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13 Jul 1995 : Column WA113

Written Answers

Thursday, 13th July 1995.

Iran: UN Special Rapporteur's Resignation

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Under what circumstances the United Nations' Special Rapporteur on Iran, Dr. Galindo Pohl, resigned; who is carrying out his duties; and when a replacement will be appointed.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): In submitting his resignation as Special Representative on Iran. Dr. Galindo Pohl cited personal reasons as the cause of his decision. Nobody is carrying out his duties for the time being; we expect the appointment of his successor to be made very soon at about the same time as the renewal by the United Nations' Economic and Social Council of the special representative's mandate.

Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972: Receipts from Local Authorities

Lord Ewing of Kirkford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total amount recovered from local authorities in Scotland to the latest available date under the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): Total receipts from local authorities in respect of the services of full time Reporters provided for proceedings under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1972 in the past five years is set out in the table below. The information is taken from the department's financial information system:

Year Amount
1990–91 19,090
1991–92 46,445
1992–93 53,917
1993–94 25,178
1994–95 34,293
Total 178,923

Author's Copyright: Extension

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking in response to the European Community proposal to extend copyright after an author's death from 50 to 70 years applicable retrospectively, and what effect they consider this will have on the price of books presently out of copyright.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): Directive 93/98/EEC, which was adopted by the Council of

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Ministers in October 1993, requires the duration of copyright in the United Kingdom be increased from 50 years to 70 years after death of the author, and that certain works on which copyright has ceased will have their copyright revived for up to 20 years. The directive provides that publication of works prior to revival of copyright will not be regarded as infringement. Moreover, member states are able to introduce safeguards to protect those who are in the process of publishing works on the assumption that they are in the public domain. The directive will only be of practical significance for books which remain popular for more than 50 years after their author's deaths. Books whose authors have been dead for more than 70 years will not be affected.

This directive will be implemented by means of secondary legislation made under powers conferred by the European Communities Act (1972), and amending the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to the extent necessary to comply with the directive. The legislation will require approval by both Houses. My department has recently circulated a consultative draft of legislation to implement the directive. This draft proposes extensive safeguards which will reduce the impact of the legislation, for example, by allowing publishers to market stocks produced prior to revival of copyright without liability to owners of revived rights.

As part of this consultation exercise, views as to costs or benefits of the directive are being sought from businesses and others directly affected, and a compliance cost assessment will be produced in due course. I understand that copyright royalty payments for books are a relatively small part of the manufacturer's price and will have only a marginal impact on the price of books presently out of copyright.

Social Fund Home Start-up Grant Proposal

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    To estimate the cost of the introduction of a mandatory, item-based start-up grant as part of the non-discretionary social fund for people setting up home.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The requested estimate cannot be provided as some of the information necessary for its calculation is not available and the rest can be gathered only at disproportionate cost.

European Space Satellite System Discussions

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their attitude to the French HELIOS II reconnaissance satellite programme that is being discussed next week between M. Chirac and Herr Kohl and whether they hope to participate in it; and

    What is their attitude to the OSIRUS/HAURUS military imaging radar spacecraft programme that is being discussed next week by M. Chirac and Herr Kohl and whether they hope to participate in it.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): The possibility of a European space satellite system is one of the options being considered by the current Western European Union study into future space requirements. The United Kingdom is playing a full part in this study and will consider on their merits any proposals that might emerge on HELIOS II or related optical or radar systems.

Guinness plc

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the recent disclosure of the documents previously protected by the public interest certificate signed by Mr. John Redwood MP in 1989 in R. v. Ernest Saunders & Others, they will reconsider the Answers given by the Lord Chancellor on 7 March 1994 at WA 89 and 90.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The contents of the documents of which the noble Lord refers are consistent with the Answers to which he refers.

Land Registry: Triennial Review

Lord Gainford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the triennial review of Her Majesty's Land Registry.

The Lord Chancellor: Her Majesty's Land Registry, a separate department of government since 1862, was established as an Executive Agency in July 1990 and a government trading fund in April 1993. Under its statutory powers it guarantees and grants legal title to property rights in England and Wales and provides the statutory machinery for the creation and transfer of these secured rights The department, wholly financed from fees paid by those using its services, makes no call on public funds.

An evaluation report, the results of which were made known to the House on 14 July 1994, concluded that the Land Registry had benefited considerably from its move to agency status. It has been a major enabling factor in promoting sound public sector management. By the achievement of progressively improving performance targets and a successful computerisation programme, the Land Registry has made a major contribution to the simplification of conveyancing in England and Wales, particularly through the development of faster and easier access to the public land register. It reduced fees by 10.6 per cent. in October 1994.

In order to supplement this evaluation, consultants were appointed to carry out a "prior options" review to consider a range of options for involving the private sector in delivering the services provided by the Land Registry. They confirmed that the present status arrangements would ensure the continuing credibility of the Land Registry consistent with a cost effective, high quality service likely to result in lower land registration fees to the public.

The consultants identified scope for private sector partnerships in a number of important Land Registry

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initiatives. This includes further development of electronic access to the public land register, taking forward the National Land Information System promoted by the Citizen's Charter, and the potential conversion of the title plans of England and Wales to computer format. Consultants also saw scope for the Land Registry, in partnership, providing specialist advice to those overseas governments seeking to establish stable private property rights, secured lending and inexpensive systems of property transfer.

I have concluded that it is right for Her Majesty's Land Registry to continue as an Executive Agency and Trading Fund. The Land Registry will concentrate on its existing plans further to simplify and reduce the cost of conveyancing in England and Wales by meeting the financial, productivity and developmental targets set for the next five years and by continuing its full market testing programme, all set out in its corporate and efficiency plans. The registry will also actively pursue private sector partnerships for the important initiatives identified. It will continue to capitalise on the scope for contracting out where this contributes to its strategic aims and objectives. A new framework document is being drawn up to cover the next five years and on completion will be placed in the Library of the House.

Peat: Planning Guidance

The Viscount of Oxfuird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish new planning guidance on peat in England.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): We have published new planning guidance for peat in England today, in a new addition to the series of Minerals Planning Guidance Notes. This has taken account of the public consultation on the draft MPG in autumn 1994.

The guidance will ensure the conservation of important peat habitats and archaeological sites, which should be protected in development plans. Some of these habitats are areas over which the peat extraction industry has voluntarily given up valid permissions and conveyed the land to English Nature.

It spells out that any future peat extraction from new sites should be restricted to areas which have already been damaged by recent human activities and are of limited or no nature conservation value.

The guidance on the horticultural usage of peat and of alternatives sets a realistic balance based on the best current assessments. In accordance with the principles of sustainable development, the Government believes it is realistic to set a target for 40 per cent. of the total horticultural market requirements to be supplied by non-peat materials within the next 10 years. We intend to monitor, initially over the next three years, what further progress is made in increasing the usage of alternatives such as through the greater use of recycled and waste materials.

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The framework for updating old permissions for peat extraction, with particular emphasis on rehabilitation, has the support of the industry. The framework will have statutory force when the Environment Bill becomes law later this year, with the industry putting forward to mineral planning authorities updated schemes of conditions for their sites.

Copies of the new guidance note are placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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