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Written Answers

Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1975

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday 15th January 1975

Environment

House Building Methods

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will encourage the maximum use of traditional building methods in house building, before resort is had to an increased use of industrialised systems.

It is our firm policy to secure a much needed revival in house-building. We shall make full use of traditional building methods and materials, but if we can supplement them in satisfactory ways it will be right to do so.

Countryside Commission

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make a statement on the work of the Countryside Commission.

The Countryside Commission continues to exercise its important functions for the conservation and public enjoyment of the countryside in accordance with the agreed priority guidelines. For details of its work I would refer my hon. Friend to the annual reports by the commission which are laid before Parliament.

Town And Country Planning

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has for changing the law in relation to town and country planning.

None at present, but I expect to receive within the next few days the final report of Mr. George Dobry, QC, on his review of the development control system.

Channel Tunnel

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the present position on the Government's review of the Channel Tunnel project and the associated investment by British Rail.

Lump Labour

25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he intends to take action against the lump; whether he will include telecommunications construction within his Bill; and whether he will make a statement.

The Government propose to introduce legislation as soon as possible on the lines of the Construction Industry Contracts Bill of 1970. The scope of the proposed Bill is now under consideration.

Sports Council

26.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the amount of grant that will be available to the Sports Council for 1975–76; and what increase this is on 1974–75.

I cannot yet say. The matter is under consideration at present and a decision will be announced as soon as possible.

Atmospheric Pollution

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a study of the level of atmospheric lead pollution in (a) Parliament Square, (b) Trafalgar Square and (c) Marble Arch; and if he will publish the results.

Measurements of the incidence of certain pollutants, including lead, are already being made in a number of London streets. The need for further monitoring will be considered by the Department's Air Pollution Monitoring Management Group once the results from the current programme have been assessed.

55.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he intends to take in the light of the first results of studies by the OECD that sulphur dioxide emitted by factories and power stations tends not to disperse quickly but to remain in a compact cloud at a height of about 6,000 feet.

The full results of the OECD study on the long-range transport of air pollutants will not be available until next year. The United Kingdom is playing an active part in this study and I do not recognise the information quoted by the hon. Member. The various measures imposed by central and local authorities responsible for air pollution control ensure that emissions of sulphur dioxide from factories and power stations are generally rapidly dispersed in the atmosphere.

M3, Lightwater-Sunbury (Service Area)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to make a final decision on the need for a service area on the Lightwater-Sunbury section of the M3 motorway.

Parish Councils

29.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now provide for the establishment of additional parish councils for former boroughs and urban districts which have had no local councils since 1st April 1974.

No. Any such proposals would need to be considered by the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, and the practical constraints set out in its Report No. 6 and in correspondence with my hon. Friend would prevent such matters from being considered over the next few years.

Freight (Carriage)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what encouragement he is giving to companies to transport their products by rail.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) earlier today.

Portswood Link Road, Southampton

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, in view of the inspector's report on the Portswood link road in Southampton, if he will now have urgent talks with Hampshire County Council with a view to removing the blight from those properties still affected by these road proposals.

No. The proposals for the Portswood link road were abandoned. If properties remain blighted it is presumably because of the resolution of the former city council to prepare plans for local road improvements in the Swath-ling and Portswood shopping centres, using as far as possible land previously affected by the Portswood link road proposals. This is a local matter within the responsibility of the county council as highway authority.

Buildings (Energy Conservation)

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has, following the Government's recently announced energy-saving measures, to promote energy conservation by providing improvements and discretionary grants for domestic thermal insulation on existing buildings.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to a similar Question from the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) earlier today.

Local Authority Expenditure

33.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidance he has given to local authorities, following the conclusion of his rate support grant negotiations, on the curtailment of unnecessary expenditure in view of the economic situation.

A joint circular from all the Departments concerned was issued on 23rd December 1974.

Housing Finance

36.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to complete his review of housing finance.

I hope to be able to make firm policy decisions based on the review during the first half of next year.

61.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy towards the setting up of a housing finance corporation; and if he will make a statement.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) on 2nd December.—[Vol. 882, c. 388.]

Layfield Committee (Report)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will seek to advance the date of the report of the Layfield Committee.

35.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will seek to advance the date of the Lay-field Committee's report.

No. The committee already knows my wishes, and those of the House generally, that it should report as soon as possible.

Housing (New Towns)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what directives he has given to new town corporations about the proportions of public and private housing they should adopt as their building targets.

No such directives have been issued, but I am conscious of the heavy demand for rented accommodation in many of the new towns. In a consultation document, "New Towns in England and Wales", issued jointly by my Department and that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales on 31st December last, the need to give sufficient emphasis within new town building programmes to the provision of housing for rent has been made clear. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library.

North-West Region

38.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will pay an official visit to the North-West Region.

Water Pollution

40.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the result of his discussions with the water authorities regarding the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution to bring about an improvement in the condition of a polluted estuary; and what action he proposes to take in consequence.

I have taken note of this suggestion, which the Royal Commission put forward in its recent report. It will need to be considered in the light of what resources can be made available for water services in present circumstances and of the other demands which these services will have to meet.

Motorways

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many miles of new motorway he expects will come into operation in 1975.

Local Authority Planning Staffs

41.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if, in the light of recent evidence submitted by Professor James to the Town and Country Planning Association to the effect that estimated requirements of professional planning staff, excluding London, had gone up from 4,281 to 8,176, he will issue a circular to local authorities encouraging them in the interests of economy to reduce staff complements by seeking, if necessary, a reduction in their functions.

I regularly urge on authorities the importance of manpower economy, and as part of the 1975–76 rate support grant settlement local authorities should provide for no expansion in present total staff numbers beyond the small increases necessary to meet inescapable commitments.

Housing (London)

42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make special arrangements to assist London boroughs in the provision of housing for skilled and professionally qualified workers.

46.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what advice his Department has given to London borough councils in respect of the provision of housing accommodation for key workers in the London area.

Local authorities were recommended to give special consideration to such needs in DOE Circular 70/74 and the Cullingworth Report of 1969. In addition my Department is urging authorities in London to meet the housing needs of key public service workers and their families in collaboration with the Housing Corporation, which is also investigating a number of additional sites in Greater London owned by public service industries, in particular British Rail, for such housing purposes. I hope that this process will be expedited and expanded.

Cambridge (Roads)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his present estimate of the completion date of the Cambridge northern bypass, the Cambridge western bypass, and the M11 to Stump Cross, respectively.

Subject to the satisfactory completion of the statutory processes and the availability of funds, I expect the Cambridge northern bypass and the M11 to Stump Cross to be completed in the spring of 1978 and the Cambridge western bypass in the spring of 1979.

Furnished Accommodation (London)

44.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what evidence he now has of the effect of the Rent Act 1974 on the supply of furnished accommodation in London.

As I explained in an answer to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) on 19th December last—[Vol. 883, c. 603–4.]—little detailed information is available on the stock of rented accommodation. Statistical material is being reviewed with a view to assessing the effect of the Act on the supply of furnished accommodation, but it will be some time before any conclusions can be drawn.

Mobile Homes

45.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why he has set up a departmental review into the problems of mobile home dwellers.

Because this is the best way to resolve coherently the wide range of tenure, planning and other problems involved peculiar to this kind of accommodation.

Traffic Regulation (New Towns)

47.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he gives consideration, before he approves plans submitted to him by new town development corporations, to the danger of pollution and congestion that can arise from the excessive use of private motor cars and the need to develop public transport as an alternative wherever possible.

Proposals submitted by development corporations are considered on their merits in the light of all relevant factors.

Housing (Standards)

48.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he has given to amending the Parker Morris standards for council houses.

We are not reviewing general Parker Morris standards as such, but we are considering various ways of providing houses more cheaply. If the hon. Member has a suggestion to make I shall be happy to consider it.

Home Loss Payments

49.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many applications have been made to him by local authorities to use his powers under Section 161 of the Local Government Act 1972 to sanction ex gratia payments where claims for home loss payments have been made later than six months after the date of displacement; and if he will make a statement.

Road Accidents

51.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish the latest results of his Department's investigation into the relationship between the colour of motor vehicles and their accident rate; and if he will make a statement.

The Transport and Road Research Laboratory is analysing the results of a four-year on-the-spot accident survey, one of whose factors is the relationship between vehicle colour and accidents. The results will be published as this considerable task progresses.

Motorway Service Areas

50.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will stipulate in all future motorway service area leases that separate and adequate catering arrangements and facilities must be provided for commercial haulage and passenger drivers.

I cannot give an unconditional undertaking for the future, but it is usual to make such a stipulation and I see no reason to change that policy.

Housing Associations (Site Developments)

52.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will arrange for full consultation between the Housing Corporation and the local authority concerned when a housing association reports interest in acquiring a site for development within that authority's area.

The Housing Corporation already notifies the local authority concerned when a housing association applies for the registration of its interest in acquiring a site, and it takes into account any representations the authority may make.

Local Commissioners

54.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many additional local ombudsmen he plans to appoint in 1975.

The three local commissioners appointed last June are now dealing with complaints. I think it is too early to say when or whether additional appointments will be needed.

Departmental Advertising

53.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment on how many occasions his Department has advertised publicly notices similar to those under the heading "Furnished Tenants Faced with Eviction, Don't Move" and "Furnished Tenants, Your Home is Now Protected", published in the Portsmouth Evening News on Monday 18th November 1974; and what the total cost to public funds of these advertisements has been to date throughout the United Kingdom.

Display classified advertisements of the type referred to appeared on 46 occasions in 75 daily provincial newspapers and on eight occasions in 50 weekly provincial newspapers throughout the United Kingdom. The total cost to public funds of these advertisements was £20,200.

York (New Road)

56.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he hopes to give his decision on the York bypass proposals.

I assume my hon. Friend is referring to the York Inner Ring Road. On that assumption the answer is "Soon".

Rates (London)

57.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now state the average estimated per-percentage rate increase for (a) inner London boroughs and (b) outer London boroughs; and what further discussions he is having with the London Boroughs Association or individual London boroughs with a view to reducing their increase.

No. The average rate increases for inner and outer London respectively will depend on a number of factors, including the size of the London rate equalisation pool for 1975–76. I await proposals from the London Boroughs Association on this. The association has also recently written to my Department requesting further financial assistance for the London boroughs. Its letter is being studied.

Sheffield

58.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what conservation districts are now confirmed in the Sheffield Metropolitan District Council area; whether he has reached a similar confirmation of the designated green belt, particularly in the west boundary with Peak Park; and if he will place a map in the House of Commons Library defining these boundaries.

I understand that nine conservation areas have so far been designated in the Sheffield metropolitan district. They are designated by the local planning authority; they do not need confirmation by the Secretary of State.Part of the metropolitan district of Sheffield which was formerly in the West Riding is covered by approved green belt. Within the former county borough of Sheffield which includes the boundary with the Peak District National Park, a sketch green belt was drawn up in 1938. It has never been submitted for formal approval by the Secretary of State. I am sending the hon. Member a map which indicates the boundaries of the approved green belt. Details of the conservation areas and of the sketch green belt will, no doubt, be available from the city council.

Car Registration Numbers (Montgomery)

59.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the complications and costs which prevent him from making the necessary administrative arrangements to allow the inhabitants of the district of Montgomery to register their cars with the EP numbers, as they have done in the past.

Rate Support Grant (Hampshire)

60.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now state the total sum of rate support grant for the year 1975–76 which will be made available to the Hampshire County Council; and how that sum will be composed between the needs element, the resources element and the domestic element, respectively.

The needs element of the rate support grant payable to Hampshire County Council for 1975–76 will be approximately £70 million. This figure may need to be adjusted as more up-to-date information becomes available and as a result of possible increase orders. The resources and domestic elements are not payable to county councils. However, part of the resources element paid to district councils is effectively transferred to county councils by way of county precepts.

Waste Paper

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities have arranged for the separate collection and salvaging of waste paper; and what is the current price per ton they are receiving.

Of the 366 collecting authorities in England, just under 200 at present operate waste paper salvaging schemes. In addition approximately 40 are operating trial schemes. Prices vary according to the type and quantity of paper collected and the arrangements made with the merchant or mill.

District Heating

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will encourage local authorities to heat all new developments and improvement areas by district heating to assist the economy by controlling the use of fuel, and to contribute to environmental improvement.

My Department already encourages local authorities to consider district heating for new housing developments, and approved schemes for new or improved housing qualify for financial assistance. Among a number of studies now in hand relating to energy conservation is one into the performance of district heating. As results become available it will be possible to decide what further action should be taken in this field.

Local Government Officers (Pay)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities have agreed to pay chief officers salaries above the nationally negotiated rate; and if he will make a statement.

This information is not available. It is of the utmost importance that these and other local government salaries should conform to nationally negotiated and agreed rates of pay. If, exceptionally, an authority considers it necessary to depart from the terms of the national agreements, it should, in the first place seek the advice of the Local Authorities' Conditions of Service Advisory Board.

Derelict Land

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he can give a preliminary estimate, in advance of the result of the survey of derelict and despoiled land, of how much derelict land there is, how much progress has been made in reclaiming it, and what plans he has for further reclamation.

Although the survey results are not yet complete present indications are that the total of derelict land in England justifying treatment will be of the order of 80,000 acres compared with about 64,000 acres in 1971. Much of the increase appears to be due to reclassification by local authorities.Some 12,000 acres were reclaimed between January 1972 and 31st March 1974, making a total of 20,000 acres reclaimed since 1st January 1970. My right hon. Friend will expect local authorities to review their reclamation programmes in the light of the survey results to enable the clearance of derelict land to proceed as quickly as economic and other circumstances permit.

Motor Cyclists (Safety Helmets)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his latest estimate of the reduction in deaths and serious injuries to motor cyclists since the wearing of safety helmets was made compulsory.

In the year ended 30th June 1974 the number of fatal and serious casualties among riders and passengers of two-wheeled motor vehicles was 3 per cent. greater than in the preceding year, but the mileage ridden on these vehicles rose by 6 per cent. Savings from the compulsory wearing of safety helmets are estimated to be about 200 deaths and serious injuries each year.

Structure Plans (Hampshire And Staffordshire)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment on what date the hearings in public of (a) the South Hampshire structure plan and (b) the plan covering the areas of Stoke-on-Trent, Burton-upon-Trent and the former Staffordshire County Council were concluded; and on how many days each hearing took place.

The examination in public on the SouthHampshire structure plan continued for 25 days and finished on 21st November 1974; and the one on the structure plans covering the areas of Stoke-on-Trent, Burton-upon-Trent and Staffordshire continued for 23 days and finished on 29th November 1974.

Building Projects

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how much of the £51 million of work held at working drawings stage in the first six months of 1974 by the Property Services Agency of his Department because of public expenditure cuts has since been put out to tender.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will set out in tabular form, at 1970 prices, the value of schemes entering sketch plan stage and the value of schemes entering the working drawing stage for the four-month periods ending August and December 1974, respectively.

Figures are not kept in this form, but the following estimates have been made for major new works handled by the Property Services Agency:

£m. at 1970 prices
Entering sketch plan stageEntering working drawing stage
1st May to 31st August2818
1st September to 30th November plus allowance for December1739

Central Housing Advisory Committee

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is now in a position to make a statement on the future of the Central Housing Advisory Committee.

I have now completed my review of the rôle of the Central Housing Advisory Committee. As a result my right hon. Friend has decided to disband the committee.This decision recognises the changes that have taken place since the Central Housing Advisory Committee was established in 1935, particularly in recent years. A pattern of increasing consultation, both formal and informal, with representative interests and persons of special knowledge in the housing field outside the Department, especially as regards research into housing issues, is now clearly established and has proved its worth. Given this alternative approach, the committee's value has diminished to a point at which its future usefulness as a separate, statutory consultative body is doubtful. Section 143 of the Housing Act 1957, which relates to the appointment of the CHAC, will therefore be repealed at a suitable opportunity. Meanwhile, no further meetings of the committee will be held.I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the Government's gratitude for the major contributions to the formulation of housing policy made by the committee over the years.

A638 (Upton Crossroads)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he can give a date for the start of the improvement to Upton crossroads on the A638 trunk road.

Not yet. A scheme is being examined with the local highway authority, West Yorkshire County Council. Some statutory processes may be necessary.

Allestree, Derby (Subway)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment under what circumstances the Midland Road Construction Unit has declined to provide a pedestrian subway at Abbey Hill, Allestree, Derby, as requested by the local authority.

No decision has been taken on this matter, which is still being discussed with the Derby Borough Council.

Derby (Bus Shelter)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment under what circumstances the Midland Road Construction Unit has declined to replace a bus shelter on Uttoxeter Road, Derby, demolished in the course of recent road works.

I have written to my hon. Friend explaining that replacement is a matter for Derby Borough Council.

Lorries

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has so far been made both in his Department's discussions with local authorities on detailed preparations for implementing the Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Controls and Regulations) Act 1973 and in his Department's plans for designated lorry routes.

Meetings have been held with officers of all the councils preparing lorry plans, and a national seminar is to be held in early March to which councils will be invited to send representatives. The replies to my consultation paper on lorry routes are being analysed.

Vehicle Parking

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes to make an order under Section 24(4) of the Road Traffic Act 1974 to bring Section 7 of that Act (prohibition of parking of vehicles on footways) into operation.

Time must be allowed for authorities to survey their areas and prepare exemption orders under subsection (5). My Department is consulting the local authority associations on the length of time required before fixing the date of commencement.

Scotland

Murder

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether the Government will now give full consideration to implementing the Emslie Report on the penalty for murder in Scotland.

Oil Industry (Environment Effects)

62.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the effects on the environment of oil-related development in the areas concerned.

The effect on the environment of proposals for oil-related development is always carefully considered, and wherever necessary conditions to minimise possible environmental damage are attached to planning permissions.

Empty Dwellings

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the total number of accommodation units, in both public and private sectors, respectively, now standing empty in Scotland at the latest available date.

I do not have the information necessary to enable me to make an up-to-date and comprehensive estimate.

Second Homes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects the study of second homes in Scotland, commissioned from the Dartington Amenity Research Trust by the Countryside Commission for Scotland, the Scottish Tourist Board and the Highlands and Islands Development Board, to be published.

Roads (Oil Traffic)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what criteria govern the designation of trunk roads in Scotland as oil roads; and what preference is given to their improvement.

To qualify as oil-related, a trunk road must serve an oil development area and its traffic directly, and proposed improvements on such a road have to enable the road to serve this purpose. Oil-related schemes currently carry the highest priority within the Scottish roads programme.

Coupar Angus

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the concern being expressed by residents of Precinct Street, Coupar Angus, over the slow progress over the reconstruction of the Damhead Bridge section of the A94 Perth-Aberdeen road near Coupar Angus; and if he will take steps to expedite this work.

I am aware of the local concern. A94 is, however, a principal road, and improvements on it are matters for Perth and Kinross Joint County Council as local highway authority. For my part, I have accepted in principle the improvement of the Dam-head Bridge section as suitable for grant-aid.

Steel Industry

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what finance will be available for the steel industry in Scotland for the Scottish Development Agency.

I have nothing at present to add to my reply to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston) on 10th December.—[Vol. 883, c. 134–5.]

Health Service Consultants

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many consultants and others in the National Health Service in Scotland are currently receiving merit awards; what is the total amount paid in the latest full financial year; and what is the amount of the highest and lowest award.

Merit awards are payable only to consultants having contracts with the National Health Service. 614 currently hold awards in Scotland.The total amount paid in awards for the financial year 1973–74 was £1,572,421. The value of the highest award is £7,947 and of the lowest £1,506.

Fodder

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether any assistance will be given to hill farmers in Scotland to overcome fodder shortages in certain areas; and if he will make a statement.

After consultations with the Scottish National Farmers' Union, the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Crofters Commission I have introduced a short-term scheme to assist farmers and crofters in certain areas where home-grown feed supplies have been particularly affected by last year's harvesting conditions.The scheme will apply to the counties of Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland and also to Arran, which comprise the main areas of fodder deficiency. Farmers in these areas whose farms are classified B or C for winter keep purposes—I and II in the case of crofts—will be able to apply to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland for payment of one-third of the total cost of buying in feed. These payments will be subject to a financial limit set at £6 per hill cow on C farms and £4 per hill cow on B farms—or the equivalent croft classifications—up to an overall limit of 10 cows per holding.Payment will be made in respect of feed consigned by vendors on or after 1st January 1975 up to 1st March 1975. Applications for assistance supported by consignment invoices must be in the hands of the Department by 10th March.The cost of these payments is estimated to be of the order of £100,000. I thought it right to announce the scheme during the recess to dispel uncertainty. Supplementary Estimates will be presented in due course and meanwhile I shall have recourse to the Contingencies Fund.I can also confirm that, as a further measure to help Scottish hill farmers in general, arrangements have been completed with the banks for extended credit facilities, on the lines set out in the statement by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 11th December 1974. In addition, the three colleges of agriculture have suspended until 1st June 1975 the charges made for certain services relating to feeding stuffs and animal nutrition.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Norway (Trawling Ban)

63.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement regarding the talks with the Norwegian Government held in Oslo on 8th January concerning her threat to ban British trawlers from certain areas off her coast.

Provided that essential interests of the British fishing industry are not damaged, we are not opposed in principle to the establishment by agreement of non-discriminatory trawl-free zones off the coast of northern Norway to meet the special problems of local Norwegian fishermen. Following my talks in Oslo on 8th January, various proposals are under consideration on the basis of which I hope it will be possible to reach agreement.

Immigration (Indian Subcontinent)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many applications from immigrants claiming that they are entitled to settle in the United Kingdom are currently under consideration at British High Commission offices in India and Bangladesh and at embassy offices in Pakistan.

The numbers of applications in the settlement (dependant) queue in the countries of the subcontinent are as follows:

India6,264
Pakistan7,122
Bangladesh4,400
In addition to persons entitled to settle here, namely, wives and children and husbands, who are the majority of those in the queue, there is also a substantial minority composed of persons claiming to be dependent parents and other relatives, fiancées and fiancés, and certain persons who had been removed from the United Kingdom as illegal immigrants. A detailed numerical breakdown of the various categories is not readily available.

Industry

Government Aid

asked the Secretary of State for Industry (1) what is the total sum to which the Government have issued guarantees, loans and grants of public money to support industry and workers' co-operatives since coming to office in March 1974;(2) what has been the cost to public funds attributable to the invoking of the Industry Act by his Department since March 1974.

Expenditure by the Department of Industry on loans, grants and purchase of shares under the Industry Act has totalled £236 million in the period 1st March-31st December 1974. Guarantees given in the same period total £237 million, of which £179 million was given under Section 10, £53 million under Section 8 and £5 million under Section 7. No expenditure has yet been incurred in support of workers' co-operatives, but conditional offers have been made as follows:

£ million
Meriden Co-operative4·95
Kirkby Manufacturing and Engineering Co. Ltd3·9
Scottish News Enterprise Ltd.1·2

Waste Paper

64.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will introduce, as a matter of urgency, a Government-supported scheme for stabilising the market for waste paper so as to encourage local authorities to salvage the 3 million tonnes not reclaimed each year at an estimated annual cost to the balance of payments of £240 million.

The Waste Paper Advisory Group, which I chair, is urgently studying possible ways and means of stabilising the waste paper market in the future. The Government will consider the results of this study, which is expected in the spring, closely and sympathetically.

Ipd (Industrial) Limited

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will publish the report on IPD (Industrial) Limited prepared for his Department by Inbucon.

No. Inbucon's report was prepared on the basis that it was confidential to the Department and the workers.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what cash payments have been made to date by his Department to IPD (Industrial) Limited or to its employees since the company went into receivership; and under what legislation such payments have been made.

A grant of £137,500 under Section 7 of the Industry Act 1972 was paid to the Receiver of IPD (Industrial) Limited towards losses incurred by him in operating the business as a going concern. It is expected that the first instalment of the £3·9 million grant under Section 7 of the Industry Act to Kirkby Manufacturing and Engineering Ltd. will be paid by tomorrow.

Kirkby Manufacturing And Engineering Co-Operative

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether the Kirkby Manufacturing and Engineering Co-operative has become a registered company; and, if not, whether he is requiring that it should do so.

Yes. The company, Kirkby Manufacturing and Engineering Ltd., was incorporated on 6th December 1974.

Selective Assistance

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will publish the guidelines currently being used in his Department for deciding on applications for selective assistance under Section 8 of the Industry Act.

The current guidelines were announced on 2nd October 1972 and notified to the House on 1st November 1972.

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Flood Prevention Works (Kent)

asked the Ministef of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the proportion of the costs of flood prevention works in Kent associated with the Thames flood barrage which are to be paid by central Government, the water authority and frontagers and the corresponding proportions in respect of similar works in London and Essex.

Eligible costs incurred by the Greater London Council and the Anglian, Southern and Thames Water Authorities on downstream flood protection works will attract a Government grant as follows:

GLC and Thames65 per cent.
Southern80 per cent.
Anglian85 per cent.
The balance will be met by the authorities, normally by a land drainage precept on the rates. In calculating the cost qualifying for grant, contributions made by frontagers will be taken into account. The amount of contribution will be for negotiation.

Fruit And Vegetable Destruction Payments

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much was paid out of European Community funds for the destruction of fruit and vegetables in the latest available 12 months' period; and how much was paid out on each commodity.

Community payments are made not for the destruction of fruit and vegetables but to compensate recognised producer organisations if they withdraw certain produce at predetermined prices, well below normal market levels, and dispose of it in approved ways such as gifts to charities and for processing and animal feed. The Commission estimates expenditure in the marketing year 1973–74 as follows:

£m. (convened at 2·16UA/£)
Cauliflowers0·02
Tomatoes0·63
Peaches1·06
Pears6·24
Apples9·84
Mandarins0·46
Oranges*
TOTAL18·25
* Less than 0·01.

Defence

Northern Ireland

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the average payment made to the families of Service men killed by terrorist action in Northern Ireland since January 1972.

Since January 1972 the average payment made to the families of Service men killed by terrorist action in Northern Ireland under the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 has been £1,333 to the dependants of unmarried Service men and £8,429 to the widows of married Service men.Awards under the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 are subject to abatement in respect of any right to pension, gratuity or statutory benefit payable to or for the benefit of the victim or any of his dependants as a result of the death or injury. The widows of Service men killed in Northern Ireland qualify for war pensions payable by the Department of Health and Social Security as well as pensions paid under the Forces Pension Scheme, both of which are increased in respect of dependent children, and therefore any awards made to them under the Act are likely to be less than those received by civilian widows.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the annual pension that is paid to the wife of a British soldier killed whilst serving in Ulster; and if he will list the pensions based upon the rank of the deceased.

The current annual rates of pension, payable under the Forces attributable family pension scheme to the widow of a soldier killed while serving in Northern Ireland, where the death is due to service, are as follows:

£
Private, L/Corporal813
Corporal1,009
Sergeant1,137
Staff Sergeant1,270
Warrant Officer Class II1,317
Warrant Officer Class I1,445
In addition, the widow receives a war widow's pension from the Department of Health and Social Security.

asked the Secretary of of State for Defence what lump sum compensation is paid to the wife of a British soldier killed on duty in Ulster.

The widow of a soldier killed on duty in Northern Ireland receives the following minimum gratuity and additional attributable lump sum:

GratuityAdditional Lump SumTotal
£££
Private, Lance-Corporal2,0785202,598
Corporal2,5146293,143
Sergeant2,8007003,500
Staff Sergeant3,0947743,868
Warrant Officer Cass II3,2008004,000
Warrant Officer Class I3,4848714,355
The rates of gratuity are minimum rates. Where the husband would have received a larger sum by way of terminal grant had he been invalided from the Service on the day he died, the widow receives a gratuity equal to that terminal grant.In addition, the widows of men killed as the result of terrorist activity may claim compensation under the Criminal Injuries to Persons (Compensation) Act (Northern Ireland) 1968.

Expenditure

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the total of military expenditure for the 12 months to the latest available date; what proportion this represents of total Government expenditure in that period; and how it compares with other main items of Government spending.

The information will be available in the Public Expenditure White Paper which is due to be published at the end of January.

Naval Catering

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he is satisfied with the measures taken to improve the control and organisation of catering services in the Royal Navy.

As the House was informed on 16th October 1973, the main recommendations of the Donaldson Committee on the Financial Control of Catering in the Services have been accepted by the Ministry of Defence. We are pressing ahead with their implementation. The principal recommendation that food supplies for the Services should normally be obtained from Service or NAAFI sources has now been put into effect by the Royal Navy. The Catering Branch is being substantially reorganised to enhance career prospects, develop professional skills more fully, and to improve co-ordination and control across the whole catering field. Additionally, a number of specially-qualified naval officers are being appointed to the Ministry of Defence and to the staffs of Commanders-in-Chief with the object of providing expert advice on all catering matters.I am confident that these innovations and further improvements, which will progressively be introduced, will greatly improve the control and administration of catering services within the Royal Navy.

Education And Science

Nursery Classes (Colne Valley)

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many places in nursery classes are available in 1975 within the area corresponding as nearly as possible to the Colne Valley constituency; and how many he expects to be available in 1976.

The information asked for is not collected on a constituency basis by my Department. In the summer of 1974 there were a total of 840 full-time equivalent places available in nursery classes or schools in the metropolitan district of Kirklees. Kirklees has an allocation of £360,000 for nursery education building starts in 1974–75. It is for local education authorities to decide which individual projects should be started within their allocations.

Employment

Pay Structures

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will take steps to encourage wage bargains that reform pay structures.

The TUC guidelines, which the Government have endorsed, specifically say that priority should be given to reforming pay structures.

European Social Fund

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what was the total amount committed to the United Kingdom by the European Social Fund in respect of 1973 and 1974, respectively.

Cost Of Living

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will give the rise in the cost of living in each EFTA and EEC country in the 12 months to November 1974 or later, if available.

The latest information available to me from international sources is given in the following table. In the United Kingdom the rise in the General Index of Retail Prices in the 12 months to November 1974 was 18·3 per cent.

Percentage Change in Consumer Price Indices in the 12 months to October 1974
CountryPercentage increase
United Kingdom17·1
Belgium15·8
Denmark16·8
France14·9
Germany7·1
Ireland17·9
Italy24·3
Luxembourg10·8
Netherlands10·7
Austria10·0
Finland18·4
*Iceland41·4
†Norway10·3
†Portugal31·2
Sweden12·1
Switzerland9·8
Notes:
* 12-month increase to August 1974.
† 12-month increase to September 1974.

Source: OECD Main Economic Indicators December 1974.

Ipd (Industrial) Limited

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many employees of IPD (Industrial) Limited who have been engaged in part-time work at Kirkby since the company went into receivership have been in receipt of unemployment

YearNumber of ProsecutionsNumber of ConvictionsNumber of Convictions as Percentage of ProsecutionsNumber of Persons ConvictedNumber of Persons Fined
1969810*10088
19708810087
19711110911010
19726610066
197314141001413
* Two people were each convicted on two informations.
There is no penalty of imprisonment for offences under Section 143 of the Factories Act 1961.

Home Department

General Election (Invalid Ballot Papers)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will list in the Official Report the numbers of ballot papers declared invalid at the parliamentary election on 28th February 1974, constituency by constituency, together with the figures for different categories of invalidity.

I am sending my hon. Friend the information, and a copy is being placed in the Library.

benefit; and under what legislation any payments of benefit have in these circumstances been made.

Approximately 1,100 employees of Kirkby Manufacturing and Engineering Co. Ltd., formerly IPD (Industrial) Ltd., have been paid unemployment benefit for days they have not worked. The payments were made under the normal provisions of the National Insurance Act 1965.

Factories Act (Prosecutions)

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many prosecutions have been brought under Section 143 of the Factories Act in each of the last five years for which records are available; how many and what percentage of such prosecutions resulted in convictions; and how many persons convicted under the section were sentenced to fines and to imprisonment, respectively.

I am informed by the Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission that the number of persons prosecuted, convicted and fined or imprisoned under Section 143 of the Factories Act during the last five years for which records are complete are as follows:

Bomb Warnings

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will prepare a code of practice for commercial and industrial concerns advising them upon procedures for the safety of employees and others on their premises in the event of bomb warnings.

So much depends on the particular circumstances of each building that we have not felt that it would be useful for the Government to issue such a code at present. Advice is best given by the local police. We are, however, keeping this matter under review.

Security Organisations

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to stop the establishment of central telecommunication centres by private security forces.

Central stations operated by private security organisations serve the useful purpose of receiving intruder alarm calls, monitoring them and transmitting them to the police. I am not aware of any general objection.

Demonstrations (Park Lane)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many demonstrations or marches were held in Park Lane, London, during 1974 for which police control was either requested by the organisers or otherwise made necessary.

There were 27 occasions in 1974 when demonstrators marched along Park Lane and when the police were present.

Exclusion Orders

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have been served with exclusion orders; how many exclusion orders have been signed but not served; and how many people have been excluded since the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1974 came into effect.

Notice of the making of an exclusion order under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act has been served on 18 people. Of these, 13 have so far been removed. In addition, my right hon. Friend has made six exclusion orders notice of which has not been served. Four of the persons concerned are understood to be outside the United Kingdom. The other two have been charged with murder, and my right hon. Friend has therefore revoked these orders, pending the outcome of the criminal proceedings.

Immigration (Indian Subcontinent)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many dependants now living in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India he estimates are entitled to settle in the United Kingdom.

It has never been the practice to publish estimates of this kind, and any forecast of future immigration would necessarily be speculative since numbers arriving may be affected by a wide variety of factors.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement on the system for checking on immigrants seeking to enter the United Kingdom from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan.

In the light of my experience of the procedures used to check the bona fides of immigrants and my recent personal investigation of the systems used in the subcontinent, we are considering whether it will be possible to simplify procedures in order to reduce unacceptable delay to genuine wives and children and to limit mistakes in individual cases without in any way reducing our safeguards against bogus applications.

Broadcasting (Working Party)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made in the setting up of a working party to implement the recommendations of the Crawford Committee on Broadcasting; what appointments have been made to this working party; what time scale he envisages for its work; and if he will make a statement.

House Of Commons

Members' Interests

asked the Lord President of the Council when he expects to make a statement about the register of business interests for Members.

The Government are considering urgently the recommendations made in the report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests (Declaration), published on 8th January, and their proposals with regard to that report will be brought before the House as soon as possible.

National Finance

Eec Loans

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the loans received from the European Community between 1st January 1973 and 1st November 1974 to help industrial modernisation and development in Great Britain, and the loans negotiated but not received, showing the terms of the loans and giving the reasons why the loans not received have not been taken up.

EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK LOANS, 1ST JANUARY 1973 TO 1ST NOVEMBER 1974
BorrowerAmount £ millionTermsProject
Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation.3·5The loan was made available in two tranchesFor on-lending to small and medium-size firms in the development areas.
(i) £2·5 million for 14 years at 7¾ per cent.
(ii) £1 million for 9 years at 7⅜ per cent.
British Steel Corporation14·717½ years at 8½ per cent.The expansion of burden-preparation facilities at Teesside.
British Steel Corporation14·718 years at 8½ per cent.Llanwern steelworks, South Wales.
North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.10·420 years at 9½ per cent.Peterhead power station.
Elf Oil (U.K.)10·410 years at 9⅞ per cent.Exploitation of Frigg North Sea gas deposits.
Total Oil (U.K.)
Aquitaine Oil (U.K.)
Kent and Essex C.C.7·010 years at 10½ per cent.Second Dartford tunnel.
EUROPEAN COAL AND STEEL COMMUNITY LOANS 1ST JANUARY 1973 TO 1ST NOVEMBER 1974
BorrowerAmount £ millionTermsProjectReceived at 1st November 1974 £ million
National Coal Board18·0$10 million for 5 years at 8¼ per cent.Mining equipment pool—provision of powered roof supports.4·2
$15 million for 10 years at 9¼ per cent.6·3
National Coal Board14·0Interest rate 9¼ per cent. Term under negotiation.Modernisation of Bethwys, Trentham, Easington, Littleton and Royston collieries.4·1
National Coal Board3·515 years at 8¼ per cent.Development of Blackhill and Hordern collieries.2·4
National Coal Board1·725 years at 1 per cent.Modernisation of miners' houses.—(*)
British Steel Corporation18·08 years:Scunthorpe coke oven expansion scheme.7·75 (†)
£1·5 million at 6¼ per cent.
£7·5 million at 9¼ per cent.
British Steel Corporation7·88 years at 9¼ per cent.Scunthorpe rod mill expansion scheme.—(‡)
British Steel Corporation1·258 years at 6¼ per cent.Templeborough anti-pollution project.1·25
British Steel Corporation14·810 years:Ravenscraig expansion scheme.9·9 (§)
£3 million at 6¼ per cent.
Remainder at 9¼ per cent.
(*) £0·986 million drawn on 15th November 1974.
(†) A further £10·2 million will be paid on 16th January 1975: the interest rate on this tranche will be 10 per cent.
(‡) The full amount, £7·8 million, will be paid on 16th January 1975.
(§) Final payment will be made on 16th January 1975.

Loans agreed with the European Communities in the period from 1st January 1973 to 1st November 1974 are listed, together with their terms, in the following table. The full amount of all European Investment Bank loans has been received by the recipients. The full amount of loans by the European Coal and Steel Community has not been received in all cases as the money is offered to the recipient in tranches when it becomes available.

Income Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of income in 1972–73 and 1973–74 was taken in the form of income tax from a married man with two children under 11 years of age who is earning the national average wage.

The average weekly earnings of all full-time adult male workers in all industries was £36·0 in April 1972 and £40·9 in April 1973. The percentage of income paid in tax by a married man with two children under 11 and no other tax allowances, and whose income remained at this level for the whole year, was as follows:

Income tax as percentage of income*
1972–7312·6
1973–7414·6
* including family allowance.

Northern Ireland

Cattle Prices

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the average price in auction markets in Northern Ireland of fat cattle and breeding cows, namely, beef cows and suckling type, in the autumn of 1930, 1931, 1940, 1950, 1960, 1970 and 1974, respectively.

This information cannot be provided in the form requested. However, the following tables give such details as are available.Annual average prices for animals sold in auction markets:—

Fat Cattle (Steers and Heifers)Cows in milk per headCows in calf per head
£ per live cwt.££
1930 (Calendar Year)2·1318·3220·56
1931 (Calendar Year)1·9416·2118·64
1940 (Calendar Year)2·9119·6020·95
1950 (Calendar Year)5·0734·3334·66
1960–61 (June-May Year)6·1469·2466·75
1970–71 (June-May Year)9·7983·68*89·68*
1973–74 (June-May Year)17·45124·10*138·95*
Average prices for the autumn months, September to November, which are available

only for 1970 and 1974, are as follows:—

19708·8078·72*86·24*
197411·2198·61*101·72*
* The Friesian and Ayrshire breeds are excluded from these figures.

Overseas Development

Bangladesh

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what aid is being given for emergency relief and whether technical help is being offered in relation to the famine and disaster in Bangladesh.

In response to the floods and the payments crisis in Bangladesh last summer, my right hon. Friend on 2nd September increased our wheat aid to 30,000 tonnes and our commodity aid for the purchase of British goods and services by £4 million to £9 million. The extra money was exceptionally made available to help Bangladesh meet payments due on urgent items already on order. Two loads of drugs and medical supplies, some of them provided by international agencies, were flown out and an immediate special cash contribution of £5,000 was made locally to Prime Minister Mujib's appeal.The country has just had a good main rice crop of 6·5 million tonnes, and nearly 900,000 tonnes of food imports, including our own wheat, will have arrived in Bangladesh between August and the end of this month. The Bangladesh authorities have not sought our technical help in the distribution of relief supplies to those in need, but my right hon. Friend will be very ready to consider any request made.

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what provision has been made for spares for British helicopters in Bangladesh.

The aircraft were handed over in March 1973 and 12 months' supply of spares was provided. In the autumn of 1973 specialist advice was given on the spot to the Bangladesh Air Force on the control, storage and issue of spares, and a further list of items required was identified and subsequently ordered. One aircraft has been grounded since January 1974 for lack of a calibrated torque transducer unit which proved extremely difficult to replace. A twelve months' supervisory and training consultancy paid for by Britain ended in April 1974.At the end of July 1974 the Bangladesh authorities, then having other helicopters available, decided that they had no further use for the British helicopters and asked us to help find a prospective buyer. This search is now going on. In view of their decision, most available outstanding spares were sent to Bangladesh at the end of August, the rest being sent in October. Altogether spares cost about £190,000. The supply of these helicopters has to be seen as only a small part of our total aid effort to Bangladesh.Apart from what has been channelled through international bodies, Britain has provided or promised about £13 million in relief grants, £18·8 million in commodity aid, £25 million for development projects, £1·4 million for a population scheme, 48,000 tonnes of food aid, and considerable technical assistance.

Prices And Consumer Protection

Food Subsidies

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what is the current annual cost of food subsidies to the consumer; how the total cost is distributed between the various foods subsidised; and what provision she has made to maintain the prices of the foods in question at their present levels in the face of further increases in the costs of production, distribution and storage.

The estimated cost of food subsidies in the current financial year is as follows:

£ million)
Bread63·4
Butter55·2
Cheese39·0
Household Flour4·5
Milk323·1
Tea16·7
Total501·9
The level of subsidy on particular foods will be kept under review in the light of the developing market situation and any price notifications submitted to the Price Commission.

Central Intelligence Agency

asked the Prime Minister if he will investigate the extent of industrial espionage by the CIA in the United Kingdom in connection with British security interests; and if he will make a statement.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave on 14th January to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy)—[Vol. 884, c. 78.]

Social Services

Cranleigh Hospital

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will make a statement on the future of Cranleigh Hospital bearing in mind the guidelines issued by her Department—Health Service Circular (IS) 75, issued August 1974—on the development of community hospitals.

As far as I am aware, no formal case has been made for the use of Cranleigh as a community hospital. No decision about its future is currently contemplated, nor will any be taken prior to full consultation with the regional health authority, Surrey Area Health Authority, the South West Surrey district and its community health council, and other interested organisations.

Leeds (Hospital)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, following the expenditure of approximately £3,000,000 on preparatory work over the past 12 years, whether she can now say when she expects a decision to be made, on the tenders now to hand, to commence work on phase I of the new General Infirmary at Leeds.

Following my right hon. Friend's statement in the debate on the National Health Service on 2nd December 1974—[Vol. 882, c. 1216.]—consultations are taking place on the detail of the 1975–76 health capital programme.At this stage I cannot say which schemes I shall be able to approve for a start during the period up to 31st March 1976.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what amount of money has been allocated by her Department through the Yorkshire Regional Health Authority for the years 1974–75, 1975–76 and 1976–77 towards the building of phase 1 of the new hospital complex planned by the former United Leeds Hospital Board of Governors and the University of Leeds joint planning committee and team, under the approval of the Department of Health, and tenders for which were received and opened in March 1974.

As I indicated in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Norman-ton (Mr. Roberts) today, I cannot say which schemes I shall be able to approve for a start in the period to 31st March 1976. My Department has allocated £500,000 for design fees in 1974–75 in respect of the Leeds new teaching hospital. No allocations have yet been made for 1975–76 and 1976–77.

Retirement Pension

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the ratio of the single person's normal retirement pension to national average earnings in the years 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974.

The information requested is as follows:

Year (October)The single person's standard rate of retirement pension as a percentage of gross average earnings*
197119·4
197218·8
197318·9
197420·2
* Average earnings of male, adult, full-time manual workers in manufacturing and certain other industries as determined by the Department of Employment's regular October inquiry. (Provisional figures for 1974).

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why there has been a delay in calculating and notifying the rate of retirement pension for Mrs. M. Brown, the subject of a letter from the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury on 2nd January.

I regret the delay which has taken place in this case and am writing to my hon. Friend explaining the reasons for it.

Disabled Persons (Wives' Travel Costs)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will consider introducing a scheme for the provision of free transport to wives of disabled husbands who have not reached retirement age, particularly in the case where such a wife has reached the age of 60 years or over.

I have no proposals in mind on precisely these lines, but the new mobility allowance will in due course ensure more flexible mobility help for a wider range of people. If my hon. Friend has a particular point in mind, perhaps he will let me know.

Benefits (Recovery)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many actions for the recovery of money were commenced by her Department in the last 12 months for which the figures are available in the High Court and the county courts, respectively; what was the total sum for which judgments were obtained in each court, respectively; and what percentage of these totals was actually recovered in respect of each court.

In the 12 months ended 31st December 1974 the Department commenced civil action in the High Court in 2,407 cases and in the county courts in 134 cases. Figures are not available of the total sums for which judgments were obtained or of the percentage of those sums recovered, but during 1974 £721,884·34 was recovered in the High Court and £29,386·27 in the county court in respect of actions commenced during 1974 and previous years.

Trade

London Capital Group Ltd

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will set up a special investigation by his Department into the London Capital Group and associated subsidiaries.

Following preliminary inquiries by officers of my Department, my right hon. Friend appointed Mr. M. D. Sherrard, QC and Mr. I. F. H. Davison, FCA on 31st December 1974 as inspectors under Section 165(b) of the Companies Act 1948, to investigate the affairs of London Capital Group Limited. The inspectors are empowered to investigate the affairs of that company's subsidiary companies. They commenced their inquiries without delay. Subsequently my right hon. Friend appointed the same inspectors under Section 165(b) to investigate the affairs of Export Promotions and Consultancy Services Limited and of Global Imex Limited—companies in which Mr. Stonehouse is returned as a director and a major shareholder.

Wales

Sports Council For Wales

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what is the amount of grant that will be available to the Welsh Sports Council for 1975–76; and what increase this is on 1974–75.

The amount of grant aid for 1975–76 is still under consideration.

Celtic Sea Advisory Committee

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many meetings have taken place, and on what dates, of the Welsh Oil Council; and whether he intends to publish any of its reports.

The Celtic Sea Advisory Committee held its first meeting on 6th December 1974. The question of publication of any reports will be decided when it arises.

Energy

Departmental Staff (Oil Business Experience)

asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many officials of his Department of the rank of principal or its equivalent and above have had practical experience outside the Civil Service working for (a) oil or petroleum production and supply companies, and (b) petroleum retailers; and if he will take steps to ensure that such practical experience is available in future, in the light of North Sea oil production.

Twenty-six officials of the rank of principal or its equivalent and above with such experience have been recruited or seconded to the Department of Energy. My right hon. Friend will continue to arrange for as many such appointments to be made as may be necessary.

Petrol Retailing

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has received the letter from Mr. A. T. V. Johnson, managing director of the Melton Garage, Burton Street, Melton Mowbray, dated 20th December, which states that a 10p increase in the wholesale price of petroleum spirit gives the retailer an additional profit of 0·576p per gallon, and a 10·50p increase gives him an additional profit of 0·790p per gallon; what reply he has sent; and whether he accepts those figures as accurate and in accordance with his departmental calculations.

My right hon. Friend has received the letter, and my Department has replied explaining that as the maximum retail price of petrol is no longer controlled dealers' margins may vary according to the terms of supply and their own marketing decisions. But petrol retailers, like other distributors, will still have to observe the requirements of the Price Code.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what consultative procedures he employs to discuss Government policies and proposals with representatives of petroleum retailers; what official organisations he recognises for the purpose of such consultations; and on how many occasions he or other Ministers in his Department met representatives of each of those organisations since March 1974.

General sponsorship responsibility for the garage trade rests with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry who, I understand, recognises the Motor Agents' Association, with which is associated the Scottish Motor Trade Association and the Petroleum Association. No meetings with the associations have been held by Ministers of my Department since March 1974, but my officials have been in touch with them as necessary.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy from what sources, other than the Civil Service, he sought information about the average length of time petroleum spirit is held in stock by retailers, prior to his decision to permit a price increase of wholesale petroleum on 17th December; and why he did not consult the Motor Agents' Association about this matter before taking his decision.

The increase in the wholesale prices of oil products on 18th December was in accordance with the criteria of the Price Code. It followed the expiration of the 28 days' notice that the oil companies are obliged to give to the Price Commission.My right hon. Friend made the decision to delay the lifting of the maximum retail price control on motor spirit until 20th December to guard against the possibility of profiteering on old stocks, taking into account information from a number of sources about petroleum retailing.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy upon what criteria he based his decision to permit petrol supply companies to increase the wholesale price of petroleum spirit from midnight on 17th December 1974 while maintaining controls over the price of petroleum spirit until midnight on Thursday 19th December; what representations he has received from petroleum retailers about this; what reply he has sent; and whether he will make a statement.

In removing the maximum retail price controls altogether, it was the responsibility of the Government to guard against unfair profiteering at the expense of the consumer. The problems of the retailer and the needs of the consumer were both taken into account and my right hon. Friend considered that the two-day delay was a fair compromise. This has been explained to those retailers who made representations. I do not consider there is a need to make a statement.