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1991 - PMQT Written Answers 21st October 1991

Below is the text of the written answers relating to Prime Minister's Question Time from 21st October 1991.


PRIME MINISTER:

Official Visits

Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on his recent visits to the Soviet Union, China and Hong Kong.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

During my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow on 1 September, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, he had meetings with President Gorbachev, President Yeltsin and members of the committee for the management of the national economy. It was the first visit to the Soviet Union by a foreign Head of Government following the failed coup on 19 August. The Prime Minister expressed our strong support for the continuing process of economic and political reform in the Soviet Union and discussed ways in which we and our partners could assist. The Prime Minister also had a first meeting with the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania following their independence, and agreed with them on the desirability of developing close and friendly relations.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Peking from 2 to 4 September and met Premier Li Peng, President Yang Shangkun and party secretary Jiang Zemin. The central element in the Prime Minister's visit was the signature of the memorandum of understanding on the Hong Kong airport project. The Prime Minister also raised human rights and discussed international and bilateral issues. We reached agreement on a number of issues related to Hong Kong which we set out in the joint communique of 4 September, a copy of which is being placed in the Library.

In Hong Kong my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had meetings with the Governor and members of the Executive Council and met a wide cross-section of leaders and representatives from the political, municipal and business communities. He also visited the city polytechnic using the mass transit railway--a British export success. The Prime Minister made clear in Hong Kong the Government's commitment to the continued success of Hong Kong, and to the maintenance of effective British administration until 1 July 1997. There was widespread satisfaction that the vital airport project is now going ahead.


Switzerland (Military Agreements)

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the Swiss organisations with which Her Majesty's Government have made any agreement since 1979 to provide military training in combat, communications and sabotage.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

Military training has been provided to personnel of the Swiss armed forces, but it is not our practice to comment on the details of such training.


Downing Street Office

Mr. Skinner : To ask the Prime Minister what is the latest annual figure for the cost of running the Private Office at 10 Downing Street; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

The total cost of all my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's offices in 1990-91 was £8,225,816

Salaries and wages, notional pension liability, administration costs, the costs of office services and the grant-in-aid to the Chequers Trust are included. The Prime Minister's salary is excluded.

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Prime Minister when he intends to return to the Tate gallery, London, the Turner paintings "A Quiet Ruin" and "Sunset", which are currently on loan to his office in No. 10 Downing Street.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

There is no set loan period; the paintings will be returned to the Tate gallery when the trustees so request.


Hospitality Costs

Mr. Skinner : To ask the Prime Minister what is the latest annual figure for the cost of hospitality provided by 10 Downing Street; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

The cost of official hospitality met by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's office during 1990-91 was £20,904.


Foreign Visits

Mr. Skinner : To ask the Prime Minister what is the most recent figure for the cost of foreign visits made by the Prime Minister since 22 November 1990; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply. The cost of foreign visits made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister since 22 November 1990 is £550,219, including costs of his staff, but excluding outstanding costs of a number of recent visits.


Zimbabwe

Sir Eldon Griffiths : To ask the Prime Minister if, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Harare, he raised with the Zimbabwe Government the situation of British retirees who worked there as civil servants and/or police officers, and whose occupational pensions, payable by Zimbabwe, have lost much of their value; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

No. I understand that the Zimbabwe Government are meeting their legal obligations on the payment of pensions to their former public servants.


City Challenge

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Prime Minister what Government Departments have agreed to participate in the city challenge initiative; and what steps he has taken to ensure that their departments give a priority to participating in city challenge.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply. All Government Departments with relevant responsibilities are participating in city challenge. They are assessing their contribution to the initiative as the 11 city challenge authorities work up their proposals in detail.


Yugoslavia

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister what is Her Majesty's Government's policy on Yugoslavia.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, on 14 October at column 40.


Energy Conservation

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Prime Minister (1) if his Department has carried out an energy audit of the properties at 10 Downing Street and the Chequers estate within the last year;

(2) what measures have been taken over the last year to improve energy conservation at 10 Downing street and the Chequers estate.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

An energy audit of 10 to 12 Downing Street was carried out in late 1990. The implementation of all the audit's recommendations will be completed by the end of the year. The Chequers estate is the responsibility of the Chequers Trust.


Ozone Layer

Mr. Cryer : To ask the Prime Minister what is his latest information in regard to the policy of the Indian Government towards signing the Montreal protocol to protect the global ozone layer.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

My understanding is that the Indian Government intend to become a party to the Montreal protocol once there are sufficient ratifications to bring into force the amendments agreed at the second meeting of the parties in London last year. It is hoped that we will reach that position by the end of this year.


UK Nuclear Deterrent

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he will set out the basis for his calculation of the minimum size of the United Kingdom nuclear deterrent.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

We maintain our nuclear deterrent at the minimum size necessary to ensure that any potential aggressor is faced by the prospect of intolerable damage if he proceeds.


Kuwait

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister what matters were discussed in his meeting with Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah of Kuwait in London on 4 October; and what matters were agreed.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's discussions with the amir covered a number of international and bilateral issues and underlined the strength of our relationship. The Prime Minister welcomed the political changes now under way in Kuwait and stressed the importance of fair and humane treatment of foreign nationals in the country.


BR Fare Increases

Mr. Adley : To ask the Prime Minister if he will indicate the criteria he employed in determining which lines should be subject to his intervention in the decision by British Rail on fare increases on individual lines; and what is his policy on intervention in day-to-day decisions on management within nationalised industries.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

The boards of nationalised industries are appointed to manage their industries in accordance with the financial frameworks and objectives set by the Government. The Government have no wish to involve themselves in day-to-day management matters. However, the chairmen regularly consult Ministers about major management decisions which may have an impact on the achievement of their objectives. British Rail's recent fares increases are a case in point. In commenting on British Rail's proposals, Ministers took account of the citizens charter principle that increases should be related to quality of service; the need to fund BR's large investment programme and our general policy that the burden of funding BR should be progressively shifted from taxpayers to passengers.


French Prime Minister

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister what matters in regard to defence issues were discussed in his meeting with his French counterpart on 24 September in London.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

Mme. Cresson and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister concentrated on European Community questions on 24 September. They discussed the roles of NATO, the Western European Union and the European Council in the defence field. The Prime Minister stressed the importance of Europe doing more for its own defence, in a way which does not undermine NATO. They agreed on the importance of enhanced bilateral collaboration in this sphere.


Dalai Lama

Mr. Graham : To ask the Prime Minister if he has any plans to meet the Dalai Lama of Tibet in the near future.

Mr. MacGregor : I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has no plans to do so.


Environmental Protection Agency

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on progress made over the past three months to establish the central agency for environmental protection and enhancement.

Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 18 October 1991] : I have been asked to reply.

The Government's proposals for a new, independent environment agency were set out in a consultation paper issued by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment on 3 October. A copy of the consultation paper, on which views have been invited by 31 January 1992, has been placed in the Library.


Research and Development

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister when the annual review of Government-funded research and development, "R & D 91", was published; how many copies of the report were printed; at what cost; and what attempts have been made to circulate the report to interested organisations and libraries in the United Kingdom.

Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 18 October 1991] : I have been asked to reply.

The annual review of Government-funded research and development, "R & D 91", was published on 24 July 1991. Two thousand copies were printed and it is on sale through HMSO for £25. The printing and publishing costs totalled £25,800 and are offset by sales to date of 1,396 : copies of the review's tables are also available on computer-readable disks.

A total of 355 copies have been distributed to the Libraries of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, United Kingdom Government Departments, United Kingdom-based embassies, United States National Science Foundation, the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology, research councils, Universities Funding Council, Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council and in response to requests from a number of other interested organisations.


Soviet Union

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister is he will make a statement on his visit to Moscow in September.

Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 18 October 1991] : I have been asked to reply.

During my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's visit to Moscow on 1 September, accompanied by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, he had meetings with President Gorbachev, President Yeltsin and members of the committee for the management of the national economy. It was the first visit to the Soviet Union by a foreign Head of Government following the failed coup on 19 August. The Prime Minister expressed our strong support for the continuing process of economic and political reform in the Soviet Union and discussed ways in which we and our partners could assist. The Prime Minister also had a first meeting with the Prime Ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania following their independence, and agreed with them on the desirability of developing close and friendly relations.

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister if he will publish details of the number of telephone conversations, by date, he had with (a) President Gorbachev, (b) President Yeltsin and (c) officials of the Soviet and Russian Federation Governments, respectively, during August; and what was the purpose of these telephone conversations.

Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 18 October 1991] : I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke to President Gorbachev on 22 August. President Gorbachev gave an account of his views on the events surrounding the coup and welcomed the prospect of a visit by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to Moscow both in my right hon. Friend's capacity as Prime Minister and as chairman of the G7.

The Prime Minister spoke to President Yeltsin on two occasions. On 20 August he expressed British concern at the coup attempt, gave details of British and European Community actions and asked what other support the west could give to democratic institutions. On 21 August my right hon. Friend was able to congratulate President Yeltsin on his bravery, and that of the Russian people, in a memorable two days and to express the hope that my right hon. Friend would be able to meet him in the near future.


China

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Prime Minister what matters in regard to (a) the environment in general and (b) the Montreal protocol and protection of the ozone layer, he had with Ministers of the Chinese Government during his visit to Beijing in September.

Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 18 October 1991] : I have been asked to reply.

None, though I understand that China has recently signalled the intention to satisfy the Montreal protocol.


Ministerial Visits

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Prime Minister when the Cabinet Office drew up rules governing party political activities of Ministers of the Crown when travelling abroad on public business; and if he will place a copy in the Library.

Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 18 October 1991] : I have been asked to reply.

Each Prime Minister, on assuming office, issues guidance to Ministers on such issues. It has been the practice of successive Governments not to publish such guidance.

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list the occasions when he has participated in party political activities when travelling abroad on public business.

Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 18 October 1991] : I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister does from time to time meet fellow Conservatives in the margins of public duties. He also often meets opposition leaders of all political persuasions both in the United Kingdom and abroad.