Home Page

Column 325

Written Answers to Questions

Friday 8 July 1994

ENVIRONMENT

Unfit Properties

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will publish tables showing for each region and nation an estimate of the number of unfit


Column 326

properties, together with the distribution of these properties by tenure, and the number of renovation grants committed in the most recent available year.

Sir George Young : The first table shows estimates of the numbers of unfit dwellings. The second table shows estimates of approvals of mandatory and discretionary renovation grants in England during the financial year 1993-94. Figures are provided for England. For figures for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, I refer the Member to the respective Secretaries of State.


Column 325


Table 1: Unfit Dwellings: by Tenure and Region: England 1991                                                                                                                

Thousands of dwellings                                                                                                                                                      

Standard statistical     |Owner occupied      |Private rented      |Local authority     |Housing             |Vacant              |Total                                    

region                                                                                                                                                                      

                                                                                        |association                                                                        

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

Northern                 |31                  |32                  |21                  |4                   |10                  |99                                       

Yorkshire and Humberside |85                  |27                  |31                  |2                   |11                  |156                                      

East Midlands            |90                  |19                  |22                  |0                   |7                   |138                                      

East Anglia              |34                  |15                  |11                  |2                   |3                   |65                                       

Greater London           |127                 |56                  |69                  |24                  |25                  |301                                      

South East               |119                 |64                  |26                  |5                   |26                  |239                                      

South West               |57                  |33                  |14                  |0                   |18                  |123                                      

West Midlands            |39                  |39                  |29                  |0                   |9                   |117                                      

North West               |132                 |47                  |42                  |3                   |36                  |260                                      

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

England                  |715                 |333                 |265                 |41                  |145                 |1,498                                    

Source: English House Condition Survey.                                                                                                                                     


Table 2: Mandatory and discretionary renovation grants:                                 

Approvals 1993-94                                                                       

Numbers of grants                                                                       

Standard statistical     |Mandatory           |Discretionary                            

region                                                                                  

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

Northern                 |2,750               |300                                      

Yorkshire and Humberside |4,240               |1,040                                    

East Midlands            |4,110               |1,040                                    

East Anglia              |1,420               |90                                       

Greater London           |4,500               |520                                      

South East               |6,300               |1,100                                    

South West               |3,610               |340                                      

West Midlands            |4,590               |370                                      

North West               |5,200               |420                                      

                         |---                 |---                                      

England                  |36,710              |5,230                                    

Source: Estimated from reports by local authorities on the housing statistics return    

P1D.                                                                                    

Juveniles (Publicity)

Mrs. Mahon : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what guidelines he has issued to local authority councillors in respect of using juveniles under local authority supervision for publicity purposes.

Mr. Baldry : None. The only guidelines on local authority publicity which my Department has issued is the 1988 code of recommended practice on local authority publicity which does not cover the use of juveniles for publicity purposes. I have placed a copy of the code in the Library.


Column 326

Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what were the figures for carbon dioxide emissions resulting from household use of energy in the United Kingdom in each year since 1990 ; and what is the (a) estimate and (b) Government target for 2000.

Mr. Atkins : The 16th edition of the "Digest of Environmental Protection and Water Statistics" shows that emissions of carbon dioxide from household energy use were estimated to be 42 million tonnes of carbon- -MtC--in 1990, 44 MtC in 1991 and 43 MtC in 1992. Emissions in 1990 were relatively low because the year was particularly warm. The Government have not set a specific target for domestic sector emissions in 2000, although the measures announced in our climate change programme are expected to achieve a reduction of around 4 MtC below the underlying trend, which is currently expected to be about flat for the domestic sector.

Climate Change (Insurance)

Mr. Dafis : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what discussions he has had with representatives of Lloyd's insurance market on the risks associated with global climate change.

Mr. Atkins : I have had no such discussions, but the possible impact of climate change on the financial services industry, including insurance, is one of the issues that will be addressed in the second assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change, and my department is providing financial support for one United Kingdom expert who has been asked to act as a contributing author on that issue.


Column 327

Housing Safety

Mr. Gale : To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will introduce new controls to improve safety standards in houses in multiple occupation.

Sir George Young : The Government are aware of the continuing concern about the number of hotels in resort areas which are operating as benefit hostels and of the wider concern about safety standards in all houses in multiple occupation--HMOs.

Ministers share these concerns, but they are also anxious to avoid regulation unless it can be clearly demonstrated that such regulation is both essential and practical.

Local authorities already have considerable powers to improve standards in HMOs, and to establish HMO registration schemes. They also have a statutory duty to ensure adequate fire safety standards in the larger HMOs. The issue of benefit hostels raises separate considerations and planning controls relating to the conversion from hotel to hostel use have recently been tightened.

It is clearly necessary to consider carefully what more, if anything, needs to be done in both these areas. I have therefore instructed my officials in the Department of the Environment to begin immediate discussions with interested parties, on the case for a licensing system and how it might operate, with a view to issuing a formal consultation paper in the late summer. Full-scale licensing would require primary legislation and the paper will need to examine the scope for measures to tackle these problems both with or without legislation.

EDUCATION

Contracts

Mr. Byers : To ask the Secretary of State for Education on what occasions in the last 10 years he or a Minister in his Department has given a direction to civil servants to award a contract against the advice of the civil service ; what was the subject matter of the contract and its value ; and when it was awarded.

Mr. Boswell : The Secretary of State has not in the last 10 years directed the Department's accounting officer to award any contract against official advice.

Special Educational Needs Conferences

Mr. Byers : To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many conferences his Department has organised to promote the new code of practice for special educational needs ; when and where they are to be held ; what is the cost for a delegate from a school to attend ; and how much additional copies of the information packs on the code of practice will cost.

Mr. Forth : The Department, together with the Department of Health, the Welsh Office, the National Children's Bureau and the Council for Disabled Children, arranged six conferences to help disseminate the code of practice on the identification and assessment of special educational needs. The conferences were held in London on 15 June, Manchester on 21 June, York on 24 June, Cardiff on 1 July, Bristol on 5 July and Birmingham on 7 July. The cost of attendance for each delegate was £94.


Column 328

Delegates were given an information pack including a copy of the code, the guide for parents and a handbook. Additional copies of the code and the guide for parents can be obtained free ; additional copies of the handbook cost £6.50 each.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Child Witnesses

Mrs. Golding : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what measures are being taken by courts in Staffordshire to protect child witnesses, with particular reference to the use of screens and television link equipment ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Both court centres in Staffordshire, namely Stafford and Stoke on Trent, have screens available, and Stafford also has live television link equipment and video playback equipment for use in the presentation of evidence by child witnesses. All magistrates courts have access to screens and the use of the television link equipment at Stafford, if required.

Contracts

Mr. Byers : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department on what occasions in the last 10 years he or a Minister in his Department has given a direction to civil servants to award a contract against the advice of the civil service ; what was the subject matter of the contract and its value ; and when it was awarded.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Never.

OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT

Somalia

Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth affairs what progress has been made recently by (a) the United Nations development programme, (b) the Food and Agriculture Organisation, (c) the World Health Organisation, (d) UNOSOM--the United Nations operation in Somalia, (e) the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and (f) UNICEF in developing reconstruction and other services in north west Somalia.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : Details of the activities of UNDP, FAO, WHO and the role of UNOSOM in north-west Somalia have been provided in answers to the hon. Member on 24 February at columns 398-99, 28 February at column 546, 1 March at column 631, 15 April at columns 303 and 329 and 14 June at columns 393-94.

UNICEF activities in the region include : health--mother and child health programmes, immunisation, treatment and prevention of cholera, support for hospitals and health centres ; education--construction of one Koranic school in Hargeisa, with 10 additional schools targeted for rehabiliation, training programme for koranic school teachers ; and water and sanitation-- emergency trucking of water, rehabilitation of shallow wells and hand pump installation.

UNHCR has confirmed the completion of 148 quick impact projects--QUIPS--to assist the resident population and returning refugees. A further 216 projects continue


Column 329

including those in the water, health, education, agriculture, livestock and income generation sectors. UNHCR has also made available US$2.6 million for demining activities and is involved in discussions with regional authorities on the repatriation of Somali refugees from Ethiopia and Djibouti.

The United Nations development office is planning a multi-donor mission to Woquooly Galbeed region to take forward discussions with regional authorities on the priorities and conditions necessary for developing reconstruction activities and services to that region.

Know-how Fund Projects

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list each know-how fund project by country and date ; and how much has been (a) committed and (b) spent on each project.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd : I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) on 28 June at column 471. Such lists are placed in the Libraries of both Houses at regular intervals.

Know-how fund expenditure in recipient countries to March 1933--detailed figures for 1993-4 are not yet available--is as follows :


                                  |£                    

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

Albania                           |39,000               

Azerbaijan                        |81,000               

Belarus                           |26,000               

Bulgaria                          |2,810,000            

Former Czechoslovakia             |14,599,000           

Georgia                           |26,000               

Former German Democratic Republic |502,000              

Hungary                           |13,023,000           

Latvia                            |350,000              

Lithuania                         |486,000              

Poland                            |32,722,000           

Romania                           |3,823,000            

Russian Federation                |14,475,000           

Slovenia                          |45,000               

Ukraine                           |3,193,000            

Regional projects<1>              |4,969,000            

<1> For 1992-93 includes Environment projects.          

Palestine

Mr. Ottaway : To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what further assistance Her Majesty's Government are providing to the new Palestinian administration in Gaza and Jericho.

Mr. Hurd : In response to the urgent needs of the Palestinian authority, Her Majesty's Government have decided to provide an extra £5 million of bilateral assistance this year. A total of £3 million will be for immediate running costs, and £2 million for increased technical cooperation. Part of these funds will be for the Palestinian police. This will help meet the urgent requirements in the key area of maintaining law and order.

The success of the new Palestinian administration in Gaza and Jericho is critical for the future of the peace process. Provision of start-up costs is an immediate need.

Her Majesty's Government have previously announced their intention to contribute £70 million of assistance to the Palestinians and the peace process during 1994-95 and


Column 330

1996-97, through bilateral and multilateral channels. Many programmes are already underway. Their focus is support for the structures of Palestinian administration : the police, for whom we are already providing training and equipment ; the Palestinian Monetary Authority ; legal structures and the judiciary ; water management and health care. We are also providing assistance for the planned Palestinian elections.

HOME DEPARTMENT

National Lottery

Mr. Alan Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects the first grants to be made to charities by the National Lottery Charities Board.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : This will be a matter for the board to decide.

Electoral Law (Disabled People)

Mr. Alan Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what role will be played by his Department in the forthcoming consultation on disability ; and what plans he has to publish a consultation paper on countering unfair discrimination against disabled people in electoral matters.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : My right hon. Friend, the Minister for Disabled People, will be co-ordinating action on this front and will involve other Departments as necessary. We have no plans to produce a separate consultation paper.

Bicycles

Mr. Robathan : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions bicycles have been found to contain illegal explosive devices for the use of terrorists, on the mainland of Great Britain.

Mr. Howard : The available records indicate that there have been two explosions in Great Britain involving bicycle bombs : in 1939 an IRA bicycle bomb exploded in Coventry killing five people and in 1979 a bomb exploded in a mailbag on a postman's bicycle in Streatley, Berkshire. Since then there have been three occasions when Irish Republican terrorists are believed to have been responsible for bicycle bomb attacks elsewhere, twice in Northern Ireland and once at a British military installation in Germany.

Computer Contracts

Mr. Keen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the current position of his Department over the award of the contracts for the processing of historical criminal records to (a) overseas based and (b) United Kingdom based processing companies ; and whether members of the project team have visited processing facilities in the Philippines with regard to this contract.

Mr. Howard : After careful consideration of the competing bids, which included a visit by members of the project team to the Philippines, it has been decided to award the contract to PCL Group, which submitted the bid


Column 331

which was judged to represent the best overall value for money to the taxpayer. The work will be carried out, under conditions of the strictest security, in Rickmansworth and Glasgow. The contract provides for the conversion of some 3 million records over 18 months, creating a database which will be of immense value to the police service in the investigation of crime.

Mr. Keen : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what important factors his Department uses when determining the award of contracts involving computerisation of (a) criminal records and (b) general processing information of a sensitive nature.

Mr. Howard : The criteria for evaluation will vary according to the nature of the work to be done ; the details are given in the announcement in the Official Journal of the European Communities which launches every substantial procurement. In the case of the current project to computerise the national collection of criminal records, the award criteria, other than price, were stated as "Proven ability to process the required throughput volumes, achieving the required quality and security levels, in the required timescale" (Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Communities, 25 November and 4 December 1993).

Jersey

Mr. Byers : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make representations to the Government of Jersey concerning their refusal to allow United Kingdom citizens to gain residential and home ownership rights on the island.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : No. Jersey is an internally self-governing dependency of the Crown, and by constitutional convention my right hon. and learned Friend does not seek to intervene in matters such as the island's housing regulations.

Polling Stations (Disabled Access)

Mrs. Roche : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made by his Department since April 1992 to make polling stations more accessible to people with disabilities.

Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 7 July 1994] : We regularly remind local authorities about their obligation to choose, wherever practicable, buildings which provide access for the disabled. Advice on helping disabled electors provided by the Spastics Society was circulated to returning officers in April 1993. The guidance included a checklist for carrying out accessibility audits at polling stations. A further reminder about the needs of disabled voters was included in our guidance for acting returning officers at the European parliamentary elections earlier this year. My officials met representatives of the Spastics Society and the Royal National Institute for the Blind as part of the post-election review and their concerns have been reflected by the working groups which reported their findings in March. My officials have recently met representatives of the local authority associations to discuss the findings and will report to me in due course on the outcome of the post-election review.


Column 332

EMPLOYMENT

Unfair Dismissal

Mr. Grocott : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment (1) what proportion of unfair dismissal claims have resulted in reinstatement in each of the last five years ;

(2) how many unfair dismissal claims have resulted in reinstatement in each of the last five years.

Miss Widdecombe : Only about one third of all unfair dismissal claims are heard by an industrial tribunal. The majority are settled or withdrawn, often as a result of conciliation by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The number of unfair dismissal claims where reinstatement or re-engagement have been ordered by an industrial tribunal and their proportion of all unfair dismissal claims is shown in the following table :


1 April to |Number    |Per cent.            

31 March                                    

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

1989-90    |59        |0.33                 

1990-91    |63        |0.32                 

1991-92    |71        |0.28                 

1992-93    |73        |0.22                 

1993-94    |72        |0.17                 

Gender Identity Disorder

Mr. Burden : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to reinforce the employment rights of individuals suffering from gender identity disorder.

Miss Widdecombe : We have no such plans.

Industrial Tribunals

Mr. Boateng : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to make it clear on the face of the application form for an industrial tribunal hearing that consent to having the case heard by a chairman sitting alone in chambers, once given, cannot be withdrawn.

Miss Widdecombe : Industrial tribunals are independent judicial bodies and such matters are for the presidents of the tribunals to consider. However, I understand that the tribunals' new explanatory booklet on procedures, which the guidance note on the application form asks applicants to read, will make it clear that once such written consent is given by the parties it cannot be withdrawn, although the chairman may exercise his discretion to sit with lay members.

Gas Poisoning and Explosions

Mrs. Peacock : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many non-industrial deaths and serious injuries have occurred in each of the last five years due to gas poisoning and explosions.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : The information requested is shown in the table :


Column 333