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Written Answers

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 28 March 1996

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Written Answers

Thursday, 28th March 1996.

Greenwich Hospital Site: Future

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to receive advice from the special panel constituted to consider the future of Greenwich Hospital.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence announced on 19th December that he had invited a group of distinguished experts to advise him on the expressions of interests in, and on the future use and management of, the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, which he holds for the benefit of the Crown charity, Greenwich Hospital.The advisory group has submitted its interim report. He is most grateful to its members for the way in which they have addressed the issues so far. Copies of the report, amended only to protect matters of commercial confidentiality, have been placed in the Library of the House.Much detailed work remains to be done to secure the future of the site but, with the support of his right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for National Heritage and for the Environment (the latter as Minister for London), I am pleased to be able to announce that my right honourable friend has accepted the central recommendations of the advisory group that, in the event of non-Defence occupancy of the Royal Naval College:the head lease on the site should go to an independent trust charged with preserving its architectural and historic integrity, with the proper maintenance of the buildings and with ensuring public access. Such a trust would need to have regard also to the wider site for which the Government intends to secure world heritage status from UNESCO. He would also expect it to pay particular regard to the College's historical associations with the Royal Navy. He has invited the advisory group to give further consideration to the issues which will need to be resolved to enable such a trust to be established;on the information provided so far, the University of Greenwich appears to be the most appropriate contender to be the main occupant of the site, with the National Maritime Museum enjoying the use of certain parts. He will be inviting those organisations to refine their proposals for occupation of the Royal Naval College.

He has also accepted the recommendation that the Trafalgar Quarters, currently occupied by the staff colleges, should be converted by Greenwich Hospital to provide sheltered accommodation for retired seafarers and their wives or widows. It seems particularly appropriate that a part of the site should be applied to one of the central purposes in the Crown charity's founding charter of 1694.

To carry forward the recommendations in the report, new powers are required and these will he sought in the Armed Forces Bill, currently in another place. The Minister of State for the Armed Forces has advised the Select Committee considering the Bill of his intention to table an amendment, whereby my right honourable friend can be empowered to balance the wider interests of the heritage of the site with his responsibilities towards Greenwich Hospital.

He is grateful to those organisations and individuals that have contributed to the debate so far on the future of the Royal Naval College. He is conscious that this announcement will be a disappointment to some who indicated an expression of interest, but whose proposal will not be considered further.

The Government are determined that the future use of the Royal Naval College should be one worthy of the magnificent site, and in the best interests of the Greenwich Hospital and the nation.

I will keep the House informed of developments.

Intelligence And Security Committee: Report

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they have yet received the annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee in accordance with the Intelligence Services Act 1994.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has received the first annual report of the Intelligence and Security Committee and is presenting it to Parliament today. Copies are also being placed in the Libraries of both Houses. He is grateful to the committee for the careful and thorough way in which they have carried out their work. Certain portions of their report contained material which fell within the provisions of Section 10 of the Intelligence Services Act, and which has accordingly, after consultation with the committee, been deleted from the published report.The House will wish to be aware that, following consultations with the Leader of the Opposition and in accordance with Section 10 of the Intelligence Services Act, the Prime Minister has appointed the right honourable Lord Blaker as a member of the committee to succeed Lord Howe of Aberavon who has indicated his wish to step down from the committee. He is very grateful to Lord Howe for the part he has played in the Committee's work.

Environment Agency: Charging Schemes

asked Her Majesty's Government:What will be the Environment Agency charging schemes for 1996–97 for regulation under Integrated Pollution Control and the Radioactive Substances Act.

The Environment Act 1995 requires the Environment Agency to make charging schemes so as to recover the costs of carrying out its regulatory functions.The Government have consulted those who are likely to be affected by the schemes. In the light of that consultation, and with the consent of the Treasury, of my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Wales and—with regard to the Radioactive Substances Act—of my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Environment Agency has now made charging schemes for 1996–97 for regulation under Integrated Pollution Control and the Radioactive Substances Act.The schemes will take effect from 1st April 1996. Copies of them have been placed in the Library of the House.The schemes are similar to those which were previously administered by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Pollution, and there are no changes to the levels of charges as they were set out in the equivalent schemes for 1995–96. This represents a reduction in real terms of around 3 per cent. and has been achieved by continuing improvements in efficiency.Since responsibility for these schemes is shortly to pass from the Inspectorate to the Environment Agency, now is an appropriate time to acknowledge the hard work which the Inspectorate has done over the past three years to reduce the level of direct charges in real terms whilst maintaining a credible regulatory regime. We are also pleased to see the Environment Agency making these schemes, which demonstrates their intention to build upon the improvements in regulatory effectiveness and efficiency which were achieved by the Inspectorate, and to limit any increases in charges to those which are essential in order to reduce pollution and to improve the environment.Copies of the schemes will shortly be sent to relevant operators and to other interested bodies.

Public Path Orders: Recovery Of Costs

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they will announce the results of the recent review of the Local Authorities (Recovery of Costs for Public Path Orders) Regulations.

We have accepted the central conclusion of the review into the operation of the Local Authorities (Recovery of Costs for Path Orders) Regulations, which is that the maximum charge for administrative costs does not, in most cases, cover the costs incurred by local authorities.We therefore intend to amend the Regulations to remove the current £400 ceiling. Instead, local authorities will be required to draw up scales of charges, indicating the likely cost for unopposed orders and the maximum cost which they would charge. This change will be implemented by amending regulations, which we hope to have in place by the summer.

Offshore Installations: Safety Legislation

asked Her Majesty's Government:What has been the progress in implementing Lord Cullen's recommendations on the review and reform of offshore health and safety legislation following his inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster.

Since the Government accepted in full the recommendations in Lord Cullen's 1990 report on the Piper Alpha disaster, a total of four sets of new health and safety regulations for the offshore sector have been made. The latest, the Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc.) Regulations were laid before Parliament today. They mark a significant milestone in the review and reform programme undertaken by the Government as a result of Lord Cullen's report.The new legislation effects fundamental changes in the management of safety offshore, as recommended by Lord Cullen. A safety case regime for offshore installations has been established. This requires all installation operators and owners to assess the risks arising from offshore installations, and demonstrate how those risks will be controlled. It is now unlawful to operate an installation without acceptance of its safety case by the offshore safety regulator, the explosion, for emergency response—areas of high risk identified by Lord Cullen as requiring specific legislation—and for management and administration issues. Moreover, the new regulations complete offshore implementation of a European Directive concerned with health and safety in the extractive industries. Much old legislation has been revoked both by these new regulations and other reform initiatives in the programme.The Government have therefore met their obligation to review and reform offshore health and safety legislation in the manner set out by Lord Cullen in his report. We commend the Health and Safety Commission for its efforts in taking forward this programme and all parts of the industry for their positive approach to it. Together they have secured a legislative regime providing a firm foundation for the continued improvement of health and safety standards in the offshore sector.

Asylum Seekers: Appeals

asked Her Majesty's Government:How many appeals by asylum seekers are waiting to be heard; what is the average length of time for the determination of appeals; and what is the monthly rate of increase in the backlog of appeals.

As at the end of February 1996, there were 13,909 asylum appeals with the immigration appellate authorities waiting to be heard. Appeals by detained appellants are normally determined within six weeks of their receipt. For other cases, due to the concentration of asylum appeals in the south east, it currently takes 13 to 14 months for a case to be heard at the Hatton Cross and Thanet House centres. However, cases can be transferred to regional centres, where waiting times are between one to three months. In February 1996, there was an 8 per cent. increase in the backlog of appeals compared to the previous month.

War Crimes Act 1991

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Answer of the Lord Chancellor on 7th March (H.L. Deb., col. 409), how many candidates for prosecution under the War Crimes Act 1991 have remained under investigation since before 9th May 1991, and what best estimate may be given as the year in which such investigation may end and a decision as to prosecution may be made on all relevant evidence.

Eight cases identified by the Hetherington Chalmers inquiry remain under investigation by the Metropolitan Police. The conduct of the investigations is an operational matter for the police.

Single Parents: Benefits

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in assessing the cost to the Department of Health of reducing benefits for single parents, they took account of the report

Poor Expectations—Poverty and Undernourishment in Pregnancy by the National Children's Homes Action for Children and the Maternity Alliance, published in November 1995.

No. While every attempt is made to identify direct implications for other departments arising from public expenditure decisions, it is not feasible to take account of every potential second-order effect, still less to quantify it. Many factors bear on social outcomes, and it is seldom possible to identify singular causes.

Liable Relatives And Income Support

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is the cost of operating the Department of Social Security's liable relatives section in each year since 1985 and what proportion of that cost relates to income support claimants with dependent children.

Information about the full cost of liable relatives work since 1985 is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. It would not, in any event, be possible to determine the proportion of that cost that applied to income support beneficiaries with dependent children.

Asylum And Immigration

asked Her Majesty's Government:What is their forecast of the effects of the operation of the Asylum and Immigration Bill 1996 in reducing the time between applications for asylum and final decisions on those applications.

It is not possible to forecast the likely impact of this legislation on asylum intake, and hence on decision times, since these are also affected by many external factors. But the Government's policy includes a range of measures designed to improve throughout at both the initial decision and the appeal stages.

Elimination Of Racial Discrimination: Recommendations

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that during the further consideration of the 1995 Asylum and Immigration Bill, full consideration be taken of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The Government are satisfied that our obligations under international conventions are already fully met by the Asylum and Immigration Bill.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that comprehensive, action-oriented studies be undertaken to ascertain the reasons behind the low participation of persons belonging to ethnic minority groups in elections, both as voters and as candidates for public office, the reason for their low representation in the police and armed forces, and the reason for their disproportionately high level of unemployment;Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that the provisions of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination be taken into full account in the drafting of comprehensive race relations legislation for Northern Ireland, and that a Bill be promulgated as soon as possible;Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that an effort be made to make available in the principal minority languages important public information particularly concerning health care;Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that the Government regularly collect and analyse data relating to the academic progress of children, broken down by ethnicity, to develop policies and programmes with a view to eliminating disadvantages based on race; and,Whether they accept the recommendation made by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in their report of 15th March 1996 that investigations into deaths in custody be carried out expeditiously by independent inquiry mechanisms.

The United Kingdom is currently considering the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Competition Law: Consultation Document

asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress has been made with issuing a consultation document on the reform of competition law.

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

My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade has now issued the consultation document: Tackling Cartels and the Abuse of Market Power: Implementing the Government's Policy for Competition Law reform. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

France—Gibraltar—Morocco Air Service

asked Her Majesty's Government:In view of the European Community's Third Aviation Package and the air service arrangements between the United Kingdom and France which would empower an airline designated by France to call at Gibraltar en route to Morocco, whether France has any agreement similar to that outlined in the Exchange of Notes between the United Kingdom and Morocco (Cm 6798).

The UK-France air services agreement would permit an airline designated by France to operate a service to Morocco via Gibraltar picking up passengers in Gibraltar en route. The French carrier would also require permission from the Moroccan authorities under the France-Morocco air services arrangements, the full details of which are not publicly available.

Transport Council, 11Th March

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the result of the Transport Council held in Brussels on 11th March.

The Transport Council met in Brussels on 11 March. I represented the United Kingdom.The Council reached a common position on a directive to harmonise roadworthiness tests for motor vehicles and their trailers.The Council also reached a common position on three separate directives concerning market liberalisation, state aid rules and a vessel scrapping scheme in the inland waterways sector. The United Kingdom voted against the scrapping scheme because of our opposition in principle to Community funding for such schemes. The two other proposals were agreed without a vote.The Council discussed the Commission proposal for a mandate to negotiate an air transport agreement between the European Community and the United States. The United Kingdom made clear its view that the Commission had not demonstrated that this would add value to the present bilateral arrangements. However a majority of Member States were in favour of the principle of limited Community-level negotiations and the proposal was referred back to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) for further work.The Council also discussed the European Parliament's second reading opinion on the proposed Council/EP Decision on a trans-European transport network. It was agreed that the Presidency should work to reach agreement with the Parliament on a compromise text as soon as possible.The Commission gave a progress report to the Council on the state of play in the negotiations between the European Community and Switzerland in respect of land and air transport agreements.Following a general discussion, the Presidency concluded that a regulation concerning the collection of aviation statistics should be reconsidered at the next Transport Council to allow time for further consideration of a number of outstanding issues, including the application of the regulation to Gibraltar.

Other issues raised at the Council included Commission Green Papers on the citizens' network and external costs in transport and a Commission White Paper on air traffic management. There was also an intervention by the German delegation on air traffic safety and a French intervention on ferry safety.

East London Line

asked Her Majesty's Government:Further to the Written Answer by Viscount Goschen of 18th March 1996 (

WA 86), on what date London Underground applied to the London Docklands Development Corporation for approval to begin work on the Thames Tunnel of the East London Line, and when it is expected that a decision will be made.

London Underground Limited submitted a revised application to the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC), for listed building consent to begin work on the Thames Tunnel, on 28 October 1995. On 10 January 1996, following the Secretary of State for the Environment's decision not to intervene in the case, LDDC gave conditional consent for the Tunnel works. On 19 and 20 March 1996, LDDC gave approval for the works to go ahead, subject to LUL's compliance with a further set of conditions.

Search And Rescue Helicopter, Portland

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will continue to provide a search and rescue helicopter at Portland after 31 March.

This temporary arrangement for the provision of a coastguard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter at Portland will be extended for a further eight months, until the end of November. Longer-term decisions on the disposition of SAR helicopters will depend in part on the consultation on the interdepartmental review. We hope to publish the review's findings shortly.

Hannah Research And Moredun Research Institutes: Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:What proposals they have about the prior options reviews of the Hannah Research Institute and the Moredun Research Institute.

The Government's response to the report of the multidepartmental efficiency scrutiny of public sector research establishments announced a series of prior option reviews. As part of this series the Scottish Office Agriculture, Environment and Fisheries Department will conduct prior options reviews of the Hannah Research Institute and the Moredun Research Institute. The reviews will address the actual and potential relationship of the establishment to any others in similar or related fields, and will consider the potential for privatisation or rationalisation. I would welcome comments from interested parties. They should be sent by 30 April to:

  • Mrs. B. McGee
  • The Scottish Office Agriculture,
  • Environment and Fisheries Department
  • Pentland House
  • 47 Robb's Loan
  • EH14 1TY

Common Fisheries Policy And The Igc

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they intend to limit the discussions on the common fisheries policy at the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference to the subject of "quota hopping" or whether they will also seek to ensure that the following topics are discussed: the sustainability over time of the various fish stocks and the food chains of which they form part; the social and economic conditions of fishing communities; and the proper formulation and enforcement of regulations including those governing the extent of fishing permitted and the management of by-catches.

The existing regulations concerning the common fisheries policy address the issues of the sustainability of fish stocks, the environmental impact of fishing, the socio-economic circumstances of fishing communities and enforcement of the various quota and conservation regulations. Improvements to the arrangements can generally be addressed by appropriate changes to these regulations. Where treaty changes are needed, the Intergovernmental Conference will be the appropriate forum.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones: Grant Scheme

asked Her Majesty's Government:What assistance they will provide to farmers in nitrate vulnerable zones who are to face restrictions on the spreading of manures.

I am very pleased to announce a new grant scheme which will be open to farmers in England and Wales who have land in a nitrate vulnerable zone. The scheme will help those farmers who need to improve their farm waste facilities as a result of limits to be set on the spreading of livestock manures in the zones. The necessary statutory instrument has been laid before Parliament and will be debated in both Houses of Parliament.

The scheme, which offers a 25 per cent. rate of grant on eligible waste storage and handling facilities, will come into force on 17 April. For the first time, grant will be available on facilities for the separation of clean and dirty water, other than roofing, where this will reduce the need for storage. In addition, farmers will be able to call on ADAS for free advice to help them decide on the waste facilities needed to comply with the NVZ measures.

South West Objective 5(B) Area: Projects

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will provide details of the agricultural projects which have been approved in the South West Objective 5(b) Area.

The European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF) provides assistance to agriculture and food industries in the South West Objective 5(b) Area. This area takes in Cornwall, the

EAGGF projects processed in the south west objective 5B area
Project Title5(b) Areas to BenefitExpenditure £EAGGF GrantMAFF Grant
1. Island Produce—Establishment of a Potato GroupIsles of Scilly38,0009,5009,500
2. Isles of Scilly Horticultural Development InitiativeIsles of Scilly202,90063,4505,845
3. Horticulture 2000 (including horticultural facilitator)5(b) Area as a whole
Phase I540,000200,000100,000
Phase II1,196,000371,000251,000
4. Festival of West County Food and Drink5(b) Area as a whole34,7008,700500
5. Inchs Cider Apple Orchard GroupDevon927,000231,750231,750
6. Cheese Farm Market DevelopmentCornwall6,0001,5001,500
7. Plant Biomass—Phase 15(b) Area as a whole972,100284,330254,900
8. Quality Cheese ProductionDevon & Cornwall593,000130,000130,000
9. Plant Production and Sales CentreCornwall108,40021,68021,680
10. Exmoor Oak and Timber ProductsDevon & West Somerset722,500145,178145,178
11. SW Pig Production Development5(b) Area as a whole12,0003,0003,000
12. 5b Facilitator-Mr. G. N. Parker (Bio-mass, Industrial Crops, Diversification and Speciality Foods)5(b) Area as a whole135,02267,51167,511
13. 5b Facilitator—Mr. N. J. Wendover (Livestock, Cereals and The Environment)5(b) Area as a whole153,91676,95876,958
14. 5b Facilitator—Mr. & Mr. J. M. Woodcraft (Farm Tourism)5(b) Area as a whole82,53041,26541,265
15. Wheal Sara FlowersCornwall43,2007,5607,560
16. Western Quality Pigs5(b) Area as a whole750,000183,000173,000
17. West Cornwall Vegetable PackingCornwall240,00045,36745,367
18. Kingsbridge Estuary Conservation ProjectDevon60,00025,2502,750
19. West Country Tourist Board Farm Tourism Project5(b) Area as a whole3,854,500819,081819,081
20. River Tamar 2000 Conservation Project—Phase IDevon & Cornwall989,200304,650224,650
21. Brimpts Barn—Re-use of farm buildings for training purposesDevon176,60029,77529,775
22. Improvement/Development of Winter CauliflowersCornwall234,30274,81374,814
23. North Cornwall Poultry Group—Feasibility StudyDevon & Cornwall9,3462,3362,337
24. Bodmin Moor CommonersCornwall25,28211,01610,016
25. Ostrich Farms International5(b) Area as a whole1,238,653150,092150,093

Isles of Scilly, parts of Devon and parts of West Somerset.

Under the programme MAFF is able to provide support which in turn draws in EAGGF from Europe. Assistance is generally available in support of farm tourism, agricultural and horticultural development and diversification, protection and enhancement of the environment and the generation of energy from alternative sources by the agriculture industry. In addition there is a special package for the Isles of Scilly.

The first EAGGF projects under this programme were approved in March 1995. In the 12 months which have followed since then, a total of 25 projects have been approved and these will lead to the eventual investment of more than £13 million in the objective 5(b) Area. The projects approved vary from small schemes, such as that to develop a market for farm cheese, to a multi-million pound project to promote farm tourism in the whole area. Geographically they span the objective 5(b) area from horticultural enterprises in the Isles of Scilly to timber products on Exmoor and there is no part of the region which will not benefit. I am very pleased with the interest shown and hope that many more projects will be approved in the future.

Full details of the approved projects are as follows: