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1992 - PMQT Written Answers 7th December 1992

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 7th December 1992.


PRIME MINISTER:

Radiation

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out the division of responsibilities between each Government Department in investigating the risks posed by exposure to radiation.

The Prime Minister : The Department of Health is responsible in general terms for the protection of public health against radiological hazards. The Department's specific responsibilities relate to obtaining expert advice; initiating relevant research; and ensuring an effective health response in the event of a radiological emergency.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's responsibilities are to protect the population from exposure to unacceptable levels of radioactivity through food chain pathways; and to minimise the impact of radioactive waste on the food, farming and fishing industries and the marine environment.

The Department of Trade and Industry is responsible for civil nuclear safety in relation to the generation of electricity. The Department of Employment is responsible for the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1985, which concern the protection of workers and the public from radiation doses received as a result of any work involving ionising radiations. On this the Department is advised by the Health and Safety Commission and the regulations are enforced by the Health and Safety Executive.

The Department of the Environment is responsible for establishing a radioactive waste management policy and for monitoring the environment for radioactivity. Within the Department, the regulators--Her Majesty's inspectorate of pollution--have the statutory responsibility in England and Wales for authorising uses and disposals of radioactive substances.

The Ministry of Defence is responsible for defence nuclear and radiological safety.

The Department of Transport is responsible for the safety aspects of the transportation of radioactive material.

The Scottish Office, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office are responsible for all civil aspects of radiological safety in relation to their respective parts of the United Kingdom. The National Radiological Protection Board is responsible under the Radiological Protection Act 1970 for advancing knowledge of radiological protection and for informing and advising Government Departments and others on protection from radiation hazards.


Animal Welfare

Mr. Peter Bottomley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the Government Departments concerned with the main areas of animal welfare, indicating their respective responsibilities.

The Prime Minister : A number of Government Departments have responsibility for the welfare and conservation of animals and related matters.

The Department of the Environment is responsible for policy on stray dogs; the protection of birds; wildlife and endangered species.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is responsible for the welfare of livestock kept on agricultural land; the welfare of livestock at market and the welfare of horses, cattle, sheep, swine, goats and poultry in slaughterhouses and knackers yards. The Ministry is also involved in the campaign against illegal poisoning of wildlife and in the International Whaling Commission, and has responsibility for the impact of fishing practices on cetaceans. The Home Office is responsible for ensuring the adequacy of the law on cruelty to animals in general and in some specific areas, and for the law on the use of living animals in scientific procedures. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office works to raise the profile of animal welfare issues abroad, both bilaterally and with international organisations concerned.


Maastricht Treaty

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Prime Minister how many representations his office has received on the Maastricht treaty from 1 January to 1 December giving a disaggregated breakdown between those originating in the United Kingdom and those from abroad.

The Prime Minister : I have received a substantial number of representations on the Maastricht treaty covering a wide range of issues.


Legal Expenses Insurance Policies

Mr. Alex Carlile : To ask the Prime Minister if he will require Ministers to take out legal expenses insurance policies.

The Prime Minister : I have no plans to do so.


Freight Traffic

Mr. Adley : To ask the Prime Minister if it remains his Government's policy to seek the transfer of freight traffic from road to rail; and if he will report on the extent to which freight has been transferred to rail since April 1992.

The Prime Minister : The Government believe that freight should be transported by rail whenever that makes commercial sense to customers and rail operators alike. The best way to facilitate this is to end British Rail's monopoly of rail services, as proposed in the White Paper "New Opportunities for the Railways", Cm 2012. Detailed information about rail freight carryings since April 1992 is a matter for British Rail.

Mr. Adley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will order an immediate inquiry into the reasons for and effect of the fall in the volume of rail freight traffic.

The Prime Minister : Rail freight has been in decline for many years. The Government's proposals for the privatisation of British Rail's freight operations, and the opening up of the rail network to new entrants, are aimed at improving rail's prospects for the future.


Tropical Timber

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the United Kingdom Government's position in respect of the preparatory committee for renegotiation of the international tropical timber agreement to be convened in Quito, Ecuador, in January 1993.

The Prime Minister : The United Kingdom had hoped that a second preparatory committee in Quito, Ecuador would be unnecessary; however, the tropical timber-producing countries require more time to develop their positions before discussing them with the consuming countries. The Quito meeting will provide a valuable opportunity for the producing and consuming countries to identify the issues they wish to renegotiate. The United Kingdom intends to participate in the second preparatory meeting and will work with its European neighbours for a speedy renegotiation of the 1983 agreement.


Iraq

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister what steps Her Majesty's Government took during 1990 and prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, to halt the export to Iraq of furnaces constructed by Consarc Engineering of Bellshill, near Glasgow.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 2 December 1992] : It is not normal practice to discuss the affairs of individual companies.

Mr. Mackinlay : To ask the Prime Minister (1) what requests Her Majesty's Government received from the United States Administration to stop the export to Iraq of two furnaces constructed by Consarc Engineering at Bellshill, near Glasgow, during 1990;

(2) what communications Her Majesty's Government received from the United States Administration during 1990 and prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, concerning involvement by British companies in equipping a missile factory called Badr General Establishment.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 2 December 1992] : Communications between Governments are confidential.


Civil List

Mr. Alan Williams : To ask the Prime Minister what items or headings of expenditure have been transferred from the royal family's expenditure funded from the civil list to the Government since 1972; on what dates; what is the current cost to the Exchequer of each such item or heading; and what was their cost at the time of their transfer.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 2 December 1992] : So far as I am aware, no items or headings of direct expenditure have been transferred from the civil list to the Government since 1972. However, following advice taken in 1987, consistent with government fees and charges policy, the royal household took on board the feasibility of charging full costs for certain administrative services. These included, for example, charging for the accommodation and support services provided to staff based in the royal household but who are employed by Government Departments. Similar charges are made on behalf of the civil list to the household's royal collection department and to the Prince of Wales's office. The cost to Government Departments in the years 1987-90, which should be seen in the context of the "1990 Royal Trustees Report"--HC 629--are as follows :

        |£              

------------------------

1987    |83,372

1988    |138,310

1989    |132,809

1990    |162,810

The separate identification of full costs for administrative services is in line with the Government's policy of identifying costs across the public sector.


Furniture and Furnishings (Regulations)

Mr. Michael : To ask the Prime Minister which Government Department is responsible for drafting the Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations; and what consultations are being undertaken on the terms of the regulations.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 3 December 1992] : The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire Safety) Regulations were made by the Department of Trade and Industry in July 1988. The DTI has recently consulted public on draft amendment regulations proposing to postpone, from 1 March 1993 to 1 March 1994, the date by which furniture included in the letting of accommodation must meet the fire resistance requirements of the 1988 regulations. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to allow businesses providing furnished accommodation more time to prepare for the fire resistance requirements and to complete the upgrading or replacement of their existing stock of furniture. It will remain a requirement that any additional replacement or additional furniture which they supply from 1 March 1993 must meet the fire resistance requirements.