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Written Answers

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1997

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Written Answers To Questions

Wednesday 26 November 1997

Home Department

Closed Circuit Television

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for a further round of CCTV bids supported by Home Office funding in 1998–99. [17159]

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) on 24 November 1997, Official Report, columns 630–31.

Amsterdam Treaty

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in respect of which sections of the Treaty of Amsterdam his Department contributed to the drafting. [17012]

[holding answer 20 November 1997]: The United Kingdom's position on the draft Treaty of Amsterdam was reached after consultation between relevant Government Departments.

Youth Crime

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the youth organisations he has consulted over the causes of youth crime; and if he will make a statement. [17412]

The Government have set out their policy on tackling youth crime and its causes in three consultation documents published since September 25: "Tackling Youth Crime", "New National and Local Focus on Youth Crime" and "Tackling Delays in the Youth Justice System". We have sent out over 2,000 copies of each to interested parties, including youth organisations. As of 21 November, we had received a total of 955 responses. The consultation period is now over and we aim to provide a report to Parliament on the responses as soon as is practicable.

Schengen Agreement

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department under what circumstances the technical and operational documents relating to Schengen apply to United Kingdom nationals; and what further co-operation with Schengen countries will be (a) requested and (b) expected of United Kingdom authorities. [17078]

[holding answer 24 November 1997]: The United Kingdom is not a member of Schengen and under the Treaty of Amsterdam the Schengen acquis will apply as a matter of European law in all member states except the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The Treaty of Amsterdam provides for the United Kingdom to participate in provisions of the Schengen acquis; no decision has been taken about possible United Kingdom participation.

General Pinochet

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many visits to the United Kingdom have been made by General Pinochet of Chile in each of the last three years; and what security protection is provided for him. [17827]

General Pinochet has visited the United Kingdom on three occasions in the past three years. On each occasion, he has been admitted to the United Kingdom as a visitor in accordance with the Immigration Rules. No security protection has been provided.

Extradition

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to his letter of 30 August 1997 to the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), when he expects the United Kingdom will be designated under the South African Extradition Amendment Act. [17625]

I understand that the necessary Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by President Mandela and that designation of the United Kingdom under the Extradition Amendment Act 1996 was approved by the South African parliament during its last session. The designation is to be published in the Government Gazette shortly and will come into effect on the date it is published.

Firearms Compensation Claims

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what proportion of compensation claims made under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, excluding option C claims, had been settled in (a) the Surrey County Constabulary area, (b) the Metropolitan Police area, (c) the Northern Constabulary area, (d) Orkney and (e) Shetland by 1 November; [17658](2) what proportion of claims, excluding option C claims, for compensation for those who surrendered weapons and ancillary equipment under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 had been settled by 1 November: [17657](3) by what date he expects all compensation claims under the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997, excluding option C claims, to have been settled; and if he will make a statement. [17659]

It has always been recognised that the pressure of claims received over the short hand-in period was bound to mean processing delays, and claimants were advised that they may have to wait several weeks before receiving any payment.The target for the completion of claims submitted under Option A and B is the end of March 1988, and that for the completion of claims submitted under Option C, the end of December 1998, although the great majority of claims will have been settled well within these target times. Claims are dealt with in the order in which they are received. Information about the number of claims submitted by different force areas is not yet available. As at 21 November 1997, 39,553 claims had been received, including those for small-calibre pistols submitted under the ex-gratia scheme. Of these, 18,673 payments had been made, to a value of £24 million.A number of measures have been taken to increase the processing rate by minimising distractions to examining staff. Weekend overtime is being worked, staff have been temporarily promoted to boost examiner numbers, and efforts are being made to recruit additional staff. I would like to pay tribute to the hard work of everyone in the Home Office and in individual police forces who is working so hard to cope with the challenge. It is appreciated that any delay will irritate those who have handed in their weapons, especially those who were opposed to this legislation. However, we are honouring the commitments made by the previous Government during the passage of the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 and doing as much as is reasonable to minimise delay, consistent with the need to control public expenditure, while fulfilling the clear will of Parliament.

Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs

Fazal-Ur-Rahman

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the case of Fazal-Ur-Rahman, formerly of 6 Edgecote Court, Leicester, who has applied for a visa in Islamabad (Foreign Office ref. E452510/97). [16847]

We have asked our high commissioner in Islamabad for a detailed account of the case and my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will write to my hon. Friend within one week of receiving that account.

Police Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the countries to which assistance in the training of police (a) is currently being given and (b) has been given since 1992. [17421]

This Department or the Department for Internationa] Development are funding police training for the following countries in the present financial year:

Anguilla, Belarus, Bosnia, Botswana, British Virgin Islands, Bulgaria, Cayman Islands, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Fiji, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Malawi, Mauritius, Mexico, Morocco, Mongolia, Montserrat, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine Autonomous Territory, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Phillipines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, St. Helena, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda, Uruguay, Vanuatu.
Individual serving police officers from foreign forces may currently be undertaking academic studies sponsored by this Department or the Department for International Development, or receiving training funded from other public or private sector sources, but it would involve disproportionate cost to try to establish a record of this additional training.

Police and security forces receiving sponsored training in previous years were listed in answers given on 28 February 1996, Official Report, columns 546–47, and 14 May 1996, Official Report, columns 385–87, by the then Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones); on 31 October 1996, Official Report, columns 218–19, in an answer given by the then Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Clare Short) and on 12 December 1996 in an answer by the then Minister of State for Defence, to my hon. Friend the Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd).

Imports (Verification Of Labelling)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with importers handling goods labelled "Made in Israel" on measures to verify their attribution. [17542]

In a notice to importers, published in the Official Journal of the European Communities on 8 November, the European Commission advised importers of serious doubts about the validity of all preferential certificates issued by Israel, for all products. HM Customs and Excise have given this notice wide publicity through trade associations and journals.Within the framework of the EC-Israel Agreement, Customs are carrying out inquiries to establish the true origin of a wide range of products imported from Israel. The Subjects of these inquiries include fruit juice. Customs experts from all Member States will meet shortly to discuss what further measures can be taken to verify Israeli origin declarations. EC officials will meet Israel representatives soon, following consultations with Member States, to seek a solution to this problem.

Dna Tests (Immigration)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what are the procedures for the provision of free DNA tests in circumstances where the authenticity of a family relationship is contested, for immigration purposes. [17234]

DNA tests are provided for first-time applicants wishing to settle in the UK and for persons seeking to establish an entitlement to the Right of Abode in the UK. Applicants are advised that the service is free and that participation is voluntary. Blood samples are sent to the UK for DNA analysis for comparison with a DNA sample taken from a family member in the UK. Results are normally notified to Posts within 6 weeks.

Western Sahara

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings have been held with representatives of the Polisario movement of the Western Sahara in the past six months; and if he will make a statement. [17840]

The United Nations have held direct talks with the parties involved in the Western Sahara issue. We support the UN's role in securing a settlement to the dispute.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what funding HMG has provided towards UN operations in the Western Sahara for each of the last five years. [17829]

We have made the following contributions to the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) in each of the last five financial years:

  • 1992–93: £815,057
  • 1993–94: £310,496
  • 1994–95: £22,527
  • 1995–96: £3,676,702
  • 1996–97: £641,173
The first three figures are the costs of a UK military contribution (15 military observers and the Chief of Staff) which was made from 1991–93. The last two figures show our UN-assessed contributions.The UK pays 6.568 per cent. in assessed contributions of the total yearly cost of every UN peacekeeping operation. However, because the UK's contribution to MINURSO was over-assessed in 1991–92, no bills for assessed contributions were received in the following three financial years. Our estimated contribution for 1997–98 is £700,000.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans his Department has to ensure observers are present in the Western Sahara until the United Nations referendum on its future is held; and if he will make a statement. [17842]

We support the UN mission in the Western Sahara. We have welcomed the Secretary-General's report dated 13 November 1997 to the Security Council, which contains recommendations on MINURSO's deployment. As a permanent member of the Security Council, we are playing a leading role in discussion on that deployment.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made by United Kingdom representatives at the United Nations concerning the holding of a referendum on the future of the Western Sahara; and if he will make a statement. [17839]

The United Nations is helping to prepare the ground for a referendum in Western Sahara. As a permanent member of the Security Council, the UK is playing an active role in discussions on the future deployment of MINURSO and on the UN mission.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions have been held with the Government of Morocco concerning the future of the Western Sahara. [17841]

The United Nations has held direct talks with the parties involved in the Western Sahara issue. We support the UN's role in securing a settlement to the dispute.

Egypt

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information, and from what sources, his Department has evaluated on the security of visitors to Egypt; and what guidance his Department has issued to tour operators. [17826]

We gather information from a wide range of reliable sources. We are in close contact with our Embassy in Cairo who, in turn, are in contact with the Egyptian government.Information from these sources has been distilled into the travel advice notice issued on 18 November as follows:

"In a major incident near Luxor on 17 November gunmen killed more than sixty tourists, including at least six British visitors. Since 1992 extremists have conducted a campaign of violence against the Egyptian Government, mainly in the provinces of Minya and Assiut (half way between Cairo and Luxor) but with sporadic attacks in other areas. Most of these incidents have been directed at the police, or were sectarian in nature.
Extremists have warned tourists not to visit Egypt. In April 1996 gunmen killed 18 Greek tourists in Cairo. On 18 September two men, acting alone, killed 10 people, mainly German tourists, also in Cairo.
The Luxor attack suggests that the threat to tourists visiting Upper Egypt has increased. British visitors are advised to exercise great caution when visiting Upper Egypt (defined as the area of the Nile valley south of and including Minya province). They are strongly advised to avoid the Luxor area until further notice.
Visitors to all other parts of Egypt, including Cairo, the Red Sea and Sinai, are advised to be vigilant and to respect any advice from the local security authorities.
Local driving conditions and poor vehicle maintenance make road travel outside the main cities hazardous, especially at night. In the event of an accident emergency medical facilities are limited.
Travel advice is widely available to the travel trade and tour operators. We would be prepared to offer further advice to tour operators if asked. None have approached us following the events in Egypt on 17 November.

Kurds

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what actions have been taken by his Department to promote dialogue between Kurdish movements in Iran, Iraq and Turkey; and if he will make a statement. [17838]

With the US, the UK has brokered a ceasefire between the two Iraqi-Kurdish parties, the PUK and KDP. This came into effect on 24 November. It is the first essential step towards peace in the region. We have taken no steps to promote dialogue between Kurdish movements in other countries.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the British presence in the Kurdish area of Northern Iraq. [17832]

The UK has no permanent official presence in the Kurdish area of northern Iraq. UK officials based in Ankara visit the area regularly. Several UK non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are also carrying out humanitarian work in northern Iraq.

Antarctic Treaty

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when he expects to be able to announce the establishment of the Antarctic Secretariat following ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. [17828]

Establishment of the Secretariat to the Antarctic Treaty will depend on the consensus of the Treaty Parties, which have yet to agree on its location.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations have been made to the Government of Japan on its approval of the Antarctic Treaty; and if he will make a statement. [17835]

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 5 November 1997, Official Report, column 202.

Eu (Immigration And Asylum)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in what ways Her Majesty's Government will be able to influence policy making in the European Union in respect of immigration and asylum matters. [16499]

I have been asked to reply.The United Kingdom participates fully in the intergovernmental co-operation on immigration and asylum policy provided for in the Treaty on the European Union. We shall use the opportunity of the United Kingdom's presidency of the European Union, in the first half of 1998, to carry forward that co-operation. Future co-operation on immigration and asylum policy will, as a result of the Amsterdam Treaty, be taken forward in the First Pillar; the Government have secured a Protocol which enables us to opt into such co-operation. We shall seek to do so where it is in our national interest.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make it his policy that individual consideration will be given to all asylum applications made by European Union nationals. [16491]

I have been asked to reply.The 1951 United Nations Convention requires that we consider applications for asylum individually, irrespective of where they come from and we will comply with that obligation.

European Commission (Employees)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what study has been conducted of the pension liabilities of the European Commission staff; and what proportion of employees hold private pensions. [17265]

I have been asked to reply.In response to requests from the Council, the Commission prepared a paper on financing the Community pension scheme, which was discussed earlier this year. It included projections up to the year 2015 showing costs rising as the number of pensioners increase. The Commission is working on further studies, including an actuarial assessment of the scheme, on which we expect them to report in 1998. We do not have any information about the number of staff who may have private pensions.

Culture, Media And Sport

Museum Funding

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of differences in the level of funding between the museums formerly funded by the metropolitan county councils and the GLC since 1986; and what account he will be taking of this in his current review of museum funding. [16125]

Funding for most of the former metropolitan museums is a matter for the local authorities in each area. Amongst the 16 museums my Department directly sponsors, there are five that were once funded by the Metropolitan County Councils, and the Greater London Council (the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the Geffrye Museum; the Horniman Museum and the Museum of London). An annual allocation is made to these institutions following an assessment of their needs as expressed in their respective corporate plans. In addition the Museums and Galleries Commission currently awards an annual grant to the Tyne and Wear Museum Service, following their assessment of the relative needs of the various client bodies funded by them.Allocations are made on grounds of affordability and need. Institutions and museum services are very different and are funded on different bases from different sources. Funding levels are therefore not directly comparable.My Department is currently considering all of its public funding commitments as part of its contribution to the Government's comprehensive spending review.

Eu Culture Council

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Culture Council on 24 November. [18305]

EU Ministers of Culture met on 24 November 1997 in Brussels. Ministers agreed Conclusions on music in Europe which are intended to inform the Commission's thinking as it develops proposals for the future of EU cultural action.The European Commission presented its proposal for a European Parliament and Council Decision establishing a Community initiative for the "European City of Culture" programme.Ministers held an exchange of views on the selection of a European City of Culture for 2001; the funding of EC cultural action in 1999 to cover the period between the expiry of the Ariane and Kaleidoscope programmes and the establishment of a successor programme.The Council asked the Commission to carry out a study into the reduction of VAT on recordings.

Ministers discussed a proposal for a Council Decision establishing a European Guarantee Fund to promote cinema and television production, and follow-up to the Commission Green Paper on the protection of minors and human dignity in the audiovisual and information services.

The Council invited the ten associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe to participate in a structured dialogue on measures taken and to be taken to prepare new legislation and adapt existing national legislation, to bring it into line with EU audiovisual legislation and to address questions concerning the protection of minors and human dignity in audiovisual services.

Ministers also touched upon the future of digital television, European Cities of Culture for 1997 and 1998, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Conference in March 1998 on cultural policies for development, fixed book pricing, co-operation between the EC and the Council of Europe and follow-up action in the cultural field to the Euro-Mediterranean partnership.

Treasury

European Central Bank

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if the agendas and minutes of the (a) governing council and (b) governing board of the proposed European Central Bank will be made available to any statutory body of (i) participating, and (ii) non-participating member states. [15311]

Article 10.4 of Protocol No. 3 to the Maastricht Treaty (on the Statute of the European System of Central Banks and of the European Central Bank) states in relation to the Governing Council that:

"The proceedings of the meetings shall be confidential. The Governing Council may decide to make the outcome of its deliberations public".
Under Article 12.3 of the same protocol the Governing Council must adopt Rules of Procedure for the Executive Board.

Ecofin

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the Council meeting of the Economic and Finance Ministers of the European Union held on 17 November. [17135]

I represented the UK at the Economic and Finance Council—ECOFIN—of the European Union in Brussels on 17 November. The Economic Secretary accompanied me.The Council focused on the issue of economic co-ordination in State 3 of the EMU, in response to the remit from the Amsterdam European Council in June this year. There was a good deal of support for the principle that ECOFIN should continue to be the centre of economic co-ordination. The possibility of informal discussions was also considered. The Council will look again at these issues at its next meeting on 1 December.The Council also discussed the date for the introduction of euro notes and coin, and the technical specifications for the coinage.

The Council was also presented with two documents by Commissioner Monti. These papers were a Communication on Financial Services: Enhancing Consumer Confidence, and a Green Paper on Supplementary Pensions in the Single Market.

The report of the SEM2000 (Sound and Efficient Management) group was presented to the Council. This group has been looking at ways to improve the management of Community budget expenditure. The Economic Secretary emphasised the importance we attach to this work.

Following the main ECOFIN meeting, a joint meeting with Social Affairs Ministers was held to discuss the preparations for the extraordinary European Council on Employment (the "Jobs Summit"), which took place in Luxembourg on 20–21 November. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment and I jointly represented the UK. The Council held further discussions about the proposals for Employment Guidelines.

Commemorative Coins

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans Her Majesty's Government has to issue new commemorative coins. [18204]

Her Majesty The Queen has been graciously pleased to approve my recommendation that a fifty pence piece of special design should be issued in 1998 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the National Health Service and that a two-pound coin should be issued in 1999 to celebrate the hosting of the Rugby World Cup. Both coins will be made available for general circulation and there will be collector versions in base and precious metal.She has also been graciously pleased to approve my recommendation that a crown piece with a face value of five pounds should be issued to celebrate the millennium. These crown pieces will be struck in base and precious metal for collectors, and in addition will be available at face value from banks and post offices in 1999 and 2000.

Hauliers (Fuel Fraud)

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the effectiveness of measures in place to combat the fraudulent use of red diesel and similar fuels by some hauliers operating within and through Northern Ireland. [16190]

Enforcement measures must always strike a balance between the risk to the Exchequer, the impact on legitimate trade and the cost of those measures. In the case of fraudulent misuse of Red Diesel and similar fuels in Northern Ireland I am satisfied that Customs and Excise devotes sufficient resources to the problem.

House Of Commons

Carry-Over Of Bills

To ask the President of the Council what plans she has for the carry-over of government, hybrid and private bills from one session to another; and when she expects to make a statement. [17247]

The principle of the carry-over of government bills from one session to the next was set out in the First Report of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons (HC 190) which was approved by the House on 13 November. The exact procedure for carry-over will now be developed in consultation with the House of Lords. The Government have not yet identified any bill to be subject to such a procedure this session. No recommendation about the procedure nor any statement about bills which might be carried over is imminent. I am not aware of any public bills being hybrid this session and I am not responsible for private bills.

Parliamentary Business

To ask the President of the Council if she will list those types of business for which time for debate on the Floor of the House has ceased to be available since 1979. [17089]

Supply days were replaced by Opposition and Estimates Days in 1982. At the same time Consolidated Fund Bills ceased to be debated, with the same time allocated instead for overnight private Members' adjournment debates. The separate debate on public expenditure plans was amalgamated with the Budget debate when the unified budget was introduced in 1993 and a debate on the summer economic forecast was introduced. Estimates days and three Wednesday mornings now provide up to 12 opportunities for debates on select committee reports which did not exist in 1979.Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions, if taken on the same day as the second reading of the bill, are now put without debate, but are debatable for 45 minutes if taken at other times. The second reading of Law Commission Bills is now normally taken in a second reading committee but may still be taken on the floor of the House.Similarly, the committee stage of consolidation bills may be dispensed with and the third reading taken without debate. Although more statutory instruments and EU documents are now taken in committee rather than on the floor of the House, they may be debated on the floor.Since 1979 the only item of business which has ceased to exist is the Private members' motion. Until 1994 up to about 18 Members a year moved such motions, mainly on Fridays. These, together with the three overnight sittings on the Consolidated Fund Bill and the last day before recess debates, have been replaced under the Jopling reforms by private Members' adjournment debates on Wednesday mornings. A total of 128 hours was spent on such debates in the last normal-length session (1995–96) compared with 106 hours on the previous business in the session before the change. These have created some 160 separate opportunities each session for backbenchers to raise subjects of their choice.

International Development

Western Sahara

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what aid payments (a) through the EU, (b) through non-governmental organisations and (c) made directly have been made by her Department in each of the last five years to refugees from the Western Sahara; and if she will make a statement. [17830]

The only figures immediately available from the EU are that 7 million ECU were spent on refugees in the Western Sahara in 1996, the UK share being approximately £1.8 million. The EU are planning to spend a similar amount in 1997.My Department has made a commitment of up to £60,000 in 1997–98, the first year that we have provided bilateral assistance to the Saharawi refugees, to fund War on Want to assist in the improvement of food storage facilities for refugees. So far £25,474 has been paid.We have also provided emergency funds in 1997–98 amounting to £30,000 to help improve water supply and distribution for Saharawian refugees.

World Bank (Independent Inquiry Committees)

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations she has made to the World Bank about the establishment of independent inquiry committees. [17786]

The Government through our Executive Director has made a number of representations to the World Bank President, management and the World Bank Inspection Panel itself on the need for openness and transparency in the Panel's work, and for its independence to be protected.

Overseas Investment Insurance Scheme

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what has been the outcome of her review of the overseas investment insurance scheme of ECGD; and if she will make a statement. [17447]

[holding answer 24 November 1997]: I have been asked to reply.When ECGD relaunched its Overseas Investment Insurance Scheme in 1994 it was agreed that the Scheme would be reviewed every three years. The first of these reviews is about to commence. ECGD will work closely with the Department for International Development in this matter to see if the facilities can be made more readily available to poor countries.

Environment, Transport And The Regions

Fair Trade (Coffee And Tea)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, pursuant to the oral statement by the Secretary of State for International Development, Official Report, 5 November 1997, column 332, if he will instruct officials to serve coffee and tea furnished by suppliers who adhere to fair trade standards in his Department. [15490]

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, on Thursday 13 November 1997, Official Report, column 617.

Widdecombe Rules

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to review the Widdecombe rules. [16911]

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, told the House on 8 July 1997, Official Report, columns 389–90, that we accepted the recommendation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life in its Third Report, that a new start should now be made on building an ethical framework for local government. In addition, my hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Housing announced on 30 September that, while we are firmly committed to the tradition of political impartiality by senior officials employed in both central and local government, we are reviewing the detail of the current regulations on politically restricted posts in local government.

Motor Traders (Pre-Sales Inspections)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it a statutory duty for motor traders to publish comprehensive pre-sales inspections of all sales vehicles. [17145]

There are no plans to do so. It is already an offence for motor traders to sell an unroadworthy vehicle unless they make it perfectly clear to any prospective purchaser that it would be illegal to use the vehicle on the road in that condition. It would not be appropriate to make it a legal requirement for vendors to provide additional information about issues which are not concerned with vehicle safety and environmental performance. Those are matters for the prospective vehicle purchaser to determine.

Motor Cycles (Deaf Riders)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to change the Driving Standards Agency regulations in respect of the application to deaf riders of the requirement on motor cycle riders to be in radio contact with an instructor. [17269]

We have recently announced our intention to put amending regulations before Parliament that will exclude, from January 1998, persons who are hearing impaired from the requirement for learner riders training on large motorcycles to be in radio contact with their instructor.Also, when the radio link requirement is extended to all learner riders taking compulsory basic training, from April 1998, persons who are hearing impaired will be exempted.

Road Users (Disabled People)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will ensure that orange badges for disabled people are produced in a form which will fit into a normal vehicle tax disc holder. [17268]

No. Orange badges should be displayed only when in use, and then on the dashboard or facia panel, not the windscreen.

Vehicle Identification Number Plates

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make it an offence for any person other than the original manufacturer to supply replacement vehicle identification plates. [17156]

We have no plans to do so. It is already an offence, under section 173 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, for anyone to forge or alter a vehicle identification number (VIN) plate with intent to deceive. The vendor of a vehicle with a defective VIN might also be committing an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Enterprise Zones

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list (a) the number of areas which benefit from enterprise zone status, (b) the date enterprise zone status was awarded to each and (c) the number of jobs created in each individual area since the introduction of enterprise zone status. [17149]

The information available is:

Existing enterprise zoneDate of designationNumber of jobs created in enterprise zone (see note)
InverclydeMarch 19892,655
LanarkshireFebruary 199312,839
Tyne Riverside Nos. 1–11February/August/October 19961830
Sunderland Nos. 1–3April 19903,063
East Durham Nos. 1–6November 19951859
Dearne Valley Nos. 1–6November 19951392
East Midlands Nos. 1–7September/November 19951201
1 The figures for Inverclyde and Sunderland show the number of jobs created up to 31 March 1997. Figures for other Enterprise Zones show the number of jobs in the zone at 31 March 1997. Specific employment numbers for these before designation are not available but would have been very low because of the nature of the sites.

Environment Agency (Staffing)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many posts have been lost in the Environment Agency in the current financial year; and what estimate he has made of further losses based on current planned expenditure in 1998–99. [17294]

The Environment Agency has not lost any posts overall in the current financial year. Resource allocations for 1998–99 have yet to be decided. The Agency's latest Corporate Plan shows a budgeted increase of 101 staff between 1996–97 and 1997–98, and a further planned increase of 37 in 1998–99.

Technology Foresight

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) in what way the Department's research priorities have been modified in response to Technology Foresight; [17466]

(2) what Technology Foresight priorities are being taken into account in the forward planning of the Department's scientific research programme. [17465]

My Department is represented on the Panels dealing with Natural Resources and Environment (NRE), Construction, Marine and Transport. The process by which the Department's research priorities are established takes place in parallel with the Panel's own priority-setting process. Foresight informs a broad range of priorities within the Department, including specific programmes. We consider all relevant Foresight priorities during the planning process, and modify research requirements accordingly.For example, the Department has embedded many Foresight findings within the Construction Research and Innovation Business Plans. The Business Plans and their Key Priorities set the agenda for the Department's future involvement in construction research and innovation. This includes a new LINK Programme, "Meeting Clients' Needs Through Standardisation", funded by the Department and the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC). The Department is also helping the Panel to follow up its recommendations on the social and environmental impacts of construction by funding research into indicators of sustainable construction.Similarly, the Department has responded to the Transport Panel's principal recommendations for three projects aimed at nurturing the developments necessary to improve transport in the key areas of efficiency and the environment. The Department is funding a programme co-ordinator for the Clear Zones programme and, with EPSRC, the Economic and Social Research Council and DTI we are sponsoring the Inland Surface Transport LINK programme, in large part designed to support research relevant to the Panel's recommendations related to mode-specific and generic technologies and transport systems. The Transport Panel is currently considering the technological aspects of integrated transport.

Eurostar

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions when he expects Eurostar services through the Channel Tunnel on to the West Coast Main Line to commence. [17593]

The provision of these services is a matter for Eurostar (UK) Ltd. (EUKL). I understand from EUKL that they intend to introduce these services as soon as possible, once the necessary testing and commissioning of the new rolling stock has been completed.

Household Growth Green Paper

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance he (a) has issued and (b) plans to issue to local authorities regarding the development of more flexible parking standards in urban areas, as proposed in the Household Growth Green Paper (Cm 3471), paragraphs 5.30 and 5.33. [17715]

Existing Planning Policy Guidance on Transport (PPG13) encourages local authorities to be flexible in the requirements for off-street residential parking space and reduce them or waive them where necessary in order to provide good-quality and affordable high-density development in areas with good access to other means of travel.We are considering parking issues for them in the current review of transport policy, the results of which will be published as a White Paper next spring.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many responses to the Green Paper "Household Growth: Where Shall We Live" (Cm 3471) have supported the proposal to phase the release of land in paragraph 4.33; and if he plans to implement this proposal. [17718]

Nearly 100 responses out of the approximately 700 received supported the concept of phasing. We are considering all the issues raised by the Green Paper and will announce our decisions in due course.

Kyoto Conference

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to publish the results of, and to report on, the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change. [17374]

[holding answer 25 November 1997]: We will be informing the House of the outcome of the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change in due course and will place in the Library a copy of relevant documents, including any Protocol and decisions adopted.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will list the British delegation to the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change; and if he will publish all the Government's position papers in advance of the Conference. [17359]

[holding answer 25 November 1997]: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. member for Hazel Grove (Mr. Stunell) on 11 November, Official Report, column 464.I am also placing in the Library a copy of the EU position papers and statements for the most recent negotiating meeting in Bonn in October.

Single Person Households

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guidance he issues to planning authorities in respect of the design of dwellings for single person households. [17710]

Planning policy guidance on housing (PPG3) and several regional planning guidance documents advise local planning authorities to take account of demographic and social changes in the region, including the increasingly varied types of housing required, such as for single persons, small households and the elderly. The guidance, however, is concerned with the mix of types of housing, and does not give advice on the design of dwellings as such.

The issue of the special needs of small households was raised in the Green Paper on household growth and a large number of comments were received. These are still under consideration.

Dry Stone Walls

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what plans he has to extend the legislation protecting hedgerows to dry stone walls. [17351]

[holding answer 25 November 1997]: The Government have no plans to introduce legislation to control the removal of dry stone walls.We consider that the most appropriate way of tackling the loss of dry stone walls is by encouraging their upkeep. Management grants are currently available in England under the Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas schemes operated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Local Authority Rents

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what guideline rents he proposes for local authority tenants in England for 1998–99. [18125]

We are proposing that the average guideline rent for 1998–99 should increase from £35.38 to £36.35 a week. This is 97p per week more than the current year's guideline rent in cash terms. Guideline rent increases for individual authorities would range between 72p and £1.22.To encourage authorities to keep their rent increases within the guideline increase, we propose to continue with the present rule that limits rent rebate subsidy. This gives authorities a strong incentive to keep rent increases down to reasonable levels, but does not affect tenants' entitlement to housing benefit.Total provision within the subsidy system for expenditure by authorities on management and maintenance in 1997–98 will be more than £3.3 billion. This is about the same per dwelling as in the current financial year.Our proposals are set out in the draft Housing Revenue Account Subsidy and Item 8 determinations for 1998–99, which we have sent to housing authorities today. Authorities have been invited to let my Department have their views by 17 December 1997.So that they can make full use of the extra capital resources released under the Government's Capital Receipts Initiative, the draft determinations also provide for authorities to receive additional revenue support where there resources are used in respect of council housing.Copies of the draft determinations have been placed in the House Library.

Valuation Tribunals

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what response was received to the consultation paper on the appointment of members of valuation tribunals in the light of local government reorganisation in parts of England in April 1998. [18126]

The list of responses received has been placed in the Library of the House: copies of individual responses may be obtained through my Department's library. Regulations will be introduced shortly to give effect to the following measures:

(i) That, with effect from 1 April 1998, the appointing bodies for the Valuation Tribunals listed in column 1 below be those authorities listed in column 2 below, who will be entitled to appoint members in the proportion given in column 3—the membership, revised in some cases, being that shown in column 4.
column 1 Namecolumn 2 Appointing bodiescolumn 3 Proportioncolumn 4 Complement
BerkshireNewbury (W Berkshire) DC230
Reading BC2
Slough BC2
Windsor and Maidenhead BC2
Bracknell Forest BC1
Wokingham DC1
CambridgeshireCambridgeshire CC348
Peterborough City Council1
CheshireCheshire CC760
Warrington BC2
Halton BC1
DevonDevon CC542
Plymouth City Council1
Torbay BC1
Essex SouthEssex CC930
Southend on Sea BC4
Thurrock BC2
HerefordshireWorcestershire CC332
andCounty of Herefordshire1
WorcestershireDC
KentKent CC845
The Medway Town DC1
LancashireLancashire CC15100
Blackpool BC3
Blackburn with Darwen BC2
NottinghamshireNottinghamshire CC254
Nottingham City Council1
ShropshireShropshire CC336
The Wrekin DC1

(ii) Existing members should continue to hold office until their term of office expires.
(iii) Vacancies should be filled as they arise (whether through retirement of members or an increase in complement) by the new appointing authorities, until their entitlement is reached. All subsequent vacancies would be filled by the authority who appointed the departing member.

Earlier regulations provide that, where the appointing body by which a member was appointed has ceased to exist, it will fall to the President of the Tribunal to give notice of termination of office, if so directed by the Secretary of State.

Defence

Overseas Travel

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will list each of the overseas trips made by himself and other members of his ministerial team since 2 May, specifying in each case (a) the participating

Ministry of Defence Ministers overseas visits
DateDestinationPurposeType of travel civil/RAFCost (£)
Secretary of State for Defence
12–13 MayFranceWEU Ministerial ParisRAF AirNot yet notified
19–20 MayBosniaVisit British ForcesRAF Air5,843.00
2–3 JuneUSAVisit UN/BilateralCivil Air11,418.00
4 JuneGermanyBilateralRAF Air1,557.00
11–12 JuneBelgiumNATO Ministerial Meeting BrusselsRAF Air3,330.00
23 JuneGermanyVisit British ForcesRAF Air1,609.00
7–9 JulyMadridNATO SummitRAF AirNot yet notified
15–17 SeptemberPoland/UkraineTrilateralRAF Air19,200.00
20–23 SeptemberOman/KuwaitBilateralsCivil Air10,149,00
30 September-1 OctoberNetherlandsNATO Informal Ministerial MeetingRAF Air4,244.00
20–22 OctoberBosnia/ItalyVisit British Forces/BilateralRAF Air5,962.00
30 OctoberFranceBilateralRAF Air2,417.00
3–4 NovemberRussiaBilateralRAF Air15,740.00
Minister of State for Defence Procurement
16–17 JuneFranceVisit to Paris Air ShowRail/RAF Air1,967.00
3–12 OctoberUSABilateralCivil Air10,774.00
24–27 OctoberNetherlandsBilateralCivil Air876.00
Minister of State for the Armed Forces
23–24 MayBosniaVisit British ForcesRAF Air10,895.00
12–13 JuneBelgiumAttend Euro Atlantic Partnership Council, Brussels (for SofS)RAF Air2,350.00
13 JulyPassendaele and Menin Gate, Belgium80th Anniversary and CommemorationRAF Air1,706.00
7–10 OctoberPoland/Romania and HungaryBilateralsRAF Air9,683.00
14–21 OctoberUSABilateralCivil Air5,067.00
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence
19–20 June FranceVisit to Paris Air ShowCivil Air502.00
9–23 SeptemberNew Zealand/AustraliaBilateralsCivil Air15,916.00
16–17 OctoberGibraltarHandover of The Mount to Gibraltar GovernmentCivil Air436.00
The overall costs shown (rounded to the nearest £) are those which can be separately identified as incurred by the offices of the Ministers concerned.

Minister or Ministers, (b) the destination of the trip, i(c) the purpose of the trip and (d) the cost of the trip; and if he will make a statement. [15268]

[holding answer 11 November 1997]: Details of overseas visits by Ministers in my Department between 2 May and 11 November 1997 are as follows:

Cadet Forces

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what financial contribution his Department has made to the (a) Army, (b) Sea and (c) Air cadets for each of the last five financial years; what is the figure for the current year; what is the projected figure for the next financial year; and if he will make a statement. [16928]

[pursuant to his answer, 24 November 1997, c. 391–92]: I regret the answer was incorrect. The correct answer is as follows:

The Government recognises the value given by the Cadet Forces to both the civilian community and to our Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defence's financial contribution in support of Army, Sea and Air cadets during each of the last five financial years and the forecast for the current financial year is shown in the table. Similar detail in respect of the Combined Cadet Force has been included. The Department has not yet finished its financial planning for 1998–99 and the forecast for that financial year will not be available until Class I Supply Estimates for 1998–99 are published in March.
£ million
1992–931993–941994–951995–961996–9711997–98
Army Cadets (ACF)n/a20.922.223.428.025.7
Sea Cadets (SCC)5.65.35.65.76.26.3
Air Cadets (ATC)16.117.618.319.817.517.0
Combined Cadet Force (CCF)n/a6.16.66.25.86.4
1 Forecast.

Land Mines

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) how many anti-personnel mines in the possession of United Kingdom armed forces have been destroyed since 1 May; [17051](2) what percentage of anti-personnel mines will be kept for training purposes; [17052](3) how many anti-personnel mines in the possession of United Kingdom armed forces are awaiting destruction. [17153]

I will write to the hon. Member and a copy of my letter will be placed in the Library of the House.

Technology Foresight

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) in what way his Department's research priorities have been modified in responses to Technology Foresight; [17467](2) what Technology Foresight priorities are being taken into account in the forward planning of the Department's scientific research programme. [17468]

The Ministry of Defence continues to be deeply involved in Foresight, mainly through its membership of the Defence and Aerospace Panel. Foresight has been welcomed by MOD as a means of improving its dialogue with industry and academia, both to add value for money to MOD's research activities and to support national wealth creation within defence priorities.The initiative has been reflected in defence research programmes both directly and indirectly. The detailed work of the Defence and Aerospace Panel Technology Working Groups has been taken forward in the development of MOD's technology strategy. Collaboration in research between Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and industry/academia has been encouraged through the Beacon fund and the Pathfinder scheme, which provide mechanisms for the proposal of innovative solutions to meet MOD research requirements. An Innovative Engineering and Rapid Prototyping initiative has been started, which is also aligned with Foresight priorities.In addition, some six Dual Use Technology Centres have been established with the purpose of facilitating exploitation of defence driven research for civil and commercial use, and Corporate Research Programme proposals are now routinely assessed for their civil as well as their defence potential.Moreover, there is an increased emphasis on technology demonstration, including the realignment of a number of projects in the context of Foresight Action.

Modix

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the MODIX System was installed and commissioned at the nuclear-propelled submarine refuel-refit yards at Devonport and Rosyth. [17428]

The Mild Multi-Stage Oxide Decontamination with Ion Exchange system, MODIX, was installed and commissioned at Rosyth and Devonport in 1985–86.

Hms Dreadnought

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence in what year and month his Department decided to withdraw HMS Dreadnought from active service; on what date it determined that HMS Dreadnought was to be finally defuelled and prepared for decommissioning at Chatham dockyard; and what was the total collective radiation dose received by the civilian workforce from the final defuelling and decommissioning preparations whilst HMS Dreadnought was at Chatham dockyard. [174311]

The decision to withdraw HMS Dreadnought from active service was taken in February 1982. HMS Dreadnought underwent final defuelling and preparations for decommissioning between March 1982 and March 1983. The total collective radiation dose received by the civilian workforce during defuelling and decommissioning preparations was approximately 1 Sievert.

The Mount, Gibraltar

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the residence in Gibraltar, known as The Mount, was last occupied; when it will be occupied again; what proposals he has for its future use; and if he will make a statement. [17308]

The residence in Gibraltar known as The Mount was formerly owned by the Ministry of Defence and was last occupied in April 1997 by the Commander British Forces. The Ministry of Defence gifted The Mount to the Government of Gibraltar on 3 November 1997. The future use of The Mount is a matter for the Government of Gibraltar.

Royal Squadron

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what safeguards are in place to ensure that planes of the Royal Squadron are properly maintained. [17415]

The BAe 146s, BAe 125s and Wessex helicopters of No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron are required to be maintained to RAF standards, which are at least as robust as those applying to civil aircraft. The terms of the engineering support element of the multi-activity contract at RAF Northolt stipulate that contractor personnel should be capable of maintaining the aircraft to the same standards as would be required of RAF personnel. The Squadron also operates Twin Squirrel helicopters provided and maintained by a different contractor, which are required to meet CAA standards. We will, however, ensure that all the lessons from the recent incident involving a BAe 146 from No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron are identified and acted upon.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he has to revert to Royal Air Force servicing and maintenance of aircraft of No. 32 (The Royal Squadron) at Royal Air Force, Northolt. [17376]

There are no such plans. We will, however, ensure that all the lessons from the recent incident involving a BAe 146 from No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron are identified and acted upon.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will publish the findings of the inquiry into the technical causes of the airborne emergency of a BAe 146 aircraft of No. 32 (The Royal Squadron) on 6 November. [17377]

It would not be appropriate to publish the Station Inquiry as it will deal with named individuals. I will, however, write to the hon. Member once our investigation is complete, and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

Air Space (Military Use)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what proportion of United Kingdom air space is reserved for exclusive military use. [17721]

Less than 0.02 per cent. of United Kingdom airspace is permanently available for exclusive military use.

Raf (Civilian Servicing Contracts)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what disciplinary sanctions are available to the Commanding Officer of Royal Air Force, Northolt over civilian servicing and maintenance contractors on the station in the event of negligence in the servicing or maintenance of aircraft based there. [17378]

The Station Commander at RAF Northolt has access to contractual sanction if he is dissatisfied with any aspect of performance of the contractor. He does not have direct disciplinary authority over individuals employed by the contractor.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the discipline and continued contracts of civilian servicing and maintenance personnel at RAF bases. [17379]

Our contracting procedures are reviewed regularly and, in all cases, exacting quality standards are required from defence contractors. Firm action will be taken against any contractor who fails to meet the mandated standards.

Land Disposal (Gosport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the disposal of land at Priddy's Hard, Gosport, to Barratt Homes was on an unconditional basis. [17596]

The offer for land at Priddy's Hard, Gosport by Barratt Homes was on an unconditional basis.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the disposal of land at Priddy's Hard, Gosport, to Barratt Homes has been completed; and how much money has been received as a result. [17597]

The sale to Barratt homes at Priddy's Hard, Gosport has not been completed, although we expect to exchange Contracts for Sale shortly. I am withholding information on the agreed sale for reasons of commercial confidentiality under Exception 7 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information.

Military Personnel (Turkey)

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what British military personnel are stationed in Turkey under (a) NATO and (b) bilateral contracts. [17834]

Eight British military personnel are stationed in Turkey under NATO auspices. These comprise: one Royal Navy Commander, one Colonel, two Lieutenant Colonels, one Major, two Squadron Leaders and one Flight Sergeant.There are no British military personnel stationed in Turkey under bilateral contracts. However, as of 24 November 1997, there were 191 British military personnel stationed in Turkey as part of Operation Northern Watch. Operation Northern Watch is a trilateral coalition operation comprising the UK, the US and Turkey, which enforces the No-Fly-Zone over Northern Iraq.

Social Security

Reduced Earnings Allowance

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many people to date have lost their reduced earnings allowance in each of the benefit districts in Wales. [13771]

The administration of Reduced Earnings Allowance is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Llew Smith, dated 25 November 1997:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking how many people to date have lost their Reduced Earnings Allowance (REA) in each of the benefit districts in Wales.
I have assumed your question refers to Adjudication Officer's decisions to transfer over pension age REA recipients to Retirement Allowance (RA) following the introduction of the Social Security (Industrial Injuries and Diseases) (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1996 on 24 March 1996.
The information is shown in the attached table. Statistics on transfers were maintained up to 31 March 1997.
I hope this reply is helpful.

Number of reduced earnings allowance (REA) recipients over pension age cases transferred to retirement allowance (RA)

Benefits agency district1

Number of cases transferred where pension age attained before 24 March 1996

Number of cases transferred where pension age attained between 24 March 1996 and 31 March 1997

Total

Wrexham and North Wales17644220
Cardiff and Vale821395
Gwyneddigion Maldwyn10226128
Eastern Valleys33546381
Swansea Bay27545320
Gwent Borders592483
West Wales24245287
Mid Glamorgan69592787
Figures are provisional and subject to amendment.

1 Benefits Agency districts as at 24 March 1996.

Benefits (Taxation)

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if she will list those Social Security benefits which are (a) taxable and (b) not taxable and the reasons underlying the two categories. [14673]

The information is as follows:

  • Taxable benefits
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Invalid Care Allowance
  • Jobseeker's Allowance
  • Retirement Pension
  • Widowed Mother's Allowance
  • Widow's Pension
  • Statutory Maternity Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Industrial Death Benefit
All other Social Security Benefits are not taxable.Whether or not particular benefits should be taxable is kept under review.This Government is committed to examining the interaction of the tax and benefit systems so that they can be streamlined and modernised so as to fulfil the objectives of promoting work incentives, reducing poverty and welfare dependency and strengthening community and family life. Mr. Martin Taylor, Chief Executive of Barclays Bank plc, has been appointed to lead a Whitehall task force to take forward this remit

War Disablement Pension

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment she has made of the current arrangements for examinations of applicants for the war disablement pension, and if she will make a statement. [15344]

One of our key aims is that delivery of service should be simpler and more efficient. Queries on operational matters concerning the War Pensions Agency are for its Acting Chief Executive Mr. Steve Johnson. I have asked him to write to the hon. Member.

Letter from K. C. Caldwell to Mr. Paul Keetch, dated 25 November 1997:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the current arrangements for the medical examinations of persons claiming War Disablement Pension.
Most examinations, where considered necessary for the individual case, are conducted locally by War Pensions Examining Medical Practitioners, the majority of whom are General Practitioners.
The Benefits Agency Medical Services (BAMS) who organise examinations for Social Security benefits are responsible for recruiting and training doctors to undertake medical examinations and for arranging these examinations for the War Pensions Agency (WPA). Doctors undertaking medical examinations for War Pensions must be registered with the General Medical Council and be experienced in medical examinations for Benefit purposes. BAMS are responsible for ensuring the satisfactory completion of the training of the doctors who conduct examinations for the WPA. The training of these doctors is based on the Handbook for Examining Medical Practitioners (War Pensions) which has been written and recently revised by Medical Advisors employed by the WPA. The WPA Medical Advisors make, on the medical evidence, decisions as to whether a condition is attributable to or aggravated by service and the degree of any disablement.
The monitoring of completed examination reports is the responsibility of the WPA. All medical examination reports are reviewed by the WPA's Medical Advisors. Any reports which do not fulfil the WPA's requirements are returned to BAMS. In addition to these arrangements the WPA is currently developing a structured monitoring scheme to provide formal feedback to BAMS on the general quality of the examining doctors' medical reports.
In the specialist area of hearing loss claims, audiometric examinations are conducted for the WPA by British Medical International, part of General Healthcare Group PLC. The reports from these examinations are considered by the WPA Medical Advisors as part of the evidence in these cases. These arrangements are formally monitored, both internally by the WPA Medical Advisors and through a regular external professional scrutiny.
In addition to War Pension medical examinations, the WPA also requests specialist and Regional Consultant medical examinations. Specialist appointments are arranged through BAMS who in many cases nominate a local specialist with suitable expertise. In some cases the WPA's Medical Advisors nominate a specialist, normally the specialist who has been responsible for the clinical care of the claimant/pensioner.
Regional Consultants are recognised authorities in their speciality and are appointed by the DSS Chief Medical Adviser. Regional Consultant examinations are requested by the WPA to resolve conflict of medical opinion and also in exceptionally complex cases. A list of Regional Consultants is held in the WPA and the WPA Medical Advisor is responsible for nominating the Regional Consultant. BAMS are responsible for arranging appointments on behalf of the WPA.
All the specialist and Regional Consultant reports are reviewed by the WPA's Medical Advisors. Any unsatisfactory reports are returned directly to the specialist or Regional Consultant. BAMS would be advised of any specialist who consistently provided unsatisfactory reports and use of that specialist's services would cease. Any Regional Consultant who consistently provided unsatisfactory reports would be notified to the Chief Medical Advisor with a view to removal from the list.
I am satisfied that these arrangements work satisfactorily.
I hope you will find my reply helpful.

Incapacity Benefit

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what percentage of claimants of incapacity benefit are currently undertaking limited paid work on the grounds that the work is (i) voluntary and (ii) therapeutic. [15843]

The information is not available in the format requested. Such information as is available is as follows.It is estimated that 1 per cent. of Incapacity Benefit recipients undertake paid work on the grounds that it is therapeutic.

Sources:
Lonsdale, S., Lessof C. and Ferris, G. (1993) "Invalidity Benefit; a survey of recipients, London: HMSO". This survey found that 2 per cent. of Invalidity Benefit recipients had ever done therapeutic work and fewer still were doing it at the time of the interview. The 1995–96 Family Resources Survey shows that 1 per cent. of Incapacity Benefit recipients had done any paid work in the week before the interview. Information is not collected directly on use of the permitted work provisions.

Welfare And Pensions Green Papers

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the planned dates of publication of the Green Papers on (a) welfare and (b) pension reform. [15828]

It is our intention to publish a Green Paper on Welfare Reform at the turn of the year.The first part of the Pensions Review ended on 31 October and we are now carefully considering the approximately 1,800 responses we have received from pensions providers, employers, employees, consumers, pensions experts and pensioners themselves. We intend to publish an initial framework for change in the first half of 1998. There will then be a period of further consultation before final, detailed proposals are developed.

Motability

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans she has to increase the level of competition for the financing and administrative services provided by Motability Finance Limited. [15969]

Motability is an independent organisation and the administration of the Scheme is a matter for Motability's Governors.We regard competition as a healthy measure in ensuring value for money and in line with the National Audit Office's recommendations, Motability's Governors are currently reviewing the scope for increasing the level of competition in the Scheme. This includes benchmarking for Motability's administrative services and a sub-committee of Governors are looking at funding of the Scheme. Competition must, however, bring long term benefit to Motability's disabled customers.

Former Miners

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many former miners have been diagnosed to be suffering from (a) chronic bronchitis and (b) emphysema; and how many were diagnosed after April. [16477]

The information is set out in the table.

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema diagnoses from September 1993
Percentage disabled assessment September 1997 to March 1997April 1993 to October 1997September 1993 to October 1997
1–1310138139
14–1005,4285,86511,293
Total (1–100)5,5295,90311,432

Source:

100 per cent. count from DSS BREM systems and DSS Central Data Unit. Figures are provisional and subject to amendment.

Note:

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema, prescribed disease D12, was introduced from 13 September 1993.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many former miners have been rejected for a disablement award because they have failed the FEV1 test since April. [16478]

Since April 1978, 768 people have failed the FEV1 test, at a medical examination made in connection with a claim to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, for chronic bronchitis and emphysema (prescribed disease D12). This is the latest figure available and covers the period up to 31 October 1997.

Source:

100 per cent. count from Department of Social Security BREM system. Figures are provisional and subject to amendment.

Industrial Disablement Benefit

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the total amount paid in industrial disablement benefit to claimants in each of the last three years. [16395]

The information is in the table.

£ million
YearAmount
1994–95645
1995–96670
1996–97661

Source:

Social Security Departmental Report 1997.

Notes:

1.The figures include reduced earnings allowance.

2.The figures for 1994–95 and 1995–96 are actual spending, whilst that for 1996–97 is an estimate.

Maternity Allowance

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans she has to ensure that self-employed mothers are eligible for the same maternity allowance as employed mothers. [16358]

We aim to help women balance their careers and family responsibilities. Both employed and self-employed women are eligible for Maternity Allowance for up to 18 weeks if they have worked and paid 26 class 1 and/or class 2 National Insurance contributions in the 66 weeks before the week the baby is due. The self-employed, however, receive Maternity Allowance at a lower weekly rate.We will consider any changes to the current maternity arrangements in the context of our modernisation and streamlining of benefit provision.

Pensions (Overseas Residents)

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate she has made of the cost of uprating the pensions paid to those British citizens living overseas, whose pensions are not presently uprated. [16671]

We estimate that it would cost some £250 million' a year fully to unfreeze UK pensions paid to people living abroad, that is to bring them up to the rate which would be paid if the pensioners were living in the United Kingdom.

Notes:

1 Estimate rounded to the nearest £25 million. Based on the number of UK pensions paid abroad in July 1997 and on current pension rates.

1. The cost is calculated from the actual uprating cost of some 90 per cent. of all cases (£1,900 million) and an estimated uprating cost for the remainder, which date from 1978.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security in which countries special arrangements are made to uprate the state retirement pension for British citizens living abroad. [16673]

UK state retirement and widows pensions are uprated in the Member States of the European Economic Area1 and in the following countries with which the UK has a social security agreement which provides for uprating:

  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bosnia-Hercegovina
  • Croatia3
  • Cyprus
  • Guernsey
  • Isle of Man
  • Israel
  • Jamaica
  • Jersey
  • Macedonia3
  • Malta
  • Mauritius
  • Philippines
  • Slovenia3
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey
  • USA
  • Yugoslavia

Notes:

1 Comprises EC Member States plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

2 Formerly a constituent republic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Annual pension increases payable by virtue of the 1958 reciprocal agreement with FRY.

3 Formerly a constituent republic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Annual pension increases payable by virtue of the 1958 reciprocal agreement with FRY.

Pensions are also uprated on Sark under the Social Security Benefit (Persons Abroad) Regulations 1975.

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate she has made of the number of British citizens living aborad who do not receive uprated state retirement pensions. [16672]

There are some 440,000 UK retirement and widow pensioners living in countries where pensions are not uprated. No record is held of the number who are British citizens.

Means-Tested Benefits (Pensioners)

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) of 5 November 1997, Official Report, columns 249–50, on pensioners on benefits, if she will list the number of pensioners identified in each category resident in the area of the Government Office North-East Region. [16644]

Income Support

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what factors are taken into account in deciding changes of standard interest rate for mortgage interest in income support; what recent changes in the rate have been made and on what dates; what the levels were; and what plans he has to review the arrangements. [16626]

The standard interest rate is based on the weighted average of basic building society interest rates. Changes are triggered when the average rate moves by 0.25 per cent. or more. We have no current plans to change the existing arrangements.Information about changes in the standard interest rate since its introduction are listed below:

Rate (per cent.)Date
8.392 October 1995
8.0028 January 1996
7.7428 April 1996
7.4830 June 1996
7.161 September 1996
6.8922 December 1996
7.2020 April 1997
7.5728 September 1997
7.9730 November 1997

Christmas Bonus

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what would be the value of the £10 Christmas bonus in 1998–99 if it had been uprated by (a) prices and (b) earnings since its introduction; and if he will estimate how much it would cost to increase it to these levels. [16573]

The information is in the table.

Christmas bonus in 1998–99Value (£)Additional cost (£)
Uprated by prices70.80830,000,000
Uprated by earnings120.30150,000,000
1. The table shows the value and estimated additional costs of the Christmas Bonus in 1998–99 if it had been uprated by each of prices and earnings since its introduction. All costs are rounded to the nearest £10 million.
2. The uprated levels of the Christmas Bonus have been calculated using the Retail Price Index (All items) and the Average Earnings Index (Whole Economy) as supplied by the Officer for National Statistics. The figure for September 1997 earnings is provisional. The value of the Bonus has been rounded to the nearest 5 pence at each uprating.
3. The extra costs of paying the uprated Christmas Bonus in respect of National Insurance Fund benefits were estimated by Government Actuary's Department and those in respect of non-National Insurance Fund benefits were estimated by the Department of Social Security.

State Pension

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what would be the value of the 25p age addition to the state pension in 1998–99 if it has been uprated in line with (a) prices and (b) earnings since its introduction; and if he will estimate how much it would cost to increase it to those levels. [16543]

The value of the 25p age addition to the State Pension in 1998–99 would be £1.75 if uprated in line with prices and £3.95 if uprated in line with earnings, since its introduction.The table shows the estimated additional gross and net costs of paying the age addition at these levels for 1998–99. All costs are rounded to the nearest £10 million.

£ million
Age addition in 1998–99Uprated by pricesUprated by earnings
Gross cost190460
Net cost110270
1. The figures for the value of the age addition were calculated using the Retail Price Index (All items) and the Average Earnings Index (Whole Economy) as supplied by the Office for National Statistics. The figure for September 1997 earnings is provisional. The value of the age addition has been rounded to the nearest 5 pence at each uprating.
2. The gross costs were estimated by Government Actuary's Department. The net costs by the Department of Social Security.

Cold Weather Payments

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the administrative cost of the disbursement of cold weather payments as a proportion of their value. [17361]

The administration of cold weather payments is a matter for Mr. Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member.

Letter from Peter Mathison to Mr. Jeremy Corbyn, dated 25 November 1997:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the administrative cost of the disbursement of cold weather payments as a proportion of their value.
During the cold weather season for 1996/97 4,964,966 cold weather payments were made at a total programme cost of £42,202,211 and an administrative cost of £7,512,414. The administrative cost per cold weather payment was £1.51 which equates to 17.8% of the actual value of each payment.
I hope this reply is helpful.

Trade And Industry

Computers (Century Date Change)

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate her Department has made of the proportion of British companies that will go bankrupt as a result of the year 2000 virus. [15205]

[holding answer 11 November 1997]: I have made no such estimate. Businesses which take appropriate action now are unlikely to become insolvent as a result of this problem, but the longer a business with a serious problem delays the greater the risk it runs. That is why the Government has recently launched the Action 2000 initiative under the chairmanship of Don Cruickshank.

Development Area Status

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will list (a) the number of areas which benefit from development area status, (b) the date development area status was awarded to each area and (c) the number of jobs created in each individual area since the introduction of development area status. [17146]

(a) The number of areas benefiting from development area status is set out in Statutory instrument 1993 No. 1877 "Industrial Development: The Assisted Areas Order 1993", laid before parliament on 23 July 1993. A copy of which is a available in the Library of the House.

(b) Development area status was awarded to these areas on 1 August 1993, when the current Assisted Area map came into operation.

(c) Information available on the number of jobs created in development areas is limited to employment created under DTI's Regional Selective Assistance scheme The most recent figures are published in the Industrial Development Act 1982 Annual Report for the year ending 31 March 1997, Appendix 5—tables 2 and 3 refer, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.

Nuclear Power Industry

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is her estimate of (a) the total liabilities of the nuclear power industry and (b) the liabilities which are currently unfunded. [17297]

The total lifetime nuclear liabilities of the UK nuclear power industry at 31 March 1997 were £15.1 billion. This total arises from the contributions of three companies. The individual components are:

  • British Energy: £5.2 billion
  • BNFL: £1.481 billion
  • Magnox Electric: £8.4 billion
These figures are discounted at 3 per cent. for British Energy and Magnox and 2 per cent. for BNFL. In the case of British Energy the above figures take into account the new and revised BNFL contracts announced on 4 June 1997.British Energy's nuclear liabilities comprise decommissioning and backend fuel costs, and the company has made provision in its accounts for £3.8 billion of those liabilities. A segregated fund has been set up to cover the costs of decommissioning. This was endowed, by British Energy, with £228 million and receives payments of £16 million per year. It is designed to cover 110 per cent. of decommissioning costs based on independent engineering assessments. Payments for backend fuel disposal will arise over many years. Funds for dealing with those payments will come from existing funds and amounts built up from future business operations.BNFL has already made provisions in its accounts for £1.158 billion of its nuclear liabilities. A further £323 million will be provided, in accordance with company policy, from the income generated over the remaining lifetime of plant which is still operating. More than half of the amount provisioned is in a separate fund, the bulk of which is held in gilts.Magnox Electric has significant assets to meet its nuclear liabilities, most of which will not fall due for payment for a considerable number of years. Furthermore, the proposed integration of Magnox and BNFL will bring additional benefits in the cost and management of these liabilities. At 31 March 1997 there was a gap of £682 million between the company's assets and liabilities. This is covered by a long-standing Letter of Comfort from the Government originally given to Nuclear Electric in 1990.

Telecommunications

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans she has to authorise OFTEL to require providers to establish packages tailored for low-use businesses; and if she will make a statement. [17741]

Low-use businesses are increasingly offered a variety of packages by telecommunications providers in today's competitive multi-operator market. Low-use businesses are also protected from price increases by the regulator Oftel. Oftel has required BT to provide a safeguard tariff package for small businesses for which the call charges are the same as those paid by residential customers whose prices are covered by the RPI-4.5 per cent. price cap. The package also ensures that line rental does not increase by more than RPI each year. My Department therefore has no plans at present to authorise Oftel to require telecommunications providers to establish packages tailored for low-use businesses.

Biodiversity And Biomedicine Conventions

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on the United Kingdom's progress in the implementation of (a) the Convention on Biodiversity and (b) the principles of the 1996 Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine and their incorporation into United Kingdom legislation. [17803]

(a) The United Kingdom is undertaking a range of activities at home and abroad to work towards the three goals of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity: to conserve biodiversity, ensure its sustainable use, and achieve the equitable sharing of the resultant benefits. Domestically, a Government-led partnership is implementing our national biodiversity action plan, with individual action plans for a range of species and habitats, and for particular localities, building on existing domestic and European legislation. Internationally, we recently hosted a conference to help Central and Eastern European countries plan and implement their own biodiversity strategies, and through both our general aid programme and the Darwin Initiative, we continue to support developing countries' efforts to meet their Convention obligations. Our first national report under the Convention, due by the end of this year, will record these efforts in detail.(b) The Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine contains a wide range of provisions covering a number of complex ethical and legal issues. The Government is considering the implications of the provisions carefully. No decisions on a timescale for signature or ratification have been made.

Bt (Special Share)

To ask the President of the Board of Trade pursuant to her answer of 15 July 1997, Official Report, column 141, if the redemption of the Government's special share in British Telecommunications plc has now taken place; and if the Government holds any other shares in BT. [18058]

The Government redeemed the Special Share, in exchange for a payment by BT of £1, on 10 September. This means that the Government no longer holds any share which has a direct influence on the terms of the company's Articles of Association. HM Treasury retains for the time being a residual holding of some 10.7 million BT Shares (around 0.2 per cent. of BT's overall share capital) remaining from earlier flotation offers. As has been the policy since privatisation, the Government will not vote with these shares.

Register Of Quality Assessed Companies

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if she will make a statement on the future of the United Kingdom Register of Quality Assessed Companies. [18268]

The Register was introduced in 1983 as a voluntary guide to ISO 9000 certification bodies and the companies they certify. The Register was compiled and published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. My Department's role, as the accreditor of certification bodies, was to invite accredited certification bodies to contribute to the Register and to check the accuracy of those contributions before they were published. My Department also provided a complimentary copy of the Register to each contributing certification body.In 1995 my Department established, as a company limited by guarantee, the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) as the sole national accreditation body for certification bodies, testing and calibration laboratories and inspection bodies. Accreditation consequently passed from the public to the private sector, although my Department retains firm links with UKAS through a memorandum of understanding and a licensing agreement, As a result of this shift in responsibility, UKAS was asked to consider taking over my Department's functions in relation to the Register.In 1996, following the privatisation of Her Majesty's Stationery Office, compilation and publication of the Register passed to The Stationery Office Ltd.I have now agreed with UKAS and The Stationery Office Ltd. that the functions previously undertaken by my Department will pass to UKAS. In recognition of this, and of the increasingly international nature of accreditation and certification, the title of the Register will be amended to the QA Register with effect from the 1998 edition. The Stationery Office Ltd. will continue to publish the Register. The precise content and style of the Register will be matters for UKAS and The Stationery Office to decide jointly.My Department will continue to fund complimentary copies of the Register for each contributing certification body. This provision will be reviewed after two years.

Policy Guidelines

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps she is taking to ensure that the Office of Science and Technology's guidelines on "The Use of Scientific Advice in Policy Making", are implemented effectively by each Government Department. [18267]

The Government has given a firm commitment to strengthen the role which science plays in its decision making. One important aspect of this is ensuring that the OST's guidelines are taken fully into account across Government and, following consultation with Ministerial colleagues, I am now introducing a number of measures to achieve this. A Minister is being designated within each Department with special responsibility for ensuring that the Department's general procedures for taking account of scientific advice are consistent with the guidelines. In addition, departmental Chief Scientists will be reporting regularly to Sir Robert May, the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, on how the guidelines are being taken into account by departments and on any emerging scientific issues of which other departments should be aware.

Food Imports

To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list the quantity by weight of the main primary food products imported to the UK for the last two years for which figures are available. [17723]

I have been asked to reply.Imports of food products in a raw form or which retain their recognisable raw form, as recorded in the Overseas Trade Statistics, for 1995 and 1996 are given in the following table:

UK imports of food products in a raw form or which retain their recognisable raw form
000 tonnes
Category19951996
Bovine meat153133
Pig meat399440
Poultry meat229234
Sheep meat143145
Other meat4248
Total meat and meat preparations9661,000
Birds' eggs2830
Butter114113
Cheese213252
Milk and cream216158
Other milk products2319
Total dairy products and birds' eggs594572
Fish495534
Cereals3,2022,848
Fruit3,3003,408
Nuts9885
Vegetables3,0602,898
Total vegetables, fruit and nuts6,4576,392
Sugar2,3142,188
Coffee, tea, cocoa and spices557661
Oils and fats9,27910,027
Grand total23,86524,222
These figures are provisional and subject to amendment.The majority of foods in the categories "Oils and Fats" and "Vegetables" are destined for human consumption, but include some products used for other purposes.

Scotland

University Funding

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the amount of university funding per student in Scotland in (a) 1994–95, (b) 1995–96, (c) 1996–97 and (d) 1997–98; and if he will make a statement. [17216]

The funding allocated to Scottish Higher Education Institutions by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council for teaching and research per full-time equivalent student since 1994–95 is set out in the following table:

Funding of Scottish Higher Education Institutions from the Funding Council
Financial year1994–95Financial year 1995–96Financial year 1996–97Financial year 1997–98
Total funding available for allocation to institutions (£ million)508.6541.6535.2545.5
FTE students eligible for funding114,452116,361117,409118,700
Total funding expressed on a FTE student basis4,4444,6544,5584,596

Training

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has made to the Department of Education and Employment concerning the decision to invite bids for the management of New Deal solely from private sector bodies; and if he will make a statement. [17331]

The decision to introduce a greater private sector role into the planning and delivery of the New Deal in an area of Scotland was taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State after consultation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.

Wales

Further Education

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many whole time equivalent students there were in (a) further and (b) higher education in May 1997. [17306]

Information on the number of further and higher education student full-time equivalents (FTEs) for the latest available years may be found in the following table:

Student FTEs on Further and Higher Education Courses in Wales1
1995–961996–97
Higher education courses269,969n/a
Further education courses356,31960,683
1 The information provided comes from the following Publications; "STUDENTS in Higher Education Institutions 1995–96" produced by the Higher Education Statistical Agency, and the "Further Education Funding Council for Wales" bulletin on "Further Education Early Student Enrolments 1995–96 and 1996–97".
2 Student FTEs at higher education institutions at 1 December 1995. Excludes students on higher education courses at further education institutions. Data not yet available for 1996–97.
3 Student FTEs on all further education courses at 1 November each year. Includes students at all further education and higher education institutions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on his Department's expenditure on further education. [17637]

Total expenditure made available through the Further Education Funding Council for Wales (FEFCW) in 1996–97 amounted to just over £180 million. The FEFCW's budget for 1997–98 is £177 million. Provision for 1998–99 will be announced shortly as part of the Department's expenditure plans for next year.

Flintshire Lea

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what share of additional resources he has given Flintshire local education authority for the restoration of the fabric of schools. [17643]

Flintshire local education authority was allocated £233,000 of the additional £5,025,000 made available in 1997–98 for capital works at schools in Wales.

North-East Wales Institute

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the funding of the North-East Wales Institute. [17642]

The funding of individual institutions is a matter for the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, who will announce their allocations for 1998–99 in due course.

Northern Ireland

Peace Process

9.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment she has made of progress in the Northern Ireland peace talks. [16239]

19.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the progress of the political talks. [16250]

20.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the peace process in Northern Ireland. [16251]

21.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the current state of relationships between the parties involved in the Northern Ireland peace talks. [16252]

27.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement about the development of the peace process. [16258]

Since substantive discussions began on 7 October, the talks have covered a great deal of ground: a large number of papers have been tabled and discussed, covering all the essential elements of a settlement.It is taking time to bring all the participants to engage on the key issues, but I believe there are increasing signs that they are doing so. The Government will do all that they can to facilitate progress towards a settlement.

United States

10.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the contribution made by the United States towards the achievement of peace and stability in Northern Ireland. [16240]

11.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what assessment she has made of the United States contribution to efforts to achieve peace and stability in Northern Ireland. [16241]

17.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on the contribution of the United States towards the achievement of peace and stability in Northern Ireland. [16248]

The United States Administration share our desire for an enduring peace and lasting political settlement in Northern Ireland. This was all the more evident during my recent visit to the United States. We greatly value their rejection of violence; their commitment to the talks process; their support for the principle of consent; and their continuing support for the International Fund for Ireland, which has contributed significantly to Northern Ireland's economy. The President himself takes a close personal interest in Northern Ireland affairs; the First Lady visited Northern Ireland last month and Senator George Mitchell and Donald Johnson are playing a vital independent role in the talks and on decommissioning respectively.

Employment

12.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what steps she is taking to increase employment in Northern Ireland. [16242]

As in the rest of the United Kingdom, we are pursuing a range of initiatives to improve employment prospects. From measures to improve the skill base through to Welfare to Work and New Deal we will be raising employability. Our targeted economic development programmes will help create jobs through promotion of investment, creation of growth and the raising of Northern Ireland's international competitiveness.

Deregulation

13.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans she has to repeal unnecessary regulations in Northern Ireland. [16243]

Regulations are constantly under review to determine their continued need. A recent example of positive action is the Draft Deregulation (Northern Ireland) Order, considered in Standing Committee on 18 November 1997.

Convicted Terrorists

14.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what discussions she has had during the peace talks in Northern Ireland with representatives of Sinn Fein about the transfer to Ireland of persons convicted and imprisoned for terrorist crimes in Great Britain. [16244]

My Ministerial colleagues and I have had a number of discussions with Sinn Fein since the IRA ceasefire, during some of which prisoner issues— including the issue of repatriation of prisoners to the Republic of Ireland—have been raised. Our approach in these meetings has been to listen to Sinn Fein's concerns and to explain the Government's policy which is that the British Government will continue to honour its obligations under the Convention on the transfer of sentenced persons.

Parades

15.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what action she has taken to prevent premature disclosure of security information relating to parades. [16246]

On 8 July this year Sir John Chilcot, permanent under secretary of state at the Northern Ireland Office instigated an inquiry to investigate the leaking to the media of a confidential Northern Ireland Office document concerning the Government's position on the Drumcree parade. That inquiry has now been completed. The report made a number of recommendations that are intended to prevent the re-occurrence of such a leak. Each recommendation has been examined and most have already been implemented. However, it would not be appropriate to comment on such internal security matters in any detail.

18.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans she has for legislation to encourage local agreements on parades in Northern Ireland. [16249]

As my hon. Friend will know, the Public Processions etc. (Northern Ireland) Bill has completed its passage through Committee in another place on 13 November. Report Stage will take place on 1 December. The Bill is designed to tackle the difficulties that have surrounded the parades issue in recent years by encouraging local agreement, and by giving the Parades Commission the power to make determinations where appropriate.

Look-Out Posts (County Armagh)

16. Mr.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when she plans to close the look-out posts in County Armagh. [16247]

The decision to relocate 250 troops to Great Britain and the closure of the army base at Kilkeel are the most recent examples of actions taken commensurate with the changing situation in Northern Ireland. These follow significant de-escalatory measures already taken since the Provisional IRA ceasefire on 20 July. There are no plans, at present, to close the observation towers in County Armagh.

Tourism

22. Mr.

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if she will make a statement on current trends in tourism in Northern Ireland. [16253]

During 1995, a record 1.56 million visitors came to Northern Ireland. In 1996, following the ceasefire breakdown, visitor numbers fell to 1.44 million, an 8 per cent. decline on 1995, encouragingly remaining above pre-ceasefire levels. Current estimates for 1997 suggest the possibility of a further 1 per cent. decline, falling to around 1.4 million visitors.

Emergency Provisions

23.