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Written Answers

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 26 May 1977

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Written Answers To Questions

Thursday 26th May 1977

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

United States (Her Majesty's Ambassador)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many protests he has received against the recent appointment of Her Majesty's Government's next Ambassador to the United States of America.

I have received 33 letters since 12th May, of which 14 were critical and 15 supported the appointment.

British Youth Council

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in view of the written assurance given to the British Youth Council on 31st March 1977 that a total of £6,933 was being transferred to the council, if he will now make arrangement for the payment of this sum less the £2,600 instalment already paid.

As I told the hon. Member on 20th May, parliamentary approval has yet to be sought for the proposed grant in aid. It has been possible to make an advance of £2,600, and the balance in respect of the period to 30th September will be paid as soon as Parliament has approved the Summer Supplementary Estimate. Correspondence between my right hon. Friend's Department and the British Youth Council on matters of administration cannot override the requirement for such approval.

Hong Kong

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will take steps to increase the maximum fine for illegally employing children aged under 14 years in industry in Hong Kong.

Legislation was passed on 4th May 1977 to increase the maximum fine for the illegal employment of children aged under 14 years in industrial undertakings from HK$5,000 to HK$10,000.

Brussels (Fire)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will ask the Belgian Government for a report into the fire disaster in Brussels on 22nd May in which at least eight Britons died.

Yes. The Belgian authorities have already started an inquiry into the cause of the fire.

Uganda

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will recommend the suspension of Uganda from the Commonwealth pending further investigation by an independent body such as Amnesty International or the United Nations of allegations recently made about events in that country.

I would refer the hon. Member to my answer on 2nd March.—[Vol. 927, c. 228]—The issue of the expulsion, or suspension, of a country from the Commonwealth has far reaching implications, and would require very careful consideration by all members of the Commonwealth.

European Community

Commissioners (Pay)

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will express in £ sterling the net annual income of an EEC Commissioner exclusively from his income from that office and excluding other income, based on his basic salary, less household allowance, dependent children allowance, education allowance for two dependent children, social security payments, after taxation (wife not working) and including his residence and entertainment allowances; and if he will also express in £ sterling his annual retirement pension based on five years' service.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave him on 24th May—[Vol. 932, c. 429-30]. As to pensions, the position is that a member of the Commission retiring after five years' service would receive for the first three years after his retirement a so-called "Transitional Allowance" amounting after deduction of tax to 1,250,172 Belgian francs (£20,164) per annum. During these three years the Commissioner would continue to receive household, family and education allowances. Subsequently, assuming he has reached the age of 65, he would receive a pension amounting, after deduction of tax and social security payments, to 626,052 Belgian francs or £10,098 per annum. A retired Commissioner who completes the three-year transitional period at an age between 60 and 65 will receive a proportionally lower pension. The figures given apply to the case of an ex-Commissioner still residing in Belgium; the conversions into £ sterling have been made at the commercial rate of 62 Belgian francs=£1 and the same remarks apply as in my answer referred to above.

South Africa

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister whether he intends to call for any further reports from the security services regarding alleged South African interference in British political affairs in the light of recent developments; and whether he will make a statement.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. and learned Member for Beacons-field (Mr. Bell) on 24th May.

Washington, Dc

Q6.

I visited Washington in March; I have at present no plans for a further visit.

Home Secretary's Speech

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister if the speech by the Secretary of State for the Home Department in South Leeds on 6th May 1977 on local government election results represents Government policy.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris).

Prime Minister (Engagements)

Q8.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 26th May.

Q12.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will list his official engagements for 26th May.

Q24.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for 26th May.

This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet In addition to my duties in this House, I shall be holding further meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, including the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Commonwealth Secretary-General.

Cbi

Q9.

asked the Prime Minister when he will next meet the representatives of the CBI.

Q16.

I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Teesside, Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) on 17th February.

Home Counties

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister if he will pay an official visit to the Home Counties north of Greater London.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation

Q13.

asked the Prime Minister if he has discussed with the President of the United States of America the rundown of the United Kingdom's commitment to be part of nuclear arms arrangements within the NATO alliance.

Q17.

asked the Prime Minister, what is the Government's policy on the recent conclusions of the NATO Heads of Government.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire. West (Mr. Watkinson) on 12th May.

Newspaper Industry (Royal Commission)

Q18.

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a further statement on the date of publication of the Royal Commission on the Newspaper Industry.

The Royal Commission hopes to publish its final report early in July.

Incomes Policy

Q15.

asked the Prime Minister what political and economic conditions would need to be satisfied before an early return to free collective bargaining.

The Government's discussions about the arrangements for the 1977–78 pay round start from the practical basis that general arrangements with the TUC succeed only when they are voluntarily accepted. The composite resolution on pay passed at the TUC Annual Congress in September 1976 referred to beginning an orderly return to free collective bargaining and the need to maintain the attack on inflation. The two rounds of voluntary pay policy we have had so far have helped to create the right conditions for a renewed fall in the rate of inflation once the effects of last year's sterling depreciation have worked through, which should be some time this summer. We shall then be in a more favourable position to embark on the orderly return to free collective bargaining.

Tuc

Q19.

Q25.

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

Nationalised Industries

Q20.

asked the Prime Minister when he next plans to meet the chairmen of the nationalised industries.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council gave on my behalf to the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) on 10th March.

Commonwealth Heads Of Government (Conference)

Q21.

asked the Prime Minister who will be attending his reception at No. 10 Downing Street for Commonwealth Heads of Government.

I refer my hon. and learned Friend to the reply which I gave him on 27th April.

Economic Policy

Q22.

asked the Prime Minister whether he is satisfied with the Government's economic strategy.

Government (Bicameral System)

Q23.

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied with the working of the bicameral system of government.

I am well aware of the concern which has been expresed about various aspects of the present system. We shall continue to keep the position under review.

Members Of Parliament (Access To Ministers)

asked the Prime Minister if the cyclostyled letter of 20th May sent to Members of Parliament under the joint signatures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Employment and the Secretary of State for Social Services was sent with his authority; and, in view of the importance of ensuring that Members have unhampered access to Ministers on behalf of their constituents whenever they judge this right, if he will take steps to have the last sentence of paragraph 6 revised.

This letter was sent to all hon. Members on the initiative of the three Ministers concerned, although I was aware of their intention. It suggests that where information about a particular case is held at local level, hon. Members will get a quicker reply to inquiries if they write directly to the local agency concerned. However, the letter is in no way intended to diminish the right of access of hon. Members to Ministers, which remains unchanged.

Drax B Power Station

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to an- nounce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister whether, pursuant to his assurances to the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Thomas) on 12th May, he is now in a position to announce the order for the Drax B power station.

asked the Prime Minister when, pursuant to his assurances to the House on 12th May, he expects to be in a position to announce the order for the Drax B Power Station.

asked the Prime Minister when, pursuant to his assurances to the House on 12th May, he expects to be in a position to announce the order for the Drax B Power Station.

Discussions are proceeding and I hope it will be possible for a statement to be made before long.

British Leyland

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a further statement on the Daily Mail-British Leyland affair.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wrigglesworth) and the subsequent exchanges on 24th May.

Members Of Parliament (Telephone Calls)

asked the Prime Minister whether the assurances given to the House by his predecessor in April 1967, that hon. Members' calls would not be tapped, remains the policy today.

The general policy in relation to the interception of hon. Members' telephones remains as stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) on 17th November 1966 and reaffirmed by the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) on 16th July 1970 and 21st December 1972.

Central Policy Review Staff

asked the Prime Minister what is the cost to public funds of the Central Policy Review Staff; how many people are currently employed by it; how many projects have been completed to date; and what projects are currently in operation.

The current annual cost of the CPRS, which at present has 17 members together with supporting staff, is £412,000, including provision for accommodation and administrative overheads. It is not the normal practice to disclose the subjects on which the CPRS advises Ministers. Five reports have been published: Energy Conservation; A Joint Framework for Social Polices; The Future of the British Car Industry; the Future of the United Kingdom Power Plant Manufacturing Industry; and Population and the Social Services.

Doctors And Dentists (Pay)

asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the latest report of the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body.

The Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration has submitted its Seventh Report, covering the remuneration of doctors and dentists in the National Health Service. The report is published today as Cmnd. 6800 and copies are available in the Vote Office.The Government have accepted the Review Body's recommendations which are in accordance with the counter-inflation policy. The Government wish to thank all the members of the Review Body for their report.In its report the Review Body has recommended an increase in remuneration for most doctors and dentists of £208 a year payable as a supplement to present rates. The supplement will be calculated as 5 per cent. of remuneration where this produces less than £208. Proportionately smaller increases will be payable to those working part-time. For junior hospital staff, to honour an earlier agreement, payments calculated by the Review Body to be £103 a year on average, are to be made for covering colleagues on annual and study leave and the supplement becomes £105 a year. The increases take effect from 1st April 1977.

Civil Service

Parliamentary Papers (Printing)

asked the Minister for the Civil Service on how many occasions over the last two years there has been an industrial dispute at St. Stephen's Parliamentary Press; how many days were lost; and what on average was the amount of pay lost per printer.

Over the last two years there have been four industrial disputes at St. Stephen's Parliamentary Press, including the most recent one. Total man days lost was 1,830 with an average pay lost per printer of £127.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what is the total number of people employed in the printing of the Official Report and other parliamentary papers; and how many of them are members of a trade union.

The total number of industrial staff employed in HMSO on the printing of the Official Report and other parliamentary papers is 599, all of whom are trade union members.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service what efforts have been made to find alternative printers of the Official Report.

There has been no occasion to consider alternative printers of the Official Report because the St. Stephen's Parliamentary Press exists to produce parliamentary printing.

asked the Minister for the Civil Service on how many occasions the Official Report has not been printed in 1975, 1976 and to the latest available date in 1977.

There were 11 such occasions in 1975, six in 1976 and 10 to date in 1977. Outstanding issues will be produced as soon as production capacity is available.

Employment Opportunities

asked the Minister for the Civil Service if, in view of the need to preserve for the maximum extent job opportunity in the Civil Service for school leavers, he will give an assurance that the maximum use will be made of the arrangement for voluntary premature retirement for staff approaching retirement age before recruitment is reduced.

I take it that my hon. Friend is referring to the arrangements for the premature retirement of civil servants who are redundant or are of limited efficiency, or where there is an age-structure problem in their grade or group. These are not voluntary retirement arrangements, although many who retire under them may be willing to leave the Service. It would not be appropriate to use these arrangements for the purpose my hon. Friend has suggested. He will, however, know the seriousness with which the Government view the need to provide sufficient job opportunities for school leavers, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment has announced the various measures we have implemented to alleviate the problem.

Pay Settlements

asked the Minister for the Civil Service whether he will list the groups of public sector employees in whose pay settlements his Department is involved; whether these settlements are at national or local level; which of these settlements are usually influenced by the findings of the Pay Research Unit, and how: and what the percentage increase in the earnings of each group in 1974, 1975 and 1976.

The Civil Service Department is involved in a large number of public service pay settlements, but its primary involvement is at national level in pay settlements for non-industrial and industrial civil servants. For the bulk of the non-industrial Civil Service, pay negotiations have in the past usually been based on the findings of the Pay Research Unit putting into effect the detailed recommendations in the report of the Priestley Royal Commission (Cmnd. 9613). The findings of Pay Research Unit do not cover industrial civil servants; the Higher Civil Service, whose pay is subject to recommendations by the Top Salaries Review Body; or some small groupings of non-industrial civil servants, such as teachers, whose pay is linked to that of the profession outside the Civil Service. The information specified by the Question is not available in the precise form requested, but the average levels of increase in basic pay in annual terms for the years 1974, 1975 and 1976 were approximately 7 per cent., 26 per cent. and 9·8 per cent. for non-industrial civil servants, and 9·5 per cent., 29 per cent. and 11·8 per cent. for industrial civil servants.

Energy

Fuel Bills

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the cost of administering his Department's discount schemes on fuel bills.

The final figure will depend on the total number taking up the discount. The latest estimate is about £1 million.

Electricity Consultative Council

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what was the main burden of the representations made to him by the Convening Chairman of the Electricity Consultative Council in his letter of 24th February referred to in his parliamentary answer to the hon. Member for Norfolk, South on Monday 16th May 1977; and what was his reply.

This letter and my reply are set out below.

  • The Rt. Hon. A. W. Benn, MP,
  • Secretary of State for Energy,
  • Department of Energy,
  • Thames House South,
  • Millbank,
  • LONDON, SW1P 4QJ.
24th February 1977Dear Mr. BennCPRS REPORT ON "THE FUTURE OF THE UK POWER PLANT MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY"My colleagues and I have met to consider the CPRS Report on "The Future of the UK Power Plant Manufacturing Industry" and its likely effect upon the electricity consumer. We were fortunate enough to have at our meeting advice from both Sir Kenneth Berrill and Sir Arthur Hawkins, and we were pleased to note that the area of difference between the CEGB and the CPRS was not so great as we had been led to believe.

My purpose in writing to you is to acquaint you with the conclusions which we reached at our meeting and perhaps it would be helpful if I were to set these out seriatim.
First, we weclome the view that the United Kingdom should maintain an independent power plant manufacturing industry and should not come to rely upon foreign suppliers: we did not consider ourselves competent to comment upon how best the industry may be rationalised
Second, we would not dissent from the opinion that an independent industry should have a stable home market as a basis for a successful export performance and would welcome Government assistance to the industry—particularly in view of the reputed assistance given to foreign power plant manufacturing industries by their governments.
Third, we accept that the ordering of Drax Stage II in advance of its economic date may be necessary to sustain an independent industry.
Fourth, we accept the proposition that it may be necessary for the industry to manufacture a prototype 1300 MW high speed turbine generator in order effectively to compete in export markets.
Having outlined our substantial agreement with the Report, I now turn to the critical question of who is going to pay for the early ordering of Drax Stage II and the prototype manufacture of the 1300 MW high speed turbine generator, which on past performance may well, I believe, prove to be a costly exercise. There would seem to be two possible sources of finance, the CEGB (the electricity consumer) or the Government (the taxpayer). Conventional wisdom has it that since most taxpayers are electricity consumers, the distinction is an academic one, but I believe conventional wisdom in this case to be superficial. If the electricity consumer is to bear the cost, which is likely to be an average 3 or 4 per cent. increase on electricity bills over the period 1978–84 for the early ordering of Drax Stage II alone, without taking the 1300 MW prototype into consideration, then the cost will be spread according to consumption of electricity which is, as you will know, no criterion of ability to pay—quite apart from coming perilously close to appearing to constitute the venial sin of hypothecation. If the taxpayer is to bear the cost, then there would be a direct correlation between the spread of the cost and ability to pay.
To sum up: we accept the Report but we believe that if it is to be implemented, it will result in a considerable cost which should, in equity, be borne not by the electricity consumer but by the taxpayer.
In considering the Report, I trust that you will bear our views very much in mind and venture to hope that they will be evident in your eventual decision.

Yours sincerely

  • Mr. T. Young
  • Mr. T. Young, OBE, C.Eng, FIEE, FIHVE,
  • Convening Chairman,
  • Electricity Consultative Councils,
  • Room 154,
  • 4 Broad Street Place,
  • Blomfield Street,
  • LONDON, EC2M 7HE.

10th March 1977

Dear Mr. Young

Thank you for your letter of 24th February and for the conclusions of the Electricity Consultative Councils on the CPRS Report on the power plant industry. I note your agreement that the UK should maintain an independent power plant industry and that this needs a stable home market as a basis for a successful export performance. As you will know, Ministers are currently considering the report and it is helpful to have these comments.
The questions of a steady home ordering programme, and of the possible advancement of Drax 'B' naturally form part of Ministerial consideration; and decisions have still to be taken. I can assure you however that what you say about the attribution of any extra costs which may arise from measures to assist the power plant industry will be borne in mind.

A. W. Benn

Nuclear Reactors

asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the latest official estimate of the total cost of building and operating a commercial size breeder reactor, including all the related fuel cycle and security-safety costs.

In the absence of a final design it is not possible to give a firm estimate of the costs of a full-scale (1300 MW) commercial fast reactor. But at this stage the AEA's view is that the capital cost of the first such reactor might be about £700–£770 million (in 1976 prices), depending on allowances made for contingencies. (This does not take account of the costs of supporting research and development and preconstruction design and project engineering.) The figures might be much higher. They advise that operating costs are difficult to estimate because they will depend very much on:

  • (a) the load factors at which the station is operated, especially during the first few years;
  • (b) whether the fuel is stored until the commissioning of further fast reactors justifies the construction of a reprocessing plant to serve several stations, or whether, to provide an early demonstration of commercial reprocessing, an intermediate scale reprocessing plant is constructed concurrently with CFR 1.
  • In either case, when the station is operated at a load factor of 70 per cent., revenue from sale of electricity will cover all operating costs (including those related to security and safety) and make a contribution towards capital charges.

    asked the Secretary of State for Energy how many Magnox reactors are now generating electricity for the national grid; what is their combined electrical output capacity; and how the price of the electricity thus generated now compares with that generated in the most efficient coal-fired and oil-fired power stations, respectively.

    The CEGB, SSEB (which is the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland) and BNFL have 26 Magnox reactors at 11 power stations which generate electricity for the national grid.The declared net capability of the generating boards' stations is 3,762 MWSO. The gross capacity of the BNFL stations is 480 MW.In the year 1975–76, the latest period for which complete figures are available, the average generation costs of CEGB power stations commissioned in the previous 12 years were as follows: coal-fired, 0·97p/kWh; oil-fired, 1·09p/kWh; nuclear (Magnox), 0·67p/kWh. These figures include interest and depreciation charges appropriate to 1975–76 and an allowance is made in the nuclear figure for appropriate reprocessing costs.

    asked the Secretary of State for Energy what is the latest estimate of the total construction costs of the five advanced gas-cooled reactor power stations now on order; by what date it is now expected that all five will have been completed; and what will be their combined electrical output capacity.

    This information is not immediately available. I shall reply as soon as possible.

    asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will make a statement as to the arrangements he proposes for keeping the public informed of incidents affecting safety at nuclear installations.

    , pursuant to the reply [Official Report, 2nd February 1977; Vol. 925, c. 209–10], gave the following further information:The first quarterly report of the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate of the Health and Safety Executive concerning incidents at nuclar installations has been published today. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Further copies are available, free of charge, from the Health and Safety Executive. Further reports will cover incidents at nuclear installations on a quarterly basis.

    Essex

    asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will list the financial assistance provided through his Department in (a) the Basildon District Council area and (b) the Essex County Council area, for the services for which he has responsibility, in the financial years 1975–76 and 1976–77.

    Expenditure by my Department in the South-East Region as a whole is assessed at £109 million in 1975–76. Expenditure for 1976–77 is not yet available. I regret that figures for particular areas within the region could not be identified without disproportionate expense.

    Company Accounts (Public Access)

    asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether private individuals may examine the accounts of nationalised bodies for which he is responsible.

    The accounts of the nationalised industries for which I am responsible are audited by commercial auditors whom I am required to appoint annually. A copy of statements of account and any reports by the commercial auditors are laid before each House of Parliament.

    House Of Commons

    Members' Pay

    asked the Lord President of the Council whether he will publish in the Official Report a detailed or summary explanation of the various reports and recommendations concerning the salaries and allowances of hon. Members published since 1945; how many of these were postponed, altered or amended because of the economic situation; how many were held up before implementation; when the last Boyle Report was published; and when it is likely to be implemented.

    Report, etc. and Date with Notes on Implementation

    Select Committee on Members' Expenses (HC 93), March 1946:

    Recommendations modified; Sessional with effect from 1st April 1946.

    Select Committee on Members' Expenses etc. (HC 72), February 1954:

    Recommendations modified; Sessional Allowance introduced with effect from 24th May 1954.

    Government proposal embodied in statement from Prime Minister, July 1957.

    Sessional allowance commuted to fixed sum with effect from 1st July 1957.

    Report of the Committee on the remuneration of Ministers and MPs (Lawrence Committee) (Cmnd. 2516), November 1964:

    mented in full with effect from 16th October 1964.

    Review Body on Top Salaries Report No. 1: Ministers and MPs (Cmnd. 4836), December 1971:

    Implemented in full, with effect from 1st January 1972.

    Review Body on Top Salaries Report No. 5: MPs allowances (Cmnd. 5701), July 1974:

    Implemented in full, with effect from 1st August 1974.

    Review Body on Top Salaries Report No. 7: Ministers, MPs and the Peers Expenses Allowance—Part I (Cmnd. 6136), June 1975:

    Recommendations on allowances and facilities implemented in full with effect from 13th June 1975; recommendation on pay partially implemented.

    Review Body on Top Salaries No. 8: Ministers, MPs and the Peers Expenses Allowance—Part II (Cmnd. 6574), July 1976:

    Not implemented.

    The House will have to consider the whole issue of Members' pay again in due course, but continuing incomes policy rules out progress at the present time.

    Standing Committees

    asked the Lord President of the Council if he will take steps to refer to the Procedure Committee the question of ensuring that Standing Committees considering a Bill after Second Reading should always in the first place hold their meetings during the morning, and only arrange evening sittings, which clash with debates in the Chamber, if unsatisfactory progress is made in the morning sittings.

    This matter is already within the terms of reference of the Select Committee on Procedure chaired by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington (Sir T. Williams). I have no doubt that the Committee will have noted the hon. Member's suggestion.

    Social Services

    Vanadium Salts

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will order an investigation into the suggestion that vanadium salts could be of use in reducing blood cholesterol levels in mankind.

    No. Investigation into the suitability of a substance for medical use is in the first instance a matter for the pharmaceutical industry and the professions concerned.

    Unemployment Benefit (School Leavers)

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what benefits are paid to unemployed school leavers in each of the EEC member States, Sweden, the USA and Canada.

    Apart from training allowances, two kinds of benefit are provided for unemployed persons in the countries mentioned—unemployment benefit and means-tested social assistance. In the United Kingdom unemployment benefit is payable only to persons who have previously been in employment and, according to the information available to me, this also appears to be the situation in each of the other countries, except Belgium. In the latter, an unemployed school leaver with certain educational qualifications may receive unemployment benefit after 75 days of unemployment. An unemployed school leaver in the United Kingdom can claim social assistance in the form of supplementary benefit; the rate payable depends on his circumstances. Payment of social assistance in the other countries is, in general, administered locally and is subject to local rules and conditions.

    Exceptional Payments Additions

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many persons in the last 12 months for which figures are available received payments as an exceptional payments addition; what were the five commonest reasons for an exceptional payments addition, what was the total cost to public funds in the last 12 month period; and what percentage of recipients of exceptional payments additions were: (a) pensioners and (b) in regular employment.

    I assume that the hon. Member has in mind exceptional circumstances additions paid under paragraph 4(1)(a) of Schedule 1 to the Supplementary Benefits Act 1966. These additions are not made to persons in full-time work. In December 1975, 886,000 pensioners were receiving such additions as part of their weekly payments; and they represented 81 per cent. of those receiving such additions. The most common reasons for additions were heating, special diets and laundry. Other information requested is not available or could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

    Vitamins (Cost)

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the cost of free vitamins in the latest 12 months for which figures are available.

    In the 12 months to 31st March 1977 the provisional cost of vitamins provided free against tokens in England was £22,000.

    Benefit Claimants

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) in what circumstances payments are made to social security claimants in respect of fares to interviews for employment; how many such payments were made in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what was the total cost to public funds;(2) in what circumstances payments are made to social security claimants in respect of fares to social security offices; how many such payments were made in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what was the total cost to public funds;(3) in what circumstances payments are made to social security claimants in respect of fares to visit sick relatives not in hospital; how many such payments were made in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what was the total cost to public funds;(4) in what circumstances payments are made to social security claimants in respect of fares to visit children in care; how many such payments were made in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what was the total cost to public funds;(5) in what circumstances payments are made to social security claimants in respect of fares to visit relatives in hospital; how many such payments were made in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what was the total cost to public funds.

    The Supplementary Benefits Commission's Policy on the payment of fares is explained in the Supplementary Benefits Handbook (revised February 1977), a copy of which is in the Library of the House. The information requested on numbers of payments and expenditure is not available and could not be obtained without disproportionate cost.

    Benefits

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list all the items for which benefit can be paid to a social security claimant by way of a loan, as opposed to a grant; and what are the 10 most frequent items for which such loans have been made in the last 12 months for which figures are available.

    The Supplementary Benefits Commission does not make loans for items which would be provided by means of an exceptional needs payment.

    Exceptional Needs Payments

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of persons who received exceptional needs payments, in the latest 12 months for which figures are available, were retirement pensioners; what were the numbers of persons involved; and what were the 10 most common categories for which such payments were made.

    In the 12 months ended December 1975, 265,000 exceptional needs payments—28 per cent. of all such payments—were made to pensioners. The six most common categories for which such payments were made were clothing and footwear; bedding; household furniture and equipment; removal expenses; fuel; and house repair and/or decoration. Other information requested is not available or could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

    Emergency Offices

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many emergency offices of his Department there are; how much money was handed out by each of these offices, respectively, in the last year for which figures are available; and what facilities exist for the making of emergency payments in areas where there are no emergency offices open at weekends or on public holidays.

    The only emergency office is in London and it covers an area radiating about five miles from Charing Cross. It operates in the evenings, at weekends and on public holidays. Benefits paid out are estimated at about £20,000 per annum. Elsewhere emergencies arising outside office hours are dealt with by staff operating from their homes who are contactable by telephone through the police, social service departments and certain other agencies.

    Order Books

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services on how many occasions in the last 12 months new order books have been issued to persons whose order books have gone missing, for whatever reason, on, respectively, one, two, three or more occasions.

    The information is not currently available centrally, although the case for having it is being studied.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many order books have gone missing for whatever reason in each of the last five years; what proportion belonged to retirement pensioners; and what was the total value of the order books missing in each year, respectively.

    Order books reported to the Department as not received, lost, stolen or destroyed in the last five years numbered:

    197279,911
    197381,638
    197480,735
    197592,396
    197686,938
    The other information requested could not be provided without disproportionate effort.

    Milk Tokens (Cost)

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the total cost of free milk tokens in the latest 12 months for which figures are available.

    In the 12 months to 31st March 1977, the provisional cost of milk provided free against tokens in England was £13·3 million.

    Departmental Mail

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will issue instructions to all offices of his Department to make an inquiry into which communications could in future be sent by second-class mail instead of first class without any hardship to the recipient.

    The use made of first and second class post is already under detailed study throughout the Department with the aim of increasing the use of second-class post wherever this can be done without hardship to the addressee or adverse effect on the proper discharge of business.

    Fraud Officers

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the average time in which a person is a fraud officer in a local office of his Department.

    The length of time an individual is employed as a "fraud officer" is a matter for local management to decide but a period of between one and a half and two and a half years is usual.

    Working Clothes

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the total number of separate payments made, in the last 12 months for which figures are available, for working clothes or kit; what was the value of these; and how much of this sum was repaid by persons who had received money for this purpose, once they were in employment.

    The information is not available or could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

    Abuses

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what was the number of files on alleged abuse outstanding to be dealt with in each regional head-quarters on 16th May 1977;(2) in how many cases involving suspected abuses of Giro cheques that have been sent from local offices of his Department to the appropriate regional office of his Department the cases have been returned to the local office marked that the alleged offender be warned and the money recovered, instead of prosecuted; and in how many such cases the money has been recovered in each region, respectively;(3) how many submissions for prosecution for fraud were made by each local office, respectively, in, respectively, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich, and London to their appropriate regional headquarters, in the first three months of 1975, 1976 and 1977 respectively;(4) if he will publish details of the number of submissions for presentations for abuse of benefit submitted by local offices of his Department to their respective regional headquarters have been turned down as unfit for presentation by the regional headquarters, giving the figures for each regional headquarters for the last 12 months for which figures are available; and what percentage this represented of total submissions in each region.

    The information requested is either not available or could be assembled and presented only with a disproportionate amount of work and cost.

    Review Forms

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many postal review forms were sent out in the last 12 months for which figures are available.

    In the 12 months ended 19th April 1977, which is the latest date for which figures are available, approximately 1,740,000 postal review forms were issued by local offices.

    Frauds

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what training courses in the detection of fraud there are which must be undertaken by all local office fraud officers.

    All local office staff are trained to be aware of the possibility of fraud in their normal day-to-day conduct of business. In addition, training courses and seminars are provided regionally for local office fraud officers. These training arrangements were recently reviewed and from July 1977 all newly appointed fraud officers will undertake a five-week training programme which includes practical experience and a new centralised training course.

    Statistics

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will set out the management information services questions on statistics required by each regional headquarters from local offices of his Department in their region, for the the latest available month, by region.

    I assume that the hon. Member's Question relates to the type of management information obtained from local offices by regional offices.

    Local offices are required regularly to report at four-weekly intervals the number of claims for all types of benefit which have been received and, for most, the number which have been cleared. Similar information is given for work arising from inquiries related to national insurance contributions and suspected fraud.

    Local offices also report:

  • 1. the numbers of payments made by giro or order book,
  • 2. the numbers of callers at the local office and visits made by local office staff,
  • 3. references to the regional medical officers of health,
  • 4. the quality of certain aspects of the work,
  • 5. the manpower used.
  • From time to time this is supplemented by other information but the nature of the additional information changes from period to period as it depends on the particular circumstances of individual regions at different times.

    Prescriptions

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the cost of free prescriptions in the latest 12 months for which figures are available; and what percentage of this was in respect of retirement pensioners.

    In 1976 the cost of free prescriptions in England is estimated as £286 million of which 52 per cent. was in respect of retirement pensioners.

    Spectacles

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the cost of free spectacles in the latest 12 months for which figures are available; and what percentage was in respect of retirement pensioners.

    Glasses are supplied free or at reduced cost to children and to adults with a low income. The charges so forgone in England are estimated to be about £6·5 million for the financial year 1976–77. There is not sufficient information to estimate what proportion of this was in respect of retirement pensioners.

    Dental Treatment

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the cost of free dental treatment in the latest 12 months for which figures are available; and what percentage of this was in respect of retirement pensioners.

    The cost of treatments in courses with no chargeable elements, together with those courses which included chargeable elements but were supplied to patients not required to pay, and the non-chargeable elements in courses which attracted a patient's contribution, amounted to £109 million in the 12 months ended December 1976.Retirement pensioners are not automatically exempt from dental charges and figures for full remission on income grounds are not broken down into categories of patients.

    Mobility Allowance

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what would be the cost of extending eligibility for the mobility allowance to women aged 60 to 65 years.

    At the £7 a week rate effective from November this year the additional cost might be of the order of £8 million in a full year.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will make a statement on the possibility of linking the value of the mobility allowance to the cost of motoring or of public transport.

    The November increase in mobility allowance, from £5 to £7 a week, will provide a larger percentage increase than would have been made on the basis either of the general retail price index or of the movement in items reflecting transport costs—which has been slightly less than that of the general index. We are not proposing any change in the present statutory provisions for an annual review of the level of the allowance.

    Pneumoconiosis

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) in how many cases in each of the last 10 years the decision of the statutory authorities has conflicted with the opinion of the family doctor in cases of attributing death to pneumoconiosis;(2) in how many cases in each of the last 10 years the decision of the statutory authorities has conflicted with the opinion of the coroner in cases of attributing death to pneumoconiosis;(3) in how many appeals against the decision of the statutory authorities, in cases of ruling on death claimed to be due to pneumoconiosis, the appeal has been allowed in each of the last 10 years.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will introduce legislation to provide that the decisions of a family doctor and the coroner should be accepted when they agree on attributing death to pneumoconiosis and that the pneumoconiosis medical panel should have the right to appeal when it wishes to do so.

    No. I understand the reason for my hon. Friend's suggestion, and I recognise that the question whether death has resulted from pneumoconiosis within the meaning of the Social Security Act 1975 can be a difficult one. But, where there is a conflict of medical opinion, it seems to me right that the weight to be given to evidence from the different sources should be determined by the independent statutory authorities responsible for determining claims to industrial death benefit—the insurance officer or, on appeal, the local tribunal or Commissioner.The Government have, however, given practical expression to its concern in this field in the Social Security (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1977. Under that Act, entitlement to industrial death benefit can be automatic where death was due to a pulmonary disease and disablement from pneumoconiosis had been assessed at 50 per cent. or more in life.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services in how many cases of death being attributed to pneumoconiosis in the last 10 years the insurance officer or other authority has appealed; and in how many and what percentage of cases the appeal was successful.

    I regret that the full information requested is not available. The table below shows the position over the four year period 1973–76.

    Number of Appeals to National Insurance Commissioner by Insurance OfficerNumber of successful appealsPercentage successful
    19731010100
    19749888
    197577100
    19765480

    Pay Settlements

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will list the groups of public sector employees in whose pay-settlements his Department is involved; whether those settlements are at national or local level; which of those settlements are usually influenced by the findings of the Pay Research Unit and how; and what was the percentage increase in the earnings of each group in 1974, 1975 and 1976.

    There are 34 main groups of staff in whose pay settlements my Department is involved; they include a wide range of medical, professional, scientific, administrative and ancillary staffs. All settlements are made at national level. The settlements for some groups are influenced by settlements in the Civil Service, and elsewhere, although there is no direct link with the Pay Research Unit.The percentage increase in earnings are not available for all groups; the percentage increase in basic salaries of each group in each of the years requested cannot be provided without disproportionate effort, but as an illustration the average percentage increases for staff within the Nurses and Midwives Whitley Council were 37·9 per cent. in 1974, 16·8 per cent. in 1975 and 13·9 per cent. in 1976.

    Family Allowances

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the value per week at current prices to a family on average national earnings with three children under 11 years of age of family allowances and child tax allowances combined in 1955; and what is the current value today.

    The net value per week of family allowances and child tax allowances in 1955 to a married man on national average earnings of manual workers with three children under 11 was £7·25, in April 1977 prices. The present combined value of child benefit and child tax allowances to a man in the same situation is £7·60.

    Essex

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the financial assistance provided through his Department in (a) Basildon District Council area and (b) Essex County Council area in the financial years 1975–76 and 1976–77.

    Teachers

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why part-time teachers are not paid unemployment benefit; and to what other occupations similar disqualification applies.

    Part-time workers, whether in teaching or any other occupation, are entitled to unemployment benefit if they satisfy the conditions which apply to all persons claiming benefit. If my hon. Friend will let me know of any particular case which he may have in mind, I shall be glad to look into it.

    Office Of Population Censuses And Surveys

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services why it was decided to undertake a survey by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys into drinking in Scotland; on whose recommendation it was decided that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys should conduct this survey; what is the estimated cost to public funds of the survey; and which Department is likely to use the results.

    The survey was requested by the Scottish Home and Health Department in order to monitor the effects of changes in drinking hours in Scotland. The estimated cost of the survey is £70,800.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the questions being asked in the survey being carried out by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys into attitudes to protective legislation.

    The questionnaire to be used in the survey of protective legislation is not yet ready. When the survey is complete a copy of the questionnaire will be placed in the Library.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the questions asked by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys during the survey on drinking in Scotland.

    A copy of the questionnaire used in this survey has been placed in the Library.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what was the total number of staff employed by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys in each of the years 1966 to 1976; and how many staff are currently so employed.

    The number of staff employed by OPCS on 1st April of each year was:

    YearTotal Staff
    19661,436
    19671,747
    19681,708
    19691,699
    19701,964
    19712,077
    19722,488
    19732,583
    19742,742
    19752,870
    19762,645
    19772,605
    The number of staff currently employed is 2,585.OPCS was created on 11th May 1970 by the merger of the General Register Office for England and Wales and the Government Social Survey Department; the figures given for dates before then are totals of the staff of the two separate departments.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will list the salary grades for employees of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys.

    The staff of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys are members of standard civil service classes and are paid accordingly.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if the survey carried out by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys into drinking in Scotland has yet been completed.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services who was responsible for deciding that the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys should conduct a survey into attitudes to protective legislation; why the decision was taken; what is the total number of people being interviewed by the Office during the survey; what is the cost to public funds of the survey; how many staff employed by the Office have been required to conduct this survey; and which Department is likely to use the results.

    The Equal Opportunities Commission requested the survey. The Commission has a statutory duty to review (in consultation with the Health and Safety Commission) the discriminatory provisions of the Health and Safety legislation. About 2,500 persons will be interviewed. The cost of the survey will be £75,000. About 10 full-time staff of the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys will be employed in the survey for some months. In addition a number of part-time interviewers will be employed. The Equal Opportunities Commission will incorporate these findings, as appropriate, in the report on its review to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many staff employed by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys have been required to conduct the survey on drinking in Scotland; and what is the approximate length of time required by the Office to conduct it.

    About eight full-time staff of OPCS and 60 part-time interviewers have been employed on this survey, in most cases for short periods. Work began in June 1976 and is likely to be completed at the end of 1977.

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the total sample of people being inter- viewed in connection with the survey being undertaken by the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys on drinking in Scotland; on what basis the Office selected the people it questioned during the course of the survey; and how many people refused to take part in it.

    The survey was carried out in two stages. 1,675 people were interviewed in the first stage and a further 107 refused to take part. In the second stage, 1,443 people who had been interviewed in the first stage were re-interviewed and 155 declined. The sample of people approached in the survey was selected at random from electoral registers.

    Disabled Persons (Occupational Pensions)

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has yet received the report of the Occupational Pensions Board on the question of occupational pension scheme cover for disabled people.

    The board's report was received on 13th May 1977 and it will be published as soon as possible.The Government will give careful consideration to the board's report.

    Attendance Allowance

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many applications for (a) a higher rate, and (b) a lower rate and formerly single rate attendance allowance have been made in each year since 1971; and what proportion of these have been granted (i) on application, and (ii) after an appeal.

    Claims are made for attendance allowance as such, and not for the higher rate or the lower rate. Details of the number of claims decided and of the decisions given on review for each of the years since 1971 are set out in the following table. It is not meaningful to quote reviews as a proportion of either claims, awards or rejections, as people apply for a review not only because they are dissatisfied with the initial decision, or an earlier review decision, but also because their attendance needs have changed since the earlier decision (which may have been made years before).

    ATTENDANCE ALLOWANCE CLAIMS AND REVIEWS

    Claims decided

    Reviews

    Year

    Higher rate

    Lower rate*

    Rejections

    Total

    Columns (2) plus (3) as percentage of Column (5)

    Increased to Higher rate

    Lower rate*

    Decision unchanged

    Total

    Columns(7)plus(8)as percentage of Column (10)

    (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)

    (9)

    (10)

    (11)

    197147,33234,81582,14757·64,8001,4006,20077·4
    197245,78456647,09593,44549·68,47024011,74020,45042·6
    197344,94537,31234,322116,57970·64,1102,6903,45010,25066·3
    197435,99940,72422,67399,39677·22,5332,8913,2058,62962·9
    197533,06137,89622,97593,93275·53,5862,5713,7239,88062·3
    197632,96543,55930,073106,59771·84,8913,0984,63812,62763·3

    * The lower rate was introduced in stages during 1973 although claims were accepted from 15th November 1972.

    Expenditure

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services which of the recommendations made by the Expenditure Committee in the Eleventh Report published in July 1975 and which fall within his responsibility, have now been implemented.

    The Government's response to the Expenditure Committee's recommendations was given in the White Paper (Cmnd. 6494) published in May 1976. Of the major proposals in the White Paper which fell within the responsibility of my Department, a number have been implemented and consultations are continuing on others. Remands of 14-year-old girls to prison have ended and we intend to begin consultations with local authority associations later in the year on the next step. Powers have been taken in the Children Act 1975 to make direct grants to local authorities who provide additional secure accommodation. A circular has been issued to local authorities to encourage the development of intermediate treatment. Standing inter-departmental machinery has been established to monitor the working of the Act and co-ordinate the research programmes of the Departments concerned.Consultations, in some of which I myself have taken part, are proceeding with the Magistrates' Association and local authority associations on a number of subjects including the encouragement of national and local consultative arrangements and the problems of serious and persistent juvenile offenders.

    Civil Servants

    asked the Secretary of State for Social Services how many uncertificated sick days (a) a civil servant, (b) a local government official and (c) a teacher employed by a local authority is normally entitled to in each year.

    I have been asked to reply.Civil servants may be allowed up to five days' paid sick leave, subject to a maximum of 10 days in any period of 12 months, without providing a doctor's statement. I understand from my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Education and Science and for the Environment that teachers and adminis- trative professional, technical and clerical staff employed by local authorities are not normally required to provide a doctor's statement for the first three days of sick absence but there is no specified annual limit.

    Transport

    Speed Limits

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he will explain his arrangements for national speed limits; and what effect he expects them to have.

    With my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, I have now made the Temporary Speed Limit Order 1977, which will come into force on 1st June. Except where lower limits are indicated by signs, the national speed limits will then be 70 mph, on dual carriageway roads and 60 mph on single carriageway roads. Before the fuel economy limits were introduced in December 1974, a number of roads carried local speed limits imposed under local orders. Most of these were revoked in 1974 but the new order revives them with a few exceptions. These exceptions, on which the national speed limit will now apply, are roads which have been so improved since the original local order was made that in the opinion of the highway authority concerned there is no longer any need to impose a limit lower than the new national limit.The new limits represent the maximum speed permissible when conditions are favourable, and drivers must use their judgment and drive more slowly when safety demands it.

    A43, Northamptonshire (Safety)

    31.

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport what answer has been given to the letter, correspondence Reference EMRT/60009/TR47/047 from the Parish Council of Cransley, Northamptonshire, on the subject of road safety on the A43.

    Briefly, Cransley Parish Council was informed that a footbridge or subway is to be provided so that pedestrians travelling between Broughton and Cransley can safely cross the A43, but the cost of taking the new road under the road to the village would cause the construction of the bypass to be delayed for many years. Very few people commenting on the proposed A43 road scheme contended that the existing road could cope with future traffic. A copy of the full reply to the Parish Council is being forwarded to the Member for his information.

    Expenditure

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport (1) what is the planned capital expenditure on the construction and improvement of roads and car parks for the current year and the current expenditure on road maintenance, lighting and signalling and on transport administration;(2) what is the planned investment by the surface transport nationalised industries for 1977–78;(3) what is the current level of central and local government subsidies to public passenger transport; and whether he will distinguish between the two.

    Following is the information in respect of 1977–78 based on tables 2.6 and 3.1 of Cmnd. 6721:

    £ million at 1976 Survey prices
    Subsidies and Current Expenditure
    Central Government subsidies to public passenger transport (1) (2)354
    Local Government subsidies to public passenger transport (3)179
    Road maintenance, lighting, signalling and transport administration (4)662
    Planned Investment and Capital Expenditure
    Investment by nationalised surface transport industries332
    Construction and Improvement of Roads and Car Parks632

    Notes

  • (1) The element of new bus grant includes grant to local authorities which is subsumed within local authority public transport investment in Table 2.6.
  • (2) Excludes bus fuel tax rebate which does not rank as public expenditure.
  • (3) Excludes concessionary fares.
  • (4) Excludes administration of Road Construction Units which is treated as capital expenditure.
  • asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is the current amount paid by the Government in (a) new loan grant, (b) fuel tax rebate and (c) transport supplementary grant.

    Following is the information for 1977–78 based on Supply Estimates published in March 1977:

    £ million
    New bus grant49
    Fuel tax rebate51
    Transport supplementary grant255

    M1-M11 Link

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether he is yet in a position to announce his conclusions on the feasibility study for the proposed construction of an M1-M11 link road which has been under consideration by his Department; and if he will make a statement as to his consideration of the traffic problems of the A414, particularly at Stanstead Abbotts, Pye Corner and Sawbridgeworth, in the county of Hertfordshire.

    My right hon. Friend will announce his conclusions on the feasibility study as soon as consideration of the consultants' recommendations is complete. The solution to any traffic problems on the A414 between Stanstead Abbotts and Sawbridgeworth is a matter for the county council as highway authority for that road.

    Bus And Rail Fares

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the average increase in (a) motor running costs (b) bus fares and (c) rail fares since February 1974.

    Following is the latest information available:

  • (a) 80 per cent.
  • (b) 100 per cent
  • (c) 115 per cent.*
  • * Includes British Rail and London Transport Underground fares.

    Essex

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the financial assistance provided through his Department in (a) Basildon District Council area and (b) Essex County Council area in the financial years 1975–76 and 1976–77.

    The information is as follows:

    £
    1975–761976–77
    Essex County Council area:
    (i) Infrastructure Grant101,32515,618
    (ii) Transport Supplementary Grant2,154,1002,517,200
    (iii) Principal Roads specific grant*636,036902,827
    *These sums include amounts for schemes in Basildon District: (a) Basildon New Town 1975–76 £3378, 1976–77 £147,417 (b) Basildon District Council 1975–76 £1,597, 1976–77 Nil.
    Central Government subsidies to nationalised industries, e.g., public service obligation grants to the British Railways Boards, bus fuel grant and new bus grant cannot be allocated to particular areas.

    Road Construction Units

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is the total estimated cost of the road construction units.

    I have nothing to add to the reply given to my hon. Friend, the Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Mr. Hooley) on 10th May 1977.

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is the current terms of reference of the road construction units; and whether he is satisfied with their efficiency.

    As an integral part of the Department of Transport, the road construction units have no separate terms of reference. The road construction units are carrying out difficult jobs most efficiently and my right hon. Friend is satisfied with their performance.

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport what is the total number of staff employed by road construction units; and how this compares with the total employed in each of the last three years.

    The total number of permanent staff employed by road construction units at 1st April 1977 was 2,765. Comparable figures for previous years: 2,947 in 1974, 2,711 in 1975 and 2,904 in 1976.

    Nuclear Fuel

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport what quantities of nuclear fuel are shipped through the port of Southampton; how much of it reaches Southampton by rail and how much by road; what route through or round Southampton is followed by lorries carrying nuclear fuel; and what safeguards are in force in case of accident.

    I am informed that no fabricated nuclear fuel has been shipped through the port of Southampton during the past 16 months. However, uranium compounds which will eventually be fabricated into nuclear fuel are regularly shipped through the port, and transported to and from Southampton by road using the normal container route. These compounds are relatively innocuous in the radoactive sense.In the event of any road or rail accident involving radioactive material, the National Arrangements for Incidents involving Radioactivity (NAIR) would be brought into effect. The police would normally be involved first and they are able to summon assistance from experts in the field of radioactivity. The fire services, who may also be called to the scene of an accident, are fully aware of these emergency arrangements.

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport (1) whether he will make a statement on the accident involving a lorry carrying nuclear fuel on the A33 on Thursday 19th May;(2) if he will conduct an inquiry into the safety aspects of the carriage of nuclear fuel by road, as opposed to rail, in the light of the accident on the A33 on Thursday 19th May.

    The vehicle involved in this accident was carrying natural uranium hexafluoride which in the radioactive sense is a relatively innocuous material. The hexafluoride was in a cyclinder within the freight container borne by the vehicle and, although the freight container sustained slight damage, the cylinder itself was unharmed and no spillage occurred thereby demonstrating the adequacy of the packaging used.I see no reason to instigate an inquiry into the safety aspects of the carriage of nuclear fuel by road, as opposed to rail, as a result of this accident. The carriage of radioactive material in the United Kingdom by all modes of transport is governed by stringent regulations and codes of practice which are based upon internationally agreed standards. Safety in transit is ensured by the standard of packaging. The special steel flasks used to transport irradiated nuclear fuel elements have to be capable of withstanding very severe accident conditions involving both impact and fire, and safety is therefore a built-in feature of the design.

    Company Accounts (Public (Accessibility)

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport whether private individuals may examine the accounts of nationalised bodies for which he is responsible.

    The audited accounts of each of the nationalised surface transport industries are laid annually before Parliament and are also obtainable from the industries themselves.

    National Finance

    Value Added Tax

    21.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he will seek to exempt house insulating materials from VAT.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether VAT is payable on necessary items, such as beds, purchased by hospital leagues of friends.

    Industrial Democracy

    22.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he has received the findings of the Lord Committee on Employee Participation in the Public Sector.

    I would refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave him on 5th May.

    Public Schools

    24.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on his intentions regarding the charitable status of public schools.

    My right hon. Friend is considering with his colleagues the charitable position of public schools in the light of the views expressed both by the Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee and in the recent report of the independent committee of inquiry under Lord Goodman.

    Budget Statements

    25.

    asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make it his practice to introduce quarterly budgetary statements for presentation to Parliament.