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22 Oct 1998 : Column WA179

Written Answers

Thursday, 22nd October 1998.

European Commission: Prompt Payment to Small Businesses

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will list the actions taken by government departments to secure payments by the European Commission to British firms, especially consultants, for work authorised by the European Commission and satisfactorily completed; and whether they have expressed concern at the present delays in payment.[HL3380]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): The Government are committed to changing the payment culture that exists in the UK. We are working closely with the European Commission and other member states to ensure that small businesses are paid promptly both in domestic and European markets.

The European Commission has since 1991 a target of paying all bills within 60 days. I understand that in order to improve its payment performance the European Commission decided on 10 June 1997 to pay interest on all payments which are made after more than 60 days. This is in line with the proposed directive issued by the Commission to combat late payment in cross border transactions.

In addition, the Small Firms Minister, Barbara Roche, has a standing offer to follow up individual cases of late payment to small businesses by the public sector including the European Commission. She would be pleased to receive details of appropriate cases which are not in dispute or the subject of legal proceedings.

M.1, Junctions 4 to 5: Road Surface

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied with the state of the road surface between junctions 4 and 5 of the M.1 motorway, and if not, what penalties have been imposed on the contractors responsible and what proposals they have to improve the situation. [HL3419]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): As this is an operational matter, I have asked Lawrie Haynes, the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, to write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Jopling from the Chief Executive of the Highways Agency, Mr. L. Haynes, dated 22 October 1998.

Lord Whitty has asked me to write to you about the state of the road surface between Junctions 4 and 5 of the M.1 Motorway.

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This length of the motorway was opened to traffic in 1967 and was last resurfaced in 1988. It carries large volumes of traffic and has performed well so there is no case for imposing penalties on the contractor who carried out the work.

As is to be expected, the surface has started to deteriorate and we have commenced investigations as to what will be the appropriate form of treatment when the need to intervene arises. We aim to complete the investigations next year with a view to carrying out major works in about two years, depending on the needs of this length of road and national priorities.

I can assure you that the road surface is safe to use, its condition is regularly monitored and, should the need arise, then the agency will intervene at an earlier date than I have suggested.

Nick Atkinson, our Area Manager for North London, would be pleased to discuss the matter further with you. His telephone number is 0171 921 4042.

Cycling and Walking: Local Authority Provision

Lord Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What instructions or guidance have been given to local authorities to implement the statements in the Integrated Transport White Paper on giving pedestrians and cyclists equal weight compared with motor traffic.[HL3404]

Lord Whitty: Current Transport Policy and Programme guidance to local authorities states that they should properly plan and provide for walking and cycling. The issue will be addressed in forthcoming guidance, now in preparation, on the production of the new local transport plans in England and Wales, and local transport strategies in Scotland. This guidance will emphasise that authorities should give higher priority than in the past to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in the development of their local transport plans and strategies. They will be expected to demonstrate in their documents that they have a coherent strategy for encouraging walking and cycling.

Local authorities will be expected to use the frameworks for action provided by the National Cycling Strategy and the forthcoming Walking Strategy document, to help inform their decision making and financial planning processes.

Greater London Authority: Location

Lord Graham of Edmonton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which of the seven locations currently being considered will provide accommodation for the Greater London Authority.[HL3526]

Lord Whitty: Following a detailed assessment of the initial proposals for our seven short-listed buildings and

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sites, we have selected two first-class options to study further. These are:

    London Bridge City, SE1--a new building to be constructed on the site between Tower Bridge and London Bridge on the South Bank of the River Thames; and

    Victoria House in Bloomsbury Square, WC1--a major refurbishment of an existing building first constructed in the 1920s.

There was keen competition among all the short-listed teams to produce high quality ideas for housing the Mayor and Assembly in London. The architects associated with the two chosen projects--Will Alsop of Alsop and Stormer for Victoria House and Sir Norman Foster of Foster Associates for London Bridge City--are leading British architects with international reputations for innovation and excellence. We are confident that, with the teams associated with these two options, we will be able to ensure that the proposed new Greater London Authority is housed in a landmark building worthy of its status and one of which Londoners can be proud.

We would like to thank all those Londoners who took the time to visit the exhibition at Oxo Tower Wharf, where the ideas for the seven short-listed locations were on display. Nearly 1,000 people called in and the views expressed were carefully considered before coming to a decision. In fact the two options I have chosen to take forward were the people's choice as well. Other factors such as finance, design, location and technical feasibility were also taken into account.

The next step will be to work with the teams from the two selected options and with our expert advisers to explore the ideas in greater detail and see how well they will meet the needs of the new Greater London Authority. We also want these buildings to contribute to their local area and intend to work closely with the local authorities to ensure that this happens. We expect to announce a final decision in the New Year.

Arms Exports: Licensing Criteria

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the criteria announced by the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on 28 July 1997 (H.L. Deb., cols. 26-29) are used to assess applications for a licence to export arms or goods subject to control for strategic reasons, for the purposes of demonstration, trial, testing or evaluation.[HL3501]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Licence applications to export goods and technology controlled under Part III of Schedule 1 to the Export of Goods (Control) Order 1994 (the "Military List"), or dual use goods when there are grounds for believing that the end-user of such goods will be the armed forces or internal security forces of the recipient country, are examined on a

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case-by-case basis against the published defence exports criteria and the EU Code of Conduct.

When the application is for demonstration, trial, testing or evaluation purposes, attention is paid to the level of control exercised by the exporter and whether the export will be temporary, in arriving at a judgment as to whether the equipment might be used for internal repression, international aggression, diverted to an undesirable end-user or otherwise contravene the criteria.

If a decision is taken to issue such a licence, that in no way fetters our discretion in considering future applications for the export of equipment of the type demonstrated or evaluated. Such applications will be treated on their merits against the prevailing circumstances at that time.

In some cases, licensees will be informed that, on the information available at that time, a licence would not normally be granted for the permanent export of the same or a greater quantity of the goods concerned to the same end-user, irrespective of the purpose of the intended export.

Slovenia: Arms Exports

Lord Hogg of Cumbernauld asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy on licensing arms exports to Slovenia.[HL3505]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Government, along with EU partners, have decided, taking into account the well-entrenched democracy in Slovenia and her stable political and economic structures, to remove Slovenia from the EU Common Position on arms exports to the former Yugoslavia. Applications for licences to export military equipment will be considered on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the criteria announced by the Foreign Secretary on 28 July 1997 (HC Official Report, cols. 26-29), and the EU Code of Conduct on Arms Exports.

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