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9 Feb 1998 : Column WA133

Written Answers

Monday, 9th February 1998.

International Development Strategy

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have studied the policy document, Preventing Conflict, Promoting Development: Priorities for the United Kingdom Presidency, published in January by six British non-governmental organisations; and to what extent its recommendations correspond with their own plans.[HL419]

Lord Whitty: The Government have received the report, and we are studying its findings and recommendations. We welcome this thoughtful contribution. We will consider carefully how to take the paper's proposals into account during the UK Presidency and beyond, in the context of our wider development strategy as set out in the White Paper on International Development.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will press for someone with strong private sector commercial banking experience to be appointed as the next president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.[HL438]

Lord Whitty: We are actively seeking to have appointed a new president who is best qualified for the post. Experience of private sector banking is one of a number of factors which will be considered.

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the level of provisions that have been made against the value of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's loan portfolio.[HL439]

Lord Whitty: Yes. The level of provisions has increased proportionate to the Bank's portfolio in each year since its inception. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's (EBRD) total reserves policy, as approved by its board of directors, is intended to ensure that adequate level of provisions and reserves are maintained relative to the potential losses in the Bank's portfolio of loans, equity investments and guarantees. The provisioning policy and the adequacy of reserves and provisions are reviewed annually by the board in light of projections regarding portfolio developments and comments from external auditors.

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they believe that the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights apply to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,

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    and are enforceable against it; and, if not, whether this should be changed.[HL440]

Lord Whitty: The provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights are binding upon states party to it and not upon international organisations such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. There is no proposal to change this.

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider that the management of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is sufficiently diverse in both its national origins and in its independence from individual member governments.[HL441]

Lord Whitty: Yes. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) staff currently represents 51 nationalities. The bank is firmly committed to the principle of recruitment on merit and not nationality. Article 32(3) of the agreement establishing the bank requires each shareholder to respect the international character of EBRD operations and to refrain from any attempts to influence bank staff in the discharge of their duties.

Scottish Judiciary

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Scottish judiciary enjoy equivalent constitutional and legal protection from interference with their independence to that enjoyed by the English judiciary under the Act of Settlement and the Supreme Courts Act; and, if so, what is the constitutional and legal basis for that protection.[HL286]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): Her Majesty's Government consider that the independence enjoyed by the Scottish judiciary is the equal of that available to the English judiciary. Scottish judges and sheriffs are appointed by Her Majesty The Queen and have the same salaries and conditions of service as their English counterparts. Sheriffs may not be removed from office without the approval of Parliament.

British Coal Former Employees: Concessionary Fuel

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy in relation to the provision of concessionary coal to retired miners employed by the National Coal Board or their widows.[HL62]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The Government will continue to supply all qualifying ex-employees of British Coal and their widows/widowers/dependants with their existing entitlements of coal and anthracite.

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In the case of manufactured smokeless fuels, from 30 March 1998, when the current supply and delivery contracts expire, in order to comply with EC procurement law, it has been necessary to re-balance entitlement levels among the various brands so as to avoid discrimination between suppliers. The new arrangements will be based on retaining the current entitlement levels (set in 1993) for graded anthracite. All manufactured smokeless fuel entitlements will be determined by the equivalent value of an annual anthracite entitlement.

No beneficiaries need be worse off in terms of the amount of fuel they receive as a result of these changes. This may, however, involve switching from their current brand of fuel (where the volume available after the change is lower) to another where the entitlement is the same as, or in some cases even higher than, the current entitlement. The range of fuels will be increased. All fuel supplied will continue to be of high quality and approved by HETAS, the solid fuel industry's Heating and Testing Approvals Scheme.

Naval Training: Partnership Arrangement

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current status of the partnering arrangement between the Naval Recruiting and Training Agency and Flagship Training Limited.[HL486]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): Under a Competing for Quality and Public/Private Partnering initiative, the Naval Recruiting and Training Agency, NRTA, entered into a 15-year contract with Flagship Training Limited in July 1996. Flagship is a public limited company set up specially for the provision of training, administrative, and support activities, income generation and public/private partnership initiatives in a partnering arrangement with the NRTA. Flagship's equity is held by: Vosper Thornycroft, GEC Marconi and Johnson Controls Limited.

Under this pathfinder project, Flagship will market NRTA's irreducible spare training capacity and provide support services in return for fixed maximum charges. The NRTA has wholeheartedly embraced partnering. Certain support services, mainly the already contractorised catering and cleaning, have already been transferred, to NRTA's considerable advantage.

We are pleased announce that, following detailed negotiation between the agency and Flagship, agreement has been reached over the transfer to Flagship of the first and major phase of support service activities. This agreement centres on the provision of activities in the General, Administration and Training Support areas; 434 Civil Service posts and 550 uniformed posts at present deliver these activities. The net result of transferring the posts to Flagship is expected to be the creation of approaching 300 new civilian jobs and release of much needed uniformed personnel to fill gaps elsewhere in the Navy. A conservative assessment of the

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net cash savings to the NRTA is £29 million over 13 years from this first phase of transfer, with downstream savings of a similar amount expected from later phases.

Under income generation, approximately £20 million-worth of contracts have already been secured by Flagship, and prospective business worth about £300 million over 13 years has been identified, with the potential for creating up to a further 100 jobs in areas affected by previous reductions in the defence budget. The recently awarded Kuwait contract typifies the benefits that partnering offers the UK. The provision of naval training for a ship order secured by another nation is unprecedented, and indicates the value of combining Flagship's commercial expertise with naval training internationally recognised as second to none.

National and local trades unions have been informed regularly of the progress and we have recently approved, in principle, the signing of a formal contractual agreement involving the transfer of activities and employees from the NRTA to Flagship in a phased manner beginning on 5 May 1998, subject to the outcome of formal consultation with departmental trades unions. A copy of the consultative document has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Royal Household Helicopter Service

Lord Gallacher asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What future provision is being made for helicopter flying for the Royal Family.[HL509]

Lord Gilbert: Further to the Answer given by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence of 31 July 1997, (Commons Hansard, col. 466), the Ministry of Defence has run a competition, on behalf of the Royal Household, for the provision of a helicopter service for the Royal Family. As a result of the responses to the competition it became clear that the option of using an aircraft with civilian aircrew operating out of a civilian airfield would provide greater savings to the taxpayer than a military operated solution. The Royal Household therefore decided that they wished to pursue this option and have now decided to place contracts for such a civilian service with Sikorsky and Air Hanson.

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