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Written Answers

Volume 15: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1981

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday 16 December 1981

Trade

Upholstered Furniture (Safety) Regulations

asked the Secretary of State for Trade (1) if he will undertake an immediate review of the Upholstered Furniture (Safety) Regulations with a view to improving the present labelling procedure regarding polyurethane furniture; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he will now take steps to include mandatory match tests in the Upholstered Furniture (Safety) Regulations.

On improving the present labelling procedures, I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) on 11 December.On the inclusion of mandatory match tests in the regulations, I have made it plain that I should propose amendments prohibiting the sale of upholstered furniture that could not pass the match as well as the cigarette test once it was clear that an adequate range of furniture able to pass the tests was likely to be available. My officials have established a working group with representatives of the textile and furniture trades and research establishments to monitor progress. As a result, research, partly funded by my Department, has recently been started by the Furniture Industry Research Association to see whether a fire retarding coating might enable a wide range of furniture to pass both tests and remain sufficiently attractive to the consumer.

Credit Cards

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he proposes to introduce legislation to put into effect the recommendations of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission that the practice of credit card companies in not permitting retailers to make a charge for credit card transactions should be made illegal.

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he is now prepared to accept the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on credit cards and allow petrol retailers to charge a supplement on sales equivalent to the percentage on sales charged by the credit card companies.

I refer my hon. Friends to the answer given on 10 December to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant).

Opticians Act 1958

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether, in the light of the high cost of privately supplied spectacles, the Government will review the operation of the Opticians Act 1958 with regard to its effect on competition.

The Government have for some time been aware of public concern at the high cost of private spectacles. Among possible factors leading to this high cost could be restrictions upon competition which arise as a result of provisions of the Opticians Act 1958. Under section 25 of this Act the General Optical Council may make rules regulating advertising and other means of publicity that may be employed by registered opticians. The Government welcome the recent change in its rules to permit opticians to display prices in their windows, but it remains to be seen what the effects of this change will be.A more significant restriction arises from section 21 of the Act which restricts the sale of optical appliances to registered medical practitioners and registered opticians. Under the Fair Trading Act 1973 it is not possible for the Director General of Fair Trading to refer to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in appropriate terms the restrictions on competition arising from the statutory monopoly conferred by section 21. I have therefore, with the full agreeement of my hon. Friend the Minister for Health, asked the Director General to undertake such a review himself. His terms of reference are

"to assess the effects upon competition of (i) the statutory monopoly to sell optical appliances conferred by section 21 of the Opticians Act 1958 on registered medical practitioners and registered opticians and (ii) the rules of the General Optical Council made under section 25 thereof in so far as they relate to or affect the sale of such appliances."

The director has not been asked to come to any conclusion on whether the Act should be revised in any way since this would raise questions of public interest which go wider than the competition considerations to be dealt with by the review. The review will, however, provide a clearer picture of the ways in which the Act operates with regard to competition and, therefore, prices, and will assist the Government in considering whether any revision is called for.

Norwest Holst Ltd

asked the Secretary of State for Trade whether, further to his written reply of 23 October, he has reached a decision on publication of the report from his Department's inquiry into Norwest Holst Ltd.

Private Cars (Imports)

asked the Secretary of State for Trade if he will take steps to make it easier for United Kingdom-resident citizens to buy private motor vehicles anywhere within the European Community and import there into the United Kingdom.

No. Such personal imports may already take place under existing regulations.

Overseas Development

Education (Fee Support Scheme)

asked the Lord Privy Seal how much of the money allocated for the fee support scheme in 1981–82 has been distributed in the form of awards; whether the unallocated money is being used for the benefit of overseas students; and whether he is considering improvements in the scheme to assist final year undergraduates and first year postgraduates as well as continuing postgraduates in the academic year 1982–83.

Expenditure on the fee support scheme is expected to be about £160,000 in the current financial year. The unspent balance in the scheme will be reallocated for spending elsewhere within the aid programme. The future of the fee support scheme, which was introduced as a temporary measure in 1977, is at present under review.

Energy

Combined Heat And Power Scheme (Fort Dunlop)

asked the Secretary of State for Energy whether he will give his consent to the development of the Fort Dunlop combined heat and power scheme.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy has today granted the Midlands Electricity Board the various statutory authorisations needed to proceed with construction of its proposed combined heat and power station at Fort Dunlop. The scheme will increase the efficiency of the conversion of primary energy into electricity and heat, and is welcomed by the Government.

Home Department

Prevention Of Terrorism Act (Detained Students)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable of Greater Manchester as to how many students who were delegates to the National Union of Students conference in Blackpool from 4 to 7 December were detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in Manchester on 7 December, how many are still held in custody and whether any have been served with exclusion orders.

On 7 December Greater Manchester police arrested four students under the provision of the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976. The police did not apply for exclusion orders in respect of any of the four, and all were released.

Scarman Report

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what meetings he has arranged with spokesmen of opposition parties on police authorities in metropolitan counties to discuss the Scarman report; and whether he will list those invited to attend.

I expect to have a wide range of consultations in the coming months about implementing Lord Scarman's recommendations. I met the chairmen of the police committees of the metropolitan areas on 9 December and my Department will be visiting individual police authorities to discuss Lord Scarman's recommendations on local consultation.

Bail (Legislation)

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he proposes to introduce legislation to reverse the decision in R. v Nottingham Justices ex parte Davies—1980 2 A.E.R. 775—in order to reestablish an accused's right to bail.

We are considering representations about the decision to which the hon. Member refers, but it did not deprive any person to whom the Bail Act 1976 applies of his right to bail under that Act.

Lord President Of The Council

House Of Commons (Parliamentary Papers And "Official Report")

asked the Lord President of the Council to what extent Parliamentary papers and the Official Report are now printed within the House of Commons; how much machinery is now installed; by whom this machinery is operated; and whether he has any plans to increase this printing capacity.

A small number of photocopying machines are available within the precincts for the production of House papers required in an emergency. They would be operated by typists and clerical staff. No recent use has been made of the machines for this purpose, and I am not aware of any plans to increase their provision.

House Of Commons

Inspector Of Staffing

asked the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough, as representing the House of Commons Commission, (1) whether an inspector of staffing is being or has been appointed for House of Commons staff;(2) whether the proposed new inspector of staffing will be appointed from internal applications; what will be his duties and salary; and to whom he will be responsible.

A staff inspector has been appointed, who served previously in the Civil Service Department. The Commission is currently reviewing his conditions of service, including salary, and the terms of a draft directive to assist him in carrying out his duties. Although the staff inspector is to report to the Commission only, he will be available for consultation by the Administration Committee, the trade union side of the Whitley Committee, and any individual member of the staff.

Wales

Supplementary Benefit

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if it is the practice of his Department, in assessing a person's resources for supplementary benefit purposes and for the purposes of rent rebates, to ignore benefit in kind such as the concessionary coal scheme for retired coal miners.

The assessment of income for the purpose of deciding entitlement to rent rebates is a matter for individual local authorities. Unlike cash payment, benefit in kind is not generally regarded as income.The assessment of a person's resources for supplementary benefit purposes is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Day Care Centres

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has studied the report "Day Care Centres" by Jean Symons, published by the Centre on Environment for the Handicapped; what action he will be taking; and if he will make a statement.

This is a report of a study of day care centres in England. However, its existence is being made known to various agencies in Wales concerned with the provision of such centres and I have no doubt that they will find it a useful reference document.

Defence

Chatham Dockyard

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will take steps to ensure that all employees at Chatham dockyard declared redundant will receive not less than one and a half weeks' pay for each year's service between 41 and retirement, plus one week's pay for each year's service between 22 and 41, plus a half week's pay for each year's service between 18 and 22, and that employees at the yard with a long-service record will receive 30 weeks' redundancy pay.

The redundancy payments quoted are those provided for under the redundancy payments scheme of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978. Whilst the provisions of this legislation do not apply to the Crown, all Civil Servants who are declared redundant will receive total benefits no less favourable than those required under the Act.

Submarine Refits (Welders)

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many highly skilled welders are required to complete an SSN submarine refit at Devonport; how many have so far been found; and how many will be required when three stream refits are actually being carried out.

The number of specialist welders required to complete an SSN refit varied between different submarines, but typically it is about 70.Adequate numbers of highly skilled welders are available at Devonport to meet the yard's current programme.Three stream refitting will require the number of welders to be increased by approximately 50 per cent. Plans are being made accordingly and no difficulties are foreseen in the recruitment of the necessary manpower.

Ulster Defence Regiment (Decorations)

asked the Secretary of State for Defence which decorations for which the Territorial Army is eligible may not be awarded to members of the Ulster Defence Regiment.

The Territorial efficiency awards are not at present available to those members of the Ulster Defence Regiment who have never served in the TAVR or Territorial Army. I shall write to my hon. Friend with further information on this matter.

Nuclear Submarines

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, further to his answer to the hon. Member for Gillingham of 12 November, he will identify those nuclear submarines where long-life cores have already been fitted and give the dates on which they were fitted; and if he will identify those nuclear submarines where long-life cores are proposed to be fitted and the date proposed for the fitting in each case.

It is not the practice to disclose details of the operational capabilities of individual ships or submarines, but I can say that by 1 April 1984 all SSNs apart from "Dreadnought" will have been fitted with improved reactor cores.

Hms "Sovereign"

asked the Secretary of State for Defence when HMS "Sovereign" is to begin refuelling and refit at Devonport dockyard; and when the work is due to be completed.

The refit of HMS "Sovereign" will begin in January 1982 and is scheduled to complete in early 1984.

Hms "Dreadnought"

asked the Secretary of State for Defence why HMS "Dreadnought" was towed from Devonport to Chatham; whether she is to be refuelled at either dockyard; and to what extent the ship is considered to be operational in her present condition.

It was originally planned to refit "Dreadnought" at Devonport and "Sovereign" at Chatham. This plan was revised following the defence programme changes because the "Sovereign" refit could not be completed within the period programmed for the closure of Chatham. As a result, "Sovereign" has been transferred to the Devonport programme and "Dreadnought" was towed to Chatham.As to whether she is to be refuelled, at either dockyard, I cannot at present add to the answer that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Mr. Moate) on 11 November.—[Vol. 12, c.

91.]

HMS "Dreadnought" is at present non-operational.

Hms "Swiftsure"

asked the Secretary of State for Defence what was the nature of the industrial dispute at Devonport dockyard that caused the refit on HMS "Swiftsure" scheduled for March 1979 not to be started until April 1980; and if it will be completed by the second half of 1982 as is now intended.

The dispute which arose before HMS "Swiftsure" was taken in hand was over the terms of the agreement under which shift working was to be organised for the duration of the refit. A new pattern of shift working was essential for nuclear refitting tasks and the unions were reluctant to accept that negotiations, both on the shifts and on associated allowances, would be restricted by the limits of the shift working agreement in use at Rosyth, which was considered by management to be right for the job. HMS "Swiftsure's" refit remains scheduled for completion in the second half of 1982.

Trident Bases (Faslane-Coulport)

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether any architectural contract has been placed in relation to the work on the proposed Trident base at Faslane or Coulport; and, if so, in relation to what development.

"Ocean Safari" (Exercise)

asked the Secretary of State for Defence why, in view of the major operational role of Royal Navy hunter-killer nuclear submarines in seeking and destroying enemy submarines, they were not used in monitoring the movements of diesel-electric submarines during the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation exercise "Ocean Safari".

In exercise "Ocean Safari" priority was given to exercising Royal Navy hunter-killer nuclear submarines in roles other than monitoring diesel-electric submarines. For security reasons it would be inappropriate to go into details.

Royal Air Force (Officer Recruitment)

asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many officers of the Royal Air Force have resigned their commissions since 1 January; and how many people have joined the Royal Air Force over the same period.

19 officers of the Royal Air Force resigned their commissions between 1 January 1981 and 31 October 1981; 208 officers left prematurely on a voluntary basis. During the same period 909 officers were commissioned and 3,355 Service men and women joined the Royal Air Force.

Military Communications Satellites

asked the Secretary of State for Defence if, pursuant to the reply given to the hon. Member for Arundel on 8 December, he will give the approximate total value of the two military communications satellites and associated ground equipment for which an order was placed on that day and the degree to which this contract will benefit other British companies in addition to the British Aerospace Dynamics Group.

The main contract is worth about £80 million at today's prices. British Aerospace Dynamics Group and Marconi Space and Defence Systems Ltd. will each enjoy about one third of the work. Some 4 per cent. will fall to other British suppliers and subcontractors.

Purchasing Policy

asked the Secretary of State for Defence to what extent it is his policy to make the maximum possible effort to purchase British goods in preference to those from abroad.

It is our policy to procure defence equipment in this country whenever it is sensible and practicable to do so, paying due regard to our international obligations.In practice some 90 per cent. by value of our defence equipment contracts are placed with Britsh industry, and in the current financial year we are spending £5,000 million on well over 10,000 contracts.

Heavyweight Torpedo

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether any decision has yet been made on the choice of a heavyweight torpedo for the Royal Navy.

I am glad to report that negotiations with Marconi Space and Defence Systems have now been satisfactorily completed. An order has been placed today with Marconi for the full development and intitial production of an advanced new heavyweight torpedo to replace the Tigerfish torpedo currently in service with the Royal Navy's submarines. This important new defence contract for British industry will be at a fixed price and will cover work on both the new heavyweight torpedo and the Sting Ray lightweight torpedo to a total value of about £500 million; and will ensure that the United Kingdom maintains its leading position in torpedo technology.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Seychelles

5.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the present state of relations between the British Government and the Seychelles.

13.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on British relations with the Government of the Seychelles.

Hong Kong (Vietnamese Refugees)

10.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what action Her Majesty's Government are taking in the international field to assist Hong Kong in resettling the 14,000 Vietnamese refugees who are still looked after by the Hong Kong authorities.

We continue to represent Hong Kong's case to other countries and to international organisations. The Hong Kong Government have also played a major role in this. Some 80,000 refugees have been resettled from Hong Kong since 1976.

British Visitor's Passports

14.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what would be the estimated cost of refunding the fees paid by those United Kingdom citizens who obtained British visitor's passports during the recent industrial action at passport offices who were subsequently issued with the full British passports for which they had originally applied.

Although statistics are not available, it is estimated that about 300,000 applications for standard passports remained outstanding at the end of the period of industrial action. On the assumption that most of these applicants obtained a British visitor's passport, the amount involved, if refunds were to be made, could be about £1½ million. This figure does not include additional administrative costs.

Middle East

15

asked the Lord Privy Seal if his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary has any plans to visit the Middle East for talks with Palestinian leaders to try and bring about a peaceful settlement of problems in the area.

My right hon. and noble Friend has no plans for a meeting with Palestinian leaders. He remains prepared to meet Mr. Arafat if such a meeting would contribute to the cause of peace.

18.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the next stage of the European initiative on the Middle East.

The Ten remain committed to work energetically for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East on the basis of the principles set out in the Venice declaration. We continue to impress upon all sides in public statements and private diplomacy the need for recognition by the Palestinians and by Israel of each other's legitimate rights.

19.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether, in the light of the opposition expressed by the Arab Steadfastness Front to the Fahd plan at the Fez summit, Her Majesty's Government now consider the positions of the Arab Steadfastness Front, including the Palestine Liberation Organisation, as totally hostile to any peace process in the Middle East.

Although some members of the Steadfastness Front are reported to have opposed adoption of Crown Prince Fahd's principles by the Fez summit, they have not all rejected them and we do not regard the front as necessarily opposed to any peace process in the Middle East. We urge all its members, including the PLO, to make clear their support for a settlement peacefully negotiated with Israel.

23.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what prospects he sees for the Fahd plan in view of the outcome of the summit meeting of the Arab League States in Fez.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay).

24.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will report on the progress made during the British Presidency of the European Council of Ministers towards resolving the Middle East conflict.

As we made clear at the outset, the Middle East conflict is too complex a problem for any Presidency to make decisive progress in the six months available. Throughout the British Presidency we have continued to impress upon all sides through public statements and private diplomacy the need for the principles of the Venice declaration to be accepted, and in particular the need for recognition by the Palestinians and by Israel of each other's legitimate rights.

26.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on progress towards peace in the Middle East.

In recent weeks attention has concentrated on the efforts of the Saudi and other Arab Governments to agree on a negotiating stance and on the need to implement the provisions of the Israel-Egypt Treaty which cover the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Sinai. In our view it also remains vital to make progress on the central question of Palestinian rights. A comprehensive negotiated settlement will need to ensure security for Israel and self-determination for the Palestinians. We remain ready to play an active role to this end.

28.

asked the Lord Privy Seal how far the decision taken at the Fez summit affects Her Majesty's Government's policy in the Middle East.

We remain firmly committed to the search for a comprehensive settlement as the basis of the principles set out in the Venice declaration and we continue to call for the mutual recognition of rights by Israel and the Palestinians.

Disarmament Talks (Geneva)

16.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether the United States Government have taken any steps to inform Her Majesty's Government about the negotiations taking place in Geneva between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The United States Government have made it clear that the close consultation undertaken in preparation for the start of the negotiations in the special consultative group, the NATO body responsible for INF—intermediate range nuclear forces—arms control, will continue as the negotiations proceed. Moreover, the INF negotiations were one of the main subjects of discussion at the ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Council which both my right hon. and noble Friend and the American Secretary of State attended in Brussels on 10 and 11 December.

Western Sahara

17.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what steps Her Majesty's Government are taking to promote the implementation of United Nations resolutions on the Western Sahara.

The United Kingdom, together with the other members of the Ten, joined a consensus at the United Nations on 9 November in adopting a Kenyan draft decision on the Western Sahara which was based on the Organisation of African Unity summit decision. At the same time the Ten made clear their support for the Organisation of African Unity initiative and urged all the parties concerned to respect the Organisation of African Unity summit decision.

Camp David Agreement

20.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he considers there is any prospect of achieving further progress on the Camp David agreement.

We support the implementation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and have no wish to undermine other aspects of the Camp David process. We are convinced that if a workable agreement acceptable to the palestinian people is to be achieved in the autonomy talks, early involvement of the Palestinians themselves will be essential. At the moment the autonomy talks appear to be acceptable neither to the Palestinians nor to the majority of Arab States.

El Salvador (Election Observers)

21.

asked the Lord privy Seal what is the response of Her Majesty's Government to the request from El Salvador to provide observers for the proposed elections in March; and if he will make a statement.

Her Majesty's Government are considering the request to send observers to the Salvadorean elections.

School Leavers (Departmental Staff)

22.

asked the Lord Privy Seal how many school leavers have been employed by his Department in the last 12 months.

Namibia

25.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the present situation regarding Namibia.

The Five are continuing their discussions with all concerned of their suggestions for constitutional principles as guidelines for the Constituent Assembly. As soon as there is agreement on these, the Five will move on to the second phase of confidence-building measures. The Foreign Ministers of the Five in Brussels on 10 December reviewed progress and noted that the ground was prepared for achieving final agreement on the constitutional principles without delay.

Theatre Nuclear Forces

27.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what discussions took place between the British and American Governments prior to the British endorsement of President Reagan's zero option initiative.

The American negotiating position in the theatre nuclear force arms control negotiations in Geneve has been the subject of close consultation in the Special Consultative Group, the NATO body responsible for TNF arms control, and has the full support of all members of the Alliance. It has also often been discussed bilaterally between the British and American Governments.

Prime Minister (Kuwait Statement)

29.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether Her Majesty's Government have received any response from Arab States to the Prime Minister's statement in Kuwait on 27 September that the reason why Her Majesty's Government did not have ministererial meetings with the Palestine Liberation Organisation was, first, its association with terrorism, and secondly, the statement by parts of the Palestine Liberation Organisation that its real objective is to drive Israel into the sea and wipe it off the face of the globe.

The Government's views on the problems of the Middle East are well known to all Arab States, but differences of view on aspects of our policy are inevitable. Informal representations about my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's statement were made by some Arab Governments.

El Salvador

30.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will take initiatives to bring to an end the war in El Salvador.

No, I do not believe that it is appropriate for the United Kingdom as a non-regional Power to take initiatives at this stage. Moreover, the question of El Salvador has been discussed by the European Community in political co-operation and it is the common view of the Ten that there is at present no scope for a collective initiative.

Continental Shelf (Delimitation)

31.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress has been made towards achieving a method of arbitration for delimiting the continental shelf between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.

A further meeting was held with Irish officials in Dublin on 26 November. Progress continues to be made in drawing up an agreement for submitting the delimitation of the continental shelf to arbitration. Another meeting has been provisionally scheduled for February.

Jerusalem (Venice Declaration)

32.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he will make a statement on the position of East Jerusalem in accordance with the Venice declaration.

As stated in the Venice declaration, we do not accept any unilateral initiatives to change the status of Jerusalem. The future of the city as a whole needs to be resolved in negotiation between the parties concerned as part of a wider peace settlement. East Jerusalem, which was occupied by Israel in 1967, remains subject to the provisions of resolution 242 concerning Israeli withdrawal.

Madrid Conference

33.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress is being made in the Madrid conference on the Helsinki agreement; and when he expects the conference to conclude.

35.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects the discussions in Madrid on those parts of the Helsinki agreement relating to human rights to be completed.

38.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when he expects the discussions in Madrid on the Helsinki agreement to be concluded.

I refer my hon. Friends to the reply which I gave on 18 November.—[Vol. 13, c. 141.]

Gibraltar

34.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether he plans any further discussions with the Spanish Government over the future of Gibraltar.

I anticipate that Gibraltar will be one of the topics discussed when the Spanish Prime Minister visits London on 8 January for talks with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. Negotiation aimed at removing differences over Gibraltar will start when the agreement concluded in Lisbon in April 1980 is implemented.

Anglo-Soviet Relations

36.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will take steps to identify any recognised bodies or organisation in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics whose funding or assistance by Her Majesty's Government would further Anglo-Soviet relations.

I do not believe that the Soviet Government would allow the funding by Her Majesty's Government of organisations in the Soviet Union even for the purpose of furthering Anglo-Soviet relations.

Malta (Foreign Minister)

37.

asked the Lord Privy Seal when next he plans to meet the Foreign Minister of Malta.

Underground Nuclear Tests

asked the Lord Privy Seal why the tripartite group of the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics and the United Kingdom on the verification and monitoring of underground nuclear test explosions leading to a comprehensive test ban agreement has not met or issued a report to the Committee on Disarmament since August 1980.

The last tripartite session ended in November 1980. Negotiations have not resumed pending conclusion by the United States of its review of test ban policy. There has been no need for a further report to the Committee on Disarmament.

Poland

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on relations between the United Kingdom and Poland.

Her Majesty's Government attach great importance to the maintenance of our traditionally friendly relations with Poland and have fully supported the efforts of the Polish Government and people to overcome their political and economic problems through peaceful negotiation.During 1981 the Polish Foreign Minister, Mr. Czyrek, twice visited London and the then Polish Minister for Foreign Trade Mr. Karski visited London in October. My noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State visited Warsaw at the beginning of December.In the exceptional circumstances during the past year, the Government, at the request of the Polish Government, extended significant economic assistance to Poland, including debt rescheduling, the provision of new credit and the supply of urgently needed foodstuffs under the European Community scheme.I informed the House on 14 December of Her Majesty's Government's reaction to present developments in Poland.

Philippines (Cruelty To Dogs)

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the representations Her Majesty's Government have made to the Government of the Philippines about the cruelty to dogs in that country.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister told the House on 24 November, Her Majesty's Government have brought this matter to the attention, both here and in Manila, of the Philippine authorities, within whose jurisdiction it lies. The Philippine Government are well aware of the depth of feeling aroused in this country by recent reports. We understand that the Philippine National Assembly is considering the introduction of stricter legislation.

European Community

Foreign Policy

46.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on progress towards a common European Economic Community foreign policy.

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes).

Future Prospects

47.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what further consultations he will be having with his counterparts in the European Economic Community about the future of the European Economic Community.

As I stated earlier today in reply to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston), Foreign Ministers of the Community have agreed to meet again in the first half of January to consider revised Commission proposals on the four outstanding issues on the 30 May mandate.

British Membership

48.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will publish a White Paper outlining the reasons underlying his policy of continuing membership of the European Economic Community.

No. The reasons for the Government's belief in United Kingdom membership of the Community are well known, and have been set out on numerous occasions, both in this House and outside.

Budgetary Reform

49.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on progress in reforming the European Economic Community budget.

50.

asked the Lord Privy Seal what progress has been made on the European Economic Community Commission's proposals in respect of the mandate from European Economic Community Heads of Government.

I refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave earlier today to the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston).

Associate Status (Applications)

51.

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether any application for associate status has been made to the European Economic Community within the last 12 months.

No. Only three countries have individual association agreements with the Community: Turkey, Malta and Cyprus. There is a range of Community agreements with other third countries which provide preferential trade access to the Community market; that is those with the EFTA countries and Spain, the Maghreb and Mashraq countries, Israel, Yugoslavia and the developing countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Two newly independent countries, Belize and Antigua, have this year applied to accede to the second Lomé convention. The applications have been approved in principle.

Foreign Affairs Council

52.

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Economic Community held on 7 and 8 December.

I did so in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Gardiner) on 10 December.

Attorney-General

Residential Property (Registration)

asked the Attorney-General if he has taken steps to reduce the protracted delays in the Land Registry in registering residential property; and whether he will use the financial surplus of the registry to employ more staff and improve procedures so that the length of time taken to register residential property and record changes in land ownership can be reduced.

The cash limit on the Land Registry Vote has recently been raised by approximately £1·45 million to enable the Department to deal with the increase in work. This has enabled improvements to be made in the times being taken to complete applications for registration. The manpower and financial resources permitted for the registry during 1982–83 are currently under consideration. It is hoped that completion times will continue to improve.

asked the Attorney-General what proportion of residential property currently owner occupied is in areas of compulsory registration; and what are the anticipated proportions for 1985 and 1990.

The areas of compulsory registration cover approximately 75 per cent. of the population of England and Wales. No figure is available as to the proportion of residential property which is currently owner-occupied in those areas.Title to property may be registered voluntarily in non-compulsory areas where building estates are being developed and in certain other cases; registration of title is compulsory in those areas when properties have been purchased pursuant to the right-to-buy provisions of the Housing Act 1980.It is the intention that the areas of compulsory registration will continue to be extended, but the rate of extension will depend upon the availabilty of resources.

Land Registry (Changes Of Ownership)

asked the Attorney-General what are the average periods currently taken to record changes of ownership on registered deeds of title in all the regional offices of the Land Registry.

The average number of working days currently taken in each district land registry to register dealings with registered land are as follows:

District Land RegistryDealings with whole of registered titleDealings with part of registered title
Birkenhead2670
Croydon35120
Durham1243
Gloucester2596
Harrow2789
Lytham1488
Nottingham1559
Peterborough1355
Plymouth3694
Stevenage1967
Swansea1466
Tunbridge Wells3587
Weymouth2259
These figures include all types of dealings. There are no separate figures which relate only to dealing which give rise to a change of ownership. Dealings with part of a title take longer to register because they involve the creation of new titles for which title plans have to be prepared. There have been particular difficulties in regard to the Croydon office which it is hoped will be resolved shortly.

Divorce (Financial Consequences)

asked the Attorney-General what progress is being made in the review of the law concerning the financial consequences of divorce.

Following the discussion paper which the Law Commission issued last year, it has submitted to the Lord Chancellor a report on the financial consequences of divorce. The result is expected to be published on 15 December.

Land Charges Register

asked the Attorney-General what progress has been made under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act to computerise all the records under the local land charges register.

Clause 27 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is designed to enable local authorities to computerise their local land charges registers. Should that clause be enacted, it will be for individual local authorities to decide whether and when to take advantage of it. Local authorities are already able to keep their local land charges registers on microfilm and some already do so.

Scotland

Prescriptions

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish in the Official Report the number of prescriptions issued during the last three years where the item or items dispensed cost less than the prescription charge.

This information is not available for Scotland. In relation to England and Wales I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by the Minister for Health on 8 December.—[Vol. 14, c. 364.]

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish in the Official Report (a) the number of prescriptions dispensed in each of the last three years and (b) the number of these prescriptions which were dispensed free of charge.

Prescriptions dispensed in Scotland by chemist contractors and appliance suppliers numbered, 34·63 million in 1978, 34·41 million in 1979 and 34·35 million in 1980. Of these prescriptions, 21·37 million, 21·80 million and 23·60 million, respectively, were exempt from charges.

Day Care Centres

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has studied the report "Day Care Centres" by Jean Symons, published by the Centre on Environment for the Handicapped; what action he will be taking; and if he will make a statement.

This report is a study of some developments in England from 1970 to 1980, with particular reference to centres for mixed handicap groups. In Scotland responsibility for provision of such facilities rests with regional and islands councils and health boards, which are best placed to assess the implications of the study for the services which they provide.

Overseas Students

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish in the Official Report the numbers of overseas students who have enrolled in universities and colleges of education in Scotland in the years 1979, 1980 and 1981.

The enrolment of students at the universities is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The number of overseas students who enrolled in colleges of education in Scotland in the relevant academic sessions was:

Number
1979–80364
1980–81285
1981–82*202
*To date.

Village Halls (Grants)

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what grants have been given to which projects in Scotland over the last three years from the scheme of capital grants to local voluntary youth and community organisations for village halls.

The records do not differentiate between village halls and other community projects funded under the scheme. In the last three years the total grant paid in respect of community projects was:

£
1978–79173,400
1979–80197,000
1980–81565,900
The number of community projects which were the subject of grant offers in these years were 33, 37 and 38, respectively.

Oil-Related Industries

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his latest estimate of the overall effect of the oil-related industries on employment in Scotland since 1976.

It is estimated that in June 1981 the overall contribution of oil-related industries to employment in Scotland was in the range 80,000–95,000 jobs. Of this total, the Manpower Services Commission's six monthly survey of oil related companies has found that nearly 50,000 jobs were in firms which are wholly oil-related. The remainder are to be found in firms which are engaged in short term construction projects or are partly or indirectly oil related either as suppliers to the industry or through local demand effects. The comparable estimates for 1981 and earlier years are set out below.

Total
Mid 197748,000–58,000
Mid 197855,000–65,000
Mid 197970,000–85,000
Mid 198075,000–90,000
Mid 198180,000–95,000

Loch Doon

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will announce his decision on the Loch Doon planning appeal.

In the light of the reorientation of the geological research programme for heat generating wastes referred to in the reply given today by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services, and the decision that exploratory drilling will not be needed for this purpose for the time being, I am dismissing the appeal and refusing planning permission. My decision will be issued shortly.

Industry

Investment Loans And Grants

asked the Secretary of State for Industry whether he will publish in the Official Report a table showing how much was paid out in each of the past three years, to (a) manufacturing and (b) non-manufacturing industry by way of loans and grants, respectively, for investment, distinguishing as appropriate between various categories.

Financial assistance has been made available to manufacturing and non-manufacturing industries in Great Britain under parts I and II of the Industry Act 1972 in each of the last three years as follows:

Part I Payments of regional development grants
Manufacturing £ millionNon-manufacturing £ million
1978–79388·928·1
1979–80318·911·9
1980–81484·56·1
Part II Section 7: Payments of regional selective assistance
Grants £ millionLoans £ millionGrants £ millionLoans £ million
1978–7988·94·83·5
1979–8068·51·03·9
1980–8164·30·16·1
Part II Section 8: Payment of selective financial assistance
Grants £ millionLoans £ millionGrants £ millionLoans £ million
1978–7959·63·7
1979–8068·95·1
1980–8169·54·3
Regional development grants ceased to be available to non-manufacturing industries from 1 April 1977. Loans under section 7 were not offered after 17 July 1979 and the sectoral and investment schemes under section 8 had no provision for loans.

North-West Region (Subsidies)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many firms in (a) the North-West, (b) Merseyside, (c) Kirkby and (d) Ormskirk are currently in receipt of some form of Government subsidy.

Complete information in relation to firms could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.Selective financial assistance under the Industry Act 1972 and the Science and Technology Act 1965 has been made as follows:

Number of Projects
North-West1,509
Merseyside268
Kirkby23
Ormskirk50

A number of firms will have more than one project or will be receiving more than one form of assistance. Many other firms in the region will have benefited from payments of regional development grant.

Firms also benefit from schemes run by other Departments and these are matters for my right hon. Friends responsible for such Departments.

Electricity Boards (Deposits From Small Businesses)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if, pursuant to his policy to promote the interests of small firms, he will seek to make arrangements with the electricity boards which would enable them to end the practice of requiring from small firms setting up in business deposits of up to £1,000 in advance of future electricity charges.

The electricity boards are not my responsibility and such deposits are a matter for them. I am, however, concerned that they, along with other monopoly suppliers, should whenever possible take into account the particular difficulties and needs of small firms. I am currently looking into the background to a number of complaints which I have received from small firms.

Industrial Development Certificates (Staff Savings)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he can give an estimate of the saving in central and local government staffing which will be achieved by the suspension of industrial development certificates.

Suspension will provide immediate savings in my Department worth over £100,000 a year and a further saving of some £30,000 a year from August 1982 when the control was due to be reimposed in areas losing assisted area status.The local government staff saving cannot be quantified.

In-Plant Training

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will extend the in-plant training scheme operated under section 9 of the Industry Act to projects providing less than 25 jobs.

Yes. We have decided to improve the scheme by abolishing the requirement that projects must provide a minimum of 25 jobs in order to qualify for assistance. This means that from today the scheme will be open to projects of any size where the training element is essential to the success of the project and the criteria for section 7 assistance are met. In addition, the scheme is being extended to service industry projects and to intermediate areas although projects in special development areas and development areas will have first call on the limited resources available from the European social fund which meets half the cost of the scheme.

Truck Component Development (Support)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry (1) if he is satisfied with his Department's support to truck and component manufacturers to encourage innovative undercarriage and suspension systems; and if he will make a statement;(2) if he is satisfied that his Department has given sufficient support to lorry component manufacturers in order to ensure that new inventions can be exploited by United Kingdom manufacturers in order to reduce the impact on the environment of the lorry used on United Kingdom roads;(3) if he will allocate funds towards the development of new truck undercarriage systems that will result in a more even distribution of axle loads.

As might be expected, the majority of development work aimed at improving undercarriage and suspension systems is carried out by the manufacturers but funds are available on an industry-wide basis through the various departmental support schemes. Among the large number of individual cases considered by the Department over the past two years there have been a number relating to undercarriage and suspension systems and these have been considered relative to their merits and the available funds. My Department is aware of a number of ways in which improvement in these systems might contribute to reduction of road damage by lorries.

Small Business Assistance (Finance)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry which agencies giving help and advice to small businesses are financed wholly or partly by the Exchequer; and what is the annual cost of each.

The principal agencies are the small firms service of the Department of Industry and the Council for Small Industries in Rural Areas—CoSIRA—which is administered by the Development Commission.The cost of the small firms service in 1981–82 is estimated to be £3 million. Questions about the cost of CoSIRA should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Regional Preferential Assistance

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will give the figures for total expenditure on regional preferential assistance to industry for each year since 1977–78 in (a) Scotland, (b) Wales and (c) Great Britain; if he will break the figures down to show the various sources of the assistance; and if, in each case, he will give for Scotland and for Wales the percentages, taking England as base.

Gross expenditure for the years 1977–78 to 1980–81 on regional preferential assistance to industry in Scotland, Wales and Great Britain is as follows:

£ million
1977–781978–791979–801980–81
Scotland146160142197
Wales91111110177
Great Britain507628562731
The main items of regional preferential assistance to industry in 1980–81 are as follows:

£ million
ScotlandWalesGreat Britain
Regional development grant113104491
Selective financial assistance (section 7)217*71
ScotlandWalesGreat Britain
Land and factories:
(i) Local Employment Act assistance34
(ii) Scottish and Welsh
Development Agencies:4760107
Highlands and Islands
Development Board1111
Other items†4617
Total197177731
* Includes some expenditure which cannot be broken down to a regional level.
† The other items cover tourism, small firms employment subsidy—regional preferential element—expenditure by the Development Board for Rural Wales.
Using the expenditure in England as a base the indices for Scotland and Wales are as follows:

1977–781978–791979–801980–81
England100100100100
Scotland54454656
Wales34313550

Manufacturing Industry (Inter-Regional Movement)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will give figures for inter-regional movement of manufacturing industry to development areas since 1966.

Statistics for inter-regional movement of manufacturing industry to the development areas 1966–75 have been published in table 4.5 of the Department of Industry report "Industrial movement in the United Kingdom 1966–75" by R. J. Pounce—HMSO 1981. Information has subsequently become available which indicates that a further 6,000 jobs will be created by inter-regional moves to the development areas which commenced operation in 1976 and 1977. Information for later years is not yet available.

Yorkshire And Humberside (European Community Aid)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry (1) if he will make a statement on the effect of the Commission's proposals for the allocating of European regional development funds upon the Yorkshire and Humberside region;(2) whether he will initiate discussions with the local authority representatives of Yorkshire and Humberside on the Commission's proposals for the allocation of European regional development funds.

The European Commission has proposed to the Council new criteria for the distribution of the quota section of the European regional development fund, which is at present shared between all member States. These new criteria, based on considerations of regional GDP and long-term unemployment, would exclude six mainland member States altogether, so that the fund would be shared principally between regions in the United Kingdom, Greece, the Republic of Ireland and Italy. However, the same criteria would have the effect of excluding the South-West, East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside regions of the United Kingdom, which is naturally less welcome. We shall be exploring the justification for this during the discussions on the Commission's proposal, which is subject to the agreement of the Council. All the regions named would, of course, continue to be eligible for aid under the non-quota section of the fund, which the Commission proposes should be enlarged.The Government are keeping closely in touch with the local authority associations, and I see no need for individual discussions with particular local authorities at this stage.

Bridlington (Comparisons)

asked the Secretary of State for Industry how many development areas and special development areas have a lower male unemployment rate than the Bridlington travel-to-work area.

On the basis of the November unemployment figures, 24 special development areas and 56 development areas.

Employment

Industrial Retraining Places

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the total number of Government industrial retraining places in each planning region of Great Britain; and if he will express the number of training places as a percentage of both the total insured work force and the total unemployed in each region.

This information is not available in the form requested. The following table shows the planned number of entrants to training courses being run under the auspices of the Manpower Services Commission's training opportunities scheme in each of teh Commission's training regions in 1981–82.

RegionsPlanned Numbers of Entrants to TOPS TrainingPercentage of *Insured Work ForcePercentage of Unemployed (October 1981)
Scotland9,0520·382·78
Northern5,6890·402·63
Yorks and Humberside5,6270·242·03
North-West9,8400·322·32
Midlands10,5880·252·01
Wales4,3950·372·58
South-West5,3460·282·97
South-East10,6210·222·54
London10,3590·253·05
*Based on number of employees
in employment June 1981·
self employed June 1975·
registered unemployed October 1981·

Handicapped And Disabled Persons

asked the Secretary of State for Employment (1) if he will seek to implement the recommendations of the report of the European Parliament on the motions for resolutions concerning the economic, social and vocational integration of disabled people in the European Community, with particular reference to the International Year of Disabled People 1981, which fall within the responsibility of his Department; and if he will make a statement;

(2) if he will seek to implement the recommendations of the report of the Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities on the situation and problems of the handicapped which fall within the responsibility of his Department, and if he will make a statement;

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to him today by my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security.

Dock Work Regulation Scheme (Disputes)

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many working hours have been lost by disputes in ports covered by the dock work regulation scheme so far in 1981.

The information is not available in the form requested. The National Dock Labour Board advises me that between 1 January 1981 and 4 December 1981 89,736 working days were lost in the 80 ports covered by the dock work regulation scheme.

Leyton And Walthamstow

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many of the unemployed in the Leyton and Walthamstow area have been on the register for more than one, two and three years, respectively; and what were the comparable figures one year previously.

The following table gives the numbers of unemployed people who at October 1980 and October 1981 had been on the register for the lengths of time specified in the area covered by the Leyton, Leytonstone and Walthamstow employment offices:

Duration in weeksOctober 1980October 1981
Over 52 and up to 104 weeks4411,775
Over 104 and up to 156 weeks216269
Over 156 weeks213316

Wage Rates

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what are the names of the 936 employers who were found to be paying below wages council minimum rates in the 10 months from January to October 1981, mentioned in his reply of 2 December, Official Report, column 133.

Maternity Pay Fund

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the present balance in the maternity pay fund.

Employment Protection (Variation Of Limits) Order 1981

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what have been the percentage increases in the limits listed in the draft statutory instrument, the Employment Protection (Variation of Limits) Order 1981, for each year since their introduction; and how this compares in each of those years with the increase year-on-year, at the time of the laying of the order, in retail prices, average earnings, and, where relevant, the tax and price index.

Under the Redundancy Payments Act 1965, the maximun amount of a week's pay that could be used for calculating redundancy payments was £40, increased to £80 in 1974.Under the Employment Protection Act 1975 an £80 limit on a week's pay was adopted for amounts payable under the insolvency provisions—from April 1976—and for the basic and additional awards of compensation for unfair dismissal—from June 1976. The guarantee pay provisions of the Act were brought into operation in February 1977 at the rate of £6 per day.These limits remained unchanged until the first annual review under the Act took place in autumn 1977 which varied the limits with effect from February 1978. Each year since then, orders have been laid in November or December after the annual review varying the limits with effect from the following February.The following table shows the year-on-year percentage increases in the limits—February to February from 1977—compared with the increases in retail prices, average earnings and the tax and prices index for the year to the September preceding the laying date.

Percentage increases Year on year
Limit on a week's payGuarantee pay
February to FebruaryPer cent.Per cent.
1977–19782510
1978–1979109·8
1979–809·110·3
1980–19818·39·4
1981–1982 (proposed)3·84·6
Percentage increases Year on year
Retail pricesAverage earningsTax and prices
September to SeptemberPer cent.Per cent.Per cent.
1976–197715·67·714·2
1977–19787·815·11·9
1978–197916·514·514·1
1979–1898015·926·017·3
1980–198111·49·314·9

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what adjustment would be needed to each of the limits listed in the draft statutory instrument, the Employment Protection (Variation of Limits) Order 1981, to restore them to their values at the time of introduction.

The weekly earnings limit for redundancy payments was fixed at £40 in 1965. An increase to approximately £200 would be necessary to keep in line with increases in the retail price index to September 1981. The earnings limit for the insolvency provisions and for basic awards under the unfair dismissal provisions of the Employment Protection (Consolidation) Act 1978 have, since their introduction, been the same as that applied to redundancy payments.

The limit for guarantee pay was fixed initially at £6 per day in February 1977. Based on the RPI increase to September 1981 a current figure of approximately £10 would have the same value.

Redundancy Fund

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he intends to introduce the order to increase employers' rebates from the redundancy fund.

Average Gross Weekly Earnings

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what were the figures for average gross weekly earnings of (a) full-time manual men over 21 years and (b) full-time employees, men and women, in (i) Scotland, (ii) Wales and (iii) England, for each year since 1978; and if he will express the figures for Scotland, Wales and England as percentages of the figures for Great Britain.

The following figures are taken from the reports on the "New Earnings Survey" and relate to April each year.

Average gross weekly earnings of full-time employees whose pay was not affected by absence in the survey period
Manual men aged 21 and overAll men aged 21 and overAll women aged 18 and over
£As percentage of Great Britain average£As percentage of Great Britain average£As percentage of Great Britain
Scotland
197881·4100·988·599·354·696·8
197993·6100·6101·299·860·495·9
1980112·2100·4123·198·974·794·8
1981124·8102·4140·099·687·195·3
Wales
197880·9100·286·196·653·995·6
197994·1101·297·296·361·497·5
1980111·399·6119·195·775·495·7
1981120·398·7132·794·487·595·7
England
197880·699·989·3100·256·7100·5
197992·999·9101·6100·263·5100·8
1980111·499·7124·7100·279·5100·9
1981121·699·8141·0100·492·1100·8

Source: Tables 12 and 13 of Part A of the reports on the "New Earnings Survey" 1978 to 1981.

Unemployment Statistics

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will give annual average percentage figures for unemployment in Scotland, Wales and the United Kingdom in each year since 1978; and if he will express the figures for Scotland and Wales as percentages, using the United Kingdom figures as 100.

The following table gives the annual average percentage rates of unemployment for 1978, 1979 and 1980 for Scotland, Wales and the United Kingdom and expresses the rates for Scotland and Wales as percentages of those for the United Kingdom.

Percentage rates of unemploymentPercentage rates for Scotland and Wales as percentages of those for United Kingdom
ScotlandWalesUnited KingdomScotlandWales
19788·28·36·1134136
19798·07·95·7140139
198010·010·37·4135139

Offshore Survival Courses (Grants And Allowances)

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what grants or allowances are available to employed or unemployed persons wishing to take offshore survival courses.

[pursuant to his reply, 15 December 1981, c. 90]: No grants or allowances are available for offshore survival courses under the various programmes of training run by the Manpower Services Commission as these courses are considered to be the responsibility of the offshore industry.

Northern Ireland

Housing Benefit

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will ensure that any new provisions for housing benefit can be brought into force in Northern Ireland at the same time as in Great Britain.

Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 (Arrests)

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will publish in the Official Report the number of arrests made by members of Her Majesty's forces serving in Northern Ireland under section 14 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act since January.

During the period 1 January to 1 December 1981, 1,856 person were arrested under section 14 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 by members of Her Majesty's forces serving in Northern Ireland.

United States Deputy Secretary Of State (Talks)

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland who requested the meeting that he had with Mr. William Clark, United States Deputy Secretary of State; what matters he discussed with Mr. Clark; and whether these included the question of a united Ireland.

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement regarding his discussions with the United States Deputy Secretary of State.

The Government learnt that the United States Deputy Secretary of State was visiting the Federal Republic of Germany and the Republic of Ireland in early December and therefore took the opportunity to invite him to have talks in London with Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers and with me.At my meeting with Judge Clark I explained Her Majesty's Government's policy in Northern Ireland. The desirability of increasing American investment in Northern Ireland and the need to ensure that the facts about terrorism there are properly understood in the United States were also discussed.We did not discuss the unification of Ireland. The United States Government's position on this issue was most recently stated on 8 December when a State Department spokesman said—as reported in the

New York Times on 9 December—that

"the United States has no policy or position on the question of Irish reunification".

Industry And Employment

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has completed his plans to simplify the existing arrangements for promoting employment and industry in the Province.

My right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State made a statement on economic development in Northern Ireland on 13 August, a copy of which was placed in the Library. Work is still proceeding on the plans he announced then for the creation both of a Department of Economic Development, and of an industrial development board under its aegis. My right hon. Friend hopes to publish proposals early in 1982 for draft Orders-in-Council setting up the new department and the board.

Ulster Farmers Union

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when he last met the Ulster Farmers Union; and if he will make a statement.

I met representatives of the Ulster Farmers Union on 9 December. A useful discussion took place on inland fisheries.

Agriculture (Industry)

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has any plans to increase financial assistance to agriculture in Northern Ireland.

I am currently considering the need for additional aid to Northern Ireland agriculture in 1982–83 and thereafter.

Integrated Operations Experiment (Belfast)

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement regarding the progress about financial assistance to be provided by the European Commission towards the integrated operations experiment in Belfast.

The European Commission is now considering the illustrative document which I presented to Commissioner Giolitti in Brussels in May. I hope that the Commission will soon be in a position to make a detailed response. Meanwhile, the Commission has separately proposed a scheme to grant-aid housing in Northern Ireland within the context of the proposed integrated operation. The Commission formally proposed this to the Council on 19 November. The Council is presently considering the draft regulation and the opinions of the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee have been sought. I hope that the Council will be in a position to adopt the regulation early next year. There is at the moment no provision in the Communities' draft 1982 budget to fund any such grant, but I am reasonably confident that the money will be found once the regulation has been adopted.

Electricity (Supply And Cost)

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the supply and cost of electricity in Northern Ireland.

The supply and cost of electricity in Northern Ireland have been the subject of a wide-ranging review. As a result of that review, and in fulfilment of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's commitment of 5 March that electricity tariffs in Northern Ireland should be brought more closely into line with those in England and Wales and kept there, my right hon. Friend, the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, announced on 8 May that:

  • (a) tariffs charged to industrial consumers in Northern Ireland would be on a par with the highest in England and Wales; and
  • (b) until 1 April 1982 when the differential would be totally eliminated, tariffs for domestic consumers in Northern Ireland would not be more than 5 per cent. above the highest in England and Wales.
  • This policy is being implemented.My right hon. Friend also announced that the Northern Ireland Electricity Service, at the Government's request, would put in hand a series of studies on the longer-term options for reducing its dependence on oil for electricity generation. These studies are now under way.

    Day Care Centres

    asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has studied the report "Day Care Centres" by Jean Symons, published by the Centre on Environment for the Handicapped; what action he will be taking; and if he will make a statement.

    I have not yet seen the report published earlier this month, but I understand that it is a study of day care centres in England. When available, copies will be brought to the attention of the four health and social services boards in Northern Ireland.

    Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

    Intervention Stocks

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what were the levels of the stock of the major agricultural products held in intervention storage by the European Commission for the latest convenient date, expressed in terms of number of days' consumption; and how these stocks compare with comparable dates in 1978, 1979 and 1980.

    The following table lists stocks of major agricultural products held in intervention storage by the European Community as at 31 October 1981 and comparable dates from 1978 to 1980, expressed as number of days' consumption.

    Number of Days Consumption for the EEC
    Commodity1978*1979*1980*1981*
    Olive Oil57293460
    Beef13·715·516·711·9
    Barley1·70·69·69·1
    Wheat8·21·646·927·1
    Rye61·364·260·446·2
    Durum6·512·712·920·3
    Butter4667382
    Skimmed Milk Powder153585275

    Notes:

    * Based on 1980–81 consumption levels, excluding Greece, for years before 1981.

    † As at 30 November.

    ‡ As at 26 October.

    Pigmeat

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now press for better European Economic Commission basic prices for pigmeat, as well as improved import protection, in view of the expansion of the United Kingdom breeding herd, the availability of cereals at lower prices, and the consequent prospects for a revival in the industry.

    Negotiations to fix Community prices for 1982–83, including the basic price for pigmeat, are expected to start shortly. I shall take into account in the discussions all the relevant factors, including those mentioned by the hon. Member.

    Sugar Beet

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the tonnage of sugar beet produed in each European Community country, the weights of sugar produced, the surplus available for export and the total of subsidy provided out of Community funds.

    In 1979–80, the latest year for which sugar beet production figures are available, the provisional figures of quantity of sugar beet processed into sugar and the amount of sugar beet produced were:

    Sugar beet ('000 tonnes)White sugar ('000 tonnes)
    France24,0003,972
    United Kingdom7,6591,154
    Italy12,9641,562
    Belgium6,470912
    Netherlands5,782853
    Denmark3,099453
    Ireland1,321174
    Germany18,5442,399
    In the same period a total of 3·907 million tonnes of sugar was exported from the Community at a net cost of 322 MECU. Part of this cost was met by levies on sugar producers.

    Agriculture Ministers (Meeting)

    asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels on 15 December; and if he will make a statement.

    I represented the United Kingdom at this Council under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend.

    The Council considered the Community's 1982 import quotas for frozen beef, calves for fattening, and manufacturing beef. France and Ireland refused to agree to the proposed arrangements which all other countries were prepared to accept.

    On ACP sugar, I made it clear that we would only agree to any alteration in the 7½ per cent. price increase for raw sugar from ACP countries decided at the last price-fixing provided our refiners were properly compensated for the reduction in their margin which this would produce. The Commission proposed to do so by abolishing the storage refund and levy scheme for ACP sugar but other member States insisted on no more than a limited adjustment for the current year only. This matter was not resolved.

    The United Kingdom and Germany raised the question of the substantial new package of national aids for her agriculture industry which France had recently announced. With strong support from other countries, I underlined the potential distortion of competition and the encouragement to surplus production which these represented, and I urged the Commission to investigate promptly and to take swift and effective action against any illegal aids. It was essential to avoid the delay which had rendered ineffective the Commission's decision against a similar package last year. This would be a test case of its willingness to act quickly. The French said that their proposals were still under discussion and no final decisions had yet been taken. The Commissoner reported that the aids had not been notified to him and that he had asked France for details of the package by 21 December.

    Transport

    Transport Act 1981

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he intends to consult representative organisations on the form of the regulations referred to in subsections (1), (5), (6) and (7) of section 23 of the Transport Act 1981 and to lay such regulations before Parliament.

    My Department wrote to representative organisations on 2 November consulting them about the regulations prescribing the two part motorcycle test for which subsections 6 and 7 of section 23 of the Act provides. It is hoped to make and lay the regulations early in 1982. Consultations about the changes in regulations related to the motor cycle provisional licence, provided for by subsections (1) and (5) of that section of the Act, will take place in the spring with a view to making and laying the regulations in the summer.

    Business Cars (Mileage)

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport what effect he estimates the raising to 2,500 of the minimum annual mileage necessary to secure definition of a car as a business car will have upon total business mileage.

    The effect on total car mileage for business purposes is expected to be minimal.

    Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Transport)

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport (1) how many accidents have been recorded in the last three years involving vehicles transporting liquefied petroleum gas; and what special arrangements are made to ensure the safety of such vehicles;(2) what special arrangements are made to secure public safety in regard to the transport by road of liquefied petroleum gas; and if he has consulted the views of public fire services.

    The Health and Safety Executive is aware of one accident and three dangerous occurrences involving the carriage of liquefied petroleum gas in 1979 and one accident and one dangerous occurrence in 1980. Since comprehensive reporting arrangements under the Notification of Accidents and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1980 came into operation from 1 January 1981, such incidents involving the carriage of LPG have been reportable and one accident and three dangerous occurrences have been notified.From 1 January 1982 the Dangerous Substances (Conveyance by Road in Road Tankers and Tank Containers) Regulations 1981 will place a duty on the operator of such a vehicle to ensure that the carrying tank or tank container is suitably constructed and adequately maintained. These regulations will also cover driver training and instruction and the appropriate working of the vehicle. Approved codes of practice will support the regulations on points of construction and operation. Further controls over the carriage of dangerous goods in packages are currently under discussion: the first stage would cover LPG in cylinders with a capacity of 200 litres and above. There were extensive consultations with the fire services and other interested organisations in the course of preparing these regulations.