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Written Answers to Questions

Tuesday 24 October 1995

HOUSE OF COMMONS

Fees Office

Mr. Stern: To ask the right hon. Member for Berwick upon Tweed, representing the House of Commons Commission, if he will seek to define and publish targets for the work of the House of Commons Fees Office.

Mr. Beith: Performance indicators for the House of Commons Fees Office have been published in the 1993 94 and 1994 95 annual reports of the House of Commons Commission. Copies of these reports are available in the Library.

Asbestos

Mr. Cox: To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee (1) if asbestos products have been used in the works which have taken place in the Palace of Westminster since 20 July; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what record is kept in the Palace of Westminster of the presence of asbestos; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ray Powell: No asbestos products have been used in the works which have taken place in the Palace of Westminster during the summer recess. Like most older buildings, the Palace of Westminster contains some asbestos, which used to be incorporated for insulation purposes. Since it became known that exposure to asbestos dust can be dangerous, the Parliamentary Works Directorate, and its predecessors, has sought to follow strictly the guidelines and procedures laid down by the Health and Safety Executive. An asbestos register is maintained recording the locations both where asbestos is known to remain--usually because it is inaccessible--and from which it has been removed. Only firms on an approved list are used for asbestos removal work and the work is carried out in the approved manner.

It is the practice to remove asbestos found when undertaking maintenance and other works services. For example, during the installation of the wiring for the parliamentary data and video network and fire alarm system this summer, a considerable amount of previously undiscovered asbestos was found and removed. The result is that all ceiling voids and under-floor spaces which have so far been cabled for the parliamentary data and video network are now free of asbestos. All the evidence available indicates that the asbestos had not been disturbed for some considerable time and should not therefore have presented any risks. However, a full record has been made of the discoveries and will be kept on the register.


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Disabled People (Access)

Mr. Alfred Morris: To ask the Chairman of the Accommodation and Works Committee what recent improvements have been made in access to all parts of the Palace of Westminster for disabled people; what plans there are for further improvements; and if he will make a statement.     [38393]

Mr. Ray Powell: I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) on 8 February at column 243, which described in detail the conclusions of the review by the Accommodation and Works Committee into access for disabled people. Since then the Parliamentary Works Directorate has continued to implement many of the recommended improvements. The new entrance, which has been created at Black Rod's Garden, enables people in wheelchairs to go directly to the start of the line of route. A ramp has been constructed at the entrance to Speaker's House giving access to the North Door. The ramps in Star Chamber Court allow access for people in wheelchairs to the Strangers Gallery via lift number 1 and the new ramp at the Medals Corridor enables them to go on to the Terrace, the private dining rooms and via lift number 15, to the Principal Floor and Committee Rooms. This lift has been specially adapted to include such features as relocated control panels with embossed and illuminated buttons, handrails to the sides and rear of each car, and door edges with time delay sensors. Lifts numbers 3, Peers and Gallery, and 17, Speaker's House, have been similarly adapted as has one in the other place. Modifications to lavatories have been carried out and there are now specially adapted facilities in the following locations:

Centre Curtain Corridor, Lower Waiting Hall, opposite Committee Room 7 on the Main Committee Corridor, and opposite Committee Room 19 on the Upper Committee Corridor.

In addition, a continuous handrail has been ordered for installation on the Strangers' Gallery staircase and a platform lift is shortly to be installed to take people in wheelchairs from Westminster Hall to the Grand Committee Room. In time, we hope to install a proper lift in that area as part of the plans for a visitor centre in 1996 97. It is planned to spend a further £250,000 on overhauling five lifts including the provision of facilities for the disabled and £55,000 on other access facilities.

Some £688,000 is to be spent this financial year in the Palace of Westminster on facilities for disabled people.

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Legal Aid

Mr. Byers: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what is the latest figure for the amount of legal aid paid to Kevin and Ian Maxwell.     [38196]

Mr. John M. Taylor: It would not be appropriate for me to give further details of payments in this case while the trial is in progress.


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Employee Fraud

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what was the total number of cases of all forms of fraud committed by employees of his (a) Department, (b) agencies and (c) non-departmental bodies for each year from 1991 92 to 1994 95; and for each of those years what was the total monetary sum (1) misappropriated and (2) subsequently recovered.     [39125]


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Mr. John M. Taylor: The information requested is set out in the table. In many cases we cannot establish whether a fraud was by an employee or an outsider, and by no means all attempted frauds succeeded. The table therefore includes known cases of actual fraud attributable to staff. Some further recoveries may have been made since the records for each year were compiled, and further recoveries may be made, especially in relation to frauds in 1994 95. I have asked the chief executives of the Public Record Office and Her Majesty's Land Registry to reply to the hon. Member directly.


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Losses (£) due to proven staff fraud                                                                      

                                     1991-92                       1992-93                                

                                    |Number   |Loss     |Recovered|Number   |Loss     |Recovered          

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

Lord Chancellor's Department<1> <2> |11       |313,754  |7,753    |7        |58,890   |2,026              

Northern Ireland Court Service      |2        |1,166.70 |nil      |1        |17,507.01|265.70             

Non-Departmental Public Bodies<3>   |1        |324      |324      |1        |500      |nil                

                                                                                                          

Total                               |12       |314,078  |8,076    |8        |59,389   |2,026              


                                      1993-94                       1994-95                                

                                     |Number   |Loss     |Recovered|Number   |Loss     |Recovered          

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

Lord Chancellor's Department< 1> <2> |4        |180,876  |54,961   |7        |23,703   |72                 

Northern Ireland Court Service       |nil      |nil      |nil      |1        |20       |nil                

Non-Departmental Public Bodies<3>    |nil      |nil      |nil      |nil      |nil      |nil                

                                                                                                           

Total                                | 4       |180,876  |54,961   |7        |23,703   |72                 

<1>The Public Trust Office became an executive agency on 1 July 1994. For ease of comparison data since    

then has been separated.                                                                                   

<2>The Court Service became an agency on 1 April 1995.                                                     

<3>The frauds shown in the table above relate to the Legal Aid Board. There are no reported frauds from    

any of LCD's other NDPBs.                                                                                  

Letter from Edward Beardsall to Mr. Malcolm Bruce, dated 24 October 1995:

In the absence of the Chief Executive who is presently away from the office I have been asked by the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, to reply to your recent question concerning the total number of all forms of fraud committed by employees in the Land Registry for each year from 1991 92 to 1994 95 and for each of these years the total monetary sum (1) misappropriated and (2) subsequently recovered. All cases related either to misuse of official postage, misuse of the telephone or abuse of the flexible working hours system. I can provide the following information:


                                 Total sum                                      

                |Number of cases|Misappropriated|Recovered                      

                                |£              |£                              

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

1991-92         |7              |380.66         |380.66                         

1992-93          4               (Minor sums of less than £10)                  

1993-94         |4              |760            |760                            

1994-95         |1              |58             |58                             

I do hope that this answers the points raised with the Parliamentary Secretary but please contact me if I can be of any further assistance.

Letter from Sarah Tyacke to Mr. Malcolm Bruce, dated 24 October 1995:

I have been asked by the Lord Chancellor's Parliamentary Secretary to reply to your question about employee fraud.

There were no cases of fraud committed by employees of the Public Record Office in the years that you list.


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Personal Pensions

Mr. Denham: To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department when he expects to publish the report of the Securities and Investments Board/Department of Social Security study of the sale of personal pensions to low-income earners; and what are the terms of reference of the study.     [38259]

Mrs. Angela Knight [holding answer 23 October 1995]: I have been asked to reply.

The Securities and Investments Board will be responsible for publishing a report into potential mis-selling of personal pensions to people who were previously in the state earnings-related pensions scheme. I understand that SIB hopes to report on this issue by the end of the year.

SCOTLAND

Farm Sizes

Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the number of farms sized (a) 1 25 hectares, (b) 26 50 hectares, (c) 51 75 hectares, (d) 76 100 hectares, (e) 101 150 hectares, (f) 151 200 hectares and (g) 201 or more hectares for the last available year and for 1985.     [36431]


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Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: The information is given in the table:


Number of farms of |1985              |1994                                 

size (hectares)                                                             

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

Less than 26       |11,413            |12,592                               

 26-<51            |4,759             |4,754                                

 51-<76            |3,567             |3,476                                

 76-<101           |2,579             |2,490                                

101-<151           |3,083             |3,205                                

151-<201           |1,590             |1,652                                

201 or more        |4,357             |4,344                                

                                                                            

Total              |31,348            |32,513                               

The figures come from the June agricultural census in 1985 and 1994 and relate to main holdings. The hectarages refer to total agricultural areas which include rough grazings.

Red Deer Commission

Mr. Galbraith: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what consideration he is giving to the future of the Red Deer Commission; and if he will make a statement.     [36939]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) to the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) on 10 May 1995 Official Report, column 450 . In addition, a policy and financial management review of the Red Deer Commission is currently being undertaken, in accordance with the Government's commitment to appraise effectiveness and value for money in all non-departmental public bodies on a regular basis.

Environmentally Sensitive Areas

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what subsidies were paid out for environmentally sensitive areas in (a) 1992 93, (b) 1993 94, (c) 1994 95 and (d) 1995 96; and how many individuals were recipients of these payments in these years.     [37125]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: The total payments made under the environmentally sensitive areas scheme and the number of participants for the years requested are set out in the table.


                       |Amount paid |Number of                

                       |£ thousands |participants             

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

1992-93                |1,086       |802                      

1993-94                |963         |583                      

1994-95                |1,044       |717                      

1995-96 (to 31 August) |781         |847                      

Mr. Welsh: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what area in hectares and percentage terms of environmentally sensitive areas in Scotland is made up of productive, or potentially productive, agricultural land.     [37124]


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Mr. Robertson: The information is set out in the table.


                          |Estimated                                      

                          |hectares of    |Estimated                      

                          |agricultural   |percentage of                  

                          |land in each   |total area                     

                          |designated area|designated                     

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

Breadalbane               |140,000        |78                             

Loch Lomond               |36,900         |75                             

Stewartry                 |48,500         |82                             

Central Borders (formerly                                                 

  Whitlaw and Eildon)     |28,800         |81                             

Machair of the Uists and                                                  

  Benbecula, Barra and                                                    

  Vatersay                |12,000         |79                             

Central Southern Uplands  |220,300        |81                             

Western Southern Uplands  |131,000        |52                             

Cairngorms Straths        |148,700        |68                             

Argyll Islands            |177,400        |84                             

Shetland Islands          |144,900        |99                             

                                                                          

Total                     |1,088,500      |76                             

New Homes

Mr. Raynsford: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will set out the total number of new homes started by (a) local authorities and new towns and (b) housing associations in Scotland in each year since 1974, and his estimate of the likely number of starts in 1995 and 1996.     [37492]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson: The information requested on the number of new homes started is set out in the table. Housing associations plan to start 6,155 houses in 1995 96 and 193 new town starts are expected during 1995 and 1996. Information on planned local authority starts is not held centrally.


New housebuilding starts-Scotland, 1974 to 1994                  

             |Local                    |Housing                  

             |authorities |New towns   |associations             

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

1974         |16,324      |2,600       |660                      

1975         |12,326      |3,683       |592                      

1976         |7,578       |2,665       |1,362                    

1977         |5,829       |1,673       |629                      

1978         |4,185       |2,202       |1,365                    

1979         |4,858       |984         |963                      

1980         |2,770       |1,155       |1,261                    

1981         |1,929       |733         |1,051                    

1982         |2,585       |765         |2,446                    

1983         |2,141       |194         |1,068                    

1984         |1,755       |126         |1,239                    

1985         |1,693       |190         |1,487                    

1986         |1,671       |141         |1,414                    

1987         |2,145       |374         |1,988                    

1988         |1,433       |495         |2,068                    

1989         |871         |680         |2,748                    

1990         |886         |720         |2,111                    

1991         |848         |134         |3,448                    

1992         |429         |395         |3,051                    

1993         |503         |429         |5,062                    

1994         |544         |208         |4,807                    

Housing association figures are likely to be subject to future revision.


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Short-time Working

Mr. Rowlands: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate his Department has made of the number of companies on short-time working; and how many employees are affected by such short-time working.     [37514]

Mr. Kynoch: Available information is restricted to

operatives--manual workers--in the manufacturing sector. In the week ending 9 June 1995, the latest date for which figures are available for Scotland, an estimated 1,300 operatives in manufacturing industries were affected by short-time working. Of these, 900 were stood off the whole week. The source of these figures is the Central Statistical Office.

Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances

Sir David Steel: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will increase hill livestock compensatory allowances for 1996.     [37918]

Mr. Michael Forsyth: Decisions on the rates of hill livestock compensatory allowances are taken by Ministers in the light of the annual autumn review of economic conditions in the hills and uplands, which is currently under way.

Health Service Revenue

Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans the Government have to revise the Scottish hospital resource allocation formula--SHARE--in a manner similar to the revision of the NHS formula for allocating hospital and community health service revenue resources in England.     [38001]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton: There are no immediate plans to revise the Scottish hospital resource allocation formula. We do, however, continually consider whether there is scope to improve the formula.

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Sir Hector Monro: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about a policy and financial management review of the royal botanic garden, Edinburgh.     [39728]

Mr. Michael Forsyth: As part of the Government's rolling programme of five-yearly policy and financial management reviews of non-departmental public bodies, my Department will conduct a thorough review of the work of the royal botanic garden, Edinburgh between now and March 1996. The first stage of the review will take the form of a "prior options" study. This will include an examination of what scope there is, if any, for discontinuing, or undertaking in some other way some or all of the functions which the garden carries out. This will include looking at how it takes forward its statutory obligations, including its objectives, as set out in the National Heritage (Scotland) Act 1985.

The second stage of the review will concentrate on the garden's financial management systems and controls.


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I would welcome comments from interested parties. They should be sent by 30 November 1995 to:

Mr. K. K. Steven

The Scottish Office Agriculture Environment and Fisheries Department

Pentland House

47 Robb's Loan

Edinburgh

EH14 1TY.

Vandalism (Schools)

Mr. Malcolm Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what help is available to schools in Scotland suffering especially severe problems of vandalism.     [37937]

Mr. Raymond S. Robertson [holding answer 20 October 1995]: The response to acts of vandalism will depend on the nature of each incident and the circumstances in which they have been perpetrated. It is for the education authority concerned to consider appropriate measures having regard to the local circumstances and physical characteristics of the schools affected.

OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION

Kenya

Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date programme aid was suspended to Kenya.     [37675]

Mr. Hanley: Programme aid to Kenya has not been suspended. But disbursements continue to depend, as they always have, on Kenya continuing to implement economic programmes agreed with International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and on the overall political environment in Kenya.

Sir Thomas Arnold: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what is his policy towards Kenya at the World Bank, and if he will make a statement.     [37674]

Mr. Hanley: Discussions between the World Bank and the Kenyan Government continue. We hope that there will be sufficient progress in Kenya to allow early agreement on a structural adjustment credit.

Bilateral Aid Programme

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the bilateral aid programme in promoting political and economic stability in the least developed countries.     [38145]

Mr. Hanley: We believe that British bilateral aid, with its emphasis on good government and sound economic policies, has played a vital role in promoting political and economic stability in many of the least developed countries, notably in the Commonwealth. The effectiveness of British aid in meeting this objective is kept under constant review.


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Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the foreign policy implications of reduction in Britain's bilateral aid programme; and if he will make a statement.     [38147]

Mr. Hanley: The bilateral aid programme is a very significant part of the United Kingdom's relationship with the developing world. The size of the programme is kept under constant review, along with all the other factors which contribute to the relationship with developing countries, including trade and investment.

ENVIRONMENT

European Building Projects

Mr. Spellar: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many British firms secured contracts on the (a) European Parliament building, Strasbourg, (b) European Parliament building, Brussels, and (c) Bundestag building, Berlin, projects; and what was the value of these projects.     [37045]

Mr. Clappison: My officials are currently assembling the information requested and I will write to the hon. Gentleman shortly.

Housing Initiatives

Mr. Devlin: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, what assessment he has made of the impact of his Department's policy initiatives since 1979 on the housing associations.     [37677]

Mr. Clappison: Between 1979 80 and 1994 95, capital and revenue grants totalling more than £16 billion have been made to registered housing associations, which are now the main providers of new social housing. By April 1995 there were around 860,000 housing associations properties, compared with around 350,000 in 1979.

In 1988, we introduced mixed funding for housing association developments which has enabled associations to raise over £5 billion in private finance. This has generated almost 100,000 more housing association homes than would have been possible without the private finance input.

Our shared home ownership and incentive initiatives have helped people who wanted to buy their own home but could not otherwise afford to do so. These initiatives represent good value for money, particularly where they release rented lettings for others in housing need. From 1990 91 to the end of 1994 195 more than 60,000 households have benefited from these initiatives, and more than 40,000 existing social lettings have been released for others in housing need. We have also encouraged housing associations to take on former local authority housing. Since 1988, 43 new housing associations have been created for this purpose. More than 180,000 dwellings have been transferred from local authority ownership, generating some £2.8 billion of linked private sector investment for the purchase, repair and long-term maintenance of the properties.


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Pay Bargaining

Mr. McAllion: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide in respect of his plan for pay delegation submitted to the Treasury (a) a description of the staff in each bargaining unit covered by the plan, distinguishing staff in headquarters functions, agencies and agency candidates, and in other identifiable business units and (b) proposals for trade union recognition in each bargaining unit and the negotiating machinery to be put in place in each bargaining unit.     [38282]

Sir Paul Beresford: The pay bargaining units and the union recognition and bargaining arrangements proposed for 1996 are: DoE (central)

Staff in headquarters, staff in the Government offices for the regions and rent assessment panels; current patterns of union recognition will remain and procedural agreements for future consultation and negotiation are under discussion.

Planning Inspectorate

Staff in the agency; union recognition will be on current lines and procedures for negotiations are in place.

Building Research Establishment

BRE already has responsibility for negotiating the pay of its industrial staff and will take this on for all staff in the agency; union recognition will be on current lines and procedures for negotiations are under discussion for non-industrial staff.

PSA Services

Staff in the centre will become part of the DoE (central) bargaining unit. Those on secondment to the successor businesses to PSA will have their pay determined by analogue to arrangements in DoE (central).

Property Holdings (to become Property Adviser to the Civil Estate)

Staff in the PACE agency; union recognition will be on current lines and procedures for negotiations are under discussion.

Security and Facilities Executive

SAFE already has responsibility for negotiating the pay of its industrial staff and will take this on for the other staff in the agency; union recognition will be on current lines and procedures for negotiations are under discussion.

The Buying Agency

Staff in the TBA agency; union recognition will be on current lines and procedures for negotiations are under discussion.

It is planned that the final three bodies listed will have become the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster by 1 April 1996.

In addition, the Health and Safety Executive, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre agency and the Ordnance Survey already have responsibility for their own pay arrangements and have agreed arrangements for negotiating with those unions recognised.

Asbestos

Mr. Ian McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what monitoring is taking place following the Health and Safety Executive's increased emphasis on the risks of casual exposure to asbestos as outlined in the HSE statement on asbestos 1994.     [38052]

Sir Paul Beresford: The Health and Safety Executive is currently commissioning an independent evaluation of its asbestos awareness campaign. The results should be available towards the middle of 1996.


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Mr. McCartney: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what is the number of cases identified where respiratory protective equipment has been used but where the respirable asbestos dust levels exceed the respiratory protective equipment manufacturers claimed level of protection since July 1992;     [38055]

(2) what sanctions are applied to contractors who are caught using respirable protective equipment but where the level of respirable asbestos dust exceeds the respiratory protective equipment manufacturers claimed level of protection;     [38056]

(3) how many contractors have been sanctioned for using respiratory protective equipment where the level of respirable asbestos dust exceeds the respiratory protective equipment manufacturers claimed level of protection since July 1992;     [38057]

(4) how many contractors have been fined for using respiratory protective equipment where the level of respirable asbestos dust exceeds the respiratory protective equipment manufacturers claimed level of protection since July 1992; and what is the average level of the fine.     [38058]


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