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29 Oct 1997 : Column WA241

Written Answers

Wednesday, 29th October 1997.

State Pension Provision to Taxpayers

Lord Marsh asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the revenue cost of providing the basic state pension to persons taxed at the basic and higher tax rates of 23 per cent. and 40 per cent.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The estimated cost at 1997-98 income levels of providing the basic state retirement pension to basic and higher rate taxpayers is £5.9 billion.

No. 2 Marsham Street

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether No. 2 Marsham Street will be demolished, and, if so, when; and, if not, what plans they have for the complex.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the Property Advisers to the Civil Estate. I have asked its Chief Executive, Mr. John Locke to write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Brougham and Vaux from the Chief Executive of the Property Advisers to the Civil Estate, Mr. J. Locke, dated 28 October 1997.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey has asked me to respond to your parliamentary Question about the demolition of No. 2 Marsham Street because Property Advisers to the Civil Estate have responsibility for the building.

2 Marsham Street is occupied by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. The department is due to vacate the building either at the end of this year or early in 1998. The Property Advisers to the Civil Estate are the owners of the building and plan to demolish it in 1998 after it has been vacated, subject to there being no calls for its use as decant accommodation by other government departments who are evaluating options for the refurbishment of their current premises or rehousing elsewhere. Use of 2 Marsham Street in this way might, for example, save the considerable cost of procuring additional temporary accommodation. A full report on the overall cost benefits and consequences of, in effect, delaying the demolition of the existing building is being prepared for Ministers.

Heads of Information: Resignations

Lord Hayhoe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On what occasions a "lack of chemistry" (as referred to by Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 15 October, H.L. Deb., col. 436) between a Secretary of State and a

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    Head of Information in the department concerned led to the Head of Information moving (a) since 1 May 1997 and (b) during the previous five years.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: It is not appropriate for me to comment on the reasons for an individual leaving his or her post. That is a personal matter between the individual and his or her department.

Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies: Job Creation

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What has been the average cost to the taxpayer over the last five years of each new job created by the Scottish and Welsh Development Agencies and the corresponding bodies in England.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): These bodies have a wide range of aims, such as attracting inward investment, land reclamation, environmental improvements and development of infrastructure. The creation of new jobs is just one of many outputs and no meaningful calculation of cost per job can, therefore, be made, without incurring disproportionate cost.

"Family": Definition

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their definition of the word "family" includes two practising sodomites living at the same address; and

    Whether their definition of the word "family" includes two heterosexual males living at the same address; and

    Whether their definition of the word "family" includes two lesbian women living at the same address; and

    Whether their definition of the word "family" includes two lesbian women having care or custody of a child living at the same address; and

    Whether, in order to claim the advantages of the status of "partners", males living at the same address are required to give assurance that they engage in homosexual intercourse.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Lexicography is not currently a function of Her Majesty's Government. I would refer the noble Lord to the wide range of dictionaries in the Library. Her Majesty's Government are committed to strengthening family life and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is currently chairing a ministerial group on the Family.

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Asylum Seekers

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to impose a limit on the number of asylum seekers allowed to enter the United Kingdom.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Our obligations under the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees require us to consider on an individual basis all applications for asylum made at our ports or in the United Kingdom, and to grant refugee status to all those who meet the criteria. We shall continue to apply these criteria fairly, while taking measures to prevent and discourage abuse of the system by those who have no valid claim to asylum.

Viscount Exmouth asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they intend to verify the accuracy of a request for political asylum received from an immigrant.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: All applications for asylum in the United Kingdom are considered on an individual basis against the criteria for recognition as a refugee set out in the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Decisions are taken in the light of both information supplied to us by the applicant at interview and in writing and of information available to us from a wide range of sources about the situation in the country where the applicant claims to fear persecution.

Greenhouse Gases

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking to persuade all industrialised countries to cut their emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2005 as proposed by the Alliance of Small Island States and what undertakings they will seek at the Third Climate Charge Convention in December to that effect.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): At the Third Conference of the Parties in Kyoto the Government will be supporting the EU proposal that developed countries reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases by 15 per cent. below 1990 levels by 2010 and by at least 7.5 per cent. by 2005. The Government think that it is important that Kyoto sets a target for 2005, and we believe this figure strikes the right balance between ambition and achievability.

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Filwood Playing Fields, Bristol: Development

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the provision of playing fields and other recreational space in Bristol, particularly in view of the fact that Bristol City Council have recently granted planning permission for the development of Filwood playing fields.

Baroness Hayman: Her Majesty's Government are keen to ensure that playing fields which local communities need are not lost, and are currently considering how best this can be achieved. However, local authorities are generally best placed to make judgments about the provision of playing fields in their own areas. Government guidance in Planning Policy Guidance Note 17, Sport and Recreation, stresses the importance of sport and recreation in the widest sense, and advises local planning authorities to assess the level of provision and to take account of the community's needs for recreational space in development control decisions. Bristol City Council granted planning permission for residential development on land adjoining Inns Court Drive, which forms part of Filwood Playing Fields, on 23 May 1997. Responsibility for that decision rests with the council and, whilst I cannot comment on their decision, I understand that the loss of existing playing fields and open space was considered at that stage.

The council have also applied to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, seeking his consent to the proposed disposal of part of the playing fields at less than the best consideration that could reasonably be obtained. That application is currently being considered and will be determined on the basis of the information submitted by the council as specified in DoE Circular 6/93.

National Forest

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will report on the National Forest Company's progress in creating the National Forest in the East Midlands.

Baroness Hayman: Copies of the National Forest Company's Annual Report and Accounts for 1996-97 are to be placed in the House Libraries.

National Bee Unit

Lord Freyberg asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will increase funding to the National Bee Unit, its Regional Bee Inspectors and Bee Disease Control Officers following recommendations by the Select Committee on the European Communities in its report Production and Marketing of Honey (HL Paper 55, 1996-97).

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The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): In responding to the Select Committee on the European Communities' report Production and Marketing of Honey (HL Paper 55, 1996-97), the Government advised that, given the current constraints on spending, there is no scope for increasing the level of Ministry funding for the National Bee Unit.


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