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Non-Departmental Public Bodies

Volume 33: debated on Friday 3 December 1982

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asked the Minister for Trade (1) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the Air Travel Reserve Fund Agency is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments";(2) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the British Film Fund Agency is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments";(3) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the Civil Aviation Authority is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments";(4) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the National Film Finance Corporation is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments".

asked the Minister for Trade what practical steps he has taken to establish that the British Hallmarking Council is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments".

Following the Pliatzky recommendation, I have instituted a five-year rolling programme of reviews in which the council is included.The last review of the BHC was carried out in July this year, and I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given to his question on 2 December.—[Vol. 33, c.

239.]

asked the Minister for Trade (1) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the British Overseas Trade Board is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments";(2) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the Simplification of International Trade Procedures Board is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments."

asked the Minister for Trade (1) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the British Tourist Authority is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments";(2) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the English Tourist Board is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments."

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given in reply to his question of 29 November.—[Vol. 33 c. 61.]

asked the Minister for Trade what practical steps he has taken to establish that the Hearing Aid Council is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments."

The Hearing Aid Council was established by the Hearing Aid Council Act 1968. The council is not answerable to the Secretary of State for the conduct of its statutory responsibilities. There are 12 council members, including the chairman. The only staff employed by the council is a part-time registrar, whose accountancy firm provides the necessary office services. The council meets three or four times a year. The running expenses of the council in 1981 were £14,577 a year and were met from registration and retention fees. The chairman believes that the council is doing its work effectively, efficiently and with economy.

asked the Minister for Trade what practical steps he has taken to establish that the National Metrological Co-ordination Unit is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments."

The unit was established under the Weights and Measures Act 1979 to perform essential work. My Department monitors the unit's activities and expenditure and, in particular, examines with the unit its proposals for activities and expenditure in the context of the unit's annual budget. A copy of the unit's first annual report and audited statement of accounts required by sections 9 and 10 of the Weights and Measures Act 1979 was placed in the Library of the House on 10 December 1981. I expect to receive the second report shortly.

asked the Minister for Trade what practical steps he has taken to establish that the Policyholders Protection Board is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments."

The Policyholders Protection Board was set up under the Policyholders Protection Act 1975. The board's activities are financed by the insurance industry and no public expenditure is involved.The workings of the Act and of the board were reviewed by my Department last year. The report we published—HC 363 of June 1981–found that no major changes were needed in the scope of the Act, the level of protection, or in the functions and composition of the board.I remain satisfied that the board is carrying out its duties.

asked the Minister for Trade what practical steps he has taken to establish that the Red Sea Lights Company Limited is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments."

This company was formed to undertake the responsibilities that fall to Her Majesty's Government under the Red Sea lights agreement. The company is subject to all the requirements of the Companies Acts and is limited by the guarantee of its members. They are officials of my Department, accountable to me for the company's effectiveness, efficiency and economy. None of the company's costs fall on the Exchequer—the United Kingdom contribution is met from the general lighthouse fund—but the company's articles require its accounts to be subject to scrutiny by the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Most of the company's costs are met by the other Governments who are parties to the agreement. Their representatives are provided with detailed accounts and meet annually to discuss them with the company's management.

asked the Minister for Trade what practical steps he has taken to establish that the National Consumer Council is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments".

The council's chairman and I are in regular touch about its work. In this and other ways we keep its activities under continuing review, within the framework of the financial and manpower controls to which I referred in reply to my hon. Friend's previous question on 2 December.—[Vol. 33, c. 238–39.]

asked the Minister for Trade what practical steps he has taken to establish that the nationalised industries consumer councils are doing their work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, arid that they continue to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments".

These matters have been reviewed in our examination of the NICCs, to which I referred in my reply on 1 December.—[Vol. 33, c. 206.]—to my hon. Friend's previous question.

asked the Minister for Trade (1) what practical steps he has taken to establish that the Monopolies and Mergers Commission is doing its work effectively, efficiently, and with economy, and that it continues to fulfil a useful purpose in accordance with the requirement stated in "Non-Departmental Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments";(2) when he last conducted an overall review of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission in accordance with the requirement laid down in section 7 of "Non-Department Public Bodies: A Guide for Departments"; on what grounds he decided to retain the body; and what areas for savings in finance and manpower were identified.

[pursuant to his reply, 29 November 1982, c. 61]: The commission's functions were substantially increased by the Competition Act 1980 and its staff augmented to deal with the wider role. Its reports on references provide a regular opportunity for me to monitor its work. A further review meeting the requirements in section 7 of "Non-Departmental Bodies: A Guide to Departments" will be carried out in due course.

asked the Minister for Trade when last he received written advice from the Cinematograph Films Council; and what action he has taken as a result.

[pursuant to his reply, 1 December 1982, c. 205]: On 29 November 1982. I have instructed my officials to take appropriate action.

asked the Minister for Trade when last he received written advice from the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites; and what action he has taken as a result.

[pursuant to his reply, 1 December 1982, c. 205]: The commttee meets regularly in March, July and November each year to consider proposals for designation orders and licences to survey or excavate protected sites, and makes recommendations as appropriate. So far, all the committee's recommendations have been accepted and implemented. Its most recent meeting was due to be held on 30 November to consider requests about diving activities in the coming year. I am awaiting its advice. My hon. Friend will recall that following a parliamentary question from himself on 9 December 1981–[Vol. 14, c. 412]—I decided to cut the numbers on this committee from 17 to 12.