[HL2084]

Termite Infestation, Saunton, North Devon

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are proposing to take to control and eradicate the infestation of termites at Saunton, North Devon.[HL2085]

Baroness Hayman: We are determined to do everything possible to contain and destroy the termite infestation at two properties in Saunton, North Devon. Our priority is to stop the infestation spreading and to destroy it at source.

We can therefore announce that the Government will fully fund a 12-year eradication and control programme, costing some £190,000, which will start immediately the consent of the affected owners has been received.

As I indicated on 28 April 1998 (Official Report, vol 589, cols. 150-153), when the presence of this reinfestation became known the Government asked the Building Research Establishment (BRE) to explore, as a matter of urgency, the optimum means of eradicating the termites. The programme--which has been drawn up at my request by the Building Research Establishment together with experts from agencies

3 Jun 1998 : Column WA31

including the Pest Management Unit of Imperial College (London), the Natural Resources Institute and CTBA-BIOTEC, France--will be based on close monitoring within 500 metres of the affected properties followed by baiting using an insect growth regulator which will prevent the developing insects from maturing.

The Government have accepted these proposals as the best way forward, and the consortium led by the BRE has been asked to implement the eradication strategy forthwith. The proposal, based on the existing knowledge of the extent of the infestation, is to survey and monitor an area within a 500m radius of the known infestation, but to install a more intensive monitoring grid in the grounds of the two affected properties and within a 200m radius of them. If surveys show that the activity extends beyond this area, it will be extended. Once activity is detected within the monitoring stations a baiting system using a commercial system based on the insect growth regulator hexaflumuron is proposed to be installed. Bait stations would also be installed at suitable locations within affected timbers in the infested properties. Monitoring will continue for up to 10 years after activity has ceased in order to ensure that the treatment has indeed been effective. The work is dependent upon the co-operation of all property and landowners within this area, and officials in my department are seeking their permissions as a matter of urgency.

It should be stated that it is not possible to be certain of the outcome. The BRE report stresses that total eradication of a termite population is not normally considered feasible in other countries where the termite is endemic. However, since the population appears to be very restricted in this country, on the basis of the knowledge that this is a single infestation centred on two adjacent properties, we are assured by the experts that there is a high probability of success in eradicating the termite colony.

As it is considered essential to do all possible to curtail this infestation before it spreads further, the Government have undertaken to fund the full cost of the eradication and monitoring work.

Reservoirs Act 1975: Proposed Amendments

Lord Plant of Highfield asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to simplify the procedures in the Reservoirs Act 1975 for making appointments to panels of civil engineers and for enforcing the safety provisions of the Act.[HL2086]

Baroness Hayman: We have today issued a consultation paper, jointly with my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales, setting out the Government's proposals to amend the Reservoirs Act 1975. These proposals involve the transfer of the Secretaries of States' responsibilities for making appointments to the President of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the transfer of local authorities' enforcement duties in England and Wales to the

3 Jun 1998 : Column WA32

Environment Agency. We are satisfied that these measures will result in the procedures being made less burdensome both for candidates for appointment and for reservoir undertakers. The amendments would be made by an order under Section 1 of the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. We have today placed a copy of the consultation paper in the Library of the House.

Gibraltar: Airport Charges

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the listing of Gibraltar as a British regional airport under Directive 83/416/EEC, why landing charges for Boeing 737-300 and 737-400 aircraft are levied at more than three times the level charged at comparable airports such as Tangiers, Malaga and Faro.[HL2002]

Baroness Hayman: The level of airport charges set at an airport is a matter for the airport operator, which in this case is the RAF. Landing charges levied at RAF Gibraltar, in common with those levied at other RAF airfields, reflect average charges at UK civilian airports and do no more than recover the costs incurred by the RAF in supporting civil operations.

The Directive 83/416, which covered the authorisation of scheduled inter-regional air services between member states, did not include any listing of British regional airports.

Cycle Parking at Government Departments

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Approximately how many parking places for cycles are provided for;

    (a) Government employees and pass holders; and

    (b) visitors in each government office in Central London.[HL1965]

Baroness Hayman: The approximate number of parking spaces for cycles held by government department offices in Central London are as follows. No department differentiates between spaces for visitors and staff.

DepartmentNumber of Cycle Spaces
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food89
Culture, Media and Sport20
Education and Employment65
Environment, Transport and the Regions(1)449
Foreign and Commonwealth Office108
Home Office41
International Development28
Lord Chancellor's Department(2)59
Northern Ireland Office0
Social Security55
Trade and Industry158
Scottish Office0
Welsh Office6
Cabinet Office(4)146
Government Office for London52

(1) Includes the Highways Agency.

(2) Includes the Courts Service.

(3) Includes the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise.

(4) Includes Cabinet Office Agencies.

3 Jun 1998 : Column WA33

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page