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Written Answers

Volume 887: debated on Tuesday 25 February 1975

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Written Answers To Questions

Tuesday 25th February 1975

National Finance

Social Contract

54.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the operation of the social contract and its overall effect on the economy.

The social contract covers the whole range of Government economic policies. Since entering office, we have done all in our power to sustain our side of the bargain by protecting the weaker members of the community against inflation and by assisting industry in order to protect jobs. Similarly, the majority of the trade union movement have put a very real effort into their side of the social contract by observing the TUC guidelines on pay. Nevertheless, if considerable numbers of workers continue to settle outside the spirit of the guidelines, the effects on employment could be serious.

Widows

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated annual cost of exempting (a) half and (b) the whole of a widow's basic pension from income tax in respect of widows at work.

I regret that the information on which to base an estimate is not available.

Personal Allowances

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the estimated number of taxpayers in receipt of the additional personal allowance; and how many of these are widows or single parents.

In 1972–73—the latest year for which figures are available—about 350,000 taxpayers were in receipt of the additional personal allowance. Of this total, about 20,000 were married men with incapacitated wives. The division of the balance between widows and other categories is not known.

Eec Renegotiation

Q8.

asked the Prime Minister if he can now say when he expects to be taking part in final renegotiation talks with other Heads of Government of the European Community.

Q14.

asked the Prime Minister when he expects to have a final discussion with other Community Heads of State and Governments about United Kingdom negotiations for continued membership.

I expect to meet other EEC Heads of Government at Dublin in mid-March. I shall take the opportunity to raise any matters still outstanding in renegotiation.

Prime Minister (Visits)

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister if he has any plans to pay official visits to the Scandinavian countries.

Q18.

asked the Prime Minister if he will now pay an official visit to Switzerland.

Industrial Policy (Prime Minister's Speech)

Q11.

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on Friday 7th February to the Merseyside Productivity Board on industrial matters.

Q12.

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech in Liverpool on industrial policy on 7th February.

Q13.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of the public speech on industrial questions which he made in Liverpool on 7th February 1975.

I refer the hon. Members and my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield).

Chancellor Of The Exchequer (Broadcast)

Q15.

asked the Prime Minister if the broadcast statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on industrial policy on 8th February represents Government policy.

Q16.

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at Leeds on 8th February on economic matters represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

I refer the hon. Member and my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley).

Ministerial Broadcasts

Q19.

asked the Prime Minister when he next intends to make a ministerial broadcast.

Perth

Q20.

asked the Prime Minister if, when he visits Scotland, he will pay an official visit to Perth.

I have at present no plans to do so, but, as the House knows, I shall be visiting Scotland later this week.

Environment

Empty Houses

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will announce measures to bring into fuller use empty and under-used dwellings in both public and private sectors; and if he will make a statement.

Although there are often legitimate reasons for property being empty, I am most concerned that, especially in areas of housing stress and shortage, privately-owned and local authority property which is vacant or under-used should be occupied by people in housing need as quickly as possible. I am examining a number of practical steps to achieve this, including measures to enable empty private properties to be brought into social control in co-operation with local authorities or housing associations.Among the proposals I am studying are:

  • 1. Arrangements between owners of empty properties and local authorities or housing associations which could make use of the properties on an ad hoc basis. Where ultimately other use was intended, possession could be restored to the owners, with the authority or association making other housing arrangements for the tenants.
  • 2. Use of property awaiting demolition or improvement to house homeless families who might otherwise be in "bed and breakfast" accommodation.
  • 3. Schemes for local authorities to make agreements for the management and letting of properties of large private owners.
  • 4. Selective conversion of large under-occupied local authority houses to provide more small dwellings.
  • 5. A rapid repairs service to deal quickly with properties bought by local authorities in a state of disrepair.
  • My Department will consult on these and other possibilities with representatives of local authorities, housing associations and private landlords about the problems, and I hope to make a further statement soon.
  • Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

    Eggs

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate his Department has made of the average rise in the cost of production of eggs in the United Kingdom during the past year.

    Average changes in the costs of producing individual commodities cannot be assessed reliably. Much depends upon the system of production used and/or the individual producer's response to changing costs and any opportunity to make savings.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate his Department has made of the average retail price of standard eggs necessary to cover the average United Kingdom costs of production over the past three months; and what the average retail price of standard eggs was during the same period.

    The cost of producing eggs varies widely, depending on the system of production used and the scale of the enterprise. Margins between producer and retail prices also vary; in part this depends upon the methods of marketing. An estimate of the kind requested cannot therefore be made on a meaningful basis. The average retail price of standard white eggs in the United Kingdom was 38½p per dozen in November 1974, 39½p per dozen in December 1974, and 34p per dozen in January 1975. The price for the week ending 19th February was 34p per dozen.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will estimate from figures available to him the number of cases of eggs imported from France, and the EEC as a whole, respectively, in each of the past 12 months.

    The figures are as follows:

    SHELL EGGS—IMPORTS
    ('000 boxes)
    1974FranceEEC
    January74101
    February4766
    March (5 weeks)3849
    April4248
    May109138
    June (5 weeks)3842
    July2934
    August6068
    September (5 weeks)3951
    October2739
    November2036
    December (5 weeks)3035
    Total553707

    Source: Trade and Navigation Accounts.

    Official figures for January 1975 are not yet available but it is provisionally estimated that the figures for that month are 60,000 and 67,000 boxes, respectively.

    SHELL EGGS
    ('000 boxes)

    Total available supplies

    Total of imports from all sources

    Imports expressed as a percentage of total supplies

    1974—
    October-December8,8371101·24
    1973—
    October-December8,5101742·04
    1974—
    January-March9,1302242·45
    April-June9,1992372·58
    July-September8,8571541·74

    Source: Trade and Navigation Accounts.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with representatives of the French Government about their refusal to allow British eggs to be imported into France; what reasons the French have given for this refusal; whether he is satisfied that these reasons are justified; and if he will take steps designed to overcome the ban.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in talks with the French Government relating to their ban on the importation of English eggs.

    France prohibits the import of poultry or poultry products from countries which do not forbid the use of certain substances—including arsenical compounds—for the feeding and rearing of poultry. Since the incorporation of arsenical compounds in feed for laying and table poultry is permitted in Great Britain, imports of our eggs and poultry meat into France are at present prohibited. The French attitude is based on an assessment of the public health risks, with which our advisers do not agree. We have for some time been urging at Community level that appropriate provision to permit the use of arsenical feed additives should be included in the relevant EEC directives. It is hoped to reach conclusions at a meeting in April.

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the total number of cases of eggs imported into the United Kingdom from all sources as a percentage of total United Kingdom egg sales in the last three-month period for which figures are available and compare this with comparable figures for the previous four quarters.

    No official figures are yet available for January 1975 but it is estimated that imports in that month represented about 2 per cent. of total supplies and were some 40 per cent. below the level of January 1974.

    Farms

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give as much information as he has on the size of agricultural holdings, as

    Holdings by tenure and Farm size
    Holding Size Group (Acres)Holdings by Farm size Distribution based on total area size group*Holdings wholly tenantedHoldings with more than 50 per cent. of their area tenantedHoldings with less than 50 per cent. of their area tenanted
    ENGLAND
    Under 5081,85820,8216,6649,716
    50–99¾32,30210,6243,5215,410
    100–149¾19,7346,3642,1233,727
    150–299¾26,6368,8743,1465,417
    300–499¾11,1353,6251,6522,496
    500–699¾3,9011,216747895
    700–999¾2,283724478541
    1,000–1,999¾1,664507341385
    2,000 and over3601406076
    Total179,87352,89518,73228,663
    WALES
    Under 5013,0293,4997981,500
    50–99¾8,1372,2165591,174
    100–149¾4,7051,135362776
    150–299¾4,9301,151454873
    300–499¾1,334284165256
    500–699¾356645482
    700–999¾190443339
    1,000–1,999¾174483226
    2,000 and over335515
    Total32,8888,4462,4624,741
    * Total area of the holding includes crops and grass, rough grazings and woodland ancillary to farming and other land used for agriculture.
    † Excludes holdings which are wholly owner occupied.

    Grass

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a further statement on the work of his Department's Agricultural Development and Advisory Service to encourage greater efficiency in the production, conservation and utilisation of grass.

    I have now received advice on this subject from my Advisory Council for Agriculture and Horticulture and from the Department's Agricultural Development and Advisory Service (ADAS).The council has advised that the important contribution already being made by ADAS in this sector could be taken

    set out in his answer of 5th February [c. 522,] giving a breakdown between the numbers for England and Wales, respectively, and between hill and marginal land, and other land.

    The available information is as follows:

    Analysis of farms by tenure and acreage size groups relating to June 1973 for England and Wales separately (information relating to hill land, marginal land or other land not available from census data):
    still further through a national, co-ordinated campaign to publicise the benefits of grass. In the council's view, it should particularly be directed at the smaller farms, where most of our grassland is concentrated, and at the continuing need to put over to farmers the techniques of good silage-making and new developments in hay-making, especially cheap barn hay-drying.The council has said that the campaign should also emphasise the need for the maintenance and improvement of field drainage and the value of regular forage analysis, and it should encourage the continued optimum use of nitrogen, which even at present prices can show good returns, and the maximum use of organic residues in view of the present high prices for fertilisers. The council stressed the need for advice to be supported by accurate and up-to-date data on likely costs and returns, to be linked with techniques and practices that are cheap and simple to adopt, to be largely directed to on-farm situations and to make special use of farm demonstrations and arresting advisory publications.The council has also advocated the production of forage maize, especially on small and medium-sized farms, through machinery syndicates and private contractors. ADAS is intensifying its work along these lines. Such a campaign will need to extend over a number of years. Its success will depend very much on the co-operation of other interested organisations. During the coming year the emphasis will be particularly on improved conservation techniques with the aim of encouraging farmers to adopt known and proven technology which gives better results than the generality of farming practice in this sector. Farmers' experiences during the last year have once again underlined the benefits to be derived from good grassland management and from effective grass conservation techniques, especially silage-making.

    Animal Exports

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many licences for the export of live animals for slaughter were issued in the period 17th January to 16th February, giving the number of animals in each category of cattle, sheep and pigs involved; and to which countries they were exported.

    I have been asked to reply.It is not the practice to disclose details of export licences issued. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food stated in answer to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes) on 20th February—[Vol. 886, c.

    449–50.]—that 6,478 live food animals had been examined before shipment up to 14th February, all to EEC countries.

    Employment

    Retail Price Index (Fuel Prices)

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) what is the estimated increase in the retail price index which will result from the proposed electricity price rise of 30 per cent. which is intended to come into effect on 1st April 1975;(2) what is the estimated increase in the retail price index which will result from proposed further increases in electricity prices of 7½ per cent. which it is intended will come into effect on 1st August 1975.

    Increases of 30 per cent. and 7½ per cent. in domestic electricity charges would increase the retail prices index by about three-quarters and one-fifth of 1 per cent. respectively relative to its present—January 1975—level.

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the estimated increase in the retail price index which will result from the rise in electricity prices which took effect on 1st January 1975.

    It is estimated that the increase in electricity charges that took effect in bills payable from the 1st January 1975 increased the retail prices index by about one-tenth of 1 per cent.

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the estimated increase in the retail price index which will result from the proposed 22 per cent. increase in coal prices which it is intended to bring into effect in two stages by the autumn of 1975.

    An increase of 22 per cent. in the prices of domestic coal and coke would increase the retail prices index by about one-quarter of 1 per cent. relative to the present—January 1975—level.

    Employment Agencies

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received about the abolition of private employment agencies; and if he will make a statement.

    Representations advocating the abolition of private fee-charging employment agencies were made to me by the Trades Union Congress and three of its individual member unions, the National Federation of Professional Workers and a trades council. I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made during the debate on the Employment Agencies Act on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill on 23rd January—[Vol. 884, c. 1831–41]—and the reply given to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) on 18th February—[Vol. 886, c. 1103].

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment if it is the Government's intention to abolish private employment agencies; and, if so, when.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made in the House on 23rd January during the debate on the Employment Agencies Act on the Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill—[Vol. 884, c. 1831–41]—and to the reply given to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) on 18th February 1975—[Vol. 886. c. 1103].

    Medical Advisory Service

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will seek to extend the powers of the Health and Safety Commission to cover the recruitment of workpeople in the United Kingdom for employment overseas, in so far as the Employment Medical Advisory Service is concerned.

    I am informed by the Chairman of the Health and Safety Commission that the Employment Medical Advisory Service will be very willing to advise anyone who is considering taking up employment overseas of the nature and extent of any occupational health risks which may be involved, so far as these are known.The commission is considering what further steps may be taken in the light of the information supplied by my hon. Friend.

    Hawker Siddeley Aviation

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment what assistance his Department is able to offer to employees of Hawker Siddeley Aviation made redundant by the proposed reduction in the number of Victor bombers to be converted to tankers, and of conversions of Nimrod aircraft to Mk. 2 standard, and the cancellation of the Argosy navigational trainer.

    I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that all the facilities of the Employment Service Agency and Training Services Agency will be made available to any employees of HSA who may be made redundant.These facilities include "job teams" to advise on alternative employment and on opportunities for training and retraining, the canvassing of other employers for additional vacancies, and guidance on employment opportunities available and allowances payable for those who wish to take up employment in other areas. Special arrangements are made for those who may require the facilities of the Professional and Executive Recruitment or the Occupational Guidance Service.

    Training Boards (Oil Platform Fabrication)

    asked the Secretary of State for Employment what involvement the Engineering, Construction and Petroleum Training Boards have in offshore oil platform fabrication activity; what percentage of their staff is wholly or partially engaged in such operations; and what proportion of that staff is resident in Scotland.

    , pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 12th February 1975; Vol. 886, cols. 149–150] gave the following information:I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that the Engineering Industry Training Board provides training advice and assistance to the production platform and module manufacturers in Scotland. A senior training officer and three supporting training staff specialise in this work in Scotland; they represent about 17 per cent. of the board's staff operating in Scotland, and all are resident there. The construction of concrete platforms has barely got under way but the Construction ITB has given urgent consideration to determining the manpower and training needs in West Scotland. Up to now the involvement of the board's Scottish staff has not been substantial. The Petroleum ITB is not involved in platform fabrication and employs no staff on that activity.

    Legal Aid

    asked the Attorney-General (1) what was the annual

    HIGHER COURTS
    YearNumber of persons granted legal aidExpenditureEstimated average cost per person
    ££
    1968–6942,8363,063,74871·52
    1969–7051,7904,036,00577·93
    1970–7161,9305,353,69986·45
    1971–7269,4446,161,00088·72
    1972–7370,6968,160,274115·43
    MAGISTRATES' COURTS
    YearNumber of cases involving legal aidTotal ExpenditureEstimated average cost per case
    ££
    1968–6951,5741,205,05823·36
    1969–7068,6991,866,56727·17
    1970–7188,3202,749,22031·13
    1971–72101,8673,379,30333·17
    1972–73117,4364,363,70137·16
    Expenditure in magistrates' courts is related to cases some of which involve more than one accused.

    Energy

    Coal And Oil Prices

    asked the Secretary of State for Energy, on the basis that the cost per therm of coal and oil for industrial use was 5·5–6·4p and 9·5–10·5p, respectively, in England at the end of 1974, what will be the comparative position of these fuels after 1st July 1975, taking into account the projected increases in the price of industrial coal.

    Typical prices of coal for industrial use in England are estimated to be in the range 7·1–8·3p a therm as from 1st March 1975. Current prices for fuel oil are thought to be similar to those quoted for end-1974, i.e. 9·5–10·5p a therm. Due to the fluctuating terms and cost per accused person of legal aid in England in each of the last five years;(2) what was the annual cost of criminal legal aid in England per aided accused person in each of the last five years.

    I have been asked to reply.The figures for England and Wales for the five years ending in 1973 are:conditions on which individual fuels are supplied to the industrial market I do not think that it would be helpful to forecast price levels likely to apply after 1st July 1975.

    Electricity Prices

    asked the Secretary of State for Energy what the cost of 10 domestic units of electricity is at the present time compared to that on the same date of each of the three preceding years.

    Although precise figures are not available the following estimates have been supplied by the Electricity Council:

    Average estimated price for 10 kWh of electricity sold to domestic consumers by area boards in England and Wales—Pence
    Bills rendered during February 19729·4
    Bills rendered during February 19739·6
    Bills rendered during February 197410·2
    Bills rendered during February 197513·2

    Eec Budget

    asked the Lord President of the Council what are the reference numbers of the documents relating to the EEC budget correctives mechanism.

    The following documents relate to the budget correctives mechanism debate on 27th February 1975. Copies are now available from the Vote Office:

  • (a) R/2829/74. Inventory of the Community's Economic and Financial Situation since enlargement.
  • (b) Explanatory Memorandum dated 20.11.74.
  • (c) R/340/75. Unacceptable situation and correcting mechanism.
  • (d) Explanatory Memorandum dated 13.2.75.
  • (The reference numbers of the documents relating to the Draft Budget for 1975 are:

  • (a) R/2155/74.
  • (b) Explanatory Memorandum dated 29.8.74.
  • (c) Draft General Budget.
  • (d) Explanatory Memorandum dated 29.10.74.
  • (e) R/2340/74.
  • (f) R/2443/74.
  • (g) Explanatory Memorandum dated 29.10.74.
  • (h) European Assembly's modifications and amendments.
  • (i) Explanatory Memorandum dated 21.11.74.
  • (j) Council of Ministers' consideration on 28.11.74 of the European Assembly's modifications and amendments to the 1975 budget.
  • (k) Explanatory Memorandum dated 16.12.74.
  • (l) R/230/75.
  • (m) Explanatory Memorandum dated 31.1.75.)
  • Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

    Disarmament

    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs who represents the United Kingdom on the special committee set up by the 24th United Nations Assembly to prepare for the world disarmament conference; and when a progress report will be made to the House.

    Her Majesty's Government's co-operation with the ad hoc committee set up by UNGA Resolution 3183 (XXVIII) has been conducted through our Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York. Details are given in the ad hoc committee's report to the United Nations General Assembly, A/9628 and in UN Document A/A.C. 167/INF 1/Rev 1 of 20th September 1974, both available in the Library. No date has yet been announced for the ad hoc committee to resume its work as called for in Resolution 3260 (XXIX).

    European Assembly

    asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what commitments have been made by member Governments of the EEC concerning direct elections to the European Assembly.

    No time limit is set in the treaty but at their meeting in December 1974 the EEC Heads of Government noted that the objective of election by universal suffrage should be achieved as soon as possible. Her Majesty's Government however entered a reservation in the communiqué to the effect that they could not themselves take up a position on this proposal before the process of renegotiation had been completed and the results submitted to the British people. The Danish delegation also entered a reserve about the timing of the introduction of elections by universal suffrage.

    Northern Ireland

    Finance Corporation

    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what restrictions or changes will be imposed on the operations of the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation to make it conform to the approach of the Northern Enterprise Board.

    The present powers of the Northern Ireland Finance Corporation are broadly similar to those proposed for the National Enterprise Board. When Parliament has completed its consideration of the Industry Bill I shall review the powers of the corporation and its relationship with the board.

    Local Government

    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he is satisfied with the working of the reorganised local government system in Northern Ireland in the absence of any regional government.

    The reorganised system of local government has been functioning for less than 18 months and, in the circumstances of Northern Ireland, has been operating satisfactorily.

    Strikes

    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many strikes took place in Northern Ireland in 1974; how many of these were official and how many unofficial; how many working days were lost during that year, and how these figures compare with the figures for 1971, 1972 and 1973, respectively.

    The figures for industrial disputes, connected with terms and conditions of employment, are as follows:

    1971197219731974
    Number of strikes:
    Official8564
    Unofficial503654102
    584160106
    Working days lost227,071306,42673,626268,930

    Employment (Manufacturing Industry)

    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many jobs have been lost and new jobs created in manufacturing industry in Northern Ireland in the years 1972, 1973 and 1974, respectively.

    It is not possible to say precisely how many jobs have been lost or created in manufacturing industry. During 1972, 1973 and 1974 the numbers of jobs lost through closures and redundancies notified by companies to the Government totalled 1,321, 429 and 1,447 respectively. During the same years the industrial development organisation of the Department of Commerce and the Local Enterprises Development Unit promoted 7,984, 6,861 and 5,904 jobs.

    Area Boards

    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will consider making new provision for greater local influence on, and democratic scrutiny of, the actions of area boards.

    The boards have been functioning now for less than 18 months, and are operating well. My right hon. Friend has no plans for making new provisions. Elected local councillors, nominated by their district councils, have a substantial number of seats on the area boards. As the members of these boards, and of their various committees, live within, or close to, their areas, local influence is considerable.

    Secondary Education

    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the reorganisation of secondary education and the future of the 11-plus examination in Northern Ireland.

    It is well known that the United Kingdom Government have stated their intention of developing a fully comprehensive system of secondary education which is based upon ending selection at 11-plus or at any other stage. The comprehensive principle is now the generally accepted basis for secondary education in Great Britain.Since I came to Northern Ireland, one of the matters I have been studying is the Burges Report, or, to give it its official name, the Report of the Advisory Council for Education in Northern Ireland on Reorganisation of Secondary Education in Northern Ireland. The advisory council, after considering the operation of selection at 11-plus and outlining alternative ways in which a nonselective secondary system might be introduced, recommended—although not unanimously—that the 11-plus be eliminated through a restructuring of the educational system and asked that a declaration of intent to end the 11-plus in this way be made. The report did not recommend any particular non-selective arrangement as being suited to circumstances in Northern Ireland.Since the report was published the Department of Education has sought the views of a wide range of interested bodies and I am grateful for the serious consideration which those bodies have given to the various aspects of the report. Replies which have been received include a diversity of views, some for and others against the main recommendations.The Education and Library Boards have also been considering the report, and some boards have set up working parties to examine the implications of the abolition of selection for various parts of their areas.These activities, both at departmental and area board level, underline the importance of the report, and the complexity of the situation in Northern Ireland, which differs in significant ways from that in Great Britain, particularly in the size of secondary schools, the higher proportion of voluntary grammar schools and of the pupil population attending them.I am convinced of the advantages of comprehensive education and of the need to extend it from the primary to the secondary sectors but I realise that there are many features of schooling in Northern Ireland which require to be considered in this context. In addition there are clearly important practical problems including costs of reorganisation and of making optimum use of available resources which would warrant further in-depth study and I have decided that the time has come to take a major step forward in consideration of those problems. Bearing in mind that the Burges Report did not recommend the adoption of any particular system for the abolition of the 11-plus, I have arranged for a feasibility study to be carried out by the Senior Chief Inspector on behalf of the Department. This investigation will not be concerned with the theoretical arguments for and against reorganisation but with the actual practicalities and possibilities of its implementation within the present buildings and will examine various alternatives in the light of local circumstances.This does not mean that all other studies should now cease or that proposals which may be coming forward should be retarded. The investigation will, however, require the co-operation and good will of school authorities and others, and I feel sure that such a response will be forthcoming from all concerned.

    Prices And Consumer Protection

    Licensed Premises

    asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if she will now introduce legislation to require all licensed premises to display price lists in every room open to the public.

    I have lately received the views of the West Midlands Consumer Protection Department which I am considering. I shall be having discussions with the large number of trade, consumer bodies and enforcement authorities who would be concerned.

    Trading Stamps

    asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if she will introduce legislation to abolish trading stamps.

    No. If, however, my hon. Friend has evidence that the practice is detrimental to consumers' interests, I shall, of course, be glad to consider the evidence.

    Overseas Development

    Oil And Commodity Costs

    asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will list the specific steps proposed, in the allocation of additional resources being made available for the aid programme, to help those developing countries which have been especially injured by the price rises in oil and in commodities.

    As the House already knows, it is my intention that an increasing proportion of the aid programme should be directed towards the countries most seriously affected by the changes in the prices of oil and other commodities. I described, in my statement on 28th January—[Vol. 885, c. 214–16.]—some of the measures which I have already taken to these ends, and I shall keep the House informed of further commitments as I undertake them.

    Grain Supplies

    asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will initiate a high-level study, to report within three months, to see what economies could be made in the United Kingdom's food patterns to release grain for the world's hungry.

    I have been asked to reply.Before initiating any such study I should need to give careful consideration to the implications of Government intervention into the nation's eating habits.

    Trade

    Shipping Accidents (English Channel)

    asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether, in view of the number of shipping accidents, he is satisfied with the arrangements for ensuring immediate and effective remedial action in the event of an oil tanker colliding or running aground in the English Channel; and if he will make a statement on the facilities available.

    Since 1971 collisions and strandings in the Dover Strait have shown an encouraging decline, and there have been no cases of major oil pollution in the English Channel from marine casualties. A wide range of facilities for pollution clearance and search and rescue operations is available along the South Coast; and a standing committee on pollution clearance at sea, including representatives of oil and shipping companies, has recently been established to advise on the adequacy of the clearance facilities around the United Kingdom coast in the light of the risks involved.

    South Africa

    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will investigate, and make a statement on, the extent to which British exports to South Africa are being impeded by delays to shipping.

    I am aware that the delivery of our exports to South Africa is being delayed, but this is a result of congestion at South African ports. I understand that both the South African Government and the commercial interests involved are doing their utmost to improve the situation.

    Education And Science

    Teachers

    52.

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many teachers each local authority has been provisionally allocated for 1975–76.

    It has never been the practice to publish provisional quota figures while these are being discussed with the authorities concerned. The final quota distribution for 1975–76 will be settled and made public soon.

    School Meals

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many children were, at the latest convenient date, receiving free school meals through the "passport" of the family income supplement and supplementary benefit; and how many children received free school meals by way of separate application on the grounds of low income.

    Precise information is not available but returns from a sample inquiry covering about 15 per cent. of the school population of England and Wales in October 1974 suggest that about 450,000 pupils were receiving free school meals under the "passport" arrangements and 300,000 on grounds of low income.

    Reading And Language Ability

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science, what percentage of schools has one or more suitably qualified teacher with responsibility for advising colleagues in language and the teaching of reading.

    My Department does not collect information about the functions of individual teachers on a regular basis.

    Schools (Resources And Allowances)

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will set up a working party made up of representatives of the Department of Education and Science and the local education authorities to reconsider capitation allowances and the resources of schools.

    My Department is considering those recommendations of the Bullock Report which concern the Government. I expect to have discussions with the local authority associations about the report in due course.It is for each local education authority to decide what system of capitation allowances to operate. I understand the local authority associations are discussing some aspects of these allowances and problems that arise from them with the Educational Publishers' Council and the British Educational Equipment Association.

    Bournemouth Schools

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many new school places, primary or secondary, became available as a result of new construction in Bournemouth in each year between 1960 and 1974.

    The numbers of new school places which became available are listed in the following table:

    Year taken into usePrimarySecondaryTotals
    (1)(2)(3)(4)
    1960810810
    1961280280
    1962420420
    1963
    1964160160
    1965
    1966
    196740180220
    1968680680
    1969280280
    1970200600800
    19714040
    1972440330770
    1973115180295
    197440750790
    Totals2,2753,2705,545
    The figures include places provided in permanent or temporary construction, and a small number, not separately identifiable in some years, of replacement or remodelled places.

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the pupil-teacher ratio in primary schools and secondary schools in Bournemouth on some convenient date in each of the years 1960, 1965, 1970 and at the latest convenient date for which figures are available.

    The information is as follows:

    PUPIL-TEACHER RATIOS IN MAINTAINED PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN BOURNEMOUTH
    January 1960
    Primary schools31·8
    Secondary schools24·2
    January 1965
    Primary schools28·8
    Secondary schools22·5
    January 1970
    Primary schools28·6
    Secondary schools17·1
    January 1974
    Primary schools25·0
    Secondary schools17·2
    NOTE:i. The primary school figure for 1960 is based on full time teaching staff only; the figures for later years are based on numbers that include an allowance for the full-time equivalent of part-time teachers.ii. For 1974 the ratios relate pupil numbers only to the qualified teachers.

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many schools, primary and secondary, there were in use in Bournemouth on some convenient date in each of the following years 1960, 1965, 1970 and at the latest convenient date for which figures are available; and how many pupils there were at those schools on each of those dates.

    The information is as follows:

    MAINTAINED PRIMARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS IN BOURNEMOUTH
    Number of schoolsNumber of full-time pupils
    January 1960—
    Primary schools329,032
    Secondary schools137,748
    January 1965—
    Primary schools319,560
    Secondary schools137,067
    January 1970—
    Primary schools3210,506
    Secondary schools127,259
    January 1974—
    Primary schools3210,763
    Secondary schools128,471

    Note: Part-time pupils in primary school numbered 26 in January 1970 and 248 in January 1974. No corresponding figures are available for the earlier years.

    Independent Schools

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the number of inspections carried out of private schools in the years 1970 to 1974, respectively; and how many such schools were considered to be below the standards laid down by his Department.

    The number of independent schools in England formally inspected in each of these years and the number of cases in which notices of complaint were served under Section 71 of the Education Act 1944 in respect of premises, accommodation or instruction, were as follows:

    YearSchools inspectedNotices of complaint
    1970837
    19711437
    1972784
    1973583
    19741465
    In the case of eight of the schools inspected which had been recognised as efficient by the Secretary of State this recognition was withdrawn following inspection.

    Nursery Education

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether, in view of the recommendations of the Bullock Report, he will request those local education authorities currently planning reductions in nursery and preschool provision to reverse their decisions and, if necessary, provide grant aid to this end.

    My right hon. Friend has already made it clear that he is determined to maintain the impetus of the nursery education programme and looks to authorities to play their part. He has, however, no power to provide grant aid for this purpose.

    Independent Schools (Handicapped Children)

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will seek to establish a wider representation on the boards of managers and governors of independent schools catering for handicapped children in situations where the majority of pupils are nominated by local authorities.

    The Warnock Committee will be looking at the whole question of the rôle which independent schools play in the education of handicapped children and my right hon. Friend would prefer to await its report before considering whether any action is desirable on this particular issue.

    School Transport

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made in implementing the proposals of the working party on school transport to abolish the three-mile limit for free bus passes to school-children.

    I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave on 4th February to a Question from my hon. Friend the Member for Whitehaven (Dr. Cunningham).—[Vol. 885, c. 449.]

    School Building Programme

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what allocation he has made for school buildings in Northumberland for 1975–76; and if he will list the projects in the Morpeth constituency.

    The Northumberland local education authority has been allocated a lump sum authorisation of £1,381,000 for school building in 1975–76. It has been asked to submit to the Department not later than 31st March 1975 a list of the major projects it proposes to start in that year within this figure. The list has not yet been received.

    Single-Sex Schools

    asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take steps to discourage the building of new single-sex schools.

    No. The Government's policy on single-sex schools is set out in paragraphs 58 and 59 of Cmnd. 5724.

    Defence

    Widows (Pension)

    53.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to extend the provisions of a Service widow's pension to those widows whose marriage had taken place after their husband's retirement from the Armed Services.

    I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave on 11th February to the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith).—[Vol. 886, c. 97.]

    Industrial Democracy

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, in the pursuit of the Government's policies for industrial democracy, he will receive trade unionists representing workers in industries affected by defence purchases; and if it is his policy to make available to them any information which is not available to Parliament concerning defence policies, projects and contracts.

    We are ready to consult management and trade unions in the defence contracting industries in so far as the Defence Review seems likely to affect them and on the basis of such information as they need to know.

    Seawolf

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence if a date has yet been fixed for the full sea trials of the Seawolf missile on board HMS frigate "Leander".

    Sea trials of Seawolf using HMS "Penelope" are planned to begin next year.

    Northern Ireland

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many houses have been searched by the Army for illegally held firearms in the Anderson-town area of Belfast since the IRA cease-fire; and with what result.

    The Army has been involved in the searching of two occupied houses in the Andersontown area since the current cease-fire started up till 21st February. No firearms were found.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many houses have been searched by the Army for illegally held firearms in the Falls Road area of Belfast since the IRA cease-fire; and with what result.

    The Army has been involved in the searching of four occupied houses in the Falls Road area since the current cease-fire started up till 21st February. No firearms were found.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many houses have been searched by the Army for illegally held firearms in the Markets area of Belfast since the IRA cease-fire; and with what result.

    The Army has been involved in the searching of one occupied house in the Markets area since the current cease-fire started up till 21st February. No firearms were found.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many houses have been searched by the Army for illegally held firearms in the Short Strand area of Belfast since the IRA cease-fire; and with what result.

    No occupied houses have been searched by the Army in the Short Strand area since the current cease-fire started up till 21st February.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many houses have been searched by the Army for illegally held firearms in the New Lodge Road area of Belfast since the IRA cease-fire; and with what result.

    The Army has been involved in the searching of nine occupied houses in the New Lodge Road area since the current cease-fire started up till 21st February. No firearms were found, but 4 lbs. of explosives was discovered in one of the houses.

    Low-Flying Aircraft

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence what study he has made of the evidence supplied to him by the hon. Member for Cannock of alarm created in Rugeley by low-flying aircraft; and if he will arrange for advance notice to be given when low-flying exercises are being undertaken in the Cannock Chase area.

    Military pilots are permitted to undertake low-level training over a considerable area in the Midlands, which includes part of Cannock Chase. They are, however, expressly forbidden to overfly Rugeley. On the basis of the evidence which my hon. Friend has so far supplied, I have no reason to believe that there has been any breach of the low-flying regulations, but if he can let me have details of specific incidents I shall gladly have them investigated. There are well established arrangements for giving advance notification of special exercises, but I regret that this would be impracticable in the case of routine low flying.

    Offshore Oil Platforms

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence what anti-pollution devices will be carried by the vessels to be built for the protection of oil platforms.

    No final decisions have yet been taken on the exact capabilities to be provided, but the possibility of installing anti-pollution devices is being closely considered.

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the estimated cost of each of the vessels to be built for the protection of oil platforms.

    It would be prejudicial to our current negotiations with potential contractors if estimated costs were to be given at this stage.

    Aircraft (Construction And Conversion)

    asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of cancellation of the Argosy navigational trainer aircraft project;(2) what estimate he has made of the effect on unit cost of the conversion of Victor bomber aircraft to tanker aircraft which will arise from the proposed reduction of the fleet by seven aircraft;(3) what estimate he has made of the increase in unit cost of the conversion of Nimrod Mark 1 aircraft to the Mark 2 avionics standard which would arise from the proposed cut-back in this programme.

    We are still consulting the contractor concerned, and we are not yet ready to give figures.

    Environment

    House Building Costs

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, in view of the estimate by the Federation of Master Builders that prospective increases in the cost of materials and labour will raise the cost of a new house selling at £10,000 to £12,000 in six months' time, he will make a statement on this trend and in particular whether he expects an increase of this magnitude to occur in the eastern counties, and in the general area of Bury St. Edmunds, Newmarket and Haverhill.

    A wide variety of factors affect house prices and it would be inappropriate for me to give a forecast, particularly for individual areas.

    Housing

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many extra dwellings are likely to become available in the public sector in 1975 as a result of the £1,000 million increase in housing expenditure during 1974–75.

    The additional provision for housing expenditure of more than £1,000 million in 1974–75 was not wholly related to dwellings becoming available in 1975.The initiatives taken by the Government to secure the expansion of public sector housing programmes have produced already,

  • (a) 22,000 more completions in 1974 than in 1973,
  • (b) 33,000 more starts,
  • (c) 37,000 more dwellings in new contracts approved,
  • (d) 12,000 new houses in approvals of acquisitions from private developers.
  • (e) at least 15,000 existing dwellings, many of them empty, acquired by local authorities from other private owners.
  • I envisage that the expansion will be maintained in 1975.

    Transport Services

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will examine further ways of co-ordinating and integrating transport services;(2) In view of the need to conserve energy, if he will direct the industries concerned to examine ways of facilitating joint rail and bus long distance journeys by co-ordinating timetables.

    Local authorities and public transport operators are already obliged by the Transport Act 1968 and the Local Government Act 1972 to secure co-ordination of services as far as possible.

    Local Councillors (Surcharging)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will seek to amend the operation of the Local Government Act 1933 so as to remove or limit the power of the district auditor to surcharge councillors for accounting periods after 31st March 1974.

    For accounting periods after 31st March 1974 the powers of district auditors are contained in the relevant provisions of the Local Government Act 1972; I have no plans to amend these provisions. The district auditor remains under a duty to certify any loss or deficiency caused by the wilful misconduct of any person, and also any sum which has not been brought to account. Disallowance and orders for repayment on other grounds are now matters for the courts.

    Carsington, Derbyshire (Reservoir)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has received from the Severn-Trent Water Authority notification of its wish to submit additional evidence relating to the assessor's report and the inspector's recommendation following the public inquiry into the proposed reservoir at Carsington, Derbyshire; and whether it is his intention to re-open the inquiry.

    The water authority wrote to my Department on 14th February saying that it would wish to put forward additional evidence but that investigation of the issues raised in the reports on the public inquiry was likely to take some time.Objectors to the proposed reservoir will be given an opportunity of commenting on any new evidence from the water authority.The decision whether to re-open the inquiry will be taken when any further comments have been received and considered.

    Sand And Gravel Extraction

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what research has taken place into the use of alternative materials to replace sand and gravel extracted from good quality agricultural land in the home counties.

    The Department has in hand a whole series of studies relating to aggregates. These include investigation of the use of waste materials as aggregates, and, in co-operation with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Sand and Gravel Association, experiments in restoring to agriculture high quality land from which gravel has been extracted.As regards waste materials, the Building Research Establishment of the Department has recently developed a process to produce dense aggregate from colliery waste. The Department is continuing its investigations into colliery waste, china clay sand, refuse clinker and processed slate. The results of a survey by the Department of the locations, disposal and respective uses of the major industrial by-products and waste materials have recently been published as a Building Research Establishment paper—No. 19/74. I am sending the hon. Member a copy.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environent whether he will restore full rating to gravel and sand pits in England and Wales.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how much marine gravel was exported from the United Kingdom during the years 1972–73 and 1973–74.

    Of 14·7 million tonnes dredged in 1972, 2·3 million tonnes were exported. The corresponding figures for 1973 were 16·2 and 2·5 million tonnes respectively.

    Borrowing Powers

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the individual limits of lending or borrowing powers obtained by his Department by means of legislation or affirmative order in the past 12 months.

    The Housing Corporation obtained a borrowing power not exceeding £400 million in the Housing Act 1974; the British Railways Board obtained a borrowing power set at £600 million or, subject to an order made by me, a larger sum not exceeding £900 million, under the Railway Act 1974.

    Civil Servants

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many civil servants were employed by his Department on 1st January 1975 and on the same date in each of the three preceding years.

    The following is the information: 1st January 1975, 69,664; 1st January 1974, 69,326; 1st January 1973, 69,919; 1st January 1972, 70,248.

    District Boundaries

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects the Boundary Commissioner to start his review of district boundaries; and when the commissioner will be asking for submissions from all interested parties.

    The future programme of work (as so far determined) of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England is set out in its Report No. 6, a copy of which I am sending to the hon. Member.

    Water Authorities

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will consider a scheme to enable water authorities to borrow money for capital development at advantageous terms.

    I would refer my hon. Friend to the answer given on 30th January in reply to the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen).—[Vol. 885, c. 239–40.]

    Sewerage

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce legislation to make it an offence for a local authority to refuse to empty a septic tank for a domestic ratepayer where that ratepayer is paying a sewerage charge and is not on mains drainage; and if he will make a statement.

    No. The Public Health Act 1936 already allows local authorities to provide such a service and to charge for it. Section 12(5) of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 will oblige local authorities to do so.

    Ringway Airport

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he has it in mind to announce a date for the holding of a public inquiry on the proposal of the Greater Manchester Authority to construct a second runway at Ringway Airport.

    At present the planning application for the second runway is still before the Cheshire County Council, which is carrying out its own investigations and consultations. It is my intention, at the appropriate stage, to call in the application for my own decision.I cannot yet say when this stage will be reached nor, therefore, when I shall be able to announce a date for a public inquiry.

    A52, West Bridgford

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will hold a public inquiry into the proposal of the Nottinghamshire County Council for a bus and lorry lane on the A52 at Radcliffe Road, West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, before deciding whether to authorise the scheme.

    No. The road is a principal road for which the Nottinghamshire County Council is the highway authority, and it is for that council, in the light of whatever representations it may receive, to decide whether to hold a public inquiry.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what traffic surveys will be carried out and what consultations he intends to have with local authorities, parish councils and other interested bodies in connection with the Nottinghamshire County Council's application for approval of a scheme for a bus and lorry lane on the A52 at Radcliffe Road, West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire.

    None. The road is a principal road for which the Nottinghamshire County Council is the highway authority, and it is for that council to decide what surveys and consultations are necessary beyond those already held.

    Water (Pollution Control)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what research work is currently sponsored by his Department in the fields of industrial and domestic effluent treatment.

    The Department is currently sponsoring two advanced wastewater treatment plants at Coleshill near Birmingham and Davyhulme near Manchester, which are investigating physical-chemical methods of sewage treatment. In addition, eight other projects dealing with improvements in existing processes are being sponsored by the Department. Another 36 projects originally sponsored by the Department were transferred to the Water Research Centre on its formation on 1st April 1974.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions his Department is holding with industry on the matter of effluent treatment; and if he will make a statement.

    My Department has regular meetings with bodies representing industry to discuss matters of this kind connected with water quality, but is not pursuing specific discussions at present on effluent treatment.

    Rural Transport

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what subsequent progress has been made in the provision of public transport in rural areas following the introduction of pilot schemes involving the use of postal buses in Devon and East Anglia; and if he will make a statement.

    The pilot studies carried out by the Department in Devon and West Suffolk examined the scope for local initiatives where conventional public transport is not available. Postal bus services can make a contribution in certain circumstances, and there are now 24 such services in England and Wales.

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is yet able to make a statement on his consideration of the problems associated with transport in rural areas.

    Driving Test (Fees)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what cases of particular hardship or personal misfortune he considers adequate to justify the return of the driving test fee in cases of nonattendance or failure to give notice within the three-day period;(2) if he will now refund the driving test fee which has been forfeited by Mrs. Bone of Liverpool as a result of her inability to keep her appointment to take her driving test, following a cardiac arrest, which only permitted one clear working day's notice, which was duly given.

    The information whch the hon. Member originally sent to me did not reveal that Mrs. Bone had suffered a cardiac arrest. This, however, is the kind of personal misfortune which certainly justifies a refund of the fee, and I am now arranging for this to be done.

    Hampshire

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to be able to approve the South Hampshire structure plan, with or without modification; to what extent the plan has been affected by the buying up of land or property in South Hampshire by the Greater London Council; and if he will make a statement.

    My right hon. Friend expects to receive the report of the panel on the examination in public within the next few days. It is too early to say when his decision is likely to be announced. The acquisition of land or property by the Greater London Council is not a matter relevant to the structure plan for South Hampshire.

    Rate Equalisation (London)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has now reached a decision on the form of the London rate equalisation scheme for 1975–76.

    I have now decided to make a scheme, for 1975–76 only, in accordance with proposals put to me by the London Boroughs Association. Before reaching my decision, I consulted also the Greater London Council and the Common Council of the City of London. Under the scheme, the inner London boroughs and the City of London will contribute the product of a 2·5p rate to a pool. The pool will be distributed to the outer boroughs in proportion to the shortfall of each borough's rateable resources over the Greater London average. However, special treatment will be given to four outer boroughs—Barking, Brent, Haringey and Newham—in recognition of their exceptional needs.

    Industry

    Chrysler Corporation

    asked the Secretary of State for Industry what are the terms of the reply he has received from the Chrysler Corporation of the USA in connection with his own request for information about the company's further operations in Great Britain; and whether he will make a statement.

    The text is as follows:"Dear Secretary of State,We can understand your concern about the future of motor vehicle manufacturers in Britain and appreciate your continued interest in Chrysler United Kingdom.These are difficult times for the automobile industry in many parts of the world. Worldwide inflation, the energy crisis and the recession resulting from these two problems, has naturally affected the automobile industry more than most others because of its peculiar susceptibility to cyclical swings. Chrysler United Kingdom faces many of the same difficulties being faced by automotive manufacturers throughout the world.Chrysler United Kingdom has the facilities and capacity to participate fully in the British market. It forms an integral part of Chrysler's operation in Europe and its products are sold by Chrysler companies throughout the world. In addition, the company provides a manufacturing support base for many other companies. As you undoubtedly know, Chrysler United Kingdom shipments of vehicles to Iran establish the company as one of the world's largest KD automotive exporters to one customer. The growth potential in this programme with its attendant employment opportunities, continues to be most encouraging.In spite of these strengths, it is clear that the current times are very difficult for the company. We believe that for the benefit of the British economy and the company and its employees, dealers and suppliers, it is necessary that all of us do what we can to assist the company and the entire British automotive industry to reach its full potential. We have had to take a number of difficult steps to adjust to economic conditions in the United Kingdom. We are continuing to review the situation to see what additional steps have to be taken. In this regard, attention must be given to the fact that considering projected future industry sales, Chrysler United Kingdom has substantial excess average annual capacity for the assembly of built up vehicles.In summary, the strategy of the Chrysler companies, including Chrysler United Kingdom is to adapt their levels of production and related cost structures to enable them to operate profitably in the 'dramatically reduced markets' to which you refer in your letter.We will continue to work with all of the company's managers and employees to achieve maximum productivity in all of the company's operations. Ultimately, the success of the company, as well as the security of their jobs, rests on the ability of the company to produce efficiently and at costs that are competitive with other automotive manufacturers throughout the world. In the final analysis, it is only a successful, profitable company that can pay the high wages and other benefits that make life better for them. This is a message that we believe should be emphasised as strongly as possible, and we welcome the help of the Government in this regard.Sales of all motor products in the United Kingdom at this time are depressed. We recognise the causes of this situation and realise that they are essentially of a world-wide economic nature. Nevertheless, we have to sell our products both domestically and abroad, and in order to export successfully, we must first have a secure home market base. We hope, therefore, that the Government will pursue economic, monetary and taxation policies which will stimulate the purchase of motor vehicles. Special consideration should be given to reducing vehicle taxes and hire purchase restrictions. Increased sales of motor vehicles will provide increased job stability and assist us in our efforts to improve Chrysler United Kingdom's operations.Finally, we consider it essential that the Government do all in its power to foster a climate that provides incentive for investment. In addition to sound management and a productive work force, investment is necessary for economic improvement and the prospect of sound profits is necessary to encourage investment. Without the prospect of satisfactory profits, neither Chrysler United Kingdom nor any other company can be expected to undertake new investment. We believe it is essential that this be widely understood, and we would appreciate your help in this regard.In summary, Chrysler has a very substantial investment in the United Kingdom. Chrysler United Kingdom, along with other automotive manufacturers throughout the world, is currently facing difficult times. We intend to make every possible management effort to improve the situation as rapidly as possible and remain a strong competitor in the British market. The active support of labour and the Government is necessary to accomplish this task. We need and welcome your assistance in this endeavour.Sincerely Yours,JOHN J. RICCARDO."

    Borrowing Powers

    asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will list the individual limits of lending or borrowing powers obtained by his Department by means of legislation or affirmative order in the past 12 months.

    The Post Office (Borrowing Powers) Order 1974 (S.I., 1974, No. 2050) increased the aggregate of the amounts in respect of any borrowing and debt to a sum not exceeding £4,800 million. The Financial Assistance to Industry (Increase of Limit) Order 1975, which raises the limit of assistance under Section 8 of the Industry Act (1972) from £150 million to £250 million, was approved by Parliament on 18th February. This assistance may be given in the form of grants, guarantees or purchase of equity as well as loans.

    Industry Bill

    asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether any provisions of the Industry Bill will require the consent of the EEC to their implementation.

    The powers of the National Enterprise Board would permit it to do, or to be given a direction to do, things which would be subject to the provisions of the Treaty of Rome or the Treaty of Paris.The exercise in respect of an EEC resident of the powers in Clauses 9–13 to prevent the transfer of control of important manufacturing undertakings to non-residents would need, in any par- ticular case, to be considered in relation to the provisions of the treaties dealing with capital movements, rights of establishment and the reduction of competition.The use of the powers in Clauses 14–18 to give financial assistance to industry is subject to the provisions of Articles 92–94 of the Treaty of Rome.

    Rolls-Royce Limited

    asked the Secretary of State for Industry in what manner the directors of Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited are kept informed of Government policy as it may impinge upon normal commercial considerations.

    The directors of Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited are kept informed of Government policy through the channels available to all companies, including direct contacts with Ministers and officials.

    Scotland

    Departmental Land

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many acres of land have been sold by his Department in each of the past five years.

    Sales of land by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland and by the Forestry Commission, the two major land-holding departments, during the period in question were:—

    DAFS (acres)FC (acres)
    19701154,152*
    197150016,068
    19721,30843,981
    19731,42414,442
    197433323,925
    * Covers 18-month period.
    Small sales of land held by the Scottish Home and Health Department for health service and prisons purposes also took place during this period.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the landholdings of his Department at the nearest available date; and how this compares with the previous 10 years.

    The amount of land held by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland and by the Forestry Commission, the two major land-holding departments, on the dates in question were as follows:—

    1974 (acres)1964 (acres)
    DAFS419,114433,269
    Forestry Commission1,828,0001,483,000
    2,247,1141,916,269
    In addition, small areas of land are held by the Scottish Home and Health Department for health service and prisons purposes and by the Scottish Development Department for road development.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when was the last sale of land owned by his Department to the private sector; how many acres were involved; and what was the selling price

    On 30th January 1975; a smallholding extending to 15½ acres of land was sold for £10,000 to the sitting tenant.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many acres of land have been sold by his Department in the Highlands in each of the past 15 years.

    Information for the full period in question is not readily available and could not be provided without considerable research. Details of sales during the past five years by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland and the Forestry Commission, the two major land-holding departments, are as follows:

    DAFS (acres)FC (acres)
    1970632,600*
    1971955,515
    197264022,265
    19734410,327
    197414820,219
    * Covers 18-month period.
    These figures exclude sales of public land between the agricultural and forestry sectors. Sales of small areas of land held by Scottish Home and Health Department for health service purposes also took place during this period.

    Fishing Vessels

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his latest estimate of the number of mid-water trawlers and seine net boats operating in Scottish waters.

    At December 1974, 430 Scottish vessels were recorded as mainly engaged in seining and 88 as mainly engaged in mid-water—pelagic—trawling. A considerable part of the seiner fleet operates, however, beyond the 12-mile limit.

    Fishery Protection

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many fishery protection vessels were stationed in Scotland during 1974.

    My Department operated six vessels for part of the year and five for the remainder. In addition, nine Royal Navy vessels were engaged on fishery protection duties in Scottish and other United Kingdom waters throughout the period.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many patrols, and of what duration, were carried out by fishery protection vessels in and around Scottish waters during 1974.

    Sixty-nine patrols varying in duration between 11 and 20 days were carried out by my Department's vessels.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many patrols by fishery protection vessels were cancelled during 1974; and for what reasons.

    One patrol was cancelled because of mechanical difficulties. In the period when vessels were laid up on account of crewing difficulties, it is estimated that 15 patrols were cancelled.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the nominal complement of each fishery protection vessel stationed in Scotland; and what was the lowest figure of officers and men available for each vessel during 1974.

    Three of the fishery protection vessels operated by my Department have each a complement of 25 officers and men, two a complement of 21, and one a complement of 14. The main shortage of manpower in 1974 was of deck officers; and of a total complement of 26 there was at its worst a shortage of six officers.

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many violations of fishing limits on the part of foreign boats were discovered by fishery protection vessels stationed in Scotland during 1974.

    No violations were detected by my Department's vessels. Two violations were detected by the Royal Navy.

    Cod Prices

    asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the recent fall in the price of cod in the Moray Firth area.

    Cod prices in January were above the 1974 average. The decline in prices since the beginning of February is the result of heavier landings and a slackening of demand. Price fluctuations of this kind are characteristic of fish marketing. Significant trends can be determined only over a considerably longer period.

    Social Services

    Abortion

    9.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps she is taking to expand facilities for abortion operations to take place in National Health Service hospitals.

    Treatment for termination of pregnancy in National Health Service hospitals is part of the work of gynaecological departments. Where these departments are under pressure it is for the National Health Service authorities to expand facilities to the extent that they are able within the resources allocated to them and in the light of other priorities.

    Family Incomes

    4.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, in view of the fact that a man with a wife and two children earning a gross weekly wage of £25 requires an increase in his gross wage of 88 per cent. in order to maintain his living standard, assuming a rate of inflation of 20 per cent., if she will take steps designed to change this situation.

    I have already explained, in my reply to the hon. Member's Question on 28th January—[Vol. 885, c. 95–6.]—the figure which he quotes is seriously misleading. The situation to which he refers would not happen in practice.

    Health Service Expenditure (Leicestershire)

    19.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will now make a statement on her proposals for health service expenditure in Leicestershire, following the recent deputation to her by hon. Members and representatives of the British Medical Association.

    I am aware of the problems facing the health authorities responsible for providing services in Leicestershire where present low levels of expenditure reflect serious deficiencies in the level of hospital provision. Despite present economic circumstances I have recently given hon. Members an assurance that developments in Leicester will continue to receive the highest priority. It is my firm intention that resources should be allocated in accordance with criteria which are responsive to relative need. Priority will also be given to developments vital to the medical student intake programme. Thus Leicestershire will continue to attract priority consideration within the constraints of available resources.

    Benefits In Kind

    23.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consideration her Department has given to the provision of benefits in kind, in particular free electricity and gas, to retirement pensioners, the chronic sick and disabled and families and individuals in receipt of supplementary benefit or family income supplement.

    The Government's view is that any additional help needed by pensioners and other social security beneficiaries against increases in fuel costs is best met by providing cash rather than benefit in kind. As my hon. Friend knows, a general increase in benefits and pensions is to be made in April.

    Children (Employment)

    21.

    asked the Secreatry of State for Social Services what regulations she has made governing the employment of children to replace local bye-laws under Section 1(2) of the Employment of Children Act 1973.

    No regulations have yet been made. Deferment for at least 12 months is being considered in view of the current shortage of the resources needed to implement them.

    George Eliot Hospital, Nuneaton

    22.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will make a statement on the future of Nuneaton Hospital.

    I regret it is not yet possible to give a starting date for the next phase of the development at George Eliot Hospital, but detailed planning is continuing.

    National Insurance Contributions And Pensions

    25.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the actuarial expectation of life for men at 65 years of age and women at 60 years of age; what is the amount paid, respectively, by a man and woman now retiring in contributions since the national insurance scheme started; how much the man and woman will receive, respectively, in total pensions having reached their actuarial expectations of life; and what is her policy towards reducing the male retiring age to 60 years of age.

    Based on mortality rates in 1971–1973, the expectation of life is about 12 years for a man aged 65 and about 20 years for a woman aged 60. The other information requested by my hon. Friend depends on a number of variables. We have no proposals to reduce the minimum pension age for men to 60.

    Following is the information:

    The amount paid in contributions by an individual varies according to his employment history and, in the case of an employed person, his earnings from 1961 onwards, when the graduated pension scheme was introduced. In an extreme case, a person could have paid only 156 contributions from July 1948, the inception of the present scheme, and yet qualify currently for a standard basic rate pension on the basis of credits awarded in respect of continuous incapacity. The following examples are, therefore, merely illustrative.