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Written Answers

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday 19 March 1980

Transport

Vehicle Taxation (Sub-Post Offices)

39.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will seek to make arrangements to enable sub-post offices to handle vehicle taxation work; and if he will make a statement on the use which his Department would make of sub-post offices.

I announced on 30 November that we were proposing that the Post Office should take on more vehicle licensing work. This will be brought about in stages within the next two years and will involve virtually all relicensing applications.To deal with this work, arrangements are being made to increase by about 1,000 the number of post offices concerned. In future about 3,000 offices will be involved: about 1.400 of them will be sub-post offices.I am not yet in a position to say precisely which offices will be used. Discussions are still taking place with the Post Office. The objective is to produce a spread of offices where the public can re-licence their vehicles, in order to give the most convenient service possible consistent with administrative economy.When the new arrangements get under way, we will want to consider how far the coverage of the country which we have provided is satisfactory and whether, in some areas, additional outlets through sub-post offices would be beneficial.This change will be an important contribution to our plans for improving the administration of vehicle excise duty which we expect will save something like £7 million and over 1,000 Civil Service posts.

British Railways Board

4.

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to meet the chairman of British Railways.

27.

asked the Minister of Transport when he next plans to meet the chairman of the British Railways Board.

31.

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to meet the chairman of the British Railways Board.

40.

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to meet the chairman of the British Railways Board.

49.

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects to meet the chairman of British Railways.

Road Programme

7.

asked the Minister of Transport when he now expects to announce his future road programme.

37.

asked the Minister of Transport when he now intends to publish his White Paper on the future road programme.

The programme will be set out in the roads White Paper, which will be published after the Easter Recess.

Road Construction (International Comparisons)

25.

asked the Minister of Transport what proportion of national income is devoted to road construction in Great Britain, Germany and France, respectively.

The latest year for which consistent information for all three countries is available is 1976, when expenditure on new construction and extension, reconstruction and renewal of roads accounted for 0·7 per cent. of GDP in Great Britain, 1·2 per cent. in Germany and 0·9 per cent. in France. The most recent figure for Great Britain is 0·5 per cent. in 1978.

School Crossing Lights

26.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he has any proposals to amend the definition of authorised persons allowed to operate school crossing lights; and if he will make a statement.

Yes. Draft revised traffic signs regulations, just circulated to interested bodies for their comments, would permit school teachers, school officers and police constables as well as school crossing patrols to operate school crossing lights.

M66, Newhallhey (Access Point)

28.

asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has to allow an access point on to the M66 from an industrial estate at Newhallhey in Rossendale.

European Community (Transport Policy)

29.

asked the Minister of Transport what action he has taken since taking office to promote a common transport policy within the EEC as laid down by the Treaty of Rome.

I and my officials have taken an active part in the work of the Community in this field and we have made significant progress on a number of issues. At the December Transport Council, agreement was reached on all six inland transport matters under consideration including a package of proposals on road haulage within the Community which marked a further step towards the liberalisation the United Kingdom has always sought.

Transport And General Workers Union

30.

asked the Minister of Transport when last he met representatives of the Transport and General Workers Union.

I have met representatives from the TGWU on a number of occasions over the last 10 months, the last meeting being on 28 November. I am seeing them again soon.

Hs125 Locomotive

32.

asked the Minister of Transport what percentage of British Railways' passenger Inter-City routes is operated by using the HS125 locomotives.

High speed trains are used for about 20 per cent. of the mileage run by all trains on Inter-City passenger services.

Heavy Lorries (Control Orders)

33.

asked the Minister of Transport why there is a delay in his Department publishing the complete list of local authority control orders in England and Wales issued to curb heavy commercial vehicle movement under the Heavy Commercial Vehicles Act 1973.

We are still awaiting information from a few counties. I will publish when we have the complete list.

Drinking And Driving (Legislation)

34.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied with the present law concerning drinking and driving.

No. I am determined to attack this problem and as the first step I issued a consultation document just before Christmas inviting interested bodies to comment on proposals for strengthening and improving the law.

Motorway Service Areas

35.

asked the Minister of Transport what progress he has made in implementing his proposals relating to motorway service areas.

Good progress is now being made. Richard Ellis, the firm of chartered surveyors I have appointed to assist me with sales, has had inquiries from several quarters, including the present operating companies.

British Railways (Subsidiary Businesses)

36.

asked the Minister of Transport what proposals he has made to the British Railways Board about the setting up of a holding company for its subsidiary businesses.

I intend to find ways to involve private risk capital in the major British Railways subsidiaries. The chairman has undertaken to pursue this urgently and I have asked him particularly to examine the idea of a holding company. I will make a further statement when I have the results of our joint examination.

38.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied that present financial arrangements have permitted a reasonable rate of investment in the principal British Railways' subsidiaries.

No. Under present arrangements the board must weigh investment in the subsidiaries against investment in railways within the ceilings set by Government. This system can work to the disadvantage of businesses such as Sealink and hotels and prevent them from realising their full potential. This is one of the major reasons why I have put to the board proposals for involving private capital in its subsidiaries.

43.

asked the Minister of Transport what effect Government policy has had on the development of British Railways subsidiaries.

Government policy in recent years has served only to restrict development of the businesses. It is my policy that they should have the opportunity through private investment to grow unhampered.

A40, Ross-On-Wye (Bypass)

41.

asked the Minister of Transport if he is satisfied with the rate of progress being achieved concerning the development of proposals for public consultation about the possible routes for the A40 Ross-on-Wye east-west bypass.

Yes. A public consultation exercise will take place in May this year and will include a public exhibition to be held during the period 8–10 May in the Youth Centre, Hill Street, Ross-on-Wye.

Port Of London Authority

42.

asked the Minister of Transport when he intends to meet the chairman of the Port of London Authority.

51.

asked the Minister of Transport when last he met the chairman of the Port of London Authority.

I last met the chairman of the Port of London Authority on 12 March and have no immediate plans for a further meeting.

Railway Wagons

44.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will allow British Railways to negotiate flexible agreements with major customers in the private sector in regard to the leasing, hiring and financing of railway wagons.

It is the policy of the British Railways Board to encourage customers to provide their own wagons wherever this would be suitable in relation to the traffic to be carried. The board is not concerned with the arrangements for financing in these circumstances. Provision also exists, in certain cases, for Government grant towards the cost of privately owned wagons.

Railway Accident (Romford Station)

45.

asked the Minister for Transport when he expects to receive the decision of the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways on whether there is to be an inquiry into the accident at Romford station on 16 January.

Since the cause of the train running into the buffers was quickly established as human error compounded by the wet and greasy rails I have not ordered a public inquiry.

Humber Bridge

46.

asked the Minister of Transport what is the latest estimated cost of the Humber bridge, taking account of inflation.

The Humber Bridge Board's latest published estimate of cost is £71·4 million.

High-Speed Inter-City Service

47.

asked the Minister of Transport whether he is satisfied with the safety of the high-speed inter-city train service.

Drinking And Driving (Deaths)

48.

asked the Minister of Transport what is the number of deaths caused by drinking and driving in each of the six years from 1974 to 1979.

I regret that information on causation is not available in the precise form requested.

Channel Tunnel

50.

asked the Minister of Transport what approaches he has made to the European Investment Bank concerning finance for the Channel tunnel.

Motor Cycle Safety

52.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on the consultations taking place with his Department on motor cycle safety.

I have now completed my consultations in which I met 27 leading organisations. We shall study carefully the points made to us in these talks together with the many useful written representations which we have also received and we will make a statement as soon as possible. In the meantime, I draw the attention of my hon. Friend to the speech I made in the Adjournment debate on motor cycle safety on 22 February.—[Vol. 979, c. 914–26.]

Road Users (Taxation)

53.

asked the Minister for Transport what proportion of the total taxation paid by road users in 1979–80 will be spent on roads.

I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Mr. McNair-Wilson) on 20 February 1980.—[Vol. 979, c. 215–16.]

Departmental Manpower

54.

asked the Minister of Transport what plans he has for reducing further the numbers employed in his Department.

I already plan an 18 per cent. saving in staff costs over the next three years on top of a 4 per cent. reduction already achieved in 1979–80. 2,480 posts will be shed through changes in the operation of vehicle excise duty, in arrangements for managing the annual inspection of heavy goods vehicles, in simplifying bus licensing controls, and through a variety of internal efficiency measures. In addition, I am reviewing various other areas of the work of my Department and hope as a result to identify further manpower savings in due course. In particular, following the recent report on road construction units, prepared in consultation with Sir Derek Rayner, I am proposing the planned phasing out of road construction sub-units, which will reduce considerably the number of public sector staff involved.

Self-Test Breathalyser Equipment

55.

asked the Minister of Transport what representations he has received from motoring organisations, brewers, licensed victuallers, and the public about the advantages and disadvantages of providing motorists with self-test breathalyser equipment, bearing in mind proposed legislation in other EEC countries.

Self-testing is among the matters included in the consultative document on drinking and driving which we issued just before Christmas. We have given interested organisations until 31 March to respond so it is as yet too early for me to comment. I am not aware of any proposed legislation in other EEC countries.

Road Safety Education Department Unit

asked the Secretary of State for Transport what work it was anticipated the Road Safety Education Development Unit would carry out after the end of March.

None. The contract under which the unit was established terminates at the end of March.

Advisory Committee On Motorcycle Rider Training

asked the Minister of Transport what work it was envisaged the Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Rider Training would do after the end of 1979.

Kentish Town-Upper Holloway (Railway Passenger Services)

56.

asked the Minister of Transport when he expects a decision to be made regarding the proposed withdrawal of railway passenger services between Kentish Town and Upper Holloway stations, North London.

I have received the Transport Users Consultative Committee for

31 January 197931 January 1980
Temporary Employment Scheme*5,140500
Short Time Working Compensation Scheme*81
Small Firms Employment Subsidy3,0386,300
Job Release Scheme1,4193,600
Temporary Short Time Working Compensation Scheme†10,200
Adult Employment Scheme†120
Job Introduction Scheme10
Youth Opportunities Programme10,50014,500
Special Temporary Employment Programme1,6002,300
Community Industry1,0631,190
* Closed for applications on 31 March 1979. Payments will continue on some TES applications until 30 March 1980.
† Introduced on 1 April 1979.
† Closed for applications on 30 June 1979.

Building And Construction Industry

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many persons normally employed within the building and construction industry were registered as unemployed at employment exchanges within the Bishop Auckland constituency on 1 March 1979 and 1 March of the current year.

The numbers registered as unemployed are analysed quarterly according to the industry in which they last worked. The latest such analysis was for February 1980 and the following table gives information for this date, and for February 1979, for those employment office areas wholly or mainly within the Bishop Auckland constituency.

February 1979
Barnard Castle71
Bishop Auckland403
Newton Aycliffe128
February 1980
Barnard Castle60
Bishop Auckland434
Newton Aycliffe130

London's report on the possible hardship to users if this service were to be withdrawn. I am now considering this and hope to announce my decision shortly.

Employment

Special Employment And Training Measures

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many people in the Northern region are being assisted by the special employment and training measures; and what was the number in January 1979.

The information requested is given in the schedule below.The February 1980 figure is not strictly comparable with that for 1979 because of the introduction, in September 1979, of fortnightly attendance and payment of benefit. This had the effect of raising the monthly figure for all unemployed in Great Britain by about 1½ per cent. Estimates for individual areas are not available.

Careers Service

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will issue a circular to chief executives of local authorities, drawing their attention to the importance of ensuring that the amount of money included in the rate support grant for the careers service is spent on that service.

No. I refer the hon. Member to the replies which I gave to the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Thompson) on 5 March.—[Vol. 980, cc. 203–04.]

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will list the local education authorities in which cuts in general careers service posts, now centrally funded, have occurred since 3 May; what has been the extent of those cuts; how many posts are frozen if not cut; and whether he will make a statement.

No cuts in centrally funded posts have occurred since 3 May 1979 and none of these posts has been frozen. A further offer of posts to authorities in areas of high unemployment will be made in the near future.

Home Department

Magistrates' Court Cases (Costs)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will bring forward legislation to allow magistrates' courts to award costs out of central funds in summary proceedings.

Magistrates' courts already have power to award costs out of central funds when dealing summarily with indictable offences. We do not at present have proposals for legislation to extend this power in respect of summary offences.

Education And Science

Microelectronics

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will now make a statement on plans for microelectronics development for schools and colleges.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a question by the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) on 4 March.

Top Ability Children

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science on what date he received a report, paid for by his Department, by the National Children's Bureau on the progress of top ability children in comprehensive and grammar schools; and when he will publish the report.

I refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. and learned Friend's reply on 18 March to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton (Mr. Forman).

Post Mortem Examinations

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland what criteria are used by the Fife procurators fiscal in determining the need for a post mortem examination; who decides which pathologist in any hospital undertakes the examinations; and what fee is paid for such examinations in addition to the consultant's National Health Service salary.

The criteria which are used by procurators fiscal in Fife in determining the need for an autopsy are the same as the criteria used by procurators fiscal throughout Scotland.It is the duty of the procurator fiscal to investigate all sudden, violent, suspicious, accidental or unexplained deaths which are made known to him. The object of his investigation is to establish whether or not there has been any criminality or possible negligence involved in a death. The procurator fiscal has, however, also to keep in mind whether or not the death has resulted from an accident in the course of employment; while the deceased was in legal custody; or in circumstances such as to give rise to serious public concern.An autopsy is necessary in all cases in which it may be necessary to prove the fact and cause of death: either because there is a possibility that the death was caused or contributed to by the commission of a criminal act or for some other reason arising out of the foregoing duties. In other cases an autopsy is necessary where a medical practitioner is unable to certify the cause of death.The procurator fiscal is responsible for deciding which pathologist is to be asked to conduct the autopsy using his judgment in all the circumstances of each case.The sum payable to a pathologist for conducting an autopsy is prescribed in terms of a national scale of fees. The fee to all pathologists for an autopsy is presently £19·90. The Scottish Law Officers are, however, empowered to authorise a special fee in cases of special complexity.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Chemical Warfare Arms Limitation (Geneva Talks)

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress is being made in the current round of negotiations on chemical warfare arms limitation in Geneva.

Negotiations on chemical weapons between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics resumed in February. In the Committee on Disarmament, a working group on chemical weapons has just been established and will meet during the present session.

Biological And Toxic Weapons

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the review conference in Geneva on the 1972 convention on biological and toxic weapons will take into account new developments in microbiology such as genetic manipulation; and what the British position will be.

The biological weapons convention review conference is considering a paper prepared by the three depository Governments—United Kingdom, United States and Soviet Union—on the effect on the convention of new scientific and technological developments, including genetic engineering. A copy of this paper has been placed in the Library of the House.

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Dolphins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will propose the extention of the terms of reference of the International Whaling Commission to include the protection of dolphins; and if he will make a statement.

The possibility of extending the species included in the schedule to the 1946 Whaling Convention to include two species of small cetacea was discussed at the last meeting of the Whaling Commission. No decision was reached and the matter is expected to be discussed again at the next meeting this year.

European Community (Intervention Butter)

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many tonnes of European Economic Community intervention butter have been made available to general consumers at substantially below market prices in France, Germany and the United Kingdom, respectively.

Under the short-term subsidies available in France and West Germany in the current milk year, 46,400 and 70,000 tonnes of butter have been subsidised respectively, of which 15,000 and 52,000 tonnes respectively were from intervention store, and the remainder from subsidised private storage.There are no directly comparable figures for the United Kingdom as our special consumer subsidy is not related specifically to butter in intervention or private store. However, since the current subsidy came into force on 2 July 1979, about 295,000 tonnes of butter have either received subsidy, or in the case of New Zealand butter been sold after a corresponding reduction in the import levy.

Energy

Electricity Costs

asked the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what is the current estimate of the capital cost of (a) the existing and (b) the new nuclear power plant programme announced on 18 December 1979 for each of the years from 1980–81 to 2000–01; what will be the effect of the capital cost on the Central Electricity Generating Board's expenditure during each of those years; and what will be the resulting increase per unit in the bulk supply tariff in each of those years;(2) what estimate he has made of how much each £1,000 million of capital spending on new power plants increases the Central Electricity Generating Board's bulk supply tariff per unit of electricity.

I am advised by the CEGB that the capital cost of its existing programme of four AGR nuclear power stations at actual prices to March 1979, and at expected outurn prices for expenditure to completion, is £1,700 million, including initial nuclear fuel, but excluding interest during construction. The capital cost of the next one or two stations to be built is provisionally estimated to be some £1,000 per kW, although this figure is subject to uncertainty. It is too soon to give specific estimates for subsequent stations, but on current estimates it is expected that the introduction of nuclear stations will in due course give lower generation costs per kWh than would have been the case without them.Questions concerning the bulk supply supply tariff are matters for the CEGB, and I shall ask the chairman to write to the hon. Member.

National Coal Board (Blasting)

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will introduce legislation that would reduce the present permitted distance at which the National Coal Board Opencast Executive can use blasting equipment in proximity to occupied dwellings.

There is no statutorily permitted distance at which the National Coal Board Opencast Executive can use blasting equipment in proximity to occupied dwellings in the course of opencast mining operations authorised under the Opencast Coal Act 1958. However, where blasting is to be carried out, I invariably place a limit on the perceived effects at the nearest building in the planning conditions which I impose when I authorise the board to work coal by opencast operations.

Reactors (Costs)

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will compare the capital costs of a 1000 MW advanced gas cooled reactor and pressurised water reactor and fast reactor and the estimated cost of electricity produced by each.

I am advised by the CEGB that the capital cost of thermal nuclear stations for construction in the near term is provisionally estimated at about £1,000 per kW (at March 1980 prices). This figure is, however, subject to uncertainty and depends on the placing of firm contracts. It is not possible to add any information on the capital cost difference between AGR and PWR, although the 1977 thermal reactor assessment by NPC indicated that the PWR could cost some 15 per cent. less than the AGR.The estimated cost of electricity from thermal reactors depends not only on capital costs but also on estimates of future fuel costs themselves subject to uncertainty. Current CEGB forecasts indicate that they expect generation costs for the next thermal stations to be within the range 2·0–2·5 pence per kWh (March 1980 prices) and to be lower than the estimated costs of electricity from comparable fossil-fuelled plant.Because of its earlier stage of development no comparable information is available for the fast reactor.

Petroleum Products (Prices)

asked the Secretary of State for Energy if he will publish in the Official Report the figures for the wholesale price per barrel of petroleum products in the third and fourth quarters of 1979 weighted according to the then current wholesale prices and the 1978 consumption pattern.

The average wholesale price per barrel of petroleum products based on provisional net selling values of the individual products, exclusive of tax weighted according to the 1978 pattern of consumption in the United Kingdom was £12·02 in the third quarter of 1979. Detailed information on the selling value of comparable petroleum products for the fourth quarter 1979 is not yet available.

North Sea Oil Operations (Financing)

asked the Secretary of State for Energy on what dates the working group set up in 1974 comprising members drawn from banking, his Department and the Treasury met; if details of their deliberations are available; and which civil servants from his Department attend these meetings.

I assume the hon. Member is referring to the informal working group on financing of North Sea oil operations which is chaired by the Bank of England. Details of its deliberations are not available. The working group has met on 11 occasions, approximately every six months, since it began in 1975. A number of my officials who advise on matters in which the group has an interest have attended the meetings.

Departmental Manpower

asked the Secreretary of State for Energy how many officials of each grade work for the whole or a major part of their time on petroleum questions, excluding time spent on the development of oil and gas in the North Sea.

The staff by grades, employed on petroleum (and natural gas) questions are as follows:

Under-Secretary2
Assistant Secretary6
Principal20
Senior Executive Officer4
Higher Executive Officer21
Executive Officer21
Administration Trainee4
Clerical Officer27
Clerical Assistant15
Senior Personal Secretary/Personal Secretary7
Typists3
Messengers2
Senior Economic Assistant1
Economic Adviser2
Statistician2
Senior Assistant Statistician1
Director Engineering1
Assistant Director/Engineering1
Senior Principal Scientific Officer1
Principal Scientific Officer2
Senior Scientific Officer5
Higher Scientific Officer4
Scientific Officer3
Assistant Scientific Officer3
Principal Professional Technical Officer1
Professional Technical Officer I2
Professional Technical Officer II1
Chief Gas Examiner1
Area Gas Examiner7
Gas Examiner14
Petroleum Specialist Grade III1
Total185

North Sea Gas

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will reshape the gas monopoly by making available to industrial consortia in select areas of the United Kingdom a limited number of undeveloped gas fields in the North Sea to be linked by independently operated trunk and distribution systems.

There is no monopoly over the production of gas. The right to produce gas from an offshore gas field lies with the holder of the production licence for the area in which it is found.

European Community

Council Of Foreign Ministers

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council held on 18 March.

My right hon. and noble Friend, accompanied by my hon. Friend, the Minister for Trade, represented the United Kingdom at this Council.In their discussion of preparations for the European Council Ministers briefly exchanged views on the United Kingdom budget contribution problem. My right hon. and noble Friend stressed that this would be the major item for discussion by Heads of Government and that it was in the overall interests of the Community to settle it now. He further emphasised that the solution must be durable to prevent the Community from having to come back to the problem. There should be a better balance of Community policies with agricultural expenditure brought under control.Energy matters were also raised in this context. The Commission will circulate, prior to the European Council, a paper focusing particularly on the need to harmonise pricing and taxation of energy in the Community, and stressing the need for an adequately funded Community energy strategy. No immediate decisions by the Council on the paper would be expected.It was agreed at German initiative that the Commission should study further and report again to the Council on its decisions to authorise safeguard action on imports of synthetic textiles as well as on Community procedures for dealing with GATT Article XIX cases. My hon. Friend accepted that it would be useful to see whether there was scope for improvements in procedure. But, together with the Commission, he emphasised that further study would confirm that the imposition of quotas on United Kingdom imports was fully justified.

Commissioner Davignon reported on his recent consultations with the United States Administration on the possibility that the United States steel industry will initiate anti-dumping action against Community exports. He had stressed that the Community would expect the United States to respect the OECD consensus that measures to assist restructuring should not interfere with traditional trade flows.

Member States agreed to contribute a total of an additional 28 million eua to supplement the 1980 ECSC budget in view, in particular, of the problems facing the steel industry. They will review the position in the autumn in case further finance is needed to meet the ECSC's commitments for 1980.

The Council was unable to agree that the Community should respond to requests from Brazil and South Africa for voluntary restraint arrangements on their exports of certain steel products. The United Kingdom made clear its view that this was an unsatisfactory outcome. The question was remitted to the Steel Liaison Committee.

The Council approved early signature of the Co-operation Agreement with Yugoslavia. This will now be signed in Belgrade on 2 April.

Ministers were unable to reach agreement on a tariff reduction on oranges imported from Israel. It was agreed that the Community should make a declaration acknowledging Israeli concern and undertaking that this issue will be dealt with in the context of the enlargement negotiations.

On co-operation with the Gulf States it was agreed, in the light of the Presidency's report on initial reactions, that exploratory contacts should be pursued.

Guidelines were agreed for the Community's common position on the preparatory work in the United Nations Committee of the Whole for the global negotiations on North/South issues which are expected to be launched by the General Assembly special session later in the year. The negotiations for a cocoa agreement were also briefly discussed and the matter was referred back to officials for further consideration.

The request from the Court of Justice for an additional Advocate General was discussed but no decision was taken.

Environment

Council House Sales, West Wiltshire

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will hold an inquiry into the sale of a council house by West Wiltshire district council for £16,500 a year ago, which is now on sale at £39,500; and if, to safeguard the interests of ratepayers, taxpayers and other council tenants, he will take steps to prevent similar private profiteering.

No. Subject to any preemption or resale conditions, I do not think we should deny former council tenants who have purchased their homes the same right as other home-owners to offer their homes for sale at a price of their own choosing.

Private Landlords

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has to help private landlords who will not benefit from his shorthold tenure proposals and are continuing to be adversely affected by rent legislation.

The Housing Bill contains several amendments to the present Rent Acts apart from the introduction of shorthold. The Bill modifies the fair rent regime by reducing the minimum period before rent registrations can normally be reviewed from three to two years, and by allowing increases in rent to be phased in two equal instalments instead of three as now.The Bill provides for the conversion of controlled tenancies with rents based on 1957 rateable values to regulated tenancies. Landlords of controlled tenancies will be able to apply to the rent officer for a fair rent to be registered when the Bill becomes law. It also changes the regime for new lettings under restricted contracts, mostly now those by resident landlords. Tenants will no longer be able to apply to the rent tribunal for suspension of a notice to quit. Instead the courts will be given discretion to postpone the operation of a possession order for up to three months but no longer.Among the other amendments to the Rent Act are changes to the rules about cancellation of registered rents; consolidation of the rules about rent agreements; measures to reduce delays in certain possession cases; and new conditions about rent payments and arrears in possession cases.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the estimated number of private landlords in the United Kingdom.

Control Of Pollution Act 1974

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received from angling organisations concerning the implementation of part II of the Control of Pollution Act 1974; what was his reply and whether he will make a statement.

Angling organisations have been pressing for the speedy implementation of part II. We have explained to them that no timetable can be decided until we have better information about the expenditure implications. These are being examined, and an announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Owner-Occupiers (Sale And Leaseback Scheme)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will discuss with local authorities and finance houses the possibility of introducing a more readily available scheme of sale and leaseback for elderly owner-occupiers of mortgage-free properties.

If the hon. Member will let me have details of the scheme he has in mind I will certainly consider it.

North-East Hampshire (Structure Plan)

asked the Secretary of State of the Environment when he will publish his Department's amendments to the north-east Hampshire structure plan.

My right hon. Friend expects to publish the proposed modifications shortly.

Housing Bill

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what represen- tations he has received concerning schedule 15 to the Housing Bill from companies with experience of management and letting in the private sector.

Four companies have sent written comments on various aspects of schedule 15 which we are considering.

Imperial War Museum Access For Disabled Persons)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what action the Property Services Agency has taken to erect a handrail up the steps of the Imperial War Museum, following representations received on behalf of the disabled, including disabled ex-Service men; and if he will make a statement.

The Property Services Agency plans to carry out the work during the coming financial year.

Outstanding Buildings And Conservation Areas

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the total amount of money made available from central Government funds in repair grants for outstanding buildings and conservation areas from the Historic Buildings Council in the fiscal year 1978–79.

In 1978–79 the figures for grants offered for historic buildings and for work in conservation areas were as follows:—

Grants Under S4 of the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953
Buildings of outstanding architectural or historic interest£3,643,807
Buildings included in Town Schemes£694,954
Places of Worship in use£3,643,174
Grants Under S10 of the Town and Country Planning (Amendment) Act 1972
Works in outstanding conservation areas£3,577,778
Works in non-outstanding conservation areas (administered by the Civic Trust)£500,000

Vauxhall Bridge Effra Site

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he is satisfied that the sale of the Vauxhall Bridge Effra site by the Property Services Agency to a Middle East consortium via the Artoc Bank and Trust in Nassau is in the public interest granted the arrangement of the bid by Mr. Ronald Lyon, who will be the project mananger for the proposed office and residential complex, in view of Mr. Lyon's previous venture into the property market in the early 1970s which resulted in a collapse leaving debts of some £52 million.

Haringey (Rate Support Grant)

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what he estimates the cut in total moneys paid by the Exchequer to the London borough of Haringey will be for the year 1979–80 compared with 1978–79, assuming that the rate support grant cash limit to be paid in November 1980 will not exceed 11·5 per cent.

None. The latest estimate of total revenue grants payable to Haringey for 1979–80 is £73·5 million compared with £64·5 million for 1978–79. This takes account of the amount remaining available within the cash limits for 1979–80 in respect of rate support grant.

Ancient Monuments And Archaeological Areas

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will publish the letter sent at his request by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities in which local authorities were warned that the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 did not mean an increase in the resources available to rescue archaeology and that his Department felt that designation of such areas should be a gradual and highly selective process.

I am sending to the hon. Member a copy of the Department's letter of 9 May 1979 to each of the local authority associations which requested them to write to their own members. It must be for the Association of Metropolitan Authorities to decide whether to publish the letter which it sent to its members.

Northern Ireland

Health And Education Services

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he is satisfied with the existing ratios of medi- cal to non-medical staffs and teachers to non-teaching staffs in the health and education services; and if he will seek to change the balance over a period in favour of the former by a progressive policy of reducing the administrative posts.

The Government have outlined their present views on the scope for improvement in the structure, organisation and management arrangements of the health and personal social services in Northern Ireland in a consultative document published on this subject last December. The Government have invited comments on the issues raised in the document and in the light of these it is hoped to be able to issue guidance to the health and social service boards next summer.In the education service the numbers of teaching and non-teaching staff are kept under constant review in the interests of efficiency. The great majority of non-teaching staff are, however, involved in activities such as the preparation of school meals, caretaking and school secretarial support which are vital for the efficient operation of schools and other institutions.

Primary And Secondary Schools

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the pupil-teacher ratio in primary and secondary schools in Northern Ireland in each of the last five years.

The information at January of each year is as follows:

Primary Schools 1
197526·8
197626·3
197725·0
197823·9
197923·8
Secondary Schools 2
197517·2
197617·0
197716·4
197815·8
197915·5
1. Includes nursery classes in primary schools.2. Excludes preparatory departments of grammar schools.

Higher Education Students

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what are the number and percentage of those students leaving secondary schools who have gone on to higher levels of education in each of the last five years.

The information is as follows:

Number
1973–74 (estimated)3,857
1974–753,765
1975–763,718
1976–773,694
1977–783,913
Percentage of school leavers*
1973–74 (estimated)16·5
1974–7515·5
1975–7615·0
1976–7714·3
1977–7814·7
* as a percentage of all pupils leaving school that year, including 15-year-olds who transfer to further education colleges for their last year of compulsory school attendance.

Primary And Secondary Schools

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many primary and secondary schools there are in Northern Ireland; what is the total school population for each group; and what is the ratio of both primary and secondary schools to the school population.

Provisional figures for January 1979 are as follows:

Primary Schools
Schools1,069
Pupils200,8661
Ratio of schools to pupils equals1 to 188
Secondary Schools
Schools261
Pupils163,4552
Ratio of schools to pupils equals1 to 626
1 Includes nursery classes in primary schools.
2 Includes preparatory departments of grammar schools.

Family Benefits

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1) what was the expenditure on family incomes supplement at current prices for the last five years in Northern Ireland;(2) what was the expenditure on family allowance or child benefit for the last five years in Northern Ireland.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the Northern Ireland Appropriation accounts for the relevant years, which contain the information requested.

Housing Executive

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what sums have been allocated to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive for the present and coming financial year; how the sums are made up; and what sums were and are to be spent on improvement of older houses.

The information is as follows:

Capital budget1
£ million
1979–8087·0 (19·6)
1980–81 (provisional)112·0 (32·0)
Recurrent expenditure and grants to private sector2
£ million
1979–80168·5 (29·3)
1980–81 (provisional)191·9 (32·3)
1 Figures in brackets indicate funds allocated for work on existing dwellings and estates.
2 Figures in brackets indicate funds allocated for maintenance work.

Outstanding Buildings And Conservation Areas

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what was the total amount of money made available from central Government funds in repair grants for outstanding buildings and conservation areas in the fiscal year 1978–79.

Expenditure by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland under the Planning (Northern Ireland) Order 1972 and the Planning (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1978 in respect of repairs to listed buildings and in conservation areas amounted to £149,772.

Benefit Regulations

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will take steps to repeal regulation 7(1)(h) of the Social Security (Unemployment, Sickness and invalidity Benefit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1975 (S.R. & 0. (N.J.) 1975, No. 86), which has the effect that in Northern Ireland alone a claimant is deemed in employment if he has daily average earnings of more than 75p.

The regulation in question is now regulation 6(1)(h) of the Social Security (Unemployment, Sickness and Invalidity Benefit) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1979 (S.R. 1979 No. 211). I have no plans at present to revoke it or to raise the limit above 75p. a day. The present provision is not peculiar to Northern Ireland; a similar provision applies in Great Britain.

Firearms

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if, further to

HQ FIREARMS SECTION CIVILIAN STAFF
ClerkClerical AssistantTypist
19743122
19755222
19763122
19773172
19785213
19795222
1980521
Pay*ClerkClerical AssistantTypist
£££
19741,6571,3501,254
19752,0791,6881,673
19762,1851,7721,777
19772,4982,0852,090
19782,6282,2162,221
19792,8782,2952,335
19803,1232,600
*Average pay for the grade.
†Typing services centralized 26 February 1980

Wales

Colleges Of Education

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the future of colleges of education in Wales.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) on 17th March.—[Vol. 981, c. 17.]

Skillcentre, Llanelli

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what, in the form most readily available, is the geographic distribution of the home addresses of the people who have attended the Skillcentre at Llanelli over the past five years.

The latest available information relates to the period January 1975 to December 1979 and is as follows:

DateInformation officerNumber of staff Supporting staffTotal
1 January 1975161228
1 January 1976191332
1 January 1977201434
1 January 1978211536
1 January 1979221638
The corresponding details for 1 January 1980 were 23 information officers and 14 supporting staffThe increase in numbers since 1975 is due to the substantial extension of the functions of the Welsh Office in this period. The information officer group in the Welsh Office, in addition to press and public relations officers, includes officers engaged upon Welsh language translation, exhibitions, publications, tours and work in connection with film and photographic libraries.

Bryn Beryl Hospital, Pwllheli

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received from the Gwynedd area health authority concerning the future of the maternity unit at Bryn Beryl hospital, Pwllheli; and if he will ensure that every opportunity is given to the local community to express its feelings on the need to retain this hospital, before any decision is taken.

Gwynedd health authority has sought my right hon. Friend's permission to issue a consultative document which will propose the closure of the maternity ward at Bryn Beryl hospital, Pwllheli, and the Welsh Office has recently agreed that the authority may go ahead with the public consultation procedure which will allow the local com-

County and Trainees undergoing training at the Llanelli Skillcentre between January 1975—December 1979

Dyfed879
West Glamorgan371
Mid/South Glamorgan141
Gwynedd/Clwyd111
Gwent13
Powys12
Outside Wales190

Information Officers

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list the number of information officers, together with the number of supporting staff, in his Department in each of the last five years.

The following table sets out the required information:—munity every opportunity to express its views.

Bernard Wardle Factory, Caernarfon

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what further discussions he has had concerning the proposed closure of the Bernard Wardle factory in Caernarfon.

Following my meeting with the hon. Member on 6 February, my Industry Department has been keeping in close touch with the situation and I am meeting the hon. Member and local representatives for a further discussion today.

A55 Road (European Community Assistance)

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what application has been made by his Department to the regional fund of the EEC for assistance towards the cost of developing the A55 trunk road.

No applications have been made in respect of trunk road schemes in Wales. The practice has been to give preference to projects submitted by local and public authorities who benefit from reduced borrowing requirements thereby.

Mental Health (North Wales)

asked the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received concerning support from his Department for the appointment of a MIND (National Association for Mental Health) development officer for North Wales; and what is his response to such representations.

I have received representations from the MIND office in Wales and letters from three hon. Members. The Welsh Office would be ready to consider financial support for the appointment of a MIND development officer for North Wales if MIND is able to demonstrate that the authorities responsible for health and social services in North Wales would welcome the proposed appointment.

Local Housing Authorities (Expenditure)

asked the Secretary of State for Wales why Welsh local housing authorities are not being allowed to carry forward any underspend from 1979–80 into 1980–81, when their counterparts in England are being allowed to do so.

We have allocated the full housing provision to Welsh authorities in 1980–81. There is a risk of the housing cash limit being breached if any authority exceeds its allocation whether by carry forward from 1979–80 or for any other reason unless some other authority spends less than its allocation or has its allocation reduced. We shall monitor expenditure during the financial year and shall be prepared to readjust allocations if this is desirable. We cannot however do this now. The arrangements in England are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

asked the Secretary of State for Wales on present figures what he estimates will be the underspend by Welsh local housing authorities in 1979–80.

Welsh local authorities advised us in January this year of their latest estimates of end of year expenditure. We confirmed these estimates as their final allocations for this year. If local authorities keep to their own forecasts there should be no underspend in 1979–180.

Outstanding Buildings And Conservation Areas

asked the Secretary State for Wales what was the total amount of money made available from central Government funds in repair grants for outstanding buildings and conservation areas from the Historic Buildings Council in the fiscal year 1978–79.

A total of £409, 800 was made available in the fiscal year 1978–78 for such grants made by the Welsh Office on the recommendation of the Historic Buildings Council for Wales.

National Finance

North Sea Operations (Financing)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer which civil servants from his Department attend the working group set up in 1974 comprising members drawn from banking, the Department of Energy and his Department.

I assume the hon. Member is referring to the informal working group on the financing of North Sea operations which is chaired by the Bank of England. Officials from the Treasury's enery division have attended its meetings.

Conveyances (Stamp Duty)

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the cost to the Exchequer of abolishing stamp duty on house purchase conveyances.

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) on 23 January.—[Vol. 977, c. 251.]

Charities

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will take steps to remove the adverse effects upon British charities of increases in value added tax and the lowering of income tax affecting income from covenants.

I am certainly looking at this general question, but I cannot anticipate my right hon. and learned Friend's Budget Statement.

Family Income

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will update his reply to the hon. Member for Norfolk, North Official Report, 27 July 1979, col. 556–8; and if he will amend the figures for families with children to take account of the fact that tax-free child benefit does not equate to a tax allowance.

For taxpayers without children the figures in the previous answer are unchanged, except for those for 1978–79 and 1979–80 for which more recent information is available: —

Tax threshold as per cent. of average full-time male manual worker's earnings
Per cent.
Single persons21·8
Married couple (wife not working)34·80
Married couple (wife working)55·88
Per cent.
Single persons22·81
Married couple (wife not working)34·85
Married couple (wife working)56·86
The figures above are consistent with those in the earlier answer and relate to average earnings of full-time adult male manual workers calculated as the average of the New Earnings Survey estimates at the beginning and end of the financial year. In 1979–80 an estimate for October 1979 has been used.The thresholds in the previous answer —including those for the two-wage married couple—were, as requested, related to the average earnings of a full-time adult male manual worker. If for the two-wage married couple the alternative formulation is used, where the threshold is expressed as a percentage of the sum of average earnings for full-time men and full-time women, the figures become:—

TABLE A
Tax threshold as per cent. of the sum of the average earnings of full-time men and women manual workers.
Percent.
1949–5064·5
1950–5161·3
1951–5257·6
1952–5360·6
1953–5457·1
1954–5553·3
1955–5656·8
1956–5753·3
1957–5850·5
1958–5949·4
1959–6046·9
1960–6144·0

1961–6243·2
1962–6341·7
1963–6454·0
1964–6550·2
1965–6647·4
1966–6745·6
1967–6843·4
1968–6940·4
1969–7042·2
1970–7146·5
1971–7241·3
1972–7348·7
1973–7442·2
1974–7537·0
1975–7632·6
1976–7731·9
1977–7837·6
1978–7934·8
1979–8035·5

For couples with children, the figures given in the answer to which my hon. Friend refers were of their tax-free income expressed as a percentage of the income—including family allowance or child benefit where appropriate—of a man on average earnings. These figures are unchanged, except for the revisions to the figures for 1978–79 and 1979–80 shown in the table below. Figures were also given in a reply to my hon. Friend on 21 February 1980—[Vol 979, cc. 335–42]—which referred back to the July 1979 answer. These were based on earnings figures in October, rather than over the year as a whole. I greatly regret that the corresponding percentages shown in that reply were incorrect. Correcting the figures and recalculating them as a percentage of the average over the year as a whole gives the figures in the top half of table B below.

The reply in February also gave figures for the tax threshold, defined as the amount that can be earned before liability to tax arises. As for tax-free income these were given as a percentage of the income of a man on average manual earnings and are now recalculated in table B below as a percentage of average earnings of a manual worker—not including family allowance or child benefit—averaged over the year as a whole.

Thus the tax threshold and its relation to average earnings show the earnings level at which tax liability arises as a percentage of average manual earnings; and the corresponding figures in terms of family income, including family allowance or child benefit, show the income level at which tax liability arises and its relation to the gross income of a man on average manual earnings.

TABLE B

Tax Free Income

Tax Free Income as a Percentage of Average Income of a Full-time Man Maunal Worker

Married with 1 child under 11 yrs

Married with 2 children under 11 years

Married with 3 children, 2 under 11 yrs, 1 agged11–16

Married with 4 children, 2 under 11 yrs, 1 aged 11–16 1 over 16 yrs

Married with 1 child under 11 yrs

Married with 2 children under 11 years

Married with 3 children, 2 under 11 yrs, 1 aged 11–16 years

Married with children,2 under 11 yrs, 1 aged 11–16 1 over 16 years

££££%%%%
1971–727979421,1201,32949·356·665·375·2
1972–739711,1161,2931,50352·759·066·675·4
1973–749751,1151,2901,49545·951·358·065·7
1974–751,1051,2931,5161,76942·849·256·664·7
1975–761,1951,3831,6061,85938·043·048·755·1
1976·771,3851,6331,9162,22939·045·051·758·9
1977–781,7031,9512,2342,54742·547·753·660·0
1978·791,7692,0022,2712,56938·041·946·250·9
1979–802,2032,2312,4392,64736·939·341·443·4

Tax Threshold

Tax Threshold as a Percentage of Average Earnings of Full-Time Men manual Workers

1971–727978951,0211,17949·355·363·172·9
1972–739711,0691,1941,35252·758·064·873·4
1973–749751,0681,1911,34445·950·356·163·3
1974–751,1051,2461,4171,61842·848·354·962·7
1975–761,1951,3051,4501,62538·041·546·251·7
1976–771,3851,5551,7601,99539·043·849·656·2
1977–781,6511,8212,0262,26141·746·051·257·1
1978–791,6351,7351,8702,03836·238·441·445–1
1979–801,8151,8151,8151,81534·534·534·534·5

As my hon. Friend suggests, these figures do not give a complete picture for manual couples with children of the effect of the transition from child tax allowances and taxable family allowance to tax-free child benefit. Though tax is now payable at relatively lower earnings levels, family income is increased through child benefit.

Table C following attempts to give a comparable series over the last 30 years, by calculating "break-even points" —the levels of earnings at which "net tax" becomes payable, that is, at which the amount of tax paid just balances the value of family allowance or child benefit. Figures are given for a married couple without children and a married couple with two children. It would be unduly expensive for the purpose of this answer to calculate series for all other groups, but the Inland Revenue is considering the publication of further figures and an explanatory note in the next issue of the annual volume Inland Revenue Statistics, to be published in the summer. I will send my hon. Friend an advance copy of any such note.

TABLE C
BREAK-EVEN POINTS

Year

Married couple Break-even point as a percentage of average earnings of full-time men manual workers Per cent.

Married couple with 2 children under 11 Break-even point as a percentage of average earning of full-time men manual workers Per cent.

1949–5062·8122·7
1950–5159·6119·2
1951–5257·0114·7
1952–5360·1133·5
1953–5456·7131·7
1954–5552·5121·9
1955–5655·2122·3
1956–5751·9114·7
1957–5849·1108·5
1958–5948·3106·6
1959–6045·7103·5
1960–6142·696·5
1961–6241·692·6
1962–6340·389·6
1963–6450·597·1
1964–6546·789·8
1965–6642·982·9
1966–6741·480·0
1967–6839·376·0
1968–6936·572·8
1969–7037·368·0
1970–7141·064·4
1971–7237·065·0

1972–7341·866·4
1973–7436·557·6
1974–7533·553·8
1975–7630·448·7
1976–7730·550·1
1977–7836·855·7
1978–7934·060·4
1979–8034·563·2

Export Promotion

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how the coverage of the figures given in his reply dated 25 February 1980 compares with the coverage of the programmes analysis review of the export services; what was the total expenditure of the services covered by that review; what is the increase in inflation since those figures were collected; and how these figures compare with the present expenditure;(2) pursuant to his reply of 25 February to the hon. Member for Grimsby on the cost of export services, why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Central Office of Information and other agencies concerned with the promotion of exports were not included in the figures;(3) whether he has made any estimate of the reduction in United Kingdom exports which would occur if the export services, other than those provided by or through the Export Credit Guarantee Department were to be abolished; if so, what is his conclusion; and by how much the exchange rate would fall as a result, all other things being equal;(4) whether his reply dated 25 February concerning expenditure on export promotion included the British Overseas Trade Board and the overhead expenses of the Department of Trade in maintaining export services;(5) what would be the saving in manpower and in total expenditure in (

a) the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, ( b) Departments other than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Central Office of Information and the Department of Trade and ( c) other agencies if promotion of exports ceased.

The figures given in my reply of 25 February related to expenditure under those public expenditure programmes devoted entirely to the support of exports. Total expenditure on export services in 1979–80, including both staff and direct costs in all departments except for the Ministry of Defence, is roughly estimated at about £84 million net of charges. This includes the Department of Trade's direct expenditure on export promotion given in my previous reply but not expenditure by the Export Credits Guarantee Department. Some of this expenditure relates to payments made overseas, but it is not possible to identify readily the savings in foreign exchange which could be achieved if expenditure on export promotion ceased.The figures given in my reply of 25 February are not directly comparable with the 1971 programme analysis review. Broadly speaking, this covered staff and direct costs in all Departments and should therefore be compared with the estimated expenditure of £84 million in 1979–80 given above. The coverage of the 1979–80 estimate is wider than the 1971 review in that it also covers export activities of the Department of Energy and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.Total expenditure covered by the review in 1971–72 was £28·5 million net of charges. The general level of prices in 1979–80 as measured by the retal prices index is just under three times higher than the level in 1971–72. On this basis the level of expenditure in 1971–72 was broadly comparable in real terms to expenditure on export services in 1979–80.The figure for export promotion given in my reply of 25 February covered expenditure by the British Overseas Trade Board. This did not include staff and other overheads of the Department of Trade in maintaining export services which are estimated this year to be in the region of £16·8 million.It is estimated that in 1979–80 roughly some 15 per cent. of Foreign and Commonwealth Office Diplomatic Service United Kingdom based staff overseas and 15 per cent. of locally engaged staff are involved in export promotion work at a total cost of around £33 million. However, it is not possible to identify the precise savings in manpower or expenditure which would result in this Department if expenditure on export promotion ceased, since many of the staff concerned have other duties.It is not possible to quantify the manpower savings in Departments other than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Central Office of Information and the Department of Trade if expenditure on the promotion of exports ceased. Any savings would be negligible. Total expenditure on export promotion in these departments in 1979–80 is estimated in the region of £1·3 million.Similarly the possible manpower savings in other agencies cannot be estimated. Total expenditure on export services in other agencies amounts to about £3·1 million in 1979–80.As indicated in my reply of 25 February, it is not possible to quantify the effect on exports of ending public expenditure on export promotion.

Value Added Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will treat second-hand private cars in the same way as secondhand commercial vehicles for deemed value added tax payments within the lump sum price paid to the vendor by a value added tax registered purchaser in the motor trade.

I have no plans to change the present practice under which second-hand motor cars are taxable only on the seller's margin on resale. To treat them in the same way as second hand commercial vehicles would require taxing them in the same way as second-hand be disadvantageous for registered traders purchasing from unregistered vendors where there is no input tax available for deduction.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) why the installation of a storm porch in a house is zero-rated for value added tax but the repair or renewal of guttering, slates, tiles, pipes, taps washers, plumbing and drainage is subject to value added tax at 15 per cent;(2) why the maintenance or improvement of existing domestic boilers is subject to value added tax at 15 per cent., whereas the installation of a new boiler is zero-rated;(3) why the replacement of a window involving a change in the size of the aperture is zero-rated for value added tax, but the repair of broken windows, including glass, sashes and frames is subject to value-added tax at 15 per cent.

Under the statutory provisions applying to building construction work, a supply in the course of the construction or alteration of a building may be VAT zero-rated. Work of repair or maintenance, however, is specifically excluded from such relief and is chargeable at the standard rate. My hon. Friend's examples illustrate the operation of this borderline.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the total cost in a full year of exempting all outstanding buildings and conservation areas from paying value added tax on their building maintenance work.

I am afraid that the information to make a reliable estimate is not available.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much money was raised in the fiscal year 1978–79 by the imposition of value added tax upon building repairs carried out on outstanding buildings and conservation areas within the United Kingdom.

I regret that the information is not available because there is no way of distinguishing the VAT charged for repairs to such buildings from that of other building work.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much money he has collected in 1979–80 from the imposition of value added tax upon wheelchairs, walking frames and all similar aids to those with locomotive disabilities.

Wheelchairs, walking frames and most mechanical aids specially designed for use by the disabled are zero-rated when the supply is to the disabled and supported by a medical certificate. Most other supplies are taxable, but the revenue is likely to be small.

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether loss of value added tax revenue would occur if nonprofit making trades were to be zero-rated, following the same rules of exemption as were applied to the former entertainment tax.

Yes; though the information is not available upon which to make an estimate.

Written-Off Income Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the total amount of income tax written off as irrecoverable in 1977–78 and 1978–79, on the grounds that the amounts involved were not sufficient to justify the cost of pursuit; and how many individual taxpayers were involved in each of the above two years.

In the year of account which ended on 27 October 1978 the income tax remitted under this head amounted to £7 million. The corresponding amount for the year to 26 October 1979 is not yet known precisely, but is estimated to be in the region of £5 million.The number of individual taxpayers involved is not recorded, but the Inland Revenue estimates that there would have been more than 100,000 in each year.

Money Supply And Inflation

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what has been the growth of the money supply as measured by M1 and M3 definitions, respectively, and of the rate of inflation as measured by the retail price index for each separate year from 1970 to 1979.

Radio And Television Advertising

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the cost to the Revenue, in each of the last five financial years for which figures are available, of allowing against income tax and corporation tax the cost of advertising on radio and television.

[pursuant to his reply, Tuesday 18 March 1980]: I regret that this information is not available.

Income Tax

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what would be the estimated loss to the Revenue in the year 1980–81 if the highest rate of tax on (a) earned and (b) unearned income were 50 per cent. and 70 per cent. respectively.

[pursuant to his reply, 17 March 1980]: I assume the hon. Member has in mind restricting the top rate of income tax to 50 per cent. and charging the investment income surcharge at 20 per cent. At 1979–80 income levels the best estimate of the revenue cost is about £35 million.

Development And Road Improvement Fund

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what purpose is served by retaining a separate development fund under the Development and Road Improvements Fund Acts of 1909 and 1910; and what is the annual cost of administering development commissions and their staff.

I have been asked to reply.The development fund finances the work of the Development Commission and its agency, the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas.The Commission's administrative costs in 1978–79 were –365,468.

Trade

Departmental Administrative Forms

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he can yet make a statement on the outcome of the review of his Department's administrative forms.

I have placed in the Library a copy of the report by the consultants—Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. and the Economists Advisory Group Ltd.—who were appointed to undertake this review of the Department's administrative forms. The report is in two parts: a summary of the main findings and recommendations, with selected examples of forms redesigned by the consultants, and eight technical appendices each dealing separately with one of the areas of work reviewed and containing all the relative proposals for re-designed forms.The consultants concluded that 392 of the Department's administrative forms qualified for review and of these they undertook a detailed review of 171 (84 per cent. by volume of usage). The remainder were omitted because they were little used, they related to small specialised fields of activity, or they were already in the process of re-design.The consultant's main conclusions and recommendations were as follows:

  • (a) There is very little complaint (either from members of the public or from 42 bodies contacted of whom some represent small businesses) by users of the Department's administrative forms. In a sample poll directly related to a list of the Department's most widely used forms, 89 per cent of respondents said that they had no complaints.
  • (b) Nevertheless, there is scope for improving the design, lay-out and content of some of the Department's forms: and for abolishing others.
  • (c) There are recommendations for improving the control of forms design and lay-out.
  • I accept the broad recommendations which the consultants have made for improving the position further.

    My Department will bear these in mind when considering the issue or re-issue of its forms, taking into account the costs involved in redesign and the views of the major users.

    We shall endeavour to keep to a minimum the burden of paperwork—whether in length or complexity—which we impose on business.

    European Free Trade Association (Balance Of Trade)

    asked the Secretary of State for Trade what has been the United Kingdom balance of trade in manufactured goods and overall with the former European Free Trade Association countries for each of the last 10 years; and what, in each case, has been the index of imports divided by exports.

    Dumping

    asked the Secretary of State for Trade in what circumstances he will consider taking unilateral action to prevent the dumping of goods in the United Kingdom when European Economic Community preventive actions have been unsuccessful.

    Rail Exports

    58.

    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the level of Government support to United Kingdom rail exports.

    asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is satisfied with the level of Government support to United Kingdom rail exports; and if he will make a statement.

    Yes. The full range of the Government's services for exporters, administered by the British Overseas Trade Board, and by the Export Credits Guarantee Department, is available to, and has been well used by, United Kingdom exporters of railway equipment and services.

    Tobacco Advertising

    asked the Secretary of State for Trade what representations he has received from the chairman of the Advertising Association regarding further controls on tobacco advertising; and if he will make a statement.

    [pursuant to her reply 7th March 1980 c. 364]: The Advertising Association and a number of organisations representing manufacturers which advertise, the advertising agencies and the printing media have written to me expressing concern about press reports which had suggested that the Government are pressing the tobacco industry to restrict substantially the level of its advertising in the interests of health. I have now replied pointing out that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services is committed to exploring to the full the scope for voluntary cooperation before any other measures may be decided upon.

    Civil Service

    Select Committees (Departmental Evidence)

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will now review the guidelines for Government Depart- ments for the provision of evidence to Select Committees.

    The memorandum of guidance to officials, which was issued in 1976, is now being brought up to date.

    Manpower

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service what savings have been made in manpower within the Civil Service since 3 May.

    Between 1 April 1979 and 1 January 1980 the total number of Civil Service staff in post fell by 24,500.

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service what is the size of the Civil Service at the most recent convenient date; and what it was on 1 April 1979.

    At 1 January 1980 there were 707,800 civil servants in post in central government departments. At 1 April 1979 the corresponding figure was 732,300.

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service by how much manpower in the Civil Service increased between February 1974 and May 1979, and since May 1979.

    Staff in post in central Government Departments increased by 37,900 between 1 January 1974 and 1 April 1979. Between 1 April 1979 and 1 January 1980 there was a reduction of 24,500. Information on staff numbers is collected quarterly at 1 January, 1 April, 1 July and 1 October. Details are not held centrally for other months of the year.

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service what further economies he expects to be able to make in the Civil Service during 1980–81.

    . I refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made on 6 December 1979—[Vol. 975, c. 627–401]—and to my reply to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Scunthorpe (Mr. Brown) on 14 March.

    Civil Servants (Outside Employment)

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will review the present rules governing the acceptance of posts in private industry by civil servants.

    The present rules were laid down by the previous Government following a review in 1975. The Select Committee on the Treasury and the Civil Service have recently taken evidence on this subject and I should like to consider its recommendations before taking any decisions on this topic.

    Rayner Inquiries

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service if he will make a statement on the current position of inquiries by Sir Derek Rayner into the Civil Service.

    I refer my hon. Friend to the answers I gave to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short), on 23 January and to my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) on 4 February. Some additional departmental scrutinies have since been agreed and I will publish the details in the Official Report.The following are the additional scrutinies:

    Department and Topic

    Home Office

    The handling of applications for citizenship of the United Kingdom and Colonies.

    H.M. Treasury

    The procurement and movement functions of United Kingdom Treasury and Supply Delegation.

    H.M. Customs and Excise

    Topic 1. Present methods of revenue control of the production and warehousing of spirits.
    Topic 2 (Joint scrutiny with the Inland Revenue). Co-operation between the Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise in their dealings with insolvent traders/taxpayers.

    Department for National Savings

    The conversion to computers of premium savings bond records.

    Paymaster General's Office

    The working relationships between the Paymaster General's Office and the banks.

    Wages And Salaries

    asked the Minister for the Civil Service what saving in the wages and salaries bill has been achieved due to the non-replacement of jobs in the Civil Service since 1 May 1979.

    There has been a reduction of 24,500 staff in central Government Departments in the period 1 April 1979 to 1 January 1980. Information is not held centrally in sufficient detail to quantify at this stage exactly the savings in the wages and salaries bill. But in a full year the saving will be over £100 million.

    Statistical Services