Home Page

Column 113

Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 16 May 1989

TRANSPORT

European Market (Freight Links)

103. Mr. Gerald Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he has taken to ensure that Britain will be able to compete fully in the European market when the freight links between the Channel tunnel and the manufacturing and exporting base in the north pass through already overcrowded rail routes in London.

Mr. Portillo : British Rail's routes in the London area have considerable spare capacity outside the commuter peaks. The board considers it will have ample capacity to handle Channel tunnel freight traffic in the short and medium term and in the longer term if its proposed new passenger rail link is built.

Orange Badge Scheme

Mr. Andrew Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consideration he has given to the implications for elderly people with (a) arthritis, (b) Parkinson's disease and (c) heart complaints of his Department's proposals to reform the orange badge scheme.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : We propose to tighten the eligibility criteria so that, in accordance with the original aims of the scheme, orange badges are issued to people with severe mobility problems, irrespective of the medical cause.

We shall be consulting interested parties, including organisations representing disabled and elderly people, on detailed proposals for bringing the criteria into line with this objective.

River Thames (Traffic)

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to increase the use of the River Thames to reduce vehicular traffic in and around London.

Mr. Portillo : The Government recognise that transport of passengers and freight by river can contribute to the relief of road congestion in London. This was reflected in an agreement concluded on 22 March under which the Government are making a grant of up to £500, 000 to promote and improve the regular passenger services provided by the Riverbus partnership. The Port of London authority is particularly promoting the river carriage of bulk materials including materials for major construction projects in docklands, and refuse.

A1 Northumberland

Mr. Beith : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when he expects improvements to be carried out to the A1 between Bellshill and Mousen, Northumberland.


Column 114

Mr. Peter Bottomley : At present it seems unlikely that work on any improvement of this section of the A1 will start before 1992-93. The flow is low and the cost is high.

Ticket Barriers (London Underground)

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, further to his answer of 28 February, Official Report , column 115 , what was the basis of his calculation that the total cost of installing automatic ticket barriers at London Underground stations will be £22.2 million ; whether it included electronics, computers and other associated costs of their installation ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Portillo : The estimated final cost at current prices was provided by LRT. I understand it covered the cost of gate equipment, cabling, data circuits and installation. The cost of computers was not included as they serve all the new ticketing system, not just the gates.

Shipping

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what has been the credit, debit and balance of payments on shipping services in each year since 1974-75.

Mr. Portillo : I refer the hon. Member to table 3.3 in "United Kingdom Balance of Payments, 1988 Edition--CSO Pink Book" published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office for the Government statistical service, a copy of which is in the Library.

Figures for the years 1974 to 1976, which are not included in the 1988 edition, are as follows :


£ million                               

        |Credits|Debits |Balance        

----------------------------------------

1974    |2,665  |2,776  |-111           

1975    |2,651  |2,562  |89             

1976    |3,233  |3,155  |78             

Channel Tunnel Rail Link

Dr. Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what representations he has received from Sellindge parish council, Kent, to move the proposed high speed Channel rail route south of their village.

Mr. Portillo : The Department can trace no record of having received any representations from Sellindge parish council since British Rail announced its preferred route for the proposed rail link to the Channel tunnel.

Trunk Roads (Emergency Telephones)

Mr. Mans : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for further provision of emergency telephones on all-purpose trunk roads.

Mr. Peter Bottomley : Over 5,000 calls have been made from emergency telephones on the A180 trunk road between Brigg and Grimsby since they were installed in March 1988. The heavy use demonstrates their value.

The Department is now to embark on an initial programme of further provision of over 140 emergency telephones at priority sites on selected lengths of the A1, A2, A45, A46, A303 and A604 trunk roads. This programme will help all motorists, particularly vulnerable drivers, including those travelling alone or at

night. The Department also works closely with disability and motoring organisations to promote better emergency and breakdown provision for those unable to leave their cars to use the telephone. Further schemes will be added to the programme as the opportunity arises.

East London River Crossing

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what consideration he has given and what policy decisions he has made concerning charging tolls for road vehicles crossing the proposed east London river crossing bridge between Newham and Thamesmead.

Mr. Channon : I have no proposals to levy tolls on the east London river crossing scheme.

British Rail (Costs)

Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what costs were identified by British Rail in the last financial year in respect of (a) funding local planning inquiries, (b) meeting specific planning requirements made by local authorities, (c) maintenance of listed buildings and other structures, (d) measures to lessen the impact of noise, (e) measures to lessen the impact of visual intrusion and (f) total expenditure on infrastructure (i) investment and (ii) maintenance.

Mr. Portillo : The Department does not collect detailed management information on items (a) to (e), from British Rail. British Rail will provide information on infrastructure expenditure in its annual report and accounts for 1988-89, due to be published in July.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Co-responsibility Levies

Mr. Colvin : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by how much co-responsibility levies will increase when the Green pound is devalued as a result of the 1989 price negotiation.

Mr. MacGregor : At the 1989 price fixing, agreement was reached on significant reductions in the levels of milk co-responsibility levy, including its removal in less-favoured areas. It was agreed that this was the first step towards total elimination of the levy, for which the United Kingdom has consistently argued. These changes, together with the 3.2 point green pound devaluation, mean that the rates of levy paid by producers in 1988-89 and that to be paid in 1989-90 compare as follows :


                          |1988-89    |1989-90                

                          |£ per tonne|£ per tonne            

--------------------------------------------------------------

(i) Producers in LFAs:                                        

  First 60,000 kg         |2.861      |Nil                    

                                                              

  Remainder               |3.814      |Nil                    

                                                              

(ii) Producers elsewhere:                                     

  Producers of up to                                          

  60,000 kg               |3.814      |1.968                  

  Producers of more                                           

  than 60,000 kg          |3.814      |2.951                  

The cereals co-responsibility levy has two elements. First, there is a fixed basic levy of 3 per cent. of the


Column 116

intervention price. Secondly, there is an additional levy which, at the beginning of the marketing year, is set at 3 per cent. of the intervention price and is subsequently adjusted under the stabiliser arrangements if the EC cereals harvest exceeds the maximum guaranteed quantity of 160 million tonnes by less than 3 per cent. The total levy--basic plus additonal--deducted from first sales of cereals at the beginning of the 1988 marketing year was £7.06 per tonne. This was subsequently adjusted to £5.57, which was the rate applicable at the time of this year's price fixing. Following the 3.9 point green pound devaluation agreed at this year's price fixing, and taking account of the operation of the cereals stabiliser mechanism on the intervention price, the rate of levy to be deducted from the start of the 1989-90 marketing year, 1 July 1989, will be £7.32 per tonne. Any adjustment which may need to be made will depend upon the size of the 1989 EC cereals harvest.

British Summer Time

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has received any representations from the National Farmers Union concerning British summer time.

Mr. Donald Thompson : The National Farmers Union responded to my Department's request for comments on a consultation document on the arrangements for summer time to apply from 1990 which was issued on 29 April 1988. Details of the outcome of the consultations will be issued shortly.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

EC (Manufacturing Trade)

Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will publish a table in the Official Report setting out the surplus or deficit in the manufacturing trade between the United Kingdom and the EEC in each of the past 20 years ; and if he will publish a separate table showing the balances with the rest of the world, all on an OTC basis.

Mr. Alan Clark : The information is in the following table. Figures prior to 1970 on an OTS basis are not readily available.


United Kingdom Trade Balance in Manufactures (SITC 5-8)                 

£ million                                                               

Year              |EC               |Rest of the world                  

------------------------------------------------------------------------

1970              |567              |1,687                              

1971              |416              |2,383                              

1972              |118              |2,016                              

1973              |-329             |1,704                              

1974              |-596             |2,216                              

1975              |-542             |4,009                              

1976              |-509             |4,637                              

1977              |-685             |5,802                              

1978              |-1,988           |5,639                              

1979              |-3,154           |4,327                              

1980              |-1,751           |5,385                              

1981              |-3,183           |5,820                              

1982              |-5,029           |5,226                              

1983              |-8,076           |3,222                              

1984              |-8,847           |2,533                              

1985              |-9,522           |3,710                              

1986              |-10,848          |2,602                              

1987              |-11,085          |1,139                              

1988              |-13,417          |-3,912                             

Source: United Kingdom Overseas Trade Statistics.                       

Airbus Industrie

Mr. Colvin : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if the four member states of Airbus Industrie have yet completed their studies on a new organisational structure ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Atkins : A new management structure for Airbus Industrie, broadly based on the recommendations contained in the 1988 report of the Airbus "Wise Men", was introduced with effect from 1 April 1989. The new structure is intended to strengthen the strategic control of Airbus projects by the four partners in the consortium while, at the same time, placing the senior managers of Airbus Industrie at the centre of all day-to -day operations of particular Airbus programmes. The supervisory board has been streamlined and now consists of five members, the four chairmen of the partner companies and Dr. Friderichs, the chairman of Airbus Industrie. A new seven-man executive board has been constituted for the


Column 118

day-to-day management of Airbus operations. It includes among its members the newly-appointed finance director of AI, Mr. Robert Smith, formerly of British Aerospace's Royal Ordnance operation.

Overseas Companies

Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many overseas companies have set up operations in the United Kingdom since 1979, giving a breakdown by standard region.

Mr. Atkins : The following are the Invest in Britain Bureau figures for inward investments announced in each year since 1979 for the United Kingdom broken down by DTI regions. (These figures are not readily available on a United Kingdom standard region basis). The figures are based on information provided by the companies themselves at the time of the investment and include the establishment of a new business, expansion or acquisition of an existing business and involvement in joint venture.


Column 117


Inward Investment into Great Britain 1979-88                                                                             

                         |1979   |1980   |1981   |1982   |1983   |1984   |1985   |1986   |1987   |1988   |Total          

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Scotland                 |28     |31     |28     |28     |49     |74     |57     |36     |31     |58     |420            

Wales                    |18     |16     |20     |17     |31     |42     |45     |49     |58     |55     |351            

Northern Ireland         |18     |20     |15     |6      |11     |27     |22     |18     |17     |22     |176            

North East               |21     |19     |14     |15     |20     |29     |26     |30     |31     |22     |227            

North West               |9      |15     |12     |14     |22     |40     |28     |34     |27     |24     |225            

Yorkshire and Humberside |27                                                                                             

6                        |7      |10     |7      |16     |11     |23     |14     |138                                    

West Midlands            |11     |3      |7      |1      |13     |14     |63     |74     |59     |66     |311            

East Midlands            |15     |5      |8      |13     |12     |11     |19     |15     |11     |16     |125            

South East               |23     |23     |15     |25     |59     |70     |84     |60     |55     |45     |459            

South West               |13     |6      |8      |7      |9      |14     |15     |12     |11     |5      |100            

United Kingdom<1>        |-      |-      |-      |-      |-      |-      |-      |-      |1      |3      |4              

                         |-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------|-------        

Total                    |183    |155    |133    |133    |236    |328    |375    |339    |324    |330    |-              

<1> Investment into more than one region.                                                                                

Weights and Measures Legislation

Mr. Allen McKay : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster whether, in view of recent survey evidence of overcharging of customers using stamped brim glasses, he will bring into force section 43 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985.

Mr. Forth : Last year the Department introduced revised regulations for the construction of beer measures ; and coincidently the Brewers Society published guidelines on the proper use of these measures by bar staff when dispensing beer.

These initiatives, which seek to accommodate local preferences for the way in which beer is served, are designed to encourage licensees to use the glass most appropriate for the type of beer they are serving.

I therefore have no plans at present to implement section 43 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985.

Mr. Allen McKay : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if, in the light of recent evidence of disregard by many establishments of the agreed code of practice on selling wine by the glass, he will now introduce legislation to enforce the code.

Mr. Forth : Surveys carried out by individual local authorities generally continue to indicate an increasing level of compliance with the voluntary code of practice for sales of still table wines by the glass, particularly in the quantities in which wine is sold.


Column 118

I have no present plans to introduce legislation.

Bradbury-Wilkinson Premises, Saltash

Mr. Robert Hicks : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many inquiries have been received by his Department from companies interested in taking over the former Bradbury-Wilkinson premises at Saltash ; and if he will make a statement about the present position and his Department's intentions.

Mr. Atkins : My Department has received no inquiries regarding this site, the future of which is a matter for its private sector owners.

Financial Services Act

Mr. Brazier : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a statement on the application of section 47(2) of the Financial Services Act to transactions during the course of takeovers and other dealings and practices on the financial markets.

Mr. Maude : Section 47(2) of the Financial Services Act is directed against deliberate manipulation of the market. Some concerns have been expressed that the provision may go wider than was intended. In the light of these concerns it may be helpful to set out my Department's views on some of the points which have been raised. It has been suggested, for example, that section 47(2) would prevent or inhibit certain actions which are at


Column 119

present common and which are consistent with the takeover code. My Department's view is that the balance of dealings between offeror and offeree company is unaffected by the new provision, and it is difficult to see how actions taken in compliance with the code and not otherwise unlawful could constitute the offence of market manipulation.

In relation to takeover offers, it has been suggested that the act of buying shares of an offeree company might influence the price and lead in some way to a breach of section 47(2). If shares are bought by associates of the offeror or the offeree company, or by persons already holding 1 per cent. or more of the shares, these purchases must under the code be disclosed. My Department believes that in such circumstances it would not be possible to maintain that the purchase had created a false and misleading impression as to the value of or the market in the shares, since the market would be aware not only of the price and quantity of the purchase but also of the connection (if any) between the purchaser and the relevant parties to the take-over. Although the code does not provide for instantaneous disclosure, the requirements are well-established and recognised by the market as the means by which a false market is avoided.

Of course, not all purchasers are required under the code to disclose their purchases. Some people in this class may wish the offer to fail because they believe it is in the long-term interests of the offeree company that it should fail. They may, in genuine support of this belief, buy shares at above the offer price. Such a purchase would be based on a commercial assessment of the prospects of the company concerned, and even if others in the market had different views as to the value of the shares in question the Department does not believe that such purchases would amount to market manipulation. Thus we do not take the view that the section outlaws activity of this kind by those who hope that an offer will not succeed.

In such cases, there is of course a risk that anything said by or on behalf of the offeree company, for example about future prospects, may be inside information, or that any arrangements, however informal, would constitute a Companies Act concert party. Similarly, any financial arrangements raise questions as to whether unlawful assistance is being given. While actions in contravention of section 47(2) may themselves also contravene these provisions my Department does not believe that section 47(2) affects the application of such provisions. The scope for supportive action may therefore be extremely limited.

In a different context, it has been suggested that a person--say, a fund manager--who needs to buy or sell a large number of shares, and who does so in small quantities so as not to move the price against himself, might be guilty of market manipulation. This view appears to depend on it being accepted that a misleading


Column 120

impression as to the value of the shares is being created. The Department does not consider that in such a case the impression created is misleading. The fund manager has done nothing to indicate that he is not going to be a seller of further shares in the future. It would be a different matter if in some way he misrepresented a particular small purchase as his only purchase or dishonestly concealed his intentions in such a way as to induce a sale. Such actions, however, would be more likely to fall under section 47(1), which is a continuation (for these purposes) of what has been statute law for some time.

It has been suggested that there is some overlap between sections 47(1) and 47(2), in that a statement is capable of constituting conduct of the kind prohibited by section 47(2) even though it may not itself be prohibited by section 47(1). These two subsections define distinct offences and in committing an offence under section 47(2) a person may make statements which are not in themselves an offence under section 47(1). But in such a case it is not the statement itself which is an offence but the conduct which involves making that statement. As a prosecuting authority, the Department cannot envisage a case in which the making of a statement which was not a contravention of section 47(1) would, by and of itself, be held to be an act or course of conduct contrary to section 47(2), given the defence which section 47(3) provides.

Company Statistics

Mr. Tim Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many companies were registerd at the latest available date ; and how many qualified as (a) small and (b) medium-sized for the purposes of section 248 of the Companies Act 1985.

Mr. Maude [holding answer 15 May 1989] : There were 1,141,000 companies registered in Great Britain at 8 May 1989. Not all of these are active, but at least 90 per cent. are estimated to be eligible to deliver modified accounts according to the criteria set out in section 248 of the Companies Act 1985. Of these 2 to 3 per cent. are estimated to qualify as medium-sized companies.

Social Fund

Mr. Alton : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what funds have been received from the EEC through social fund and European development fund by (a) the west midlands, (b) Strathclyde, (c) Greater Manchester and (d) Merseyside county.

Mr. Atkins [holding answer 15 May 1989] : European regional development fund and European social fund commitments in recent years are shown in the table. Allocations to individual regions fluctuate considerably from year to year, according to decisions by the European Commission.


Column 119


£ million                                                                                  

                      1985 PopulERDFn                         European social              

                                          fund<2>                                          

                     |Thousands|1986     |1987     |1988     |1987     |1988               

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

West Midlands Region |5,183    |40       |67       |25       |9        |17                 

Strathclyde Region   |2,359    |50       |51       |48       |9        |10                 

Greater Manchester   |2,583    |14       |22       |24       |7        |7                  

Merseyside County    |1,481    |33       |6        |8        |8        |7                  

Notes:                                                                                     

<1>Parts of west midlands region and of Greater Manchester have not been eligible for the  

ERDF.                                                                                      

<2>Figures for the European social fund exclude funding provided by the ESF for central    

Government programmes, for which a regional                                                

breakdown is not available.                                                                

Advertising

Mr. Grocott : To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how much advertising air time the Department of Trade and Industry purchased with each commercial television company in each of the last five years.

Mr. Forth [holding answer 15 May 1989] : I am advised by the Central Office of Information, through which the Department buys such advertising, that the information is commercially confidential.

PRIME MINISTER

ading Maidstone Q20. Miss Widdecombe : To ask the Prime Minister if she has any plans to visit Maidstone.

The Prime Minister : I have at present no plans to do so.

Disciplinary Powers

Q172. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to her answer to the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) of 24 April, Official Report, column 392, what steps are taken to monitor centrally the exercise of disciplinary powers by individual Government Departments ; and where ministerial responsibility lies for ensuring consistency in the application of such powers.

The Prime Minister : The principles which govern the conduct of the Home Civil Service are my responsibility as Minister for the Civil Service, which includes laying down the general procedures to be followed to ensure fairness and consistency of practice. The Cabinet Office (Office of the Minister for the Civil Service) is available to provide advice and guidance on their application to particular cases. Disciplinary action against an individual is the responsibility of the Department concerned and is not monitored centrally.

Wild Birds

Q12. Dr. Godman : To ask the Prime Minister what proposals Her Majesty's Government have to protect the feeding grounds of breeding seabirds in the United Kingdom's waters under EEC directive 79/409 on the conservation of wild birds ; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The Government's scientific adviser, the Nature Conservancy Council, is in the process of identifying the most important seabird feeding and gathering grounds in United Kingdom waters. It will advise the Department of the Environment when the results have been obtained. The Department will then consider the most appropriate measures to safeguard these areas.

Crown Prosecution Service

Mr. John Morris : To ask the Prime Minister if she will co-ordinate the activities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for the Home


Column 122

Department and the Attorney-General to ensure that the pay scales of both the Crown Prosecution Service and the magistrates' clerks are such that there is no shortage of staffs in either.

The Prime Minister : As my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General explained to the House on 8 May, there is an overall shortage of lawyers nationwide. This is of course taken into account in determining the pay of qualified lawyers employed by the Crown Prosecution Service and the magistrates courts.

EC Legislation

Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Prime Minister if she will raise at the next meeting of the European Council the volume of legislation stemming from the European Economic Community and the democratic procedures for considering it ; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : No. I recognise the concern at the number of proposals for EC legislation now coming forward and the need for effective scrutiny of them. My right hon. Friend the Lord President keeps our arrangements under close review and currently is holding discussions with the Procedure and European Legislation Committees to establish what improvements may be made.

Voluntary Bodies (Government Grants)

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : To ask the Prime Minister if she will list the total amounts paid in grants by Government Departments to voluntary bodies during the financial year 1987-88 ; and if she will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : The figures are shown in the table. The total amount provided in 1987 represents a cash increase of 4.6 per cent. on the level of provision in 1986-87. In the period between 1979-80 and 1987-88 the level of Government support to voluntary bodies has risen by 237 per cent. (or in real terms 91.6 per cent.).


Grants by Government Departments in 1987-88                 

                                    |£                      

------------------------------------------------------------

Agriculture, Fisheries and Food     |187,765                

Defence                             |5,297,319              

Education and Science<1>            |7,207,000              

Employment                          |40,289,647             

Energy                              |1,067,187              

Environment:                                                

  direct grants                     |6,160,502              

  urban programme                   |66,644,000             

Foreign and Commonwealth Office     |1,202,750              

Overseas Development Administration |42,475,571             

Health and Social Security          |36,571,661             

Home Office                         |21,945,889             

Lord Chancellor's Department        |712,000                

Northern Ireland Department         |14,263,793             

Scottish Office:                                            

  direct grants                     |9,790,137              

  urban programme                   |20,400,000             

Trade and Industry                  |9,069,000              

Transport                           |671,000                

Welsh Office:                                               

  direct grants                     |5,530,466              

  urban programme                   |3,430,000              

                                    |-----                  

  Total                             |292,915,687            

<1> The 1979-80 figure for DES included £3,736,000 paid to  

certain adult education bodies. These have been excluded in 

later years as not being strictly speaking, grants to       

voluntary organisations. In addition the sum listed for DES 

grants is lower than in previous years because (i)          

responsibility for grants to village halls and community    

centres has now been transferred to local government; and ( 

ii) a number of other bodies included hitherto are no       

longer classified as voluntary bodies.                      


Employment                                                          

In addition, payments were made directly to voluntary bodies under  

various employment programmes                                       

                                            |£                      

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Training Agency (formerly Manpower Services                         

  Commission):                                                      

Community Programme                         |564,400,000            

Voluntary Projects Programme                |8,700,000              

Youth Training Scheme                       |118,305,000            

                                            |-------                

Total                                       |691,405,000            

The MSC and the Department of Employment made payments to voluntary bodies under other programmes but these cannot be given in detail except at disproportionate cost.