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Written Answers

Volume 931: debated on Tuesday 10 May 1977

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Written Answers To Questions

Tuesday 10th May 1977

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Horticulture

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the outlook for the horticultural industry during the next six months.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) on 3rd March—[Vol. 927, c. 277–9.]—when I made a statement on the longer-term outlook for the horticulture industry. As to the shorter term, much the same considerations apply. The industry needs to be flexible, responding to market requirements, which are heavily influenced by variations in supply and demand. I believe that the industry in general meets those requirements, and I am glad to see the renewed confidence which many efficient growers have in their industry.

Lands

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his estimate of land capable of agricultural production expressed as a percentage of land which is currently farmed; and how this ratio compares with other EEC countries.

Labelling

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what reply he has given to members of the National Association of Master Bakers concerning their representations about the EEC directives on the labelling of prepacked foods; if he will take steps to ensure that the interpretation of these directives is practical; and if he will make a statement.

I have explained that where food is prepacked on the sales premises at the consumer's request or for immediate sale or where food is sold without prepacking, it is proposed that the directive should allow member States to adopt their own labelling rules. If such a derogation should be agreed by the Council of Ministers we would consult representatives of interested organisations about our own proposal before implementation. I would refer the hon. Member to the statement I made during the debate on this subject on 21st April—[Vol. 930, c. 517–39.]—in which I acknowledged the need for the directive, when implemented, to be practical and realistic.

Food Production

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the percentage drop in domestic food production in 1976; and if he will estimate the drop in food production in the current year.

The total production from United Kingdom agriculture and fishing of food for human consumption is estimated to have dropped by about 2·5 per cent. between 1974–75 and 1975–76, when valued at average 1970–71-1972–73 prices. I regret that later estimates are not available.

Retailing Income (Distribution)

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for each £1 spent in retail shops on food purchases, how much goes, respectively, to British farmers and growers, overseas farmers and growers and processing, packaging, wholesale, retail and distribution.

No precise or up-to-date statistics are available. A broad estimate is that in 1974–75 of each £1 spent by the consumer on food British farmers and growers received about 27p and importers 22p. The balance, which includes indirect taxes, was split approximately as to two-fifths each to manufacturing and retailing and one-fifth wholesaling.

Civil Service

Sick Leave

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what is the maximum annual entitlement to sick leave in the Civil Service.

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) on 19th November 1976.—[Vol. 919, c. 779–80.]

asked the Minister for the Civil Service (1) what was the average number of working days lost through sickness in the Civil Service, in each year since 1970;(2) how many working days, other than the statutory permitted days, were lost through sickness in the Civil Service, in each year since 1970.

I regret that this information is not available, and to

ROAD ACCIDENT CASUALTIES BY INJURY SEVERITY: GREAT BRITAIN: 1970 TO 1976
FatalSeriousSlightAll casualties
19707,49993,499262,370363,368
19717,69990,868253,460352,027
19727,76391,338260,626359,727
19737,40689,478256,896353,780
19746,87682,030235,696324,602
19756,36677,122241,462324,950
19766,57079,531253,572339,673

A6 (Burton Latimer And Rushden)

63.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects he will initiate public discussion on the plans for an A6 bypass between Burton Latimer and Rushden.

I expect public consultation on proposals for this bypass to take place in 1978.

Road Accidents (Costs)

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what was the cost of road accidents in the United Kingdom for each of the years 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976.

The following is the information for Great Britain. Costs are expressed in terms of June 1976 prices.

Total Cost of Accidents
£m
1976 (provisional)970
1975930
1974962
19731,021
1972997
1971944
1970920

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the projected cost of road accidents in the United Kingdom for each of the years 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1980.

collect the necessary facts would involve disproportionate cost.

Transport

Road Accidents (Casualties)

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will publish the road casualty figures in the United Kingdom for each of the years 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976, itemised as fatal, serious and slight.

The Department does not make forecasts of either the number or the costs of accidents in future years.

Road Accidents (Casualties)

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what was, as a percentage of all accidents, and in actual terms, the number of pedestrians killed or seriously injured in each of the years 1970, 1971, 192, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976.

I regret that the information is not available in the precise form requested, but the following information is available:

PEDESTRAIANS KILLED OR SERIOUSLY INJURED: GREAT BRITAIN: 1970–76
NumberPercentage of all road users killed or seriously injured Per cent.
197027,80027·5
197126,53726·9
197227,31427·6
197325,67126·5
197423,67126·6
197520,81524·9
197620,63024·0

Road Safety

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he currently has to induce a more positive public attitude to road safety.

Our main objective is to reduce the numbers of accidents and casualties by improving behaviour on the road, and creating a more positive public attitude to road safety is one of the ways in which we seek to do this. Most of the £2 million which will be spent by my Department this year on road safety publicity is aimed at improving attitudes and behaviour.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport when his Department last produced a series of short films for television dealing with specific driving situations.

We have just produced a new film on motorway driving—"Night Call", which runs for 27 minutes. It supplements two other driving films, "Drive Carefully, Darling" and "The Motorway File", which have been successfully shown on television. Since last September we have run commercials in different television regions on drinking and driving, seat belts, Pelican crossings and the need for drivers to look out for motor cycles on the road. We also produce and make available to television companies very short films on road safety subjects for use as "fillers" between programmes.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if it is still the policy of his Department to give priority to small road schemes showing a high safety value related to cost.

Small road improvement schemes, when carefully selected after the systematic analysis of accidents, can achieve accident savings far outweighing the cost of the works. In a roads circular, issued in 1975, local authorities were advised of the value of such schemes, and the Department regularly runs courses for local authority staff on the best way of choosing schemes which will give a high return on their expenditure. Similar considerations are applied in the selection of small trunk road schemes.

Windscreens

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what research he is carrying out on safer and tougher windscreens on cars.

My Department has been involved for the past 13 years in studies of both toughened and laminated safety glass for windscreens; and has appraised the relevant research experience of other bodies both in the United Kingdom and overseas. No specific research is being carried out at present, but accident investigation work involves the collection of data on windscreen damage where this is relevant.

London Outer Orbital Route

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will ensure that new traffic studies on the western section of the London Outer Orbital Route take into account the upgraded sections of the A41 and the A405 after a reasonably full period of operational use.

The traffic studies for the section of the M25 between Micklefield Green and South Mimms will be kept under constant review and will, therefore, take into account in due course the effects of the improvements to the A41 and the A405 after a reasonable period of operational use.

Road Construction Units

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is the aggregate annual cost of all the road construction units taken together.

About £21 million in the financial year ended 31st March 1977.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what staff reductions have been made and what reductions are contemplated affecting road construction units, in the light of the reduced roads programme.

The number of permanent staff employed in the road construction units was reduced by about 110 between 1st April 1976 and 1st April 1977, largely because of spending restrictions imposed during the course of the year. The numbers of staff will continue to fall as contracts are completed and as the design load is reduced.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether the completion or near completion of the trunk road programme will result in redundancies of road construction unit staff; and, if so, what numbers are likely to be involved.

The near completion of the trunk road programme is unlikely before the 1990s. It is impossible to say now what the staff situation will be at that time.

Roads (Expenditure)

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is the present capital limit on road works which may be carried out by local authorities; when it was set; if it is the intention of his Department to raise this limit; and, if so, to what level.

No limit for capital works on roads for which local authorities are the highway authorities is imposed by my Department. Local authorities do, however, need to have regard to the financial resources available to them.Local authorities are also employed as the Secretary of State's agents for carrying out those trunk road schemes which are generally the responsibility, within the Department, of Regional Controllers (Roads and Transportation). Such schemes cost up to £1½ million and exceptionally up to £3 million, but these limits are kept under review.Trunk road schemes of greater value are usually undertaken by the road construction units which were set up for this purpose. A substantial proportion of the staff of the units is provided by local highway authorities.

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what action he has taken to secure reductions in capital expenditure on roads and local transport as part of the general reductions in public expenditure announced in December last.

The Government decided last December to reduce English trunk road construction by about £40 million in 1977–78 and in 1978–79, and local transport expenditure by about £25 million in 1977–78. The savings have been ensured by a moratorium on all new contracts, which has led to deferment of expenditure on many major trunk road schemes, and by an adjustment to the loan sanction allocation to local authorities. From this position I am now able to secure the full amount of the announced savings while rearranging the starting dates for new schemes so that contracts for certain schemes, where there are strong arguments for an early start, can now be let as soon as the necessary procedures have been completed. I am grateful to the local authorities who have cooperated so fully in securing the required savings.

Kirkhamgate-Dishforth Road

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will now announce his decision on the choice of route for the proposed Kirkhamgate-Dishforth motorway or reasons for the continuing delay in making the announcement.

The issues are complex but my right hon. Friend hopes to be able to make an announcement within the next few weeks.

Fishguard-Waterford Service

asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he has been notified of the proposed closure of the Fishguard-Waterford shipping service; and what action he proposes to take to inform himself about the economic, social and employment consequences of the closure.

Yes. The Welsh TUCC will hold a public hearing on 20th September and it will report to my right hon. Friend thereafter on the consequences of the proposed closure. It would be inappropriate for us to take any action pending consideration of their report.

National Economic Development Council

Q4.

I have been asked to reply.I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 15th February.

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 10th May.

Q13.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 10th May.

Q15.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his public engagements for 10th May.

Q16.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 10th May.

Q17.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 10th May.

Q18.

asked the Prime Minister what are his official engagements for 10th May.

Q21.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 10th May.

Q29.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 10th May.

I have been asked to reply.Today my right hon. Friend is presiding at a meeting of the NATO Council of Ministers. He will also be holding a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Greece. This evening my right hon. Friend will be a guest at the dinner which Her Majesty the Queen is giving for delegates attending the NATO Council of Ministers.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 19th May.

Tuc And Cbi

Q7.

I have been asked to reply.I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) on 3rd February.

Q23.

Q26.

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry.

I have been asked to reply.I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Corbett) on 8th February.

Q28.

I have been asked to reply.I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) on 17th February.

Oslo

Q6.

I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend visited Oslo on 1st and 2nd April. He has at present no plans for a further visit.

Edinburgh

Q8.

asked the Prime Minister when he next proposes to make an official visit to Edinburgh.

I have been asked to reply.I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) on 3rd February.

Heads Of Government (Downing Street Meeting)

Q11.

asked the Prime Minister what matters he intends to raise at the Summit Conference in Downing Street.

I have been asked to reply.I refer my hon. Friend to the statement which my right hon. Friend made to the House yesterday.

New Delhi

Q10.

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

I have been asked to reply.I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Belper (Mr. MacFarquhar) on 3rd May.

Isle Of Ely

Q12.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has plans to visit the Isle of Ely.

I have been asked to reply.I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Lewis) on 6th April.

President Carter (Visit)

Q14.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to the North-East with President Carter.

Q27.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his visit to the North-East with President Carter.

I have been asked to reply.I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Gateshead, East (Mr. Conlan) following his statement in the House yesterday.

Foreign Secretary (Speech)

Q19.

asked the Prime Minister if the speech made by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on economic policy at Castleford Trades and Labour Clubs on 23rd April 1977 represents Government policy.

Q22.

asked the Prime Minister if the public speech made by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at Castleford Trades and Labour Clubs on 23rd April which concerned the need to limit the increase in earnings during the forthcoming year to 8 per cent. to 9 per cent. represents Government policy.

Q25.

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs at Castleford Trades and Labour Clubs on 23rd April on economic matters represents Government policy.

I have been asked to reply.I refer the hon. Members to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Christchurch and Lymington (Mr. Adley) on 2nd May.

Yugoslavia

Q20.

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

I have been asked to reply.I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend gave to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr Winterton) on 24th February.

Immingham

Q24.

I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

South Yorkshire

Q31.

asked the Prime Minister if he intends to visit South Yorkshire in the near future.

I have been asked to reply.My right hon. Friend has at present no plans to do so.

Environment

Builders (Defaults)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will arrange in consultation with the National House Builders' Council for advertising annually in the Press the names and addresses of builders who have been in default of their obligations in the building of houses and those who have been removed from the register.

This is a matter to be decided by the National House-Building Council. I shall draw its attention to the hon. Member's suggestion.

Rate And Rent Rebates

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if it is in accordance with his policy that the invalidity benefit of the son or daughter of a householder should be taken into consideration when the entitlement to rate or rent rebate is being assessed; and if he will make a statement;(2) what proportion of the income of a son or daughter in receipt of an average industrial wage is set against the income of a householder submitting an application for (

a) rent rebate and ( b) rate refund; and what proportion of the income of a son or daughter in receipt of an invalidity allowance would be set against a householder making application for a rent rebate or rate refund.

The only income taken into account in calculating a rate or rent rebate is that of the householder and spouse. However, a deduction from the rebate is made in respect of other adults in the household to take account of their contributions. The deductions, which take no account of invalidity benefit and are not directly related to income, are made on a scale set out in the Rate Rebate (Amendment) Regulations 1976, SI 1458, and the Rent Rebate and Rent Allowance Schemes (England and Wales) Regulations 1976, SI 1470. Local authorities have discretion to reduce the amounts specified in suitable circumstances. I consider these arrangements to be preferable to a means-test of each resident in the household.

Disabled Persons (Rating Relief)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he now expects to announce his conclusions on rating relief for disabled people following the case Vandyk v. Oliver, in view of the fact that the Under-Secretary of State said on 10th May 1976 that it would not be long before he hoped he could do so.

My right hon. Friend regrets the delay and expects to reach a decision soon. I am not yet able to give a firm date.

Industry

Northallerton And Richmond

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will set out the number of companies that have been assisted in Northallerton and Richmond within the development areas.

From August 1972 to 28th February 1977 nine offers of selective financial assistance totalling £89, 000 had been made to companies in Northallerton and Richmond under Section 7 of the Industry Act 1972. These are expected to lead to the creation of 335 new jobs in these areas. Six applications amounting to £1,225,000 were under consideration under both Sections 7 and 8 involving a further 173 jobs. Companies in these areas may also claim regional development grant paid under Part 1 of the Industry Act.

Redundant Workers

asked the Secretary of State for Industry (1) what is the value of (a) tiding-over allowances and (b) resettlement grants paid by the European Coal and Steel Community to redundant workers in the United Kingdom, in the Northern Region, and in Cleveland County, respectively, over the last five years;(2) what financial assistance has been given by the European Coal and Steel Community towards helping to retrain redundant workers in the United Kingdom, in the Northern Region, and in Cleveland County, respectively, over the last five years.

The following table shows the approximate total payments made under the Iron and Steel Readaptation Benefits Scheme to United Kingdom steel workers, from 1st January 1973 to

United KingdomNorthern RegionCleveland County
Unemployment Benefit1,290,00045,0004,600
Earnings make-up640,0008,5004,400
Training allowances238,000200200
Training costs700,0001,7501,750
Resettlement grants11,000
The ECSC contributes 50 per cent. of the net costs of all these benefits except for some training, where the contribution is 33⅓ per cent.ECSC assistance for redundant coal industry employees is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what grants or loans have been made available by the European Coal and Steel Community to individuals and firms whose investments ensure the productive re-employment of workers made redundant in the iron and steel industry in the United Kingdom, in the Northern Region, and in Cleveland County, respectively, in the last five years.

Following is the information:

£ million
United Kingdom56·875
Northern Region7·665
Cleveland County0·765
All figures refer to loans. The United Kingdom figure includes a global loan of £10 million advanced to Finance for Industry for on-lending to small enterprises. It is not possible to provide a geographic breakdown of the use made of this loan, though I understand the Northern Region has benefited from it.

Industrial Returns (Method Of Calculation)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether, when calculating the rate of return on net trading assets of particular industries, his Department uses the same method as that used by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

, pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 2nd May 1977, Vol. 931, c. 47–8], gave the following information:

31st March 1977 for weekly unemployment benefit, earnings make-up, and training allowances, and to 30th September 1976 for training costs and resettlement grants:

My Department uses the figures prepared by the accountancy staff of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission except that for the rate of return at replacement cost after deducting stock appreciation. My Department's statistician's, in estimating stock appreciation, use a different method and more detailed unpublished information. The resulting rates of return can be very different when price changes are large and variable.

Employment (Assisted Areas)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will list any assisted areas where the level of unemployment in percentage terms at the latest available date was near to or below the national average.

The assisted areas which had an unemployment rate at or below the Great Britain average of 5·8 per cent. in March 1977 were as follows:

North-West intermediate area—5·6 per cent.
Yorkshire and Humberside intermediate area—5·8 per cent.
North Midlands intermediate area—4·7 per cent.
High Peak intermediate area—3·3 per cent.

Nuclear Technology (Research)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what studies are being made by the British Steel Corporation and the UKAEA of the use of direct heat from nuclear reactors for the generation of reducing gas and for support of ore reduction processes in the production of steel.

Postal Deliveries

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what percentage of first-class letters arrive at their destinations later than the day after they are posted.

The Post Office informs me that about 7 per cent. of first-class letters are delivered later than the first working day after collection.

Power Plant Manufacturing

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he is prepared to visit the Tyneside works of C. and A. Parsons to discuss with the management and unions the urgent problems facing the power plant industry which have led to Parsons delaying its intention to make 1,600 of their work force redundant.

I have nothing to add to the answer I gave the hon. Member on 2nd May.—[Vol. 931, c. 47.]

Prices And Consumer Protection

Cars

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection whether the price increases announced by Chrysler and British Leyland for their cars were subject to the approval of the Price Commission.

Chrysler and British Leyland are among the enterprises which have to notify the Price Commission in advance of their intended price increases. The Commission does not normally approve price increases notified to it but rejects or modifies them if they do not comply with the provisions of the Price Code.

Fruit And Vegetables

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he will institute an inquiry into the widespread practice in the wholesale fruit and vegetable trade of giving short weight and measure, with power to make recommendations as to the adequacy of current weights and measures legislation to combat the problem which results in retailers having to charge more than they need for their goods.

I am not aware of any evidence that the practice is widespread as my hon. Friend implies. Many fresh fruits and vegetables are subject to heavy and unpredictable losses of weight in transit and storage. Consequently it has been long-established practice in the trade that certain transactions between the wholesaler and retailer take place on the basis of an assumed weight or measure, or the weight when packed. Legislation already provides that where, by agreement between the two parties, the transaction is by weight, the retailer has the right to demand check-weighing of the produce concerned. In general, I believe that these matters are better regulated by trade practices agreed between the producer, the wholesaler and retailer than by precise legislation, and I do not consider that an inquiry is justified at the present time.

Credit Restriction

asked the Secretary of State for Prices and Consumer Protection if he proposes to alter the credit restrictions imposed by the hire-purchase and hiring orders.

, pursuant to his reply [Official Report, 9th May 1977], gave the following information:—I laid orders yesterday which come into force on 1st June 1977 and amend the Hire-Purchase and Credit Sale Agreements (Control) Order and revoke and reproduce with modifications the Control of Hiring Order. These changes are mainly designed to correct anomalies and ease difficulties in the operation of the orders. Among them are provisions exempting from the controls hire-purchase, credit sale and hiring transactions entered into in the course of a trade or business carried on by the hirer or purchaser, extending the exemptions allowed to disabled persons and prohibiting the inclusion in hiring agreements and in related agreements of terms which transfer the property in the goods to any person.

Trade

"Lovat"

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what action he proposes in response to the findings of the inquiry into the loss of the "Lovat".

The inquiry into the loss of the "Lovat" in January 1975 was one of the longest and most technically complex on record and has resulted in a detailed and valuable report by the court. As the report acknowledged, action has already been taken by the Department on a number of matters since the casualty. With regard to the cargo, a working group studied the flow potential of particled coal products and advised the shipping industry on safety measures and testing facilities; related amendments have been made to the international code for safe practices for bulk cargoes. With regard to the rubber-proofed cotton fabric liferaft, which suffered a form of degredation, research has justified making rules to phase out all such liferafts by July 1979. Also attention has been drawn to the importance of observing the statutory requirements for the annual inspection of life-rafts. Following a review by a departmental committee, a co-ordinated programme for survival training was adopted including a compulsory induction course for new entrants. And, on search and rescue, Sea King helicopters are now available at shorter notice than in January 1975.

IMPORTS OF FUELS (SITC SECTION 3) AS A PROPORTION OF THE VALUE OF TOTAL IMPORTS
19721973197419751976
United Kingdom11·210·920017·918·1
Denmark10·910·619·218·616·5
Belgium/Luxembourg10·18·714·314·312·9*
France13·212·422·922·922·4
Germany, Federal Republic of9·211·419·317·717·8
Irish Republic7·56·813·914·113·4
Italy15·014·126·627·125·8†
Netherlands13·213·318·117·919·4*
* January to November.
† January to September.

Source:

1972–75, OECD Statistics of Foreign Trade Series B.

1976, OECD Statistics of Foreign Trade Series A, national publications and Eurostat External Trade

Raw Materials (Imports)

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proportion of United Kingdom imports basic materials constituted in volume and value, respectively, in each of the past five years;

IMPORTS OF BASIC MATERIALS (SITC SECTIONS 2 AND 4) AS A PROPORTION OF THE VALUE OF TOTAL IMPORT
19721973197419751976
United Kingdom11·912·411·29·210·3
Denmark7·37·17·25·95·9
Belgium/Luxembourg9·910·310·88·98·9*
France9·910·510·38·48·2
Germany, Federal Republic of11·211·912·410·610·0
Irish Republic5·87·37·34·75·3
Italy14·916·315·313·113·6†
Netherlands8·89·1937·87·5*
* January to November.
† January to September.

Source:

1972–75, OECD Foreign Trade Statistics Series B.

1976, OECD Foreign Trade Statistics Series A, National publications and Eurostat External Trade.

Other points made in the report are being carefully studied and, in particular, the further research and development work within the responsibility of my Department is being put in hand. Finally, I should like to express again my sympathy for the next of kin and relations of all those who lost their lives in this tragic casualty.

Fuel Imports

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proportion of United Kingdom imports fuels constituted in volume and value, respectively, in each of the past five years; and what were the corresponding figures for each of the other member countries of the EEC.

The following is the value information. Consistent data on which to estimate proportions by volume are not available.and what were the corresponding figures for each of the other member countries of the EEC.

The following is the value information. Consistent data on which to estimate proportions by volume are not available.

Oil

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what has been the level of imports and exports of oil, respectively, into and from the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France, Germany

Thousand metric ton
197419751976
ImportsExportsImportsExportsImportsExports
United Kingdom
Crude oil NGL and feedstocks112,8151,40391,3601,52494,0664,332
Finished products*14,77314,39612,45613,66310,42415,677
United States
Crude oil NGL and feedstocks180,810745207,8061,077290,271254
Finished products*122,0899,30391,7508,18478,7956,651
France(January to September)
Crude oil NGL and feedstocks130,031106,68289,142
Finished products*6,50910,1766,6759,2516,5637,503
Germany FR of
Crude oil NGL and feedstocks104,45991,84814102,02531
Finished products*36,9969,35037,3556,46340,2346,696
Japan
Crude oil NGL and feedstocks237,839223,302229,073
Finished products*23,9382,14216,6901,25922,776207
* Finished products—gasoline, kerosene, distillate fuels, residual fuel oils, lubricating oils, paraffin, waxes, bitumen, asphalt fluxes and cutbacks, other petroleum gases, white spirit, miscellaneous products including petroleum coke.

Manufactures (Imports)

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proportion of United Kingdom imports finished manufactures constituted in volume and value in each of the past five years; and what were

IMPORTS OF FINISHED MANUFACTURES (SITC SECTIONS 7 and 8) AS A PROPORTION OF THE VALUE OF TOTAL IMPORTS
Per cent.
19721973197419751976
United Kingdom28·129·224·126·628·4
Denmark36·838·332·336·437·8
Belgium/Luxembourg36·635·830·734·834·2*
France35·234·628·830·729·7
Germany, Federal Republic of30·728·925·229·129·2
Irish Republic35·436·230·633·935·0
Italy25·224·319·222·217·3†
Netherlands36·034·630·934·232·5*
* January to November.
† January to September.

Source:

1972–75, OECD Statistics of Foreign Trade "Series B".

1976, OECD Statistics of Foreign Trade "Series A". national publications and Eurostat External Trade.

many and Japan for 1974, 1975, 1976 and the first quarter of 1977, respectively.

The following information covering volume trade flows of crude oil, NGL and feed stocks and petroleum finished products for 1974, 1975 and 1976 is taken from OECD Quarterly Oil Statistics. No later figures are available.the corresponding figures for each of the other member countries of the EEC.

The following is the value information. Consistent data on which to estimate proportions by volume are not available.

Food, Drink And Tobacco (Imports)

asked the Secretary of State for Trade what proportion of United Kingdom imports food, beverages and tobacco constituted in volume and value, respectively, in each of the past five

IMPORTS OF FOOD BEVERAGES AND TOBACCO (SITC SECTIONS 0 AND 1) AS A PROPORTION OF THE VALUE OF TOTAL IMPORTS
19721973197419751976
United Kingdom21·119·516·418·116·0
Denmark9·71018·58·69·6
Belgium/Luxembourg12·212·210·111·711·5*
France12·212·48·911·410·6
Germany, Federal Republic of16·916·513·214·013·9
Irish Republic13·012·712·113·312·3
Italy20·520·114·517·315·4†
Netherlands13·014·112·413·813·3*
* January to November.
† January to September.

Source:

1972–75, OECD Statistics of Foreign Trade Series B.

1976, OECD Statistics of Foreign Trade Series A, National publications and Eurostat External Trade.

Scotland

Public Corporations (Board Vacancies)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish a list of the vacancies for membership of the boards of public corporations for which he is sponsoring authority which have been advertised publicly in the last five years.

Public advertisement was used as part of the procedure in filling the post of chief executive, and Member, of the Scottish Development Agency.

Overseas Development

South African Students (Psychiatry)

asked the Minister of Overseas Development if she will offer scholarships for the training of African students from the Republic of South Africa in psychiatric medicine.

We have no programme of technical co-operation with the Republic of South Africa.

Defence

Gibraltar (Civil Personnel)

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been years; and what the corresponding figures were for each of the other member countries of the EEC.

The following is the value information. Consistent data on which to estimate proportions by volume are not available.the cost of sending senior civil servants from the United Kingdom to Gibraltar to undertake the work of members of the Civil and Public Services Association who are engaged in an industrial dispute; and if he will make a statement.

Nil. The staff involved in the dispute are clerical and allied grades. No United Kingdom based staff in these or any other grades have been sent to Gibraltar to undertake their work.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether members of the Civil and Public Services Association engaged in a dispute over salary levels in Gibraltar have been informed that they must sign a declaration that they will never again take industrial action, before negotiations to settle the present dispute can take place.

No. The facts are that in October 1976, after the staff involved had been taking industrial action for some six weeks, they were warned that, unless they returned to normal working, they would be suspended from duty. Those attempting to enter Ministry of Defence premises after this warning had been given were asked to give a written undertaking that it was their intention to work normally. Since then, in the course of negotiations with the CPSA, this requirement has been waived and all staff are free and welcome to return at any time, on the basis that their return will be accepted as indicative of their intention to work normally.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the percentage difference in the salary levels of those members of the Civil and Public Services Association employed in Gibraltar and those employed in similar capacities in the United Kingdom.

The Scamp Report, which recommended that the pay of local staff in Gibraltar should be related to that of corresponding grades in the United Kingdom, envisaged that ultimately Gibraltar rates should be 80 per cent. of United Kingdom rates, and that progress towards this objective should be accomplished in four pay reviews: 1974–70 per cent.; 1975–72 per cent.; 1976–76 per cent.; 1977–80 per cent.These recommendations were accepted on 13th April 1976 by the CPSA with respect to the 1974 and 1975 reviews which were implemented simultaneously. As a result, from 1st October 1975, Gibraltar rates have been set at 72 per cent. of United Kingdom rates. As, however, all locally entered clerical staff were already in receipt of a higher percentage, depending upon their length of service, they received between 75 per cent. and 90 per cent. of the United Kingdom rates.The 1976 review has yet to be carried out and will be retrospective to 1st October 1976 from which date the Scamp recommendation is that Gibraltar rates should be 76 per cent. of the United Kingdom rates obtaining at that date.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if any members of the Civil and Public Services Association engaged in picket activity relating to the dispute on pay and conditions in Gibraltar have been arrested; and if he will make a statement.

I understand that, in the course of demonstrations in Gibraltar, members of the CPSA were arrested by the civil police for causing obstruction and for other offences.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how long the lock-out of members of the Civil and Public Services Association in Gibraltar has been in force; and what proposals have been made to resolve the dispute.

The staff have not been locked out. On 25th October 1976, in accordance with procedures recognised by the CPSA and all other trades unions in Gibraltar, and following some six weeks of increasingly disruptive industrial action, those involved were suspended from duty so long as they refused to work normally. They are free and welcome to return to normal working at any time.Public service pay in Gibraltar is in the process of conversion in line with the principles recommended by Sir Jack Scamp in his 1975 report on pay and conditions in Gibraltar. These principles changed the basis of pay determination of local staff in Gibraltar to one under which pay is calculated by reference to the pay of analogous grades in the public service in the United Kingdom. Adoption of these principles has upset historical relativities between, on the one hand, clerks employed by the United Kingdom Departments in Gibraltar, and on the other, clerks employed by the Gibraltar Government.CPSA officials have attended eight meetings at the Ministry of Defence in an effort to resolve their grievance. In the course of these meetings the Ministry of Defence offered to try to arrange, in conjunction with the Gibraltar Government, a joint staff inspection of the relevant posts in both employments to establish the correctness of the United Kingdom analogues used. At the last of these meetings the CPSA representatives were offered a lump sum payment to the United Kingdom Department's clerical grades and were given a formal undertaking that their rates of pay would be reviewed in the light of the findings of a formal staff inspection. Both these offers were rejected.Since then the CPSA has been offered a three-man board of inquiry to be set up under an independent chairman. The board would be charged with examining the causes and circumstances of the dispute and with making recommendations. Although this proposal was accepted at the time by the national executive committee of the CPSA, it was rejected by the CPSA membership in Gibraltar.

The Ministry of Defence remains ready to consider any new initiative which may emerge.

Squatters

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps have now been taken to regain possession of Ministry of Defence flats in Barnsbury Park, Islington, occupied by squatters.

An application to the court for an order for possession is being heard today. I will write to my hon. Friend when the outcome is known.

Jetfoil Hydrofoil Craft

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what evaluation has been undertaken by the Royal Navy of the Boeing jetfoil hydrofoil craft; and if its use can be evaluated against available alternatives for fishing limit surveillance and North Sea oil rig protection surveillance.

The Boeing Company's Jetfoil "Flying Princess" was kindly made available to the Ministry of Defence for technical trials and demonstrations at Rosyth and Portsmouth in April and earlier this month. The results are currently being evaluated. The Boeing jetfoil will be one of the possible options studied in the course of the consideration of the provision of new ships to replace the Ton class vessel in the fishery protection squadron.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Mental Health

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will propose within the United Nations Commission on Human Rights an international investigation on conditions in the mental health camps in South Africa;(2) whether he proposes to take action within the World Health Organisation or other appropriate United Nations bodies on the World Health Organisation report dated 22nd March 1977 entitled "Apartheid and Mental Health Care".

It would be premature for the Government to take action on the report, since it has yet to be considered by the Special Committee on Apartheid which commissioned it.

Falkland Islands

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in view of the pledge given by the Minister of State on 30th March 1977 that any proposals affecting the future of the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands have to be acceptable to the islanders before being put to Parliament, what precise method will be used to ascertain the islanders' approval.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply on 30th March to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson).—[Vol. 929, c. 394.]

Marine Resources

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the subject of territorial waters and rights pertaining thereto will be discussed during the forthcoming talks with the Argentine Government with a view to preventing over-use of marine resources by other countries.

No agenda has yet been agreed but, as my right hon. Friend stated on 26th April in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley), the forthcoming negotiations with the Argentine will include economic co-operation in the South-West Atlantic.

South-West Atlantic Ocean

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what encouragement currently is being given to British companies to explore marine resources within existing British territorial waters around the Falkland Islands; and whether he is aware of any pressures designed to interfere with the proposed operations of such companies.

On the question of fishing, I would refer the hon. Member to my reply on 22nd March to the hon. Member for Surbiton (Sir N. Fisher). Development of the kelp resources around the Falkland Islands is the subject of an agreement between the Falkland Islands Government and Alginate Industries Limited. I am not aware of any pressures designed to interfere with proposed operations by any companies.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Argentine Government consulted Her Majesty's Government before inviting applications for licences to fish in the South Atlantic including existing British territorial waters around the Falkland Islands.

The tenders invited recently by the Argentine Government are for fishing off the coast of Patagonia and do not cover existing British territorial waters around the Falkland Islands.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the Argentine Government consulted Her Majesty's Government before inviting applications for licences to explore for oil in the South Atlantic including existing British territorial waters around the Falkland Islands.

The Argentine Government have not invited applications for licences to explore for oil in British territorial waters around the Falkland Islands.

Diplomats (Car Loans)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many of the 864 interest-free car loans to members of the Diplomatic Service outstanding on 28th February 1977 were to officers on their first posting overseas.

Of the car loans which were in process of repayment on 28th February 1977, 317 were made to officers on their first posting overseas. A further 187 officers who were posted overseas for the first time in the two years leading up to this date did not apply for car loans.

European Community

Direct Elections

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what occasions and by what means Her Majesty's Government have made specific undertakings in regard to direct elections to a European Assembly, other than by general statements related to the Treaty of Rome (a) prior to May 1975, and (b) since that date.

My right hon. Friend and I described the position fully in the debate on 20th and 25th April.

Social Services

Petrol (Disabled Drivers)

16.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the level of the petrol allowance for drivers of three-wheeled invalid vehicles.

The current petrol allowance of £10 a year was introduced in November 1974 to offset, for tricycle drivers, the effects of the additional value added tax then imposed as an energy conservation measure. As the House is aware, the additional taxation on petrol imposed by the Budget is to be removed by the Finance Bill.

Disabled Persons

17.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has any plans to meet leaders of organisations to help the disabled in the near future.

I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) on 5th April.—[Vol. 929, c. 1085–7.] It is my practice to maintain close contact with these organisations, and both my right hon. Friend and I meet their representatives as regularly as we possibly can.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what further proposals he has for assisting with the mobility of disabled employees.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Wood) on 19th April.—[Vol. 930, c. 78–9.]

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what action is being taken to make known to disabled people the help and benefits made available in recent years.

The problem is to get the right information to the right people, at the right time and in the right way, about the very wide range of benefits and services which are now available. We seek to do this, both directly to disabled people, and indirectly through their organisations, professional workers and other individuals, including Members of Parliament, who are in close touch with the disabled. Methods used have included the issue of the general purpose booklet "Help for Handicapped People"; advertising in newspapers and on television; leaflets on particular social security benefits; "teach-ins" on social security, seminars and other training occasions and courses; articles in professional and other journals; information services, both general purpose and specific, operating at local and national level; and posters, leaflets and booklets produced by

Year endedBlind and partially sighted aged 16 to 20Deaf and hard of hearing aged 16 to 29General classes aged 16 to 29
31st March 19721,0386,56516,684
31st March 19739837,25118,784
31st March 19749437,20420,628
31st March 19758996,75520,104
31st March 1976 (Provisional)9127,12421,454
Reliable figures for the numbers of unregistered disabled people are not available.

Child Fostering

18.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what study he is making of the experience of local authorities that have placed 14 to 17 year olds with severe problems in private families.

The number of schemes of this kind is growing, though not all have reached the stage where they can be evaluated fully. Where reports have been made they have been carefully studied. A residential seminar on fostering schemes for children with special needs was held last November, and details of the schemes in operation are being circulated through my Department's Social Work Service.

Hospitals (Mixed Wards)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received regarding the trend towards mixed wards in hospitals.

local authority and voluntary and other bodies. While local authorities have a statutory responsibility to inform disabled people of personal social services available for their benefit, this is also a responsibility of all bodies providing services or seeking to help in other ways.

I am anxious to improve the quality and comprehensiveness of information supplied, and this is a topic being studied as part of the follow-up to the seminar which was held at Sunningdale last year. If my hon. Friend wishes me to consider any specific suggestions I shall be glad to hear from him.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many disabled young people there are of 16 years or over; and if he will give figures for the last five years.

Numbers of registered disabled people in England have been as follows:

In addition to correspondence from the hon. Gentleman, to which I shall be replying shortly, I have recently received about a dozen letters critical of mixed wards.

Trent Health Region

21.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is aware that there exist in the Trent Regional Health Authority area inequalities in health services in comparison with other health authorities; and what future plans he has to bring the Trent Regional Health Authority services up to the average in the country.

I recognise that the Trent health region is relatively deprived compared with most other regions in England. The Government are determined that the resources of the National Health Service should be more fairly shared between regions and within them. Rapid progress, when resources are tightly constrained, is impossible without damage to important existing services. For the next two or three years, therefore, we must expect to move slowly but deliberately. We shall, however, move as swiftly as resources permit.

Worcester (Surgical Services)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he has for improving surgical facilities in the Worcester Health District.

A scheme to replace the operating theatres at the Worcester Royal Infirmary has been put to my right hon. Friend for his consideration when drawing up the 1977–78 health building programme. Other improvements are for the Hereford and Worcester Area Health Authority and the West Midlands Regional Health Authority to consider.

Pakistan (Reciprocity)

23.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what reciprocal arrangements are in force with the Government of Pakistan whereby British subjects may draw social security benefits in that country.

Home Help Service (Pay)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied that it is in the interests of the home help service that there should be nationally-negotiated rates for the payment of staff.

Yes. The pay of home help is a matter for employing authorities and the National Joint Council for Local Authorities Services (Manual Workers) which negotiates rates nationally. These allow some flexibility to meet local requirements.

Occupational Pension Schemes

25.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what consultations he has had concerning the Government proposals to introduce a Bill to give trade union members a right to a 50-50 control of occupational pension schemes.

My right hon. Friend and I have had extensive consultations on the Government's proposals about the rôle of members in the running of occupational pension schemes. Those consulted include the TUC, the CBI, and organisations concerned with pension schemes, as well as a number of employers and pension scheme trustees. One result of these consultations, for example, is that the Government now propose to require that, subject possibly to certain exceptions, persons nominated by the relevant trade unions to sit on administrative or trustee bodies must be members of the pension scheme.

43.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he intends to conclude his consultations with the pensions industry on employee participation.

I cannot say. My right hon. Friend in his reply to the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) on 8th February—[Vol. 925, c. 1204–5]—gave an undertaking to report the outcome of these consultations to the House.

Regional Health Authorities

26.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied that the regional health authorities are playing a cost-effective rôle in the administration of the Health Service.

I am satisfied that regional health authorities strive to perform as cost-effectively as possible their rôle within the NHS structure imposed by the previous Administration's reorganisation in 1973–74.

Hospitals (Catering Costs)

27.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied that the recommended weekly level of catering expenditure per head for hospitalised psychiatric and mentally handicapped patients is adequate to meet their needs.

Yes, when revalued as explained in my reply to the hon. Member on 25th April—[Vol. 930, c. 256–8]—but I am keeping this matter under review.

Benefits (Uprating)

28.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to announce his proposals for the uprating of social security benefit.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) earlier today.

Chiropody

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he is satisfied with chiropody services.

I am aware that NHS chiropody services are inadequate in some areas. The Department has recently issued a circular to health authorities suggesting a number of measures which they should consider for improving chiropody services within present resource constraints and in the context of the priority accorded to the service in the consultative document "Priorities for Health and Personal Social Services in England".

Hospital Waiting Lists

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to receive the recommendtions of the Health Services Board on the introduction of common waiting lists for patients in NHS hospitals; and if he will publish the report as soon as he receives it.

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects the Health Services Board to report on the introduction of common waiting lists.

The Health Services Board is required under Section 6(1) of the Health Services Act 1976 to make recommendations to me about the best way of achieving common waiting lists within six months from Royal Assent—that is, by 21st May 1977. I have no reason to suppose that the Board will not do so. I will consider the question of publication as soon as I have received the Board's recommendations.

Invalidity Pension

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many married women are expected to claim the non-contributory invalidity pension.

As explained in the House of Commons Paper No. 276 on Social Security Provision for Chronically Sick and Disabled People, issued in 1974, such estimates of the number of incapacitated housewives as can be made depend on the 1968–69 survey "Handicapped and Impaired in Great Britain". The survey suggests that, net of those for whom a dependency increase is in payment, some 40,000 women below pension age with husbands at work may be incapable both of paid work and their normal household duties. These women are likely to benefit from the non-contributory invalidity pension when it is extended to married women in November 1977. The figure of 40,000 is the best estimate we can make of the number of married women who will successfully claim the pension. Any estimate of the total number of claimants would be wholly conjectural.

Death Grant

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what are the latest figures available for the average cost of funerals and the relation of this cost to the death grant; what were the corresponding figures for 1967; and what plans he has to increase the death grant.

42.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will review the level of the death grant.

61.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he proposes to increase the death grant.

Funeral costs vary widely, but the average cost at present is about £170. The £30 death grant represents some 18 per cent. of this. In 1967, when the average funeral cost about £85, the grant represented about 35 per cent. of the cost. The Government have no plans to increase the grant at present.

47.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will now abolish the death grant.

Pay Beds

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the phasing out of private pay beds.

Yes. 1,000 pay bed authorisations are to be withdrawn by 21st May in accordance with Section 3 of the Health Services Act 1976 and I expect to make a statement shortly. The Health Services Board will be making its first report in accordance with Section 4 of the Act by 16th July.

Health Services Board

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what recent consultations he has had with the Chairman of the Health Services Board.

None, apart from those referred to in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps) on 21st March—[Vol. 928, c. 412–3]—relating to an extension of time for the Board's first report on phasing out pay beds and consultation facilities. My Department has also received from the Board, as have other bodies, requests for comments on proposals relating to these matters, and will be replying.

Royal College Of Nurses

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he last met representatives of the Royal College of Nurses.

Hospital Beds (Ealing)

37.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the current provision of hospital beds in the London borough of Ealing.

The major part of the London borough of Ealing falls within the Ealing Health District, which is not self-sufficient in bed provision and relies on other health districts to supplement acute hospital needs. However, the Ealing, Hammersmith and Hounslow Area as a whole are well provided with acute beds. The health authority's plans for rationalisation also take account of the shortage of geriatric beds.

Deaf Persons

38.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will improve Government facilities for the deaf.

My aim is to provide as comprehensive a range of services for hearing-impaired people as possible within the limits of available resources. A number of measures designed to meet their needs, notably the introduction of the behind-the-ear hearing aid programme, have already been taken and others will be put into effect as soon as practicable. I am consulting widely on a number of important recommendations made by my Advisory Committee on Services for Hearing-Impaired people; and I am at present considering its latest report on provision by social services departments. Special funds to assist health authorities to improve local services have been allocated. We are also making available central funds to promote the training of hearing therapists to enable them to teach new communication skills.

59.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what multidisciplinary assessment, treatment and rehabilitation facilities for the deaf are available in the National Health Service.

Facilities are provided in hospital ENT departments, hearing aid centres and audiology clinics. In addition the screening of children is carried out at home, in community clinics and at school at key ages. Children suspected of having problems of speech or hearing can be referred to a comprehensive assessment centre, of which there are now about 90, for more elaborate multi-disciplinary investigation. Rehabilitation, following the issue of a hearing aid, is not as widely available as I should like; and I am awaiting comments on proposals for improving this and other aspects of the service, arising out of recent recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Services for Hearing-Impaired People.

Pensions

40.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what would be the cost of raising retirement pensions to one-half average earnings for married couples and one-third for single people.

The cost of increasing the current rate of retirement pension to one-half average earnings for married couples and one-third for single people, assuming average earnings of £70 per week, would be £2,900 million in a full year.

Disabled Persons (Vehicles)

39.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many invalid three-wheeled vehicles are currently on order by his Department.

Final contracts have been let for 1,500 invalid three-wheelers to be delivered up to 31st March 1978. Ninety-seven new vehicles are on order for individual clients but not yet delivered.

Area Health Authorities

41.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he is satisfied with the workings of the area health authorities.

I am satisfied that area health authorities and their staffs are working conscientiously to carry out their functions and responsibilities.

Students

44.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he intends to introduce regulations denying students who have paid their contributions unemployment benefit.

Regulations to disentitle students from unemployment benefit during their short vacations with effect from Christmas 1977 have now been submitted to the National Insurance Advisory Committee for its consideration.

Child Benefit

45.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will under take an urgent review of the operation of the child benefit scheme and the difficulties encountered in its introduction.

No. I am satisfied that the child benefit scheme has got off to a good start. Up to the end of April more than 2·5 million claims to child benefit had been received from the estimated 2·8 million one-child families.

Analgesics (Sales)

49.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will seek to ensure that analgesics are subject to counter service in supermarkets and shops generally employing self-service methods.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Litterick) on 14th March.—[Vol. 928, c. 82.]

Mobility Allowance

46.

Mr. Costain