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Written Answers

Volume 892: debated on Tuesday 13 May 1975

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Written Answers To Questions

Tuesday 13th May 1975

Defence

North Sea Oil Rigs

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the arrangements for defence of oil rigs in the North Sea.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the announcement made by my hon. Friend the Minister of State on 11th February and to my remarks in the defence debate last Tuesday.

Northern Ireland

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he has given to the proposal of the Gardiner Committee that an independent means of investigating complaints against the police might be extended to cover complaints against the Army in Northern Ireland.

It is not possible, at this stage, to say whether or not the intended new procedure for dealing with complaints against the police in Northern Ireland could be extended to cover complaints against the Army. An independent element is, of course, already present in our current procedures, as the police are responsible for investigating all complaints of criminal behaviour by the Army.

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement about the military réle and operations in Northern Ireland.

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the work of the security forces in Northern Ireland.

The Army is in Northern Ireland to assist the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the task of combating violence and terrorism from whatever source. Operations are related to the level of violence which occurs; they are aimed at preventing terrorists from acquiring and using arms and explosives and at helping to bring to justice those who commit acts of violence.

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will indicate the current level of Army strength in Northern Ireland; and what further reductions he is planning.

The current force level is 13 major units in the infantry réle. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has made it clear on a number of occasions that, if the security situation permits, further reductions will be made in Army force levels.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what communications he has had from NATO about the Government's further cut of £100 million in defence expenditure.

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he has had with NATO about the decision of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced in his Budget Statement on 15th April 1975, that the Defence budget is to be cut by 3 per cent. or £110 million in 1976–77.

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he had with NATO allies before the announcement of the additional £110 million defence cuts in the recent Budget.

I have nothing to add to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Drake (Miss Fookes).

Suez Canal Clearance

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what further help in clearing the Suez Canal has been given recently by the Royal Navy.

At the request of the Egyptian Government the minehunter HMS "Hubberston" arrived in Port Said on 4th April 1975, followed, on 19th April, by a second minehunter, HMS "Sheraton", and the support ship HMS "Abdiel", to give further assistance to the Suez Canal Authority and the Egyptian Navy in the clearance of the canal prior to its opening. The work is going well.

Industrial Establishments (Employee Participation)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what proposals he has for introducing industrial democracy in industrial establishments, especially the naval dockyards.

This is a subject to which I attach considerable importance. Consultations are taking place, and I hope to make a statement in due course.

Textile Purchases

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the purchase of textiles by his Department.

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the implementation of his purchasing policy on textiles.

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the purchase of hosiery and knitted goods for the Armed Forces.

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave this afternoon to my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Noble).

Inchterf P And E Establishment

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will pay an official visit to Inchterf P and E Establishment.

I have no plans to visit the establishment in the foreseeable future. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army is replying to the hon. Member's recent further correspondence about noise in the vicinity of the establishment.

Baor Reorganisation

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the basis of his conclusion that the proposed reorganisation of the command structure in BAOR will increase effectiveness.

By eliminating the brigade level of command and concentrating certain specialist and logistic functions we shall improve the teeth to tail and man to weapon ratios throughout the Army, whilst reducing overheads and improving combat capability. The proposed organisation is still subject to trial and evaluation but we are confident of the outcome.

Molesworth Airfield (Use)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is his policy towards the building of a nuclear power station on the disused airfield at Molesworth, in view of the hazard it would cause to aircraft based at Alcon-bury; and what advice he has given to the Central Electricity Generating Board with regard to this matter.

A nuclear power station of a design being considered by the CEGI3 would not create a significant hazard to aircraft operating from RAF Alconbury and the board has been so informed. As is customary with developments involving high structures, a recommendation was added to the effect that if the project goes ahead it would be desirable for the cooling towers to be lighted as an aid to aircraft navigation generally.

Harrier Aircraft

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many deck landings have been made to date by Harrier aircraft.

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now make a statement about the development and construction of the Maritime Harrier.

I have nothing to add to what I said in the defence debate on 7th May.—[Vol. 891, c. 1560–2.]

Expenditure Reductions (Employment Effects)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what representations he has had from the TUC and trade unionists regarding the effects of defence cuts on employment.

I have nothing to add to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) on 15th April.—[Vol. 890, c. 253–6.]

Royal Naval College, Greenwich

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he has any plans to increase facilities to enable the public to enjoy the buildings of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich.

The Royal Naval College, Greenwich, is of course a naval training establishment and its buildings are primarily used for this purpose. This inevitably means that there are limits to the extent to which the public can be allowed access. Arrangements are, nevertheless, made to open the Painted Hall and the Chapel to the public for set periods during the week. If my hon. Friend has any specific proposals to put to me I should, of course, be pleased to consider them.

Persian Gulf (Secretary Of State's Visit)

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on his recent visit to the Persian Gulf.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens).

Conscription

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence which EEC countries have conscription for military service.

The following EEC countries have conscription for military service: Italy, Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark and the Federal Republic of Germany.

Departmental Contracts

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what action he is taking to safeguard orders placed by his Department in the light of the dispute over fair wages at GEC-Elliott Process Instruments at Lewisham.

Germany (Civilian Personnel)

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what are the levels of pay in pounds sterling of the different grades of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled civilian workers employed in Germany by the BAOR; and how these pay levels compare with those of similar grades in the United Kingdom.

This is a detailed and complex subject which can best be covered in a letter. I shall write to my hon. Friend.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many civilians are employed by the British military forces in Germany; and what proportion is British.

Employment

Wales

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the latest unemployment figures and percentage rates for men and women, respectively, at the Caernarvon and Pwellheli/Porthmadog areas.

At 14th April 1975, 757 males and 140 females were unemployed in the Caernarvon employment office area. The corresponding figures for the Pwellheli and Porthmadog Employment office areas were 394 males and 84 females, and 164 males and 25 females, respectively.Rates of unemployment can be calculated only for travel-to-work areas. The rates at 14th April were 14·4 per cent. for males and 5·5 per cent. for females in the Caernarvon travel-to-work area and 9·9 per cent. for males and 3·2 per cent. for females in the Pwellheli travel-to-work area, which includes Porthmadog.

Construction Industry

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will publish in the Official Report the percentage of unemployed construction workers in the Merseyside special development area to the latest available date, and the percentage of unemployed construction workers in the other special development areas.

The following table shows the total numbers unemployed in each area who last worked in construction and the percentage they formed of all those unemployed in the area:

UNEMPLOYED IN SPECIAL DEVELOPMENT AREAS AT APRIL 1975
Number who last worked in constructionPercentage of all unemployed
Merseyside12,27919·5
North-East11,18120·0
West Cumberland48613·1
West Central Scotland10,61618·9
Girvan5416·5
Leven and Methil15314·4
Glenrothes7110·4
Livingston13421·8
South Wales3,23122·0
North-West Wales1,41927·9

Merseyside

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he plans to pay an official visit to Merseyside in the near future.

European Community

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister on which day freedom for Ministers to advocate views contrary to those of the Government on the Common Market will cease.

Government Policies (Formulation)

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if he will invite Opposition parties to take part in the formulation of Government policies in the light of current national problems; and if he will make a statement.

No. The Government will discharge the task for which they were elected in 1974, but if and when the Opposition finally succeed in formulating an Opposition policy on any of our national problems I shall be interested to study it.

National Exhibition Centre (Prime Minister's Speech)

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on trade made on the occasion of his visit to the National Exhibition Centre on 18th April.

Q19.

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on United Kingdom trade and the world market delivered at the National Exhibition Centre on 18th April 1975.

Q22.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make available in the Library a copy of his public speech on trade on the occasion of his visit to the National Exhibition Centre on 18th April.

Q31.

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on trade delivered on the occasion of his visit to the National Exhibition Centre on 18th April.

Q32.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make available in the Library a copy of his public speech on trade on the occasion of his visit to the National Exhibition Centre on 18th April.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q9.

asked the Prime Minister what are his official engagements for 13th May.

I took the chair at a number of meetings with my colleagues this morning. Later today I shall be meeting Mrs. Bandaranaike, the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, and this evening I shall be the host at a working dinner at 10 Downing Street to discuss the future of the film industry.

Prime Minister (Visits)

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to pay an official visit to Islington.

Q12.

Q15.

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

Q21.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will pay an official visit to Bebington.

Q26.

asked the Prime Minister if he will seek an early opportunity to visit the north-east coast of Scotland.

Q27.

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

Q30.

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to visit the North-West Region of England.

I am frequently in the North-West Region but I have no plans at present for an official visit.

Press (Royal Commission)

Q11.

asked the Prime Minister when he now expects to give his evidence to the Royal Commission on the Press.

Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Meeting

Q13.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the recent Commonwealth Conference.

Q14.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his talks in Jamaica with other Commonwealth leaders.

Q16.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.

Q18.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement about the recent Commonwealth summit meeting.

Q23.

asked the Prime Minister what views he received at the Kingston Conference from Common-wealth Prime Ministers regarding the Government's recommendation that Great Britain should stay in the EEC.

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

Secretary Of State For Industry (Speech)

Q20.

asked the Prime Minister whether the public speech of the Secretary of State for Industry on inflation made to the national committee of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers on 25th April represented Government policy.

In so far as my right hon. Friend has been reported on matters for which he has direct departmental responsibility, the answer is "Yes".

Tuc (Meeting)

Q24.

Q28.

asked the Prime Minister if he has any further plans to meet the TUC; and if he will make a statement.

I regularly meet TUC leaders at NEDC, at the informal meetings of the TUC-Labour Party Liaison Committee and on other occasions. The last such meeting took place yesterday and further meetings will be arranged as necessary.

Electoral Reform

Q29.

asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to propose the convening of a Speaker's Conference to consider the question of electoral reform.

This is a matter for consultation between the leaders of the parties, which I hope to initiate shortly.

Cyprus

Q33.

asked the Prime Minister what discussions took place during the Commonwealth Prime Minister's Conference about the future of Cyprus.

Commonwealth Heads of Government naturally discussed the problems of this fellow Common-wealth country. The outcome of their discussions is recorded in the communiqué issued at the end of their meeting and published as a White Paper today.

Ministerial Transport

asked the Prime Minister on what occasions between 1st April and 3rd May Ministers other than the Prime Minister and Defence Ministers travelled to or from engagements within the United Kingdom by RAF or chartered aircraft; at what times the flights concerned departed; and what were the engagements concerned.

In this period Ministers for Northern Ireland made frequent nights to and from Northern Ireland in RAF aircraft. The Secretary of State for Education and Science travelled in a chartered aircraft on 1st April to attend the Annual Conference of the National Union of Teachers in Blackpool leaving Gatwick at 10.45 a.m. and returning from Blackpool at 17.00 hours.

Social Services

Nhs Hospitals (Single Rooms)

45.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many single bed rooms are currently available for NHS patients in hospitals within the health service; and what proportion this represents of the total numbers of beds available.

The information is not available centrally. My Department's guidance is that 20 per cent. of adult acute beds in new hospital building should be provided in single rooms.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what criteria are used in determining whether a National Health Service patient in a health service hospital should be placed in a single bed room.

This is primarily a matter for the medical and nursing staff concerned to determine. Among the criteria that would be considered are: — (a) Risk of the patient infecting others; (b) A patient particularly susceptible to infection; (c) A seriously ill patient; (d) A patient requiring special clinical attention, quiet surroundings, or privacy; (e) A patient likely to disturb others.

Rabies And Pet Animal Smuggling

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will consider the publication of a new departmental circular denning the risks associated with the rabies virus and the hazards associated with smuggling into the country of pet animals.

In his replies on 5th May to Questions from the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacCormick) my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food outlined the sustained campaign by the Press, radio and television and drew attention to the distribution of leaflets and posters which give publicity to these matters. No further action from my Department appears necessary at this stage, but I am keeping the question under close review.—[Vol. 891, c. 331–2.]

Pension Proposals

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, on the assumption that the provisions of the Social Security Pensions Bill come into operation with average earnings at the level of £60 per week and thence-forward earnings increase by 8 per cent. per annum and prices by 5 per cent. per annum, what

Period new scheme in forceAverage weekly earnings of full-time male manual workersBasic component of pension per weekAdditional component of pension per week of a man retiring after the scheme has been in force for
5 years10 years15 years20 years
££££££
Commencement60·0013·60
5 years88·2020·104·10
10 years129·5029·505·3012·10
15 years190·3043·306·7015·5026·70
20 years279·7063·608·6019·8034·1052·40

Blind Persons' Allowance

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the value of the special allowance for blind persons compared with its value when introduced in 1948; and if she will make a statement.

The special scale rates applicable to blind persons in 1948 were £1·95 for a single person, £2·75 for a married couple one of whom was blind, and £3·25 for a married couple who were both blind. To maintain 1948 values the rates would need to be £7·65, £10·78 and £12·74 respectively. As at April 1975 these rates were £13·25, £20·10 and £20·90 respectively for those blind people—the majority—who qualify for the long-term rates and £10·85, £16·90 and £17·70 respectively for others. In 1948 the blind scale rates exceeded the ordinary rates by 75p for a single person or a married couple one of whom was blind, and £1·25 for a married couple both of whom were blind. These margins in 1975 terms would be £2·94 and £4·90 respectively. The

would be the basic component pension payable and the additional component pension payable on the day of commencement of the scheme and 5, 10, 15 and 20 years after to men with a constant record of average earnings retiring, respectively, at its commencement and 5, 10, 15 and 20 years after.

On the assumption that upratings under the new scheme take place annually in October, that the new scheme comes into force in an April and that the uprating in the previous October, being related to increases in earnings which resulted in average male earnings reaching £60 a week, raised the basic component—£11·60 in the Bill—by a comparable percentage, the following is the information:margins, currently £1·25 and £2·05 respectively, are to meet the special expenses due to blindness of the great majority of claimants. Where such expenses do exceed the appropriate margin additional provision may be made.

Disabled Persons

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if her Department will provide help for disabled people who own their own cars, and who have been hit by the latest increase in car tax.

For people sufficiently disabled to be eligible for help under the Department's invalid vehicle scheme there is exemption from paying vehicle excise duty on cars registered in their name which they themselves drive or in which they have to be driven by a full-time constant attendant.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take steps to enable her Department to make up a full wage for those who are partially disabled but still competent to perform limited tasks for an employer.

The complex problems of disabled people in employment were touched upon in paragraphs 46 to 51 of "Social Security Provision for Chronically Sick and Disabled People" (House of Commons Paper No. 276 of 1974). I shall be considering with ministerial colleagues how best to follow up what was said in paragraph 51. Mean-while, there are already facilities in sheltered workshops for disabled people who, by the nature or severity of their disablement, are otherwise unlikely to obtain and retain employment. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is also examining, in the context of wider consultations of his Department's consultative document on sheltered employment, the possibility of extending enclave arrangements under which supervised groups of severely disabled people are employed in ordinary conditions. The advantages and disadvantages of directly subsidising employers to employ disabled people were discussed in a consultative document on the quota scheme issued by my right hon. Friend's Department. The hon. Gentleman may like to know that the idea attracted little support

Wage Stop Abolition

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the estimated cost of the abolition of the wage stop rule for supplementary benefit proposed in the Child Benefit Bill.

I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George) on 28th April.—[Vol. 891, c. 7–9.]

Invalidity Benefit

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether the figure of £4·50 allowable earnings before invalidity benefit is withdrawn, given on page 7 of the new April 1975 issue of DHSS leaflet NI 16A National Insurance Invalidity benefit, is correct; and, if not, whether she will issue instructions for a new correct version to be issued.

The change in the "therapeutic earnings limit" from £4·50 to £7 was made after the reprint of the leaflet NI 16A was ordered. Arrangements are in hand for an amending slip to be produced for insertion in the leaflet before issue. In addition, at the time of the increase, staff of local offices of the Department were instructed to bring the change to the notice of any person of whom they were aware who might benefit from the increase.

Prescriptions (Cost)

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the average cost of each prescription dispensed in England in each of the last five years.

The information is as follows:

PRESCRIPTIONS DISPENSED BY CHEMISTS AND APPLIANCE CONTRACTORS IN ENGLAND
Year and Average total cost per prescription (pence)
197067·2
197175·6
197282·2
197388·2
1974101·3*
* Estimated

Mentally Handicapped Persons

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she intends to have any Scottish representatives on the National Development Group for the Mentally Handicapped.

Self-Employed Persons

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proportion of the working population in Scotland, England and the United Kingdom, respectively, is self-employed.

According to a 10 per cent. sample from the 1971 Census of Great Britain and comparable figures from the 1971 Census of Northern Ireland the percentages are as follows:

Percentage of self-employed persons in the population in employment aged 15 and over
Scotland6·4
England7·8
United Kingdom7·9

Field Place Nursing Home, New Milton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when she intends to answer the letter from the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington about the impending closure of Field Place Nursing Home for mentally handicapped children in New Milton; and if she will discuss the matter urgently with the Wessex Regional Health Authority, and urge it to take steps to keep Field Place open by purchasing it from the present owners.

I wrote to the hon. Member on 6th May explaining, amongst other things, why I should not intervene in this matter.

One-Parent Families

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will make arrangements to pay sickness benefit to a parent of a one-parent family when one or more children are ill necessitating the parent's absence from work.

No. Sickness benefit is only payable in respect of personal incapacity for work. People can be prevented from working for a variety of reasons other than their incapacity, and it would not be appropriate to single out a particular group or set of circumstances for special consideration.

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Pigs (Regulations)

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has had regarding the recent regulations under the Movement and Sale of Pigs Order 1975; and what replies he has sent.

I have had no representations about the order, but there have been some inquiries about the detailed operation of its provisions.

Grain (Third World)

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will initiate a high-level study to report within three months to see what economies could be made in British patterns of food production and consumption to release grain for the hungry of the Third World.

No. However, the recent White Paper, "Food from our own Resources" made clear that, in considering the contribution which United Kingdom agriculture can make to our domestic economy the Government have been mindful of the world food situation and the interests of the developing countries. In framing their agricultural policies in the light of the conclusions in the White Paper the Government will continue to take these considerations into account.

Sugar

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the future level of United Kingdom sugar prices.

Since last November the three United Kingdom sugar refining companies have voluntarily operated a price equalisation scheme in such a way that the price of raw sugar imported from the Commonwealth, which forms the greater part of our total supplies, is offset by the lower prices of our own beet sugar and of sugar imported from the world market under the EEC subsidy arrangements.Commonwealth sugar is now being supplied under the agreement between the ACP countries and the Community., which forms part of the Lomé Convention. The Community has guaranteed a basic price for this sugar. But, as I told the House in a statement on 21st November—[Vol. 881, c. 1537.]—the EEC Council of Ministers accepted that a higher price would initially have to be paid; and agreed that, if necessary, State guarantees could be given to the buyers. I announced on 3rd February—[Vol. 885, c. 940.]—that the Government had accordingly guaranteed a price of £260 per ton for ACP sugar shipped to the United Kingdom in 1975, and this has been taken into account in setting the level of the equalised price.Sugar from other sources is available to the United Kingdom market at prices below the present equalised price for forward delivery, particularly from October onwards when supplies from this year's beet crops will become available.

Recognising that many buyers of sugar need to contract for their supplies well in advance and that the United Kingdom refiners must be in a position to sell their sugar competitively with other suppliers to the United Kingdom market, the Government have decided to introduce a system of forward quotations of the equalised price, which will initially relate to deliveries of United Kingdom refined sugar in October, November and December. Consideration is also being given to the most effective means of maintaining the competitiveness of this sugar in the period up to October.

Sales at prices which will have entailed a loss for the buyers of Commonwealth sugar shipped in 1975 will mean that the guarantee to which I have referred will have to be implemented by Exchequer payments. These payments will rest on the authority of the Estimates and the confirming Appropriation Act. A Supplementary Estimate will be presented in due course, and meanwhile recourse will be had to the Contingencies Fund. The advances to the Sugar Board in respect of the export of sugar-containing goods, which I announced in the House on 18th April—[Vol. 890, c. 188–9.]—will now be included as payments under these arrangements.

Civil Service

Scientists

asked the Minister for the Civil Service whether he will make a statement on the consultations the Government have held on the Report of the Task Force on the Interchange of Scientists.

The Government at once accepted and implemented the main recommendation, to set up a specific unit in the Civil Service Department. The unit has already been instrumental in bringing about wider awareness of the opportunities and has been directly involved in making 20 interchanges between the Civil Service and other sectors of employment. More moves are in the course of exploration and negotiation. The Government have also held extensive consultations with the various bodies concerned. There is general support for the view that interchange of scientific talent between employing sectors should be encouraged. The Inter-change Unit in the Civil Service Department will continue to promote more interchanges of scientists and engineers in the Civil Service with those in the Research Councils, industry, universities and polytechnics.

Unification Church And United Family Enterprises Ltd

asked the Attorney-General how many cases against members of the Unification Church have been heard; and how many are pending in connection with the collection of money.

So far as the Director of Public Prosecutions is concerned, in respect of each limb of the Question, none. So far as police prosecutions are concerned, figures are not readily available.

asked the Attorney-General (1) whether he will now refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions for his consideration the evidence he has about the obtaining of pecuniary advantage by deception under the Theft Act and conspiracy to defraud against the trustees of the body known as the Unification Church and the directors of United Family Enterprises Limited;(2) whether, in view of the evidence in relation to an offence and conviction in Newquay, he will refer to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with a view to their prosecution for failure to keep account or falsification of accounts, the trustees of the Unification and the directors of United Family Enterprises Limited.

I have asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether the material which my hon. Friend has submitted to me justifies a police investigation.

Home Department

Wild Birds (Imports)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the cruelty involved in the importing of more than half a million wild birds into the United Kingdom annually, whether he will seek powers to impose greater control on this trade.

We shall study the report published by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds about this matter before deciding whether it would be appropriate to use the powers that already exist under the Protection of Birds Act 1954 further to control the import of wild birds.

Dr E R Fields (Entry Permit)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will refuse entry to the United Kingdom to Dr. Edward R. Fields, Secretary of the National States Rights Party of the United States of America, who is due to address a meeting of the League of St. George in a West End hotel on 10th May 1975.

We do not use immigration control to express approval or disapproval of the views of visitors to this country. Entry is refused only where they appear to be in breach of the immigration rules or likely to commit a criminal offence or create a danger to the security of the country. Each case is considered individually.

Community Transport

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now made a grant towards the headquarters costs of the voluntary organisation known as Community Transport by way of a three-year rolling programme, to help set up a national volunteer community transport network.

A grant has been made for the headquarters' administration costs of Community Transport, Manchester, for the financial year 1975–76. This is not intended to help set up a national network. In the present difficult situation the funds of the Voluntary Services Unit must go to meet existing commitments and to help worthwhile projects threatened with financial failure rather than to support new services or the expansion and development of existing ones.

Northern Ireland

European Community

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many civil servants from Northern Ireland work on the EEC Commission in Brussels; what are their duties; and what links they have with the Secretary of State.

Nine former civil servants from Northern Ireland Departments have taken up posts within the EEC Commission. While they are employed by the Commission they are European officials and, therefore, have no links with my Department. I have no detailed knowledge of their duties.

Energy

British National Oil Corporation

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what salaries he proposes to offer the chairman and members of the BNOC.

The salaries of the Chairman and members of the BNOC are currently under consideration, and I cannot, therefore, yet say what they will be.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy on what terms it is proposed that the National Coal Board's operations in the North Sea oilfields should be taken over by BNOC.

The proposed transfer provision is set out in Clause 13 of the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill.

asked the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what are the projected revenues of the National Oil Account in the years consecutively from 1975 to 1982; and if he will itemise those revenues by sources in the years mentioned;(2) what is the anticipated expenditure both on capital and revenue account likely to be incurred by the BNOC for the year 1975 and consecutively to 1982.

The revenues flowing into the National Oil Account and the future expenditure of the British National Oil Corporation cannot be forecast at this stage, since they depend on a wide variety of unknown circumstances, including the outcome of present participation negotiations, the extent of BNOC's future commitments in further offshore discoveries, and the growth of BNOC's downstream activities.

Offshore Oil And Gas (Channel Islands)

asked the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what information he has about exploration for oil or gas in the vicinity of the Islands of Guernsey and Jersey;(2) whether the current exploration for oil or gas in the vicinity of the Channel Islands was licensed or otherwise authorised by Her Majesty's Government, and if he regards the sea bed within three miles and 12 miles, respectively, of Guernsey, Jersey and Sark as being within the jurisdiction of the Crown and/or Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom.

I am unaware of any such exploration. Beyond three miles from the Channel Islands Her Majesty's Government have sovereignty over the Continental Shelf up to the boundary with France which has yet to be determined. I am advised by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department that Parliament and the Islands legislature both have power to legislate for the territorial waters, i.e. within three miles, surrounding the islands and for the sea bed beneath those waters, but it is normal practice for the islands' legislatures to do so.

Private Police Forces

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will list in the Official Report any private police forces for which he is in any respect responsible indicating their present strength and the statutes in which any specific powers are conferred on each such force.

The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, for which I have a general responsibility, is empowered to nominate persons for appointment as Special Constables under the Special Constables Act 1923, as applied by the Third Schedule to the Atomic Energy Authority Act 1954, and by Schedule 1 to the Nuclear Installations Act 1965. When so appointed the officers have the general powers provided for in the 1923 Act. I understand that, at the end of March 1975, 326 persons holding such appointments were employed on security duties at authority and British Nuclear Fuels' sites and at the Urenco Ltd. headquarters at Marlow.

National Finance

Nationalised Industry Objectives

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will now publish financial objectives for the nationalised industries.

Currently the British Steel Corporation, the British Airports Authority, the British Airways Board and the British Transport Docks Board have financial objectives, all of which have been published.

Perquisites

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will identify the type and nature of fringe benefits and favourable facilities having a cash benefit enjoyed by work people earning less than £5,000 per annum in British industry, trade, commerce and business; and how much he estimates the Exchequer would benefit if all these benefits were subject to taxation as income.

A wide variety of benefits in kind are provided by employers in the private sector for employees earning less than £5,000 a year. Examples are the private use of employer-owned cars and loans at a less than a commercial rate of interest. The extent to which benefits are provided varies considerabley between different employers, and the information on which to base a reliable estimate of the yield from taxing all benefits is not available.

Value Added Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the total number of staff employed and the total wage and salary bill of each of the VAT tribunal centres; and how many cases have been heard at each of the centres in each of the last three years.

Eight professional staff and 45 civil servants are employed in the VAT tribunal headquarters and at the tribunal centres. The total annual salary bill is £220,000. Most of the professional staff are employed for part of their time in the county courts and on industrial tribunals. There are also part-time tribunal members who are paid daily fees for attendance. These fees amounted to some £4,000 in the year ending 31st March 1975.

Number of appeals heard
Tribunal CentreOctober 1972 to December 197319741975 to dateAnnual salary bill at current prices
£
London34611651,000
Birmingham*8153
Manchester611262,000
Leeds*694
Edinburgh33119,000
BelfastNilNilNil16,000
Tribunal H.Q.72,000
220,000
* Costs have been included in the figures for centers which administer them.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many representations he has received about the increased rate of VAT on repairs to electrical goods; and what reply he has sent.

We have received about 20 letters on this subject. In replying we have stated that we think it desirable that, in general, the 25 per cent. rate of VAT should apply to servicing and spare parts for goods which are themselves chargeable at 25 per cent., so as to reduce anomolies and to remove incentives to distortion of trade, and that in our view the 25 per cent. rate on servicing is not a factor which is likely to jeopardise safety in the home.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the increased revenue which will accrue in a calendar year from the raising to 25 per cent. of VAT on light aircraft used for pilot training purposes.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the increased revenue which will accrue in a calendar year from the raising of VAT on caravans.

The number of cases heard at each of the centres since October 1972 is shown in the table below. Birmingham and Leeds centres are now closed and their cases are being administered through London and Manchester. The cases heard represent only about 20 per cent. of all the appeals received. The majority of appeals are withdrawn before hearing.

in a full year from Groups 3 and 4 of the Higher Rate Schedule will accrue from Group 4 (caravans).

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether a boat of less than 15 tons to be used as a public ferry is to be charged to VAT at the higher rate.

All boats of a gross tonnage of less than 15 tons are chargeable at the 25 per cent. rate of VAT. Any tax on purchases by a taxable person for the purpose of his business is, however, deductible as input tax subject to the normal rules.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why the alteration, testing, repair or maintenance of a boat used for recreation or pleasure is to be subject to the higher rate of VAT but not similar expenditure on an aircraft or hovercraft so used.

Most servicing of aircraft and hovercraft is subject to certain statutory requirements and it was, therefore, considered inappropriate to include such servicing within the scope of the higher rate VAT charge. This consideration does not apply generally to boats.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer why compasses, echo sounders, radar sets, logs, wind speed, wind direction and speed indicators, and other navigational and meteorological instruments and recorders are to be liable to the higher rate of VAT if used as an accessory to a boat used for recreation or pleasure, but not if so used on a hovercraft.

Accessories to boats falling within Group 3 of the VAT Higher Rate Schedule are chargeable at the 25 per cent. rate even if purchased for use on a hovercraft.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether an electric fan which can be used either to heat or cool is subject to the higher rate of VAT payable on fan coolers or to the lower rate payable on fan heaters.

Electric fires of this type are chargeable at the 8 per cent. standard rate of VAT.

Women's Taxation

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many women aged 60 to 64 years pay tax in each of the categories single, widowed, and divorced; and how much it would cost in each category to raise the personal allowance to the level of the age allowance available to single people aged 65 years or over.

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

Animal Smuggling

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what instructions have been issued to Customs officers regarding the importance of detecting animals being smuggled into the United Kingdom.

Customs officers are well aware of the importance of this aspect of their work. Their instructions emphasise the need for constant vigilance in combating smuggling of all kinds, and attention is given in their training to the risk that smuggled animals could, if undetected, bring rabies into this country. A special leaflet on the dangers of rabies is to be issued to the staff concerned.

Whisky

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is his estimate of the increased revenue which will accrue in a calendar year from the increased duty on whisky.

It is estimated that the increase in the duty on spirits will yield about £60 million in a full year, of which Scotch whisky is expected to account for about half.

Scotland

Handicapped Children (Register)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made towards completion of the handicapped children's register; and if he will make a statement.

A central handicapped children's register was established in Scotland in 1968 and is continuously kept up to date, information relating to the handicap of each child being sent by health boards to the Common Services Agency of the Scottish Health Service. There are at present some variations as between health board areas in the amount of information supplied for the register but efforts are being made to ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible.

Hotels (Fire Regulations)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made in the inspection of hotels in Scotland to enforce regulations against fires.

About 5,800 hotels and boarding-houses have applied for fire certificates under the Fire Precautions (Hotels and Boardinghouses) (Scotland) Order 1972. Of these, about 1,100 have received certificates from the fire authorities concerned and a further 2,000 have been inspected for certification purposes.

Pigs (Regulations)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has had regarding the recent regulations under the Movement and Sale of Pigs Order 1975; and what replies he has sent.

I have recently received representations from two sources in the north of Scotland. I shall write to the hon. Member when I am ready to reply to these representations.

Land Owners

asked the Sectary of State for Scotland how many representations he has recently received asking for a full register of Scotland's land owners; and what reply he has sent.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sillars) on 9th April 1975.—[Vol. 889, c. 427.]

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to provide a full register of Scotland's land owners.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) on 20th March 1974—[Vol. 870, c. 1019–20.]

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many persons or companies in Scotland own over (a) 100,000 acres, (b) 50,000 acres and (c) 25,000 acres of land respectively.

School Leaving Dates

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he proposes to complete his consideration and make an announcement concerning school leaving dates for 16-year-olds.

I have received comments and recommendations from most of the bodies consulted in the course of the recent review of the school leaving date arrangements. The arguments are complex and I do not expect to be ready to reach a conclusion for some time.

Pedlars' Certificates

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list, by police authority area, the numbers of pedlars' certificates currently issued in Scotland.

The number of certificates issued during 1974 were as set out in the table below: the certificates are valid for one year.

City Forces
Aberdeen18
Dundee11
Edinburgh33
Glasgow136
County and Combined Forces
Angus19
Argyll12
Ayr38
Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk4
Dumfries and Galloway19
Dunbarton16
Fife23
Inverness2
Lanark53
Lothians and Peebles8
Northern6
Perth and Kinross10
Renfrew and Bute13
Ross and Sutherland3
Scottish North Eastern Counties20
Stirling and Clackmannan13
Total457

Mentally Handicapped Persons

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he proposes to review the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1960 in the light of the conclusions of the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland regarding the welfare, rights and interests of mental patients published in the Report "No Place to Go".

I am at present considering the report and shall be consulting the commission about it.

Fire Brigade Officers

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many fire officers in each grade above that of station officer are currently employed by brigades to be taken into the Grampian and Highland Regions.

The numbers of officers or ranks above that of station officer in the North-Eastern Fire Brigade and the Northern Fire Brigade—which covers Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles as well as the Highland Region—are as follows:

North-EasternNorthern
Assistant Divisional Officers104
Divisional Officer (Grade III)1
Divisional Officer (Grade II)34
Divisional Officer (Grade I)21*
Assistant Firemaster1
Firemaster11
* Deputy Firemaster.

Hospital Electricity Supplies

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to ensure that hospitals in Scotland have alternative sources for a supply of electricity should normal supplies be affected by strikes.

Most hospitals in Scotland have installed standby generators for emergency use and there are standing arrangements to lend mobile generators to other hospitals in the event of a disruption of power supplies.

Potatoes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations have been made to the EEC Commissioners concerning the plan to institute a common policy for early potatoes, so far as Scotland is concerned, and by whom; and if he will make a statement on the implications for Scotland of such a policy.

The Commission's proposals for a reference price system and common quality standards for new potatoes were discussed by the Council of Ministers at short notice at their meeting on 28th-29th April. The effects of such arrangements would depend on their detailed implementation in relation to the market situation. The United Kingdom, together with a number of other member States, raised objections to the Commission's proposals. These objections took full account of Scottish interests as of those of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Road Signs

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what reply he will give to applications from local highway authorities for providing bilingual road signs in Scotland.

A road sign has to be prescribed either generally by regulation or individually by special authorisation. I would consider carefully the merits of any proposal of a highway authority, including the nature and purpose of the sign and where it was to go.

Environment

Railways (Finance)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if the Government will uprate the proposed financial support to the railways of £1,500 million over five years to take account of inflation and the fall in money values.

The sum of £1,500 million provided for in the Railways Act 1974 is not subject to any time limits and there is, therefore, no need to increase it in advance of further legislation.

National Bus Company (Italian Service Application)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why he has not granted the National Bus Company a licence allowing it to operate a coach service from Newcastle to Italy.

This is an application by National Travel (North East) Ltd. for authorisation under EEC regulations of a regular international service. The period for objections expired on 9th May. If my right hon. Friend, after taking account of any such objections, favours the application, the agreement of the other member States concerned will be requested. In view of the need for these consultations it is a pity that erroneous Press reports raised expectations that the service would start this month.

Seat Belts (Invalid Drivers)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his consultations on the special difficulties of invalid car drivers in wearing seat belts.

I am aware that organisations representing invalid car drivers will wish to make representations if the wearing of seat belts is made compulsory. I shall consult them about the exemptions to be included in regulations.

Inland Waters

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy on access by the public to inland waters for sporting and other activities and the scale of charges appropriate.

It is the Government's policy to encourage the maximum use of inland waters for recreational purposes. The Water Act 1973 requires water authorities to take such steps as are reasonably practicable for putting their rights to the use of water and associated land to the best use for the purposes of recreation. They may also, with the consent of owners, make use of private land for recreation. Water authorities are responsible for fixing charges for these as for their other services.

London Transport

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how much Government assistance has been given to London Transport undertakings in each of the last five years.

Capital grants from the Government to the London Transport Executive in each of the last five years are as follows:

19701971197219731974
£m£m£m£m£m
4·56·422·119·821·0
There have been no revenue grants in this period.

M18, Armthorpe-Hatfield

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he now expects construction of the Armthorpe-Hatfield section of the M18 motorway to begin.

Toll Bridges

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many toll bridges exist in Cheshire, the North-West of England and England and Wales, respectively.

There are 16 toll bridges, listed below, on main roads in England. Four are in North-West England, including one in Cheshire. Information about toll bridges in Wales is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

ENGLAND

Description and Location

Toll Bridges on Trunk Roads

  • Dunham Bridge—Lincolnshire.
  • Selby Bridge—North Yorkshire.
  • Severn Bridge—Avon.
  • Tamar Bridge—Devon/Cornwall.

On Principal Roads

  • Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge—Cleveland.
  • Sandwich Bridge—Kent.
  • Shard Bridge—Lancashire.

On Other Classified Roads

  • Clifton Suspension Bridge—Avon.
  • Rixton and Warburton Bridge—Cheshire.
  • Whitchurch Bridge—Oxfordshire
  • Whitney Bridge—Hereford and Worcester
  • Aldwark Bridge—North Yorkshire.
  • Batheaston Bridge—Avon.
  • Cartford Bridge—Lancashire.
  • Eling Bridge—Hampshire.
  • Swinford Bridge—Berkshire.

Wales

Water Charges

asked the Secretary of State for Wales when he received the report of the Committee on Water Charging Policy, under the chairmanship of Sir Goronwy Daniel; and when he will publish it together with his decision on the recommendations of the committee.

The report, which I received in March, is under active consideration. Arrangements are in hand for its publication.

Doctors (Dispensing)

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what progress has been made to date relative to the dispute concerning the dispensing of medicines by doctors in rural areas; and if he will make a statement.

Discussions have taken place in recent months with representatives of the medical and pharmaceutical professions. The points raised are now being considered with a view to helping the professions to find an agreed solution that will be in the best interests of the patient.

Welsh Language

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will examine the working of the Welsh Language Act 1967 in relation to publications of other Government Departments intended for circulation in Wales.

Government Departments are fully aware of the Act and keep in touch with my Department on all matters arising from it. I keep the working of the Act under constant review.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales how many forms, pamphlets and leaflets, magazines, booklets and books published by his Department are available in the Welsh language.

A variety of such documents have been made available in Welsh over the last decade; the details of individual items are not readily available.

Trade

Export Credits (Taskers Trailers, Andover)

46.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action has been taken by his department concerning the Export Credits Guarantee Department difficulties experienced by Messrs. Taskers Trailers of Andover, constituents of the hon. Member for Winchester.

It is not the practice to disclose details of individual cases. If the hon. and gallant Member would like to write to me about this case I will gladly look into it.

Lonrho Ltd

asked the Secretary of State for Trade when he expects to publish the report of his departmental inquiry into the affairs of Lonrho Ltd.

The inspectors have not yet concluded their inquiries. When they have submitted their report it will be considered, and a decision then taken as to publication.

Timber (Imports)

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what was the total annual value of timber imports into the United Kingdom in each of the last three years, broken down by the percentage from each country of origin.

Following is the information:

IMPORTS OF TIMBER (SITC(R) 242 AND 243)
197219731974
Total value £ million cif252456587
Percentage distribution by country of consignment:
Total of which100100100
Sweden25·425·923·7
Finland20·115·920·3
Canada9·612·016·1
Soviet Union15·412·515·2
Portugal1·51·93·1
Poland4·23·52·3
Other countries23·828·319·3

Sterile Water

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether his Department is able to control the importation of sterile water from the United States of America; if so, what were the quantities imported in the last three years; at what estimated cost; and if he will make a statement.

My Department has wide powers to prohibit or restrict the import of any goods. But any question of import controls on sterile water would be in the first instance a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I have no information on the quantity or cost of sterile water imports.

Prices And Consumer Protection

Lamp Holders

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether the continued sale of lighting fittings incorporating bayonet lamp holders made to BS 52 is to be permitted by the proposed Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations; and what the situation will be as regards lamp holders sold separately.