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Written Answers to Questions

Thursday 16 January 1992

ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Repossessions

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Attorney-General what information he has concerning the number of repossessions adjudicated in the Crown courts in Wales in each of the last four quarters up to 31 December 1991.

The Attorney-General : Possession actions are dealt with in the county court, not in the Crown court. The figures for the number of repossessions are not collected. The only information available on mortgage possession is the number of actions entered and orders made in each county court. The table gives the information for Welsh county courts for the first three quarters, and October and November of 1991, the latter being the latest data available. Not all the orders will have resulted in the issue and execution of warrnts of possession.


Mortgage possession-actions entered and                             

orders made in the Welsh county courts                              

1991                |Total number of|Total number                   

                    |actions entered|of orders made                 

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

January to March    |2,236          |1,644                          

April to June       |2,591          |1,754                          

July to September   |3,050          |1,990                          

October to November |1,769          |1,455                          

TRANSPORT

Freight Terminal, Isle of Grain

Dame Peggy Fenner : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when the new freight terminal at Thamesport, Isle of Grain, is to be opened ; and what assessment he has made of the benefits it will bring to residents of Medway.

Mr. Freeman : I visited Thamesport on 7 January to inspect the start of work on the new rail freight terminal which has attracted a £1.77 million grant under section 8 of the Railways Act 1974. I understand that the terminal will be operational by the end of the year and should enable up to 35 per cent. of container traffic to be carried by rail bringing relief to roads in this part of Kent and in particular the A228 which links the port to the A2/M2.

Brownhills Roundabout, Lancashire

Mr. Carr : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what progress is being made on the improvement scheme to Brownhills roundabout, A666/A6119 intersection, and the A6119 bridge over the railway nearby ; what has caused the delays ; and when Lancashire county council will be enabled to go ahead with the scheme.

Mr. Chope : Compulsory purchase orders are to be published shortly. Some of the land to be acquired is


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public open space and there has been some difficulty in identifying suitable replacement land. We hope that work will start during the 1992-93 financial year.

Vehicle Statistics

Mr. Warren : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list, using the data in the south-east regional brief published by his Department on 4 December 1991, the number of cars per 1,000 of the population in England excluding the south-east region in 1989 and the number of vehicles per mile of surfaced road in 1989 in (a) the south-east Region and (b) the rest of England.

Mr. Chope : The information requested is as follows :

(i) In 1989 there were 354 cars per 1,000 of the population in England, excluding the south-east region ;

(ii) In 1989 there were 149 vehicles per mile of surfaced road in the south -east Region

(iii) In 1989 there were 122 vehicles per mile of surfaced road in the rest of England.

Hastings-Ashford Line

Mr. Warren : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether the electrification of the railway line between Hastings and Ashford has been included in British Rail's programme ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : I understand from British Rail that it is examining proposals for the electrification of the railway line between Hastings and Ashford, for inclusion in its programme of work scheduled to commence in 1994-95.

Bedford Bypass

Sir Trevor Skeet : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what is the current position of (a) the southern bypass for Bedford including a Norse road connection and (b) the western relief road.

Mr. Chope : I hope to be able to make a further announcement shortly.

Clyde Port Authority

Dr. Godman : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list the names of the parties which have formally expressed their intention to seek to acquire the Clyde port authority ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin : No. That is a matter of commercial confidence between the Clyde port authority, as vendor of the port undertaking, and the parties concerned.

Speed Limit Order, Essex

Mr. Burns : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport when his Department received the Borough of Chelmsford (A414 Main Road and Maldon Road, Danbury) (Speed Limit) Order from Essex county council for confirmation ; and when his Department's confirmation is expected.

Mr. Chope : The application for consent to these speed limit proposals which is currently with the Department was effectively lodged in August 1991 when detailed supporting information was received from Essex county council. This followed earlier lengthy discussions and correspondence leading to my Department's approval in principle being given in December 1990.


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There are a number of legal issues in respect of the order itself still to be resolved before the Secretary of State can give formal consent. The Department's regional office has brought these to the attention of the county council.

Progress is dependent on the county council's resolution of these legal problems and I am therefore unable at this stage to specify a date by which consent may be given. Immediate consideration will be given however to the council's response, when received.

Plutonium

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what response he intends to make to the recommendations made by the International Atomic Energy Agency that no further flights of plutonium should take place until the agency's review panel on safety and security of plutonium transport completes its recommendations for new standards for international carriage.

Mr. McLoughlin : The International Atomic Energy Agency has made no such recommendation.

Buses

Mr. Trotter : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps he is taking to promote the use of buses.

Mr. Freeman : I announced recently a series of measures to promote the use of the bus :

provision of at least £10 million over the next two years to fund specific local authority bus schemes ;

publication through HMSO of the Department's "Keeping Buses Moving"--a guide for local authorities on the provision of bus priority measures ;

more resources to the traffic commissioners to check that local bus services run in accordance with their published timetables ; a review by the Department of current arrangements for passenger information with a view to providing guidelines for local authorities and bus operators ;

the Department will seek to fund a local authority demonstration project which utilises fully accessible low floor buses ; the introduction in 1992 of an instrumented smoke emissions test for in-service vehicles, together with tough road side enforcement. These measures have been widely welcomed by the Bus and Coach Council and local authority associations.

Coastguards

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will give details of the amount of money spent on providing the coastguard service for each of the years for the period 1979 to 1991 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin [holding answer 13 January 1992] : The amount of money spent on providing the coastguard service during the years 1983-84 to 1991-92 is as follows :



Year        |£ million            

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

1979-80     |6.99                   

1980-81     |7.92                   

1981-82     |10.88                  

1982-83     |11.91                  

1983-84     |14.06                  

1984-85     |18.66                  

1985-86     |21.57                  

1986-87     |21.80                  

1987-88     |23.99                  

1988-89     |25.85                  

1989-90     |28.58                  

1990-91     |29.63                  

<1>1991-92  |31.00                  

<1> Forecast.                       

The level of past and planned expenditure on Her Majesty's coastguard is consistent with the commitment to provide a modern, efficient and effective search and rescue service for the United Kingdom.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Single European Currency

15. Mr. John Browne : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement upon the naming of a new single European currency.

Mr. Maude : Under the terms of the proposed treaty on European monetary union, the single currency would be the ecu.

Business Investment

17. Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what percentage of GDP at factor cost and in current prices is accounted for by business investment also at current prices ; and what was the percentage in 1979.

Mr. Mellor : At current prices, the ratio of business investment to GDP at factor cost was 14.8 per cent. in 1990 and 14.3 per cent. in 1979.

Manufactured Goods

18. Mr. Battle : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was Britain's share of main manufacturing countries exports of manufactures in (a) 1979, (b) 1985 and (c) in the lastest available quarter.

Mr. Mellor : As I said earlier today in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Mr. Pawsey), the UK's share has risen in each of the last three years after decdes of decline, as shown in the autumn statement. Based on a measure that includes the exports of all market economies, the share was 7.2 per cent, in 1979 and 6.1 per cent. in 1985. It is likely to have been 6 per cent. in 1991.

Mr. Butler : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what is the United Kingdom's share of the world trade in manufactured goods ; and what has been the trend in recent years.

Mr. Mellor : The United Kingdom's share stabilised in the mid-1980s, increased in 1989 and 1990, and looks most likely to have increased again in 1991. Its current level is 6 per cent., almost per cent. higher than in 1988.

European Central Bank

19. Mr. John P. Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what steps he has taken to secure the location of the proposed European central bank in Britain.

Mr. Maude : The Maastricht summit concluded that it was not necessary to reach a decision now on the sites of the European central bank ; that will be decided at a future date.


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Manufacturing Investment

20. Mrs. Heal : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the change in the level of manufacturing investment between the third quarter of 1990 and the third quarter of 1991.

Mr. Mellor : A fall of 12 per cent. in volume terms.

Taxation

21. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about tax levels.

Mr. Maude : Since 1978-79, the combined burden of taxation and public sector borrowing had been reduced by over 1 per cent. of GDP.

Income Tax

Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list the changes which have taken place in the standard rate of income tax since 1978-79 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maude : Since 1979 we have reduced the basic rate in stages from 33 to 25 per cent. We will move towards a rate of 20 per cent. when it is prudent to do so.

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much a cut of 1p in the pound off income tax would cost ; how much the raising of the top rate of tax to 50 per cent. would yield to the revenue ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maude : At 1992-93 levels of income a 1p reduction in the basic rate of income tax would cost about £1.95 billion in a full year. Raising the higher rate of income tax to 50 per cent. would yield about £3.4 billion in a full year.

These estimates, however, do not allow for any behavioural effects that might result from such changes to the tax system and do not include capital gains tax.

Mr. Ralph Howell : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what would be the loss of revenue from raising the income tax threshold for all income tax payers to £100 per week ;

(2) how many extra persons would be exempt from income tax if the tax threshold were raised to £100 per week.

Mr. Maude : At 1992-93 levels of income, the cost of raising the personal allowance to £5,200, compared with the amount due under the illustrative assumption of 4 per cent. indexation given in the Autumn Statement 1991, would be about £10 billion. About 3.8 million people would be taken out of tax by this change.

Interest Rates

24. Mr. Oppenheim : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer when was the last time he held discussions with the CBI to discuss interest rates ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : My right hon. Friend last met CBI representatives at the National Economic Development Council on 8 January. A number of general economic issues were discussed.


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Economy

25. Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what was the percentage growth in the economy for the last quarter for which figures are available.

Mr. Mellor : Gross domestic product rose by 0.2 per cent. in the third quarter of 1991, the latest period for which figures are available.

Inflation

26. Mr. Cran : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what representations he has received from the business representative bodies regarding the Government's anti-inflation policy.

Mr. Maude : I regularly receive representations from business on all aspects of economic policy. They consistently endorse the Government's objective of reducing inflation and keeping it down.

28. Mr. Franks : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement about the current level of inflation.

Mr. Maude : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply my right hon. Friend gave earlier today to my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Mitchell).

VAT

27. Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how much VAT has been raised since November 1990.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : On 1 April 1991 the standard rate of VAT was increased from 15 to 17 per cent.

Income Statistics

Mr. Lester : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish an estimate of per capita income in the United Kingdom in 1991 and 1990.

Mr. Maples : Data in respect of income per head are published regularly in table 8 in "Economic Trends", copies of which are available in the Library. The latest available data, for periods up to the third quarter of 1991, will be included in the December issue, due for publication later this month. However, this information is already available on the CSO database which can be accessed by the House of Commons Library.

Repossessions

Mr. Pike : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what assessment he has made of the impact of the Government's policies on the level of house repossessions in 1992.

Mr. Maude : Lenders estimate that the measures my right hon. Friend the Chancellor announced to the House on 19 December will reduce the number of repossessions in 1992 by about 40,000--half the anticipated number.

Football Pools Betting Duty

Mr. Pendry : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will publish a table showing the Government's total income from the football pool bettings duty for each of the years 1979-80 to 1990-91 and as a total over the same period.


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Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Receipts from pool betting duty were as follows :


            |£ million            

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

1979-80     |136.1                  

1980-81     |157.0                  

1981-82     |176.0                  

1982-83     |199.3                  

1983-84     |204.9                  

1984-85     |218.0                  

1985-86     |235.3                  

1986-87     |254.2                  

1987-88     |277.0                  

1988-89     |279.0                  

1989-90     |303.8                  

1990-91     |303.9                  

            |-------                

Total       |2,744.5                

Cigarette Duty

Mr. Pendry : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what effect the increase in duty, including value added tax on cigarettes in the 1991 budget had on the retail prices index.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The RPI impact effect was an increase of 0.3 per cent.

Bloodstock Industry

Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will make a statement on the current negotiations taking place within the EC Council of Finance Ministers to seek an agreed reduction in VAT for the breeding and sales of bloodstock in the United Kingdom after 1993.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard [holding answer 15 January 1992] : The discussions currently taking place are to decide which goods and services may be subject to a reduced rate of VAT within the European Community after 1992. The present list includes goods and services used and supplied by farmers. It has yet to be decided finally whether horses will fall within any of the reduced rate categories.

Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will list details of any alternative schemes being considered by Her Majesty's Government to assist the bloodstock industry in the United Kingdom after 1993.

Mr. Gillian Shephard [holding answer 15 January 1992] : Detailed discussions are currently taking place between officials and interested parties on the merits of an agricultural flat rate scheme for the United Kingdom.

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Cohesion Fund

Mr. John D. Taylor : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which regions of the United Kingdom will benefit from the cohesion fund agreed at the Maastricht summit ; and which of the six objective regions in the European Community will (a) benefit from and (b) be excluded from the benefits of this fund.

Mr. Garel-Jones : The cohesion fund will benefit those member states with a per capita GNP of less than 90 per


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cent. of the Community average--that is, Spain, Portugal, Greece and the Republic of Ireland. The fund will provide finance for projects in the fields of the environment and trans-European transport infrastructure.

East Timor

Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will initiate discussions with the other countries of the European Community to consider what joint action needs to be taken in relation to the occupation of East Timor by Indonesia.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : We are already in contact with our EC partners on this matter. We continue to believe that the best hopes for a solution lie in the hands of the United Nations Secretary-General.

Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Portugal regarding the situation in East Timor ; and what further discussions he proposes.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs sees his Portuguese colleague regularly and has discussed East Timor with him on several occasions, most recently during his visit to Lisbon on 7 January. We remain in close contact on this issue, together with our EC partners.

Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will raise at the United Nations the continuing repression by Indonesia of the people of East Timor with a view to agreeing appropriate joint action.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : This issue will be considered at the forthcoming session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva from 27 January to 6 March.

Falklands Islands

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent discussions he has had with Argentina about the future constitutional position of the Falkland Islands.

Mr. Garel-Jones : There have been no recent discussions ; nor is it the Government's intention to engage in any.

Gulf War

Sir Peter Tapsell : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made in obtaining compensation from Iraq for losses suffered by British nationals and companies during the Gulf war.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Work has gone ahead well in the governing council of the United Nations Compensation Commission in Geneva which will administer the fund established by Security Council resolution 687 : the United Kingdom is playing a leading role. Very good progress is being made in drawing up criteria for eligibility of claims. The commission has also prepared claim forms for expedited claims by individuals up to US$ 100,000. We are now sending them to claimants who have notified us of their losses. Advertisements will be placed in the national


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press so that the opportunity to make claims is widely known. The commission hopes to begin assessing claims in July this year.

ENERGY

Radioactive Waste

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy what provisions have been made for the long-term storage, management or disposal of (a) high, intermediate and low-level radioactive wastes arising from foreign reprocessing contracts signed by British Nuclear Fuels plc up to 31 December 1975 and (b) low level radioactive waste arising from foreign reprocessing contracts signed by British Nuclear Fuels plc since 1 January 1976 for processing of spent nuclear fuel in the thermal oxide reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory : All wastes arising from overseas reprocessing contracts signed by British Nuclear Fuels plc before 1976 will be dealt with in accordance with the United Kingdom's national waste strategy.

Since 1976, contracts for reprocessing overseas spent fuel have contained options for the return of wastes. The Government intend that these options will be exercised and wastes returned. As envisaged in the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad) on 2 May 1986 at columns 500-01, the option of substituting for less radioactive wastes an equivalent quantity, in radiological terms, of higher level wastes is being considered. Any low-level wastes retained as a result of such substitution would be disposed of in the same way as equivalent United Kingdom waste.

WALES

EC Committee of Regions

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects to announce the representatives from Wales who will sit on the Committee of the Regions within the European Community ; and if he will consider making hon. Members of Parliament eligible for such positions.

Mr. David Hunt : The treaty giving effect to the new Committee of the Regions is not intended to come into force until 1 January 1993. No decisions have therefore yet been taken on membership. The Government will however be considering in the course of 1992, the question of allocation of the United Kingdom seats and how individual members will be chosen.

Transplants

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many patients in Wales are now awaiting transplant surgery ; and if he will separately distinguish these by organ by district health area and by length of time they have been waiting.


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