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Written Answers

Volume 889: debated on Wednesday 9 April 1975

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday 9th April 1975

Foreign And Commonwealthaffairs

Belize

15.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if any consultations on the future of Belize have been held or arranged between the British Government and the Government of Guatemala; and what steps are being taken to keep the Government of Belize informed of decisions taken or contemplated at these consultations.

A meeting between the United Kingdom and Guatemalan officials was held in New York in February about Belize. The talks were exploratory. It was agreed that contact would be maintained. The Government of Belize were kept fully informed. No decisions will be taken without full consultation.

Anglo-German Society (Meeting)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs why, and on what purposes, about £1,000 was expended to enable Ministers and Members to attend the 25th Annual Meeting of the Anglo-German Society at Konigswinter during the weekend of 14th March 1975; and, in view of the fact that this is a private organisation, whether he will cease to support its activities from public funds.

As a forum for high level informal contacts Konigswinter has made a significant contribution over 25 years to our relations with the Federal Republic. Since 1967 we have paid half the travel costs of British delegations to Germany. I think it is right to encourage these exchanges.

Middle East

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will seek urgent discussions with the President of the United States of America on the Middle East situation.

We are in constant touch with the United States Government over the Middle East. My right hon. Friend saw Dr. Kissinger as recently as 23rd March.

Eec Regional Fund

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what restrictions exist in the United Kingdom Government's freedom to allocate the money from the EEC Regional Fund.

The regulation establishing the Regional Development Fund was debated in this House on 27th February. The British Government will be free to submit for fund assistance any application which satisfies the provisions of the regulation.

Eec Commission

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will give details of the methods by which the United Kingdom Government at present hold the EEC Commission accountable for decisions the Commission makes which affect the United Kingdom.

The Commission's powers to take decisions addressed to member States, which are delegated to it in the Treaties or by the Council, are of limited scope. They are largely concerned with detailed implementation of Council legislation and are exercised against a background of close and constant contact with the member States. Depending on the nature of the decision in question, Her Majesty's Government might discuss it directly with the Commission or might raise the matter in the Council of Ministers or in an appropriate committee. Under Article 173 of the EEC Treaty it is open to a member State to bring an action against the Commission in the European Court, should the circumstances warrant it.

Denmark

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has, and what inquiries he has made, into the question of the possible withdrawal of Denmark from the EEC in the event of United Kingdom withdrawal.

The Government's recommendation is to stay in the EEC and it would not be appropriate to inquire from other Governments what action they would take in the event of British withdrawal.

Eec Regional Fund

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the significance of the omission of the word "trial" before the word "period" in the English versions of the text of the Paris Summit Communiqué relating to the question of whether the Regional Development Fund is a permanent feature of Community policy or not, and of the fact that the French version differs from the English text in this respect.

Her Majesty's Government regard the version of the Paris Summit Communiqué published as Cmnd 5830 as the official English text. The Regional Development Fund has been set up for an initial three-year period on the basis agreed in paragraph 23 of the Paris Summit Communiqué.

Law Of The Sea Conference

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a further statement on the Conference on the Law of the Sea.

The Third Session of the Conference in Geneva is expected to end on 10th May. I visited the Conference from 2nd-4th April. I believe that there is a good prospect that agreement in principle on the main issues before the conference may be obtainable by the end of this session. The United Kingdom delegation is playing an active rôle and on 21st March co-sponsored, together with eight other delegations, a set of draft articles on the prevention, reduction and control of marine pollution.

Vietnam And Cambodia

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in South-East Asia as far as British interests are concerned.

The situation in Vietnam and Cambodia and particularly the human suffering there are of deep concern to me. Our interests, as those of common humanity, require a just and lasting peace in the area. I appeal to all concerned to seek urgently a political rather than a military solution and so to allow the peoples in the area to live in peace without outside interference.

Advertising Standards (Eec Report)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what was the United Kingdom contribution to the report prepared for the EEC Commission on advertising standards; who financed the report as a whole; and what information he has as to the cost of the study to each of the member States.

I have been asked to reply.This study was financed by the European Commission by means of a grant made to the Bureau Européen des Consommateurs (BEUC). The part of the study dealing with advertising in the United Kingdom was carried out for the BEUC by the Consumers' Association. The grant was paid out of a section of the 1974 Community budget allocated to studies of consumer questions, which totaled 200,000 units of account.The United Kingdom contribution to the Community budget in 1974 was 11·04 per cent. of the total. The contributions of the other member States were: Belgium 7·06 per cent.; Denmark 1·41 per cent.: France 24·27 per cent.; Germany 28·47 per cent.; Ireland 0·35 per cent.; Italy 18·21 per cent.; Luxembourg 0·17 per cent.: Netherlands 9·02 per cent.

Beef Imports (Eec Ban)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will publish details of the easing of the EEC's beef imports ban and its effects on the United Kingdom.

I have been asked to reply.Details of a scheme for easing import restrictions on beef exported to the EEC from certain countries which have signed the Lomé Convention are set out in Regulation (EEC) No. 780/75. This regulation came into force on 27th March 1975. For the United Kingdom it will have the effect of allowing access to our market for up to 12,800 metric tons of beef from Botswana and Swaziland in 1975. Those two countries are traditional suppliers of beef to the United Kingdom; the trade is of considerable importance to their economies and contributes towards meeting our requirements for imported beef.Plans for easing the Community's beef import restrictions on a wider scale are being explored, but no decisions have been taken.

Agriculture, Fisheriesand Food

Milk Imports

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) whether any liquid milk is being imported into Great Britain from Ireland for either liquid consumption or manufacturing purposes;(2) whether any liquid milk is being imported into the United Kingdom from the EEC or any other source for either liquid consumption or manufacturing purposes.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales gave to him on 8th April.

"Babies For Burning"

asked the Attorney-General if he will now refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a view to consideration for prosecution, the authors of the book "Babies for Burning".

The Director of Public Prosecutions is already giving consideration to all aspects of the book "Babies for Burning".

Environment

Railways (Employees' Travel Perquisites)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will give a general direction to British Rail to give female employees the same rights in respect of travel facilities for dependent spouses and children as are currently enjoyed by male employees.

No. Travel concessions are a matter for the internal management of the Railways Board.

Local Authority Mortgages

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is yet in a position to make a statement on his proposals for assistance in respect of mortgage rates now being charged by local authorities.

I cannot at present add to the points I made in answering supplementary questions on this topic on Wednesday, 19th March.—[Vol. 888, c. 1638–41.]

Roads (Construction Grants)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment, (1) if he will relax the time limits contained in Circular 164/74 relating to the termination of the specific highway grant system;(2) if he will list the county councils which have made representations concerning the timetable for the termination of the specific highway grant system outlined in Circular 164/74.

Representations have been made by the associations of local authorities, by the West Midlands County Council formally, and by three or four other local authorities informally, and my right hon. Friend has decided to relax the timetable. I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of a note addressed on 24th March to the authorities affected.

Home Department

Exclusion Orders

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications for exclusion orders made by the police under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act have been refused.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons have been served with exclusion orders under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act; how many have been deported to (a) Northern Ireland and (b) the Republic of Ireland; how many have appealed against exclusion orders; and how many appeals have been successful.

Notice of the making of an exclusion order has been served on 37 people, 32 of whom have been removed, 15 to Northern Ireland and 17 to the Irish Republic. Eleven of the 37 made representations objecting to the order. One case is at present under consideration. I reconsidered the other 10 and revoked four of the orders.

Police (Hampshire)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the present establishment of the Hampshire police force; to what extent it is below its established strength; and what steps are being taken by his Department in conjunction with the Hampshire Police Authority to maintain its strength.

The strength on 31st March 1975 was 2,706 with 139 vacancies. £10,000 has been made available for each of the financial years 1974–75 and 1975–76 for local recruitment activities. A special advertising campaign has been organised during the past six months in 10 local newspapers and the force has advertised, using a special film, on Southern Television. Open days are regularly organised at police stations and stands are mounted at exhibitions and other functions. The force also benefits from national publicity activities for which £765,000 is available in 1975–76.

Prisoners

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will amend the Prison Rules so as to enable a prisoner charged under Rule 52 to have the right to be legally represented.

This is one of the matters within the terms of reference of the departmental working party which is reviewing adjudication procedures in Prison Department establishments. We expect to receive its report shortly.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he considers it necessary under Prison Rule 33(3) to provide that a governor should have the discretion to stop any letter or communication to a prisoner on the ground that its contents are objectionable or that it is of inordinate length.

Governors are required to act with a view to securing discipline and good order, the prevention of crime and the sound administration of prisons.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list in the Official Report the advice or suggestions he has received, in the last year for which figures are available, from visitors' committees or boards of visitors under Prison Rule 97.

Both in their annual reports and on other occasions throughout the year boards of visitors draw our attention to matters with which they think we should be concerned. It would not be practicable to list these in detail.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the arrangements for prisoners to have visitors; and if he will make a statement on the operation of the system.

Unconvicted prisoners are allowed daily visits. Convicted prisoners are entitled to one visit every 28 days. Special attention has been given to improving arrangements for convicted prisoners, and the majority of prisons now offer more than the statutory minimum allowance. Shortage of staff and accommodation restricts improvements at other prisons. Further improvements will be made as resources become available.

Terrorism Prevention

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons have been detained under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act; how many have been subsequently charged with offences; and with what offences they have been charged.

Four hundred and eighty-nine people have been detained in Great Britain under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act and the supplemental order made under it. Twenty have been charged with offences in Great Britain, eight of them with murder, one with conspiracy to cause an explosion, six with unlawful possession of explosives, two with theft, one with robbery, one with burglary and one with assisting offenders. In addition, one was returned to the Irish Republic and there charged with robbery.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many persons have been charged with offences under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act; and under which sections of the Act the charges have been brought.

National Finance

Self-Employed Persons

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the estimated loss to Exchequer revenue if self-employed national insurance contributions were made tax deductible.

Information on which to base a precise calculation is not available but it is estimated that the full-year cost at 1974–75 rates of tax would be about £80 million.

Coins And Notes

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will now authorise the minting of a 25p coin and the issue of a £3 note.

I have no evidence of significant demand for either a 25p coin or a £3 note at present.

Oecd Financial Support Fund

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress is being made on the establishment of a new financial support arrangement within the OECD as agreed in principle by the Group of Ten in January; and if he will make a statement.

The text of an agreement has now been drawn up and is being signed in Paris this afternoon by the United Kingdom and nearly all other member countries of the OECD.The scheme is designed to provide, for a limited period, mutual financial support between member countries, supplementing other sources of credit available to members encountering serious economic difficulties. All participants will be allocated quotas, expressed in SDR, which will determine the maximum liability in sharing risks, and the normal proportions of contributions to assist a borrowing member. Amounts borrowed may be up to or beyond the quota of the member concerned, subject to increasing voting majorities. The total of quotas of all OECD members eligible to join the scheme will be SDR 20 billion, and the United Kingdom's share will be SDR 1·6 billion.The new fund, to be known as the Financial Support Fund of the OECD, will not have its own capital but will raise money as required either by borrowing in national and international capital markets in member countries under the multilateral guarantee of all members or through individual contributions and guarantees.The agreement provides for the scheme to begin to operate after ratification by a substantial majority of potential members, and it is hoped to achieve this within 12 months.Her Majesty's Government welcome the establishment of the scheme and intend to bring forward legislation in due course to provide for full United Kingdom participation. A copy of the text of the agreement will be placed in the Library as soon as possible. Details will be published in a White Paper to be made available before legislation is brought forward.

Capital Transfer Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what arrangements he has in mind for explanatory literature about the capital transfer tax.

The Inland Revenue yesterday published a Press statement and I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library.

Northern Ireland

Terrorist Prevention

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many persons have been detained in Northern Ireland under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act; how many have subsequently been charged with offences; and with what offences they have been charged.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many persons have been charged under the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act in Northern Ireland; and under which section of the Act.

Excluded Persons

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many persons excluded from Great Britain under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Northern Ireland) Act have been sent to Northern Ireland; and how many have subsequently been detained or charged with offences in Northern Ireland.

15 persons excluded from Great Britain under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act have been sent to Northern Ireland. Nine were held by the police on arrival but all were subsequently released.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many persons have been excluded from Northern Ireland under the Prevention of Terrorison (Temporary Provisions) Act; and how many have been sent to Great Britain and to the Republic of Ireland, respectively

Overseas Development

Vietnam

asked the Minister of Overseas Development what is the extent of financial assistance given by Her Majesty's Government with respect to the relief of suffering amongst refugees in South Vietnam.

I would refer my hon. Friend to my statement to the House this afternoon.

Defence

Rent Rebates

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what number of the 7,500 members of Her Majesty's Forces receiving rent rebate as at 31st December 1974 is resident in Scotland.

Public Appointments

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will name those appointed by his Department to the Royal Marines Museum, the Submarine Museum, the Fleet Air Arm Museum, the National Army Museum, and the Royal Air Force Museum.

Apart from serving officers and civil servants who are concerned ex officio with these museums the current appointments to the trustees or governing bodies are:

Royal Marines Museum

General P. W. C. Hellings, CB, DSC, MC, RM (Retired).

Colonel M. Archdall, CBE, RM (Retired).

Submarine Museum

Captain J. E. Slaughter. DSO, RN (Retired).

Captain J. Coote, RN (Retired).

Mr. W. Jones.

Fleet Air Arm Museum

Captain R. H. P. Carver, CBE, DSC, RN (Retired).

National Army Museum

Field Marshal Sir Gerald Templer, KG, GCB, GCMG, KBE, DSO, DCL.

The Marquess of Anglesey.

Mr. A. R. Dufty.

Sir Arthur Drew, KCB.

Royal Air Force Museum

Marshal of the Royal Air Force Sir Denis Spotswood, GCB, CBE, DSO, DFC.

Viscount de L'Isle.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Sir G. de Freitas).

Sir Arthur Norman, KBE, DFC.

Group Captain G. H. Pirie, CBE, DL, JP (Retired).

Education And Science

Further Education Students

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he expects to complete his study to find out why pupils seem less willing to stay on at school after 16 years of age and aim at university, in the light of the projection that, by 1981, 120,000 fewer pupils will be staying on at school after 16 years of age than was estimated in 1972; and if he will make a statement.

As part of the study preparations are being made for a survey of the career aspirations and further and higher education intentions of 16year-olds and 18-year-olds to be carried out in a sample of schools and further education colleges during the current academic year if satisfactory arrangements can be concluded with all those concerned. It is too early to say when the study will be completed, but it is hoped to have some additional information on this complex problem later this year.

Savernake Tenure Horn

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a special grant to the British Museum for the purchase of the fourteenth century Savernake tenure horn, to prevent its sale abroad.

Yes. I am happy to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Government will make available to the British Museum for the purchase of this horn a special grant of £60,000, and an advance of £65,000 from the annual purchase grant for 1976–77. A Supplementary Estimate will be laid before Parliament in due course, and meanwhile the money will be advanced from the Contingencies Fund.

Energy

Oil Industry Research

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what representations he has received from universities and other bodies regarding co-ordination and financing of offshore oil research.

My Department is continually in touch with organisations interested in research related to offshore oil. Other Department also have interested in various aspects of the work, and co-ordination is achieved through the normal processes of consultation between Departments.

Industry

Scottish Aviation Ltd

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many letters of protest or of congratulations he has received about his decision to take Scottish Aviation Ltd. into public ownership.

My right hon. Friend had several representations in favour of this step before his announcement, but only one letter of protest since.

Housing (European Communityworkers)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he has now finished his consideration of how loans for house purchase at low rates of interest available to steelworkers from the European Communities can be taken up; and if he will make a statement.

Proposals for the coordination of United Kingdom applications for ECSC housing loans, covering coal miners as well as steelworkers, will shortly be put to the European Commission. The procedure will provide for the views of all the interested parties, including unions, local authorities and employers, to be taken into account.

Prices And Consumerprotection

Nationalised Industries (Consumerrepresentation)

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection when she plans to arrange for the National Consumers Council to review consumer representation in nationalised industries.

My right hon. Friend will be making a reference on this subject to the council as soon as its members have been appointed and it is in a position to begin its work.

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection what consultative committees exist within her Department's responsibilities; and what work is being covered by each committee.

I assume that the Question refers to the nationalised industry consumer councils. Of these, my Department is responsible for the following bodies, which work to safeguard the interests of, and to take up representations from, consumers of the goods and services supplied by the industries listed opposite them:

Transport consultative committee—British Railways Board, British Transport Docks Board, British Waterways Board, National Freight Corporation, Scottish Transport Group.
Post Office users' councils—Post Office.
Domestic Coal Consumers' Council—National Coal Board.
Gas consumers' councils—British Gas Corporation.
Electricity consultative councils in England and Wales—Electricity Council and area boards.

Trade

Fishing Ship "Cs Forrester"

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has yet received the report of the preliminary inquiry into MFV "CS Forrester" which was set up on 1st August 1974; and if he will make a statement.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he has yet received the report of the preliminary inquiry into MFV "CS Forrester", which was set up on 1st August 1974; and if he will make a statement.

Yes. It is clear that the skipper of the "CS Forrester" did not comply with several requests from the Icelandic Coastguard vessel "Thor" to stop which were reinforced by advice from the British fisheries support vessel "Hausa", although shots were fired and hit his vessel. I consider that no useful purpose would be served by holding a formal investigation into this casualty as the facts have already been established and I have decided against taking any other action at this point in time. As hon. Members will be aware, if a vessel is discovered fishing contrary to the terms of our agreements with Iceland their Coastguard has the right to stop her, and shall summon the nearest British fisheries' support vessel in order to establish the facts. Whilst the "CS Forrester" incident was an isolated one, I wish to call attention to the importance of complying with instructions to stop in cases of this kind, and to the responsibility of skippers for the safety of their ships and crews. These points are, I believe, generally well understood by the skippers of our fishing fleet.

Wales

Sports Centres

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list in the Official Report the sports centres in Wales which have been opened during 1973–74 and 1974 –75, together with the extent of Government financial assistance for each project.

The Sports Council for Wales informs me that the following sports centres in Wales were opened:

1973/74

  • Abertillery Sports Centre.
  • Plas Madoc Leisure Centre.
  • Bridgend Recreation Centre.
  • Ebbw Vale Leisure Centre.

1974/75

  • Abercynon Sports Centre.
  • Abergavenny Leisure Centre.
  • Bedwas Community College and Leisure Centre.
  • Flint Sports Centre.
  • Castell Alun Sports Centre.
  • Plas Arthur Sports Centre.
  • old Sports Centre.
  • Pembroke Sports Centre.
  • Rhyl Sports and Recreation Centre.
  • Cwmbran (Tartan Track).

The cost of local authority sports centres is met from the locally determined sector. The Cwmbran Tartan Track also received grant aid of £30,000 from the Sports Council for Wales.

Housing Modernisation

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what are the figures for local housing authorities in Wales in 1974–75 and 1975–76, respectively, for expenditure on rehabilitation and modernisation of housing.

£29 million and £9·4 million respectively, at 1971 Public Expenditure Survey prices.

Scotland

Landowners

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what recent representations has has received about the need for a landownership register; and if the Government are considering a change of policy on this matter.

Since the beginning of this year I have received one representation which mentioned a landownership register. The Government are not considering any change of policy.

European Community Council Ofministers

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish details of Scottish Office ministerial visits to the EEC Council of Ministers' meetings since the present administration came to office.

My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister of State attended the meetings of the Council of Ministers (Agriculture) on 20th-21st January and 10th-13th February 1975.

Social Services

Addiction Units

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services for what period the regional addiction unit for the Trent Regional Health Authority at the Mapperley Hospital, Nottingham, has been closed.

The regional addiction unit at Mapperly Hospital has been closed since 18th July 1974.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what facilities are available in the region for in-treatment for alcoholics in the Leicester area during the period when the addiction unit at the Mapperly Hospital, Nottingham, has been closed;(2) how many patients from the Leicester area were treated at the regional addiction unit at the Mapperley Hospital, Nottingham, during the last 12 months for which records are available; of these how many were alcoholics; and what was their average period of hospitalisation at the unit.

In the Leicester Area Health Authority, as elsewhere, the majority of alcoholics are treated in the general wards of mental illness hospitals: in-patient treatment is available at Carlton Hayes Hospital, Narborough, Leicester, and Towers Hospital, Humberstone, Leicester. Only six patients from the Leicester area, of whom three were alcoholics, were treated in the regional addiction unit at Mapperley Hospital in the 12 months to July 1974: the average period of treatment in the unit was six weeks. No special arrangements, therefore, were made for the period when this unit has been closed.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many of the 36 beds at the addiction unit at Mapperley Hospital, Nottingham, were on average vacant during the last 12-month period for which records are available; how many of these were occupied by drug addicts; how many were occupied by alcoholics; and if there was a waiting list of alcoholics, what was its average size.

In this period, which includes the time when the unit was being run down prior to closure, nine of the 36 beds were out of use, the average occupancy of the remaining 27 beds was 16. On average 10 per cent. of these beds were occupied by drug addicts and 90 per cent. by alcoholics. There was no waiting list for alcoholics.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services for what reason the consultant psychiatrist in charge of the Mapperley addiction unit departed; what steps have been taken to replace him; and when this replacement will take effect.

The consultant psychiatrist in charge of the regional addiction unit at Mapperley Hospital left to take up another consultant post. The vacant post was advertised in June and September 1974 and in January this year. An appointment has now been made and the consultant psychiatrist is likely to take up the post within two or three months.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how long after the appointment of a consultant psychiatrist to take charge of the addiction unit at Mapperley Hospital, Nottingham, it will be before the unit can be reopened.

There should be no delay in reopening the unit once the consultant psychiatrist has taken up his post.

Departmental Staff

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many administrative and clerical civil servants were employed by her Department in January 1974 and January 1975; and what was the average monthly salary or wage paid and the percentage increase for each figure.

The number of administrative and clerical staff employed in the Department of Health and Social Security on 1st January 1974 was 22,627 and 48,808 respectively. The corresponding figures on 1st January 1975 were 24,405 and 52,150, increases of 7·8 per cent. and 6·8 per cent. Average monthly salaries of these groups on 1st January 1974 were: administrative staff £235 and clerical staff £129. The corresponding figures on 1st January 1975—including threshold payments of £19·14 per month —were £262 and £153, increases of 11·5 per cent. and 18·6 per cent.

Hospital Linen Service

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the cause of the delay in implementing the management arrangements proposed in October 1974 for the hospital linen service within the reorganised National Health Service.

My Department has agreed with the regional health authorities to suspend implementing the proposed arrangements, pending a further study by a specially constituted working party.

Wives' Pensions (Half-Test Rule)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many married women fail to obtain a pension in their own right due to the operation of "half-test" rule; how many of these women have actually paid a full national insurance stamp for more than half of their total working life; and if she will make a statement.

I regret that current figures are not available. However, it has been estimated that, of those insured married women approaching pension age in August 1970, about 38,000, who would otherwise have been entitled to a retirement pension on their own contributions, failed the half-test. Of these, about 5,000 had a yearly average of at least 26 contributions over their insurance life. As my hon. Friend will be aware, the Social Security Pensions Bill which is now before the House provides for the abolition of the half-test.

Hospital Building Programme

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will make a statement as to the availability of funds for the provision of the district general hospital planned to be built in Colchester.

I hope to be in a position to make a statement on the hospital capital building programme for England next week.

Preston Royal Infirmary

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what meetings have taken place between her Ministers and local consultants on the closure of the pay bed unit at Preston Royal Infirmary; and whether she will publish the dates of such meetings.

None. As I stated in my letter to the BMA last November, I think this problem can be best resolved by local discussions.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she will make a statement on the closure of the pay bed unit at Preston Royal Infirmary.

The unit was closed in June 1974 because of lack of suitable nursing staff. The option which was considered was to transfer temporarily some pay beds to another hospital. The staffing position has, I gather, now improved, and informal consultations with staff interests took place in December and January. Discussions with the medical staff were complicated by the consultants' industrial dispute, but three consultant representatives have now been nominated to take part in discussions with the Chairman and officers of the Lancashire Area Health Authority.

Private Beds

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many private beds in National Health Service hospitals are currently in use; and whether she will make a statement.

4,570 pay beds are currently authorised in National Health Service hospitals. The latest available figures for actual use show that 52 per cent. were occupied on average in 1973. My information about hospitals where no private patients at all are at present being admitted suggests that these account for some 200 pay beds in total. I am afraid I have no up to date information about the occupancy rate of the remainder.