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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 25 February 1992

HOME DEPARTMENT

Fire Safety

Mr. Ken Hargreaves : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what increase in fire service manpower he will require to deal with the obligations of the new building regulations and the removal of Crown immunity from health service bodies for initial fire inspection and ongoing monitoring ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Patten : The Government take account of additional burdens on local authorities in the revenue support grant settlement each year, but it is for fire authorities to determine their manpower establishments in the light of their statutory duties under the Fire Services Act 1947 and the Fire Precautions Act 1971. My Department is discussing with the local authority associations the additional resources required by fire authorities as a result of the removal of Crown immunity from health service bodies. Those associations have the opportunity to inform the Government of their views on local authority expenditure needs through the annual consultations on the local government finance settlement.

International Crime Surveys

Mr. Hill : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the position of the United Kingdom in the figures produced for European countries in the international crime surveys for rape, robberies, assaults and murder.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The 1989 international crime survey, measuring crime in 1988, suggests that the robbery rate in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland was lower than the western European average. The same was true of assaults. The survey provides no reliable figures for rape, but for sexual assaults generally the position of the United Kingdom was again low. The results of the survey are published in "Experience of Crime across the World : Key Findings from the 1989 International Crime Survey" which is in the Library.

The survey cannot by its nature cover murder, but in 1988 rates of homicide, and attempted homicide, recorded by the police were lower in England and Wales than in 10 other of the EC countries. Rates in Northern Ireland and Scotland were higher than elsewhere except Luxembourg.

Crime, Leicestershire

Mr. Janner : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department by what number, and by what percentage, reported (a) criminal offences and (b) crimes of violence have increased in Leicestershire since May 1979.

Mr. John Patten : The available information compares the 12 months to June 1979 with the 12 months to June


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1991. Between these periods, the total of notifiable offences in Leicestershire increased by 52,906--29,481 to 82,387 --offences and crimes of violence increased by 2,245 offences--1,823 to 4,068.

Safer Cities Programme

Mr. Andrew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will add Oxford to the areas covered by the safer cities programme.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : There are no plans at present to extend the safer cities programme beyond the current 20 projects. The objectives of the Home Office-funded safer cities programme are to reduce crime ; lessen the fear of crime and create safer cities where economic enterprise and community life can flourish. We have now reached our target of 20 projects and there are no plans or resources at present to extend the programme any further.

Mr. Andrew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the criteria for areas eligible for funding for crime research under the safer cities programme.

Mr. John Patten : Safer cities is a crime prevention initiative and not primarily a research programme. Areas were eligible for consideration for inclusion in the safer cities programme if they : (i) were districts, metropolitan districts or London boroughs within the urban programme ; (ii) had serious crime and other social problems ; (iii) were already the focus for Government action, and ; (iv) were willing to participate. All 20 project areas in the current programme have been selected.

Oxfordshire Motor Project

Mr. Andrew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to take a decision on the application for funding by the Oxfordshire motor project.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We will announce a decision shortly.

Correspondence

Mr. Rooney : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he intends to respond to the letters of 4 November 1991 and 3 January 1992 from the hon. Member for Bradford, North concerning Mr. P. M. B. Fell of Lister Gardens, Bradford BD8 7AG.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : It appears that the hon. Member's letters were not received in the Home Office. I am sending the hon. Member a copy of the reply which went to Mr. Fell on 28 November 1991.

Low-Energy Lighting

Mr. Corbett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make it his policy progressively to introduce low-energy lighting in all the buildings operated by his Department.

Mr. Kenneth Baker : It is the policy to install low-energy lighting and other energy-saving devices where practicable into all Home Office buildings.


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Local Government Finance

Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will review the poll tax cases which resulted in imprisonment, where evidence had been used of the kind ruled out by the High Court on 20 February.

Mr. John Patten : No.

Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department under what authority a magistrate can adjourn a case in anticipation of Parliament amending a law ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Patten : Magistrates courts have general powers to adjourn in both criminal and civil proceedings under the Magistrates Courts Act 1980.

Mr. Nellist : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what guidance he has issued to magistrates and clerks of the court regarding the use of computer evidence in poll tax cases following the High Court decision of 20 February ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John Patten : I do not think that any further guidance is necessary following this case.

War Crimes

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the estimated additional police expenditure associated with the War Crimes Act 1991 for each of the next three financial years.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Additional police expenditure associated with the War Crimes Act is estimated as follows :


            |£ million            

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

1992-93     |1.5                    

1993-94     |1.7                    

1994-95     |1.65                   

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Rabies

Mr. Hardy : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that quarantine will continue to be a requirement in regard to the import of those species which are vulnerable to rabies until the rest of the European Community is declared to be free of rabies.

Mr. Harry Barnes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any plans to end rabies quarantine for dogs ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean : I refer the hon. Members to my reply of 24 February to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill).

Low-Energy Lighting

Mr. Corbett : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make it his policy progressively to introduce low-energy lighting in all the buildings operated by his Department.


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Mr. Curry : It is the existing policy of the Department to carry out in its buildings all energy-saving measures which can be shown to be worthwhile. As a result of this, a substantial investment has already been made in energy-efficient lighting ; this will be extended to other buildings wherever practicable and as resources allow.

East Anglia

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his policy for the East Anglian farming industry in general and the livestock, dairy, cereals and poultry sectors in particular in the light of the single market opening.

Mr. Curry : The Government's policy for the United Kingdom farming industry as a whole is set out in the policy statement "Our Farming Future" launched by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 15 November.

Ozone Layer

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment his departmental plant pathologists have made of results for agriculture of changes in the ozone layer.

Mr. Curry : Against the background of the Department of the Environment's continuing programme of work on the effects of ozone depletion on plants, this Department is considering advertising for a research proposal on this matter.

ENVIRONMENT

Norman Shaw Buildings

Mr. Devlin : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment why the power failed in the Norman Shaw buildings at 2.35 pm on 13 February ; and what steps will be taken to prevent a recurrence.

Mr. Yeo : The power failure in the Norman Shaw buildings on 13 February which lasted for less than two seconds, was caused by a fault within the London Electricity supply network. There was insufficient time for the back-up generator system to be activated.

Business Property Values

Mr. Edwards : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what mechanisms exist or are planned for review of rateable values for the uniform business rate ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Key : All rateable values, including those currently prescribed by my right hon. Friend, will be reassessed in 1995. We have announced that the proposed valuation date for the revaluation is 1 April 1993. In preparation, a committee is also reviewing the rating of plant and machinery.

All assessments in current rating lists are based on a common valuation date of 1 April 1988. Any changes in relative values since that date will be taken into account at the next revaluation. All ratepayers had the right to challenge their individual assessments during the first six months of the current lists. They continue to have rights of challenge where there is a change of circumstances affecting a property and in certain other prescribed cases.


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Local Government Finance

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment under which Act the regulations in the poll tax reduction schemes were made.

Mr. Key : Section 13A of the Local Government Finance Act 1988, as inserted by the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

Mr. Nicholas Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the estimated revenue that will be received in 1991-92 from those who are required to pay 20 per cent. of their poll tax, in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Key [holding answer 24 February 1992] : The potential revenue in 1991-92 in Great Britain from those on maximum community charge benefit is £200 million and from students £34 million. Whilst information is held centrally on overall rates of collection by local authorities, no separate information is held on collection from those making the 20 per cent. contribution.

Nature Conservancy

Mr. Dunn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what progress has been made on the recommendation from the former Nature Conservancy Council that a number of non-native species should be added to schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Mr. Trippier : Following recommendations made by the former Nature Conservancy Council and consultation with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and other bodies, I have decided that we should add the following species to schedule 9 to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 :

Animals

Noble crayfish

Signal crayfish

Turkish crayfish

Sika deer

New Zealand flatworm

Italian crested newt

Aesculapian snake

Plants

3 species of Giant kelp

macrocystis angustifolia

macrocystis integrifolia

macrocystis laevis

Japanese kelp

Green seafingers

Californian red seaweed

Hooked asparagus seaweed

All non-native laver seaweeds

Wakame

I have placed an order before Parliament today which will bring these additions into effect on 16 March.

Tyre Tread Depths

Mr. Cryer : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what provision is being made in landfill sites for the tipping of extra tyres as a result of the increase in minimum legal tyre tread depth ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Baldry : We are making no specific provision although the United Kingdom is participating in an EC waste management study group which is considering


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means of achieving higher scrap tyre retreading and recycling rates across the community. Whole tyres are difficult to deal with on landfill sites, and an increasing number are now being shredded before disposal, but disposal in landfill is currently a matter for local authority regulators, site operators and producers of waste tyres. It would be for these parties to consider any immediate consequences of changes in tread depth requirements.

Cleaning Contract, Waveney

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to announce a decision on the inquiries into the way Waveney district council assigned their buildings cleaning work contract to its own direct services organisation in March 1991 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Key : Waveney district council's response to the notice served under section 13 of the Local Government Act 1988 is being considered. My right hon. Friend expects to announce his decision shortly.

Electronic Equipment (Recycling)

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will obtain for his departmental library a copy of the recently published report, "End-of-Life Electronic Equipment : The Case for Recycling", prepared by the Centre for Exploitation of Science and Technology.

Mr. Baldry : The Library has a copy on order.

Low-Energy Lighting

Mr. Corbett : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make it his policy progressively to introduce low-energy lighting in all the buildings operated by his Department.

Mr. Baldry : My Department's policy relating to the installation of low-energy lighting is to replace all standard luminaires, both tungsten and fluorescent, with low-energy consuming equivalents, wherever this is practicable and cost-effective. A programme of lighting replacement is in progress and low-energy lighting has already been installed in six major buildings representing about 60 per cent. of my Department's office estate.

Disabled People (Access)

Mrs. Roe : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if advice on access arrangements for disabled people will be included in the published version of Planning Policy Guidance Note 1 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Yeo : We want to encourage the design and construction of new buildings that provide adequately for the needs of disabled people. Development control policy note 16, published in 1985, set out the role of local planning authorities in seeking to achieve that objective. It emphasised the need for the local planning authority and the developer to discuss the arrangements proposed for meeting the needs of disabled people, as one aspect of negotiation over planning applications. It also made clear that the role of the planning system in this context is limited. This is because the internal layout and design of buildings are not normally material to planning applications.


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Part M of the building regulations imposes requirements on the design and construction of new non-domestic buildings, so that reasonable access and facilities for disabled people can be secured. Where the requirements of part M apply, planning legislation should not normally be used to impose separate requirements. This is because the internal standards of building construction are best regulated by means of a national code, so that developers know what to expect irrespective of the local authority area in which they are building. The building regulations do not yet extend to internal requirements for disabled people in new buildings. My Department is currently assessing the scope and timing of such an extension, which it hopes to implement next year.

In the interim, we welcome action by local authorities to bring the needs of disabled people in new housing development to the attention of developers, but it would not be right for individual authorities to spend time designing alternative standards, and seeking to impose these through local or unitary development plans, or through planning conditions. However, where there is clear evidence of local need, a local planning authority could include in a local plan a policy indicating that it would seek to negotiate elements of housing accessible to the disabled on suitable sites.

The Government consulted on new guidance on access and the planning system in an annex to the draft Planning Policy Guidance Note 1, issued for public consultation on 1 October 1991. In view of the current work on part M of the building regulations, we have concluded that it would not be appropriate to include detailed guidance which would be soon out of date in the final version of PPG1 to be published shortly. Instead, we propose to issue a circular in due course on access requirements which will take account of progress on this issue.


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Revenue Support Grant

Mr. Spearing : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the actual or estimated total of all debt charges by the charging authorities receiving revenue support grant ; and if he will state the reasons for the difference between this sum and the sum of £2,469,200,000 ascribed to debts charges in Annex B of HC 190 of 1991- 92.

Mr. Key [holding answer 21 February 1992] : Charging authorities budgeted for debt charges of £2,328 million in 1991-92. This is not comparable with the sum of £2,469,200,000 shown in annex B of HC 190, which relates to both charging and precepting authorities, and represents the net provision for debt charges in 1992-93 after capital financing grants have been taken into account.

Plutonium

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps have been taken to monitor the ecological suspension of plutonium in the environment arising from the atmospheric distribution of plutonium in the accident at Sellafield on 19 June 1961.

Mr. Baldry [holding answer 24 February 1992] : Details of this incident were provided to the Windscale inquiry in 1977 and in information supplied to Sir Douglas Black's independent advisory group's investigations in 1984 into the incident of leukaemias. Monitoring of radionuclides in the environment was initiated in 1952 and their transfer from one environmental medium to another has been the subject of detailed investigation.


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WALES

Child Refugees

Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what financial support he is providing to child refugees in Cardiff.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : Refugee matters are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Services provided by health and local authorities are not in general differentiated by status of user and it is not possible separately to identify funding provided by the Department for services to child refugees from wider support for services for children. Urban programme funding of some £394,000 has however been approved in South Glamorgan since 1989-90 for projects directed towards the needs of refugees ; it is likely that children will have benefited.

Speech Therapy

Mr. Edwards : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what level of resources have been allocated for speech therapy for children in Wales and in Gwent with a formal statement of needs ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : This information is not available centrally. The provision of speech therapy services is primarily a matter for the individual health authority to deliver in light of competing demands on available resources.

A predicted national shortage of trained speech therapists has been identified for which the Department has made funding of £62,000 available to the health authorities to sponsor ten speech therapy students placements. In addition, the Scientific Staffs Whitley Council has introduced a more flexible pay and grading structure to help overcome local problems of recruitment and retention.

A48

Mr. Edwards : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he expects to make an announcement regarding his proposals to introduce a crawler lane for the A48 at Hardwick hill, Chepstow ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Wyn Roberts : Gwent county council, as agent, is currently considering several options for the improvement of Hardwick Hill on its existing alignment. To confirm the feasibility of each of these options further studies have to be carried out. It is not possible to predict when an announcement will be made until the results of these studies are evaluated.

Livestock Exports

Mr. Geraint Howells : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many livestock exporters have been prosecuted in 1991 for breach of the welfare code for export of live animals to the EC ; and what were the corresponding figures for the last five years.

Mr. David Hunt : This information is not available centrally.


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