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Written Answers

Volume 31: debated on Thursday 4 November 1982

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Written Answers To Questions

Thursday 4 November 1982


Royal Ordnance Factories

asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he plans to make any changes to the management of the Royal ordnance factories.

I am pleased to be able to announce that Mr. F. Clarke, who until recently was a director and general manager of IBM(UK), has today taken up a new appointment as chairman and chief executive of the Royal ordnance factories for a period of two years in the first instance. In this post Mr. Clarke will be responsible for planning and supervising the development of the ROFs into a free-standing commercial organisation, and for directing and expanding the business of the ROFs both within the United Kingdom and abroad. He will act as accounting officer to Parliament while the business of the ROFs is still managed under a trading fund.In his new post Mr. Clarke will assume the chairmanship of the ROF board from my noble friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement who will continue to exercise day-to-day ministerial responsibility for the ROFs.I see this appointment as an important step in the process of changing the status of the ROFs in order to enable their business to be developed further for the benefit of the country and the employees of the ROFs.

National Finance

£1 Coin

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what progress he has to announce on the issue of the £1 coin.

It was earlier announced that the £1 coin would be issued sometime in April 1983. It has now been decided that the issue for general circulation will take place on 21 April 1983. Stocks will be available in the banks on that date.

Education And Science

Teachers (Redundancy)

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what compensation is payable to advanced further education teachers who lose their posts by reason of redundancy.

Teachers aged 50 and over who are declared redundant qualify for a statutory redundancy payment in the normal way and for immediate payment of accrued superannuation benefits with enhancement of both the lump sum and the annual pension at the discretion of the employing authority. In addition, for the academic years 1982 to 1985 only, I propose to allow local education authorities and governors of voluntary and direct grant colleges in England and Wales discretion to offer improved redundancy terms to teachers in advanced further education and between the ages of 41 and 49. The discretion will not extend to teachers in other sectors or to non-teaching staff in advanced further education. The improved terms would provide for a maximum of two weeks' pay for each year of service up to 25 years, plus two weeks' pay for each year of age beyond 41, subject to an overall maximum of 66 weeks' pay.I shall be laying regulations before the House shortly to implement this proposal.

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Newcastle Disease

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will implement revised import safeguards against the introduction of Newcastle disease.

I announced on 8 October that I was sending to the European Commission and to other member States details of the health measures which the Government have decided to apply to imports of poultrymeat and eggs into Great Britain from other Community countries except Denmark and the Republic of Ireland. These requirements are stricter in some respects than the proposals put to the Government earlier by the Commission and will permit the resumption of trade while safeguarding poultry health in this country as required by the judgment of the European Court in case 40/82.The French authorities gave us an early reply and we have since had detailed discussions with them both on the assurances we require on the control of Newcastle disease in France and on the certification which they will supply to meet our requirements. As a result, imports of poultrymeat and eggs from France to Great Britain will be permitted from 8 November subject to their compliance with the full conditions notified to France last month. I shall arrange for copies of the relevant conditions to be placed in the Library of the House. These measures will apply to imports from France only. A further announcement will be make when we have had replies from other countries and have discussed detailed arrangements with them.


Contraceptives (Report)

asked the Minister for Trade when the Monopolies and Mergers Commission report on the supply of contraceptive sheaths is to be published; and if he will make a statement.

The report is published today. The commission found that a scale monopoly situation existed in favour of LRC Products Ltd. (LRC). This report is a sequel to an earlier report—publication of which was announced on 6 February 1975—which identified LR Industries Ltd. (LRI), a subsidiary of LRC International plc and the precursor of LRC Products Ltd., as a monopolist in the supply of contraceptive sheaths and found both the monopoly it enjoyed and the prices it charged to be against the public interest. After that investigation LRI and LRC International gave various undertakings to the Secretary of State, the main effect of which was that any changes in the home prices of contraceptive sheaths had to be approved by the Director General of Fair Trading. In 1981 LRC International claimed that the limitation placed upon its profits through regulation of its pricing policy was inhibiting necessary investment and other developments in its business. LRC was none the less still the dominant supplier in the market. The Director General considered that it was appropriate, in view of the passage of time and the changing economic climate, for a reassessment to be made of the extent to which controls were necessary; and he therefore re-referred the subject to the commission. In this second investigation the commission was asked to report on whether a monopoly situation existed and if so whether the current or proposed prices charged for contraceptive sheaths operated, or might operate, against the public interest.In its present report the commission concluded that LRC's prices were not effectively constrained by market forces and, having borne in mind the history of very high profit levels as recorded in the earlier report, it thought it likely that in the absence of control the company's prices for contraceptive sheaths might be expected to become excessive. It concluded that this would adversely affect the public interest.In order to remedy this adverse effect the commission recommended that LRC should undertake that its United Kingdom average realised prices of contraceptive sheaths would not increase at an annual rate greater than 1·5 percentage points less than any percentage rise in a special index constructed to reflect LRC's costs of production. It also recommended that LRC should provide the Director General with details of sales, price changes and other information to enable him to monitor the undertaking. The undertaking should be reviewed after five years. If the company failed to give or failed to abide by the undertaking it should be required to make no price increases without the prior approval of the Director General, who would need to be satisfied that a proposed increase would be in line with the proposed undertaking.I accept the findings of this report, and am asking the Director General of Fair Trading to enter into discussions with the company with a view to agreeing on measures to implement the commission's recommendations.

Northern Ireland

Electricity Service (Efficiency Audit)

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what arrangements have been made for the efficiency audit of the Northern Ireland Electricity Service.

Following consideration of proposals from a number of firms the Northern Ireland Electricity Service has appointed Beecom Management Consultants Ltd., working in association with Armitage Norton Consultants and Ewbank and Partners Ltd. to carry out the study.The purpose of the study will be to:

  • (a) report on the various activities of the service and the level of efficiency and quality of service provided in each case;
  • (b) establish whether the service by improving its efficiency or by other means could reduce its costs or offset the effects of any increase in its costs; and
  • (c) to provide recommendations about how and where such improvements could be made by the service or by Government.
  • The study is to be completed by March 1983.


    Tenant Management Co-Operatives

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress is being made with his Department's second study of tenant management cooperatives.

    The report on this study entitled "Management Co-operatives: Tenant Responsibilities in Practice" is being published today. It describes the experience of selected tenant co-operatives in the early years of managing their own local authority housing, and draws conclusions on the possible advantages for both local authorities and tenants. Copies have been placed in the Library and are being made available to local authorities.

    Local Authorities (Block Grant)

    asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he will be announcing his proposals to abate block grant for local authorities overspending in 1983–84.

    The local authority associations have today been consulted on three possible schemes for abating block grant in 1983–84. Under scheme A, for every 1 per cent. of spending above target, block grant would be abated by the equivalent of a 4p rate poundage at ratepayer level. Under scheme B, for each of the first two percentage points of spending above target, the grant losses would be 1p. For every percentage point thereafter, the grant loss would be 5p. Under scheme C, for each of the first two percentage points above target, the grant loss would be 1p. For every percentage point thereafter, the grant loss would be 3p. Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Library.



    asked the Secretary of State for Transport when he intends to bring forward a comprehensive package of measures relating to lorries, people and the environment.

    We have developed for the first time a comprehensive package of measures to place more effective controls on heavy lorry traffic throughout the country, and to make lorries less objectionable to people and less damaging to the environment. These include more new roads and bypasses, to relieve communities of traffic; regulations to make lorries safer and quieter; more controls on the routes that lorries take and on where they park; special assistance for areas most severly affected by lorries; more attractive grants to encourage freight shipment by rail and inland waterways; and tighter enforcement of standards.

    The Government will not permit any increase in the size of articulated lorry trailers. They will be subject to new length and height restrictions and to existing restrictions on width. While no lorries will be permitted which will be any larger—in any dimension—than those already in use on our roads, fuller lorry loads will be permitted so as to obtain full economic benefits, to create jobs but also to keep lorry journeys to a minimum. The maximum permitted weight of articulated lorries will therefore be set at 38 tonnes, subject to their having five axles. There will be no other increase in lorry weights. This will ensure that no new type of lorry will cause more road damage than present permitted maximum weight lorries and that overall there will be a reduction in road damage. The new tax structure introduced in October provides a basis for taxing new lorries in line with their share of road track costs.

    I have placed in the Vote Office copies of a memorandum describing these measures in detail. The necessary regulations on lorry safety, dimensions and weights will be laid very shortly. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will shortly be making statutory rules to apply these provisions in Northern Ireland.

    These measures represent the first attempt to tackle comprehensively the problems which lorries cause. and to reconcile the needs of our economy with those of people and the environment.

    Disabled Persons

    asked the Secretary of State for Transport if he will arrange for an exhibition relating to transport for disabled people to be displayed in the Upper Waiting Hall.

    I understand that arrangements have been made with the authorities of the House for the exhibition to be held in the Upper Waiting Hall from 15 to 19 November 1982.