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1994 - PMQT Written Answers 21st March 1994

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 21st March 1994.


PRIME MINISTER:

Open Government

Dr. Lynne Jones : To ask the Prime Minister what will be the implications for the operation of the Cabinet Office of the code of practice on open government.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, today.


Ministers (Legal Action)

Mr. Wilson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list each occasion in the past five years when Ministers of the Crown have requested financial assistance in legal actions, on the grounds that these impinged upon their ministerial duties; and how each of these applications was determined.

The Prime Minister : No central record is kept of such requests.


Correspondence

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister how many letters were received from, and written to, hon. Members by him in February.

The Prime Minister : A considerable number.


Car Industries

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 14 February, Official Report, column 581, concerning the sale of indigenous car industries, what assessment he has made of the effect of the takeover of Rover on output and employment in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister : The hon. Gentleman is aware of the assurances given by BMW to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 31 January. Nothing has happened since then to change our view that the acquisition offers good prospects for Rover and for output and employment in our vehicle industry.

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister, pursuant to his answer of 14 February, Official Report, column 581, concerning the sale of indigenous car industries, if he will publish the source of his information concerning the intentions of French Government, together with the timetable for the sale.

The Prime Minister : The French Government have stated publicly on several occasions that they intend to privatise Renault, and the company was one of 21 firms, banks and insurance companies listed in an annex to their privatisation Bill in July 1993. Mr. Longuet, French Minister of Industry and International Trade, has recently indicated to the press that, despite the breakdown of the planned merger of Renault and Volvo, it is still intended to privatise Renault, although this is understood to be unlikely to take place before the presidential elections in May 1995.


Trinidad Terms

Sir Thomas Arnold : To ask the Prime Minister what assessment he has made of the progress to date on the implementation of the Trinidad terms; if he will raise this matter at the next G7 summit; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister : A total of 20 of the poorest and most indebted countries have benefited from Trinidad debt reschedulings by the Paris club. These are Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Republic, Guyana, Honduras, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia. Over $5.5 billion of debt has been restructured under the terms and over $2 billion of debt and debt servicing has been reduced.

We shall continue to work for full Trinidad terms, including increasing the level of debt reduction for the poorest and most indebted countries from 50 to 80 per cent. on a case-by-case basis, and for earlier action on reducing the whole stock of official debt. The summit of G7 Heads of Government later this year will provide such an opportunity.


Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Prime Minister on how many occasions in the last five years he has knowingly provided incomplete information to answers to parliamentary questions other than on grounds of disproportionate cost; and on what subjects.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 15 March 1994, Official Report, column 645.


India

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister if he raised the matter of the proliferation consequences of India's nuclear capability with his Indian counterpart during his recent visit.

The Prime Minister : No. The Indian Government are well aware of our concerns about nuclear proliferation in south Asia, which were raised with the Indian Foreign Secretary during Mr. Narasimha Rao's visit.


Parliamentary Bills

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he would support a measure that would introduce a block on parliamentary Bills in the British Parliament if 27 per cent. of hon. Members opposed them.

The Prime Minister : No.


Official Gifts

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Prime Minister what rule applies to Ministers; and who is responsible for registering gifts received by (a) himself and (b) other Ministers.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 2 March 1994] : Gifts received by Ministers who are Members of the House of Commons have to be registered in the Register of Members' Interests if they exceed £125 in value and if they relate in any way to membership of the House. Registration is the responsibility of the individual Member. "Questions of Procedure for Ministers" provides separately that all gifts accepted by Ministers in their official capacity should be reported to the permanent secretary of the Department. In addition, it provides that any gift exceeding £125 in value must be surrendered or purchased at its cash value abated by £125. Since such gifts accepted by Ministers in their official capacity must be either purchased or surrendered, there is no interest to register.


Orsett Hospital

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister if, on his next visit to Basildon, he will meet officers of the Basildon and Thurrock community health council to discuss the possible closure of Orsett hospital.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : When I next visit Basildon, I look forward to meeting a wide range of people.

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister if he will visit Orsett hospital, Thurrock in addition to his proposed visit to the maternity unit at Basildon hospital.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : I have no current plans to visit Thurrock.


Serious Crime Criteria

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out in a form which does not jeopardise national security the criteria used by the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service to assess what constitutes a serious crime.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : No. The term "serious crime" is widely understood and, in the context of the Intelligence Services Bill, does not require further definition.


Economic Well-being Criteria

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out in a form which does not jeopardise national security the financial criteria used by the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service to assess matters which relate to the economic well-being of the country.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : The term "economic well being of the United Kingdom" is a well-known provision, used in the Intelligence Services Bill, the Security Service Act 1989 and the European Convention on Human Rights without definition.

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary gave two examples of where the Secret Intelligence Service might act in this area in his speech introducing the Intelligence Services Bill on 22 February 1994 Official Report, column 157.


Shoot-to-kill Policy

Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister what is Her Majesty's Government's policy towards a shoot-to-kill policy arising from terrorism; and if he will make a statement.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 18 March 1994] : We have no such policy. What is normally implied by a "shoot-to-kill" policy would not be consistent with section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 or section 3 of the Criminal Law (Northern Ireland) Act 1967.