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Written Answers

Volume 490: debated on Thursday 3 December 1987

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Written Answers

Albert Memorial

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have to restore the Albert Memorial; and if they will make a statement.

The memorial is now over a hundred years old. Water penetration has caused corrosion which has weakened the iron structure of the roof and spire. Below the roof level the structure of the memorial is generally sound but many of the sculptures and other decorations have been damaged or are badly weathered.The Government therefore intend that the memorial should be repaired and restored. Costs will of course have to be contained within acceptable levels. We shall be seeking further expert advice on the feasibility and cost of alternative options before deciding on how to proceed.I am arranging for an engineer's report on the condition of the ironwork in the roof and spire to be placed in the Library.

Public Works Contracts: Ec Criteria

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will give details of the EC directives that contain measures which prevent freely-negotiated local labour clauses being used on contracts for inner-city regeneration.

EC Public Works Directive 71/305 and EC Public Supplies Directive 77/62 set out the criteria on which the contracting authority shall base the award of contracts. These criteria do not include the area of residence of the workforce, and any such criteria would constitute an obstacle to equality of treatment of contractors tendering from other parts of the Community.

Countryside Commission Recommendations: Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they support the Countryside Commission's policies for improving public recreation facilities in the countryside as set out in their document

Enjoying the Countryside and in particular whether they endorse the commission's objective that the entire rights of way network should be legally defined, properly maintained and well publicised by the end of this century.

The commission's policies call for a new partnership between surveying authorities, landowners and users. This approach is designed to secure a more effective discharge of statutory obligations regarding rights of way, which I welcome in principle. Progress over time will naturally depend on the extent of resources allocated to the task by the surveying authorities.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will say what financial support they have given or propose to give to the Countryside Commission to enable them to implement their policies in

Enjoying the Countryside.

Subject to the approval of Parliament, we propose to increase total grant-in-aid to the Countryside Commission and related activities from £19·5 million in 1987–88 to £21·5 million in 1988–89. This should enable the commission to make a start on their Enjoying the Countryside initiative.

Rights Of Way: Map Updating

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are satisfied with progress made by county and London borough councils with the implementation of their duties under Part III of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for the revision of definitive maps of public rights of way.

While I am satisfied that the majority of authorities are getting to grips with the important task of updating definitive maps, it is clear that progress varies across the country. The speed with which surveying authorities deal with the work depends on the assessment by each authority of the degree of importance which rights of way work needs to be accorded in the particular circumstances and needs resource of their county or borough.

Ploughing Code

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they are satisfied with farmers' response to the advice contained in the booklet

Ploughing and Rights of Way issued in 1986 by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Countryside Commission.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Baroness Trumpington)

A copy of the Ploughing Code was sent to all farmers in England and Wales and I hope that they will heed the sound advice given in it. Monitoring of its effectiveness is being carried out by the Countryside Commission and the Ramblers' Association. I believe, however, that the code will need to operate for at least two years before its true effectiveness can be assessed.

Marine Science And Technology Co-Ordinating Committee

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Co-ordinating Committee on Marine Science and Technology, announced in July 1986, has been constituted; what its terms of reference are; and how many meetings it has held.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Education and Science
(Baroness Hooper)

Invitations to serve on this committee have recently been issued. I expect my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to make a formal announcement about membership and terms of reference very shortly.

Correspondence With Dhss: Improved Procedures

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in view of the length of time taken by the Department of Health and Social Security to answer letters from members of the public, they will acknowledge all letters immediately they are received, giving the name and telephone number of the officer who is to deal with the letter, as a standard procedure to reassure the writers that their letters have not been lost in the post.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Security
(Lord Skelmersdale)

The Department of Health and Social Security Code of Office Practice issued to social security local offices instructs staff to answer all letters as soon as possible, and if it is anticipated that a reply cannot be given within seven days staff are instructed to send an acknowledgment. If, at the outset, a delay of more than 14 days is expected, staff are instructed to send an interim reply explaining the reasons for delay. These arrangements have been made to reassure people writing to the department that their letters are received and are receiving attention. In parallel, we are seeking to improve the handling of correspondence addressed by members of the public to the Department of Health and Social Security headquarters and will take into account the views expressed by the noble Countess.

Registration System: Improvements

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the present position on recommendations made in the efficiency scrutiny report on the service for the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages in England and Wales.

On 17th February my predecessor told the House that three of the scrutiny's 47 recommendations were being rejected, and that priority was being given to those of the remainder which would not require principal legislation. The Government have now reviewed the position and intend to legislate along the lines of the scrutiny proposals in the present Parliament, should a suitable opportunity occur. To that end, consultations have been opened with the local authorities, staff representatives and other interested parties both on the scrutiny recommendations and on other related changes which may be pursued in order to make the registration system more efficient, up-to-date and responsive to public demand.

Ultra Vires Rules And Charitable Companies

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have decided that the changes they are considering in the

ultra vires rules for companies should apply to charitable companies.

No, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government have not yet reached a final decision on this matter.