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25 Jan 1999 : Column WA121

Written Answers

Monday, 25th January 1999.

Securities and the GDP

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether issuing, transferring or receiving, or otherwise dealing in securities or secondary securities (a) within the United Kingdom and (b) within the European Union count as providing "economic growth" and are deemed to contribute to the United Kingdom's or to any other country's gross domestic product (and appear in the statistics); and, if so, what is the nature of the "product".[HL547]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Chief Executive of the Office for National Statistics who has been asked to reply.

Letter from the Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service, Dr. Tim Holt, dated 25 January 1999.

As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary question on securities.

Activity taking place in the United Kingdom (or any other country) involving the issuing, transferring, receiving and dealing in securities is treated as a service. All costs and charges levied contribute to Gross Domestic Product (however, the money raised by the issue does not). For securities some of the charges are implicit as they are reflected in the spread between buying and selling prices. Where such activity is performed by someone who is resident outside the United Kingdom, for example in a European Union country, the service provided contributes to the Gross Domestic Product of the country in which the dealer is resident.

Changes in the value of securities have no effect on Gross Domestic Product.

GDP: Local Area Figures and Eurostat

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why local area gross domestic product figures contained in an Office for National Statistics press release dated 22 October 1998 were forwarded to Eurostat for use in establishing eligibility for European Union structural funding from 2000, despite the figures being provisional and new local data for 1996 being imminently available.[HL476]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The information requested falls within the responsibility of the Director of the Office for National Statistics, who has been asked to reply.

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Letter from the Registrar General and Head of the Government Statistical Service, Dr. Tim Holt, dated 25 January 1999.

As Director of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), I have been asked to reply to your recent question on the local area gross domestic product (GDP) figures published on 22 October 1998.

You will be aware of the changes to the classification of areas for European purposes (the NUTS classification) which were agreed last summer. The GDP figures published on 22 October related to the new NUTS level 2 and 3 areas. This was the first time that figures at this level had become available.

The figures for 1994 to 1996 were supplied by the ONS to Eurostat to meet their deadline for the compilation of harmonised sub-national GDP figures for all member states of the European Union. Eurostat subsequently published the estimates via their datashops on 18 November 1998, and the figures have also been made available on the CRONOS database. Eurostat were asked to make estimates for 1994 to 1996 available at that time by the European Commission directorates responsible for regional policy, in order to ensure that consistent data could be used for both State Aid and European Structural Funds purposes.

The alternative would have been for Eurostat to use 1995 figures for the previous NUTS structure for the UK, and project forward to 1996. In other words, they would have had to use out-of-date figures for an out-of-date geographical classification.

The local area GDP figures are not expected to be revised until later this year.

Sudan: Destruction of al-Shifa Medicine Factory

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the destruction of the al-Shifa medicine factory in Khartoum in August 1998 has harmed humanitarian efforts in Sudan through interrupting the Sudanese production of anti-malarial and other drugs.[HL506]

Baroness Amos: We have no information to suggest that the provision of essential drugs for the poorest and most vulnerable groups in Sudan has been affected by the destruction of the al-Shifa factory. By their own admission, the Government of Sudan are spending 80 per cent. of their national budget on the war, including their entire development budget. It would only take a small proportion of this to cover the costs of anti-malarial and other drugs. The long-running civil war is the prime cause of suffering. We therefore continue to press both sides of the conflict to undertake serious negotiation towards a lasting and just peace.

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Joint Helicopter Command

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the formation of the joint helicopter command proposed in the Strategic Defence Review.[HL686]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): In July 1998, following the Strategic Defence Review, we announced our intention to create a joint helicopter command to pool the expertise of the three services in the operation of battlefield helicopter fleets and so enhance their fighting effectiveness.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence has now accepted the recommendation of the Joint Helicopter Command Study Team that the command be based at the Army's land command headquarters at Wilton, Wiltshire; the headquarters will form on 1 October this year and will be fully operational by 1 April 2000.

The work of the study team has also confirmed that the joint helicopter command should bring together, under a single joint organisation, the Royal Navy's Commando helicopters, all operational Army Air Corps helicopters, including the whole of 16 Air Assault Brigade, which in future will include the attack helicopter, and the RAF's support helicopters. Its role will be to direct the training, planning and resourcing of these forces across the range of defence missions and tasks, thereby making most effective use of the available assets. The command will draw on the best practices from each of the services, while retaining and building upon individual service identity and ethos. Single service units will continue to be commanded and manned by personnel from that service, and a mix of Navy, Army, Air Force and Civil Service personnel will man the headquarters.

Aircraft Carriers

Lord Davies of Coity asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to develop new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy.[HL663]

Lord Gilbert: The Strategic Defence Review set out our plans to replace our existing aircraft carriers from 2012 with two larger new-generation carriers, each capable of operating up to 50 aircraft, fixed wing and helicopters. The invitation to tender for the initial assessment phase of the CVF project has been released to industry today.

The new carriers will be acquired through SMART procurement methods, beginning with an assessment phase. This will have two main stages: first, the examination of a wide variety of carrier design options, which will also inform our choice of future carrier borne aircraft; and, secondly, detailed work to determine the carriers' design parameters and to reduce technological risk. The assessment phase is expected to be completed

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in 2003, paving the way for the full development and construction of the two new aircraft carriers.

An integrated project team, IPT, of MoD and industry personnel will manage the procurement. As part of this new approach, the IPT's leader's post will be filled by open competition.

Unauthorised Signs on Roads

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to ensure that local authorities remove unauthorised signs and advertisements from roads under their control.[HL592]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): Local traffic authorities in England and Wales, and roads authorities in Scotland, have a statutory duty to promote road safety, and powers to remove unlawful signs and advertisements. We expect that unauthorised signs and other advertisements will be removed wherever practicable, but it is for the local authorities themselves to consider what action to take in particular cases. The Secretary of State has a default power to require and effect the removal of unauthorised signs for the guidance or direction of traffic, but it would not be appropriate to exercise this on a routine basis.

Viscount Simon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking on the trunk road network to remove unauthorised signs and advertisements which might distract drivers and damage the visual environment.[HL591]

Lord Whitty: We take very seriously our responsibilities to maintain a safe trunk road network and to avoid any unnecessary adverse impact on the environment. We inspect the trunk road network regularly and take all practical measures to ensure that unauthorised signs are not left in place.

Marine Nature Reserves

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to establish marine protected areas similar to that which the Canadian Government are to set up in the Gully, 200 kilometres off the coast of Nova Scotia.[HL538]

Lord Whitty: The UK has three marine nature reserves. There are also over 30 candidate special areas of conservation proposed in coastal waters for eventual designation under the EU Habitats Directive. The Government's consultation proposals on better protection and management of SSSIs refer to the intention to set up a working party to consider the options for improving marine sites and species.

In July, at the ministerial meeting of the OSPAR Commission in Sintra, we adopted a new annex on the

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protection and conservation of marine ecosystems. Together with the other OSPAR contracting parties, we also undertook to promote the establishment of a network of marine protected areas to ensure the sustainable use, protection and conservation of marine biological diversity and its ecosystems.


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