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Petrol Consumption

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The data requested is given below. In addition to details on total deliveries of petrol into consumption in the UK in each year since 1980, the total has been broken down between deliveries of leaded and unleaded petrol.

Total Deliveries into Consumption in the UK, thousand tonnes

YearLeaded PetrolUnleaded Petrol(4)Total Petrol

(4) Unleaded petrol sales started to be recorded in 1987.

Coal: Costs

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    At current prices, what is the cost of imported coal used in coal-fired power stations; and what is the cost of coal mined in the United Kingdom.[HL1607]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: As the coal industry and the power stations are private companies this information is not available through official data, to protect the confidentiality of individual contracts.

The department does, however, publish the costs of coal as purchased by UK generators in Energy Trends. This showed that as at quarter 4 1998 the average price of coal purchased by UK generators was £29.75/tonne.

Whilst it is not possible to give costs of imported coal to the UK for electricity generation, data do exist on the costs of imported steam coal (some of which is used by industry and will be of a different quality and value to that used by electricity generators). Data from Customs show that the costs to the UK port (CIF) of imported steam coal was £24.69/tonne in Q4 1998.

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Mineworkers' Compensation

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total cost to date of legal action and advice incurred by the British Coal Board or its successors and by government departments in respect of compensation for mineworkers and former mineworkers or their dependents who have suffered or suffer from (a) bronchitis and emphysema or (b) vibration white finger.[HL1505]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: Since litigation began in May 1990, the British Coal Corporation and the DTI, and its claims handling agents have incurred legal costs, including plaintiffs' costs, of some £14.9 million in respect of respiratory disease and £6.3 million in respect of vibration white finger. The £14.9 million on respiratory disease is made up of £3.5 million on defendants' legal costs, £4.1 million on plaintiffs' legal costs and £7.3 million on costs incurred by IRISC (the department's claim handlers), other legal costs and technical pilot project costs. The £6.4 million on vibration white finger is made up of £1.2 million on defendants' legal costs, £2.5 million on plaintiffs' legal costs and £2.7 million on costs incurred by IRISC, other legal costs and technical pilot project costs.

National Minimum Wage

Baroness Lockwood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they are taking on the Low Pay Commission's Review of the National Minimum Wage Accommodation offset.[HL1861]

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: During the drafting of the National Minimum Wage regulations 1999 the Government received a number of submissions from employers and intentional communities about the operation and amount of offset that may be allowed to count against the national minimum wage where a worker is provided with accommodation, and its long-term future. The Government fully recognise that the offset is an important factor in pay in some sectors, such as hotel and catering, and that if set at the wrong level it would have a detrimental impact for those sectors and their employees.

Because the offset in the regulations reflects the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission, the Government asked the commission to look again at this issue as a matter of urgency and report to government. The Government are today publishing its report and copies are available in the Printed Paper Office.

The Government would like to thank the commission for looking at this matter so quickly. The commission has made three recommendations:

    (1) There should be no immediate change to the rate of the accommodation offset in the national minimum wage regulations, but the commission should monitor the use and impact of the accommodation offset on business and employees;

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    (2) The commission should monitor the administration of the accommodation offset and, in the light of practical experience, report on its future application in its second report;

    (3) Members of intentional communities should be regarded as volunteers rather than workers, and not covered by the national minimum wage.

In considering the matter the commission looked again at the evidence and basis for its earlier recommendation and took further oral and written evidence. It also looked at current practice through collective agreements, arrangements under the Agricultural Wages Boards, previous practice under the Wages Councils and arrangements in other countries. The commission concluded that there was little evidence at this stage that businesses could not cope with the level recommended and that therefore no changes should be made at this time. However, it recognised that it would be important to monitor the operation of the offset in light of practical experience and the application of the National Minimum Wage regulations. It propose that it should do this as part of its remit to monitor and evaluate the introduction and impact of the national minimum wage. The commission has agreed with the Office for National Statistics a trailer question for the 1999 New Earnings Survey which it is hoped will provide a clearer insight into the practice of providing an accommodation allowance.

The Government agree with the commission's conclusions and accepts its recommendations not to change the offset at this time. However, the Government are keen that the commission should closely monitor the practical effects of its application. The Government also note the commission's acknowledgement that the continuation of the offset is of significance for a number of businesses and workers and welcomes its intention to undertake a full review in its next report.

The commission also looked at the position of individuals who follow a particular lifestyle living and working as members of a religious or charitable community--intentional communities--in receipt of board and lodging and a small amount of subsistence. The commission concluded that the position of members of intentional communities was similar to that of volunteers who are specifically excluded from the national minimum wage and that they should be treated as such. The exclusion of volunteers in the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, which was agreed with the support of all parties and the voluntary sector, is drawn very narrowly and does not cover members of intentional communities. It will therefore be necessary to amend the 1998 Act to provide an exclusion.

The Government accept the commission's recommendation that members of intentional communities should not be covered by the national minimum wage and propose to introduce a suitable amendment to the 1998 Act through the Employment Relations Bill which is currently before Parliament.

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Education Spending Commitments

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the spending commitments from the proportion of £19 billion announced in the budget in 1998 for spending on education which is allocated for 1999-2000; and[HL1737]

    What are the spending commitments announced so far and planned from the proportion of £19 billion announced in the budget in 1998 for spending on education which is allocated for 2000-01; and [HL1738]

    What are the spending commitments announced so far and planned from the proportion of £19 billion announced in the budget in 1998 for spending on education which is allocated for 2001-02.[HL1739]

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): Details are set out in the DfEE Departmental Report, Cm 4202, published on 24 March 1999, and in the Departmental Reports for the Scottish Office, Cm 4215, the Welsh Office, Cm 4216, and the Northern Ireland Office, Cm 4217, all published on 30 March 1999.

Able Children: Specialist Provision

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What method will be used to select able children for specialist provision; and how such provision will be funded.[HL1740]

Baroness Blackstone: Each school will identify its most able 5-10 per cent. of pupils through a combination of measures, including test scores and teacher assessments, in accordance with best practice. The funding mechanisms for these measures will be discussed with LEAs and others.

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