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22 May 1996 : Column WA97

Written Answers

Wednesday, 22nd May 1996.

Scottish Research Bodies: Prior Options Reviews

The Earl of Balfour asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made with the prior options reviews of the Scottish Office's Fisheries Research Sciences, the Forestry Commission Research Division, the Scottish Crop Research Institute, the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute and the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (The Earl of Lindsay): The Government have completed the prior options reviews of the Scottish Office's Fisheries Research Services and the Forestry Commission Research Division and have decided that each should become an Executive Agency, with an intended start date of 1st April 1997.

The prior options reviews of the Scottish Crop Research Institute and Macaulay Land Use Research Institute have also been completed. The Government are satisfied that the functions of these institutes are needed and that they should retain their separate existence. We have concluded that the possibility of a move of these institutes from the public sector to the private sector merits further consideration. This will therefore be the subject of further work led by the Prime Minister's adviser on efficiency, Sir Peter Levene.

In the light of the review of the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency, the Government have concluded that, as its functions have a particular relevance to Scotland, they should continue to be provided there, but that the possibility of closer alignment with other related establishments in Scotland supported by the Scottish Office should be considered. Further work on this will therefore also be carried out by the Scottish Office.

Freight Facilities Grants: NAO Review

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the recommendations of the National Audit Office Report on the Freight Facilities and Track Access Grants, and whether they will place a copy of the report in the Library; and

    What actions they propose to implement the recommendations in the National Audit Office Report on the Freight Facilities and Track Access Grants, particularly with a view to improving the take-up of these grants.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The National Audit Office has not yet completed its study of freight facilities grants in England. Any report to Parliament by the Comptroller and Auditor General will be placed in the Library in the usual way.

"Right to Buy" Discounts

Lord Monkswell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list, for each year since 1979, the amount paid out of public funds in discounts from the market value of homes purchased under the "right to buy" legislation.

Lord Lucas: Right to buy discounts are not payments made out of public funds, they are receipts foregone.

Figures for discounts given to council tenants exercising their right to buy were not collected by the department before 1994, nor were such data collected in respect of new town tenants. However, information is available for the value of discounts allowed from all sales of council dwellings for owner occupation in England, and this is shown in the table:

Value of discounts allowed on completed disposals by local authorities and New Towns 1979 to 1995

Year£million
1979149.4
1980482.0
1981665.6
19821,369.7
1983981.6
1984900.4
1985945.8
19861,022.4
19871,343.7
19882,443.9
19892,916.1
19902,142.0
19911,239.4
1992988.4
1993932.4
1994969.6
1995702.3

Total dwelling sales by local authorities and New Towns for owner-occupation since the introduction of RTB in October 1980, to the end of 1995, was about 1,450 million, and 87 per cent. of such sales resulted from tenants exercising their right to buy.


Nursery Education Voucher Scheme: Promotion Costs

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much has been spent to date in London on promoting the nursery education voucher scheme and how this expenditure was broken down between

    (a) Kensington and Chelsea (b) Wandsworth and

    (c) Westminster.

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The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Lord Henley): To date, some £1.1 million has been spent on providing information to parents and providers nationwide. It is not possible to break down expenditure between the phase one areas or between the phase one areas and the rest of the country.

Prisoners: Exclusion from Education

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many prisoners have been excluded from education by administrative decisions since the beginning of 1995.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Avebury from the Director General of the Prison Service, Mr. Richard Tilt, dated 22nd May 1996.

Lady Blatch has asked me to reply to your recent Question about the number of prisoners who have been excluded from education by administrative decisions since the beginning of 1995.

This information is not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

HMSO: Shortlist of Bidders

Lord Shaw of Northstead asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have reached a decision on the shortlist of bidders for HMSO.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Earl Howe): HMSO was advertised for sale in March, and a large number of organisations expressed interest in the sale. The Government have subsequently received 14 indicative bids, and they have today announced that the following parties have been shortlisted:

An independent consortium backed by Mercury Asset Management, 3i and Capita;

A Hambro's consortium;

National Publishing Group, a consortium led by Electra Fleming;

Westminster Information Systems, led by NatWest Ventures.

Each of these will now prepare final bids based on detailed information about HMSO and discussions with its management and staff.

Former Yugoslavia:Army Reserve and TA Call Out

Lord Ironside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans he has to call out any more Army Reserve and Territorial Army personnel in support of the operations in the former Yugoslavia.

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Earl Howe: Approval has been given to call out up to 240 members of the Army Reserve and Territorial Army to provide support to operations in the former Yugoslavia. They will report from 12th June 1996 to mobilisation centres for selection and a short period of training before deployment. All are volunteers.

Council of Europe and WEU Parliamentary Assembly: Report of UK Delegation

Lord Finsberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library a copy of the Information Bulletin on the activities of the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Assembly of the Western European Union covering the period October 1995 to April 1996.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): I have done so today.

Recruitment and Assessment Services

Lord Selsdon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have in regard to the privatisation of Recruitment and Assessment Services, further to the Lord Privy Seal's comment to the House on 8th March 1996.

Viscount Cranborne: Noble Lords will wish to be aware that today in another place a debate took place on a Government Motion as follows:

That this House welcomes the Government's policies on the Civil Service, as set out in the White Papers Continuity and Change and Taking Forward Continuity and Change, including the promulgation of the Civil Service Code from 1st January 1996, the establishment of the Senior Civil Service from 1st April 1996 and the strengthening of the role of the Civil Service Commissioners in maintaining the principles of fair and open competition and selection on merit in recruitment; also welcomes the Government's policy with regard to the privatisation of Recruitment and Assessment Services, with the proposed safeguards to protect the quality of Civil Service recruitment; and looks forward to the intended publication in July of a White Paper on training and development in the Civil Service, associated with the further development by the Civil Service College of a number of partnerships with the private sector which will enhance its status in the provision of courses for those working in the public and private sector.

During that debate my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told that House that it is the Government's intention to issue the information memorandum to pre-qualified bidders for

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RAS shortly. A copy of the letter inviting bids and the information memorandum (edited to omit commercially sensitive and personal information) will be placed in the Library. My right honourable friend also stated that he looked forward to attending this House's Public Service Select Committee and to receiving the committee's report. The report's recommendations will be considered with care and we will respond to it in due course.

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Meanwhile, we are adhering to the privatisation timetable, which aims for a successful completion of the privatisation process by the end of the summer. However, this timetable allows for the Government to study the Select Committee's report, assuming that it reports as promised before the summer Recess, and will enable it to make a response before the House rises for the summer.



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