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21 Mar 1995 : Column WA63

Written Answers

Tuesday 21st March 1995

European Union Secretariat

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many officials are employed in the secretariat of the Union administering the work of the intergovernmental pillars of the European Union.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): The Common Foreign and Security Policy Section of the Council Secretariat employs 51 staff, of whom 26 are Administrative grade. Of those, approximately half are on temporary secondment from national foreign ministries. The Justice and Home Affairs Section employs 29 staff, of whom 10 are Administrative grade.

Hong Kong: Annual Report

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the Annual Report on Hong Kong will be laid before Parliament.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The report is being published and laid before Parliament today. Copies will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

British Transport Police

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions the Department of Transport is having with other departments with a view to giving wider jurisdiction to officers of the British Transport Police.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Department of Transport keeps in close touch with the Home Office on policing matters which have a bearing on the work of the British Transport Police, including discussions on the force's jurisdiction.

London Heliport Study Report

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the report of the London Heliport Study will be published.

Viscount Goschen: We are placing a copy of the London Heliport Study report in the Library of the House today. The report sets out appraisal methodology and applies this to a number of sites, but makes no site recommendation. It is available for purchase by the public from the Department of Transport.

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Armed Forces Careers Information Offices

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the costs arising from the closure of 23 Armed Forces careers information offices (AFCOs), as set out in Lord Henley's Written Answer of 6th February 1995 (WA 5), under the following heads:— (a) the additional costs to the Careers and Employment Services of sending potential military personnel to AFCOs for initial visits; (b) the additional cost of subsistence and loss of earnings payments, and of travel, to potential military personnel resident in areas where AFCOs have closed; (c) the cost of redundancy payments for civilian staff; (d) the cost of the proposals to resite satellites and clinics of AFCOs in other centres; and (e) the cost of refurbishing and re-equipping AFCOs to cater for new activities and house additional military and civilian personnel.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): The information requested is as follows: (a) These costs are a matter for the Careers and Employment Services. b) There has been no significant change in the cost of travel and subsistence for potential recruits due to the closure of careers information offices during the present financial year. The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force do not reimburse potential recruits for loss of earnings, and the Army only does so when candidates attend one of its recruit selection centres. (c) There have been no redundancies amongst civilian staff as a result of the closure of careers information offices during the present financial year. (d) It is not possible at present to estimate the costs of proposals to resite satellite offices in other centres, as work is still at the planning stage. There is no change in the use of Army "clinics" as these will remain at their present locations and be manned as required. (e) It is not possible at present to estimate the costs of refurbishing and re-equipping Armed Forces careers information offices to accommodate additional personnel as they are still being assessed. The costs are expected to fall during financial year 1995/96 or later, and will be balanced against savings to be made from the closure of offices.

Viscount Allenby of Megiddo asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the Written Answer of Lord Henley of 6th February 1995 (WA 5), what are the costs arising under penalty clauses in tenancy agreements of closure or prospective closure of Armed Forces careers information offices.

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Lord Henley: It is not possible at present to give details of the costs which will be incurred under penalty clauses in tenancy agreements as a result of closures of Armed Forces careers information offices during the financial years 1994/95 and 1995/96.

Public Expenditure: Authorisation by Parliament

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Henley on 6 March (HL, WA 6), whether they will list the occasions during the past 10 years in which they have followed the convention that public expenditure which is either significant or recurring is required to be authorised by specific Act, in addition to the Appropriation Act.

Lord Henley: It is normal to provide specific statutory authority for expenditure on a continuing function either before the expenditure commences or as soon as a suitable opportunity for legislation arises. There have been many such pieces of legislation in the past 10 years both as part of more wide-ranging Bills and as individual Bills. The complete information requested in the question could only be provided at disproportionate cost.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Answer by Lord Henley on 6 March (HL, WA 6), whether, in deciding to introduce a statutory scheme for criminal injuries compensation in 1988, they were influenced by whether this would accord with the convention that significant or recurring public expenditure is required to be authorised by specific Act, in addition to the Appropriation Act.

Lord Henley: The convention was a factor in the decision to introduce a statutory scheme for criminal injuries compensation in 1988. The Home Secretary has declared his intention of putting the new tariff scheme on a statutory basis as soon as practicable.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their reply of 6 March 1995 (WA 6), whether they consider that public expenditure incurred in complying with the obligations imposed upon the United Kingdom by the European Convention on Human Rights is either significant or recurring, so as to require to be authorised by specific Act, in addition to the Appropriation Act; and, if not, why not.

Lord Henley: As stated in 2.2.9 of Government Accounting, continuing expenditure resulting from the exercise of prerogative powers still exercisable by the Crown alone, such as obligations under international treaties, is a recognised exception to the general terms of the 1932 agreement between the Treasury and the Committee of Public Accounts. Expenditure incurred in complying with the European Convention on Human Rights is covered by the exception and may therefore rest on the authority of the Appropriation Act.

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Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their reply of 6 March 1995 (WA6), whether they consider that public expenditure incurred under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme is either significant or recurring, so as to require to be authorised by specific Acts, in addition to the Appropriation Act; and, if not, why not.

Lord Henley: Yes.

Local Government Commission Final Recommendations

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will announce decisions on the future structure of the remaining shire counties for which they have final reports from the Local Government Commission.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment can now announce his decisions on the remaining 12 shire counties as set out below. In all cases my right honourable friend has considered the commission's reports and the representations my right honourable friend has received. In the process my right honourable friend has taken into account the transitional and ongoing costs and the viability of the structures—both on unitary authorities and remaining two-tier arrangements—which will result from his decisions. In each case my right honourable friend is satisfied that on balance his decision will best reflect the identities and interests of local communities and will best secure effective and convenient local government. Derbyshire

My right honourable friend has decided to accept the Local Government Commission's final recommendations for Derbyshire that Derby City be given unitary authority status and that the existing two-tier structure be retained in the rest of the county.

The case for a unitary Derby City is compelling. Derby is a former county borough and was responsible for the broad range of local government services prior to 1974. It has a population of 227,000 and is larger than many metropolitan boroughs and London boroughs. The commission found that about two-thirds of local people identified strongly with the city area. Staffordshire

On Staffordshire, my right honourable friend has accepted the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority for Stoke-on-Trent, with the addition of a small area of Barlaston from the Stafford Borough area, and that elsewhere in the county the status quo should be retained.

The case for a unitary Stoke is strong. It is a former county borough with a large and concentrated population in excess of 250,000, and the commission has identified a strong sense of community identity

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within the city council area. My right honourable friend agrees with the commission that the remainder of the county outside Stoke, with a county council and eight districts, will continue to be fully viable. Wiltshire

In the case of Wiltshire, my right honourable friend has decided to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority for the present borough area of Thamesdown (Swindon) and that there should be no change to the existing two-tier arrangements in the rest of the County of Wiltshire.

The case for a unitary Thamesdown is strong. It is a significant urban area, with a population in excess of 170,000, where the commission identified a strong and distinct sense of community identity and an independent economy. My right honourable friend agrees with the commission's conclusion that a unitary authority for Thamesdown would offer the opportunity to improve the co-ordination, effectiveness and delivery of services and facilitate the co-ordination of these services with other public bodies, the business community and the voluntary sector. East Sussex

For East Sussex, my right honourable friend has decided to accept the commission's recommendation that a unitary authority should be created by merging the present borough areas of Brighton and Hove, and that there should be no change to the existing two-tier arrangements in the rest of the county.

While my right honourable friend recognises the feeling in Brighton and Hove of separate identities, in practical terms they form a continuous conurbation. My right honourable friend agrees with the commission's conclusion that the balance of advantage lies with the establishment of a single unitary authority, which would have physical coherence, be of sufficient size and compactness to be self sufficient and accessible, and have a good infrastructure. My right honourable friend is satisfied that such an authority would be well placed to deliver the full range of local services. Devon

On Devon, my right honourable friend accepts the commission's recommendation of unitary authorities for Plymouth and Torbay, with the continuation of the two-tier structure elsewhere in Devon, subject to any review of Exeter which my right honourable friend might ask the commission to conduct.

Both Plymouth and Torbay are former county boroughs which have previously been responsible for the broad range of local government services. Plymouth, with a population of over 250,000, is the fourth most populous non-metropolitan district. It is a significant and well defined urban area which is distinct from the neighbouring rural areas.

For Torbay, whilst its population is smaller (around 120,000), it is one of the largest resorts in Great Britain.

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Like Plymouth, it has a distinctive identity from the surrounding rural areas, reflecting its relatively self-sufficient economy and low level of interdependence with the rest of Devon. The commission found strong local support for a unitary authority for Torbay, including from business and other local bodies. My right honourable friend considers that the remainder of the county will retain its viability. Nottinghamshire

My right honourable friend has decided to accept the Commission's proposal that Nottingham City should gain unitary status.

The city has a substantial population (285,000); it is the third largest non-metropolitan district in England and is larger than most existing metropolitan and London boroughs. It was formerly a county borough. The city is distinct from most of the rest of the county and has specific needs which my right honourable friend believes could be more effectively addressed by a unitary city authority. The commission found that the majority of local people in Nottingham identify strongly with the city.

As my right honourable announced on 2 March in the other place, some of the arguments the commission put forward in favour of a unitary authority for Nottingham could equally be applied to the neighbouring districts of Broxtowe, Gedling and Rushcliffe. My right honourable friend is considering whether to refer these three districts to the commission for a further review so that the case for unitary authorities in the greater Nottingham area can be thoroughly explored. Subject to this consideration, my right honourable friend accepts the case for retaining the existing two-tier structure in the rest of the county. Essex

For Essex, my right honourable friend has decided to accept the commission's recommendation that Southend-on-Sea should become a unitary authority, with the rest of the county remaining two-tier. The commission also recommended that Southend's boundaries should be extended to include Southend Airport. My right honourable friend thinks this needs further exploration and he may ask the commission in due course to look at the matter again.

There is a strong case for a unitary Southend, given its population size and density, the high level of community identify with the borough council area which the commission found, and its former status as a county borough. Mr right honourable friend accepts the commission's view that a unitary Southend could provide the broad range of local government services within its area in a way which is effective, convenient, accessible and responsive to local needs.

The commission also recommended significant boundary changes between Basildon, Brentwood and Rochford. In my right honourable friend's statement to the House on 2 March in the other place, he said that he had in mind to include the districts of Thurrock and

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Basildon among those where he will be asking the commission to carry out fresh reviews. My right honourable friend has accordingly decided it would not be appropriate to reach a decision on the proposed boundary changes affecting Basildon until the outcome of those reviews is known. Hereford and Worcester

In the case of Hereford and Worcester, my right honourable friend had decided to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority for the area of the "traditional" Herefordshire, and that the existing two-tier structure should be retained in the "traditional" area of Worcestershire. (The "traditional" area of Herefordshire, comprises the areas of Hereford City, South Herefordshire, the western part of Malvern Hills and Leominster except for the Tenbury area. The "traditional" area of Worcesterhire comprises the districts of Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove, Redditch, Worcester City and Wychavon, with a new district to be established covering the eastern part of the Malvern Hills and the area of Tenbury.)

Prior to the reorganisation of local government in 1974, Herefordshire and Worcestershire were two separate counties for both administrative and ceremonial purposes. The merger in 1974 has proved to be very unpopular and the evidence presented to the commission suggests that the merger has not earned the loyalty of the local people.

My right honourable friend considers that the Worcestershire element of the present county, with approximately 77 per cent. of the existing county's population, would be viable. My right honourable friend also agrees with the commission about the viability of a unitary Herefordshire. A number of services such as education and social services are currently run on the basis of the "Herefordshire" boundary and the commission is satisfied that the full range of services can be provided by a unitary Herefordshire.

My right honourable friend also accepts the commission's recommendation for new electoral arrangements for the new unitary Herefordshire and the remaining county and districts in Worcestershire. Leicestershire

My right honourable friend is minded to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority for the city of Leicester. It has a long history of unitary government and there seems to be strong support for a return to that status. Leicester is the second largest of the non-metropolitan districts and my right honourable friend believes that it will be able to fulfil the functions of a unitary authority effectively and conveniently. My right honourable friend also believes that the reduced county council will be viable.

Having weighed all the arguments, my right honourable friend is minded to accept the commission's recommendation that there should be a unitary authority in Rutland. The strength of local identity is very clear and there is definite support for a unitary authority.

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There are, however, understandable concerns about whether Rutland could provide effective local government, given its small size, and about the financial implications of reorganisation. Before an order implementing change for Rutland is introduced, my right honourable friend will want to be satisfied that the authority has been able to make good practical arrangements for local services; that the authority has fully assessed the overall financial implications; that the costs can be paid for within the same financial arrangements and constraints that apply to other reorganised authorities. My right honourable friend expects that at least for some services, some form of joint working may be needed. Hampshire

Having weighed all the arguments, my right honourable friend has accepted part of the commission's structural recommendations—namely unitary authorities for Portsmouth and Southampton—but rejected the recommendation for the New Forest so that it, and the rest of the County of Hampshire, will remain two-tier.

There is a strong case for unitary authorities for the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton. Both are former county boroughs with a history of unitary local government and are among the largest, and most densely populated, non–metropolitan district councils. Portsmouth and Southampton, with populations of around 180,000 and 200,000 respectively, are comparable in this respect with the urban unitary authorities in London and the metropolitan counties. There is support for unitary status locally, and the city councils are confident about their ability to deliver services, establishing where necessary joint arrangements with each other and with the county council.

However, the position in New Forest is much less clear. While it is one of the larger non–metropolitan districts in terms of population (around 160,000), it is a largely rural area. It has no tradition of unitary local government and popular opinion is finely balanced. Doubts have been expressed about the fragmentation of services in a strongly rural district which has no large town to give it focus and identity. My right honourable friend has decided, therefore, not to accept the commission's recommendation for a unitary authority for the New Forest. Dorset

Having weighed all the arguments, my right honourable friend has accepted part of the commission's structural recommendations—namely unitary authorities for Bournemouth and Poole—but rejected its proposal that there should be two unitary authorities in the rest of the county. Outside the two boroughs, the county will remain two-tier.

There is a strong case for unitary authorities in Bournemouth and Poole, which is now also accepted by the county council. The two boroughs are distinct within the largely rural county and each has a strong sense of community identity. The population of each is already

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large and my right honourable friend has little doubt that they would each be able to provide all local authority services, especially with further growth expected in Poole.

The position outside Bournemouth and Poole is much less clear. Community identity in the area tends to have a very local emphasis and popular opinion is finely balanced. Doubts have also been expressed about the viability of the two largely rural authorities. Berkshire

On Berkshire, having weighed all the arguments, my right honourable friend has largely accepted the commission's final recommendations for the county's future structure, but with a modification. My right honourable friend accepts the recommendation that Reading, Newbury, Slough, and Wokingham should become unitary authorities on the boundaries of the present district areas. However, my right honourable friend proposes to modify the recommendation that a unitary authority be created based on a merger of the district areas of Bracknell Forest and Windsor and Maidenhead, and instead create two unitary authorities based on the existing district areas. The present two-tier structure in Berkshire will therefore be replaced by six unitary authorities based on existing district areas.

The commission found a strong and well supported case for an all unitary structure in Berkshire from the outset of the review. The case for unitary status for Reading, Newbury and Slough is particularly strong; Reading is a former county borough with a predominantly urban and distinct character; Slough is a densely populated urban area which is a significant industrial and retail centre with an infrastructure to reflect this; Newbury is a predominantly rural area quite distinct from the rest of the county, relating more to

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areas in neighbouring counties. While there was less unanimity about the best structure for the rest of the county area, on balance my right honourable friend considers that unitary status for each of the remaining districts (Wokingham, Bracknell Forest and Windsor & Maidenhead) will on balance best serve the needs of community identity and effective local government, and that unitary authorities based on the existing districts are capable of delivering the full range of services. The county's geography, coupled with the marked diversity across its area, give it a particularly strong case for an all unitary structure.

The county area for Berkshire will be retained, but it will no longer have a county council.

My right honourable friend has now announced his decisions on all the commission's structural recommendations. My right honourable friend is still considering a number of outstanding recommendations on other matters, and will announce his decisions on these in due course.

Foetal Tissue

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they plan to revise the Polkinghorne "guidelines" on the use of foetal tissue where they: (a) set restrictions on the consent a woman may give to the uses that may be made of the tissues of the foetus that is removed from her; and (b) require a woman to waive all commercial rights in the uses that may be made of the tissues of the foetus that is removed from her in favour of either the doctor performing the removal or the institution in which it is performed.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): There are no current plans to do so.



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