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Written Answers

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 5 June 1986

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Written Answers

Local Authority Housing: Right To Buy Discount Repayments

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will give, in respect of a recent convenient period, the following information about "right to buy" owners of dwellinghouses who became liable under Section 155 of the Housing Act 1985 to repay discount, distinguishing between the owners of houses and of flats:

  • (a) how many owners became liable to repay discounts;
  • (b) what was the average price which these owners had paid for their dwellinghouses, expressed both in money terms and as a percentage of "value" as defined in Section 127 of the Housing Act 1985; and
  • (c) what was the average discount which these owners become liable to repay, expressed both in money terms and as a percentage of discount originally allowed.
  • Statistics on discount repayment are not collected in the detail requested by the noble Lord. The following is information currently available.We estimate that in 1985 a total of £26 million was repaid to local authorities in England by owners who had become liable to repay discount under Section 155 of the Housing Act 1985 (relating to right to buy sales) or under Section 35 of that Act (relating to voluntary disposals at a discount). The number of dwellings in respect of which discount was repaid is not known: this information will be collected as from next quarter.Average prices and discounts for all dwellings sold by local authorities in England in each of the last five years are as follows:

    £as % of market valueAverage discount £

    Abingdon Street Gardens: Use For Broadcasts

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Under what conditions, financial and otherwise, the broadcasting authorities have the use of the lawns in Abingdon Street Gardens, Westminster for purposes denied to the general public.

    The Secretary of State for the Environment's permission must be obtained before broadcasting authorities may film or record in Abingdon Street Gardens. No charge is made for filming interviews of Members or others in connection with news items or current business of Parliament. Charges are however made for commercial filming, or for feature programmes, in accordance with a scale which takes account of the number of people involved and the time required. For example, in the case of the filming for the Wogan programme on 21st May, the BBC were charged a fee of £300 and were required to make good or pay for any damage caused to the gardens. The Members of the general public have, of course, access to the gardens subject to the Royal Parks Regulations.

    Landscape Conservation Orders

    asked Her Majesty's Government:What measures they propose to take pursuant to Recommendation 12 of the First Report from the House of Commons Environment Committee, Session 1984–85, about landscape conservation orders.

    The Government's reply to that report (Cmnd. 9522) indicated that further consideration would be given to the introduction of legislation to enable national parks authorities to apply for landscape conservation orders to be made as a power of last resort. We now propose, as an essential step in this process, to publish a consultation paper later this year to seek public views. The paper will include the details of a possible approach to an order-making scheme, and will set out the circumstances in which the Government believe that legislation for this purpose might be justified.

    "Charter For Open Government"

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are in agreement with the

    Charter for Open Government published by the Association of London Authorities to all local authorities.

    The Government believe local authorities should conduct their business as openly as possible and to this end supported the Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985, which came into operation on 1st April this year. It would be inappropriate to comment on those aspects of the ALA Charter that go beyond the requirements of the 1985 Act in advance of consideration of the report of the Widdicombe Inquiry into the Conduct of Local Authority Business. The committee was asked to pay particular attention to matters of accountability, and to examine possible ways of strengthening local democracy. Its report is expected to be published later this month.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will adopt the principle of open access as set out in the Charter for Open Government published by the Association of London Authorities for internal documents held by the Department of the Environment.

    The Government are firmly committed to making available as much information as possible about their activities, subject to necessary confidentiality.

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will require British Nuclear Fuels Limited, the Central Electricity Generating Board and the Atomic Energy Authority to adopt the principles set out in the Association of London Authorities' Charter for Open Government?

    Although the principles set out in the Association of London Authorities' Charter for Open Government are not directly applicable to BNF plc, the UKAEA and the CEGB, the Government believe that the nuclear industry should operate as openly as possible; and subject to considerations of both commercial confidentiality and, where relevant, national security, these organisations already make information on their activities generally available to the public. In particular, any proposals for new major projects are subject to full scrutiny through the public planning process.

    Parole Qualifying Period

    asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will amend the parole system so that time spent in prison on remand counts towards the six month qualifying period.

    No. As parole is selective, a minimum period of time is required after sentencing during which observation, reporting and selection may take place. If remand time counted towards the qualifying period, a prisoner might be eligible for parole immediately after sentencing.