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6 Mar 1995 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday 6th March 1995

Criminal Legal Aid: Control

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals they have for improving control over the grant of criminal legal aid in magistrates' courts.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): A number of measures are in hand. In particular, I have today laid before Parliament regulations requiring justices' clerks to keep records of all applications for criminal legal aid, showing the reasons for deciding whether individual applications should be granted or refused. These regulations will come into force on 1 May 1995.

World Summit for Social Development

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will support the proposal in the draft Programme of Action for the forthcoming Social Summit in Copenhagen that national reports on social development should be sent to the Economic and Social Council of the UN; and whether they will complement this suggested arrangement by proposing that regular similar reports be submitted from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): We expect the Economic and Social Council to be responsible for co-ordinating follow-up to the summit with other international economic and social organisations such as those referred to. It is too early to comment on the detail of this, but we will participate actively.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be their position at the forthcoming social summit in Copenhagen on the need to ensure immediate implementation of the Trinidad Terms proposal to reduce by two-thirds the eligible debt stock of severely indebted low-income countries as a first step towards a comprehensive write-off between 80 per cent. and 100 per cent. of the entire debt stock of such countries.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: Implementation of Trinidad Terms was agreed in principle in December 1994. We pressed for up to 80 per cent. reductions, in exceptional cases, for eligible official bilateral debt, but there was no consensus among creditors to go beyond 67 per cent.

We welcome agreement by the Paris Club on 20 February to offer a stock of debt reduction to Uganda under these terms. I am delighted that a Commonwealth

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country is the first to benefit in this way from my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's initiative.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be their position at the forthcoming social summit in Copenhagen on the need to ensure special consideration for those developing countries whose multilateral debt constitutes an important part of their total debt and what will be their position in this respect on their own proposal for the limited sale of International Monetary Fund gold stocks.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed limited sale of IMF gold stocks as part of his initiative on multilateral debt. We shall encourage participants at the summit to support his initiative.

The next step for the Multilateral Debt Initiative will be to secure support from other members of the IMF and World Bank. We intend to pursue this at the Institutions' spring meetings in April.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be their position at the forthcoming social summit in Copenhagen on the proposal that all donor countries should establish a five-year timetable for increasing their overseas development aid to gross national product ratio towards the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: At the social summit in Copenhagen we will reaffirm our agreement to the UN target of 0.7 per cent. of GNP for official development assistance, but not to a timetable for reaching it.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What will be their position at the forthcoming social summit in Copenhagen on the need to improve the quality of aid by reducing the proportion which is tied by donor governments to the purchase of goods and services from their own countries.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: We support measures aimed at improving the quality of aid, including increased untying by donors together. The social development summit is unlikely to be a suitable forum for pursuing aid tying issues.

Foreign Lorries: Emission Offences

Lord Clinton-Davis asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prosecutions have been initiated over the past 12 months against owners or drivers of lorries coming from eastern and central Europe for failing to apply anti-pollution standards that are in force in the United Kingdom and the rest of the European Union.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): No separate statistics are kept on the number of prosecutions for emission offences against foreign lorry operators.

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The ''Derbyshire''

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to complete their consideration on the Chief Inspector of Marine Accident's assessment of the material provided by the International Transport Workers Federation following their location of the wreckage of the "Derbyshire".

Viscount Goschen: The Formal Investigation in 1987 into the loss of the "Derbyshire" decided that ... "the DERBYSHIRE was probably overwhelmed by the forces of nature in Typhoon Orchid ... ", and added that "the evidence available does not support any firmer conclusion". Subsequently, in June 1994 the wreckage of the "Derbyshire" was found during an ITF sponsored search. The Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents has examined the evidence submitted to him by ITF and has advised us that the evidence still does not allow the cause of the "Derbyshire's" loss to be determined.

We have decided, therefore, that an assessment should be made of what further work might be undertaken to seek to determine the actual cause of the loss of the "Derbyshire", together with assessments of the costs involved, the likelihood of establishing the cause, and the likely benefits to ship safety. We have asked the right honourable Lord Donaldson of Lymington to undertake these assessments with the following terms of reference:

To assess— — what further work would be needed in order to learn more of and, if possible, make a judgment about the cause of the loss of the "Derbyshire". — in respect of each option for further work the assessed probability that the cause could be determined with reasonable confidence — for each option the costs likely to be incurred — what benefit to ship safety would be secured if the cause of the loss of the "Derbyshire" were established, or if better understanding of the cause of the loss was obtained, and whether in either case this would justify the likely costs involved.

A technical assessor will be appointed to assist Lord Donaldson. Lord Donaldson's report to us will be published.

British Rail: Chairman

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If they will announce the appointment of the next Chairman of British Rail.

Viscount Goschen: We are very pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. John Welsby, CBE,

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to take over the chairmanship of British Rail at 1 April 1995. John Welsby has been British Rail's Chief Executive since 1990, and will also continue in this post.

His appointment will be for a fixed period to 25 May 1998, at a salary of £180,000 a year. He will be eligible for a performance related bonus of up to 40 per cent. of salary, in common with other executive board members and in accordance with Treasury guidelines.

We are delighted that John Welsby has agreed to become the next chairman. His experience and long-standing commitment to improving our railways will be a great asset in taking forward the privatisation process. I know he is keen to see through those changes that are already under way, in order to develop and improve the railways to give rail users the services that we all want to see.

We would also like to pay tribute to Sir Bob Reid's achievements as chairman over the past five years. He has led BR through a period of substantial changes, which have improved both quality and efficiency in British Rail. We are grateful for all he has done.

Teletext Service

Baroness Wharton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to request the Independent Television Commission to allocate additional broadcasting lines to the teletext services on ITV and Channel 4 in order to enable further improvements in those services; and if not, why not.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): None. The present allocation aims to make the best use of spare capacity within the television signals on Channel 3 and 4 while enabling the provision of a public teletext service meeting the detailed content requirements specified in the Broadcasting Act 1990.

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