Skip to main content

Written Answers

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 17 April 1996

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Written Answers

Wednesday, 17th April 1996.

Adas: Future Structure

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have for the future structure of ADAS.Lord Lucas: The Government have announced their intention to transfer the majority of ADAS functions to the private sector. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Wales and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food are pleased with the progress that ADAS has made and, subject to its performance over the 1996ߝ97 financial year, will be looking to take privatisation forward in the course of 1997. The Secretary of State and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have agreed to create a new joint agency to take on those ADAS functions that need to be retained in the public sector. The new agency will work only on behalf of government customers. In line with government policy on privatisation it will not compete for work which is capable of being contracted out to the private sector. We expect the new agency to comprise around 400 professional staff and are planning for it to come into operation on 1 April 1997.

Debates: Ministerial Replies

asked Her Majesty's Government:In relation to subjects pertaining to the whole of the United Kingdom, but which are subject to devolved administration in the constituent parts of the Union, what arrangements exist to enable a Minister to reply to a debate in this House on such subjects addressing the whole United Kingdom, and not only those areas with which his own department deals.

By convention, when Ministers reply to debates in this House they do so on behalf of Her Majesty's Government as a whole and not as the spokesmen of a single department.

Negelle Borana: Visit By Ec Food Aid Monitor

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they know of any reason why Mr. Pearson, the European Union Food Aid Monitor in Addis Ababa, when he visited Negelle Borana in February, accompanied by Ato Amanti, the ex-relief co-ordinator of the Oromo Relief Association, omitted to ask the local zonal officials why the ORA office has been closed.

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

The visit to Negelle Borana in February by the EC food aid monitor was made to ensure that EC food stocks were accounted for and safe. No irregularities were found.

International Criminal Court: Draft Statute

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the International Law Commission's draft statute on the international criminal court, and of the amendments proposed by the United Kingdom, together with an explanatory memorandum setting out the Government's reasons for the changes they propose.

A copy of the International Law Commission's draft statute on the international criminal court will be placed in the Library of the House.The United Kingdom has participated fully in discussions concerning the draft statute, most recently at the first session of the Preparatory Committee which has just concluded in New York. The delegation's negotiating position reflected the Government's objectives as set out in Sir Nicholas Bonsor's answer in another place on 6 February.At that meeting the United Kingdom participated in the discussions on various aspects of the matter and circulated an informal document which suggested how the relationship between a new court and national systems might best be provided for in the draft statute. A copy of that paper, which contains proposals for specific amendments, will also be placed in the Library of the House.

European Court Of Human Rights: Powers

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish their document on the powers of the European Court of Human Rights referred to in the

Guardian on 2nd April 1996.

The Note on the Position of the British Government has been laid in the Libraries of both Houses.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether it is correct, as reported in the

Guardian on 2nd April 1996, that the Government are seeking to persuade the governments of other member states of the Council of Europe to limit the powers of the European Court of Human Rights and, if not, whether they will state the accurate position.

The Government accept the powers of the European Court of Human Rights as laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights. What we are seeking is wider and more consistent application of the court's own doctrine of the margin of appreciation, as indicated in our Note on the Position of the British Government. The note has been laid in the Libraries of both Houses.

Brazil And Indian Land Protection

asked Her Majesty's Government:What action they are taking both bilaterally and multilaterally to ensure that together with the Brazilian Government the agreements made at the Rio Earth Summit on Indian land protection are honoured both in spirit and in substance.

Her Majesty's Government regularly make clear to the Brazilian authorities the need to respect the rights and interests of indigenous peoples, in line with the principles and objectives of the Rio Declaration and Programme of Action. During his recent visit to the UK the Brazilian Minister of Justice gave assurances of the Brazilian Government's continuing commitment to the successful completion of the indigenous lands demarcation programme currently under way.

Osce-Us: Military Information

asked Her Majesty's Government:What bilateral military agreements with Commonwealth of Independent States countries and west, central, south and north European countries have the United States made "transparent" to the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe as required by its membership; and whether they have knowledge of other such agreements.

The Vienna Document '94 stipulates that "the participating states are required to exchange information on agreements on programmes of military contacts and co-operation concluded with other participating states". The United Kingdom and all other OSCE states have been informed of a variety of such programmes by the United States, including military contacts with: Albania, Belarus, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

Juveniles In Secure Units

asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the total number of secure places for juveniles in

(a) youth treatment centres and (b) local authority secure units in each year from 1990 to 1995

respectively; what is the current number of such places; and how many such places have been opened and closed respectively since 1991.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
(Baroness Cumberlege)

Information is collected centrally on the numbers of places approved. Figures on the total number of approved places in England are in the table. Monthly information on approved places at each secure unit is published in Table 1 of Children accommodated in secure units, year ending 31 March 1995, England A/F 95/21 (and Table H of previous publications), a copy of which is available in the Library.

Places approved by the Secretary of State in local authority secure units at 1 April 1990–1996
(excluding the number of places provided by YTC).In addition, from 1990 to 1995 there were 60 secure places in the Youth Treatment Service. The St. Charles Centre closed in September 1995. From that date and currently there are 30 secure places at the Glenthorne Centre. The Youth Treatment Centre plan to increase this to 40 during the course of 1996.

Outer Space: Control Of Weaponry

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in answering questions about the weaponisation of space (14th and 26th February 1996) they quoted only Article IV of the 1967 Space Treaty, and not Article I which states that "the exploration and use of outer space…shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic and scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind", because they hold that Article IV is not to be interpreted in the light of Article I but rather as limiting the application of Article I, thereby allowing all military activity in space which is not cited in Article IV; and whether this interpretation is now and always has been accepted by the non superpower signatories.

The terms of a treaty have to be interpreted in their context, which includes the whole of the text of the treaty. Article I is a general provision governing the exploration and use of outer space. Article IV is a more specific provision concerning (1) nuclear weapons and (2) the use of the moon and other celestial bodies exclusively for peaceful purposes. The position remains as set out in my earlier answers (Official Report), cols. WA 48 and WA 87).

The Army: Apprentice Training

asked Her Majesty's Government:What plans they have to restructure apprentice training within the Army.

A review of apprentice training arrangements in the Army has recommended, subject to consultation, that they should be restructured along the lines of the government flagship initiative on modern apprenticeship training which is intended to raise the competence and competitiveness of the UK workforce as a whole.The Army's scheme (which will encompass the Royal Engineers, Royal Signals, Royal Logistics Corps and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) would be open to young people aged 16½-18½ and would commence with a common 28 week foundation course at Rowcroft Barracks, Arborfield, followed by technical training at the appropriate army or service's trade training school and a period of on the job training leading to the award of an NVQ level three within three to four years.The proposals would necessitate some revision to our previous plans to transfer all R SIGNALS apprentice training to Blandford. Under the new arrangements future R SIGNALS apprentices would still complete their trade training at Blandford but only after completing their 28 week foundation course at Arborfield.

'Sea Empress' Grounding: Inquiry

asked Her Majesty's Government:What progress is being made by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch with their investigation into the grounding of the 'Sea Empress' off Milford Haven on 15th February and the subsequent salvage operation.

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

The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has assured my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport that the investigation is progressing satisfactorily. The inspectors have interviewed many of the people from whom they need to take evidence and this process is continuing. All parties are co-operating with the inspectors. There has been a good response to the public notices placed in the press inviting people to make representations to the inspectors which would assist them both in determining the circumstances and causes of the grounding and in relation to the subsequent salvage operations. The chief inspector has received 35 detailed representations and a further 63 letters from people, some of whom wish to give evidence to the inspectors.The chief inspector's target for investigations of this kind is to submit his final report to my right honourable friend within 12 months of the date of an accident. Within this time, he has to carry out a consultation process on the draft, a statutory requirement which normally takes two months or more. If at any stage of the inquiry the chief inspector feels that he can usefully and properly publish interim recommendations, he will do so. In order to carry out the investigation both speedily and thoroughly, the chief inspector has told my right honourable friend that he has appointed five of his nine inspectors to the investigation.My right honourable friend hopes to publish the chief inspector's final report as soon as possible after receiving it.

Colchester Young Offender Institution

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether progress has been made with their plans for a second demanding new regime for young offenders.

My honourable friend announced today that we have decided to establish a new young offender institution on a site at the Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC) at Colchester.Colchester Young Offender Institution will begin taking its first prisoners this autumn, building to a maximum population of 32 young men aged between 18 and 21. The purpose of this initiative is to test the effectiveness of a regime similar to that followed by military detainees in improving the attitude and behaviour of young offenders and in reducing the level of their re-offending after release. Young offenders will be sent to Colchester having been assessed as suitable for the regime and condition there. They will not be volunteers. Their day will be long and active, beginning with reveille at 6 a.m. and ending with lights out at 10 p.m. They will experience a combination of discipline, education and training reflecting the military ethos of the MCTC.Colchester Young Offender Institution will operate under the Young Offender Institution Rules and Prison Service policy. It will be run by staff from the Prison Service and by military staff appointed as prison officers. The military commandant of the MCTC will be appointed as the governor and he will have as his deputy an experienced Prison Service governor grade. Military staff appointed to the young offender institution will be thoroughly trained. Young offenders' progress will be monitored while at Colchester and afterwards. The results will be compared with those from a group of similar young offenders from a normal young offender institution.This is the second of two tough, disciplined and demanding new regimes for young offenders. The first is the High Intensity training programme at Thorn Cross Young Offender Institution which my right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced last year and which will take its first inmates in the summer.Together these initiatives represent a serious and determined attempt by Her Majesty's Government to find a way to break the cycle of re-offending among persistent young offenders.

Housing Benefit

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, in introducing the housing benefit regulations, they consulted the Department of the Environment regarding the increase in costs arising from the subsequent increase in youth homelessness; and,Whether any money has been transferred from the Department of Social Security to the Department of the Environment to cover the increase in costs as a result of the proposals to cut housing benefit to young people.

There is no evidence to support the contention that the October 1996 housing benefit changes for single people under 25 will result in increased homelessness. No transfer of funds has therefore been made to the Department of the Environment.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will consider exempting former victims of rape and sexual assault from the restriction on housing benefit for under 25s to the level appropriate to shared accommodation.

Although certain groups are exempt from the October 1996 housing benefit rules for single young people under 25, the thrust of the rules is to move away from a prescriptive approach. That is why we have given local authorities discretion to pay additional housing benefit to prevent exceptional hardship.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will consider exempting people with disabilities from the new restriction of housing benefit for under 25s to the level appropriate to shared accommodation.

The Government believe that many young people with disabilities, who are unable to live in shared accommodation, will be living in accommodation which is exempt from the changes. In other cases local authorities can consider making discretionary payments to avoid exceptional hardship.

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether crisis loans from the Social Fund will be available to meet debts to landlords created by the payment of housing benefit in arrears.

Social Fund crisis loans are not available for housing costs, including rent and analogous charges for accommodation. However, Social Fund officers may consider a crisis loan to help with charges for board and lodging accommodation and residential charges for hostels, other than for deposits. Crisis loans may also be awarded to assist with rent in advance where the landlord is not a local authority.

Paymaster Agency: Review

asked Her Majesty's Government:When they expect to announce the results of the prior options review of the Office of HM Paymaster General; and whether that announcement will take the form of a document subject to parliamentary debate before the reaching of a final decision.

The prior options review of the Paymaster Agency, announced by the Paymaster General on 4th December 1995 (House of Commons Official Report, cols. 15ߝ16), is still in progress. As the announcement made clear, the Paymaster General will be reporting back to Parliament in due course on its outcome. No decision has yet been made on the form of any announcement following the review.

Capital Gains Tax

asked Her Majesty's Government:(a) What was the yield of capital gains tax for the last available financial year; and (b) what would be the estimated loss of revenue if assets acquired more than (i) five years and (ii) two years before disposal were removed from the charge to tax.

The provisional estimate of capital gains tax receipts in 1995–96 is 800 million. The costs, expressed in terms of the reduction to capital gains tax liabilities for a full tax year, of removing from charge to capital gains tax the disposal of assets acquired more than (i) five years and (ii) two years before disposal are as follows:

Charge removed from assets held more thanFull year cost (for 1996–97) £ billionFull year cost (medium term)£ billion
(i) 5 years1.11.8
(ii) 2 years1.32.0
These estimates take into account the likely effect on capital gains tax yield of changes to the timing and volume of disposals in the year brought about by changes in taxpayers' behaviour, but not the consequential effects on other taxes.Capital gains made by companies, including those gains of insurance companies which are attributable to policyholders, are chargeable to corporation tax and, as such, are excluded from the figures above.

Lloyd's Underwriters: Tax Payments And Refunds

asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will give, on a constant price basis using the price index of gross domestic product at market prices (using the October to December quarter for 1995), the net tax paid or repaid to underwriting members of Lloyd's during each of the 14 tax years 1982–83 to 1995–96.

The following table shows, on the constant price basis requested, (a) the total tax charged on initial assessments, including estimated assessments, made during each tax year on underwriting profits and gains and (b) the total of income tax and capital gains tax repaid to Lloyd's underwriters by the underwriters unit of Inland Revenue in each tax year, including any repayment supplement attracted by the tax refunded. The level of repayments in the last few years (1991–92 onwards) reflects insurance losses incurred at Lloyd's. The tax repaid was originally paid by the underwriters in earlier years on income and gains from either Lloyd's or. non-Lloyd's sources.

£ million
Tax yearTax assessed at 1995 Q4 pricesTax repaid at 1995 Q4 prices
1 6th April 1995 to 31st March 1996.