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Health and Safety Commission and Executive: Review

Lord Dean of Beswick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Hayman: As part of the Government's programme of regular five-yearly financial management and policy reviews of non-departmental public bodies, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) has conducted a thorough review of the Health and Safety Commission and Executive. The resulting report is published today, and a copy has been placed in the Library of each House. In accordance with the guidance on such reviews, we have assessed the

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extent to which the commission and executive's functions are necessary for the achievement of the Government's policies, and whether there is scope for privatising, contracting out or transferring all or part of its functions to another body.

In carrying out the study, we have consulted widely with relevant organisations with an interest in the commission and executive's work, and held a public consultation. We are grateful for their contribution. The review found that government needs to take responsibility for setting health and safety standards and enforcing compliance with these standards. The public consultation endorsed the importance of the work of the commission and executive and the professionalism with which they carry it out. We considered HSC/E's approach to contracting out, looking in particular at their inspection and permissioning regimes, and concluded that it was not appropriate to ask them to change their current policy.

The review found scope for further work in spreading best practice in consistency of enforcement by local authorities, and for considering extension of the range of work for which the executive charges to the assessment of safety cases and the costs of inspection of those sites and installations which submit safety cases. It also made a number of minor recommendations. Work on these is being taken forward.

This Government attach great importance to maintaining and improving health and safety standards at the workplace. We fully support the vital work carried out by the Health and Safety Commission and Executive in setting and enforcing those standards and in underpinning employers' responsibilities to prevent accidents and ill-health at work. Because good standards of health and safety at the workplace are a higher priority for this Government, we have approved an extra £4.5 million for HSE's work in 1998-99. Funding for HSC/E's work in the longer term is being considered within the Comprehensive Spending Review for all the department's activities. The creation of DETR has brought together a range of responsibilities for safety, particularly in the transport field, which will provide new opportunities to consider how best practice should be shared between the different modes. We are determined not to become complacent about health and safety, and will continue to work with the Commission to ensure that we are prepared for the health and safety challenges which will face us into the new millennium.

Vehicle Fuel Cost Increases

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence they have that increasing the cost of petrol dissuades motorists from using their vehicles and whether they will place in the Library of the House any reports or studies which confirm this.[HL1088]

Baroness Hayman: The Government are aware of a substantial number of studies based on evidence from both trends over time and from different countries,

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which demonstrate that higher fuel costs dissuade motorists from using their vehicles. The majority of these studies are available publicly, and are too numerous to be placed in the Library. A recent review of these studies was compiled by Professor P. Goodwin and was published in the Journal of Transport Economics and Policy (May 1992).

In addition, the DETR published the National Road Traffic Forecasts Great Britain (1997) last October, a copy of which was placed in the Library of the House. The forecasting methodology takes account of the effect of motoring costs on vehicle use through a relationship based on data going back to 1950.

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether increases in fuel duty have a greater impact on those on low incomes and those without access to alternative modes of transport than on other groups.[HL1158]

Baroness Hayman: The impact of an increase in fuel duty on a particular household group will depend on a great many factors, the most important of which are car ownership and income. Recent research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies 1 suggests that population density, which is linked to the availability of alternatives, is also important, but less so than income and car ownership.

(1) The Distributional Effects of Taxes on Private Motoring, The Institute of Fiscal Studies, Commentary 65, December 1997.

Quieter Road Surfaces

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made in the past 12 months with the provision of quiet road surfaces using materials like "whisper concrete" and porous asphalt: and what plans they have for putting down more such road surfaces in the future.[HL1195]

Baroness Hayman: Over the last 12 months, quieter road surfaces have been used on a number of sites within the trunk road network. Porous asphalt has been used on a limited number of sites, including a length adjacent to Junction 10 of the M.25 and a section of the M.40. In addition a quieter thin asphalt road surface has been laid widely within the network, including sections of the M.4, M.5 and M.40. These types of surface are an alternative development which offers a more cost effective option. No new sections of whisper concrete have been provided.

Future plans for this year include the use of porous asphalt on the A.34 Newbury Bypass, quieter thin asphalt surfacings which will continue to be used widely on the trunk road network, and a whisper concrete development trial which will be carried out on the A.13 at Wennington to Mar Dyke, Essex.

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Joint Waste Disposal Authorities

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to change the way in which statutory joint waste disposal authorities are funded currently.[HL1327]

Baroness Hayman: We are concerned about current funding arrangements for statutory Joint Waste Disposal Authorities (JWDAs). At the moment, the constituent authorities share the costs according to their shares of the council tax base. This system does not reflect the service each authority draws from the JWDA and provides little encouragement for waste minimisation or other sustainable methods of waste management. The JWDAs have also expressed similar concerns to us.

Under a tonnage-based system, authorities' contributions would be apportioned on the basis of the amount of waste they had delivered for disposal in a preceding period. The more successful they are in minimising waste and diverting it to other forms of sustainable waste management such as recycling and composting, the less they would deliver for disposal and the less they would pay. This will form one more element in our policy to encourage waste management options higher up the waste hierarchy.

We have therefore requested officials in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to work out methods for a tonnage based system and to discuss them with the local authority associations.

Channel Tunnel Safety Authority Annual Report

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect the Channel Tunnel Safety Authority to publish its annual report for 1996-97.[HL1328]

Baroness Hayman: The Channel Tunnel Safety Authority has today published its ninth Annual Report, covering the period from 1 April 1996 to 31 March 1997. I have arranged for copies to be placed in the Library.

HM Land Registry, PRO, Public Trust Office and Court Service: Performance Targets

Lord Acton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the key performance targets for Her Majesty's Land Registry, the Public Record Office, the Public Trust Office and the Court Service executive agencies for 1998-99.[HL1297]

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): The following tables set out the key performance targets that

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I have set for Her Majesty's Land Registry, the Public Record Office, the Public Trust Office and the Court Service for 1998-99.

HM Land Registry Key Performance Indicators and Targets 1998-99

Return on average capital employed3%
External Financing Limit£0
Cost per unit in real terms£25.87
Cost per unit in cash terms£30.21
Charter Standards
Percentage of office copy and official search applications handled within two working days and98%
Percentage of office copies and official searches processed in 3 working days100%
Percentage of all registrations processed in 25 working days80%
Percentage of registrations handled free from any error98.50%
Percentage of customers responding to the Annual Survey who perceive the accuracy of registrations to be excellent or goodBetter than 90%
Development of Land Registration
Implementation of concessionary fees under the Land Registration Act 19971 April 1999
Percentage of computerised titles in the Land Register94%
Percentage of computerised titles plans in the Land Register29%
Number of scanned pages of filed documents (millions)4.30 million
Number of Direct Access service account holders at the end of the year1,500
Implementation and evaluation of the National Land Information Service Bristol Conveyancing Pilotby 31 March 1999


Fuller details of the agency's targets are given in its Business Plan, which is available from Her Majesty's Land Registry.

(1) Land Registry measures in efficiency through reductions in cost per unit in real terms against a unit cost baseline of 1992-93 when it was first set up as a trading fund. The inflation factor for the cost per unit in cash terms is derived from the GDP indices announced by HM Treasury in March 1998.

Public Record Office Key Performance Indicators and Targets 1998-99

Indicator Target
1. Efficiency
Unit costs of key activities:
(a) selecting and preserving the public records.Reduce to £101.53 per metre.
(b) giving access to records.Reduce to £7.83 per information transaction.
Backlog of records in departments reported as being over 30 years old and awaiting review.Reduce from 2,070 metres (assessed in January 1998) to 1,340 metres.
Provision of acceptable storage conditions i.e. meeting the preservation and environmental standards recommended by BS 5454: 1989 Recommendations for storage and exhibition of documents (BSI. 1989).Increase the proportion of records stored to the standards from 88.12 per cent. to 88.29 per cent.
Management efficiency in running support services and projects.Reduce the running costs of the office's support services as a proportion of overall running costs from 8.46 per cent. to 8.37 per cent.
2. Quality of Service
The achievement of Charter Standards: (a) Charter Standard targets for answering letters, delivering documents to users and reprographic services. Achieve 98.5 per cent. against the targets.
(b) user satisfaction surveys.Achieve assessment of "excellent" on 56 per cent. of survey forms returned.
Performance in achieving specified milestones towards strategic objectives in the light of emerging government policies.(a) Implement the recommendations of the Scoping Study of records management in government to the timetable established. (b) Increase revenue by 3.3 per cent. against the 1997-98 target. (c) Produce a new edition of the Public Record Office Guide.


Fuller details of the agency's targets are given in its Business Plan, which is available from the Public Record Office.

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Public Trust Office Key Performance Indicators and Targets 1998-99

1. To carry out accounting transactions within target times.To bring to account at least 99 per cent. of receipts and payments transactions within turnaround targets by volume weighted performance.
2. To achieve investment targets.(a) To pay interest on the special rate account at an annual rate at or above the average of the agreed comparator, and to pay at least 75 per cent. of that rate on basic rate accounts.
(b) To ensure that 90 per cent. of all funds which have a Dedicated Investment Portfolio(2) have a formal investment review(3) at least once a year.
3. To achieve Charter Standards.To achieve 98 per cent. of Charter Standards.
4. To meet the unit cost target.To operate within a unit cost of £195.09.
5. Percentage of full costs recovered.To ensure that 100 per cent. of full costs are recovered.


Fuller details of the office's performance targets are given in its Business Plan, which is available from the Public Trust Office.

(2) A Dedicated Investment Portfolio is one which has been constructed to accommodate the specific requirements of the client and has a sufficiency of funds and duration to allow it to be adjusted in line with stockmarket or client circumstances. The two investment KPIs cover around 80 per cent. of total funds held by the Public Trust Office.

(3) The investment review is complemented by the Public Trust Office policies of unitising smaller funds, and benchmarking larger portfolios against stock exchange models.

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Court Service Key Performance Indicators and Targets 1998-99

Quality of Service
1. Quality of service provided to court users82%
County Courts
2. Percentage of administrative work in the civil courts dealt with within target time95%
Crown Court
3. Percentage of Crown Court cases that commence within target80%
Unit Costs
4. Unit cost of a case in the Crown Court£1,997.00
5. Unit cost of an item of originating process in the civil courts£99.00
Cost Recovery
6. Percentage of the cost of the civil courts recovered through fees96%

Fuller details of the agency's targets are given in the Court Service Plan, April 1998-March 2001, which is available from the Court Service Headquarters.

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