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1994 - PMQT Written Answers 17th October 1994

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 17th October 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

South Africa

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister if he discussed arms and military equipment exports with South African Government members during his visit to South Africa in September.

The Prime Minister: There was reference during my visit to the on- going confidential discussions between our two Governments concerning defence exports.

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister what matters in regard to nuclear safeguards, nuclear materials security and nuclear trade were raised during his visit to South Africa in September.

The Prime Minister: Those matters were not raised during my recent visit to South Africa. They are, however, frequently discussed by relevant experts from both our countries in the appropriate international forums.


Coppicing

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the letter of the hon. Member for Esher (Mr. Taylor) of 28 July, what assessment he has made of the environmental impact of coppicing as an integral part in Her Majesty Government's on-going programmes in renewable energy; what engineering assessment he has made of the development of suitable machinery for the harvesting of short-rotation coppice by Loughry college in County Tyrone; and what action he is taking to support its commercialisation in the marketplace.

The Prime Minister: The environmental impact of coppicing was studied by the energy technology support unit in 1988, in its report, "Energy Forestry in Britain: Environmental issues"--ETSU B 1166. Its main conclusion was that such environmental impacts should be no more severe than those associated with other forms of arable farming. Nevertheless, further, more detailed, work continues, with advice from, among others, the Countryside Commission, the Countryside Council for Rural Wales, English Nature, the Game Conservancy Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Forestry Authority.

An assessment of the original version of the Loughry college harvester was reported in ETSU B 1382. A new, simpler, version developed with funding from the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland, is now being assessed. This newer machine is not yet at a stage where commercial development would be appropriate. Copies of the reports have been placed in the Library of the House.


Nuclear Weapons, Iraq

Mr. Llew Smith: To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he had with the Government of Saudi Arabia on their policy towards the Iraqi nuclear weapons programme during his visit to Jeddah on 19 September.

The Prime Minister: My discussions with King Fahd covered a wide variety of issues on Iraq, and underscored the closeness of our policies towards that country.

We support the United Nations' Special Commission's efforts to eliminate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability, as called for in United Nations Security Council resolution 687. Although United Nations weapons inspectors have noted improved Iraqi co-operation, gaps remain in accounting for Iraq's past weapons programmes. For that reason, and to avoid placing unhelpful pressure on UNSCOM, I believe that it is crucial that the length of the probationary period for monitoring Iraqi compliance remain open-ended.


Official Meetings

Mr. McCartney: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer on 11 July, Official Report, column 375 , if he will now make it his policy to collect and publish statistics on the number of official meetings he holds with hon. and right hon. Members on constituency matters at 10 Downing Street, broken down by political party and by regions in which their constituencies are situated.

The Prime Minister: No. I have nothing further to add to the answer which I gave to the hon. Member on 11 July, Official Report, column 375.


Diesel Fuel

Mr. Dalyell: To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to the letter of 4 July from Baroness Cumberlege, Health Minister, to the hon. Member for Linlithgow, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of co-ordination between the Departments of Health, of the Environment, and of Transport, and the Treasury on the latest scientific understanding of the use of diesel fuel.

The Prime Minister: I am content with the existing arrangements. The Departments of Health and of the Environment are advised on health issues related to diesel and other fuels by expert committees. Officials from the Departments of Health, of the Environment and of Transport and the Treasury are in frequent consultation on those matters.