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Tourism Promotion Costs: National Comparisons

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government grant-in-aid spent on promoting tourism in Scotland, Wales and England respectively expressed as per head of population for 1995-96 and 1996-97 is:

£ Per Head of Population

Scottish Tourist BoardWales Tourist BoardEnglish Tourist Board


Office for National Statistics.

Radio Authority and Independent National Radio Companies

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What powers the Radio Authority has to intervene in any corporate takeover of an independent national radio licence holder; what criteria are used by the authority to assess the suitability as a licence-holder of a company mounting such a takeover; and what steps the authority can take to ensure that promises of performance are adhered to in such a takeover situation.[HL2262]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Radio Authority may refuse to issue national radio licences and has powers to revoke licences already issued. The authority applies the restrictions on the control of radio licences set out in the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996, and must refuse to issue such licences to companies which are specifically excluded under that legislation or in cases where the authority is not satisfied that the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold such a licence. The authority has a range of statutory powers enabling it to monitor a licensee's performance. If the authority is satisfied that the holder of a licence has failed to comply with any condition of the licence, including the promise of performance, it may impose sanctions which may include financial penalties or the suspension or shortening of the licence period.

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to achieve their objectives of plurality and diversity of ownership in the media industries; what assessment they have made

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    of the implications for these policy objectives of the proposed takeover by BSkyB/News International of one of the three independent national commercial radio stations; and whether they will hold an inquiry into that bid.[HL2261]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The media ownership controls included in the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996 are designed to protect plurality and diversity in the media industries. The Government have no plans to introduce further legislation. One of the effects of the Broadcasting Acts is that, as its newspaper titles have over 20 per cent. of national circulation, News International cannot control a national analogue radio licence nor have a holding of more than 20 per cent. in a company which controls such a licence. The implementation of the radio ownership provisions of the Broadcasting Acts is solely a matter for the Radio Authority.

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the proposed takeover of Talk Radio by BSkyB/News International or associated companies would give to the potential new owners the same guaranteed access to digital capacity and control of digital radio multiplexes as is currently guaranteed to Talk Radio; and what consideration they have given to the implications of such access for the further dominance by Mr. Rupert Murdoch and his companies of the United Kingdom media industries.[HL2263]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Under Part II of the Broadcasting Act 1996, the three existing national independent stations have been guaranteed capacity on the digital radio multiplex. However, the ownership restrictions included in the Broadcasting Acts of 1990 and 1996 have the effect of preventing News International from controlling a national analogue radio licence or holding more than a 20 per cent. interest in a company which controls such a licence. No guarantees have been given to any companies in respect of the commercial digital multiplex licence, which will be awarded by the Radio Authority to the applicant best meeting the criteria set out in Section 47 of the Act.

Fast Track Civil Litigation: Consultation

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish a consultation paper on a costs regime for civil cases in the fast track.[HL2384]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): I have today published a consultation paper on a cost regime for the fast track entitled Justice at the Right Price and copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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Northern Ireland Civil Service: Early Retirement Schemes

Lord Alderdice asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to introduce further voluntary early retirement schemes for officials of the Northern Ireland Civil Service.[HL2171]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): A small number of staff in some specialist grades may be released through early retirement/severance schemes in the current year. As a result of the anticipated release of prisoners a substantial early retirement/severance programme will be required for uniformed staff and some governor grades in the Prison Service.

Houses in Multiple Occupation

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they propose to take to improve standards in houses in multiple occupation.[HL2386]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We are determined to ensure that houses in multiple occupation (HMOs) are safe, providing acceptable living conditions and fulfilling our commitment to introduce a national licensing scheme. Work on drawing up proposals for licensing will be given priority in our plans for reforming the existing controls over HMOs. We will consult interested parties later this summer on how a licensing system should work and the standards that it should achieve.

Our objective is to ensure that all HMOs meet the highest possible standards on fire and other health and safety risks. However, we need to set standards which are achievable and do not involve unnecessary or disproportionate burdens on HMO landlords, who might otherwise withdraw their properties from the market. We need also to ensure a consistent approach with other relevant legislation, including proposals by the Home Office for a universal fire safety duty.

We have decided against introducing an interim Approved Code of Practice. We consider that our existing powers under the Housing Act 1996 do not enable us to produce an effective and workable code that would deliver the standards we want HMOs to achieve in the longer term. We are also reluctant to introduce two major changes within a relatively short period of time.

Following consultation, we intend to publish the proposed standards for a licensing system and will issue guidance to local housing authorities on their application prior to the coming into force of the licensing requirements.

Authorities which have adopted HMO registration schemes containing control provisions are likely to have

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similar powers under the proposed licensing scheme. We expect that they would be able to achieve most of the proposed standards. We are therefore encouraging all authorities to adopt registration schemes now to facilitate the transition to licensing.

We will be seeking views as part of our consultation on licensing on whether there should be a duty on landlords to maintain acceptable standards in addition to the licensing requirements. We will not be commencing Section 73 of the Housing Act 1996 to place a duty on HMO landlords to keep their properties fit for the number of occupants, as we do not consider this duty to be workable in its present form.

Belfast's Airports: Standards

Lord Blease asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the air traffic control services and equipment at (a) Belfast International Airport (BIA) and (b) Belfast City Airport (BCA) are currently at levels and standards that meet the specific essentials required by the Civil Aviation Authority; and whether BIA and BCA are each suitably technically equipped at levels similar to other comparable United Kingdom airports to meet projected commercial and non-commercial air traffic service requirements and development for the next five years.[HL2287]

Baroness Hayman: Both Belfast International Airport (BIA) and Belfast City Airport (BCA) meet the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority. National Air Traffic Services Limited (NATS) is responsible for the provision of air traffic services and equipment at BIA and Short Brothers plc for their provision at BCA. The levels of service and equipment are under constant review. We understand that both NATS and Short Brothers plc are currently examining specific improvements for their respective airports.

Catamaran Ferries

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the environmental effects of the catamaran fast ferries now operating across the Channel and the Irish and North Seas are being monitored, including the effect of noise from the ferries on (a) sea mammals and (b) fish.[HL2294]

Baroness Hayman: We are not carrying out any direct monitoring of the environmental effects of catamaran ferries. However, the department's Maritime and Coastguard Agency is carrying out research into the safety aspects of the waves and wash generated by high speed craft. We are also working with other European countries, under the auspices of the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans in the Baltic and North

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Seas, to review information on the effects of high speed ferries on small cetaceans.

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