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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.