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1994 - PMQT Written Answers 23rd March 1994

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 23rd March 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Consultants

Mr. Milburn : To ask the Prime Minister how many contracts his Department has had with consultants; and what has been the total cost in each of the last five years.

The Prime Minister : There has been no expenditure by my office on contracts with consultants in the last five years.


Security

Mr. Dunn : To ask the Prime Minister what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on the security of Government information and other assets.

The Prime Minister : In recent years, the nature of the threats to Government security has changed. While some of the traditional threats to national security may have somewhat reduced, others have not. The security of Government is also increasingly threatened by, for example, theft, copying and electronic surveillance, as well as by terrorism.

To ensure that their approach to security reflects current threats, the Government have recently completed a review of their arrangements for the management of protective security in Departments and agencies. This has recommended a new protective marking system for documents which will help identify more precisely those which need protecting, enabling them to be protected more effectively according to their value. The new system will also be more closely related to the code of practice on Government information announced in the Government's White Paper on openness.

In addition, the review has concluded that existing security measures should be examined closely to ensure they are necessary in relation to today's threats; that commercially available security equipment should be more widely used; and that personnel vetting enquiries should be streamlined particularly in routine cases. Overall, the aim is to give Departments and agencies, and management units within them, greater responsibility for assessing the nature of the risks they face and for making decisions, within a framework of common standards of protection, about the security measures they need to put in place. Substantial cost savings will result.

The first stage of the implementation of the proposals of this review will be the introduction of a new protective marking system with effect from 4 April 1994 alongside the code of practice on access to Government information. The new definitions, which will allow fewer Government documents to be classified, particularly at the higher levels, are set out. The other elements of the new approach to protective security will be put in place in due course. The four categories of protective marking : Definitions The markings to be allocated to any asset, including information, will be determined primarily by reference to the practical consequences that are likely to result from the compromise of that asset or information. The levels in the new protective marking system are defined as follows :

TOP SECRET : the compromise of this information or material would be likely : to threaten directly the internal stability of the United Kingdom or friendly countries; to lead directly to widespread loss of life; to cause exceptionally grave damage to the effectiveness or security of United Kingdom or allied forces or to the continuing effectiveness of extremely valuable security or intelligence operations; to cause exceptionally grave damage to relations with friendly governments; to cause severe long-term damage to the United Kingdom economy.

SECRET : the compromise of this information or material would be likely : to raise international tension; to damage seriously relations with friendly governments; to threaten life directly, or seriously prejudice public order, or individual security or liberty; to cause serious damage to the operational effectiveness or security of United Kingdom or allied forces or the continuing effectiveness of highly valuable security or intelligence operations; to cause substantial material damage to national finances or economic and commercial interests.

CONFIDENTIAL : the compromise of this information or material would be likely : materially to damage diplomatic relations (ie cause formal protest or other sanction); to prejudice individual security or liberty; to cause damage to the operational effectiveness or security of United Kingdom or allied forces or the effectiveness of valuable security or intelligence operations; to work substantially against national finances or economic and commercial interests; substantially to undermine the financial viability of major organisations; to impede the investigation or facilitate the commission of serious crime; to impede seriously the development or operation of major government policies; to shut down or otherwise substantially disrupt significant national operations.

RESTRICTED : the compromise of this information or material would be likely : to affect diplomatic relations adversely; to cause substantial distress to individuals; to make it more difficult to maintain the operational effectiveness or security of United Kingdom or allied forces; to cause financial loss or loss of earning potential to or facilitate improper gain or advantage for individuals or companies; to prejudice the investigation or facilitate the commission of crime; to breach proper undertakings to maintain the confidence of information provided by third parties; to impede the effective development or operation of government policies; to breach statutory restrictions on disclosure of information; to disadvantage government in commercial or policy negotiations with others; to undermine the proper management of the public sector and its operations.


Iraq

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his oral answer of Tuesday 8 March, Official Report, column 148, if he has now considered, following his meeting of 3 March with the hon. Member for Linlithgow, the provision of water filtering and water pumping equipment to Iraq; and what action he has taken to respond to the list of pharmaceuticals required in the valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris for infants with diseases related to malnutrition in the summer.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 22 March 1994] : I have now written to the hon. Member following our recent meeting.