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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 2 March 1993

FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Languages Charter

Mr. William Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will specify the differences between (a) notification, (b) acceptance and (c) approval of the European charter for regional or minority languages.

Mr. Garel-Jones : Article 18 of the European charter for regional or minority languages provides that the charter will be subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by the member states of the Council of Europe and that such instruments are to be deposited with the secretary general of the Council of Europe.

Ratification, acceptance and approval are all ways in which a state indicates its consent to be bound by the treaty. They all have the same effect. Which method a state uses may reflect its domestic practice. But each method requires an instrument to be sent to the depositary specifying whether the state is ratifying, accepting or approving the charter.

Mr. William Ross : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs which languages in the United Kingdom the Government are considering specifying under article 3 of the European charter for regional or minority languages.

Mr. Garel-Jones : We are still considering whether to sign the charter. That consideration is on the basis that it would apply to Welsh, Gaelic and Irish.

Armenia

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking in relation to the economic blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : The European Community made representations to the Turkish Government on 29 January, asking Turkey to allow the transit of fuel supplies to Armenia from third countries and to fulfil earlier commitments to provide electricity to Armenia. Also on 29 January the president of the United Nations Security Council issued a statement expressing concern at the situation in Armenia and urging all countries in a position to help to facilitiate the provision of fuel and humanitarian assistance to Armenia. The British Government associate themselves with these calls and have taken the same line in their bilateral dealings with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on the continued economic blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : The President of Armenia has written to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and


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several Armenian Ministers have written to their British counterparts, about the dire effects the Azerbaijani economic blockade has had on Armenia. We have in recent months made nearly £700,000 available for relief work in Armenia and the

Nagorno-Karabakh region. The European Community has made a 38 million ecu loan for food and medicines available to Armenia and is considering further emergency humanitarian aid.

Macedonia

Lady Olga Maitland : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress has been made on the application by Macedonia for admission to the United Nations ; and what is his policy on moves to reach an early decision.

Mr. Douglas Hogg : Macedonia's application for admission to the United Nations has now been circulated. The three EC members of the Security Council--United Kingdom, France and Spain--have put forward a draft resolution with the aim of securing Macedonia's early admission on terms acceptable to all parties. The president of the Security Council is consulting the Greeks and the Macedonians.

Cyprus

Mr. Cox : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is the British Government's policy on United Nations resolution 789 on Cyprus ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Garel-Jones : We support the United Nations Secretary-General's mission of good offices and the Security Council resolutions, including 789, aimed at resolving the Cyprus dispute. We welcome the agreement by all parties to resume talks, and will continue to work for progress and help the Secretary-General.

Departmental Officers (Travel)

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many officers travelled first class to their posts abroad in the last year because of (a) their grade and (b) operational reasons.

Mr. Goodlad : In the 12 months to January 1993, 13 officers travelled first class from London to their posts abroad or returned to London from their posts abroad. One officer travelled first class by virtue of his grade, and 12 for operational reasons.

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many diplomatic service officers travelled first class to posts abroad in the last year ; at what cost ; and in how many cases the families of such officers travelled in first class.

Mr. Goodlad : In the 12 months to January 1993, 13 diplomatic service officers travelled first class from London to their posts abroad, or returned to London from their posts abroad, and the total cost was £25,046. Nine officers were accompanied by their families, who also travelled first class : the total cost of the family fares was £18,697. In addition, private secretaries and advisers accompanying Ministers, and officers of the rank of deputy under-secretary or above may travel first class on duty journeys.


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Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many return air tickets, per year, and of what class, are allocated to diplomatic service officers serving abroad for use by their dependants ; and what is the maximum number of tickets available to each family each year.

Mr. Goodlad : Dependants at post have the same entitlements as officers. The entitlement for return air tickets allocated to diplomatic service officers serving abroad for use by their dependants is related to the difficulty of the post, and there are basically three categories : the least difficult posts--62--where representational officers and their dependants serve for four years with one fare-paid leave, and non- representational officers for 30 months with no fare-paid leave ; the intermediate category--51 posts--where officers serve for three years with one fare-paid leave after 18 months, and the most difficult posts--85-- where officers serve for up to three years with a fare-paid leave after each 12 months of duty. For such mid-tour leave journeys, the class of travel is dependent on the time taken to fly to post. For journeys of less than two and a half hours economy class is used. For journeys over two and a half hours, business class. Very senior officers--those of the rank of deputy under-secretary or above--have an entitlement to travel in a superior class by virtue of their grade.

In addition, officers at most non-European posts--145--receive an extra economy class fare for each posting of at least three years, and in countries--55--with special difficulties, a contribution towards an annual short local trip outside the country of posting. The class of, and contribution towards, such journeys is based on economy class fares. Also, children at school in the United Kingdom may fly to post for three holidays per annum, by the cheapest possible means.

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what guidance has been set, and when, regarding the type of air ticket to which diplomatic service officers and their families are entitled.

Mr. Goodlad : Her Majesty's Treasury's guidance regarding the type of air ticket was set in the "Civil Service Pay and Conditions of Service Code", recently superseded by the "Civil Service Management Code". It applies to all civil servants, including diplomatic service officers and their families. The last major revision of entitlements was in 1982 when new fare structures were introduced by the airlines.

In summary, all civil servants including diplomatic service officers, normally travel in economy class on journeys of up to two and a half hours. On official duty, and on transfer and mid-tour leave, they travel in business class on journeys over two and a half hours. On other leave journeys provided at the more difficult posts, they travel economy class. The same rules apply to the families of officers. Children who fly to post from school in the United Kingdom for the three main school holidays fly by the cheapest possible means. Very senior officers--those of the rank of deputy under-secretary or above--may sometimes travel in a higher class than those indicated above, by virtue of their grade or for operational reasons.


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Training Courses

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff have attended courses at Hanslope Park in the last year ; on which system Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff are trained at Hanslope Park ; how many missions abroad use such systems ; when such systems are being withdrawn worldwide ; and when training courses for the new system will begin.

Mr. Goodlad : A total of 2,285 FCO staff have attended courses at Hanslope Park over the last 12 months. They are trained on many different systems in use at home and in 143 missions abroad. The main system being withdrawn is Piccolo HF radio. The last one is expected to go by the end of June 1993. Training on its replacement began in early 1992.

Mr. Steen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff have attended courses in Brackley, Northamptonshire, in the last year ; and at what cost.

Mr. Goodlad : No FCO staff have attended courses at Brackley, but they have been accommodated there while attending communications courses in Buckinghamshire. The average cost is £64 per capita per night.

Mr. Abdul Qayum

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when an appeal application was received at the post in Islamabad from Mr. Abdul Qayum--Ref : IMM/B2588--who was refused entry clearance to join his wife in the United Kingdom ; when the explanatory statement was dispatched ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : This information is not available in London. I have asked the British high commission at Islamabad to provide the answer and I shall arrange for the hon. Member to receive a reply from the migration and visa correspondence unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when it is received.

East Timor

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose to the United Nations that its special rapporteurs on torture pay an early visit to Indonesia to inquire into alleged violations of human rights in East Timor.

Mr. Goodlad : A special rapporteur on torture visited East Timor in 1991. A further visit is for discussion between the rapporteur and the Indonesians.

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will propose to the United Nations Human Rights Commission that it appoints a special rapporteur on East Timor.

Mr. Goodlad : We are currently discussing with our EC partners how to handle the East Timor issue at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. We do not believe that the situation in East Timor requires the appointment of a special rapporteur.


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Ministers (Overseas Visits)

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how much has been spent on facilities in United Kingdom embassies and high commissions in each of the last two financial years in connection with visits to these countries by the Prime Minister or other Ministers.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : To provide a full answer would involve disproportionate cost. Generally, overseas posts cope with such visits from within their own existing resources.

Mrs. Jahan Ara

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a decision is to be taken on the application made to the United Kingdom post in Islamabad by Mrs. Jahan Ara (Ref : B5808 ; DOB 4 : 11 : 71) to join her husband in the United Kingdom ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : This information is not available in London. I have asked the British high commission at Islamabad to provide the answer and I shall arrange for the hon. Member to receive a reply from the migration and visa correspondence unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when it is received.

Mr. Ghulam Murtaza

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when a decision is to be taken on the application by Mr. Ghulam Murtaza--Ref : Gu 100/7157/TAH--to join his wife in the United Kingdom following the submission of further evidence requested by the United Kingdom post in Islamabad ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : This information is not available in London. I have asked the British high commission at Islamabad to provide the answer and I shall arrange for the hon. Member to receive a reply from the migration and visa correspondence unit of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office when it is received.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Child Maintenance Orders

Mr. Dewar : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the average weekly amount per child awarded to heads of lone parent families from maintenance orders in the latest year for which figures are available.

Mr. John M. Taylor : The information requested is not kept centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Roche (Abandoned Litigation)

Ms. Primarolo : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department how much public expenditure was incurred in the abandoned litigation against the pharmaceutical company Roche ; and if he will conduct an inquiry into the reason for this nugatory expenditure.


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Mr. John M. Taylor : No part of the litigation which is being funded by the Legal Aid Board against the pharmaceutical company, Roche, has yet been abandoned. In the light of the statutory criteria under the Legal Aid Act 1988, some of the legally aided claimants have been sent letters informing them that their legal aid certificates may be discharged and inviting them to show cause why they should not be. There is a right of appeal against discharge. The generic expenditure on all the benzodiazepine drugs in the litigation amounts to approximatley £3 million, though further, as yet unquantified, costs have also been incurred. In view of the numbers of individual cases involved, these costs may be considerable.

TRANSPORT

Donaldson Inquiry

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will extend the closing date for submissions to the Donaldson inquiry to enable considered responses from the people of Shetland and local coastal authorities to be submitted following the Shetland standard conference of 31 March to 1 April.

Mr. Norris : The conduct of the inquiry is entirely a matter for Lord Donaldson but I will draw the hon. Member's question to Lord Donaldson's attention.

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will grant a sheriff's inquiry in to the sinking of the MV Braer so as to provide information to be considered by the Donaldson inquiry.

Mr. Norris : Under the Merchant Shipping (Accident Investigation) Regulations 1989, provision is made for investigations into serious marine accidents to take the form of an inspector's inquiry with a report to the Secretary of State by the chief inspector of marine accidents and subsequent publication. This is considered to be the appropriate form of investigation for this accident. However should the evidence being gathered by the inspectors suggest that a formal investigation before a sheriff is warranted then my right hon. Friend will consider ordering one.

Lord Donaldson has made it clear that his inquiry is not directed particularly at the Braer accident ; however, such information as he needs on that accident will be provided by the chief inspector.

West Coast Main Line

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment has been made of the capital investment required (a) to resignal the west coast main line and (b) to replace the power supply to the west coast main line ; and how much money British Rail is allocating to these purposes.

Mr. Freeman : It is for British Rail to assess what capital investment is required to resignal the west coast main line and to replace the power supply. Exactly how much money British Rail will be allocating to these purposes, and over what period, will be decided in the spring, when British Rail has completed its next corporate plan.


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Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport how long the power supply and the signalling for the west coast main line were designed to last ; and when they were installed south of Warrington.

Mr. Freeman : The west coast main line was electrified in the 1960s. Signalling south of Crewe was also replaced in the 1960s. North of Crewe, the signalling was modernised in the 1970s. The details of the design lives of the various components are matters for BR : it is for it to judge what needs to be replaced when.

Ships' Sewerage Systems

Ms Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he will take to press for international regulations governing the installation and operation of ships' sewerage systems.

Mr. Norris : The Department of Transport has given full support to proposals submitted by the Department of Marine of the Republic of Ireland to the International Maritime Organisation to regulate the installation and operation of ships' sewage systems. I am advised that this item has been placed on the IMO work programme for completion in 1995.

Bilge Alarms

Ms Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those passenger ferries operating without bilge alarms.

Mr. Norris : There are no international requirements for passenger ferries to have bilge alarms. However, I am advised that those United Kingdom-registered passenger ferries that operate with certain machinery- space, watertight doors closed do have such alarms.

Shipping

Ms Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what assessment he has made of the desirability of oil tankers and other large ships sending out tracking signals while they are in British waters with the aim of ensuring that their routes minimise the potential environmental damage of an accident and consequent spillage ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Norris : The International Maritime Organisation is addressing the provision of equipment to transmit tracking signals for all ships. The Department fully supports this work and is developing a research programme to assess various types of equipment and their potential benefits.

Bathing Beaches

Ms Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what action he has taken in pursuance of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch recommendation of 1992 concerning provision of notices on all bathing beaches likely to be affected by the wash of shipping passing close to shore.

Mr. Norris : As it was not formal or addressed to a specific body or authority, the recommendation and a brief account of the incident from which it stemmed has been included in the MAIB publication "Summary of Investigations".


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The MAIB will ensure that the local authorities concerned are informed well ahead of this year's bathing season.

Bus Services

Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the total route mileage of scheduled bus services in each local authority area in Cambridgeshire which were supported by a county council subsidy in each year since 1984.

Mr. Freeman : The information is not held centrally by the Department. This is the responsibility of the county council.

Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what was the total route mileage of scheduled bus services in each local authority area in Cambridgeshire in each year since 1984.

Mr. Freeman : The information requested is not held centrally by the Department.

British Waterways Board

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will ensure that arrangements are made enabling British Rail privileged travel facilities, currently enjoyed by British Waterways Board employees and pensioners, to continue ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman [holding answer 1 March 1993] : Powers are being taken in the Railways Bill to ensure that future passenger service operators may be compelled to provide such facilities on their services. This will ensure that the benefits for all those currently entitled can be protected.

WALES

Student Grants

Mr. Jon Owen Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what percentage of vocational first degree subjects receive (a) mandatory grants and (b) discretionary grants.

Sir Wyn Roberts : Students on first degree courses, irrespective of subject, are entitled to a mandatory award provided they satisfy the personal eligibility criteria.

Students on first degree courses who do not satisfy the criteria for mandatory awards can apply to their local authority for a discretionary award. Local authorities are free to determine their own policies on discretionary awards.

Protection of Children

Mr. Jon Owen Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what response he has made to the Police Federation's submission to the inquiry on domestic violence in relation to giving courts powers to make short-term ouster orders for the protection of children.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : None. This submission from the Police Federation was made to the Home Affairs Committee, which has not yet published its report.


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Trawsfynydd Power Station

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales under what criteria the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station has been entered for the Wales tourist board's annual competition ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Wyn Roberts : Nuclear Electric submitted an entry on behalf of its visitor centres and station tours at Wylfa and Trawsfynydd in the "Best Newcomer" category. Under this category any tourism development, large or small, which has been completed in the last three years by either the public or private sector is eligible to be considered.

Renovation Grants

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many representations he has received requesting minor works assistance under the renovation grant system ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : Requests for minor works assistance are made direct to the local housing authorities not to the Welsh Office.

Disabled Facilities Grant

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many representations he has received on the subject of the resources test for disabled facilities grant ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : Since I announced changes to the test of resources for all grants, including disabled facilities grants last July, I have received a small number of representations.

Pollution

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what estimate he has of the number of people in Wales currently living in areas where air pollution levels exceed European standards.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : There are European Community air quality limit values for lead, sulphur dioxide and particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ozone. Monitoring of these pollutants indicates that these standards are not being exceeded in Wales.

Care and Repair Cymru

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many representations he has received on the Welsh Office circular detailing proposed changes in the renovation grant system as operated by Care and Repair Cymru ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gwilym Jones : No such circular has been issued by the Welsh Office. However, the Welsh Office has consulted interested bodies on draft regulations setting out new arrangements for the housing renovation grant scheme. A small number of comments were received in response.

Radon

Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will provide figures for the levels of radon in dwelling houses in Clwyd and Wales.


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Mr. Gwilym Jones : It is not possible to provide the figures requested until the full results of the National Radiological Protection Board survey in Wales are known.

South Wales Valleys (Report)

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will place in the Library a copy of the report by Ecotec Research on the socio- economic conditions in the south Wales valleys, commissioned by the standing conference on regional policy in south Wales, the South Wales training and enterprise councils and the Welsh Development Agency.

Mr. David Hunt : As the hon. Gentleman rightly indicates, this report has been commissioned by the standing conference on regional policy in south Wales, together with a number of other organisations, and in the circumstances it would be inappropriate for me to place a copy in the Library of the House.

Rural Problems

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales when he intends to visit the Meirionnydd Nant Conwy constituency to review rural problems ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. David Hunt : I have no present plans to do so.

Tourism

Mr. Llwyd : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales how many representations he has received regarding funding arrangements by the Wales tourist board under section 4 of the Tourism Development Act 1969 ; and if he will make a statement.

Sir Wyn Roberts : None. An independent report recently published found the section 4 scheme operated by the Wales tourist board to be effective and worthy of continuation.


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