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Written Answers

Volume 569: debated on Thursday 29 February 1996

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Written Answers

Thursday, 29th February 1996.

Grenada, Dominica And Solomon Islands: Loans

asked Her Majesty's Government:On what dates Grenada, Dominica and the Solomon Islands first went into arrears with repayments of United Kingdom aid loans; on what dates new commitments of financial aid to those countries were suspended. and whether they will publish a table showing the sums of money disbursed to each of those countries since those dates, listing in the case of each disbursement the previously existing contractual commitment under which it was made.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

The dates on which Grenada. Dominica and Solomon Islands first went into arrears with repayment of United Kingdom loans were as follows:

  • Grenada: 1st October 1991
  • Dominica: 1st December 1992
  • Solomon Islands: 21st April 1991
It is ODA's normal policy not to make new capital aid funds available to countries in arrears on aid loans. In the case of Dominica, therefore, disbursement of a £5 million allocation announced in 1993 was made subject to payment of loan arrears. However, as an exceptional measure, and in recognition of the effects of a severe hurricane in 1995, £200,000 was committed for a Community Development Programme in January 1996 after clearance with the Treasury. In the case of Grenada, the only new grant agreement signed since the date of arrears was for £465,000 in July 1994, also for a Community Development Support Grant. In the case of the Solomon Islands no new grant agreements have been signed, apart from one for 180,000 signed in May 1991 very shortly after the Solomon Islands fell into arrears.Disbursements to Grenada, Dominica and Solomon Islands under previously existing Grant/Loan Agreements since the date of first default were as follows:-Grenada Loan 1985

  • 1991/92: £473,246
  • 1992/93: £826,204
  • 1993/94: £437,520
  • 1994/95: £156,660
  • 1995/96: £23,150

Grenada Coastguard Facility Grant 1986

  • 1991/92: £109,183
  • 1992/93: £33,500
  • 1993/94: £6,909

Dominica Loan 1987

  • 1992/93: £41,757
  • 1993/94: £29,444

Dominica Grant 1990

  • 1992/93: £1,004,487
  • 1993/94: £1,897.132
  • 1994/95: £105,042

Solomon Islands Scholarship Grant 1989

  • 1991/92: £35,326

Solomon Islands Baunani Grant 1990

  • 1991/92: £38,867

Solomon Islands Electricity Grant 1990

  • 1991/92: £86,006
  • 1992/93: £80,654
  • 1993/94: £38,599

Flea Collars: Child Safety

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether cat and dog flea collars impregnated with organophosphates or carbonate pesticides which arc stated to he effective for several weeks are considered to he safe in the presence of young children who are likely to handle their pets.

All veterinary medicines are required to he considered against the statutory criteria of safety, quality and efficacy before a marketing authorisation can he issued. Safety in this context includes the animal and those who might handle the product. The product types referred to have all been assessed against these criteria. and have been authorised for use in accordance with the instructions and warnings on the product packaging. For organophosphate and carbonate based flea collars, the warnings include keeping the collar out of reach of children and not allowing them to play with it. It is the responsibility of the pet owner or parent to ensure that these warnings are followed. In any case of doubt, advice on alternative treatments should he obtained from a veterinary surgeon.

Greece: Control Of Cap Expenditure

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is the case that the European Commission has attempted to justify to the European Court of Auditors the "complete lack of inspection visits" for the control of ewe premium paid in two Greek prefectures on the grounds of "localised bandit activity-, and if so, what sums are involved and what action do they propose to take.

I can confirm that the European Commission has said that no inspections were carried out in two Greek prefectures in 1991 for the reason stated. Under EC budgetary rules on the financing of the common agricultural policy, the Commission has the power to impose financial corrections when it cannot verify that expenditure in a member state has been carried out in compliance with Community rules. Costs arc not charged to the EC budget but fall to national exchequers. For 1991, the Commission made a correction of about £0.4 million on ewe premium payments in Greece due to inadequate controls on expenditure. In total, Greece was subject to financial corrections amounting to 10 per cent. of its total C.AP expenditure. Commission Decisions on the 1992 clearance of accounts are expected this year. I understand that they may include a correction of £0.6 million in respect of ewe premium expenditure because of inadequate controls and that the total correction for Greece could again he near 10 per cent. of its CAP expenditure.

Agriculture Council, 26Th February

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 26th February.

The Council had a first discussion on the 1996 farm price proposals. The UK regretted that the Commission had not taken this opportunity to propose a move towards the more market orientated CAP which their recent report had recognised was inevitable for the longer term. In particular, the UK regretted the failure to address the over-compensation of the arable sector which resulted from high Community and world market prices for cereals and unchanged area payments.The Council also discussed Commission proposals on the use of hormones and so-called beta agonists in livestock farming. Most member states remain opposed to any use of hormones and, with few limited exceptions, beta agonists. The UK stressed the desirability of avoiding the adoption of a policy which would run serious risks of adverse judgments in the World Trade Organisation. However, this approach was supported only by Spain and the Netherlands. The President announced that he expected to take final decisions at the next meeting in March.The Commissioner outlined his proposals to improve the welfare of calves used for veal production. The UK welcomed the proposal but criticised the proposed 12-year transitional period as being much too long.

Arable Area Payments

asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they have taken to strengthen the regional organisation following the delays experienced in 1995 in payments under the arable area payments scheme.

With the aim of avoiding any such delays on this or other schemes, and despite a general reduction in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's running costs budget of over 5 per cent., the regional organisation (which makes payments under the arable area payments scheme) will benefit from an increased level of provision for the financial year 1996/97 compared with the current year. Various improvements in information technology and in management procedures arc also in train.

Multi-Media And Information Technology

asked Her Majesty's Government:How they intend to ensure that the United Kingdom derives maximum benefit from opportunities in developments in multi-media and information technology.

The Government see the development of multi-media and information technology as an exciting area of opportunity for the UK in which much is already being achieved. These technological innovations are having an important impact on all aspects of our way of life. In the future there will he further opportunities for business to develop new products, services and ways of working; for individuals to adapt their work patterns; for consumers to improve their quality of life with new electronic products and services; and for the providers of services such as health care, education and training to strengthen their quality and delivery.The Government have been committed to the comprehensive development of these technologies since the early 1980s. By freeing up the market for our telecommunications and broadcasting industries through privatisation and deregulation and promoting the use of computers in schools we have made sure that the UK is in the vanguard of technological change. We arc now undertaking a further range of initiatives, most recently through the Information Society Initiative launched last month.A strong lead is rightly being given by the private sector's enterprise and initiative. That will continue to he supported by a focused and complementary partnership with Government. In order to reinforce that focus and driving force across Government, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has asked the First Secretary of State and Deputy Prime Minister to convene a Ministerial Group with the following terms of reference:

"To identify and take forward significant cross-departmental initiatives to ensure that developments in information technology are exploited to the full in the national interest."

In addition to the chairman, members of the group will he as follows:

  • President of the Board of Trade
  • Chief Secretary, Treasury
  • Secretary of State for National Heritage
  • Secretary of State for Education and Employment
  • Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
  • Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. David Davis)
  • Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Technology, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Ian Taylor).

Other Ministers will he invited to attend for items of which they have a departmental interest. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister's Efficiency Adviser and Chief Scientific Adviser will also attend.

The work of the group will build on the Information Society Initiative and the separate activities of the Central Information Technology Unit recently set up in the Office of Public Service to plan the Government's own use of technology. By these means the Government will ensure that there is strengthened stimulus and co-ordination within and beyond government to enable the UK to derive maximum benefit from the new technology.

Local Government Reorganisation: Lord Lieutenants

asked Her Majesty's Government:Which Lord Lieutenants will he affected by changes in local government organisation that come into operation on 1st April 1996.

On 1st April 1996 the following arrangements will conic into effect:

In the former county of Avon

  • Mr. Jay Tidmarsh will become the new Lord Lieutenant of the new county of Bristol.
  • Sir John Wills, Lord Lieutenant of Somerset, will cover the unitary authorities of Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset as part of the new ceremonial county of Somerset.
  • Mr. Henry Elwes, Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire, will cover the unitary authority of South Gloucestershire as part of the new ceremonial county of Gloucestershire.

In the former country of Cleveland

  • You, at present Lord Lieutenant of Cleveland, will become Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, when the unitary authorities of Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland and Stockton-on-Tees (south of the River Tees), previously in Cleveland, become part of the new ceremonial county of North Yorkshire.
  • Sir Marcus Worsley will continue as Lord-Lieutenant of the whole county of North Yorkshire, including the new unitary authority of York.
  • Mr. David Grant, as Lord Lieutenant of Durham, will cover the unitary authorities of Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees (north of the River Tees) within the new ceremonial county of Durham.

In the former county of Humberside

  • Mr. Richard Marriott will become the Lord Lieutenant of the new county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, covering the unitary authorities of Kingston upon Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire.
  • Mrs. Bridget Cracroft-Eley, as Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire, will cover the unitary authorities of North and North East Lincolnshire, will cover the unitary ceremonial county of Lincolnshire.

Uk Forces Under Us Command

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have held any discussions on the desirability of subordinating British defence capabilities to those of the United States; and if so, with whom.

No. We retain overall direction of UK forces. However, we may agree from time to time to relinquish operational command or control of elements of those forces under arrangements to which we have agreed for the conduct of alliance or other multinational coalition operations. Such arrangements are regularly rehearsed in exercises such as the bilateral exercise Purple Star. to he held with the United States in April and May this year, during which British units will be subordinated for exercise purposes to US commanders, and vice versa.

Arms Exports: Public Information

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, following the recommendation of the Scott Report that details of weapon sales to foreign countries should be published, they will list the details of licences issued in 1995, and 1996 to date, for arms transfers worth more than £100,000.

No, but we intend to review the practice of successive governments not to reveal details of the export of defence related equipment in reply to parliamentary Questions.A paper has been placed in the Library of the House which sets out current policy and practice in informing Parliament about arms sales matters. We hope that this will be a useful document to take the discussion forward.

Bulk Carrier Losses

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many bulk carriers were lost during each of the years from 1990 to 1995; how many of them disappeared without trace; and how many lives were lost in consequence.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport
(Viscount Goschen)

Total number of bulk carriers lost2024169185
Total lives lost as a result of loss of bulk carriers125154287414881
Total number of bulk carriers lost without trace31
Total lives lost as a consequence of bulk carriers lost without trace9026
The above figures have been obtained from Lloyd's Register's Casualty Data.

Holding Centres: Independent Commissioner's Annual Report

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they intend to publish Sir Louis Blom-Cooper's third annual report as Independent Commissioner for Holding Centres.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office
(Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

I have today arranged for the copies of Sir Louis Blom-Cooper's annual report for 1995 to be placed in the Library.My right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State is grateful to the commissioner for his report and for the assurance that it provides that he has found absolutely nothing that might give anyone the slightest cause for concern about the care and treatment of detainees held in the custody of uniformed officers of the RUC.He will be studying carefully the recommendations which Sir Louis has made in the light of the changed circumstances since the ending of PIRA's cessation of military operations.

Secure Training Centres

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it will be a necessary precondition for success that contractors tendering for secure training centres have previous experience in working with difficult and delinquent young adolescents.

The original advertisement in the Official Journal of the European Communities required potential bidders to give details of any work undertaken in the previous three years demonstrating capability in the provision of services for young people. This information was taken into account in deciding who should be invited to tender.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether 12 to 14 year-old girls as well as boys will be liable to be sent to the proposed secure training centres at Gringley in Nottinghamshire and Cookham Wood in Kent, and if so what special arrangements are planned to ensure their wellbeing.

The Secure Training Order will be available for both male and female offenders. The operational specification requires that females should be accommodated in facilities capable of being completely separated from males. Sleeping accommodation must be physically separate. The arrangements proposed by tenderers to ensure the necessary degree of protection, privacy and protection of trainees will be given very careful consideration before any contracts are awarded.

Public Interest Immunity Claims

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they accept the recommendation of Lord Justice Scott "that for the purposes of court hearings of PII claims by Government Departments, counsel instructed by the Departments should not be counsel for the prosecution".

There are already occasions when separate counsel are instructed to deal with PII claims. This recommendation will be given careful and detailed examination in conjunction with other recommendations on public interest immunity.

Matrix Churchill Case: Public Interest Immunity

asked Her Majesty's Government:On what authority the Treasury Solicitor's Department in the Matrix Churchill case instructed counsel "to seek to avoid the disclosure of the documents covered by the various public interest immunity certificates".

The Treasury Solicitor's Department was authorised to act in relation to public interest immunity on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence. The Attorney-General gave evidence to the Scott Inquiry that the instructions to prosecuting counsel in relation to the DTI were inadequate and that counsel should have been shown the correspondence between the Attorney-General and the then President of the Board of Trade. This is recorded in the report.In the event, prosecuting counsel, in line with the then President's specially drafted PII certificate, emphasised to the court that Ministers were doing no more than performing their duty to assert PII, and that it was for the court to decide which documents should be disclosed. At counsel's invitation the trial judge read every document covered by the certificates and duly decided which should be disclosed.

Prosecution Policy

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they accept, as a matter of future policy, that, where there is a significant public interest impediment to disclosure of documents which might prove the innocence of a defendant in a criminal trial, the prosecution should be discontinued.

Prosecution policy is a matter for the independent prosecuting authorities and not for Her Majesty's Government. It has long been the practice of prosecuting authorities to discontinue proceedings if it is not possible to make disclosure of documents or information acknowledged by them or held by the court to be necessary for a fair trial.

The Royal Parks Agency

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Secretary of State for National Heritage has examined and approved the Royal Parks Agency's recent review of organisation and structure, and the growing importance it intends to attach to commercial estate management, income generation and the realisation of these national assets [viz. the Royal Parks] and whether these proposals are in full accord with Dame Jennifer Jenkins' recommendations.

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage
(Lord Inglewood)

The Chief Executive of the Royal Parks is currently examining the recommendations of the recent review of the organisation and structure of the Royal Parks. The chief executive will submit his recommendations to Ministers in due course.The comments about income generation and commercial estate management in the report reflect the consultants' personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ministers or the chief executive. Although the agency must consider how it can maximise income from the Royal Parks in order to meet the financial targets set by Ministers, the chief executive proposes to achieve such targets within the parameters of the agency's existing policy, including the recommendations of the Jenkins Reviews that Ministers have already accepted.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether the Royal Parks Agency will now publish a complete list of all its consultancy contracts, including those entered into by the agency before it was set up, and those entered into by its primary and other contractors, together with all relevant dates and details of action subsequently taken or not taken.

The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

Beaufort's Dyke: Survey Work

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will announce details of further survey work at Beaufort's Dyke.

The Government have arranged for the Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen, to undertake further surveys of Beaufort's Dyke and the surrounding area. The principal objective of this work, which will be undertaken in May and July, will be to map the densities and distribution of any dumped munitions, particularly those located outwith the Beaufort's Dyke explosives disposal site.The survey work will encompass:

  • an area to the north, including the territory to be covered by the proposed electricity interconnector;
  • the area to the east between the deep trench and the Scottish coastline;
  • and an area to the south and east up to and including the natural gas pipeline between Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.

The final limits of the investigation will be determined by the distribution and densities of dumped munitions. A map of the areas to be covered by the survey has been placed in the House Library.

The MLA investigations will utilise their research vessel's hull-mounted transducer interfaced to RoxAnn ©, high resolution side-scan sonar, towed sledge, ROV-mounted and drop frame (suspended from the survey vessel) underwater television systems, and a magnetometer, or pulse induction or resistivity system. A boomer system may also be used to investigate sub-surface seabed sediments.

Seabed sediment and fish and shellfish samples will again be collected, particularly from those areas which were not sampled earlier, to confirm whether dumped munitions have had an effect on the quality of the marine environment or commercially exploited species.