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Commonwealth Development Corporation: External Finance Limit

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: The External Finance Limit for CDC for 1995–96 is being increased by £4,000,000 from £15,000,000 to £19,000,000. The limit takes account of an increase in the provision for CDC in Class II, Vote 5, provision for which is made in the Winter Supplementary Estimate. This increase is being met by transfer of resources within the Vote and does not add to the planned total of public expenditure.

HMSO: New Supply and Service Agreement

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: asked the Leader of the House:

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): The final stages of agreeing a new Supply and Service Agreement with HMSO have been reached, and, subject to the approval of the Finance and Staff Sub-Committee, it is expected to be signed before the end of the year, with effect from 1 January. The Agreement includes provision for reductions in the price paid by the public for most Lords papers. The price of the daily Hansard will fall to £2.50.

Farmers' Tractors: Regulatory Provisions

Lord Torphichen asked Her Majesty's Government:

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Regulations made under the Road Traffic Regulation Act and the Road Traffic Act cover driver licensing, speed limits and construction of farmers' tractors.

The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 stipulates that agricultural motor vehicles may travel at up to 40 mph on all public roads.

The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1987 require that 16 years is the minimum age at which an individual may drive a tractor, but at this age there are restrictions on the size of the vehicles that may be driven. A driver does not require an HGV Driver Licence when the vehicle is being used solely for agricultural type operations.

The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations and the Motor Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) General Order specifies standards for the construction of all types of vehicles, including the braking performance of farmers tractors. Agricultural motor vehicles are required to meet a minimum braking performance which may be achieved without necessarily braking all the vehicle's wheels.

The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations restricts the gross train weight of wheeled agricultural motor vehicles to 24.390 tonnes.

As with other vehicles, the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations apply general limits for the dimensions of tractor, trailer and load. In certain circumstances larger vehicles are permitted, but they have to comply with the more restrictive conditions of the Special Types General Order.

Section 40A of the Road Traffic Act and Regulation 100 of the Construction and Use Regulations require all road vehicles to be constructed, maintained and used in such a condition that no danger is presented to other road users. These provisions would prohibit sharp projections from farmers' vehicles.

Pilots: Age Limit

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is lawful under European law for the Government of Spain to refuse access to Spanish airspace to British commercial pilots over 60 years of age.

Viscount Goschen: Yes. The Civil Aviation Authority has introduced revised age limits for commercial pilots which are in line with proposals made by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA). However, until the JAA has agreed and implemented the Joint Aviation

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Requirement on Flight Crew Licensing (JAR-FCL), other members states, including Spain, are entitled to apply the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Once JAR-FCL has been implemented, a common age limit for commercial pilots will apply throughout the 23 member states of the JAA.

Network SouthEast: Performance Figures

Lord Skidelsky asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proportion of trains on Network SouthEast have completed their journeys on time in 1995; and what were the comparable percentages in 1992, 1993 and 1994.

Viscount Goschen: The percentage of NSE trains arriving within five minutes of time was 85 per cent. in 1991–92, 88 per cent. in 1992–93 and 92 per cent. in 1993–94. Network SouthEast ceased to exist on 1 April 1994 and performance figures for the former NSE services are no longer collected in aggregate form.

Greenwich: Bypass Proposal

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the present status of the new Greenwich bypass and whether the London Borough of Greenwich is considering a "foreshore route" which would be situated between the Royal Naval College and the Thames; and whether they approve of this.

Viscount Goschen: Earlier this year the London Borough of Greenwich consulted the public on various proposals to alleviate the traffic problems in Greenwich Town Centre. Of the bypass options considered, the borough's preference was for a "submerged foreshore scheme"—a tunnel passing in front of the Royal Naval College. The borough is now exploring possible funding mechanisms, and has made a bid to central government through their 1996–97 Transport Policies and Programme document to fund a more detailed study. This is being considered, along with other bids for support within the 1996–97 Local Transport Capital Settlement.

Firearms Certificates: Renewal

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why it is necessary to provide four fresh photographs each time that a firearm certificate under Section 1(1) of the Firearms Act 1968, and a shotgun certificate under Section 2 of that Act is renewed or varied and what plans they have for reducing the administrative and cost burden of the firearm licensing procedures on the public.

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The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Photographs are required so that an up to date likeness of the certificate holder appears on the certificate. The police attach one photograph to the certificate and keep another for their records. The other two photographs are retained in case they are needed if, for example, the holder loses his certificate or requires a European Firearms Pass. Photographs are not required if a certificate is varied.

The Firearms Consultative Committee, the independent statutory body which advises the Home Secretary on firearms matters, considered this issue in 1993–94. They concluded that the requirement for four photographs for a single application should remain, but that application for grant or renewal of a firearm and a shotgun certificate at the same time should require four photographs rather than eight as at present.

This is one of a number of recommendations for improving and simplifying the forms and procedures for applying for firearm and shotgun certificates which the Committee made in its Fifth Annual Report, a copy of which is in the Library. We hope to implement these soon. The administration of the Firearms Acts is kept under regular review to ensure that the administrative burden on both shooters and the police is kept to the minimum commensurate with ensuring public safety.

Local Government Reorganisation: Costs

Lord Rix asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether people with learning disabilities and their families will have to meet, in reduced services or increased charges, any set-up or continuing revenue costs of local government reorganisation.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): Local government reorganisation will give local authorities an opportunity to streamline their organisations and reduced overheads. If authorities respond positively to this challenge there should be no need for either reduced services or increased charges. The arrangements we have introduced for transitional costs of reorganisation will enable authorities to meet transitional costs from borrowing and give them time to realise offsetting savings.

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UN Conference on Women, Beijing: Platform for Action

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to follow through the Programme for Action agreed at the United Nations' Women's Conference in Beijing, and how they intend to monitor progress towards implementation.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): The Government are fully committed to implementing the Global Platform for Action in the UK. We have already announced an implementation plan which includes asking all government departments to take full account of the Platform for Action; asking non-governmental organisations (NGOs) for their views by 1 January 1996; and meetings to debrief NGOs. In addition, we will meet NGOs early in 1996 to review progress on implementation and we will produce an implementation progress report on the first anniversary of the World Conference. We will place a copy of this report in the Library once it has been published.

Children from Homeless Families: School Attendance

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What research they have arranged into school attendance by children from the 47,000 homeless households in temporary accommodation (1994 figures) and with what results; and what measures they are planning to facilitate and improve attendance by children in this category.

Lord Henley: No such research has been arranged. However, the Government attach importance to regular school attendance by all registered pupils. Where the circumstances of a particular family are affecting attendance, the Government look to schools to work closely with education welfare officers to overcome the problems.

To provide practical help to schools to reduce truancy, the Government are supporting locally-devised projects in England and Wales to a value of £16.2 million through the Grants for Education Support and Training Scheme for 1995–96.

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